Science, Secularism and Saturn – Ashish Dhar

Shaneshwar at Shingnapur

Ashish Dhar“Most Indians are deeply religious in temperament and therefore, many laws that are derived from a secular constitution find few instinctively eager takers. This dichotomy, though, is brushed aside by deracinated, elitist intellectuals appealing to the authority of reason, which is deemed sacrosanct.” – Ashish Dhar

Rationality is an extremely useful state of mind. Alas, it is not the only state of mind. Somewhere between rational enquiry and irrational mumbo-jumbo lies the non-rational world of art, poetry, music, mythology and much else. Of course, the non-rational does have rational as well as irrational building blocks, the concept of harmony in music and skilful exaggerations or logical contradictions in story-telling for instance, but as a cognitive phenomenon, non-rationality refuses to be tied down to either rationality or its opposing binary.

In other words, the pleasant experience of listening to music or reading poetry has little to do with our knowledge of sound waves or neuroscience. In contrast, rationality becomes indispensable in scientific enquiry and in societal matters, where forming explicit consensus over issues of importance is unavoidable. Hence it finds an extraordinary, if not supreme, place in our collective imagination.

However, as proposed above, rationality ought to have its reasonable limits and not just in the fields of aesthetics or art but also when we ascribe meaning to our everyday existence. The legendary propensity of human beings to interpret the infinite expressions of a limitless universe within the rigid constructs of reason makes us unrealistically optimistic about the success of this hopeless endeavour. On a more grounded, less speculative note, the reliance on reason alone as our sole moral compass is sure to lead to disastrous navigation in social life. It is worth considering that psychopaths mostly self-identify as impeccable rationalists. The “Rationalist Delusion“, with its fair share of caveats (pdf), is an accurate description of the belief system of a large and diverse section of humanity, one that worships reason as a panacea for all moral ills whereas evidence indicates that the reasoning faculty actually evolved to help us Rene Descarteswin arguments and rationalize our choices in hindsight rather than arriving at some higher objective truth.

The sacred privilege granted to rationality in contemporary society can be traced back to the European scientific revolution, when long-held beliefs of an entire civilization were brutally humiliated under the penetrating gaze of reason and science, subsequently liberating the whole populace from the stifling grip of religious superstition and prejudice. Descartes famously proclaimed, “I think, therefore I am” directly undermining the legitimacy of emotional and spiritual states of being.

Ironically, this apparently radical statement was an inadvertent rehash of the ideas of Plato and other Greek philosophers, who made a name out of deifying reason, long before Christianity had come about. In terms of the philosophy of science, the privileging of rationality became the basis for positivism and empiricism, which hold that any knowledge must ultimately derive its authority from reason.

Predictably, the triumph of rationality had a massive political impact culminating in the French Revolution, with its celebration of liberty, equality and fraternity. Earlier, the growing trust in rationality had gone hand in hand with the Protestant Reformation and had witnessed a rift between the Church and the State, giving currency to the concept of secularism, the formal separation of religion and state.

Cross Crossed-OutBy the 20th century, as the authority of Christianity was taking a nosedive in many parts of the West, blind faith in Jesus gave way to an unlikely alternative, blind faith in reason, marked by the rise of ideologies like Communism and Atheism, which are essentially Godless versions of Christianity in their obsessive urge to reduce all of history to a handful of simplistic ideas and the promise of “deliverance” from aeons of oppression. Another feature that these secular creeds inherited from Christianity is a compulsive need to define an enemy, a secular Satan.

Communists profess hatred for the bourgeois, capitalists abhor communists, atheists blame religion for all evils and so on. In the middle of the same century, India ceased to be a British colony and in the true spirit of a colonized people, the country adopted a secular constitution inspired by the cherished values of the colonizer, which would not necessarily be a bad thing if only enough number of citizens subscribed to those values.

To come to an understanding of the schism between what the Indian Constitution upholds and what various sections of the society believe in, let us first take a rudimentary look at the religious demographics in India. Hindus form the majority, Muslims are the largest minority and Christians are a distant third, followed by numerous other groups, some organically connected with Hinduism and others not.

Hindus themselves are an incredibly diverse polylith that allows for decentralization of customs, rites and rituals, often based on local geography and environmental constraints. Regardless of which religion they currently belong to, as a consequence of their dharmic past, most Indians are deeply religious in temperament and therefore, many laws that are derived from a secular constitution find few instinctively eager takers. This dichotomy, though, is brushed aside by deracinated, elitist intellectuals appealing to the authority of reason, which is deemed sacrosanct.

Constitution of IndiaNevertheless, in the real world of action, it creates irresolvable conflicts in legislation and law enforcement. Imagine the emotional turmoil faced by a devout Sikh cop being asked to supervise the demolition of a gurudwara to make space for a flyover. To be fair to the Constitution, it is not a static document and has been amended nearly a hundred times since independence already but in an adversarial political environment where an elected government cannot pass regular, non-controversial bills in the parliament, expecting serious constitutional amendments that can have political consequences is asking for the moon. Thus, in practice, Indians are condemned to live with whatever has been thrust upon them by their colonial past.

It could be argued that given the mind-boggling plurality of Indian society, to which modern secularism can make no claims of contribution, it would be impossible to work out a common minimum program that functions equally well for all sections and therefore, a code has to be enforced “from the outside” with or without the consent of the masses. In their defence, the secularists declare that in time, such laws would trickle down into the consciousness of people and within a few generations, their primitive religious intuition would be replaced by a humane and rational outlook. This hope, other than being a product of the rationalist delusion mentioned above, also turns out to be a non starter for Indian society, which has a by and large successful history of resisting such attempts of acculturation by the powers that be, the Islamic invader, the colonial empire or the modern state. For the people don’t identify with the events of another time and place—read reformation in Europe—in which their own ancestry had absolutely no role to play.

This resentment is further accentuated by the glaring historical facts that point to a remarkably more harmonious social order in their own civilization. So, a relevant question to ask in this context is, if Hindu society never faced conflicts between the ruling class and the clergy, obviously due to its non-Iain T. Bensonecclesiastical make up, why should it accept a false consciousness imposed via hazy platitudes of secularist discourse? The most common answer is that Indian society is not entirely Hindu and it has to fulfil the aspirations of the minorities as well and secularism ensures that. Never mind the self referential circularity of secularist logic, let us now examine how secularism indeed provides a breath of fresh air to the minorities by effectively suffocating the majority.

A secular state can choose to interact with religion(s) in the following ways as defined by Iain Benson, a Canadian-British legal philosopher:

  1. Neutral secular: No support to any religion in any way
  2. Positive secular: State creates general conditions favourable to all religions without favouring beliefs of anyone
  3. Negative secular: State not competent in religious matters but does not inhibit religious manifestations
  4. Inclusive secular: State not controlled by a single religion but works in the widest interest of different faith groups including non religious

It would be interesting to find out which of the above is the accepted definition of secularism in India. As the word was added to the preamble hastily at the time of 1975 emergency, it is unlikely that Mrs. Gandhi or her colleagues would’ve had the time to delve into such intricacies. But it is never too late to get to the bottom of a conundrum that is an inexhaustible source of sensationalism for the Indian media. From the above definitions, it is clear that in the Indian experience, putting a finger on one of the four variations turns out to be a near impossibility. It appears that our secularism is a “contextual” secularism that changes its function as per political convenience.

The state turns positive in relation to Hajj subsidies and negative regarding issues such as large-scale conversion by Christian missionaries. When it comes to Hindu issues, it becomes a neutral secular state, expressly suppressing facts through proxies and poking its nose into issues it has no business to be worried about. In states like West Bengal, the state adopts another form of secularism, that is, criminal secularism because it refuses to link appalling acts of crime to a “particular religion”.

The BJPs Secularism!Evidently, secularism in India is a false construct that only applies to the majority religion, whether it is in the form of the government control of temples or an unwarranted interference in educational institutions run by the majority community. This contextual secularism has serious repercussions for the Hindu society as it reopens the wounds that it has endured under a thousand years of largely exploitative rule by outsiders and alienates its various sections into becoming self loathing anglophiles, hardliner reactionaries or indifferent, apolitical and uninformed bystanders.

Hindus, under the influence of the dominant secularist discourse, are fast forgetting the art of speaking of their own dharma on their own terms and it is getting increasingly common to find well-meaning Hindus getting embroiled in inane debates about the “right” to worship according to rules created in 16th century Europe.

Shingnapur, a relatively unknown village of Maharashtra, was dragged into one such duel between reason and “superstition”, when a group of self-proclaimed feminists declared their intent to offer oil to the murti of Shanidev (Saturn) at the temple, a practice traditionally restricted to only males. Keeping with the arrogant trend of rationalist interventions, it was decreed that the practice was an expression of deep-seated patriarchy prevalent in Hindu society and how such discriminatory practices must end.

Darandale Shivajirao AnnasahebThe Shani Shingnapur Temple technically belongs to the Shri Shaneshwar Devasthan Trust and more broadly to the residents of this village, whose many generations have adored and worshipped the deity in a particular way. Further, there is no evidence of these unique customs originating from social compulsions or tyranny of any kind. They belong to the realm of the esoteric and must be spared the jibes of secular rationality. Most importantly, the arrangement works for the locals, whose faith in the power of the deity’s presence inspires them to do away with doors for their houses and locks for their valuables, an ideal worth emulating for outsiders.

In Hindu mythology, Saturn is easily the most difficult planet to propitiate. It symbolizes death, disease, poverty and all that we abhor in life. It brings about great hindrance in self-expression and self-manifestation but only through these finite obstacles does it offer a gateway to infinite potential. The state of Hindu society for the last one thousand years also seems to have been strongly afflicted by Saturn, characterized by widespread poverty, subjugation, self-pity and exploitation by external forces beyond its control.

Reasoning (yukti) has been a phenomenal asset for the Indian civilization, yet it has never been worshipped or put on a holy pedestal. Experience (anubhava) has always superseded reason as far as its proximity to the truth is concerned. Saturn is the planet that grants us anubhava. Let us not permit petty political reasons to overrule the spiritual experience of our diverse communities, who’re anyway suffering the tyranny of secularization for no fault of theirs. Let Saturn be our guide to self discovery, in Shingnapur and elsewhere.- IndiaFacts, 4 February 2016

» Ashish Dhar is a mechanical engineer and an entrepreneur who lives in New Delhi. He is co-founder of www.pragyata.com, an e-learning portal dedicated to Indic knowledge systems.


Secularism of Congress

See also

How India forgot about Pakistani Hindus – David Frawley

Sitala Temple, Lahore, Pakistan. Photo (C) Haroon Khalid

David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri )“Hindus in India do not give adequate attention to the plight of Pakistani Hindus. … Yet should they raise the issue of mistreatment of Hindus in Pakistan, they are criticised as communal or disturbing social harmony. The negation of Pakistani Hindus has been so successful that if one raises the issue, many people think that one is exaggerating or making up their plight.” – Dr David Frawley

Pakistani Hindu WomenWhich religious group has the least amount of human rights in South Asia? The probable answer, perhaps surprisingly, is a group that few think about or recognise as existing—Pakistani Hindus.

The plight of Pakistani Hindus is among the direst of any community in the world and has been so for decades. Yet not many in the world are aware of, much less have any concern for them, even in India.

Hindus in Pakistan are a targeted community and losing their numbers, unlike Muslims in India who are increasing. While there were similar percentages of Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India at the time of Partition, Pakistani Hindus have been continually oppressed, marginalised, converted or simply eliminated. The result is that only two per cent of Pakistan is Hindu today.

Most Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh ProvincePakistani Hindus are among the poorest of the poor and do only the most menial jobs. The most basic human rights are not given to them. Pakistani Hindus cannot own land or register their marriages. Their women are commonly abducted and there is little they can do about it. Pakistani courts seldom hear their pleas, or if they do, seldom rule in their favor. Sometimes paying of high ransoms may work to bring their daughters back, but overall Pakistani Hindus are too poor to afford these. A Pakistan Hindu Marriage Act has been in the courts for years but has not yet been approved, though Pakistan has continued a Christian Marriage Act from the British era.

Hinduism is denigrated in Pakistan textbooks as unholy and the Hindu past of Pakistan is almost eradicated from the record. Pakistanis are taught to distrust and look down upon Hindus, as kafirs, if not subhuman. The result is that Pakistani Hindus often face fierce religious hatred by people who do not even know them.

You will not see any thriving Hindu temples left in Pakistan comparable to the great mosques that have continued in India. Hindu temples are neglected, occupied or destroyed. There are no Hindu religious schools of any size or any group funding them like the Saudi-funded madrasas in India. There are no government honoured Hindu holidays in Pakistan, such as Islamic holidays in India.

There has never been any major Pakistan political leader who was a Hindu. Hindus have no real representation in government and are afraid to even try to vote. There are certainly no comparable Hindu actors lauded in Pakistan movies as there are Muslim actors like the Khans in India. In fact, Hindus have no presence in the media or any social influence. The Hindu organisations that do exist often come under vandalism or outright attack, and try to function in secrecy.

Desecrated India FlagWhere is the outrage from any corner?

Ignoring the plight of Pakistani Hindus began with the government of India after 1947, perhaps fearing that highlighting their plight might inflame anti-Muslim sentiments among Hindus in India. It has continued ever since, almost without any question as to its consequences.

The Indian media and academia followed suit after the government, and the foreign media and academia naturally followed their examples. Well-funded pro-Muslim lobbies have naturally not wanted to have the issue addressed, and the large pro-Pakistan lobby in America has invested heavily in trying to show that Pakistan is much more tolerant than it is.

The Left in India has been averse to addressing the cause of Pakistani Hindus, probably because it considers Hinduism to be Right wing and the enemy. Human rights and NGO groups afford them little attention as little funding is available to favor their cause. Even feminists have ignored the plight of Pakistani Hindu women, though Pakistani Hindu women are among the most ill-treated in the world.

Hindus in India do not give adequate attention to the plight of Pakistani Hindus, either. Yet should they raise the issue of mistreatment of Hindus in Pakistan, they are criticised as communal or disturbing social Pakistan Hindu Girls: Abducted, converted, then forcibly married!harmony. The negation of Pakistani Hindus has been so successful that if one raises the issue, many people think that one is exaggerating or making up their plight.

The need for action

Should not all groups in India insist that Pakistani Hindus be afforded the same rights as Indian Muslims? After all, they are both human beings.

Fortunately, the Narendra Modi government is beginning to address the plight of Pakistani Hindus and a few India media groups are making better efforts as well. Yet so far they are only scraping the tip of a massive iceberg of oppression and abuse that will require persistent and determined struggles to effectively correct. – Daily-O,  14 January 2016

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Sastri) is an American Hindu teacher and author who has written more than thirty books on Hinduism. He is the founder and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Pakistani Hindus Protest

Also read

 

Swami Vivekananda and hero-worship – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst“This moronic Hindu love of Christanity and Islam does partly go back to Vivekananda’s sayings like the famous ‘Islamic body, Vedanta brain’ quote. Vivekananda could not foresee that the next generations of Hindus would degenerate to such a level of loss of the power of discrimination that they—including monks from his own Ramakrishna Mission—would start to pontificate about an illusory ‘equal truth of all religions.’ So he never focused on that problem, and later thinkers like Ram Swarup and now Rajiv Malhotra had to take it up.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

Saurav Basu, an independent researcher with interests in history and politics, defends Swami Vivekananda against two perceived criticisms (“Swami Vivekananda And Two Criticisms In Contemporary Intellectual Discourse”, Swarajya, 27 January 2016). He starts with me, then deals with Rajiv Malhotra. Formally, that is a bit curious, since Malhotra is older than me as well as better informed concerning Vivekananda. His book Indra’s Net mostly deals with Vivekananda whereas I have made only a few passing remarks on him. Then again, Bose only uses his rebuttal of my views as a warm-up for dealing with Malhotra’s thesis, so I guess that makes it OK.

Rajiv MalhotraI cannot speak for Mr. Malhotra, but knowing his work, I find it strange that Basu posits an opposition between Vivekananda and him. If anything, Malhotra is a great defender of Vivekananda. Some Western scholars and their Indian imitators claim that Vivekananda represents a movement called “neo-Hinduism”, discontinuous from historical Hinduism except in outward form, and more indebted to Christianity. Against this novel construction of the “neo-Hindu” entity, Malhotra has shown, in his book Indra’s Net, that Vivekananda was every inch a Hindu.

This at once solves the major problem Basu posits: did Rajiv Malhotra plagiarise Swami Vivekananda when he deduced the need for charity from Vedanta (because the Other is deemed to be of the same essence as the Self), and when he posited “historicity” as a defining trait of the Abrahamic religions as against Hinduism? It is lawful for a scholar to trace the germs of an author’s path-breaking doctrine in earlier authors, but here Basu insinuates an antagonism between the later and the earlier author, even an attempt by the later one to obscure and conceal the influence of the earlier one. The subject deserves a more thorough treatment, but the short answer is: both authors were applying the vision of Dharma, already thousands of years old, to the challenges of their own time.

Swami VivekanandaScepticism regarding Vivekananda

Then, speaking for myself, I learn that the present writer “alleges that ‘Swami Vivekananda is over-glorified and made the patron of too many institutions…. Thus, scholars of Hindu philosophy consider his knowledge … very third-rate, and his influential interpretation of Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra even harmful….’”

The opinions I cite about Vivekananda are not an “allegation” of mine, just an account of facts I observe. Many scholars, whom I don’t define as “Western” but as “not beholden to the Hindu cause”, candidly allege that Vivekananda had not been trained in the nitty-gritty of Hindu philosophy and therefore necessarily displayed some defects when trying his hand at it. The evaluation “so third-rate” is from Robert Zydenbos, an academic with whom I have crossed swords several times (he counts me among “the scum of the earth”), but nonetheless a scrupulous scholar. From his detailed knowledge of the fine points of Hindu thought, he judges Vivekananda’s rendering of it (typically in speeches before commoner audiences) as very sketchy and unmindful of his precise sources.

On the other hand, not being a detail-oriented scholastic sometimes facilitates the larger perspective one gains when surveying a subject from the outside. And here, I can follow Basu’s quote from Sister Nivedita that Vivekananda “added to Hinduism”. An important subject, but no further treatment of it in this brief article.

The opinion that Vivekananda’s book Raja Yoga, a presentation of the Yoga Sutra, is confused and confusing, and thus dangerous, is from Swami Agehananda Bharati. He was a German Indologist who became an ordained Hindu monk, though he frequently expressed his skepticism about some traits of Hindu tradition as presently practised. Maybe Basu doesn’t like Agehananda’s ideological position, or his skin colour, but it is in keeping with scholarly practice to take his criticism of this much-read book seriously. He was fairly competent on yogic matters. And even if he is found to have been wrong, I still have a right to report that this opinion exists. Yes, there are people who consider Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga “harmful”.

Netaji Subhas Chandra BoseProblematizing hero-worship

As for myself, in the quoted lines I have not expressed any opinion of Vivekananda’s treatment of earlier thinkers and their thoughts. The thrust of my intervention was simply to problematize the Hindu tendency of hero-worship. Just because Vivekananda played a decisive role in giving Hindus pride again in their oppressed and much-maligned civilization, many Hindus treat him as infallible. Indeed, Basu’s own article is an example of this mindset. To start defending Vivekananda against his defender Malhotra, one must make him untouchably perfect indeed.

Let us compare this with another case of hero-worship, of another Bengali recently in the news: Subhas Chandra Bose. Yes, he certainly was a hero, freely choosing the difficult life of combat, always leading from the front and sharing the lives of his soldiers. And he was a great patriot: one may disagree with his strategic choices, but he did it for the love of the Motherland. But then, so did others: the choice by V.D. Savarkar to throw in India’s lot with the British was equally born from a desire to serve freedom for the Motherland in the best way possible. One great thing about India is the way it dealt with the different choices leaders had made in World War II: whereas European countries were racked by national disunity and revenge for years after, in India the war was really over in 1945. Whatever conflicting courses had been taken, they were correctly deemed to have been different attempts, according to everyone’s own lights, to serve the Motherland. That is why Jawaharlal Nehru offered to defend Bose’s lieutenants when they were tried by the British. So, we can agree that Bose was a heroic national leader.

Yet, he was very fallible too. His political ideas, e.g. about India’s need for dictatorship and of synthesizing Fascism and Communism, are best forgotten. But Bose-worshippers think they have to defend all of him. There is far too much hero-worship in Hindu nationalism, leading to a stagnation of thought because of a hyper-focus on the hero’s historical struggles and neglect of other struggles, esp. the present ones.

For a more consequential case of hero-worship: activists of the RSS, the self-praising “vanguard of Hindu society”, still go gaga over the memory of their movement’s founding fathers, K. B. Hedgewar and his successor M. S. Golwalkar. Though they have passed from the scene long ago, their works have never been critically analyzed even though their photographs are on display at every RSS function. RSS thought is still frozen in the pre-war years. Even the 1960s’ addition of Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism wasn’t much of an addition. Though the term is unimpeachable, it probably originated in 1930s’ Europe, in Jacques Maritain’s book Humanisme intégral, the major source of Christian Democracy (its central idea, very relevant both in India and Europe during the heyday of anti-religious Communism, was that “a humanism that denies man’s religious dimension, is not an integral humanism”). Upadhyaya’s core concept of a “national soul” goes back even farther, viz. to Johann Herder’s nationalism. So, the RSS’s “Hindu nationalism” is neither original nor very deep, and even its latest addition is already half a century old. Hedgewar’s ideas may have been useful and defensible in the interwar years, but the world has changed. Because of hero-worship, his approach was not seen as an attempt to serve Hindu society under the circumstances then obtaining, but were made the absolute focus of loyalty for succeeding generations. The result has been a willful unfitness for operating under changing conditions, and hence a decades-long impotence before the persistent de-Hinduization of India, all on the RSS’s watch.  

Ram SwarupVivekananda’s influence

In Hindu Dharma, new ideas may develop, but they should not become an absolute yardstick. In broad outline, Dharma has been discovered and mapped well enough by generations past, and it is from them as a collective entity that we should take inspiration (what we in Europe call the mos maiorum, the “ancestral ethos”), not only from some recent hero. As G. W. F. Hegel said: “The true is the whole.”

Admittedly, such a counterproductive influence cannot possibly be attributed to Swami Vivekananda. The defence of his fair name, as undertaken here by Saurav Basu (as on the stereotyping of India as “spiritual”, another subject too large to go into here), is also more intricate and sophisticated. It is true, and Basu provides the supporting quote, that Vivekananda saw Hinduism as a vast expanse stretching between the crudest and the most subtle, and that every single one of them was a genuine grasping for the divine. Yet, that vision of his has wrongly been expanded to Christianity and Islam, which are not just paths to the divine minding their own business, but also a demonization of all other paths. And this moronic Hindu love of Christanity and Islam does partly go back to Vivekananda’s sayings like the famous “Islamic body, Vedanta brain” quote. Vivekananda could not foresee that the next generations of Hindus would degenerate to such a level of loss of the power of discrimination that they (including monks from his own Ramakrishna Mission) would start to pontificate about an illusory “equal truth of all religions”. So he never focused on that problem, and later thinkers like Ram Swarup and now Rajiv Malhotra had to take it up.

So here too, we should see successive generations of Hindu thinkers together as all emanating from Dharma, and not have this hyper-focus on a hero from the colonial period. And most certainly, we should not borrow his vantage point to belittle a trail-blazer from the present time. This is another drawback of hero-worship: it makes you hyper-conscious of the challenges faced by Vivekananda, and blind to the rather different challenges Hinduism faces in other situations, including today—and to which Rajiv Malhotra is exploring the answers. The best way to honour the past’s Vivekananda is to support today’s Vivekananda.

Patanjali“Revelation”

While we are at it, this phenomenon of hero-worship is closely akin to another trait of Hinduism: the conferral of absolute authority on the Vedas and even on more broadly defined scriptures. The Vedic seers knew very well where the Vedic hymns came from: not from divine revelation but from their own creativity and poetic skill. That is why the Vedic hymns have the form of human worshippers addressing the gods, unlike the Quran, wherein God is made to address man. That is why the seer Vasishtha could claim the merit for his own hymns’ power to seduce Lord Indra into supporting his patron king Sudas during the Vedic Battle of the Ten Kings. But as the Vedic corpus was completed and receded into the past, its stature grew, its human origins were forgotten, and eventually it was elevated to divine status.

Therefore, many Hindus evince a tendency which Basu wrongly attributes to me: “Elst is also perhaps disturbed by Vivekananda’s emphasis on anubhava (experience) over agama (scriptural revelation) as the essence of Hindu thought, and the idea of Hinduism as a ‘scientific religion’ which emphasized empirical validation of spiritual precepts as the culmination of all sadhana.” No, where there are yogic insights in Vedic literature, they follow from prior direct experience. To me it is obvious: of course anubhava takes precedence over agama. Some Veda loyalists claim that the goal of meditation is the realization of the “revealed” Vedic mahavakyas (“great sentences”, like “that art thou” or “I am Brahma”), but I think the mahavakyas are only the later formulaic version of prior experience.

Patañjali thought likewise, for he explains what to do to achieve Self-realization, not which Vedic verses to read. Indeed, Shankara held it against him that he doesn’t quote the Vedas anywhere. I therefore disagree with Edwin Bryant, quoted with approval by Basu, that Patañjali “accepted the truth of divine revelation, agama”. At this point, I realize that I am breaking ranks with a widespread Hindu belief. But if the choice is between the spiritual autonomy of the Vedic seers or Patañjali and the dependence on Scripture of later Hindus, I would choose the former. And so did, as Basu implicitly asserts, Swami Vivekananda.

On this count, Vivekananda was an innovator in Hindu tradition as it had become. But at the same time, he only restored the worldview of the ancients. To many Veda loyalists of his day, this vision of a Hinduism (at its best) as a “scientific religion” based upon “empirical validation” and “experience” would have sounded unorthodox. But to Patañjali, it must have seemed obvious. – 31 January 2016

» This article was sent to Swarajya Magazine as a rebuttal to Saurav Basu’s article attacking Koenraad Elst and Rajiv Malhotra. The Swarajya editor has finally got around to publishing it here.
» Dr Koenraad Elst is an Indologist and Historian in Mortsel, Belgium. He has published on the interface of religion and politics, correlative cosmologies, the dark side of Buddhism, the reinvention of Hinduism, technical points of Indian and Chinese philosophies, various language policy issues, Maoism, the renewed relevance of Confucius in conservatism, the increasing Asian stamp on integrating world civilization, direct democracy, the defence of threatened freedoms, and the Belgian question. Regarding religion, he combines human sympathy with substantive skepticism.

Swami Vivekananda Quote

Sita Ram Goel: The sagely activist – Pradeep Kumar Goel with Rajiv Malik

Sita Ram Goel

Pradeep Kumar Goel“My father created an awareness of certain surreptitious forces threatening Hinduism and the fundamental culture of India. He made it his life’s mission to expose the real intentions of people who were disguised as benefactors but were secretly intent upon serving selfish ends. In his book entitled Hindu Society Under Siege, he clearly laid out how we Hindus are under attack from many fronts. He emphasized that the biggest problem was a lack of awareness of the problem.” – Pradeep Kumar Goel

Rajiv MalikSita Ram Goel will be remembered by Hindus in India and around the world for a long time. For most of the last half of the twentieth century, he and mentor-friend Ram Swarup produced hundreds of books, articles and pamphlets extolling the glories of Hinduism while warning of its most malicious foes. They were a bold and outspoken twosome who published their works through the Voice of India (VOI), a publication house they created just for this purpose. Although both Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup have now passed away, the VOI is still active—dedicated exclusively to the promotion of issues important to the modern-day Renaissance of Hinduism, a cause for which Sita Ram Goel gladly and courageously dedicated his life.

Born on October 16, 1921, Sita Ram Goel finished his formal education with an MA in History in 1944 from the University of Delhi. Yet he spent his entire life pursuing and sharing a broad spectrum of knowledge on a variety of subjects. He was well versed in several languages and came to be respected as a scholar of literature, philosophy, religion, and sociology. By his own account, he drew his primary inspiration on all these subjects from Plato and Sri Aurobindo.

Although he developed a keen interest in communism during his college years, he turned against the ideology in 1949 when he came to understand the plight of people living in communist Russia. After 1950, he committed himself to informing the Indian people of the real theory and practice of communism in Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. His careful and tediously researched work during this time rightly earned him a reputation as a formidable activist.

Rivals both respected and feared his mighty insights, which were too often too true and well-articulated to easily refute. Sita Ram Goel chose to fight his battles so far above the common, war-torn terrain of human emotions that contenders not matching his wit were left to look like fools. Hence, direct challenges to his writings were few, if any. The most damaging effect upon his work came from rivals following a strategy of “strangling by silence, ” a crafty tactic of blocking the publication of his name and his works. Such a passive confinement, however, was not nearly enough to stop his intellectual assault on anti-Hindu forces. The writings of Sita Ram Goel are alive and well today.

On December 3, 2003, at the age of 83, Sita Ram Goel passed away peacefully in his sleep following a long illness. It was a quiet end to a humble yet dynamic life dedicated to the revitalization of Hinduism and the evolution of India. We at Hinduism Today were honored to have maintained a fruitful association with him for more than 20 years and will long remember our visits with him in New Delhi at his home and during his one visit with us here in Hawaii. He is survived by his two sons, Saroj Kumar Goel and Pradeep Kumar Goel.

Today, [Aditya Goel, Pradeep’s son] manages the Voice of India—[Pradeep passed away suddenly in January 2005]—which is supported both by donations and by VOI profits which are invested back into publications. Hinduism Today correspondent Rajiv Malik recently chatted with Pradeep in New Delhi about his father, the state of Hinduism today and the prospects for India tomorrow. Here are some excerpts.

When did you first realize your father was a Hindu activist?

• In 1952 my father brought us to New Delhi from Calcutta. I was just seven years old then and too young to understand the kind of work he was doing. In 1964 there was some talk of his being arrested, but even at that time I was not really aware of what was going on. All I knew was that he had written a book criticizing Nehru, following the war with China, and a lot of people were getting upset. As time went on, my father brought together some Hindu scholars interested in defending Hindu society. This group stimulated the creation of the Voice of India in 1980. It was only then that I began to read my father’s articles with interest and finally understood his work as a Hindu activist. At that time I was 35 years of age. Now I am 54.

•  What inspired your father to become an activist?

•  He felt that the Hindu society was going through a crisis and that a Hindu renaissance was necessary. He wanted to do his part in bringing about change, but gained the confidence and guidance to do so from Ram Swarup, his close friend and advisor. Together, these two men wrote pamphlets that were forceful and strong, with titles like Hindu Society Under Siege, Defense of Hinduism and Perversion of India’s Political Parlance. Eventually they decided that, to do this kind of controversial work, they needed their own publication house.

What was your father’s most important contribution to the Hindu renaissance?

• We are proud that he brought forward new ideas in defense of Hindu society, and that they were well written. We can now see that people from all over the country and around the world were affected by this literature. Even the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), both Hindu nationalist organizations, used his literature. Not having such material themselves, they used Voice of India publications to give their positions substance.

What was the core of your father’s message?

• In the good old days, my father used to run an organization called the Society for Defense of Freedom in Asia. Ram Swarup, who was also associated with this organization, helped to bring about its focus. He proclaimed that humanity had suffered three terrible tragedies: Christianity, Islam and Communism.

Christianity is not now as bad as it used to be. The cruelties once practiced in the name of that religion have been eliminated by reforms. Now the only threat from the Christians comes from their missionary work. Because of the collapse of Soviet Russia, communism has also suffered a setback and has been weakened. The biggest danger humanity faces today comes from militant Islam. Sooner or later, we must take care of this threat that comes from these people. My father was saying this years ago. As I review his works today, I realize that his assessment of so many things was absolutely correct. He was ahead of his time.

Did you ever feel that your father and your family were in danger because of his work?

• Were there ever any threats? I could not say that we were really ever in danger. We may have thought so at the time. But, yes, there were some threats. My father would get postcards saying he was indulging in anti-Muslim activities and that one day his sons and grandsons would be converted to Islam. Also, the fact that father’s friends were frequently coming to him and advising him to act cautiously had us all a little worried. But he used to say that he had fulfilled his duties and was ready to face whatever consequences might come. He definitely had some spiritual power backing him up. All these threats that we received affected our family only monetarily, and only for a short time.

Was there one single incident that alarmed you more than the rest?

• Yes, one incident stands out. We were working on the Hindi edition of Ram Swarup’s book, Understanding Islam Through Hades. We had finished printing the book and had taken it to the bindery. This bindery was located in the Muslim area of Old Delhi. Although a Hindu owned it, some of the workers there were Muslim.

One Muslim boy saw the word Hades in the title of the book and took it to a Muslim priest, who declared the book anti-Islam. About a hundred people then gathered around the bindery in protest, and the binder called my father on the phone saying, “These people want to burn down my shop!” The police picked up the son of the shop owner and took him to the police station for questioning. Because my father was the publisher of the book, he was also picked up. As a result of all this, our Hindu friends and well-wishers also gathered at the police station. That was a night of turmoil. Our whole family was quite disturbed and worried that father might be tortured.

The next day was Sunday. A special court was convened to listen to our case. Although my father was released, the case took a long time to settle. It was introduced in 1987 and was finally settled sometime in 2000. In the end, all that happened was we were asked to delete certain portions of the book. We complied. But the antagonism of the whole incident really wore us down.

Did your father have a support group during troubled times?

• Most of my father’s Muslim and Christian friends deserted him when they came to know that his writings spoke against their religious beliefs. Although father put across his views in a very polite and analytical manner, there was often strong reaction. He used to say that just because he criticized Christianity, that did not mean he did not like Christians. He even invited critics to speak up against Hinduism in his same spirit. However, he did emphatically declare that it was clearly not fair to condemn Hinduism, then convert people from it.

Back in the eighties, my father aggressively defended Hinduism when there was a mass conversion of Hindus to Christianity at Meenakshipuram in South India. That one event was an important signal to my father that Hinduism was facing a major crisis and that something should be done to meet the challenge.

Tell us about your father? What kind of person was he?

• He was a very simple man with very few requirements. His food was simple. His life was simple. When we provided him with a car on behalf of our business, we asked him many times to engage a driver, but he never did. He said that a driver would just waste a lot of time waiting around for him.

My father’s general approach to life was always very humanitarian. He never wanted anyone else to get held up because of him. When he was active, he never required people to come to his house for a meeting. Rather, he would go and meet them at a place of their choosing.

Although he could have easily remained fully occupied writing his own books, he was always willing to help edit and organize the works of others. In fact, he used to insist that it was a part of his duty to promote the work of other deserving scholars. His first concern was to help the Hindu cause. He was a selfless man.

Can you tell us a little about your mother?

My mother was always at home looking after us and performing her puja (worship). She was a pious lady. Her primary duty was to take care of the family. She was not really concerned with what my father was doing. She had a high regard for Ram Swarup and took him to be an enlightened person. She always assumed that, because my father was always working with him, nothing could go wrong. She died in 1981.

How did your father’s work impact you and the rest of his family?

• By 1980 my father had fulfilled his familial obligations and had lived a full life. All of his children were married and further business dealings were of no interest to him. He told us that he wanted to go full-time into writing and explained why.

“There are four types of debts, ” he said. “bhuta rin, deva rin, pitra rin and rishi rin. (Rin means “debt.”) Bhuta rin is one’s debt toward the ancestors. Deva rin is one’s debt toward the Gods. Pitra rin is one’s debt to the father, which includes taking care of the family. Rishi rin is one’s debt to the saints and rishis.”

My father felt that he was at the stage in life when he should be working to settle his debt with the rishis and saints by spreading their message. He felt that the vidya (knowledge) of the rishis should be passed on to mankind. He used to emphasize that he was doing this work without hope of getting a reward or becoming famous.

Did your father cultivate any “disciples” to carry on his work?

• Only Dr. Koenraad Elst, who lives in Belgium, could be considered a true disciple. Another person who was strongly influenced by my father and is now doing good work is N. S. Rajaram. Mr. Rajaram is based in South India and even today is a fearless fighter for the Hindu cause.

Other well-known scholars have extracted extravagantly from my father’s writings but have neglected to give him credit. This is plagiarism, no doubt. But my father used to insist that he was not bothered by it, so long as the right idea got promoted. Initially, I had our publication rights drawn up with a copyright clause, but my father directed me to remove it and let the people use the material any way they wanted.

Why did your father write only in English?

• Many people asked my father why he did not write in Hindi. His response was that because the Christians and Muslims were using English to put forward their message, and the media supporting them was English-based, he felt it was appropriate that his work should be published in English. He also made the point that the people who spoke Hindi as a first language were already with him ideologically and did not need to be educated or persuaded.

What do people most frequently request from VOI?

• We are contacted often for our publications on Hindu philosophy. Our best authors in this field are David Frawley and Koenraad Elst. Of course, the works of my father and Ram Swarup are also in demand, but they focused on Islam and Christianity.

How would you assess the current response to VOI publications?

• Today, the response is quite satisfactory, but our publications are fairly low-priced and therefore yield low profit margins for book sellers, which means the books are not usually kept in stock in the stores but rather are kept on display so that orders can be made directly to us by interested parties. Today, we have 95 titles in print. Twenty-nine are authored by Sita Ram Goel himself.

To be honest, the literary value of a book has little significance in the book selling business. The physical value of the book is what counts. If you want books by Aurobindo, you have to buy them from the Aurobindo Ashram. They are not available anywhere else. Books on Gandhi are only published by the government. It is the same with most good Hindu literature. If Gita Press does not publish it, no one will. There is just not much money in it.

What guidelines did your father set up for you to do this work, yet make a good living and support your family?

• My father’s guidelines stipulated first that I fulfill my responsibilities to my family. Then as time and resources allowed, I was to perpetuate the services of the VOI. To earn my livelihood, I manage Biblia Impex, a book export business that my father formed in 1964 to provide financial security for our family.

My father started Biblia Impex from a small table in a friend’s office. He would sit on one side of the table, and his typist would sit on the other side. He was one of the first Indian publishers to send books abroad without asking for advance payment. Other export businesses would never do this. They would always require money in advance. My father understood European integrity. He knew they were trustworthy.

Father used to tell me that I should not work for more than I required. Years ago, I had an opportunity to purchase some properties that could have made us very wealthy, but I did not do so.

What are your plans to keep your father’s books in print, as well as produce edited versions, collections, and more?

• My father used to make it clear that he had said what we wanted to say and that the work was complete. I feel that it is my duty now to see to it that the publications of the established writers for VOI—Sita Ram Goel, Ram Swarup, David Frawley, Rajaram and Koenraad Elst—are made available to the people. I will keep doing this as long as I am able.

So far as editing these publications is concerned, we would need some very highly qualified people to do this, writers who are at least as qualified as my father and Ram Swarup. At the moment, I am not aware of such people. It is far better that we just ask our established writers to present their own points of view rather than have them attempt to modify the works of people who were established experts in the subjects they handled.

What about bringing his writings to the Internet?

• Right now, we have 28 titles on the Internet. Our website is www.bharatvani.org/books. I must admit, however, that this effort is minimal at most. We just do not have the capacity to go into a more elaborate web presentation. Others might offer to undertake this work on our behalf, but we ourselves cannot. Our primary obligation is to perpetuate the printed material. Also, putting these works on the Internet is expensive. The Voice of India is not a commercial venture. Whatever money comes from selling the VOI publications is invested back into printing and distribution.

• Can you summarize your father’s legacy?

• My father created an awareness of certain surreptitious forces threatening Hinduism and the fundamental culture of India. He made it his life’s mission to expose the real intentions of people who were disguised as benefactors but were secretly intent upon serving selfish ends. In his book entitled Hindu Society Under Siege, he clearly laid out how we Hindus are under attack from many fronts. He emphasized that the biggest problem was a lack of awareness of the problem.

He and Ram Swarup were always challenging Christian and Islamic tactics, and in their analyses of these strategies did much to clarify Hinduism. Initially people did not know how to compare Hinduism with Christianity and Islam. People assumed that because the Christians set up hospitals and schools, they were good people with well-meaning intentions. They did not understand that they might have ulterior motives.

My father realized that, to expose these Christian missionaries, it was necessary to analyze their literature and critique them in a logical manner. This in itself was a big revelation that brought about many positive results.

The people also did not understand Islam. None of us knew about Mohammad Sahib, Akbar, Babar and Aurengzeb. We just thought that they were rulers of India. We had no idea about the many injustices they had ruthlessly inflicted upon Hindus. Ram Swarup and my father presented the activities of these people clearly and within a historical perspective. They won our hearts with their minds.” – Hinduism Today, July/August/September, 2004

Voice of India Publishers

The “eminent historians” have blood on their hands – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst“As a weapon against Hinduism, and as a way to whip up Muslim emotion, they alleged that the Hindu claimants of the Ram Janmabhumi site had been using false history. In fact, history was only peripheral to the Hindu claim on the site: it is a Hindu pilgrimage site today, and that ought to suffice to leave it to the Hindus. Yet, secularism’s favoured ’eminent historians’ insisted on interfering and said that there had never been a temple at the site.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

K. K. MuhammedLast week a few marginal media reported that archaeologist K. K. Muhammed had a startling revelation on the responsibility for the Ayodhya controversy and all its concomitant bloodshed.

Young people may not know what the affair, around 1990, was all about. Briefly, Hindus had wanted to build proper temple architecture on one of their sacred sites, the Rama Janmabhumi (“Rama’s birthplace”). So far, the most natural thing in the world. However, a mosque had been built in forcible replacement of the temple that had anciently adorned the site: the Babri Masjid. Not that this should have been a problem, because the structure was already in use as a temple, and the site was of no importance to the Muslims, who never go on pilgrimage there. So, Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress government was manoeuvring towards a compromise allotting the site definitively to the Hindus all while appeasing the Muslim leadership. This was not too principled, just pragmatic, but it had the merit of being bloodless.

Unfortunately, this non-violent formula was thwarted. An unexpected factor came in between. It stimulated and hardened Muslim resistance and especially, it made politicians hesitant to move forward on Ayodhya. As a consequence, street rowdies took over, killing hundreds. The Hindu-Muslim violence culminated in a multiple Muslim terror attack in Mumbai on 12 March 1993, which set the pattern for later terrorist attacks from New York and Paris to Mumbai again. On the other hand, it threw the issue into the BJP’s lap, making it the principal opposition party in 1991 and ultimately bringing it to power.

Ram Lalla VirajmanSo, who thwarted the Ayodhya solution, thus creating a new type of terrorism as well as setting the BJP on a course towards power? Though the contentious site had no special value for the Muslims at first, it had suddenly become the Mecca of another influential community: the secularists. They made it the touchstone of secularism’s resistance against “aggressive Hindu fundamentalism”.

As a weapon against Hinduism, and as a way to whip up Muslim emotion, they alleged that the Hindu claimants of the site had been using false history. In fact, history was only peripheral to the Hindu claim on the site: it is a Hindu pilgrimage site today, and that ought to suffice to leave it to the Hindus. Yet, secularism’s favoured “eminent historians” insisted on interfering and said that there had never been a temple at the site.

Then already, the existence of the temple was known from written testimonies (Muslim and European) and from B. B. Lal’s partial excavations at the site in 1973-4. Until the 1980s, the forcible replacement of the temple by the mosque had been a matter of consensus, as when a 19th-century judge ruled that a temple had indeed been destroyed, but that it had become too late to remedy this condition. The British rulers favoured the status-quo, but agreed that there had been a temple, as did the local Muslims. It is allowed for historians to question a consensus provided they have new evidence, but here they failed to produce any.

Yet, in a statement of 1989, JNU’s “eminent historians” turned an unchallenged consensus into a mere “Hindutva claim”. It is symptomatic for the power equation in India and in Indology that this is a repeating pattern. Thus, in the Aryan Homeland debate, the identification of the Vedic Saraswati river with the Ghaggar in Haryana is likewise being ridiculed by secularist academics and their foreign dupes as a “Hindutva concoction”, though it had first been proposed in 1855 by a French archaeologist and has been accepted ever since by most scholars.

Rama & Ayodhya by Meenakshi JainAfter the historians’ interference, the Indian mainstream politicians did not dare to go against the judgment of these authorities. The international media and India-watchers were also taken in and shared their hatred of these ugly Hindu history-falsifiers. Only, the Court-ordered excavations of 2003 have fully vindicated the old consensus: temple remains were found underneath the mosque. Moreover, the eminences asked to witness in Court had to confess their incompetence one after another (as documented by Meenakshi Jain: Rama and Ayodhya, 2013): one had never been to the site, the next one had never studied any archaeology, a third had only fallen in line with some hearsay, etc. Abroad this news has hardly been reported, and experts who know it make sure that no conclusions are drawn from it. After the false and disproven narrative of the eminent historians has reigned supreme for two decades, no one has yet bothered to demythologize their undeserved authority.

For close observers, the news of the eminent historians’ destructive role was not surprising. I had spoken on it in passing in my paper “The three Ayodhya debates” (St Petersburg 2011, available online), and in an interview with India Facts (8 Jan. 2016): “The secular intelligentsia … could reasonably have taken the position that a temple was indeed demolished to make way for a mosque but that we should let bygones be bygones. Instead, they went out of their way to deny facts of history. Rajiv Gandhi thought he could settle this dispute with some Congressite horse-trading: give the Hindus their toy in Ayodhya and the Muslims some other goodies, that will keep everyone happy. But this solution became unfeasible when many academics construed this contention as a holy war for a frontline symbol of secularism.”

Facile dismissals are sure to be tried against me. They will be harder when the allegation comes from an on-site archaeologist, moreover a Muslim.

The media had allotted an enormous weight to the Ayodhya affair: “Secularism in danger”, “India on the brink” and similar headlines were daily fare. When the Babri Masjid was demolished by impatient Hindu youngsters on 6 December 1992, the Times of India titled its editorial: “A requiem for norms”, no less. Given all the drama and moralistic bombast with which they used to surround this controversy, one would have expected their eagerness to report K. K. Muhammed’s eyewitness account. But no, they were extremely sparing in their coverage, reluctant to face an unpleasant fact: the guilt of their heroes, the “eminent historians”. These people outsourced the dirty work to Hindu and Muslim street fighters and to Islamic terrorists, but in fact it is they who have blood on their hands. – The Pioneer, 26 January 2016

Babri Masjid Demolition

Stormtroopers at Shani Shingnapur – Mayuresh Didolkar

Shaneshwar of Shingnapur

Mayuresh Didolkar“The Stormtroopers … will come, breach centuries old tradition and go on fighting other causes—an agitation against armpit shaving perhaps—while the priests who have cared for the temple for generations will be left to care for it once again, only this time with the knowledge that the temple they have devoted their entire life to has accorded them no privileges to practice religion as they see fit.” – Mayuresh Didolkar

Devendra Fadnavis & Trupti DesaiThe famous British mountaineer George Mallory is supposed to have replied the question “why did you want to climb Mt Everest?” with a cryptic “because it’s there”. Unfortunately the attitude that symbolized human spirit and never say die attitude in a mountaineer is quickly becoming bane of the civilised society in the 21st century. The group of women set to “storm”—helicopter on standby—the Shani Shingnapur Temple are the latest example of this excessive behaviour.

Before I being discussing the issue at hand, I am going to give a large concession to the feminists agitating against the temple administration—and public at large. The said concession being, there are really only parts of the temple that women are forbidden to enter, and men are. If my twitter feed is anything to go by, even that part is murky but since I feel it has no effect on the outcome of my arguments, I am going to get it out of the way. See, I am a reasonable guy.

Having given that concession, there is no disputing that the Stormtrooper—hehe … go on! sue me!—ladies are making this attempt today due to the following factors.

  1. Attacking Hindu religion is a sure-fire ticket to fame considering the largely Leftist media’s hostile attitude towards the Hindus, especially since Mr Modi took office in 2014.
  2. They are sure of the support of law and order since the state in question is ruled by BJP, a law and order party.
  3. None of them have to fear for blow-backs of this misadventure since they are offending people from the most peaceful religion

This stunt has that “heads I win, tails you lose” feel to it, since if the women are successful in storming the temple, they—and their backers, make no mistake about it, they have backers whose only interest is humiliating Hindus—would have the satisfaction of having humiliated Hindus once more. If they are not successful, and indeed stopped by police from entering the temple, they can go on perpetuating the right-wing thugs/patriarchy/police state narrative that their other NGO/Left wing buddies can use when it suits them. Like Gary Sinise tells Nick Cage towards the end of Snake Eyes: “Its snake eyes kiddo, the house wins.”

Now let’s discuss why this stunt has neither religious nor moral standing.

The first argument extended by these Stormtroopers is “equality before law” which sounds very pragmatic and obvious—and hence supported by a few centre of rightists—but has a fundamental flaw when you examine it up close. The “equality before law” argument implies, that religion is subjugated to law, at all times. Let me repeat the last three words. At all times. Now when a tenet of religion results in harm to an individual or a group, or if it keeps an opportunity of advancement away from the aforementioned group or individual then by all means law should step in. We are not after all a theocratic state that throws gay people from towers or allow pregnant women to die rather than give them an abortion. We are liberated and we must feel proud of it.

However, even the biggest supporter of this protest will struggle to explain to me what danger this temple entry restriction places women into. Or what opportunities—other than the one to offer prayers, an opportunity that has no socio-economic value in its strictest sense—it denies them. All it does is to place a restriction on them, in a place outside their own homes. To deny religion this freedom to place restrictions on individuals or groups in such limited manners is effectively subjugating entire religion to law. This kind of legal authoritarianism is a hallmark of regimes like China—where they forbade Muslims from fasting and men from growing beards. I am not sure I want to live in a police state like this.

The second argument is of course the slippery slope argument, that says if you allow this then what is to stop religions from forbidding entries to women from all temples or placing restrictions based on caste/religion etc. Unfortunately this is only an academic argument. It is sort of like saying if you allow gay people to marry each other, it may lead to a man marrying his dog next. While taking a decision based on a future risk, one must make a realistic assessment about how clear and present the risk is. In a Mahad Satyagrahacountry of literally millions of temples if there are fewer than a hundred—I am being generous here, I only know two such temples—places with such restrictions and no new place with similar restriction has come up in say last two hundred years or so, then the slippery slope argument is purely hypothetical and hence does not merit consideration.

It is also important to separate these nihilistic Stormtroopers from the leaders of past who agitated against unfair restrictions placed by traditions. Like—most famous case from my state—the Chavdar Tale Satyagraha (also known as Mahad Satyagraha) by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. Two important distinctions needed to be made here.

  1. In Chavdar Tale, the commodity being denied, viz water, is a life necessity. Keeping a class of people away from it based on their birth was not just by any means.
  2. This restriction placed on the Dalits was not acceptable to all Dalits. Hence thousands of people gathered on 20th March 1927 with Dr Ambedkar at Mahad.

Contrast this with the case in hand. The commodity being denied—if it is indeed being denied—is entry in a temple. Come on folks, some sense of perspective please. Not entering the temple is not going to kill you. All that is at risk is your own ego.

Equally importantly, the restriction put on women is not only acceptable but actively endorsed by a majority of women. These women are natives of the place as well as  highly educated, abroad living urban women whose egos are not so fragile that any restriction placed by religion is immediately seen as a sign of good ol’ patriarchy at work. Again my faith in religion’s absoluteness forbids me from making this suggestion but if indeed a referendum is held on this issue, I am confident that more women will vote against it.

Also not to put too fine a point to it, folks who drank water from the Mahad tank kept drawing from it for the rest of their lives, since it was an essential commodity for them. The Stormtroopers in this case will come, breach centuries old tradition and go on fighting other causes—an agitation against armpit shaving perhaps—while the priests who have cared for the temple for generations will be left to care for it once again, only this time with the knowledge that the temple they have devoted their entire life to has accorded them no privileges to practice religion as they see fit. If there is anything more sickening and more disgusting than abusing a person of his faith and then make him go on living like nothing has happened, I don’t know what it is. We have all heard of tales of Hindu women force-fed beef during partition riots. This is the less violent version of it.

The last—and most laughable—argument extended by these Stormtroopers—when cornered with the question about atrocities against women in other religion—is, “I am going to care for my religion, why should I worry about other religion?”

Well ladies, when Flavia Agnes quoted in an interview with Avni Choksi, “But after independence, the same women realised that it is important to bring changes for Hindu women as they lagged behind their Muslim and Christian counterparts,” she has also put forth the argument why it is perfectly OK for Christian or Muslim women’s right advocates to agitate on behalf of Hindu women.

And since none of you protested against Flavia’s stance then (this interview was published in last August) I am just going to assume that this argument was acceptable to you. Now why you have reversed this argument is what is tripping me.

Women in IndiaAgain—I am being generous here, I already told you—even if you decide to accept this argument for some reason, let me ask you this: Is this the biggest problem Hindu women are facing today? A 17-year-old girl in Jharkhand committed suicide yesterday because she did not have a toilet inside her house. An estimated 65% women folks do not have access to feminine hygiene products, one out of four girls from rural India drops out of high school after attaining puberty because she does not have adequate protection during her menses. An estimated million women have gone to jail or have faced harassment at the hands of police due to the rampant misuse of the 498a section of the IPC and you went with entry into a temple? Good call ladies.

Stripped of all its civil rights and gender equality cloak, this movement can only have two implications. One will show these Stormtroopers in an unfavourable light. Other will show them as actively evil. I am leaving the choice to readers.

  1. Attacking Hindu religion is a sure-fire ticket to fame considering the largely Leftist media’s hostile attitude towards the Hindus, especially since Mr Modi took office in 2014.
  2. They are sure of the support of law and order since the state in question is ruled by BJP, a law and order party.
  3. None of them have to fear for blow-backs of this misadventure since they are offending people from the most peaceful religion

So why fight them?

Because it matters, not only to peace-loving Hindus, but to women of all religions. Today’s public discourse has short memory and even shorter bandwidth. Each cause gets its limited bandwidth, and if women’s rights bandwidth gets used by Stormtroopers planning to jump on top of temples, then girls committing suicide due to lack of sanitation tend to get neglected. And we can’t allow that to happen.

And also it matters because we are proud to be member of a peace-loving religion and when peace-loving, law-abiding citizens like you and me and the townsfolk of Shani Shingnapur get bullied out of the social discourse by these pantywaist fascists who will not listen to reason, the fanatics amongst us tell us, “OK guys you had your turn at the bat and you failed to protect us. Now step aside and let our clubs and swords do the talking,”—again don’t take it literally, you miserable, no good bunch of liberal word Nazis.

When America allowed the Left bullies to stifle all those sane rational folks who wanted to recognize the threat of Islamic extremism, the solution to come out of conservative woodwork was “let’s ban all Muslims”.  One thing regressive Lefties do not own up to is that they are the main reason why an almost dead extreme wing Right has risen again.

Oh and ladies, that helicopter you have on standby today? The women stranded in Chennai floods less than two months back could have really used that—you know what I am saying? – India Facts, 28 January 2016

» Mayuresh Didolkar runs a financial advisory business in Pune and is an avid marathon runner and reader.

Trupti Desai, Chief of the Bhumati Brigade invading Shingnapur

Shani Shingnapur

Shingnapur Shani Temple

Rohith Vemula’s Suicide: Imposing the burden of guilt to bury the truth – Radha Rajan

Rohith Vemula

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil Online“The truth about who is really responsible for endemic campus violence must be spoken loudly and sternly if young people must be prevented from being drawn into self-destructive campus activism which makes them lose sight of the end objective of all education—social, economic and personal empowerment. Rohith Vemula’s tragedy is the extreme manifestation of what is happening to young people in centres of learning—it happened in IIT Madras, it is happening in FTII Pune and it happened in Hyderabad University.” – Radha Rajan

SuicideThere is no other way to put it—in the end, only Rohith Vemula is to blame for Rohith Vemula’s death by suicide; Vemula died for the bad choices he knowingly made—the causes he espoused, the company he kept and the methods he employed when he practiced his extremist ideology. Blame for this young man’s suicide must be rightly laid at the doors of hatred-driven anti-national political ideologies which are allowed a free run inside college and university campuses in the guise of freedom of choice and association. Blame must also be laid at the doors of members of the teaching faculty who encourage political activism even when activism takes them away from academics and worse, uses unlawful methods. A frenzied media baying for Narendra Modi’s blood (if they can’t have Modi they will settle for the blood of the Vice Chancellor) wants the nation to bear the burden of guilt for Rohith Vemula’s suicide, simply because Vemula was Dalit; actually half-Dalit because his father’s caste Vaddera, is categorised under OBC but the media had to be economical even with the fact about Rohith Vemula’s Dalit identity. “Does it really matter”, was the question. Yes it does. The media tried hard to generate mass hysteria over Rohith Vemula’s suicide only because they alleged he was a Dalit and his suicide was yet another chapter in Narendra Modi’s intolerant India. The media did not create and wallow in frenzied outrage when other students died in Hyderabad University, IIT Madras and other colleges and universities in the country for varied reasons which, if the media truly cared about all young people, also deserve attention.

Bias in the Indian mainstream media.Media’s reprehensible reportage

Rohith Vemula was to the media in January 2016 what Akhlaq was to the media in October 2015—a violent and cathartic purge to cleanse their systems of the accumulated ill-effects of a pampered life which they grab with both hands as matter of entitlement. Without going into fine details about their reportage, while Akhlaq’s murder on 10th October 2015 in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh attracted the attention of Pakistan’s Dawn, Britain’s BBC, The Guardian and Al Jazeera, because he was an innocent Muslim killed by intolerant Hindus, Prashant Poojary’s murder five days earlier on October 5, in Moodbidri, Karnataka was forgotten and consigned to oblivion because Prashant Poojary was an intolerant Hindu killed by innocent Muslims. While NDTV’s reportage of Akhlaq’s murder gives a list of the names of all the accused with details of their Hindu ancestry, The Hindu’s reportage of Poojary’s murder is laced with contempt for the fact that he is a Bajrang Dal activist (implying that his violent end was only to be expected). And typical of media chicanery in how they deal with facts, there is no mention anywhere that Poojary was killed by Muslims illegally transporting cows for slaughter. Media selectivity in dealing with Hindus and Muslims was best exemplified when Lalu Prasad Yadav as railway Minister reacted to the burning alive of Hindu men, women and children by jihadis inside the Sabarmati Express in Godhra, with the observation that those killed were not “innocent Hindus” but only karsevaks. (Reference) (Reference)

In secular Idea of India there is no innocence even in Hindu children.

I therefore refuse to bear this media-imposed burden of guilt because Rohith Vemula was more fortunate than thousands of young people of his community who do not get to see the inside of a primary school. Rohith Vemula was very fortunate to have reached so far and so creditably but he chose to squander away the rare privilege. He chose Kejriwal and Owaisi over Babasaheb Ambedkar’s inspirational life and tragically for himself and for the family whose hopes were pinned on him, Rohith Vemula committed suicide when he could have chosen to step back and turn away from the precipice upon which he found himself. Hyderabad University and all colleges and universities must accept blame for failing to put in place structures and support mechanisms to help troubled students who desperately need a compassionate and understanding ear.

Fake dalit Kancha Ilaiah is one of India leading cultural traitors. He enjoyed the beef biryani at the recent Osmania Beef Festival but has not had the courage to demand a pork festival for his Christian students from the universtity administration.The brainwashing and transformation of Rohith Vemula

The truth about who is really responsible for endemic campus violence must be spoken loudly and sternly if young people must be prevented from being drawn into self-destructive campus activism which makes them lose sight of the end objective of all education—social, economic and personal empowerment. Rohith Vemula’s tragedy is the extreme manifestation of what is happening to young people in centres of learning—it happened in IIT Madras, it is happening in FTII Pune and it happened in Hyderabad University. This episode of Dalit student activism which took recourse to violence and ended Rohith Vemula’s life began on 31st July, 2015 the day after Yakub Memon was hanged.

Narendra Modi should have waited another 24 hours before commiserating Vemula’s death; 24 hours which would have exposed the media for chicanery and professional misconduct. Twenty-four hours after Prime Minister Modi called the terrorist sympathiser and campus hooligan “ma ka lal” the truth about who really was Rohith Vemula and why he and his four friends of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) deserved to be suspended and evicted from the university hostel, library and mess by the Proctoral Board of Hyderabad University and why his monthly stipend was withheld, began to appear on the internet. Rohith Vemula’s Facebook wall said it all—from a young man inspired by Swami Vivekananda, Vemula became a hatred-driven caricature of himself who began to toy with ideas of political anarchism espoused by Kejriwal’s AAP, and political violence of Owaisi’s MIM. Rohith Vemula’s transformation from a sensitive young man who was attracted to the idea of Bhagwan Sri Krishna in the arms of a Muslim woman in a burqa, who was fascinated by the potential of solar power, who admired the courage and selflessness of the Indian army, into a Hindu-hating individual who had no qualms about admitting that he would strip the sari off his mother if she wore saffron, who began to call Swami Vivekananda a casteist Hindu, signalled extreme radicalisation inside the Hyderabad University campus by ASA, influenced by politically-motivated individuals like Kancha Ilaiah and Asaduddin Owaisi resulting in intense and sustained mental conditioning also known as brainwashing. A student from the Hyderabad University also told me that Rohith Vemula’s brother, when he was a student of M.Sc Geology in the Pondicherry University, went to Kerala and converted to Islam. (Reference)

Asaduddin OwaisiStudents’ groups driven by political ideologies destroy the quest for education

That no mainstream newspaper or news channel saw fit to draw parallels between Hyderabad University’s Ambedkar Students Association and Study Circle (APSC) in IIT Madras only goes to show that understanding the causes behind Rohith Vemula’s suicide was not the end or sole objective of media breast-beating over Vemula’s death; but fuelling the caste fire and dragging the country’s government, Prime Minister, the BJP and by extension all Hindus through media generated excrement of falsehood and lies, was. It is becoming clearer by the day that institutions of higher learning across the country are now the hunting ground for predatory Islam, Christianity and their conjoined sibling Marxism which use Babasaheb Ambedkar’s name as a front for violence and hatred-driven political activism. Ambedkar was a nationalist; Ministry of HRD must at least now ensure that student unions and student bodies with proclivity for lawlessness and hooliganism are not permitted to use Ambedkar’s name as a front for anti-national activities inside educational institutions.

Students from vulnerable sections of society in institutions of higher education are not just soft and ready targets but are actually the prey for politically driven Islam, Christianity and communism which take over student bodies and student groups, specifically Dalit student groups. Owaisi’s MIM is making inroads into Hyderabad University and Muslim students in the university have their own student body, Islamic Students Organization (ISO) which functions under the patronage of the ASA and is even suspected to be funding their activities. If Marxism and Christianity have entered into a successful strategic partnership towards a common geopolitical objective, India’s universities is seeing another strategic partnership between Dalits and Minorities (read Muslims) and Owaisi is showing them how this partnership will work in electoral politics. (Reference)

My earlier article on campus turbulence, Something Rotten in IIT Madras exposed how the teaching faculty in the Humanities is largely Leftist and imported from JNU and the significant role they play as advisers and guides to student bodies which are openly anti-national and anti-Hindu in orientation. Organizing beef fests, kiss-of-love protests, open and public support for all kinds of terrorism—Tamil, Naxal and jihadi, allowing known anti-Hindu and irreligious rationalists into educational institutions for seminars and workshops organized by student bodies and student unions—this is the emerging pattern in colleges and universities in several cities across the country. Mommy issues with authority, compounded by a deliberate intent on the part of Left-leaning teaching staff and persons like Owaisi and Ilaiah who accentuate existing sense of genuine victimhood and deprivation in Dalit students is destroying Dalit minds which after such hate-filled indoctrination is so consumed by anger and hatred that they lose their sense of purpose and take their eyes away from the life of opportunities that awaits them after higher education. Dalit students who are tempted by a false sense of empowerment through campus activism become collateral damage for anti-national political ideologies which place them on the wrong side of the law. (Reference)

Ambedkar Students' AssociationASA, ABVP and must-know faculty members

The ASA came into being in the University of Hyderabad in 1992 as a body to assist Dalit students with orientation, integration and other difficulties which they may face when they first enter the university. Currently there are three Dalit student organizations—Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), Dalit Students Union (DSU) and Bahujan Student Front (BSF). However it is only the ASA which has set political activism through violent methods as its raison d’etre. Faculty members supporting and even using ASA for their own ideological ends:

  1. Prof. Haribabu and Prof. Haragopal from the Department of Political Science;

  2. Prof. Lakshminarayana, Economics Department;

  3. Asst. Prof. Vamsee Krishna, Economic Department and son of Prof. Haragopal;

  4. Prof. K. Y. Rathnam, Political Sceince Department, student of Prof. Haragopal;

  5. Prof. B. Nagaraju, History Department, student of Prof. Haribabu and also Chief Warden;

  6. Dean of Student Welfare, Prof. Prakash Babu, Department of Life Sciences, Bio Technology;

  7. Sowmya Dechamma, Senior Assistant Professor, Humanities department who organized Kiss of Love protests inside university campus and also participated in and spoke at the namaaz e janazza or memorial prayer conducted by students of ASA including Rohith Vemula and a group of radical Muslims for Yakub Memon on 31st July 2015 after he was hanged.

Truth behind why Rohith Vemula and his four friends from ASA were suspended

  1. Taking exception to the memorial prayer inside the university campus for Yakub Memon, the terrorist mastermind behind the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, Susheel Kumar then President of the ABVP expressed his outrage on Facebook and referred to those who organized the namaaz e janaaza as ASA ‘goons’.

  2. The ABVP with a strong presence inside the Hyderabad University also informed the Proctoral Board about the memorial prayer for Yakub Memon and demanded stern action against the organizers and participants for their anti-national action. Lest there be any waffling over what constitutes anti-national action, expressing any form of support for a terrorist found guilty of mass murder and who was convicted and punished by the nation’s highest court, constitutes anti-national activity. Rohith Vemula and his four friends from ASA were anti-national by this definition.

  3. When the Proctoral Board refused to take any action against Vemula and the ASA, the ABVP decided to organize a protest against the memorial prayer on 4th August, 2015.

  4. Around 1.30 AM, in the early hours on 4th August, a gang of around 60 students of the ASA led by Rohith Vemula and his four friends attacked Susheel Kumar in the Annexure Hostel, leaving him severely wounded. Susheel Kumar was admitted to a hospital.

  5. Despite representations to the Proctoral Board by the ABVP to take action against the ASA for its brutal, physical attack against Susheel Kumar, the Board continued to dither; undoubtedly intimidated by the fact that if any action were taken by the university against Dalit students of the ASA, then both the ASA and its partner ISO would almost certainly unleash more violence in the university campus.

  6. Dejected and angered by the fact that no action was taken by the university against her son’s attackers, Susheel Kumar’s mother Vinaya came to the university to meet the Vice Chancellor. A mob of ASA goons gheraoed Susheel’s mother when she entered the university and pushed her out, refusing to let her meet the Vice Chancellor. Wonder why the media failed to report this too.

  7. Frustrated that the university continued to evade action against the student gang which attacked her son, Vinaya approached the Hyderabad High Court for justice.

  8. In the meanwhile UoH sent the university’s Medical Officer to the hospital for a report on Susheel Kumar’s injuries. The Medical Officer submitted a report to the effect that while Susheel Kumar was indeed beaten, the injuries were minimal.

  9. In a shocking turn of events, which proved how terribly wrong and motivated was the university Medical Officer’s report, Susheel Kumar’s condition took a turn for the worse and he had to undergo an emergency operation on 7th August, three days after he was beaten, to remove a ruptured appendix.

  10. A second medical report from the doctor who performed the surgery on Susheel Kumar attested to the fact that the ABVP student was beaten so brutally that his appendix suffered grievous injuries causing immense pain and repeated vomiting.

  11. Susheel’s mother filed the doctor’s report before Justice Sanjay Kumar of the Hyderabad High Court who was hearing the case. The judge issued notices to the Vice Chancellor and Chief Proctor asking them to submit an action taken report before the court. Left with no option, and under pressure from the Hyderabad High Court to take action against the culprits, the Vice Chancellor and the Chief Proctor who was also the head of the Proctoral Board, trod a measured step. Instead of rusticating Rohith Vemula and his four criminal friends from the ASA, the Vice Chancellor and the Chief Proctor decided on the milder punishment of suspending them for one semester, evicting them from the hostel and banning them from entering the library and mess.

  12. When the university re-opened after vacations, the ASA sat on a dharna demanding that the Vice Chancellor and the Proctoral Board reverse the punishment. But when the university refused to do so because the case was sub-judice, Rohith Vemmula and the other four accused filed a petition before the Hyderabad High Court challenging their suspension.

  13. Justice Ramachandra Rao who heard their petition, was not impressed and refusing to reverse the suspension, the judge clubbed their petition with the petition filed by Susheel’s mother Vinaya. One of the four students of ASA and co-accused in the Susheel Kumar assault case ended his dharna not willing to risk his future. He had just a few days ago submitted his doctoral thesis to the university.

Susheel KumarThe law had finally caught up with Rohith Vemula and the ASA. Susheel Kumar of the ABVP was not the first victim of ASA violence. The ASA had earlier also physically assaulted students of Dalit Students Union and disrupted a national conference organized inside the campus by the Telugu Department accusing the conference of being casteist, whatever that may mean. Rohith Vemula was a sensitive and thinking student as the letter he left behind him after his suicide shows. In this letter the anguish, the realisation of where his activism had led him, the futility of protests which had taken him away from the quest of self fulfilment, reveal that Rohith Vemula was a tormented young man and he was tormented not because the law caught up with him but because he had allowed himself to be used by forces which had diminished him to one identity—his Dalit identity. Rohith Vemula understood that his Dalit identity had only utilitarian value for the ASA, that he himself with all normal complexities of self-identity and aspirations for life did not matter. In the end, it was the diminishing of his persona, and trivialising the value of his life by those whom he considered friends and fellow-travellers which pushed Rohith Vemula to suicide. And here, I empathise with Narendra Modi’s poignant observation—in the end it is always only the mother who grieves when her child dies before her and only the mother carries the burden of pain. For ASA, Owaisi, Kancha Illaiah and all others who entrapped Rohith Vemula in hatred, it is life and business back as usual.

Warning: In 2003 or 2004, a student of Hyderabad University was shot by the police on suspicion of being a Maoist. He was a student of Prof. Haragopal. In 2012, Prudhvi, a Dalit student of UoH from Nalagonda was arrested by the police in the forests of Bhadrachalam with Maoist literature and a diary. Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad found a satellite phone in the possession of a Muslim student of the UoH student body Islamic Student Organization. – Vigil OnLine, 26 January 2016

» Radha Rajan is a political analyst and animal rights activist in Chennai.

University of Hyderabad

Indian Politicians

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