Arunachal Pradesh: Aggressive proselytisation is killing indigenous faiths – Aravindan Neelakandan

Christians in Arunachal Pradesh

Aravindan NeelakandanConversions in Arunachal Pradesh are not mere problems of religion but of utmost strategic importance given the presence of Christian terrorist organisations in the region. … Losing ‘souls’ to aggressive religious bodies is a dangerous threat to the vibrancy and survivability of India’s mutli-religious fabric. – Aravindan Neelakandan

In August 2017 the Pema Khandu led BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh approved the establishment of the “Department of Indigenous Faith & Cultural Affairs” at a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister had stated that the indigenous communities of Arunachal Pradesh need to take “specific steps to preserve and protect them from disappearing into oblivion”.

According to news reports Christian lobbying organisations quickly began opposing the government move. They alleged that “through its move to create a department to protect the indigenous faiths, the state government was taking aim at the Church.”

The secretary of the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) was quoted as saying that the government’s aim was “to target the Church by putting pressure on it, but the government should not interfere in religious matters and treat all religious groups equally”.

Demographic data—as pointed out by many—has been largely pointing to an increasing number of conversions in the state.

In 2001 Christians formed 18.7 per cent of the population in Arunachal Pradesh. A decade later, in 2011 this number has been reported as 30 per cent, officially. The actual number is likely to be much higher.

The increase in Christian population is also accompanied by the diminishing of local spiritual traditions like Donyi-Polo, Rangfraa and Buddhist tribal groups. The Christian claim is that the teachings of Jesus Christ attract the tribals who face a lot of problems. Christianity is said to have “reformed” the tribes.

A look into the incidents of past one decade shows another picture which is not just different but much scarier than the benign picture provided by lobbyist groups.

In August 2004, months after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had come to power at the centre, four tribal villages in Tirap—Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh had some visitors. The visitors carried assault automatic weapons and told the villagers that they should either convert to Christianity or face execution. The visitors were secessionists belonging to the two rival factions of NSCN—appropriately named National Socialist Council of Nagaland, a terror group fighting for a Christian socialist theocracy. The villagers had to flee fearing torture and death. They belonged to the indigenous religious streams of Arunachal and a syncretic tradition of Buddhism. (The Assam Tribune, 23 August, 2004)

Such gun-point conversions were condemned by the joint Buddhist session of the Purvanchal Buddhist Bhikkhu Sangha and Purvanchal Buddhist Association of both the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They strongly condemned “the heinous atrocities committed by the militants on the peace-loving Buddhists and tribes” and issued a press release saying that aggressive proselytism in Arunachal Pradesh was a violation of human rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

What followed was a deafening silence from both the mainstream media and the government. Throughout the UPA government’s decade-long stint, aggressive proselytising continued in Arunachal Pradesh, so much so that in 2010 when Tikhak Buddhists of Changlang district in the state celebrated Buddha Purnima, security forces had to provide them protection. The NSCN had issued a threat to Buddhist villagers to convert to Christianity. They were also warned not to celebrate Buddhist functions and if they did, they would face dire consequences.

An agonised Venerable Aggadhamma, the highest Buddhist leader of the province, told reporters that the NSCN terrorists were setting seven day deadlines for villagers to convert to Christianity. Ven Aggadhamma even sent a memorandum to then prime minister Manmohan Singh, the Union Home Ministry, the President as well as the Minority Commission (The Indian Express, 28 May, 2010).

It is a telling comment on the nature of mainstream media that nothing except minimal reportage happened. No outrages, no op-eds and no cartoons were published against such aggressive attempts to convert people of indigenous faith. That the hyper-proselytisation drive in Arunachal Pradesh correlates with the UPA regime period may not be accidental at all. The rate of conversions has been high despite there being legal restrictions against aggressive conversions in the state.

The current Khandu government, meanwhile, has been made to bow to the pressures of international lobbying groups and bodies such as the ACF. It is apparently toying with the idea of using a different name for the body being set up for protesting indigenous culture and faiths.

That a strategically important border state of India has to go through such issues is a cause of deep worry. Conversions in this state are not mere problems of religion but of utmost strategic importance given the presence of Christian terrorist organisations in the region.

When we lose territory there is a possibility that we can regain it. But losing ‘souls’ to aggressive religious bodies is a far more dangerous threat to the vibrancy and survivability of India’s multicultural, mutli-religious fabric. – Swarajya, 27 October 2017

» Aravindan Neelakandan is an author, economist and psychologist. He is a post-socialist thinker of cultural evolutionism and Indian ethnogenesis. He is known for the book Breaking India, which he co-authored with Rajiv Malhotra.

St Joseph's Cathedral, Itanagar, Arunachal PradeshCatholic priest Itanagar Arunachal PradeshTribal Christian converts in Arunachal Pradesh

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Saint Xavier’s Exposition: Why it must stop – Sankrant Sanu

Indian Christians carry the remains of Saint Francis Xavier towards the Se Cathedral during a procession in Goa on November 22, 2014.

Sankrant SanuRobert Rosario, a Konkani Christian, has been actively campaigning against the “exposition” by the Catholic Church in Goa of Saint Xavier’s body. This event takes place every ten years and is running from Nov 22, 2014 to Jan 4, 2015. Xavier’s place in history is highly controversial with historical evidence showing that he ordered the Goa Inquisition that ran for over 250 years in which native Goa residents — Christians, Hindus and Muslims were brutally tortured and killed. Mainstream coverage of the event, from MidDay to the Times of India, has generally omitted the contested and controversial nature of this exposition. In a country where JNU students even take up the cause of mythological demons such as Mahishasura, it is strange that the story of very real human victims, Konkani-speaking people of India, is brushed under the carpet. We caught up with Robert for an interview to find the motivations for his campaign. — Sankrant Sanu

Robert RosarioCan you tell a little bit about your own background and history and how you came to be interested in this issue? 

• I am a Mangalorean Konkani Catholic. I am a social activist and was active in the Church also. For a long time I have noticed some mismanagement in the funds of the Church. I started digging I found something is wrong at the base. About Inquisition I had heard of a long time ago but I did not know that Francis Xavier was behind it. We venerate and consider him a saint. I was shocked to find that Francis Xavier was behind it. I started digging and found there is enough evidence for this.

What happens is that every 10 years they open the body for this so-called veneration. I thought this is the right time, about a month back I wrote to the Bishop of Goa and requested him to stop this and send the body to Portugal. We have had enough of this. The history of this man is very bad, there are enough crimes on this account, he seems to be a very inhuman person and I quoted from histories written by experts. I copied to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, their President, Vice President. Somehow they did not reply. I kept posting reminders, they never bothered to reply. I wrote to the Government of Goa and the Government of India

So what specifically did you find against Xavier? Of course, Xavier is venerated, there is even a big college in his name. What specific things did you find?

• The Inquisition went on for 250 years, during this period, thousands were massacred, badly tortured. I am a Konkani Catholic from Mangalore. My ancestors were earlier in Goa, due to the Inquisition they migrated to Mangalore. This is our history, it goes back to Goa. What was this Inquisition? I had heard but I did not know that this man Xavier started it. I found a letter from 1545, this man writes to Rome and Portugal King that he wants to start a Holy Inquisition. Prior to that he was in Lisbon, he knew fully well what Inquisition was. He was aware of the torture. Being fully aware of this, he writes to start the Inquisition in Goa, the cruelty was very much in his mind.

But there are people who say that the Inquisition only started after he died, so he shouldn’t be held responsible for all the crimes.

• He wrote a letter to the Pope and the Portugal King knowing communication was slow, by sea route, he initiated the process, there are documents that he was taking hourly stock of what was happening, he was personally supervising it during his lifetime. And he initiated it, so he cannot be absolved of his crime.

How would you respond to people in the Church who say he did a lot of service for Christianity?

• He has done a lot of conversions. If conversions are in the service of Christianity, then he has done it. But if you consider the humanity angle to it, he was the most inhuman person I find. Even Hitler had some humanity, he was worse than that.

But what did he do in his lifetime that you would call not very human?

• In the letter itself he writes, “People here are very bad, their god is black, these people need to be taught a lesson, Holy Inquisition is the only way.” In his mind he is a criminal, that mind is reflected in the letter.

I posted this on a forum. I had a friend who is doing his post-graduate at St Aloysius College. He said this is available in the notes given by the Jesuits at Aloysius College, all this is mentioned in the notes, how he benefited Christianity, how he used the sword to convert people.

You are saying this is well-known to the Church?

• They know it very well but they are hiding from us. Even when they say they tell from their point of view. They say (of the Inquisition) that these people were so away from God that it was necessary to bring them to God.

So you are saying that a number of ancestors of Catholics on the Konkan coast had to undergo this (torture)?

• South to Goa they certainly migrated due to inquisition. It went on for over 250 years. Not only Catholics, there are Hindus, you find Konkani Hindus called Goud Saraswat Brahmins (GSB), there are Kudumbi, Scheduled Castes, and all Konkani-speaking people migrated from Goa due to the Inquisition.

You got no response from the Church. But what about the community, are they receptive?

• They are shocked. We have been singing hymns of this great man, it is difficult to digest. Suddenly we learn, history says he is such a big criminal, but our priests never told us, they always said that he is such a big saint. Sometimes they blame me, there must be something wrong with your study. I confront them with evidence.

So are there reputed historians who have documented this?

• Yes. Something interesting I will tell you – There is a Konkani paper, the official mouthpiece of the Bishop’s House of Mangalore, Raknno. It has published a long story, a novel, in three volumes, written by one Saldanha [?]. Though the story is supposed to be kalpanic (fictional), the facts were related to Inquisition and all the facts are related to the Inquisition, these are showed in the story. And it is published in the official mouthpiece.

So the story shows the Inquisition … that this was a good thing or this was bad?

• No. The entire story was from the Inquisitor’s point of view, it was shown as good, rather as necessary. Because the pagans were to be taught a lesson. But it mentions all the torture, all the burning — this is mentioned. Three big volumes are there. How they were uncultured, needed to be taught a lesson. He has mentioned all the torture parts really clearly.

So what is it that you would like as an outcome here?

• The crimes are of such magnitude that you just cannot undo them, undoing or compensating is impossible. The Goa Inquisition was even crueller than the European Inquisition. The least we can ask is the symbol of crime, that is the body, the so-called body, of the man is lying there, and it exposed once is 10 years for so-called veneration, that is like sprinkling salt on the wounds of the victims. At least stop that, you can’t undo the crimes of the man, at least stop this. Send the body back to Portugal. We are no more governed by Portugal. After 1961, we are independent. Till Portuguese were here, we couldn’t demand that. But after 1961, the day the Portuguese left, the body should have gone with them, why it remains here even after 53 years? We have always preached Ahimsa, this symbol of Himsa should no longer be in our country.

Goa has a BJP Government, but they have not done anything to bring out the facts?

• The so-called exposition gives them so much revenue, that everything else is forgotten, morality is forgotten. The Kannada Prabha quoted me, the PRO of the Church said Xavier is a great man, he did so much for the Church, but he objected. The government is also supporting the exposition. How could the government support such a blunder? – Niti Central, 26 November 2014

» Sankrant Sanu is an entrepreneur, writer and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon. His essays were published in the book “Invading the Sacred” that contested Western academic writing on Hinduism and is a popular writer and blogs at sankrant.org. He is a graduate of IIT Kanpur and the University of Texas and holds six technology patents.

Francis Xavier

Deccan Herald Newspaper, Goa

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Mangalore Christian group objects to the exposition of St Francis Xavier’s remains in Goa – IndiaFacts

Francis Xavier SJ

Francis XavierThis report contains the gist of a conversation that the IndiaFacts team had with Robert Rosario, an activist and leader of the Konkani Christian Victims of Francis Xavier’s Atrocities group based in Mangalore.

For the first time there has been opposition within the Christian community to the upcoming public display of remains of Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, said to be a saint and miracle worker who lived about 500 years ago. 

Francis Xavier’s corpse—alleged to have been preserved though some claim it is the mummified body of a different priest—will be displayed to the public in Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa starting on 22 November this year up to 4 January 2015.

However, not all seems to be well. A section in the Christian community has formed a pressure group named Konkani Christian Victims of Francis Xavier’s Atrocities (referred to hereafter as Victims) and have begun an agitation on the grounds that they are the descendants of the victims of Xavier’s atrocities. Their demand is to have Xavier’s body sent back to his home country, Spain. They have also begun a nationwide signature campaign to press for the demand.

Catholic religious leaders portray Francis Xavier as a person who rendered signal service to the Church by converting large numbers of Hindus to Christianity, and also as a saint and miracle worker. Therefore, these leaders justify his exposition and say that there’s nothing wrong in keeping his body for public display so that people of faith can pay their respects to him.

However, the Victims say that it is 53 years since Portuguese rule ended in Goa. The continued presence of Xavier’s corpse in India is an insult to India, and it must be dispatched to Portugal as soon as possible. The Victims also plan to petition the Government of Goa and the Central Government.

Goa Inquisition: Man condemned to be burned at the stake.Who was Francis Xavier?

Francis Xavier, who holds an esteemed place in the pantheon of Catholic saints, was a Jesuit priest from Spain in the service of the King of Portugal. He was born in Spain in 1506 and settled down in Goa in 1543 to undertake missionary activities in the coastal districts of what is now known as Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

History records his inhumanity in quite graphic detail. He was an advocate of destroying temples and forced conversion and asked King João III of Portugal to send the Inquisition to Goa. Though he died in 1552 before the Inquisition arrived in 1560, historians agree that he was aware of the Portuguese Inquisition‘s extreme brutality. He is therefore morally liable for the horrors the Goa Inquisition perpetrated on Hindus, Muslims, Jews and backsliding Christians alike. Thousands of Hindus were tortured and had their lands confiscated by the Inquisition—lands which the Catholic Church still possesses today—and some 2000 Christians were murdered or made destitute. Many more fled Goa to save their lives and settled along the South Canara Coast.

The Victims hold that it is unjust to glorify as a saint the man who brought the Inquisition to Goa, who, by this knowing and calculated act, is responsible for the torture and murder of their ancestors.

When Francis Xavier died in China in 1552, he was not given a regular Christian burial but his corpse was preserved first on Shangchuan Island, then in Portuguese Malacca. It was sent to Goa in 1553 and in 1637 was placed in a silver and glass casket in Bom Jesus Basilica in Old Goa (said to be built over the ancient Saptakotishwar Shiva Temple). He was canonised in 1622 along with the founder of the Society of Jesus Jesuit IHS Monogram(Jesuits), Ignatius Loyola

Francis Xavier was known as the “Apostle of India” up to 1953. When a piece of St. Thomas’s arm bone was brought to India from Italy in that year and deposited in Kodungallur and San Thome, Xavier lost his title to St. Thomas and is now known simply as the “Patron of Catholic Missions.” His right forearm and hand is displayed in the Il Gesu Cathedral, the church attached to Jesuit headquarters in Rome.

Konkani Christian Victims of Francis Xavier’s Atrocities

Robert Rosario, activist and leader of the Victims of Francis Xavier movement, says, “There’s no more Portuguese rule in Goa. Preserving Xavier’s corpse in Goa is a matter of shame to the self-respect of this country. His corpse must be flown to [Spain] as soon as possible. A nationwide signature campaign has been initiated against the stand of the Goan Church. We will soon petition the Goa Government and the Central Government.” — IndiaFacts, 19 November 2014

» This article has been rewritten by the Bharata Bharati editor for factual accuracy. See the original article on IndiaFacts here

Francis Xavier's head

Waterboarding (Inquisition)

“Goa is sadly famous for its Inquisition, equally contrary to humanity and commerce. The Portuguese monks made us believe that the people worshipped the devil, and it is they who have served him.” – Voltaire (French historian and philosopher)

Seven Christians convicted for the Swami Lakshmanananda murder – IANS

Swami Lakshmanananda's Paduka's

Phulbani District CourtA court in Odisha Monday held seven people guilty of the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides in Kandhamal district of Odisha in 2008, a lawyer said Monday.

Special additional district session Judge R.K. Tose pronounced the verdict in his court at Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district, about 200 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, prosecution lawyer Bhagaban Mohanty told IANS.

The quantum of sentence would be pronounced Oct. 3, he said.

Those convicted were Duryodhan Suna Majhi, Munda Bada Majhi, Sanatan Bada Majhi, Garnatha Chalanseth, Bijay Kumar Samseth, Bhaskar Suna Majhi and Budhadev Nayak.

The convicts were part of a mob of about 50 people who had attacked the swami and his aides, the lawyer said.

All of the convicts are Christians and they had committed the crime because according to them the swami was forcing Christians to convert to Hinduism, the lawyer said.

Sonia Gandhi & WV India Head Radhakant NayakTwo of the men were convicted under the Indian Arms Act 1959, for possession of illegal guns, the lawyer said. “The judge convicted them purely on the basis of circumstantial evidence and the deposition of witnesses,” said lawyer Mohanty.

Saraswati and four of his aides were killed at his ashram at Jaleshpata in Kandhamal district Aug 23, 2008.

Police arrested seven people and filed a charge sheet against them in January 2009.

Sabyasachi PandaThe crime branch subsequently arrested two more people, including Maoist leader Polari Rama Rao. It also filed a supplementary charge sheet in 2011 against them and five others, including Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, who are still absconding.

The court is scheduled to pronounce its judgement on the second charge sheet Tuesday.

The BJP welcomed the decision.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashok Sahu said: “We welcome the court’s verdict. The investigation should continue till all the conspirators are nabbed.”

“A criminal has to be punished whichever religion he belongs to. The moment he commits a crime he loses his religion,” Orissa Minority Forum president Swarupananda Patra told IANS. – TOI, 30 September 2013

No justice for Swami Lakshmanananda – Saswat Panigrahi

Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati

“Never have fear of death when you are working for the cause of the motherland.” 

Naveen PatnaikFive years ago on the sacred day of Janmashtami, revered Hindu monk Vedanta Keshari Swami Laksmanananda Saraswati was brutally murdered in his Jaleshpata hermitage in Kandhamal during a spiritual discourse. In a gruesome act, the assailants pumped bullets into the frail body of the 84-year-old Swamiji and four others on August 23, the day on which Janmashtami fell in 2008.

It is important to recall that after the gruesome killing of Swami Lakshmanananda and four others, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had promised to book the culprits expeditiously. Two commissions of inquiry have been formed to investigate Lakshmanananda’s murder. Five long years have passed since the macabre murder of Swamiji and four of his associates. But the killers and conspirators are still at large. This questions the sincerity of the BJD Government in cracking the case.

As I was writing the piece, the fast-unto-death by senior BJP leader Ashok Sahu to press for bringing the perpetrators and conspirators of Swamiji’s killing to justice, reached day 5.

Jesus with gun: Spreading the 'good word' by force.Before the murderous attack, there were nine such attacks on Lakshmanananda and it was common knowledge that every attack had a Missionary hand behind it. In December 2007, Lakshmanananda sustained serious injuries in a violent attack at Daringbadi, which is the centre of missionary activities in Kandhamal. Following the attack, several complaints were registered to enhance the Swami’s security, but they all fell on deaf ears. The Odisha Government did nothing.

On August 13, 2008, a threatening letter was circulated among the Kandhamal district administration and state authorities. A copy of this letter was forwarded to Swami Lakshmanananda. On August 22, 2008, Swamiji appealed to the District Magistrate of Kandhamal to enhance his personal security. But surprisingly, police protection was thinned down in the Jaleshpata Ashram. Local media had flashed the news that Swamiji’s life was under threat on the fateful day of August 23, 2008. The same evening he was killed along with four of his associates.

This was indeed an abysmal administrative failure by the Naveen Patnaik Government in Odisha to protect a social reformer from the tentacles of terrorism. But till date the Odisha Government has not given any explanation to this serious lapse.

Sabyasachi PandaNow, the question is who killed Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda is on record admitting that the Maoist’s of Bansadhara division had killed Saraswati. At the same time Sabyasachi had said that most Maoist cadre in Odisha are Christians. This points to a deeper Missionary-Maoist nexus.

Swami Lakshmanananda combated fraudulent conversion by Christian missionaries. He was spearheading the Goraksha Andolan (anti cow-slaughter movement). He was working for the socio-economic well-being of the marginalised and indigent in Kandhamal and thereby earned the ire of the missionaries who use charity as a façade for converting people away from their native faith. Hence the conspiratorial alliance of missionaries and Maoists in Swami Lakshmanananda’s killing is clearly visible.

Save the Cow!“Never have fear of death when you are working for the cause of the motherland.” These were the last words of Lakshmanananda.

Swami Lakshmanananda was relentless in his struggle for the cause of tribal welfare for four decades. He sacrificed his life in the service of the poor and crafted a template for social reform. His demise created a void in the field of selfless social service. But his work will inspire the lives and times for generations to come. Let’s salute the master. – Niti Central, 28 August 2013

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The J. B. P. More Interview – Shobha Warrier

Shoba WarrierNothing much has changed since Vasco da Gama’s time, says historian J. B. P. More.

That is why he holds the view that the Clash of Civilisations, between the West and the rest of the world which started in the 15th century with Vasco da Gama traveling to India and Christopher Columbus stumbling upon America, has continued till today and will continue for many more decades to come.

“I am sure Samuel Huntington [who proposed the clash of civilisations theory in a memorable 1993 Foreign Affairs essay] will agree with me,” he said in an interview conducted over e-mail.

Born and brought up in Pondicherry, More, moved to Paris to pursue a BA degree. He later did his PhD in history at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (the School for Higher Studies in Social Sciences) where his thesis was on the Muslims of Tamil Nadu.

He has published more than a dozen books with quite a few on the Muslims of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In his interview to Rediff.com, he provides insights into the Muslims of Kerala and the consequences of Vasco da Gama’s arrival in India. — Shobha Warrier

J.P.B. More• Do you feel Indian (and Third World) history is seen always from the Western perspective?

Yes. Indian history is seen most of the time from the Western perspective. It is a colonial legacy.

Even after the colonial period, many Indian historians continue to work within the Western ideological frameworks and methodologies. They have not evolved anything worthwhile of their own, which is not Western. Therefore, they are bound to look at history from a Western perspective.

Besides, even after decolonisation, Western scholars continue to work on Indian history and society in greater numbers. They produce innumerable books from the Western perspective.

They have even resorted to collaboration and cooperation with like-minded Indian scholars and institutions after Independence in 1947, (which is part of the globalisation agenda of the West), thus ensuring their hegemony in the Indian intellectual and historical world even after decolonisation.

This has contributed largely to look at history greatly from the Western perspective, which is thought to be universal.

Most Western scholars never adopt a completely neutral attitude towards history and society and the Indians largely follow it.

A historian has to view history as an outsider, standing above all group interests. He needs to be uncommitted.

• You have written a book on the origin and early history of Muslims in Kerala. How did you get interested in the subject?

My PhD thesis was about the Muslims of Tamil Nadu. I had worked and published extensively on them and the Dravidians.

I was also interested in French colonial history in India, particularly Mahe on the Malabar Coast.

I went to Mahe. This led me to write a book on the history and freedom movement in Mahe.

From Mahe I got the idea to write a book on the Muslims of Kerala, their origin and early history. I worked on it for several years before it was published in 2011.

• What revelations came to light when you started your study on the origin of Muslims in Kerala?

The Muslims of Kerala owe their origin to peaceful Arab traders, unlike North Indian/Pakistani Muslims who are the result of invasions by Arab, Turkish, Afghan and Mongol armies.

They were a peaceful community, subjects of the Zamorin of Calicut and other Kerala kings until the arrival of Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese, followed by other Europeans.

The policies and values of the Portuguese and later the English transformed this peaceful community into a largely militant community during the colonial period.

They were probably the first among the Indians to realise the colonial implications of European arrival in Malabar and resisted it ferociously tooth and nail.

Sheikh Zainuddin’s work Tohfut ul Mujahdeen of the 16th century, which is the first historical work of South India, is a standing testimony of that.

It is a rare and pioneering, foundation document of resistance to colonialism and slavery, though written from the Islamic standpoint.

It must be included in the list of UNESCO heritage documents, rather than the recent inclusion in that list of the travel account of Vasco da Gama’s first voyage to India, replete with factual errors, which remains nevertheless the foundation document of colonialism.

• Did Arabs travel to the Malabar Coast and spread Islam as early as the 7th century?

There is no evidence in Arab, Persian and Chinese travel accounts and other literature, not to speak of Sanskrit or Tamil literature that the Arabs frequented the Malabar Coast in the 7th century.

But there is evidence of their presence in Malabar from the 9th century.

In my book on the origin of Muslims of Kerala, I have proved convincingly on the origin of Muslims that there was no conversion of the Chera king, Cheraman Perumal, to Islam in the 7th century or in the 9th century as claimed by some scholars or in the 12th century as claimed by M G S Narayanan.

• You say Samuel Huntington got it wrong to say that the Clash of Civilisations, essentially Western and Muslim, started after the Cold War ended.

• You say it began with Vasco da Gama setting foot in India and Christopher Columbus in the Americas.

• Are the conflicts in the world from the 15th century onwards a continuation of this theme?

For Huntington, the ideological clash is over with the fall of the Soviet Union. This has brought about a clash of civilisations on the basis of culture and ethnicity.

Huntington attributes a very restricted meaning and time-frame to the notion of the clash of civilisations.

I think the Clash of Civilisations, which involves all aspects of the life and existence of people, started way back in the late 15th century with the arrival of Vasco da Gama in the Indian Ocean region and Malabar and Columbus in the Americas.

We know about the tragic atrocities that fell upon the Red Indian civilisations due to Columbus’ intrusion into America.

Whole peoples and civilisations, which were a legacy of humanity, were wiped out by the European colonisers in favour of their own civilisation.

In the East, with the arrival of Vasco da Gama, we know that the largely peaceful Indian Ocean region was turned overnight into an arena of conflict and tension, which led to the colonisation of India and much of the Eastern world.

Eventually, the European colonisers had an upper hand in this tussle due to the sophisticated and superior arms and ammunition and the better developed navigation vessels that they possessed, with which they could impose their will on the high seas or bombard or raze to the ground any coastal town, as it was the case with Calicut in 1502.

They did not win India or the Red Indian continent with their values or way of life. Samuel Huntington himself accepted this and had held that the West won the world not with their values, but due to their superiority in applying organised violence.

Thus, the Clash of Civilisations where the Europeans held the upper hand due to superior arms at their disposal started in the 15th century.

This clash continued during the colonial period when the civilisation of the coloniser in the political, economic and cultural fields was imposed upon the colonised.

India became part of the globalised capitalist economy and power structure, dominated by the West.

Nothing much has changed even after decolonisation. India may be independent politically and it may even become an economic power like Japan, but it still remains and will still remain part of the global capitalist economy and system, dominated and controlled by the West.

India still revolves around the economic, political and ideological structures put in place by the colonisers, where power is concentrated in the hands of a few.

Naturally Western culture has become more and more pervasive in every field.

One might think that the dominance of the Western powers ended with decolonisation. Nothing is more erroneous than this thought.

The Western powers still dominate the oceans by the force of their arms and ammunition, their nuclear bombs, fighter jets and navigation vessels.

This, more than their values and ideas, assures their dominance in the world and the continued predominance and existence of the globalised capitalist economy, dominated and controlled by them and their ideological allies.

In this respect, nothing much has changed since Vasco da Gama’s time.

That is why I hold that a new era of Clash of Civilisations, between the West and the rest of the world started in the 15th century with Vasco da Gama coming to India and Columbus stumbling upon America, and has continued till today and will continue for many more decades to come.

I am sure Samuel Huntington will agree with me.

Coming to Western values, ideas and ideologies, I would say that many of them are fundamentally irrational and unfounded. If they had been truly rational and just, there would not be so much confusion and conflict, killings and massacres, injustices and inequalities, not just in India, but all over the world. – Rediff.com, 6 August 2013

• You have stated elsewhere that Darwin’s theory of evolution is a highly controversial speculative theory and that Darwin even thought that the Europeans were the fittest to survive; that this theory justified slavery and colonialism.

• Did it change colonial history after 1859 when The Origin of Species was published?

Slavery, colonialism and the new era of clash of civilisations had started long before Darwin enunciated his theories of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest.

If we follow Darwin’s logic, European or Western civilisation has to triumph ultimately at the expense of all other civilisations.

Coming to the question of whether Darwin’s speculative theories change colonial history after 1859, I would rather say that they were used to justify colonialism, slavery, competition, violence and inequalities in society, more and more thenceforth.

Colonialism was increasingly considered by many Western intellectuals as a service to humanity.

It was also thought to be an inevitable step towards the progress of humanity, according to a particular strait-jacket economic pattern and political belief system, idea or ideology, which are inherently violent, intolerant and aggressive.

All ideas and ideologies, however global or universal or progressive they may appear to be, are inherently violent and aggressive. They were conceived by some power-hungry megalomaniacs, stricken by the pathology of the urge to dominate.

• You say Vasco da Gama’s voyage round the Cape of Good Hope to Calicut was no achievement at all as Barthlomeu Diaz had documented the route to Cape of Good Hope along the West coast of Africa and Indians, Arabs and Persians have been criss-crossing the Arabian Sea all the time.

• Was it not an achievement to connect the two routes, when no European had ever rounded the Cape till then in the then level of knowledge of the earth and oceans?

Portuguese missionary pirate Vasco da GamaIs it an achievement when you follow the route traced by another?

Vasco da Gama simply followed the route traced by Diogo d’ Azambuja, Diogo Cao and Bartholomeu Diaz up to the Eastern Cape Province, where the Indian Ocean lay wide open to him. This is definitely not an exploit.

The Portuguese and Vasco da Gama knew that the Arab traders and others were criss-crossing the Arabian Sea to India from the East African coast. So he sailed still further up the coast to the sultanates of Mozambique and Melindi.

Here he began to scout for some Muslim pilot who would guide him across the Arabian Sea to India. It is with such help that Vasco da Gama was able to cross the Arabian Sea.

This cannot be deemed as an exploit of the first order as he did not venture out alone without guidance into the ocean.

Of course, Vasco da Gama was the first to connect the two routes. But this cannot mean that Vasco da Gama had connected East and West first and was the pioneer of globalisation.

This is not historically and factually correct.

The discovery of the Malacca Straits — whoever discovered it — was a greater discovery that connected East and West and permitted the transportation of goods from the Far East to the Far West (Western Europe), which was only in the outer fringes of the then known world.

Nevertheless, this had laid the foundation for the globalisation of the economy long before Vasco da Gama.

Necessity is the mother of invention. The Arabs, Persians, Indians and Chinese never felt the necessity to find an oceanic route to Western Europe around Africa, because the sea route up to the East African coast and then the land route to the lands that lay beyond as far as Western Europe were more practicable, safe and economical.

Besides, Western Europe was not a big market for their goods in those days. As a result they were content with the sea-land route. But this was not the case with the Europeans.

They were literally blocked by the Turks and the Arabs from reaching India by the land route. So they were literally pushed into the ocean to find a sea route to India.

The question inevitably arises: Why did the West Europeans wait till the 15th century to take to the oceanic route?

• What was the first clue that pointed you in the direction?

The facts related to Vasco Da Gama’s first voyage have always been obvious. A closer and more attentive look into history had revealed to me these facts.

What made me sit up and think was when I realised that Vasco da Gama was on the lookout for a pilot in East Africa to take him across the Arabian Sea to Malabar.

Historians have failed to look at such facts impartially without bias or prejudice due to their nationalist, cultural and racial conditioning.

That is why Vasco da Gama became greater in their eyes than a Zheng Ho who led vast fleets consisting of several ships and men several times to the Indian Ocean and East Africa through the Malacca Straits.

• You said the first man to set foot upon the Malabar Coast was not Vasco da Gama, but a ‘deadly convict’ by the name of Joao Nunes who was sent by Vasco da Gama on a reconnaissance mission.

• Is that not a matter of detail of sending forth a scout, and how does it detract him from being the first man from Europe to figuratively set foot in India?

It is unfortunate that a deadly convict had set foot on the Malabar soil first.

One cannot expect civilised dealings from a deadly convict.

Vasco Da Gama had all the makings of a ruthless pirate. He had orders from the Portuguese king to wrest wealth and fame by the force of arms from the hands of the ‘barbarians, Moors, pagans and other races.’

What happened to Malabar, the Zamorin and his Nair and Marakkar warriors stand testimony to this fact.

India entered the unfortunate phase of colonialism from the time the deadly convict stepped into Malabar. It was sponsored by the Portuguese king and the Church.

Colonialism is an improved version of slavery where the coloniser remains the master while the colonised becomes the ‘petted slave.’

• Why do you ask, what was actually so great about Vasco da Gama that many historians highlight in their numerous books?

I have told you on the basis of evidence that the arrival of Vasco da Gama was not a great exploit from the navigational point of view. Vasco da Gama came to India definitely with the idea of proclaiming Jesus Christ.

Christianity had reached Malabar several centuries before Vasco da Gama. So bringing Christianity to India cannot also account for the greatness of Vasco da Gama.

Vasco da Gama had orders to capture the wealth and land of the barbarians, Moors and pagans. He and his successors implemented these orders to the best of their ability on the Malabar Coast and the Indian Ocean region.

They acquired and captured land on the Malabar Coast, built formidable forts at vantage points, indulged in proselytisation and forcible conversions, mixed with the local populations to create a hybrid race that would be loyal to them and their values, imposed passes on Indian ships and monopolised trade.

Vasco da Gama himself indulged in some of the most heinous crimes. He was the inaugurates of gun-boat trade and politics in the Indian Ocean region.

On October 1, 1502, he mercilessly ordered the killing of 700 innocent Malabar pilgrims, returning from Mecca. Half the pilgrims were women and children.

Vasco da Gama issued orders for the ship to be set on fire by gunpowder, after looting it. Not one pilgrim escaped. He remained insensitive to even the wailing women holding their babies in their hands on the deck, imploring for pity.

On October 27, 1502, he seized 50 Malabaris at sea, got their heads, legs and hands cut off and sent ashore in a boat with a message in Arabic, asking the Zamorin to make curry out of the severed limbs.

Not satisfied with this, he bombarded Calicut from the sea for three consecutive days and razed it to the ground, killing several hundred people in the process.

All these crimes have been recorded by Portuguese chroniclers and have gone unpunished.

For these heinous killings Vasco da Gama needs to be tried for crimes against humanity.

The Portuguese royalty and the Church must also be held accountable for these crimes and also colonialism, for Vasco da Gama was acting under their orders and blessings.

It was this domination and power by the force of superior arms, capable of exterminating hundreds of people in one blow, which accounts largely for the greatness of Vasco da Gama and his successors and not because of their values or intentions to trade or their navigational exploits, as it is made out to be generally by many modern historians. – Rediff.com, 14 August 2013. This is the complete two-part interview.

» Shobha Warrier is a journalist with Rediff.com based in Chennai. She tweets at https://twitter.com/shobhawarrier.

Was life for Tamils better under the LTTE? – Shenali Waduge

Shenali Waduge“This is a good time for us to know some hard truths. When we speak on behalf of the Tamils against the LTTE and find fault with the TNA for serving as LTTE mouthpiece, we would like to know whether we are wrong to find fault. When we find fault with the LTTE for threatening Tamils and denying them progress for several decades, are we wrong to do so? We would frankly like to know whether our opinion of the LTTE and the TNA is the same as the Tamils’ or whether we are wrong to assume that the LTTE was a terrorist outfit and the TNA nothing but its mouthpiece and now taking over from where LTTE failed?” – Shenali Waduge

TNA LogoGiven that separation of Sri Lanka is out of the question, the Tamils had two choices before them. To be ruled under a de facto armed LTTE, or to remain under sovereign Sri Lanka ruled by a democratically elected Government that comprised representatives of all ethnic groups.

The Tamils did live under the LTTE for well over 25 years and the Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance, openly declared that the LTTE was the “sole representative of the Tamils”, not once but several times. In so doing, the TNA lumped all the Tamils en masse into a terrorist group and stigmatized their own people. How irresponsible for a political party to equate Tamils with terrorism.

The Tamils now need to undo this damage by disassociating themselves from the TNA which continues a separatist agenda if Tamils do not share the separatist agenda of both LTTE and TNA. It is long overdue for the Tamils to now come out and say whether life was better under the LTTE, whether TNA was correct to say LTTE stood for all Tamils, and how life is today different.

Why is separation of Sri Lanka to form a Tamil Eelam out of the question?

Tamil NaduIt is so because when 72 million out of the world’s 77 million Tamils live in a state which has a history of attempting to secede from India on the grounds that it wishes to form a Tamil Nation and that state is named after Tamils (Tamil Nadu – land of the Tamils), where Tamil is the official language, where Tamil culture, traditions etc reign supreme – by virtue of everything being done by Tamils, for Tamils, Tamil Nadu is where Tamil Eelam should rightfully be, and not in a miniscule area in Sri Lanka where none of the world’s 77 million could ever think of congregating.

The whole Eelam-in-Sri Lanka quest was nothing but a ploy to spur the balkanizing of Tamil Nadu from India, which India schemed to perfection. The only confusion came when external forces hijacked that plan to create a grander plan which ultimately led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. His death carried out by LTTE bore signs of a contract killing. India may well do to find out who exactly ordered the killing. The “new” The smoking gun!state is likely to comprise Tamil Nadu and north Sri Lanka which will end up nothing better than the brothel state Philippines has been reduced to. It is a challenge for the Church to prove that the assumption that they supported the LTTE is wrong, instead of simply calling those that pose the questions as racists, hate mongers and what not simply to avoid answering questions.

Who actually suffered under LTTE rule?

It is time we know who amongst the Tamils actually suffered:

1.      Tamils living amongst the LTTE in the Vanni (Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi)

2.      Tamils living outside of LTTE “territory” in Sri Lanka

3.      Tamils living outside of LTTE “territory” overseas

LTTE leader Velupillai PrabhakaranThe number of Tamils living in the Vanni amongst the LTTE through three decades of LTTE rule is miniscule compared to the Tamils who live outside of LTTE “territory” amongst Sinhalese and those now living overseas.

It is from this miniscule number that LTTE made their manpower. Some of its cadres were taken from impoverished areas of the East too. What essentially has to be remembered is that the Tamil members that LTTE “recruited” were kidnapped and forcibly taken from impoverished Hindus whose women had to supply LTTE throughout the conflict. Did LTTE kidnap its cadres from rich high-caste Tamil homes in Jaffna or Colombo – NO. This is an area that has not been looked into, but is extremely important in order to derive at the manner in which LTTE selected its cadres. If there were high-castes in the LTTE, they all held senior posts and were privy to the LTTE kitty which was US $300 million.

Areas of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi never even had electricity; children never went to school and the people had lived thinking that life was all about LTTE. Today, over 60% of these areas already enjoy electricity, schools are functioning, teachers can teach and there are students to teach.

Fr. S. J. EmmanuelIt is these miniscule number of Tamils suffering under the LTTE that now sees a brand new life where none of the rest of the Tamils cared to speak on their behalf – ever. Did the TNA ever ask the LTTE not to kidnap these children to manufacture them into killers, training them in pretentious orphanages set up in the middle of the jungles visited by Father Emmanuel, raising questions as to why the Church would watch one of its leaders encourage children to be turned into killers?

Deriving at exact numbers is cumbersome in view of no proper census taking place in the areas that LTTE controlled for over two decades. It must also be pointed out that LTTE, humanitarian organizations having close links to LTTE, including religious groups, gave false figures of civilian populations in view of the Government of Sri Lanka sending food and essential supplies to the north, which was a crafty means of hijacking these essentials to be used by the LTTE.

Figures are confused in the likelihood of “illegals” coming from Tamil Nadu and now posing as Sri Lankan Tamils. These “illegals” need to first be identified. Then there is the visible numbers of Tamils making their way southwards to live amongst the Sinhalese whilst others made use of the opportunity to cry discrimination and see asylum overseas. Therefore, with Tamils comprising 12% of the population of a 20 million total populace – Tamils can at most be 2.4 million only.

MV Sun Sea carrying Tamil refugees to CanadaThe estate Tamils numbering 5% are never part of any discussions proposed by TNA or the LTTE, therefore they should not be included into the statistical figure simply to make Tamil representation 18%. As things stand with Tamils now living legally and illegally overseas, the 12% has come down to about 10% if not less. The Sri Lankan foreign missions should be asked to do a statistical analysis of the legal numbers of Tamils living overseas, whilst help should be sought from host nations to find out the illegal ballpark figure too.

Therefore, what needs to be clearly stated is that the Tamils living amongst the LTTE were the real sufferers. All the other Tamils shared the same fears that the Sinhalese faced since it was Sinhalese civilians who became the targets with every bomb and suicide attack. Yet, the Tamils living in Colombo and the suburbs went about their employment and did everything they would normally do alongside the rest of the communities, but obviously sharing the same fears. There was nothing exclusive that they feared different to what the other communities feared.

Tamils overseas, however, whether openly pro-LTTE or not, had to make monthly payments to the LTTE kitty and had to participate in demonstrations and other events that LTTE front organizations organized. With time, this arrangement bore much monetary benefit, Pro-LTTE Tamil protest in Londongiving many positions in these front organizations, opportunities to travel overseas, rise in financial situation and moreover, a chance to move around with VIPs and dictate terms to even Sri Lankan politicians. For most Tamils, whether they like to admit or not, there were some reasons to thank the LTTE, while a handful of others were open enough to admit to LTTE atrocities but at great risk to their lives. The handful of moderates who openly denounced the LTTE was silenced and understandably that warned others into silence.

But this is a good time for us to know some hard truths. When we speak on behalf of the Tamils against the LTTE and find fault with the TNA for serving as LTTE mouthpiece, we would like to know whether we are wrong to find fault. When we find fault with the LTTE for threatening Tamils and denying them progress for several decades, are we wrong to do so? We would frankly like to know whether our opinion of the LTTE and the TNA is the same as the Tamils’ or whether we are wrong to assume that the LTTE was a terrorist outfit and the TNA nothing but its mouthpiece and now taking over from where LTTE failed?

Srilankans celecbrate the defeat of the LTTESomehow somewhere something is not right. After the victory over the LTTE, we as citizens of Sri Lanka expected the Tamil community to join us in the victory over terrorism, and given the fact that the LTTE had been denying Tamils a host of human rights and violating Tamil human rights, we thought the Tamils living amongst the Sinhalese and those overseas would be happy that LTTE was no more and would press for action against the TNA since they were the only survivors of the separatism linked to LTTE. We would like to know why our assumptions have been proved wrong by the Tamils themselves.

Genuine reconciliation cannot take place until these loopholes and gaps are given genuine and honest answers. – Vijayvaani, 25 April 2013

» The author is a keen observer of contemporary affairs and a Sri Lanka national.

Srilankan Catholic priests demonstrate in support of LTTE terrorist leader Prabhakaran!

The Christian Church is the root cause of Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka.

See also