The many shades of beauty – Manoj Das

Swan

Prof Manoj DasWhat we perceive as beauty is necessarily conditioned by numerous subjective factors. As our consciousness grows or broadens, things that once looked ordinary could assume ever greater degrees of grandeur. – Prof Manoj Das

If dark is not beautiful, why do people shed tears when their hair begins to grey?” Thus Radha, in a 19th century folk opera, snubs her friends who discouraged her love for Krishna because he was dark.

The Tripura chief minister who trashed the concept and practice of beauty contests, also said in the same breath that while the choice of ‘A’ as a beauty queen was correct that of ‘D’ was wrong.‘D’ has, as expected, and justifiably, taken offence at his views and believes that this was a reflection on the colour of her complexion that was not fair, even though it represented the common native tint of which she was proud.

We do not know whether the politico’s poor and disgusting reference to an individual’s physical quality was rooted in his colour prejudice or not, but it is a fact that the male kind as a whole and the Indian male (no less the female?) in particular has an embarrassing weakness for the fair skin. It is so deep and so widely prevalent that we have tolerated as uncivilised a TV ad as a woman gleefully confessing before her viewers how her husband who never let her accompany him to the club, now takes her along with a vengeance, for her skin had been metamorphosed from dark to whitish, through the miracle of a cream.

That such ads do not offend our feminist leaders and they do not rush to enlighten our innocent sisters against such unholy confessions is a different issue—an item in our national catalogue of shames. But one thing is certain: our outlook on beauty has speedily and surely been treated to a change for the dubious.

The male kind’s disinclination towards different shades of dark could be traced to our primitive ancestors’ fear of darkness. That remains deep-rooted in our collective subconscious and only a person culturally evolved, not just informed or even accomplished, can transcend its impact. While the presence of this instinctive deficiency applies to humanity as a whole, added to it is yet another psychological force which dominates the Indian outlook.

The irony is, its role is more prominent on the urban, the educated and the affluent than on the rustic, the illiterate and the poor. It is our awe and reverence, though socially and politically disowned by us, for the white skin that ruled us for more than a couple of centuries and moulded our values in innumerable areas of life, taste and culture. This was inescapable. Let us remember at this point that neither in our ancient nor in our medieval epics and classics was the white complexion an indispensable element of beauty. Several of our epoch-making heroines were of darkish complexion.

Attractive innovations by today’s minds that are gifted and active, but are motivated by commerce and are chained to its service, their imaginativeness competing with one another in inventing trivia of flairs and flamboyance, are continuing to build towers of illusory beauty with our aforesaid weaknesses as the base. Ruthless forces are at work to reconstruct the once delicate notions of beauty, with the growing up generations for their target.

Through the ages our poets and thinkers have left for us countless loving and romantic tributes to beauty. We have also in circulation concepts of beauty that are notoriously cynical, from the popular “Beauty is skin-deep” to the extremely cynical “Beauty is sin-deep” (Saki). In our commonplace conversation the phrase “beauty and the beast” implies opposites. But the beast is beautiful. In fact every species as well as each member of any species has its own harmony and an undistorted harmony is beauty. No human being is ugly but even the physically most well-made face can grow ugly if it gives out vibrations of vicious thoughts. Also, old age does not destroy beauty, it only replaces one shade of it with another, a smart one with a serene one. Hence no need to disturb it with pinchbeck devices, for, “As a white candle/ In a holy place/ So is the beauty of an aged face.” (Campbell)

But even in our present era of dubious constructions of the ideas of beauty, this ruling passion of our emotional life has its chaste incarnation in the  sphere of intellect. Bertrand Russell makes a significant observation in his Mysticism and Logic (Ch. 4): “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture.”

Mystics assure us that there is an eternal beauty behind the entire creation and that alone is truly objective. What we perceive as beauty is necessarily conditioned by numerous subjective factors. As our consciousness grows or broadens, things that once looked ordinary could assume ever greater degrees of grandeur. Even when an object of art, say Mona Lisa, has stood the test of centuries and could certainly be called an instance of objective beauty, it has unfolded more and more of its hidden splendours to connoisseurs as their eyes have been better trained to appreciate art, thereby blurring again and again the border between the objective and the subjective.

It is said that Freud killed love. I do not know if it could be said that beauty contests and the beauty industry are in the process of killing the misty (but how blessed!), emotionally oriented approach to beauty. Is it not desirable that at least a few things in life should be allowed to remain a bit mystifying and subjective? Let me remind you of the little girl who got separated from her mother in a festive crowd and was found crying. When asked by some souls to describe the lady so that they could locate her, the little one’s disarming statement was, “Why! My mother, the most beautiful one!” Long live the child’s exclamation that was not based on vital statistics. Its origin was heavenly, unknown to us, things that still support our inner life. – The New Indian Express, 1 May 2018

» Prof Manoj Das is an award-winning author who teaches English Literature and the Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo at the Sri Aurobindo International University, Pondicherry.

Fairness Creams

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Caste is a socio-political institution – Sandhya Jain

Mayawati's one crore rupee garland

Sandhya Jain is the editor of Vijayvaani.Caste is too complex to be tackled by simple bans. Also, blatant appeals to religion, caste and other parochial loyalties have always been prohibited and there is no dispute regarding the Supreme Court’s attempt to lift politics above narrow identities. However, … not one word of criticism has been ever uttered when the Catholic Church repeatedly exhorts citizens to vote in a particular way in States where the community has a substantial presence. – Sandhya Jain

Almost coinciding with the Election Commission of India’s announcement of dates for elections to five State Assemblies, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act (RPA) in Abhiram Singh v/s C.D. Comachen (dead) by Lrs and Ors. (Civil Appeal No. 37/1992) seems destined to be honoured more in the breach. The Supreme Court ruled that politicians cannot invoke religion, race, caste, community or language to seek a mandate from voters, and that such practice would result in annulment of the election.

The day after the ruling and before the ECI announcement of dates, which kicks in the model code of conduct, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati addressed a press conference wherein she advised Muslims not to split their votes (between non-BJP parties) and added that her Scheduled Caste vote-bank would not be swayed by hollow promises (from rival parties).

In this manner, caste and religion, the cornerstones of our electoral politics since 1947, were matter-of-factly invoked by India’s most openly caste-based political party (BSP was founded by late Kanshi Ram to consolidate lower caste votes). The party is struggling to stay in the reckoning in the critical state of Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due next month.

Mayawati helpfully explained her political sums: The Samajwadi Party is on the verge of a split, so Muslims should not divide and waste their vote on either segment. Despite making such explicit statements, she denied Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge that she believes in caste-based politics and claimed that the BSP has distributed tickets to all castes based on the concept of Sarvjan Hitaya (well-being of all). Thus, Muslims have been allotted 97 tickets, Scheduled Castes 87, OBCs 106, and Upper Castes 113. Mayawati added that the BSP has supported finance-based reservations for upper castes, Muslims, and other religious minorities in Parliament.

The BSP intends to exploit emotive caste issues such as the suicide of Hyderabad student Rohit Vemula, whose caste identity has been a matter of dispute between his biological parents; and the undeniably shameful incident of [beating] of Dalits in Una, Gujarat. The BSP supremo disparaged the Prime Minister’s launch of the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) App, named after Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, to promote cashless transactions, and remains critical of the demonetisation programme.

The Bharatiya Janata Party proposes to fight the polls on the twin planks of demonetisation and the post-Uri surgical strike in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir – both emotive and highly secular subjects with no caste connotations. Its rivals are expected to be dismissive of both.

Of all political parties, the BSP is emphatic that caste is a socio-political institution with deep roots in the hoary origins of Hindu society; it admits that economic deprivation is not co-terminus with caste ranking. It is undeniable that low social ranking has caused deep scars in society; even monotheistic faiths discriminate against lower caste converts.

Beginning with untouchability, many social, economic and cultural issues have a pronounced caste angle and cannot be addressed without acknowledging caste. This is evident in recent demands for extension of Other Backward Classes (OBC) quotas to landowning, regionally-dominant castes, most notably Jats in Rajasthan and Haryana, and Patidars in Gujarat. Each agitation was deliberately violent and posed serious challenges to the respective States.

Legitimate or otherwise, the demands were framed around the issue of caste identity and deprivation, and mitigation efforts (offers of reservations within State quotas, mostly unsuccessful) have to be framed in the same language. If persons contesting elections are denied the right to address citizens’ concerns regarding perceived injustices faced by them and originating in religion, race, caste, community or language, it would “reduce democracy to an abstraction,” as Justice D. Y. Chandrachud pointed out in the dissenting judgment.

The issue of reservations in educational institutions and government employment are at the heart of the politicisation of caste but has not been touched in the Supreme Court verdict; yet it threatens to cancel elections if votes are sought in the name of caste.

Reservations in educational institutions, especially in coveted courses like medicine and engineering, include lowering qualifying standards. Students are pushed by ambitious parents to take admission but cannot manage the academic pressure; they either fail or even commit suicide. The seat for that term thus goes waste. But there is no rethinking regarding the worth of a degree (if finally secured) if the doctor or engineer it produces is not good enough.

Worse, in recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled that seats for which reservation quotas cannot be filled in a particular year are to be carried over the next year, and not released into general quota. This has intensified caste tensions in society like no other measure. The position is similar with government jobs, and these issues have made reservations a ticking time bomb.

The nomenclature of parties like the Akali Dal and All India Muslim League is possibly the least of the problems, for innocuously named parties like the Popular Front of India are far more lethal. But parties that seek to redress regional pride such as the Telugu Desam founded by cine star N. T. Rama Rao, or seek a separate state, such as K. Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi, also become illegitimate under this sweeping interpretation of electoral malpractice. It makes free speech virtually impossible.

This raises questions regarding the enforceability of the Supreme Court ruling. Although Mayawati’s press conference was covered live on television, neither the Supreme Court, senior lawyers, or any political party deigned to censure her breach of judicial diktat. Prime Minister Modi, at a huge rally in Lucknow, only said, “Will politics stoop so low? Why were some people troubled when we launch a mobile app after Bhimrao Ambedkar?”

Caste is too complex to be tackled by simple bans. Also, blatant appeals to religion, caste and other parochial loyalties have always been prohibited and there is no dispute regarding the Supreme Court’s attempt to lift politics above narrow identities. However, though the RPA specifically bans inducing voter(s) to choose or reject a particular candidate under spiritual or community censure, not one word of criticism has been ever uttered when the Catholic Church repeatedly exhorts citizens to vote in a particular way in States where the community has a substantial presence. Such issues raise legitimate fears that the ruling may be implemented by cherry picking rather than by a reasoned understanding of what constitutes genuine electoral malpractice. – Vijayvaani, 10 January 2017

» Sandhya Jain is an author, independent researcher, and writer of political and contemporary affairs. She contributes a fortnightly column to The Pioneer, New Delhi, and edits an online opinions forum at www.vijayvaani.com.

Reservation

Perversion of secularism and the non-implementation of a uniform civil code – Nithin Sridhar

Nithin SridharIndia should have evolved an indigenous social and legal system rooted in Dharma. … Such a social and legal system would have developed unique responses to challenges that are unique to Indian society; would have been fair and righteous towards everyone, irrespective of their affiliations, and would have been, at the same time, firmly rooted in Indian civilization. But since we have already imported an alien system of secularism, it would do us good if we remove the prevalent perversions and implement it in its true sense by enacting a fair uniform civil code. – Nithin Sridhar

Dalai Lama Quote India is probably the only country, wherein the concept of secularism is most perverted, both in principle and practice. After Independence, India, first borrowed this alien principle without giving a thought regarding its necessity and applicability in Indian society, and then perverted it beyond measure to selectively implement it for petty political ends, with disastrous results.

Secularism in simple terms means “separation of State and Religion”. That is religious concerns will not dictate State policies and the State will not interfere in religious activities. This concept of secularism originated in the European society, necessitated by the constant struggle for power between the Church and the Monarchy. Secularism was thus a unique solution in response to unique challenges prevalent in Western civilization in general and European society in particular.

Since Indian civilization, being rooted in the concept of Dharma, wherein even a ruler is subjected to its tenets and answerable to his citizens, no dichotomy between religion and government ever existed. More importantly, the very concept of religion as understood in Western (Abrahamic) civilization is alien to India. Sanatana Dharma is not merely a religion bound by certain principles of faith, instead it is a way of life based on eternal principles that sustains all life—individual, social, ecological, and universal. Thus sacred as well as secular, social and political as well as religious and spiritual, all aspects of life derive their sustenance from Dharma. Thus, dichotomies like religion vs. science, state vs. church, etc., which were an important force in the European society, never even sprouted in India.

Yet, ignoring these realities of Indian civilization, the Indian leaders, after independence, first imported secularism into India and then perverted its tenets and selectively implemented them in appeasement of certain “minority” communities, all the while being discriminating towards the majority community. How else can one explain contradictory actions of various state and central governments during the last seven decades?

Let’s take the example of religious institutions like places of worship belonging to various religions. Various state governments, especially in South India have taken control over Hindu temples and are earning crores of rupees from them. This is a clear violation of secularism, which mandates no interference of governments in religious activities. Add to this is the fact that out of the crores that these state governments are earning from temples, only a fraction of the amount is set aside for the maintenance of temples, and the rest is diverted to the government’s coffers. How is it secularism? Now consider this, the same state governments have allowed a free functioning of churches and mosques without any state intervention in the name of “secularism”. Moreover, crores of taxpayers’ money are spent by some of the state governments to help minority communities to renovate and build their places of worship.

In other words, the state governments have encroached upon places of worship belonging to the majority Hindu community, all the while allowing churches and mosques a free run. They are, further, looting the money from the temples and then spending taxpayers’ money on the churches, mosques, and the like. This is how secularism—the separation of religion and government—is being practiced in India. But this perversion of secularism and discrimination against the majority is, perhaps, most visible in the case of religion-specific personal laws enshrined in our constitution, despite the fact that the Directive Principles call for the eventual adoption of a uniform civil code.

Hindu Code BillsThe presence of numerous personal laws goes against the very essence of secularism. Add to this, the fact that the way these personal laws have been enacted is completely discriminatory in nature. On the one hand, the Muslim community is governed by the laws which are largely derived from Sharia and Islamic jurisprudence. Similarly, Parsis have personal law rooted in their tradition. The Jews are not governed by any personal laws, but instead are governed by the dictates of their religion. Christian personal laws are also in sync with their religious tradition. On the other hand, the majority Hindu community is governed by secularized Hindu laws which are uprooted from Hindu tradition and practices. Though custom and usage have been deemed important in the Hindu personal laws, yet through passage of various civil laws like Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, etc. the rules governing Hindu marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. have been thoroughly secularized. Regarding the Hindu Code Bills of 1950’s, Dr. Parminder Kaur, Assistant Professor, Guru Nanak Dev University Regional Campus, Gurdaspur, writes in her article thus: “The Hindu Code Bills were a series of laws aimed at thoroughly secularizing the Hindu community and bringing its laws up to modern times, which in essence meant the abolition of Hindu law and the enactment of laws based on western lines that enshrined the equality of men and women, and other progressive ideas.”

Thus the Hindu community has been forced to shed its centuries-old customs and traditions, whereas minority communities like Muslims are freely allowed to retain their practices. Add to this the fact that Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, etc. all come under these Hindu personal laws, and thus are denied personal laws based on their own traditions and practices. It is a different issue that Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists share a common framework of Dharma with mainstream Hinduism and are deeply rooted in Indian culture and tradition. The point is just like various communities within mainstream Hinduism have their unique customs and practices, even Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists have their unique customs and practices, all of which have been discarded and replaced by secularized Hindu personal laws. This is a classic case of discrimination in the name of “secularism”.

The argument here is not that the present secularized Hindu laws are bad for the society, or that Hindus must imitate the customs and practices prevalent in Hindu society many centuries ago. The issue here is one of fairness and equal treatment. Either there should be a uniform civil code keeping with the true notion of secularism, wherein all citizens are treated as citizens, without reference to their religion in civil issues, or there should be as many personal laws as necessary to cater to various local customs, traditions, and practices. Even if one were to have a uniform Hindu personal law in such a scenario, then it must have enough flexibility and space to accommodate diverse local beliefs and practices among various communities, and these are to be framed after discussions with various religious authorities and community leaders from across the country and be rooted in Hindu religion and traditions. This is definitely not the case in the present scenario, wherein minority Muslims are allowed to follow religious principles, whereas majority Hindus, including Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists are forced to follow secularized personal laws.

Ishwar Chandra VidyasagarMore importantly, there was no necessity to secularize Hindu laws and Hindu society to usher in positive changes that were necessary, according to changing times. These positive changes could have been evolved from within Hindu tradition and culture itself. Hinduism has always been an evolving religious tradition. The presence of numerous smritis, dharma shastras, and many other texts, with each putting forward different viewpoints suitable to their own time and space, is the best evidence regarding flexibility and continuous evolution of Hinduism. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who was instrumental in bringing in the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act of 1856, accomplished it by putting forward evidences, illustrations, and arguments from within the Hindu tradition. Thus, genuine Hindu personal laws, suitable for present times, rooted in values like righteousness, duty, fairness, equal opportunity to women, etc. could have been easily evolved from within Hindu philosophy and culture, through a consensus arrived after discussions and debate among various religious authorities and representatives of various Hindu communities belonging to different geographical regions. But, short-sightedness and a romance with western ideals and systems of governance, made our Indian leaders ignore Indian ideals and models present within Indian civilization.

This import of secularism, and later its perversion in the form of discriminating personal laws, have done not much good for the minority communities, especially women of those communities, either. Polygamy is prevalent and legally sanctioned under Muslim personal laws, whereas it is prohibited for everyone else. A Hindu woman has an absolute right over maintenance from her husband upon divorce, but a Muslim woman will not get maintenance beyond the period of iddah. Similarly, the grounds of divorce have been detailed and the elaborate legal process have been thoroughly established in the case of Hindus and Christians, but a Muslim woman could be divorced merely by a repetition of “talaq” thrice by her husband. The Hindu undivided family gets tax rebates, but others are bereft of this benefit. Similar discriminations exist in the case of adoption laws as well.

The gist is the perversion of secularism which has resulted in non-implementation of a uniform civil code, which has not done any good to anyone. On the one hand, the Hindu personal laws have ushered in equality and fairness in certain spheres of social life in Hindu society, but have done so at the cost of uprooting Hindu society and the legal system from the foundations of Dharma, which is bound to have adverse effects over a long-term. On the other hand, presence of separate personal laws for minority communities has kept them away, especially Muslim women, from gaining any benefits that are available for Hindus.

Ideally, India should have evolved an indigenous social and legal system rooted in Dharma (righteous duty) and Indian civilization. Such a social and legal system would have developed unique responses to challenges that are unique to Indian society; would have been fair and righteous towards everyone irrespective of their affiliations, and would have been, at the same time, firmly rooted in Indian civilization. But since we have already imported an alien system of secularism, it would do us good if we remove the prevalent perversions and implement it in its true sense by enacting a fair uniform civil code. – IndiaFacts, 9 July 2016

» Nithin Sridhar is an editor at IndiaFacts and writes on politics, religion, and philosophy from Mysore. He tweets at @nkgrock.

Nehruvian Secularism

Shah Rukh Khan Quote

Intolerant, if we don’t tolerate intolerance? – Dheeraj Sharma

Dheeraj Sharma“Indian society stands at cross-roads today, and it must act decisively to preserve its tolerant and just character. We really need to understand if pre-existing perceptions between various community groups intensely dominate perceptions of the actual issue thus making impotent the ‘facts’ related to debatable issue at hand. It must be realised and communicated to the public that intolerant individuals are not entitled to complain of intolerance. In line with the contentions of Popper, the safety and security of India and its institutions of liberty may be at danger if we continue to exhibit unlimited tolerance.” – Dr Dheeraj Sharma

Karl Popper: He is regarded the greatest philosopher of science.According to past research, tolerance can be conceptualised by understanding three major facets of majority-minority relations. Facet 1: The values and principles of the minority that the majority endorses, appreciates, and sometimes even promotes. Facet 2: The values and principles which the majority rejects and forbids by the process of censorship and law. Facet 3: Values and principles which the majority objects to but doesn’t forbid by process of censorship and law. It is the third facet that actually defines tolerance.

However, past researchers suggest there is a threshold to such tolerance. It is in this regard, in 1949, philosopher Karl Popper in The Open Society and Its Enemies said, “Less well-known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them”.

Contrary to the view of Popper, the primary contention of the so-called liberals and pseudo-seculars is that it is requisite for a just society to tolerate the intolerant; else, it would become intolerant and, thereby, unjust. In other words, Popper and many other philosophers state that every just society must overlook the principle of tolerance to preserve a sense of tolerance and justice in it. This is the paradox of tolerance. Overall, the contention of Popper is that there are limits to tolerance for the intolerance.

The recent Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) incident appears to reflect the same paradox of tolerance and indicate that we, as a nation, need to draw limits on tolerance.

The tolerance paradox cane be best presented in the form of major dilemma that has been considered by Aguiar and Parravano in their work titled “Tolerating the Intolerant: Homophily, Intolerance, and Segregation in Social Balanced Networks” (pdf), published in Journal of Conflict Resolution. They argue that intolerance is not only a universal phenomenon, which exists even in countries with a history of tolerance.  Furthermore, they warn of the contagious nature of intolerance, largely to due to homophilic pressures created in institutions, organisations and even nations.

They also explain that most tolerant individuals are caught up in a major dilemma of either tolerating in-group intolerants or not tolerating them. The tolerance of in-group intolerant is primarily due to homophilic pressures and intolerance of in-group intolerant can only come from isolation of the intolerant. Thus, the tolerant strategies can only endure with adequate support from out-group members.

Two Cheeks LimitIn order to test the dilemma of Aguiar and Parravano in the JNU context, an online survey was conducted by research associates at IIM Ahmedabad and the data was analysed. The survey contained questions that measure the individual’s attitude towards JNU incident anchored on “highly favourable” and “highly unfavourable”. Next, the survey measured the respondent’s political standing anchored on “Definitely Left Wing” to “Definitely Right Wing”.

Further, the survey measured how likely an individual was willing follow her political standing irrespective of how factual or to the contrary the issue at hand was. Last, the survey contained questions on whether a) there should be limits to tolerance in India, b) non-response to anti-national activities is not exhibition of tolerance, c) anti-national individuals exploit the tolerance in Indian society, d) individuals who commit sedition go largely unpunished India and e) the government should take strong action against individuals who commit sedition.

Results were astounding. There was a strong and positive correlation between individual’s attitude towards JNU incident and her political standing, such that the more left-wing an individual claims to be more favourable her attitude towards JNU is. Furthermore, there was strong and positive correlation between political standing and willingness to follow the political standing such that individuals are likely to follow their strong political standing irrespective of the merits or accuracy of the issue. Finally, 98% of the respondent believe that there should be limits to tolerance in India; 93% of the individual believe that non-response to anti-national activities is not exhibition of tolerance; 95% of the individuals believe that anti-nationals exploit the tolerance in Indian society; 96% of the individual believe that individual who commit sedition get away with it and 92% of the individual believe that government should act strongly against individual who commit anti-national acts.

Overall, it is quite evident that the Indian society stands at cross-roads today, and its must act decisively to preserve it tolerant and just character. We really need to understand if pre-existing perceptions between various community groups intensely dominate perceptions of the actual issue thus making impotent the “facts” related to debatable issue at hand. It must be realised and communicated to the public that intolerant individuals are not entitled to complain of intolerance. In line with the contentions of Popper JNU, the safety and security of India and its institutions of liberty may be at danger if we continue to exhibit unlimited tolerance. I suggest that a broader legislation on sedition and hate-speech is need of the hour. For instance, holocaust denial is a crime in a number of democratic countries such as Belgium, France, and Germany. – The Financial Express, 23 February 2016

» Dr Dheeraj Sharma is professor of marketing and organisational behaviour and chairperson of marketing area, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.

Paradox of Tolerance

Being a faithful Hindu in Hindustan is a difficult proposition – Tarun Vijay

Tarun Vijay“So Aurangzeb, a ruthless father of the ISIS we see today must be defended. A nationalist icon of a resurgent nation, our prime minister must be opposed in foreign lands like modern day Mir Jafars, the reprehensible acts of violence against left-wing authors must be blamed on Hindu organisations even before the probe begins, and defenders of the Hindu faith must be put on the defensive using the powerful tools of journalism in a partisan manner. There remains not a single newspaper in this country … that would agree to publishing the views that differ with their own. So much for free press and its objectivity.” – Tarun Vijay

Asiya AndrabiIf Asiya Andrabi had been a Hindu in an Islamic country and had she tried to assert her religious right, she would have been supurd-e-khaak by now. She must thank her stars that she was born in a Hindu majority country where mocking and insulting Hindu sensitivities is not only tolerated by the state, but also encouraged by those vocal and media savvy Hindus identified as “seculars”.

Think of those like us who have been brought up to worship the cow as their mother, who have been continuously fed stories by Hindu leaders and their ideological mentors that killing a cow is a sin, who were told by them that Shivaji never tolerated killing of cows and had the butchers put on a death row when they did so. Today they choose to keep mum, silently watching something they never imagined.

Some showcase their meat eating habits in a bazaar, standing with a knife and watching blood ooze out of the slaughtered animal. This is considered a rightful, legitimate act – made acceptable to a secular nation by a just, fair, objective and secular media.

Ranjit SinghWe had heard of such incidents only when an invader wanted to teach a lesson to the subjugated people. We had heard that when a Muslim assaulter wanted to humiliate us, he had the Harmandir Saheb, a holy pond in Amritsar, filled with cow blood. Everyone condemned it and now it is a sad, reprehensible act in our collective memory. Maharaja Ranjit Singh too banned cow slaughter and all the Sikh Gurus held it sacred.

Today, the vagaries of political expediency ensure that even Sikh authorities keep silence on this issue, even though there is a coalition government in Punjab. Hindus standing against Hindus has cost the community a Somnath in every period of our history. A studied silence on assaults in the hope that the slaughterer will have mercy one day has resulted in the majority becoming refugees in their own land.

It is astonishingly surprising how Hindus have learnt to live with their assaulters in a meek way since we gained independence. The demographic invasion by the neighbours, the last forgotten days of the founder president of Bharatiya Janasangh in Srinagar, the mocking of the highest revered book, in fact the very first book of the world, Rgveda, the caricaturing of Hindu monks into some kind of foolish, outdated junk, the fossilisation of Hindu organisations into semi-literate, anti-women, anti-minorities and against all those human values that make a person acceptably civil—all this has become a trend in a fashionable, rich society, with the people often getting close to the ruling elite, whatever their colour or belief may be.

Swami Lakshmanananda SaraswatiWe forget the recent history when Hindu temples were looted and images of their deities burnt, while the seculars turned their faces the other way. When an octogenarian Laxmananand Saraswati was silenced forever by alienated violent groups professing another faith. Such incidents never become an issue of public debate. Rather, they are shown as false, fabricated stories by Hindu zealots. When a celebrated music composer works on a Sufi theme, he is a great hero, but when he receives a threat from Islamic clerics, silence is the norm adopted by the secular sirens.

Some did write a few books on the assaults suffered by the Hindus, though a bit apologetically as if we are in a Saudi land, and so much was the marginalisation of the persecuted Hindus that such a literature remained limited to the assertive groups only, never gaining a mention in the secular magazines’ pages. They were forced to leave their homes, orchards, their songs and festivals—forced to die and an entire generation lost a part of their land and sense of belonging. Nothing happened to make their woes a national concern. Like air-crash victims or sufferers of natural calamities, some received compensation, some relief material, some admissions in schools and colleges on compassionate ground. But life remained normal as ever. The nation remained busy in other important work—elections, disruptions and again elections and then the formation of the new government, terror attacks, bomb blasts, and again swearing to end terrorism. It’s now a routine exercise.

Some thought there are traitors in the Valley who demand secession and flock to meet the Pakistani high commissioner. It’s another kind of a jiyarat for those who want to have another Partition.

Still some think they are honourable political satyagrahis. They get all the government funds to travel, enjoy a strong security bandobast and regular health check-ups at the expense of the patriotic Indian taxpayer.

The demand to have the bovine cattle slaughtered in Kashmir valley—openly at Lal Chowk—has nothing to do with the supposedly irresistible taste of cow meat or a Cow Slaughter Srinagar 2015presumptuous religious dictate not enshrined in the Quran or the Shariat. Beef fest during Eid is undoubtedly aimed to tease and hit the Indian state and send a message to the rulers in Delhi—look, we are openly challenging your sovereign authority and defying the high court orders. Do whatever you can.

Beef eating, as a challenge to India, and its public display as an act of bravado is like destroying the temple at Ram Janma Bhoomi—which was meant to humiliate the subjugated Hindus and show them their place. It’s a political act that has nothing to do with culinary practice or religion.

The deafening silence of the Hindu outfits and preachers on the nauseatingly hateful statements of the Asiya Andrabis from the north to the south of this country arises from some noble wish to keep peace. Hindus must leave the Valley to make peace with jihadis. They must keep mum as they watch their icon of religious reverence slaughtered openly, only because it helps to keep peace. Hindus shouldn’t demand that the national anthem be sung in the Valley’s schools and they have a greater responsibility and shouldn’t provide the slightest chance to provoke assaulters. The powerful decide the rules. Like we saw in Chennai Express, the station is where the goon wants to disembark. How media moguls mock at the innocent and accurate depiction of women power during Rgvedic times. The intellectuals of the secular shade pounce upon statements of RSS-inspired history organisation. These are the “know-it-alls” who have “read” the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas. They think those who speak anything favourable about Indian culture must be as vehemently countered and mocked at as was done during the British. They know Gargi, Maitreyi, the rebellious Janaki, mother of Nachiketa—the challenger to the god of death. They even know about the annihilator of the wicked Durga, Andal, and Velu Nachiar—who descended on the earth from Mars and Venus. They had nothing to do with the ethos and culture of this land.

Aurangzeb Road renamed Dr APJ Abdul Kalam RoadSo Aurangzeb, a ruthless father of the ISIS we see today must be defended. A nationalist icon of a resurgent nation, our prime minister must be opposed in foreign lands like modern day Mir Jafars, the reprehensible acts of violence against left-wing authors must be blamed on Hindu organisations even before the probe begins, and defenders of the Hindu faith must be put on the defensive using the powerful tools of journalism in a partisan manner.

There remains not a single newspaper in this country—a part of the mainstream media—that would agree to publishing the views that differ with their own. So much for free press and its objectivity.

Roads and power lines do not make a nation. Remember the fate of the Soviet Union. It is the core values a nation represents that must be safeguarded—for India, this means we respect the sensitivities of all citizens and protect the rights of the minority, irrespective of how small they are.

Pluralism doesn’t translate into the display of your animal instincts to a religious group that has suffered exodus at the hands of Andrabis’ cousins. What is most shocking is the silence of the so-called “liberal, secular Muslim intellectuals” who had progressed not only because of their talent and brilliance but also because Hindus supported them. – DailyO, 22 September 2015 

» Tarun Vijay is a renowned Indian author, thinker, social worker, freelance journalist, and parliamentarian.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

The native Sahib vs the Hindu – Vamadeva Shastri

Sonia Gandhi and Congress MPs

David Frawley“India appears like a nation without nationalism or at least without any national pride or any real connection to its own history. Self-negativity and even a cultural self-hatred abound. The elite that dominates the universities, the media, the government and the business arenas is the illegitimate child of foreign interests and is often still controlled by foreign ideas and foreign resources. It cannot resist a bribe and there is much money from overseas to draw upon. Indian politicians do not hesitate to sell their country down the river and it does not require a high price.” — Pandit Vamadeva Shastri

Robert VadraA defeatist tendency exists in the psyche of modern Indians perhaps unparalleled in any other country today. An inner conflict bordering on a civil war rages in the minds of the country’s elite. The main effort of its cultural leaders appears to be to pull the country down or remake it in a foreign image, as if little Indian and certainly nothing Hindu was worthy of preserving or even reforming.

The elite of India suffers from a fundamental alienation from the traditions and culture of the land that would not be less poignant had they been born and raised in a hostile country. The ruling elite appears to be little more than a native incarnation of the old colonial rulers who haughtily lived in their separate cantonments, neither mingling with the people nor seeking to understand their customs. This new English-speaking aristocracy prides itself in being disconnected from the very soil and people that gave it birth.

There is probably no other country in the world where it has become a national pastime among its educated class to denigrate its own culture and history, however great that has been over the many millennia of its existence. When great archaeological discoveries of India’s past are found, for example, they are not a subject for national pride but are ridiculed as an exaggeration, if not an invention, as if they represent only the imagination of backward chauvinistic elements within the culture.

There is probably no other country where the majority religion, however enlightened, mystical or spiritual, is ridiculed, while minority religions, however fundamentalist or even militant, are doted upon. The majority religion and its institutions are taxed and regulated while minority religions receive tax benefits and have no regulation or even monitoring. While the majority religion is carefully monitored and limited as to what it can teach, minority religions can teach what they want, even if anti-national or backward in nature. Books are banned that offend minority religious sentiments but praised if they cast insults on majority beliefs.

There is probably no other country where regional, caste and family loyalties are more important than the national interest, even among those who claim to be democratic, socialist or caste reformers. Political parties exist not to promote a national agenda but to sustain one region or group of people in the country at the expense of the whole. Each group wants as big a piece of the national pie as it can get, not realizing that the advantages it gains mean deprivation for other groups. Yet when those who were previously deprived gain power, they too seek the same unequal advantages that causes further inequality and discontent.

India’s affirmative action code is by far the most extreme in the world, trying to raise up certain segments of the population regardless of merit, and prevent others from gaining positions however qualified they may be. In the guise of removing caste, a new castism has arisen where one’s caste is more important than one’s qualifications either in gaining entrance into a school or in finding a job when one graduates. Anti-Brahminism has often become the most virulent form of castist thinking. People view the government not as their own creation but as a welfare state from they should take the maximum personal benefit, regardless of the consequences for the country as a whole.

Sundar Pichai at Stanford (1994)Outside people need not pull Indians down. Indians are already quite busy keeping any of their people and the country as a whole from rising up. They would rather see their neighbours or the nation fail if they are not given the top position. It is only outside of India that Indians succeed, often remarkably well, because their native talents are not stifled by the dominant cultural self-negativity and rabid divisiveness that exists in the country today.

Political parties in India see gaining power as a means of amassing personal wealth and robbing the nation. Political leaders include gangsters, charlatans and buffoons who would stop short at nothing to gain power for themselves and their coteries. Even so-called modern or liberal parties resemble more the courts of kings, where personal loyalty is more important than any democratic participation. Once they gain power politicians routinely do little but cheat the people for their own advantage. Even honest politicians find that they cannot function without some deference to the more numerous corrupt leaders who often have a stranglehold on the bureaucracy.

Politicians divide the country into warring vote banks and place one community against another. They offer favours to communities like bribes to make sure that they are elected or stay in power. They campaign on slogans that appeal to community fears and suspicions rather than create any national consensus or harmony. They hold power based upon blame and hatred rather than on any positive programs for social change. They inflame the uneducated masses with propaganda rather than work to make people aware of real social problems like overpopulation, poor infrastructure or lack of education.

Should a decent government come to power, the opposition pursues pulling it down as its main goal, so that they can gain power for themselves. The idea of a constructive or supportive opposition is hard to find. The goal is to gain power for oneself and to not allow anyone else to succeed.

To further their ambitions Indian politicians will manipulate the foreign press to denigrate their opponents, even if it means spreading lies and rumors and making the country an anathema in the eyes of the outside world. Petty conflicts in India are blown out of proportion in the foreign media, not by foreign journalists but by Indians seeking to use the media to score points against their own opponents in the country. The Indians who are responsible for the news of India in the foreign press spread venom and distortion about their own country, perhaps better than any foreigner who dislikes the culture ever could.

The killing of one Christian missionary becomes a national media event of anti-Christian attacks while the murder of hundreds of Hindus is taken casually as without any real importance, as if only the deaths of white-skinned people mattered, not the slaughter of the natives. Missionary aggression is extolled as social upliftment, while Hindu efforts at self-defense against the conversion onslaught are portrayed as rabid fundamentalism. One Indian journalist even lamented that western armies would not come to India to chastise the political groups he was opposed to, as if he was still looking for the colonial powers to save him!

 Laloo Prasad Yadav & Mulayam Singh YadavLet us look at the type of leaders that India has had with its Laloo Prasad Yadav (ex CM Bihar), Mulayam Singh Yadav (ex CM UP) or Jayalalitaa to mention but a few. Such individuals are little more than warlords who surround themselves with sycophants. Modern Indian politicians appear more like colonial rulers looting their own country, following a divide and rule policy, to keep the people so weak that their power cannot be challenged. Corruption exists almost everywhere and bribery is the main way to do business in nearly all fields. India has an entrenched bureaucracy that resists change and stifles development, just out of sheer obstinacy and not wanting to give up any control.

The Congress Party, the oldest in this predominantly Hindu nation, has given its leadership to an Italian Catholic woman simply because as the widow of the last Gandhi prime minister, she carries the family torch, as if family loyalty were still the main basis of political credibility in the country. And such a leader and a party are deemed progressive!

The strange thing is that India is not a banana republic of recent vintage but one of the oldest and most venerable civilizations in the world. Its culture is not trumpeting a militant and fundamentalist religion trying to conquer the world for the one true faith but represents a vaster and more cosmic vision. India has given birth to the main religions that have dominated East Asia historically, the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh, which are noted for tolerance and spirituality.

It has produced Sanskrit, perhaps the world’s greatest language. It has given us the incredible spiritual systems of Yoga and its great traditions of meditation and Self-realization. As the world looks forward to a more universal model of spirituality and a world view defined by consciousness rather than by religious dogma these traditions are perhaps the most important legacy to draw upon for creating a future enlightened civilization.

Yet the irony is that rather than embracing its own great traditions, the modern Indian psyche prefers to slavishly imitate worn out trends in western intellectual thought like Marxism or even to write apologetics for Christian and Islamic missionary aggression. Though living in India, in proximity to temples, yogis and great festivals, most modern Indian intellectuals are oblivious to the soul of the land. They might as well be living in England or China for all they know of their own country. They are isolated in their own alien ideas as if in a tower of iron. If they choose to rediscover India it is more likely to occur by reading the books of western travelers visiting the country, than by their own direct experience of the people around them.

The dominant Indian intelligentsia cannot appreciate even the writings of the many great modern Indian sages, like Vivekananda or Aurobindo, who wrote in good English and understood the national psyche and how to revive. It is as if they were so successfully brainwashed against their own culture that they cannot even look at it, even if presented to them clearly in a modern light!

Kanchi Acharya Jayendra SaraswatiGiven such a twisted and self-negative national psyche, can there be any hope for the country? At the surface the situation looks quite dismal. India appears like a nation without nationalism or at least without any national pride or any real connection to its own history. Self-negativity and even a cultural self-hatred abound. The elite that dominates the universities, the media, the government and the business arenas is the illegitimate child of foreign interests and is often still controlled by foreign ideas and foreign resources. It cannot resist a bribe and there is much money from overseas to draw upon. Indian politicians do not hesitate to sell their country down the river and it does not require a high price.

Fortunately signs of a new awakening can be found. There is a new interest in the older traditions of the country and many people now visit temples and tirthas. Many young people now want to follow the older heritage of the land and revive it in the modern age. The computer revolution and the new science are reconnecting with the great intelligence of the Indian psyche that produced the unfathomable mantras of the Vedas.

Slowly but surely a new intelligentsia is arising and now several important journalists are writing and exposing the hypocrisy of the anti-Hindu Indian elite. Yet only if this trend grows rapidly can there be a real counter to the defeatist trend of the country. But it requires great effort, initiative and creativity, not simply lamenting over the past but envisioning a new future in harmony with the deeper aspirations of the region.

One must also not forget that the English-educated elite represents only about three percent of the country, however much power they wield. The remaining population is much more likely to preserve the older traditions of the land. Even illiterate villagers often know more of real Indian culture than do major Indian journalists and writers.

Meanwhile overseas Hindus have become successful, well-educated and affluent, not by abandoning their culture but by holding to it. They see Hindu culture not as a weakness but as a strength. Free of the Indian nation and its fragmented psyche, they can draw upon their cultural resources in a way that people born in India seldom can. Perhaps they can return to the country and become its new leaders.

However, first this strange alienated elite has to be removed and they will not do so without a fight. The sad thing is that they would probably rather destroy their own country than have it function apart from their control. The future of India looks like a Map of Bharatvarshanew Kurukshetra and it requires a similar miracle for victory. Such a war will be fought not on some outer battlefield but in the hearts and minds of people, in where they choose to draw their inspiration and find their connection with life.

Yet regardless of outer appearances, the inner soul of the land cannot be put down so easily. It has been nourished by many centuries of tapas by great yogis and sages. This soul of Bharat Mata will rise up again through Kali (destruction) to Durga (strength). The question is how long and difficult the process must be. – Hindu Human Rights, 2 September 2013

» Pandit Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) is a guru in the Vedic tradition. In India, Vamadeva is recognized as a Vedacharya (Vedic teacher), and includes in his scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient Vedic teachings going back to the oldest Rigveda. His website is here.

Congress secretary Rahul Gandhi parties after Mumbai attack in 2008.

Genetic study finds caste system in India began about 2,000 years ago – Carolyn Y. Johnson

Carolyn Y. Johnson“Researchers believe that instead of a new population invading south Asia, both populations were already present in India. Thus, the mixing doesn’t represent a surge of newcomers, but more likely the breakdown of some cultural or traditional barrier that had led to a natural separation between the two groups.” – Carolyn Y. Johnson

Prof. David ReichA large genetic study of hundreds of people in South Asia has allowed scientists to probe important transition points in the population’s history, pinpointing when two different groups of people mixed widely and then stopped. The study provides a genetic signature of cultural changes that occurred as the caste system was put in place in India.

Researchers have long known that at some point in history, South Asia was a melting pot for two different groups of people. The clues have been scattered in various scientific fields: the history, language, and ancient farming traditions of South Asia all bore the imprint of different origins. Sanskrit and Hindi, spoken in the north, are thought to be related to European languages, while Tamil and Telugu, spoken in the south, are unrelated. Agriculture in the north started earlier, some 8,000 years ago, and was distinctly related to the crops first domesticated in West Asia; farming in the south initially involved native plants.

But when did these two populations mix, and when did they stop?

NeanderthalHarvard Medical School professor of genetics David Reich specializes in analyzing genetic information from modern people to understand how populations interbred in the past, previously revealing that present-day humans have a little bit of Neanderthal in them and that the ancestors of Native Americans arrived in North America in successive waves.

Now, in a partnership with researchers in Hyderabad, India, Reich has examined hundreds of thousands of regions in people’s genomes and found evidence that the northern and southern populations mixed around 1,900 to 4,200 years ago. That period was well after the arrival of agriculture in the region and around the same time as Indo-European languages began to be used, the researchers reported Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

“From genetic data, remarkably, you see this picture emerging of cultural change,” Reich said. The population mixture didn’t happen in pockets—it was a profound mixing that has left traces in the DNA of people in all areas of India today. But that came to an abrupt halt around 2,000 years ago, likely due to the implementation of the caste system, Reich said.

Rig VedaSupporting evidence for the genetic interpretation comes from an unlikely source: the Rig Veda, an ancient text dating back to about 1500 B.C. Different portions of the text are thought to have been written at different times, and the most ancient ones do not include references to the caste system. Those mentions come in later versions.

“The big news is that a lot of the stratification in India seems to be set down in the last few thousand years. The date estimates they give correspond to what we think is the arrival of the Indo-European languages,” said Spencer Wells, director of National Geographic’s Genographic Project, which is aimed at untangling the origins of indigenous populations. “There’s been a big debate in archeology about how that happened.”

Human Migration MapThe researchers believe that instead of a new population invading south Asia, both populations were already present in India. Thus, the mixing doesn’t represent a surge of newcomers, but more likely the breakdown of some cultural or traditional barrier that had led to a natural separation between the two groups.

What most interests Reich for future research, however, are the health implications of these ancient patterns of mixing. The caste system, which restricts marriage to people of different groups, gave rise to populations that were genetically isolated, and therefore may be more likely to harbor rare genetic diseases.

“That is not really well appreciated in India,” Reich said. “An important medical thing is to document this and characterize it.” – The Boston Globe, 9 August 2013

» Carolyn Y. Johnson is a science reporter for the The Boston Globe.

See  also

  1. 1 & 2 – Indo-Europeans: Their origins and the natural history of their languages – N.S. Rajaram
  2. 3 – Indo-Europeans: Pashupati’s animals on the march – N.S. Rajaram
  3. 1 – Indian Third Wave West: Fertile Cresent and mathematics – N.S. Rajaram
  4. 2 – Indian Third Wave West: From language to thought – N.S. Rajaram