Friday, October 10, 2008


-    Averthanus L. D'Souza.
Ramesh Rajaram Vispute, a former Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) once remarked: "The enemies of the Hindus are the Muslims, the Christians, the Hindu intellectuals and the media."   It is very significant as well as intriguing that Vispute included the Hindu intellectuals and the media in his category of the "enemies" of Hindus.   It does not take great intellectual acumen to interpret the meaning of this statement by a very prominent Hindutva promoter.   It is quite obvious that  Hindu intellectuals (nor any other reasonably educated person for that matter) will refuse to  swallow the confused gibberish  which is churned out by the Hindutva propagandists to arouse anger and hatred  against Muslims and Christians,  for which the VHP  is so notorious.   Any thinking person (including Hindu "intellectuals") will see through the falsity of the arguments which the VHP advances in its hate campaigns.  It is precisely because the position of the Hindutva campaign is irrational  and untenable that the propagandists prefer to recruit uneducated and unthinking followers who can easily be manipulated to believe anything that is fed to them.    The Bajrang Dal,  which is considered to be the front-rank of the storm-troopers  of the VHP  is a good example of uneducated youth, with more passion than reason, who are willing to blindly follow orders without thinking, and who are conditioned to believe that heroism consists in slaughtering helpless women and children, and burning innocent people alive.   In this respect the Bajrang Dal is no different from the Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany or the youth brigades of the other fascist movements in Europe who were used to terrorize the population into submission.   With their saffron head-bands and wielding 'trishuls', and screaming full-throated war-cries,   these rampaging gangs can cause terror anywhere – which is precisely what they are trained to do.  They are 'programmed' to follow orders, irrespective of the morality of the orders or the consequences which follow.  B.S. Moonje, a prominent RSS leader, personally met  the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini in Rome on 19 March, 1931, visited some important military schools and educational institutions and became acquainted with the Balilla and the Avanguardisti organizations.   Moonje wrote in his diary that the keystone of the fascist system is the  'indoctrination' of youths, rather than education.  This is the foundation on which the Bajrang Dal is built.
While cultivated ignorance of the youth is one facet which is promoted by the Hindutva  ideologues,  deliberate falsification of current facts as well as of History is another method of indoctrination used.    Lal .Krishna. Advani  closely studied the system of propaganda developed by Nazi Germany.  He says:  "In Nazi Germany, fascism in action developed two other distinctive characteristics: firstly, adoption of propaganda as a key instrument of State policy; and secondly, the systematic  development of a demonology to keep the masses in a mood of perpetual tension and hysteria." (L.K.Advani- "A Prisoner's Scrap Book" )   Advani and his colleagues have tried hard to refine and improve upon the propaganda-cum-terror machinery  which was developed by Nazi Germany, specially by Hitler's most trusted lieutenant Paul Joseph Goebbels, whose name has now become synonymous with high-voltage mendacious propaganda.    
One of the more prominent falsifications which the Hindutva protagonists are propagating is that Hindutva is an integral part of Hinduism.   No sensible person, (including thinking Hindus) accepts this claim.   In fact, the vast majority of Hindus are aghast at this identification of Hinduism with Hindutva.     Hinduism is a highly respected religion of long standing.  It is recognized (even by non-Hindus) as being, perhaps, one of the oldest religions in human history.  It outlived the ancient religions of the Sumerians, the Etruscans, the Mesopotamians the Greeks and the Egyptians.  Hinduism has always been associated with 'sanatana'         which denotes timelessness or ancientness.   Hinduism has never been associated with any particular political system;  nor has it ever shown a preference for any particular cultural context.   In the broadest sense of the word, Hinduism is "heterodox"  and embraces a vast variety of rituals, beliefs, popular practices and dietary preferences.   In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna: "Through whatever path men come to me, I accept them through that very path."
 In sharp contrast to Hinduism as a religion,  Hindutva is a clearly distinguishable "political" ideology which is straining to concoct a "national" identity  based on the Hindu religion.    Hindutva is a clearly fascist political movement, which has drawn much of its inspiration from European fascism and German Nazism.   The most prominent protagonists of Hindutva,  Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1902 – 1966),  Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (1906 – 1973) and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (1901 – 1953)  among others, have derived their ideologies from European fascism and modified it to suit Indian conditions.   In fact, Pravin Togadia the "International General Secretary" of the VHP explicitly says that India is a Hindu Rashtra since millennia, and that Hindutva is not a religion but a synonym for Hindu nationalism.   It should be quite clear, therefore, that the rejection of the claims of Hindutva cannot be construed as being anti-Hinduism.   In fact,  it is precisely because of the distortion of Hinduism by the Hindutva brigade that the Hindu intellectuals have rejected it.   The Hindutva fanatics thrive on spreading this confusion between Hindutva and Hinduism.   They have been able to increase their  popularity because they repeat the (false) propaganda that the promotion of Hindutva is the promotion of Hinduism
There are many distortions which the Hindutva fascists have wrought on Hinduism.   Suffice it to indicate only a few blatant contradictions in their propaganda.  
One:  Hindutva is supposedly  a movement to create a Hindu "Rashtra".   The secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution is violently rejected by the Hindutva protagonists.   At the same time they have made a conscious and vigorous effort to create an "international"  Hindu community.   The formation of the "World Hindu Council"  and the creation of the post of an "International General Secretary" of the VHP is a clear contradiction of the claim that Hindutva is limited to the objective of creating a Hindu "nation."   This contradiction is obvious to every sane person, except, of course, the rabid Hindutva ideologues.
The claim made by Pravin Togadia that  Hindutva as a "Rashtra" has existed since millennia is patently false.  By all historical accounts, whether in ancient or mediaeval India,  there were several "kingdoms" or "empires."   Among the more well-known ancient empires were the Mauryan empire of Chandragupta Maurya ( approx. 326 B.C. to 184 B.C.)  and the Asokan empire  (approx. 269 B.C. to 232 B.C.)  There were also other lesser kingdoms like those of Kushana.  In the south there were the numerous kingdoms of Adilshah, the Pandyan and Chola kingdoms, the Chalukyan dynasty and the Vijayanagaran kingdom (1336 to 1567 A.D.)  and the better known Maratha Kingdom whose best known figure is Shivaji.    In the course of history, all these kingdoms were in conflict with one or another with a view to expand their fiefdom or to retrieve lands which had been taken away by force.   There was never a "nation" called India.  Even after the gaining of political independence from  Britain in 1945,  it was left to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to consolidate the various major and minor kingdoms into a unified Nation.  It is indisputable that it was under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that the so-called "Princely States" were abolished and integrated into the State of India, which, for the first time in its entire history adopted a Constitution which was to govern the "Nation."   The falsity of the VHP's claim that India was always a Hindu "rashtra" is proven by the very fact that it is still seeking to "create" the Hindu Rashtra of its dream.     
Two:  the VHP claims that people who profess and practice other religions cannot be part of the Hindu Rashtra.   This is in stark contradiction to the repeated statements made by the Hindutva leaders that Hindutva is a "secular" concept.  In fact, they claim that they are secular precisely because they are Hindu.  They accuse non-Hindus of being "pseudo-secular."   They continue to trumpet this obvious contradiction that only Hindus are secular and the followers of all other religions are not secular.   Yet, they also claim that Hindutva is a "composite" culture which embraces a variety of religions, cults, languages and ethnic cultures.   The Hindutva ideologues have never been able to reconcile  this glaring contradiction in their position.  If Hindutva "embraces"  other  ethnic cultures, why is it that they are systematically forcing tribals (who are not, and never have been,  Hindu) to "convert"  to Hinduism?   On the one hand they have sponsored so-called "Freedom of Religion" legislation in many States; because they are ostensibly opposed to conversions by force, fraud or inducements;  yet on the other hand, they themselves are forcibly "converting" tribals, members of scheduled castes and followers of other religions.  They offer the lame and unconvincing argument that they are only bringing back these people to the Hindu fold.  They have called this movement a "ghar vapasi."   The fact is that the tribals have never been Hindu.  They have their own culture, religion and social practices.   "Ghar vapasi"  in their case simply does not make any sense.   Former Indian Prime Minister, V.P. Singh has rightly pointed out that "ultimately what they are aiming at is authoritarian  rule.  Then not only will the minorities be targeted, but also those who do not agree with them. You will be declared an anti-national and treated thus."
One of the more prominent characteristics of any dictatorial political movement is the systematic  creation  of  confusion in the minds of the citizens so that they can never be sure of what the truth is. This is done in two ways.   One is to spread rumours through the cadres of grassroots level workers, and another is to simultaneously issue "official" statements "clarifying" the official position on any particular issue.   This is a very subtle psychological game which is being played by the top leadership of the  Hindutva brigade.   Citizens need to be aware of this and not fall into the trap which is deliberately created by the Hindutva ideologues.  A glaringly example of this "double-speak" is the fact that the Bajrang Dal leaders in Karnataka have openly stated on TV channels that they are responsible for the attacks against Christian churches, institutions and personnel.  At the same time, the BJP government in Karnataka and the VHP leadership insist that the Bajrang Dal had nothing to do with the attacks.  
There are too many contradictions in the propaganda arsenal of the Sangh Parivar to be treated at length in a brief essay,  but this short analysis will, perhaps, help to pinpoint the contradictions:
Hindu Nationalism v/s International Hindu Solidarity.
The entire Hindutva movement is grounded on the principle that India is a Hindu nation, and that only Hindus can enjoy rights of citizenship in India.   In this view, Muslims and Christians, in particular, but also Jews, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains, are viewed as non-Indian.   Each time a violent attack is carried out against Muslims or Christians, the Bajrang Dal terrorists shout that the Muslims and Christians should either become Hindus or leave the country.   Islam and Christianity are considered to be "impositions" by foreign Muslim conquerors or by Western Christian missionaries.  The teachings of V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar are very explicit about this.  According to them, non-Hindus cannot enjoy rights of citizenship.  The Muslims are constantly warned that their continued presence in India is entirely dependent on the "goodwill" of the Hindus and the Christians are "advised" to form an Indian Church under the complete control of the Indian Government, similar to the National Church in China.   The so-called principle is constantly repeated that only those who sever their links with any international community and become entirely Hindu will be tolerated in (an Hindutva ruled)  India.  
The stark contradiction in this position is the fact that Hindutva is Not confined to the geographical territory of India;  it is sought to be made an international religion.  Ever since the famous Parliament of Religions was addressed by Swami Vivekananda, in Chicago  the "missionary" dimension of Hinduism was begun with the formation of the Vedanta Society in 1893  in New York.   Today there are Hindu "missions"  all over the world, in the U.S.A., in Europe, in the Pacific Islands, in the West Indies, and in South Africa.   The claim that Hindutva is a movement to establish a Hindu "Rashtra," is, therefore, patently false.   The comparison with the expansionist movement of Nazi Germany is too striking to be missed.  First it started with the unification of German speaking countries; then it was extended to include all people of Aryan ethnic stock.  Since racial characteristics could not be "assimilated"  the Nazis began a systematic extermination, first  of the Jewish people and then of other "tainted" races.   The Hindutva claim to form a Hindu Rashtra, is, on the face of it, a huge fraud perpetrated by the Hindutva ideologues.  From a close examination of the literature available, it is clear that the Hindutva brigade wants to establish a theocratic Hindu State in India, not dissimilar to the Islamic State of neighbouring Pakistan.
Tolerance v/s xenophobia.
Another myth which has been created by the Hindutva protagonists is the claim that Hindutva is a tolerant ideology and is based on secular values.   This is far from the truth.  Hindutva is a blatantly intolerant movement which thrives on spreading hatred and fear among people.  In fact it is so intolerant that it seeks to re-write history,  which, according to it, has been written by "pseudo-secularists."    Its distortion of history is so blatant that it has even created the myth that Asoka  and Chandragupta Maurya were Hindu kings.  This is a blatant falsification of History.  All reliable sources tell us that Asoka ruled over a Buddhist kingdom, and that Chandragupta Maurya was strongly associated with the Jaina tradition.  The Hindutva view of history is not based on scientific research, but on an imagination running wild.   The Hindutva "historians" are worthy disciples of Goebbels who taught that if you repeat a lie over and over again,  people will soon begin to accept it as the truth.  
If Hindutva is a tolerant political ideology which respects secular values, why is it that in all the States which are ruled by the BJP there is a systematic attack against Christians and Muslims?    Why is it that tribals, who are not, and never have been, Hindu are being terrorized into converting to Hinduism?  
The Hindutva fanatics claim that they are against conversion by force, fraud or by material inducements.  In fact they accuse the Christians of having converted Hindus by offering such material inducements.   Yet, the duplicity of their claims is starkly evident in the fact that wherever they have attacked the Christians,  independent Commissions of Enquiry have not been able to confirm a single case of conversion by the use of fraud, force or material inducement.    The Laws in India are very clear about such conversions. If the Hindutva terrorists have any evidence of such conversions, they should have recourse to the Law.   Instead, they resort to violence and terror against helpless, innocent and weak communities.   They themselves use force to (re)convert people.
The Hindutva movement is  built on the foundations of falsehood, force and terror.   In times of natural calamities, like the earthquake in Gujarat,  they prevented anyone else from assisting the affected people.  They sought exclusive rights to dispense aid, but they distributed this aid in a highly reprehensible manner.   Muslim victims were carefully and deliberately excluded.   Others were given aid only on condition that they swore to remain or to become Hindu.   There is voluminous evidence of such discrimination even in times of dire affliction.   And these very people claim that Hindutva is a humanitarian and generous movement. 
Citizens need to be aware of the duplicity of the Hindutva movement.   They should examine all their claims critically;  and most of all, citizens should not be beguiled into believing that the Hindutva movement has any redeeming features.  It is an unmitigated evil.
The battle lines are very clear.  We Indians, of all faiths, varieties of cultures and  languages,  are facing a grave threat to the secular, democratic and pluri-cultural fabric of our society.   We need to join forces to defeat the evil forces of fascism and authoritarianism.   The fight is not between Hinduism and other religions.  The  fight is really between secularism and democracy, on the one hand, and fascism on the other.  
Averthanus L. D'Souza,
D-13, La Marvel Colony,
Dona Paula,  Goa 403 004.
Tel: 2453628.    


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Faith, no more" -- by Khuswant Singh

"Faith, no more"    
 --  by Khuswant Singh
The Hindustan Times dated :  4th, October 2008.

Recent incidents of violence and vandalism against Christians and their churches deserve to be condemned unreservedly.  They have blackened the fair face of Mother India and ruined the reputation of Hindus being the most religiously tolerant people in the world.  At the same time, we must take a closer look at people who convert from one faith to another.
To start with, let it be understood that these days there are no forced conversions anywhere in the world. Indiais no exception. Those who assert that the poor, innocent and ignorant of Indiaare being forced to accept Christianity are blatant liars.  A few, very few educated and well-to-do men and women convert to another faith when they do not find solace in the faith of their ancestors.  Examples are to be found in Americaand Europeof men and women of substance turning from Judaism and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism.
There are also men and women who convert to the faith of those they wish to marry.  We have plenty of cases of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh inter-marriages. However the largest number of converts come from communities discriminated against.  The outstanding example was that of Dalit leader Bhimrao Ambedkar  who led his community to embrace Buddhism because they were discriminated against by upper caste Hindus.  This is also true of over 90 percent Indian Muslims whose ancestors being lower caste embraced Islam which gave them equal status.  That gives lie to the often-repeated slandes that Islam made converts by the sword.
An equally large number of  people converted out of gratitude.  They were neglected, ignorant, and poor.  When strangers came to look after them, taught them, healed them and helped them to stand on their won feet to hold their heads high, they felt grateful towards their benefactors.   Most of them were Christian missionaries who worked in remote villages and brought hope to the lives of people who were deprived of hope.
To this day, Christian missionaries run the best schools, colleges and hospitals in our country.  They are inexpensive and free of corruption.  They get converts because of the sense of gratitude they generate.  Can this be called forcible conversion ?   Why don't  the great champions of Hinduism look within their hearts and find out why so many are disenchanted by their pretensions of piety ?  Let them first set their own houses in order, purge the caste system out of Hindu society and welcome with open arms all those who wish to join them.
No one will then convert from Hinduism to another religion.

Monday, October 06, 2008

" Well ! Well....! Mr. Advani ! " - Fr. Cedric Prakash sj *

Well....!   Well....!   Mr. Advani !  Well "spoken" indeed !
You have called for "inter-religious dialogue" and in no uncertain terms you say (there are media reports quoting you) "I strongly condemn these acts of violence and vandalism which cannot be condoned or justified.  The law must take its course and the culprits must be brought to justice..."
Well, Mr. Advani.... I, for one, would like to believe this statement.  Unfortunately, your track record exposes your double speak and well,  your insincerity. 
As somebody aspiring to be a future Prime Minister of the country, (and the fact that you are the icon of the BJP), you will have to first rein in all the fascist forces that support your ideology and your agenda.  How about booking the many from the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the VHP who have systematically been attacking Churches and killing innocent Christians in different parts of the country ?  (Orissa and Karnataka are just current examples of this reality.)  How about disassociating yourself from them completely ?  and perhaps, joining vast sections of the country who call for their ban ?
When you call for "inter-religious dialogue", I don't suppose you mean that men and women of faith  should talk or dialogue with terrorist organizations ?    Or do you ?
You say you have a "soft corner" for Christians but then, how is it that you have never raised your voice when the Christians of Gujarat were attacked in 1998/99 by these same fascist forces and when they continue to be attacked in several other parts of the country ?  You thought it prudent enough not to make a statement on Sunday 14th September when Christians and Churches were being attacked in Karnataka - just as the National BJP meeting was concluding in the State.  It amuses me that you had to go to Shillong and make a statement several days after thousands of Christians have been hounded from their homes and property in Orissa.  Do you think such hollow statements can actually give the BJP votes there ?  In your wisdom, did you not think it would have been more appropriate, if in Bangalore, your party passed a resolution condemning the attacks on Christians and other minorities in this country ?   So why go to Shillong to make your statement ....?  Do you think that the "Aaam aadmi" – cannot see through your ploy.... ?
However, can we  start from the very beginning....?
What about 1990 when you began the Rath Yatra  with much fanfare ?  In an attempt to destroy the secular fabric of our Constitution, your "Rath of Death" polarized Gujarat and several parts of the country as never before.  Yes, it definitely garnered you votes and perhaps put your party in power (for which they are  eternally grateful ! ).  But any one with conventional wisdom will tell you that narrow short-term gains normally negate  long-term acceptance and solutions.  Hitler and his Nazi party is a classic example.
As of now, you represent my Constituency in Parliament.  When hundreds of innocent Muslims were burnt alive and gang-raped in our streets, you declared that it was the ISI that was responsible for setting the S6 coach on fire !  Have you ever condemned the brutality and the inhumanity taking place in your own Constituency ?  When you speak of "justice", can you echo and re-echo  the words of  your mentor (the former PM), to your protégé  here (the Chief Minister of this land dedicated to Satyagraha and Ahimsa) that he should be following "Rajdharma" ?  How about raising your voice for victims of the Gujarat Carnage ?
Today in your Constituency, if one is  a Muslim, one cannot buy or own a shop.  Besides, in many areas, Christians too are treated as second-class citizens.
Some housing societies have very clearly stated in their byelaws that Muslims would not be allowed to stay in that society.  The irony is, we have the byelaws of  one society which clearly state that "Muslims and Sindhis" will not be permitted to live in that housing society.  So why don't  you try buying  a house in that society ?
Well....Well....Mr. Advani, this is your Constituency !  Your goons came for the Muslims first, then for the Christians....It is only a matter of time before they come for the "Sindhis" ! 
It is definitely not too late Mr. can still show India  and the world that you still cherish the values that were imparted to you  through a Christian education : of tolerance, compassion, sense of justice and fair play, of equality, of respect for all religious, of not allowing people to take law and order into their own hands....and hopefully show your secular face. 
You have a little over five years to prove it.  And if the fascists of the country allow you or me to still be around in 2014, you may still have a chance to then aspire to be Prime Minister.  Until then, just forget it .....
Well !  Well....!  Mr. Advani !

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of "Prashant", the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
(A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Near Kamdhenu Hall
Drive-in Road,   Ahmedabad   380 052
Gujarat, India
Tel:   91  79 66522333 /27455913 
Fax:  91 79 27489018

2nd  October  2008


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pledge to Practice Non-Violence


"Take this Pledge on October 2nd, the "International Day of Non-violence".  If you are unable to do it on that day, do it the moment you read this. Do it alone or with others.   We will be happy if you let us know that you have taken this Pledge.  Thank you !"
Pledge to Practice Non-Violence

Most loving God, and all friends of Non-Violence and Peace :   I recognize the violence in my own heart, yet I trust in the goodness and forgiveness of God.  I wish to walk in the Spirit of Peace.  I wish to walk in the company of all the women and men  who have lived  the way of non-violence, justice, peace and truth.  I wish to walk in the company of those charismatic bearers of Truth and of Non-Violence, very specially Mahatma Gandhi, whose birth anniversary we celebrate today.

Therefore, before God the Creator, the Sanctifying Spirit, and in the company of all Peacemakers, I ______________________ pledge for one year, beginning this day, to practice Nonviolence.

• by acting with persistent non-violence, to resist every form of injustice and violence -by myself and / or by others.
• by acting to remove the causes, and heal the effects of violence;
• by striving for peace within myself, and seeking to be a Peacemaker in my daily life;
• by accepting suffering in the pursuit of justice rather than inflicting it;
• by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence, returning forgiveness for harm, while continuing to insist and stand up for the Truth as far as it is known to me;
• by living conscientiously, and simply, so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
• by working constantly, and non-violently, to abolish war and the causes of war, from my own heart, and from the face of the earth.
• by doing everything possible to ensure that justice, truth, non-violence and peace, be the values cherished and lived by every single citizen.

God of Peace and Justice, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this Pledge, so will You also bestow on me, the abundant grace to fulfill it.
(A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Near Kamdhenu Hall
Drive-in Road,   Ahmedabad   380 052
Gujarat, India
Tel:   91  79 66522333 /27455913 * Fax:  91 79 27489018
Email: *