Indian Interests

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derkonig
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Postby derkonig » 30 May 2008 11:54

OT, but Asoka converting to Buddhism has been debunked as the creation of Maculayites...
Asoka remained Hindu till death. His children, OTOH, might have converted or atleast taken up preaching some sort of Buddhism...

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Postby amit » 30 May 2008 12:43

derkonig wrote:OT, but Asoka converting to Buddhism has been debunked as the creation of Maculayites...
Asoka remained Hindu till death. His children, OTOH, might have converted or atleast taken up preaching some sort of Buddhism...


Derkonig,

Just curious, but according to this line of reasoning how are the Asoka pillars and the Edicts of Asoka explained?

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Postby amit » 30 May 2008 12:57

I recently saw a trailer of the animation movie Ghatothkach and I must say I was quite impressed. I certainly will see the movie and take my daughter along.

Indian folklore is full of wonderful tales which have mass non western, pan Asian appeal. More movies - and animation - based on these need to be made and circulated around the world. I'm sure they will be a hit in markets where traditionally Hindi movies have been popular.

Maybe even English dubbed ones can also be made. If Indanna Jones can speak in Hindi I don't see why, as an example, Akbar (in that excellent psy-ops movie) couldn't speak in English?

Such movies can help to build a non-Western and non Hollywood alternative worldview.

However, for animation the film folks have to seriously look at 3D instead of 2D if they really want to be successful. Shrek has set the bar too high for 2D to compete despite high quality art work.

JMT

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Postby Sanku » 30 May 2008 14:30

amit wrote:However, for animation the film folks have to seriously look at 3D instead of 2D if they really want to be successful. Shrek has set the bar too high for 2D to compete despite high quality art work.

JMT


All thats happening; check out Bal Ganesha/Hanuman etc. These are not religious movies; they are primarily fun children movies. They are in at least Hindi and english and some of them are in the 3D animation. (If not Shrek quality)

A overall good trend IMO.

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Postby Sanku » 30 May 2008 14:33

amit wrote:
derkonig wrote:OT, but Asoka converting to Buddhism has been debunked as the creation of Maculayites...
Asoka remained Hindu till death. His children, OTOH, might have converted or atleast taken up preaching some sort of Buddhism...


Derkonig,

Just curious, but according to this line of reasoning how are the Asoka pillars and the Edicts of Asoka explained?


This is the first time I have heard of it; (not the edicts but that Ashoka did not convert); whats the reasoning behind it?

The question is not of "formal" conversion here like Abhramic religions but of change in philosophy. Since a formal conversion was not really in vogue in ancient era I guess.

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Postby amit » 30 May 2008 14:42

Sanku wrote: All thats happening; check out Bal Ganesha/Hanuman etc. These are not religious movies; they are primarily fun children movies. They are in at least Hindi and english and some of them are in the 3D animation. (If not Shrek quality)

A overall good trend IMO.


Glad to hear that. I've heard about Bal Ganesha and Hanuman but I haven't yet had a chance to see them. If I'm not mistaken I saw a DVD of Hanuman in one of the shops, will pick up next time I see.

IMO 3D doesn't need to be of Shrek quality. However, what I think is needed, is a movie which while the childern love to watch, their parents will also enjoy - Shrek's a good example of that too. That's the trick to mass appeal.

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Postby derkonig » 30 May 2008 14:58

Sanku wrote:
amit wrote:
derkonig wrote:OT, but Asoka converting to Buddhism has been debunked as the creation of Maculayites...
Asoka remained Hindu till death. His children, OTOH, might have converted or atleast taken up preaching some sort of Buddhism...


Derkonig,

Just curious, but according to this line of reasoning how are the Asoka pillars and the Edicts of Asoka explained?


This is the first time I have heard of it; (not the edicts but that Ashoka did not convert); whats the reasoning behind it?

The question is not of "formal" conversion here like Abhramic religions but of change in philosophy. Since a formal conversion was not really in vogue in ancient era I guess.


Well, Asoka's edicts constantly mention about Brahmins. In Buddhism, there aren't any Brahmins & consequently if Asoka had indeed turned a Buddhist, he probably would have mentioning about Buddhist monks/nuns.

Asoka might have developed some inclination towards Buddhism, but his conversion his doubtful. This 'conversion' thing has been played up only to denigrate Hinduism as evil, crude & violent. No wonder the Chand-Asok is depicted as Hindu, while the Dhamma-Asok is celebrated as a Buddhist.

More importantly, let us not forget that the Asoka's pacifism ultimately spelt doom for the Mauryan Empire. Chandragupta Maurya's legacy was squandered away within ~150 years.

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Postby Nayak » 30 May 2008 15:00

If anybody remembers the textbooks on Ashoka, his military exploits are downplayed and his pacifist acts are celebrated.

:roll: :roll: :roll:

The kangressi mooks are doing a fine job of watering down the warrior ethos in our kids.

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Postby Sanku » 30 May 2008 15:12

Guys; you know my views on the topic so I dont think you can get me wrong but still a disclaimer -- I am not supporting the current picturization.

There are two things here
1) The picture of conversion that is painted
2) The actual shift in Ashoka's focus.

While I think "conversion" is a not a dharmic artifact; and the Dhamma Ashoka probably was as much Hindu as Buddhist (In fact I see Buddhism as a subset of Hinduism); the intresting question is how much pacifist ever (if at all) did Asoka turn.

I was hoping that Keshav will qualify his remark in more detail.

all manners of artifical divides are created and played by the Mackaylites hence I dont see Asoka ever saw a dichotomy is being both supporting Brahmins as well as Monks and nuns.

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Postby Rahul M » 30 May 2008 15:49

exactly sanku, it is wrong to think of the situation as : Asoka converted to buddhism from hinduism.

Buddhism is nothing if not a sect of hinduism. If somebody began following Ramkrishna's teachings would he become a Ramkrishnite and stop being a Hindu ??

If you look closely buddha was the first person to bring vedic/upanishadic teachings to the masses. Current hindu beliefs and rituals owe a lot to buddha's teachings and the way his followers carried them out.
Even the concept of temple originated from the stupas, before that dharmic people worshipped in the open.

Even shankar's vedanta philosophy owe its origins to buddha's philosophy, though the former eventually eclipsed the later, a process which weakened the buddhistic sect in India.

This was also the reason why the majority of the people reverted to sanatan dharmaism as time went w/o much resistance. (communists however like to invent the story of hindu persecution of buddhists w/o any evidence supporting that claim)

@ derkinig, buddy stress the point that buddhism is nothing but a subset of hinduism, as sanku pointed out. It therefore does not matter if Asoka converted or not.

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Postby amit » 30 May 2008 16:31

Rahul M wrote:exactly sanku, it is wrong to think of the situation as : Asoka converted to buddhism from hinduism.


If I may add.

This "salami" slicing of Indic religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism into this versus Hindus or those versus Hindus is exactly what the Maculayites are trying to achieve.

What does it matter whether Asoka was a Hindu or Buddhist? He was a Dharmic son of Mother India. And Buddha was one of Mother India's greatest sons.

To be honest I'm not very religious but I like to go to temples as I find the atmosphere very peaceful. And it really doesn't matter to me if I'm in a Hindu temple, Buddhist monastary or a Sikh Gurdwara.

All of them are steeped in the Indic values which I cherish.

JMT

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Postby derkonig » 30 May 2008 16:44

The point I wish to make is that our history books try to create this image of an evil, war-mongering, pillaging & imperialist Hindu Asok, who magically, turns into a pacifist, kind, just, generous & benevolent ruler after 'discovering' buddha & buddhism, this kinda smacks of EJ propaganda.

More importantly, I wish to point out that the pacifist attitude of Asok & the succeeding Maurya dynasty, certainly contributed to its downfall.
Also, read about Pushyamita Sunga, a Brahmin & the founder of Sunga dynasty, he stands accused of persecution of buddhists inspite of little evidence. It was rather amusing to note that even 'eminent historian' Romila Thapar didn't subscribe to the notion of Pushymitra harassing buddhists.

It it time the Hindus start unlearning the sekoolaar garbage that is taught under the garb of history. Hindus need to be proud of their glorious heritage & understand well that pacifism is no answer to any problem, never was, never will.

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Postby Sanku » 30 May 2008 16:58

derkonig wrote: turns into a pacifist, kind, just, generous & benevolent ruler after 'discovering' buddha & buddhism, this kinda smacks of EJ propaganda..


There is another real take away; if Buddhism is nothing but a sect of Hinduism it essentially means that the concept of "pacifism" is ingrained in Hindu culture as well; hence just blaming Buddhism for pacifism does not cut it.

We have to realize that the Dharmic concepts have a essential focus on peace (Shanti) where as the balance of the world does not.

So till the world indeed becomes Arya we have to be coconuts (no not that variety) soft inside but hard outside.

At all times we must not lost touch of the fact that as long as we are Hindus we will have the "pacifist" side to us; and we must keep it in balance.


Just like the western philosophy warns people to be aware of their "dark" side; the Indic philosophy should warn people of their "soft" side.

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Postby derkonig » 30 May 2008 17:09

My other gripe is that the children are taught a "Gandhi-ized" version of our history. Hence, our history books expound theories of Hindusim, being based on sekoolarism, pacifism, all religions ==, minority appeasement, hypocrisy, turning the other cheek, playing the good "host" & how it is communal to be a Hindu & how we must turn into world citizens & tree huggers.


Just like the western philosophy warns people to be aware of their "dark" side; the Indic philosophy should warn people of their "soft" side.


Similarly, Hindus also should never forget that defense of Dharma is also the duty of every Hindu. Turning the other cheek is not right & doesn't cut as well. While the "soft" side is essential as peace is the cornerstone for prosperity & progress, it is also essential to be ready to defend that prosperity; something that we never are taught.

Raju

Postby Raju » 30 May 2008 17:40

>>Hindus need to be proud of their glorious heritage & understand well that pacifism is no answer to any problem, never was, never will.

Everything has its place.

But too much of anything is bad. There is a saying translated from a regional language .. "overdose of nectar(amrutham) is also poison".

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Postby Rahul M » 30 May 2008 22:00

are there any online official sources for the names, age and sex of the victims of the gujrat riots ??

including the train victims, I mean.

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Postby Keshav » 30 May 2008 23:57

Sanku wrote:I was hoping that Keshav will qualify his remark in more detail.


Huh? DerKonig was the one who side tracked with his comment on Buddhism.

del

(Rest of the post in "Distorted history..." thread)

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Postby ashkrishna » 31 May 2008 00:16

This may be related to the debate here. I know that most BRfites are not big fans of Amartya Sen, but he gives an interesting view of Hinduism in his book the Argumentative Indian.

Acording to him, hinduism has a 'liberal arch' and supports several different viewpoints under its banner, this allows space for the viewpoints of sceptics and even atheists.This fits well into our argumentative traditon. Could this supposedly inbuilt liberalism be the cause of a pacifist response to external threats to the religion? Can this also explain the supposed divergence of the views of hindus on Hindutva? Is the liberal, excessively accomodating and unnecessarily pacifist subset of Hinduism prevailing over its other versions in our country.

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Postby indygill » 31 May 2008 01:34

Rahul M wrote:exactly sanku, it is wrong to think of the situation as : Asoka converted to buddhism from hinduism.

Buddhism is nothing if not a sect of hinduism. If somebody began following Ramkrishna's teachings would he become a Ramkrishnite and stop being a Hindu ??

If you look closely buddha was the first person to bring vedic/upanishadic teachings to the masses. Current hindu beliefs and rituals owe a lot to buddha's teachings and the way his followers carried them out.
Even the concept of temple originated from the stupas, before that dharmic people worshipped in the open.

Even shankar's vedanta philosophy owe its origins to buddha's philosophy, though the former eventually eclipsed the later, a process which weakened the buddhistic sect in India.

This was also the reason why the majority of the people reverted to sanatan dharmaism as time went w/o much resistance. (communists however like to invent the story of hindu persecution of buddhists w/o any evidence supporting that claim)

@ derkinig, buddy stress the point that buddhism is nothing but a subset of hinduism, as sanku pointed out. It therefore does not matter if Asoka converted or not.


(communists however like to invent the story of hindu persecution of buddhists w/o any evidence supporting that claim)


Communists used it to implement and justify commie ideal and version of secularism under the very pretext of "freedom of religion" ... And to label thier enemies "Hindus" as intolerant monsters..... and lastly to legitimate Islam as indegenous Indian system and absolve them of any wrong doing towards Hindu society in past 1000 years.

It is one of the diversionary tactics employed by the ?eminent historians? in order to shield Islamic iconoclasm from the public eye and that is to allege that Hinduism itself is the guilty religion only.

Here as an example

>>>the Marxist historian Gargi Chakravartty writes: ?Another myth has been meticulously promoted with regard to the tolerance of the Hindu rulers. Let us go back to the end of second century B.C. Divyavadana, in a text of about the second-third century A.D., depicts Pushyamitra Shunga as a great persecutor of Buddhists. In a crusading march with a huge army he destroyed stupas, burnt monasteries and killed monks. This stretched up to Shakala, i.e. modern Sialkot, where he announced a reward of 100 gold coins to the person who would bring the head of a Buddhist monk. Even if this is an exaggeration, the acute hostility and tensions between Pushyamitra and the monks cannot be denied.?<<<< (sourcse: Gargi Chakravartty ?BJP-RSS and Distortion of History?, in Pratul Lahiri, ed.: Selected Writings on Communalism, People?s Publishing House, Delhi 1994, p. 166-167.)


Strangely no one ever bothered "correcting" the Marxists that the Divyavadana was no "living human" it was a "book"........
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divyavadana


Numerous other distorted versions like this by Marxists are propagted using state machinery and institutions all over India. They used these distorted lies and half truths to "brain wash" all coming generations.......

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Postby ashkrishna » 31 May 2008 01:53

Buddhism is nothing if not a sect of hinduism


That is very true . Buddhism has a sceptical flavour to it and can come within the broad canopy of hinduism.

I have just started writing a blog on various issues relating to India and religion. I have a lot of young friends and i seriously feel that future generations are being contaminated with the pacifist pseudo-secularist outlook. I request all Brfites to help me refine my articles. I am a rank amateur and need your help. Thanks.

[url]ashwinasks.wordpress.com[/url]

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Hindu, Buddhist tradition and non violence

Postby astal » 31 May 2008 02:02

Off topic. Moved to Distorted History Thread
Last edited by astal on 31 May 2008 03:58, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hindu, Buddhist tradition and non violence

Postby Keshav » 31 May 2008 03:28

astal wrote:As Ramana often states, just like Hanuman, we constantly need to be reminded of our powers and in this case our responsibilities.


Ramana would probably also tell everyone that he's going to ban the next person who takes off topic.

We should move this conversation to the "Distorted history, remedies, and consequences" where it would be instantly on topic and more people will be able to contribute.

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Postby Rahul M » 31 May 2008 03:31

sub: buddhist persecution by hindus,
moved to distorted history thread.

see keshav's post above.

On a different note :

I haven't seen any discussion on BRF on the gujjar issue.
This is a serious matter and would appreciate if the guru logs put some thought to the matter.

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Postby ramana » 04 Jun 2008 10:29

Awakening the Tiger

PG thesis from Naval Post Graduate school, Monterrey.

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Postby ramana » 06 Jun 2008 03:01

From Deccan Chronicle, 5 June 2008

[quote]
New world order: How rise of the East unsettles the West
By Indranil Banerjie


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair remains a busy man, flitting between London and places as far apart as Jericho and Washington DC. His travels recently took him to Yale, the hallowed American institution that has produced five US Presidents and numerous other politicians. His May 25 speech was mostly advice, and his most significant observations were on the East.

[b] “For the first time in many centuries, power is moving East,â€

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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby ramana » 11 Jun 2008 22:16

Looks like the above post got truncated in the forum upgrade. :( as DC does not archive!

Meanwhile Guruchran Das, who is a s modern as it gets is using BRF language and agonizes.

The Dilemma of a Liberal Hindu
By
Gurcharan Das

You do me honor by inviting me to speak at this wonderful conference, amidst such distinguished people. I am not an academic, and to make up for this disadvantage I thought I would speak from experience and offer a personal account of the inner life of a liberal and secular Indian. I shall focus on one theme primarily, which is my fear of the loss of tradition, and my feeble attempts to recapture it. I shall wake up Edmund Burke from the 18th century to be my worthy companion in the dilemma that I lay before you.

My Fear of the Loss of Tradition

A few months ago the confident and handsome friend of our son’s gave a telling reply to a visiting Englishwoman in Khan Market in Delhi. “I am a Hindu, but …”, he said, and he went into a winding reply about his beliefs. He hastily added that he was an Indian first. It was a perfectly honest answer, and any other person might have given a similar one about Islam or Christianity. But I sensed an unhappy defensiveness–the ‘but’ betrayed that he might be ashamed of being Hindu.

This happened two weeks after I got a call from one of Delhi’s best private schools, asking me to speak to its students. “Oh good!” I replied on the phone. “I have been reading the Mahabharata, and in that case I shall speak about dharma and the moral dilemmas in the epic.”

The principal’s horrified reaction was, “Oh don’t, please! There are important secularists on our governing board, and I don’t want controversy about teaching religion.”

“But surely the Mahabharata is a literary epic”, I protested, “And dharma is about right and wrong”. But my remonstration was to no avail. She was adamant and scared.

As I think about these two incidents, I ask myself, why should these two highly successful, young professionals be embarrassed of their heritage? Something seems to have clearly gone wrong. My fear is that modern, liberal Indians, and especially those at the helm of our private and public enterprises, may not have any use for their past, and they will abdicate our wonderful traditions to the narrow, closed minds of fanatical Hindu nationalists. In part, this is due to ignorance. Our children do not grow up reading our ancient classics in school or college with a critical mind as works of literature and philosophy as young Americans, for example, read the Western classics in their first year of college as a part of their “core curriculum”. Some are lucky to acquire some acquaintance with them from their grandmothers or an older relative, who tell them stories from the epics and the Puranas. They might read the tales in Amar Chitra Katha comics or watch them in second-rate serials on Sunday morning television. Meanwhile, the Sangh Parivar steps into the vacuum with its shrunken, defensive, and inaccurate version of our history and happily appropriates the empty space. And the richness of tradition is lost to this generation.

If Italian children can proudly read Dante’s Divine Comedy in school, or English children can read Milton, and Greek children can read the Iliad, why should “secularist” Indians be ambivalent about the Mahabharata? Indeed, English children also read the King James Bible as a text in school–“text” is the operative word, for they are encouraged to read it and interrogate it. So, why then should our epic be “untouchable” for a sensitive, modern and liberal school principal? It is true that the Mahabharata has lots of gods in it, and in particular that elusive divinity, Krishna, who is up to all manner of devious activity. But so are Dante, Milton, and Homer filled with God or gods, and if the Italians, the English and the Greeks can read the texts of their heritage, why can’t Indians?

With the rise in religious fundamentalism, it seems to me that it is increasingly difficult to talk about one’s deepest beliefs. Liberal Hindus are reluctant to admit being Hindu for fear they will be automatically linked to the RSS. They are not alone in this. Liberal Christians and liberal Muslims, I am sure, have experienced the same misgivings. One can easily imagine hearing: “I am Christian, but…” or “I am Muslim, but…” In India, I blame Hindutva nationalists who have appropriated our culture and tradition and made it a political agenda. But equally, I blame many of our secularists who behave no better than fundamentalists in their callous antipathy to tradition.

We ought to view Hindutva’s rise in the context of religious revivalism with a political bent around the world. Laurie Goodstein wrote in the New York Times on January 15, 2005: “Almost anywhere you look around the world…religion is now a rising force. Former communist countries are crowded with mosque builders, Christian missionaries and freelance spiritual entrepreneurs of every persuasion…” Philip Jenkins’ insightful book, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, describes this in the America of George W. Bush. This growth in fundamentalism around the globe makes one wonder if the secular agenda is threatened everywhere. And is it the project of modernity, as some think, that has contributed to this vicious, political religiosity?

No one reads Edmund Burke these days, but he exercised considerable influence on 18th century minds. He is relevant, I think, to some of our discontents with secularism today. His critique of the French revolution was based primarily on his fear of the loss of tradition–killing off the church and the aristocracy, he felt, would cut off links with the past. He spoke about “custom, community and natural feeling”, and he felt that continuity with the past was necessary to realize our full human potential. The challenge before modern, decent Indians today, it seems to me, is essentially the same. It is the one that Ram Mohan Roy faced in the early 19th century and Mahatma Gandhi in the early 20th century: how to grow up mentally healthy, integrated Indians? How do we combine our liberal modernity with our traditions in order to fully realize our potential?

As a liberal and secular Hindu, I oppose the entry of religion into the public domain, and its mingling with government or public school education. I deeply appreciate the “wall” which both the U.S. and our own founding fathers built. For this reason, I admire France and Turkey who seem to have the strongest “walls”. But what does one do when the great literary classics of one’s country are “religious” or “semi-religious”? Dante practically “created” the Italian language with his masterpiece, but his great poem is also a deeply religious work–possibly the most religious in all Christianity. I don’t know how Italians handle Dante in their schools, and I wonder what the Italian Left feels about it, say in a Leftish city like Bologna.

In India, we do have a problem and I don’t think there are easy answers. Many Indians regard our great Sanskrit classics as religious texts. To the extent that they are religious, we are committed by our “wall” to keep them out of our schools. Hence, I do sympathize with the principal of the school in Delhi. At the same time, unless our children are exposed to the Sanskrit classics and unless these are “discussed” in a secular environment our children will grow up impoverished in the way Edmund Burke worried about. Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong with contemporary Indian education when our most influential schools churn out deracinated products, who know little about their own culture but a great deal about the West.

There are some in India who think that the answer lies in providing compulsory knowledge of all religions, and this will engender, what Emperor Ashoka called, a “respect for all creeds”. But this too is a dangerous path. For how do you teach religion without worrying about some teacher somewhere who will wittingly or unwittingly denigrate or hurt the sensitivities of the some follower of the religion being taught? And before you realize it, you will have a riot on your hands. So, we do have a genuine moral dilemma here, a dharmasamkata or dharma-vikalpa, the kind of thing that the Mahabharata delights in.

I was born a Hindu

I was born a Hindu, had a normal Hindu upbringing, and like many in the middle class I went to an English medium school that gave me a “modern education”. Both my grandfathers belonged to the Arya Samaj, a reformist sect of Hinduism that came up in 19th century Punjab. It advocated a return to the Vedas, a diminished role for Brahmins and vigorous social reform of the caste system among other social evils. My father, however, decided to take a different path. When he was studying to be an engineer, he was drawn to a kindly Guru, who taught him the power and glory of direct union with God through meditation. The Guru would quote from Kabir, Nanak, Rumi, and Mirabai, and was a Radhasoami sant in the syncretic, bhakti tradition.

The striking thing about growing up Hindu was a chaotic atmosphere of tolerance in our home in Lyallpur. My grandmother would visit the Sikh gurdwara on Mondays and Wednesdays and a Hindu temple on Tuesdays and Thursdays; she saved Saturdays and Sundays for discourses of holy men, including Muslim pirs, who were forever visiting our town. In between she made time for lots of Arya Samaj ceremonies when anyone was born, married, or died. My grandfather used to jest that she would also have also called in at the Muslim mosque in her busy schedule had they allowed her in, but my more practical uncle thought that she was merely taking out enough insurance, in the manner of Pascal, and someone up there might hear her.

Despite this religious background, I grew up agnostic, which is a luxury of being Hindu. I have a liberal attitude that is a mixture of skepticism and sympathy towards my tradition. I have also come to believe that our most cherished ends in life are not political. Religion is one of these and it gets demeaned when it enters public life. Hence, religion and the state must be kept separate, and to believe this is be secular. I have a mild distaste for the sort of nationalism that can so quickly become chauvinism. Hence, I do not vote for the BJP. At the same time I feel Indian and I value my “Indian-ness”, whatever that may be. This means that I value my past and I wish to cultivate it, and like Edmund Burke, I feel my past is important to me for living a flourishing life. This is a past that contains the influence of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, and even Christianity.

I think it must have been difficult for my Hindu ancestors in the Punjab, who did not have the living memory of a political heritage of their own. Having lived under non-Hindu rulers since the 13th century, they must have thought of political life as filled with deprivation and fear. After Muslims had come the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh. With its collapse around 1850 came the powerful British, with Christian missionaries in tow. Hence, three powerful, professedly egalitarian and proselytizing religions surrounded them—Islam, Sikhism and Christianity. No wonder, they were eager to receive Dayananda Saraswati when he came to the Punjab in 1877. And not surprisingly, he succeeded beyond his dreams in establishing the Arya Samaj in the Punjab.

“Every writer needs an address”, wrote Isaac Bashevis Singer. That is a fine way of expressing what I have been trying to. All human beings need local roots, an identity, and a link with a unique identifiable past. A writer needs it even more, I think, because a writer aspires to speak universally about life.

“You haven’t turned Hindutva, have you?”

In the spring of 2002 I decided to take an academic holiday. My wife thought it a strange resolve. She was familiar with our usual holidays, when we armed ourselves with hats, and blue and green guides, and trudged up and down over piles of temple stones in places like Khajuraho or Ankor Wat. But she was puzzled by an ‘academic holiday’. I explained to her that in college I had read Aristotle, Euripides, Dante, Marx and other classics of western civilization, but I had always yearned to read the Indian classics and had never had the chance. The closest I had come was Professor Ingalls’ difficult Sanskrit class at Harvard when I was an undergraduate. So, now forty years later I wished to read the texts of classical India, if not in the original, at least with a scholar of Sanskrit. It was my Proustian search for lost time in order to reclaim my tradition, appropriately in the vanaprastha ashrama of my life.

My wife gave me a skeptical look, and after a pause she said, “It’s a little late in the day for a mid-life crisis, isn’t it? Let’s go instead on a cruise of the Greek islands”.

Somewhat to my annoyance, my “academic holiday” became the subject of animated discussion at a dinner party in Delhi the following week. Our hostess was a snob. She was famous in Delhi’s society for cultivating the famous and the powerful. She had ignored us for years but this had changed in the past two, and we had become regulars at her brilliant dinners. I thought her friendly but my wife reminded me that her warmth was in direct proportion to my recent success as a columnist and writer. She always introduced me as ‘an old friend’, but I don’t think she had a clue about what the word meant.

“So, what is this I hear about you wanting to go away to read Sanskrit texts?” she suddenly turned to me accusingly. “Don’t tell me you are going to turn religious on us?”

Two women in exquisite silk sarees, one from Kanchipuram and another from Benares, now came in and joined us. One had a string of pearls around her neck and the other lovely diamonds on her neck and her wrists. Both had heavily mascaraed eyelashes, painted lips, and rouged cheeks, and it was apparent how much their lives consisted in a desperate struggle to keep their faded charms. They began to speak in loud, metallic voices without a moment’s pause, as though they were afraid that if they stopped they might not be able to start again.{Classic description of Dilli billis- Delhi Cats representative of the chatterati representing the DIE (De-racinated Indian Elite} They were accompanied by a diplomat, who had once been Indira Gandhi’s favorite.

“But tell us, what books you are planning to read?” asked the diplomat casually, as though he were referring to the latest features in a Korean dishwasher in Khan Market.

I admitted somewhat reluctantly that I had been thinking of texts like the Mahabharata, the Manusmriti, the Kathopanishad….

“Good lord, man!” he exclaimed. “You haven’t turned Hindutva, have you?”


{I guess the diplomat thought that he was at his devastating best by using the phrase!}

I think his remark was made in jest, but it upset me. I asked myself, what sort of secularism have we created in our country that has appropriated my claim to my intellectual heritage? I found it disturbing that I had to fear the intolerance of my ‘secular friends’, who seemed to identify any association with Hinduism or its culture as a political act. The pain did not go away easily, even though I realized that it was a pain shared by others. I was reminded of a casual remark by a Westernized woman in Chennai during the launch of my book, The Elephant Paradigm. She mentioned that she had always visited the Shiva temple near her home, but lately she had begun to hide this from those among her friends who proclaimed that they were ‘secular’. She feared they might pounce on her, quick to brand her extremist or superstitious.

Does the conservative temper offer an answer?

When I was growing up in post-Independence India in the 1950s and 1960s, the word ‘conservative’ was as a term of abuse in the vocabulary of most Indian intellectuals (and many English and American ones, I suppose). We passionately believed in Nehru’s dream of a modern and just India. We likened his midnight speech at Independence about our ‘Tryst with destiny’ to Wordsworth’s famous lines on the French Revolution: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive”. I have tried to capture this mood at some length in my book, India Unbound. We laughed at Rajaji and Masani, who founded the conservative Swatantra Party in the late 1950s, and even dismissed Sardar Patel, who was the second most powerful man in India at Independence, after Nehru. Charles James Fox had laughed at Edmund Burke in the same way. Like many Englishmen of his day, Fox thought the revolution in France was an immensely liberating step forward, saying that it was the greatest event that ever happened in the world. In denouncing the French revolution, Burke was not expressing an opinion popular among thinking Englishmen; he was going against the tide.

To be a conservative in Nehru’s India was the same. It meant that one was on the side of age against youth, the past against the future, authority against innovation, and spontaneity against life. But how times have changed! Now, more that fifty years later, it is the old progressives who have become ‘old’, who look back nostalgically to a socialist past. They are the ones who oppose the reforms and continue to have a touching faith in rent-seeking statism, even when it has been discredited as “Licence Raj”. They condemn too hastily the young of today, painting them uniformly in the colors of greed.

Even after we get over the easy polarities of the mind, “conservative” is an unhappy word for what I am seeking. It conjures up in too many minds the image of what the British mathematician, G.H Hardy, called a “wide bottomed member of the Anglican Church establishment”. But there is more to the problem. The difficulty arises from the nature of the thing. What I am advocating is a reverence for the past, and that is less a political doctrine than a habit of mind, a way of living and feeling. Like Burke, I think society is not a collection of loosely related individuals, nor a mechanism with interchangeable parts, but a living organism, and anything that affects the well being of one affects the whole. It is for this reason that Burke had cautioned against pulling down edifices which had met society’s needs for generations.

We have had too much ideology in the 20th century and are frankly tired of it. We have had too much of what Burke called variously “speculation,” or “metaphysics,” or “theoretical reasoning” as applied to social and political questions. Some of my ambivalence about India’s Leftist secularists is not unlike Burke’s fear of the revolutionaries in France who seriously believed that they would construct the world from scratch by the application of general and abstract principles, and who even wanted to introduce a new calendar to mark the beginning of that new world. Part of the reason that the sensible idea of secularism is having so much difficulty in finding a home in India, I think, is that the most vocal and intellectual advocates of secularism were once Marxists. Not only do they not believe in God, they actually hate God. They literally follow Marx’s dictum that “Criticism of religion is the prelude to all criticism”. As rationalists they can only see the dark side of religion–intolerance, murderous wars and nationalism, and do not empathize with the everyday life of the common Indian to whom religion gives meaning to every moment of life and has done so since civilization’s dawn. Because secularists speak a language alien to the vast majority, they are only able to condemn communal violence but not to stop it, as Mahatma Gandhi could, in East Bengal in 1947.

Over the past fifty years we have realized in India that political activity is infinitely complex and difficult. Our caste system is unpredictable, intractable, and incomprehensible. There are many things at work, and the ways they relate to each other is complex. Politicians, unlike academics, have to act in concrete, discrete situations, not in general or abstract terms. Burke also cautioned about this complexity. So, when we address religion’s place in the Indian polity Burke would have us take account of the infinite circumstances of one billion believers and not insist always on the rational, secular principle of consistency. There are also unintended consequences because of the interconnectedness of things. Hence, when initiating change we ought to heed Burke’s caution about the “lamentable consequences of plausible schemes”. We have learned this lesson painfully over the past fifty years as we lived through Jawaharlal Nehru’s well-intended socialism which ended in becoming an ugly statism of the “License Raj”.

In thinking about our secularism project in India, Burke would have us be humble in recognizing the complexity of society and to be careful of radical and rapid change. He would ask us to be skeptical about the role of reason in human affairs. Like many contemporary post-modernists, he had reservations about the Enlightenment’s view of man as a predominantly rational, logical and calculating person. His rational side exists, he felt, but it is a small part of his total make-up. He would have us rely more on practical knowledge that is gained through experience rather than through abstract reasoning. He would have us pay attention to people’s habits, instincts, customs, and their prejudices. A generation earlier, David Hume, the illustrious Scottish philosopher, had also emphasized the importance of habit and custom.

Another of Burke’s lessons, useful especially in a rapidly globalizing world, is to pay attention to the local and the particular. We speak too often about India’s diversity, but we act as though only New Delhi matters. Burke would have us think of the Rights of Man, not in the abstract but of existing rights that people actually possess and enjoy, which they have inherited in the context of their particular situations. However, I disagree with Burke in his conception of the state that has to implement these rights. He was an orthodox Christian and he thought of society as the handiwork of God, a “Divine tactick”, he called it. He regarded the state as “inherently and inalienably sacred”, and although I share his passion for good government, I would worry about his “consecrated” state according “to one Divine plan”. I regard the spiritual and the temporal as two distinct orders, and I find his conception too readily lends itself to the dangerous idea that some particular human will or wills should direct the course of social life. This would not only be oppressive, but fatal to human liberty.

Burke’s life teaches that to be conservative is not to become an apologist for the current order. He defended the American Revolution; he raised his voice for the emancipation of Catholics and for removal of trade barriers with Ireland; he spoke loudly for abolishing slavery and the trade in slaves; and even louder against the privileges and excesses of the rule of the East India Company. Many of us in India remember him not only for instigating the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the governor general, but for drafting the East India Bill, which led to the reform of the East India Company. Although Hastings was acquitted, Burke’s speeches created new awareness in England of the responsibilities of empire and the injustices perpetrated in India.

Overall, I think, Burke would have approved of the gradual flow of India’s contemporary history. Unlike the French Revolution (which he condemned because it was a sharp break with the past) and unlike the violent histories of China, Russia and so many countries in the 20th century, India won its freedom from Britain peacefully. This is why Andre Malraux was moved to say that India was created by saints and this happened in the shadows of Hitler, Stalin and Mao. Not only did we escape the World Wars, but we became free without shedding much blood, thanks to Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, half a million died in the Partition riots, but it was not state sponsored violence. After Independence, Nehru built our polity based on many institutions of colonial rule, and this represented a Burkeian continuity. Our addiction to peace might be one of the reasons why we created so easily the world’s largest democracy. {I agree very true. this fact has to be emphasised.}

Nehru’s socialism, followed by Indira Gandhi’s “dark decades”, did slow us down for almost forty years, but it did not wipe out our private economy with its invaluable institutions of banks, corporate laws, and the stock market. So, when we broke free from our socialist shackles in 1991, we had this advantage over China. Many Indians (and I include myself in this) are impressed with China’s dramatic progress today, and feel impatient and even depressed at the slow pace of our economic reforms. We feel frustrated by the missed opportunities from a higher growth rate. But Burke would have consoled us, telling us that even slow reforms add up. He would say that it is better to grow prosperous with continuity and democracy, albeit more slowly.

Gandhi too would have understood this dilemma

Burke expressed his understanding of society famously as a partnership between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are yet to be born. That is to say, the present is not the property of the living, to make of it whatever they will. It is an estate held in trust. Those who hold it have a responsibility to pass it on in good condition. The French revolutionaries were in the process of wounding this trust, and we in India are guilty of this as well. Mahatma Gandhi understood this and cautioned the Congress leaders about overturning in the name of reason, liberty, and equality the many historical continuities and institutions of the past. For this reason his secularism also resonated with the people. It was grounded in the belief that the ordinary Indian was religious and traditional. He thus showed respect for “other”. This is not true, alas, for many of today’s champions of secularism, and this is why no one listens to them. This, combined with the way our political class has exploited the word in a naked quest for power, is why the sensible idea of secularism has acquired a bad odor in today’s India.

Gandhi, like Burke, has frequently been dubbed a reactionary. Burke did not defend an exclusive aristocratic or monarchic order–he approved of the mixed system that existed in the Britain of his day, which was a combination of aristocratic, commercial, oligarchic, and democratic elements. Just as Burke preferred prudent and incremental reform, so did Gandhi. Hence, Ambedkar called him reactionary and too tolerant of the caste system. However, Gandhi was a realist. Much as he abhorred untouchability and caste, he did not think one could merely legislate them away. And in the end, Gandhi probably did more than any human being to make Indians aware of caste’s iniquity. What Ambedkar did not appreciate is that Gandhi’s respect for the historical process did not mean that he evaded the responsibility to criticize the past. In fact, he criticized it relentlessly. But he also respected community and continuity. Hence, he would have taught us that secularism will only succeed in India if it does not undermine tradition, but reinforces our “custom, community and natural feeling” in Burke’s language.

I suspect Gandhi would have immediately understood the dilemma about teaching the Mahabharata in our schools and he would have agonized over the lack of easy answers. He instinctively grasped the place of the epic in Indian lives, and he would have approved of what V.S. Sukhtankar, the editor of the Poona Critical Edition of the epic, wrote: “The Mahabharata is the content of our collective unconscious …. We must therefore grasp this great book with both hands and face it squarely. Then we shall recognize that it is our past which has prolonged itself into the present. We are it.” If we are it, surely it is important to teach it to the young so that they may understand and value who we are–this would have been Gandhi’s response, I believe.

The debate on teaching the Mahabharata in our schools is relevant for another reason, which I found upon reading Michael Oakeshott. It is the idea that there are things to be enjoyed, but that enjoyment is almost heightened by one’s awareness that what one is enjoying is in danger of being lost. It is the combination of enjoyment and fear that stimulates conservative thoughts. The epic has given me so much enjoyment in the past three years, that I have become a Mahabharata addict. I feel deeply sad that many young boys and girls in India are growing up rootless, and they will never have access to these forbidden fruits of pleasure. This dilemma has a personal dimension, you see, and it has led me to tread conservative paths. It seems to me conservatism is unlike other ideologies for it does not offer the vision of an ideal society, as Samuel Huntington wrote in an article called ‘Conservatism as an Ideology,” published in 1957. There is no conservative Utopia because it is concerned, not with content but with process, with stability, with continuity and prudence. It is the opposite of radicalism, which expresses enthusiasm over the boldness in embracing change. My fears of the loss of tradition may appear exaggerated. Perhaps, they are. Certainly in the villages of India, where the vast majority of Indians live, the Mahabharata is well and alive in the oral traditions. But the future of India does not lie in the villages of India but in the cities. It is there, especially with the powerful onslaught of the global culture, we have to be concerned to preserve continuity with the past.

Let me close with a true story, which I think goes to the heart of the secular temper. A few years ago, I visited the Madras Museum in Egmore. While I was admiring a Chola bronze, a middle aged South Indian woman came behind me, and without self-consciousness, placed a vermilion mark on the Shiva Nataraja. I was appalled. Slowly however, I realized, that we lived in two different worlds. Mine was secular; hers was sacred. Both of us stood before the bronze statue with very different expectations. For me, it was a nine hundred year old object of beauty; for her, it was God. Mine was an aesthetic pleasure; hers was divine darshana.

She did not see what I saw, a brilliant work in bronze by an early Chola artist. I admired the weightless joy of the dancer, so skillfully captured by the sculptor. I moved along, passing by other bronzes, and I got irritated that the bronzes were dusty, ill lit, poorly spaced and badly presented. Suddenly, I felt embarrassed by my petty, niggling concerns. I turned around to look for her. She was still there, absorbed by her light-footed, tireless dancing god, whose dance actually brings the universe into being, and without missing a beat, and in the fullness of time, dances it out of existence. I was struck by the contrast of our lives–the fecund richness of her sacred world versus the poverty of my weary, feeble, skeptical and secular existence.

I felt drawn to her and to her god. For someone who is carrying out such a momentous mission in this universe, I find that her god looks cool, athletic and even debonair. This is where our empty secularism has gone awry. Modern, liberal, English educated Indians are fast losing the holy dimension in their lives. They will never know the depth and opulence of her life. They are quick to brand her superstitious, illiterate, and casteist. She is, in fact, probably far more tolerant and accepting of diversity because she is capable of seeing God everywhere. It is in her rich world that the BJP and our Hindu nationalists ought to learn the true significance of Hindutva and the Congress Party and our secularists ought to learn the real meaning of secularism.

In my world of museums, concert halls, and bookstores, there is plenty of search for beauty, but there is no place for the holy. We are lost in a desacralized world of petty, middle-class concerns. Our secularism has robbed us of Kant’s “moral condition”. Partly, it is the fault of traditional religion, which has overlaid and trivialized the original inspiration. The fundamentalists of the VHP and Islam have alienated us further. {== of Well of Modern Indian} The answer for an authentic life, I think, lies with the woman in Madras in whose attitude lies the possibility of a fullness and wholeness of being. Thanks to millions like her, India will take a long time to become a sanitized American suburb. {I admire his honesty and self awareness of the limits of WMIness. I too became aware fortunaelty early in my life and I guess became a conservative after the Indian emergency in 1974 when the people voted out Mrs G for the excesses commited in her name and through the vehiocle of the Emergency.}

I return to the main Shiva Nataraja at the entrance. He still looks unperturbed and absorbed in the serious task of creating and destroying the universe. But there is something new. Under his raised left leg, there is a marigold flower! So, the next time the world gets too much for you, do what I do—go visit the Madras museum, and if you do not experience eternity, you might learn a modest lesson in implementing pluralism in a democracy, the theme of this wonderful conference. It is not only her attitude, but it is the outlook of the narrator, which is one of respect for the “other”, for her alien, sacred worldview. Secularism will only find a comfortable home in India if one respects the sensibilities of a deeply traditional and religious people.

As we think about sowing the seeds of secularism in India, we have to go beyond the easy polarities of the mind. The question is of the “how” and not of the “what”. You cannot just divide Indians between communalists and secularists. That would be too easy. The average person is decent and is caught in the middle. John Rawls, I think, may have offered a way out when he distinguished between “public reason” and “secular reason”. Public reason limits itself to political and civic principles while secular reason is broader and concerns itself with a secular person’s first philosophy. In the same vein, Martha Nussbaum distinguished between political and comprehensive liberalism. Advocates of secularism must not forget this distinction and they must refrain from introducing “comprehensive liberalism” and “secular reason” into public debate. In a recent lecture in Poland, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere’, Habermas spoke about the commendable idea of toleration, which is the foundation of modern democratic culture. He called it a two-way street. Not only must believers tolerate each others’ beliefs, but also the atheism of nonbelievers. Disbelieving secularists, similarly, must value the convictions of religious citizens. And amongst religions, only those that can suspend the temptation of narcissism–the conviction that my religion alone provides the path to salvation–are truly welcome in our rapidly world.

Note

As this is not an academic paper, I have deliberately not cluttered it with footnotes. However, those who wish to read some more of Edmund Burke, I would recommend the following books, which have given me such pleasure in preparing for this paper:

1. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. J. G. A. Pocock, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987, 181.

2. Edmund Burke, Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs in The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, 7th ed., Vol. IV (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1881), 143.

3. Peter J. Stanlis, “Edmund Burke in the Twentieth Century,” in Peter J. Stanlis, ed. The Relevance of Edmund Burke, New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons, 1964.
——————-
Paper Presented at a Conference at the university of Chicago ‘India : Implementing Plularism and Democracy’ on November 11 - 13, 2005. Forthcoming in a volume edited by Martha Naussbaum.



I grant that he has a way with words and sees the world thru Indian eyes. Unfortunately the folks he associates with like Martha Nussbaum are intent on destroying his world view.

Also note the women he presents in his essay are of three types- Well of Modern Indians (WMI) like his wife and the educated woman in Chennai at the book launch, De-Racinated Indian Elite(DIE) like the hostess and the two Dilli Billis and the third the traditional eternal(Sanathan) Indian like the woman at the Egmore museum. Its these three groups that are currently occupying the mindspace in Hindu India.

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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby Prem » 11 Jun 2008 23:14

Ramana, he has started his journey home and many others will do same .

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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby vsudhir » 12 Jun 2008 00:35

Nice one by Gurcharan Das.

On the subject of Mahabharata in schools, I remember that in class VI in a Chennai KV (CBSE syllabus), for Hindi, the Ramayana and Mahabharata were 'optional reading'.

Well, like Prem says, if the journey home can be described as an acceptable, even hip thing to do, what better antidote to the 'stigma' attached to going native by Indians in India? After all, didn't 'Yoga' become fashionable in 'upper middle class and above' India only after the firangs 'discovered' it in the east coast?

I also empathise with his discomfort with Hindu nationalism 'that could quickly degenerate into chauvinism'. But unlike him, I would vote BJP if only because the pendulum in India's public space has swung so far to the left under the relentless assault by the MMMs that to recover the original center, a hard right turn is a necessary intermediate step.

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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby ManuJ » 12 Jun 2008 05:35

Great article, one to be read a few times to absorb all he's trying to say.

ramana
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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby ramana » 12 Jun 2008 21:31

X-Posted...
Rahul M wrote:
Despite the emergence of a wealthy 'global India', 900 million Indians survive on less than $2 (Rs.85) a day, the British government said while announcing a new seven-year aid package for India.


in rural/suburban India, cost of living is low enough to ensure a relatively decent lifestyle for around Rs 100 a day which is what the avg labourer gets. (not Rs 85/day, this is the problem of using $ to compute India's wage levels)

low skill construction labourers/rural labourers get around Rs 100 a day.
in the former case, usually both the adult members of a family have a job of some sort or the other which means urban lower income households have a monthly income of around
Rs 6000/month which is enough in most cases.
for example, the maid who works in my house has a TV with cable connection , uses a mobile phone and a gas oven and lives in an two-room flat provided by the govt for nominal amounts of money. both of her sons are in school and she has employed pvt tutors for both.

In fact, I find few people these days who have a requirement for a cell phone and don't own one. Of course, I find a lot of the other kind, namely those who have no need of a cell phone but own more than one.
For rural/agro labourers, their income is more often than not supplemented by small holdings of land which grow a considerable portion of their yearly food requirements leaving most of the money for non-food requirements.

for skilled labourers the situation is obviously much better.

The real problem these people face is when they have a large unproductive spending event like weddings/illness or when their income is suddenly halted (lack of work or even a bandh).

BTW, ricksaw pullers seem to be one of the most well off categories especially if he is hard working. I'm interested in how these people manage a livelihood and in that endevour came to know an 19 yr old ricksaw-puller who managed to save 50k in a single yr all by himself !

summing up, I would say that while the situation can always be improved (cheap healthcare and easy loans for one) it is certainly not alarming.

P.S In my experience the real poor India is in the low productivity rural areas which are mostly tribal dominated. As a nation we have certainly failed these people. Govt takes away their forests on which they depended for livelihood but does not provide an alternative.
And let me tell you, the knowledge of these cultures about herbs and nature is simply mind boggling.
The elders(gram burra- village old man) of these tribe can easily tell if a place has deep underground water just by smelling the soil. and the whole survey takes all of a few hours at most. I have it by reliable source an account of gram burras identifying uranium deposits w/o even knowing of such things as GM counters. how they even differentiate between things like uranium ores, which they don't use for any purpose from other materials is
a mystery.
if their cultures are way of life are destroyed, it will be a sad day for Indian civilization.

I believe Gurucharan Das also laments the same in so many words. Can Delhi folks try to see if he wants to join or read BRF?

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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby vsudhir » 13 Jun 2008 05:00

'A Century Of Great Opportunities'

I believe that India- China relations will be one of the more significant factors that will determine the course of human history in the 21st century.


Pranab Mukherji writes in Outlook. Worth a read, IMO.

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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby pradeepe » 13 Jun 2008 09:20

India has a long-standing and deeply ingrained conviction that the world is one large family -- "vasudhaiva kutumbakam" -- as our classical texts call it.


I am suprised that Pranab Mukherjee actually said that. I guess I need to read a bit more about him.

In general all of what he says is fine as long as realpolitik and '62 is not forgotten.

Raju

Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby Raju » 13 Jun 2008 10:03

It is written by his speech-writers and vetted by his private secretary. He just reads it out or forwards it for publication.

Could well have been borrowed from BR.

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Re: Indian Interests - 7 and Gurcharan Das

Postby AjayKK » 13 Jun 2008 13:23

“Meanwhile Guruchran Das, who is a s modern as it gets is using BRF language and agonizes.”


“Ramana, he has started his journey home and many others will do same”


The above incident mentioned by Das happened in 2002/03.
Let us look at some more from him to get a perspective of his thoughts.


Disappointed Idealism

May 5, 2002 | In The Times of India, Newspapers |

Like any great tragedy, the communal violence in Gujarat is full of other sadnesses. One of these is that we have begun to lose faith in our ideals. We had already lost faith in socialism, but now we have begun to question the efficacy of secularism as well.
..
The problem with many secularists is that they are or were once socialists. Because secularists speak a language alien to the vast majority of Indians, they are only able to condemn communal violence but not stop it, as Gandhi could in East Bengal in 1947. Gandhi trudged through the Bengali countryside like a one-man peacekeeping force and kept Bengal quiet during the partition. Unfortunately, there were not Gandhi’s–had there been a second one, then Punjab might have also escaped much of the partition tragedy.



Gurcharan Das suffers from heights of delusional ignorance when states that “Gandhi trudged through the Bengali countryside and kept Bengal quiet during the partition.”
It is a tragedy and an insult to the lakhs of people who were mercilessly killed, chopped and raped in various massacres in Bengal ( and Punjab, Sindh and elsewhere) the Pre-partition and Post-partition riots.
To ask for a ‘second Gandhi in Punjab’ is to stretch the limits of journalistic freedom. If there really was a second Gandhi in Punjab, Delhi would be on the border with na-pakistan. Such a sentence is unbelievable stupidity.



The Only Alternative

December 29, 2002 | In The Times of India, Newspapers |


Once again the BJP seems to be learning the wrong lessons from history. It thinks that Gujarat is India in miniature, and it is getting ready to unroll the Hindutva wave in the next assembly elections at great peril to the nation. It doesn’t realize that the ordinary citizen in the rest of the country cares far more about day-to-day governance and not nationalism or even terrorism.


Written after December 2002 Gujarat elections, Gurcharan sounds more like Ashis Nandy. ‘Hindutva wave in the next elections’ ? His dismissal of ‘terrorism’ as an issue an year after December 2001 Parliament attack is simply incorrect. The essence and functioning of Dharma, day-to-day governance and nationalism lies under a free society unshackled by various threats including the threat of terrorism. To dismiss it as merely an election agenda is to not learn lessons.

INDIA SHINING (1984 – 2004), RIP?

July 12, 2004 | In Outlook, Magazine |


It is no use pretending. While the last general election brought some good news–especially, a well deserved slap to Narendra Modi’s fascist face—it also brought bad news.


When the voters of the state from where Modi contested hace given him an abs majority, how can a general election bring a ‘ well deserved slap to Narendra Modi’s fascist face’ ? Surely, Gurcharan Das is simply forgetting lessons of electoral dynamics.


Guest Column for Outlook’s Independence Day issue
August 25, 2006 | In Outlook, Magazine |


In the last 100 years China suffered devastating violence while India was spoiled by amazing peace. China’s 20th century opened with the ravages of warlords; the Nationalists followed with their butchery in the twenties. Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in the thirties made our British Raj look angelic. In the forties came Mao’s massacres as Communists took power. Mao’s ambitions sacrificed 35 million in the Great Leap Forward in the fifties and brought more misery during the Cultural Revolution. It was not until 1978 that the Chinese breathed easy, and then they went on to create the most amazing spectacle of economic growth.

Saints, on the other hand, created India (in Andre Malraux’s words) and this happened in the shadows of Hitler, Stalin and Mao. Not only did we escape the World Wars, but we became free without shedding an ounce of blood, thanks to Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, half a million died in the Partition riots, but it was not state sponsored violence. Because we were addicted to peace, I think, we created the world’s largest democracy.


Again, stating that ‘an ounce of blood was not lost, thanks to Mahatma Gandhi’ is taking Gandhi, Gandhian ideals and the truth too far. Gurcharan Das is stretching history beyond the dimensions of imagination.



Struggle for Gujarat’s soul
November 18, 2007 on 3:41 pm | In The Times of India, Newspapers |


Not long ago we thought of Gujarat as the land of non-violent Mahatma Gandhi and hard working merchants. That picture has grown more complicated. Gujarat has emerged as an Asian tiger—the fastest growing Indian state with the lowest levels of unemployment, the most investor friendly, with the shortest red tape and least petty corruption. It is hailed by migrants from Bihar and MP as a land of opportunity.

Gujarat, however, is also the Indian state which hosted a genocide under broad daylight in 2002. Those who presided over the killings were elected to power.

Next month Gujarat’s voters will have to decide. Should they reward Narendra Modi for a genuine economic miracle that is lifting so many out of poverty? Or should they draw a line, as India’s voters did after Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, and roundly punish him for the terrible communal violence of 2002? A new book by an eminent American philosopher helps one understand Gujarat’s dilemma.

Martha Nussbaum’s, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, & India’s Future (Permanent Black) argues that the post 9/11 world is not some mythic “clash between civilizations” (as Samuel Huntington has argued) between a violent Islam and peaceful democracies in America, Europe, and India. It is a clash within the mind of each one of us–each human being–as we oscillate between self-protective aggression and our ability to live with others. Nussbaum points out that there are two sorts of human beings, and they can be found in all nations. The first (and I think the majority) are self-confident, and like Mahatma Gandhi, they do not fear differences. They respect those who are dissimilar and are happy to let them flourish; self-assured in the robustness of their own way of life.

The second, however, are like another Gujarati, Narendra Modi, who fear religious and ethnic differences and the idea of a plural society. They believe that minorities are a deep threat to order and safety, and are anxious to control them. Congress’ politics of appeasing minorities has given space to the second type to rise in India’s democratic politics.

What is at stake in the upcoming Gujarat election is thus a clash inside each citizen’s imagination, and it comes down to how we view other human beings. Politics makes one adopt polarized positions. The reality is that Gujarat is both prosperous and genocidal. One wants Gujarat to flourish but also to be decent. Nazi Germany was very efficient. The choice in the end is easy—vote out Modi! For a person who has just climbed out of poverty, however, it may not be so easy. Ideally, one should throw out the rascals but keep their good policies, but one can’t trust Congress to do that. Gujarat, like India, is in the midst of a hundred flowerings. Some of these have turned out to be noxious and the only way out in a democracy is to remove the toxic ones at the polls.


In November 2007, before the Gujarat polls, Gurcharan Das is at his finest performance. The sentence on ‘Nazi Germany’ is not only a misfit, it also exposes the bias of Das. Moreover, in December 2007, to state that ‘People like Narendra Modi, fear religious and ethnic differences and the idea of a plural society. They believe that minorities are a deep threat to order and safety, and are anxious to control them.’ Is to spin a story based on secularist revisionist history.
His quoting of Nus-bum is the final nail.

Gurcharan Das must surely have begun his journey.
His ‘co-travellers’ and the direction of his journey seem to be in the wrong direction.

Tilak
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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby Tilak » 13 Jun 2008 13:51

@AjayKK

A gentle reminder, use the default fonts.

TIA.

pradeepe
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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby pradeepe » 13 Jun 2008 14:07

Raju wrote:It is written by his speech-writers and vetted by his private secretary. He just reads it out or forwards it for publication.

Could well have been borrowed from BR.


Agree and so would most folks playing at his level. So it doesnt take away anything from its import IMO.
But it did cause a major huh! moment for me.

ramana
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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby ramana » 13 Jun 2008 19:25

A book review relevant to this thread!

What keeps India moving

Sanjoy Bagchi agrees with the book's assessment that spirit of India has always been greater than the sum of its contradictions

The Spirit of India
Author: Ramin Jahanbegloo
Publisher: Penguin
Price: Rs 225


Ramin Jahanbegloo's latest book is a refreshing change from the usual pattern. Being a foreigner, a sympathetic Iranian, he is not burdened with the baggage of India's past. He is an intellectual engaged in the study of contemporary society and its innate conflict between tradition and modernity. As a philosopher and political scientist from an Islamic background, he is deeply concerned with the rising crescendo of intolerance of his religion and its clash with the outside world. It is in this context that this Iranian scholar has turned to analyse modern India's experience of reconciling its past with the present and its attempts to rise above religious intolerance while seeking the ultimate truth.

For his understanding of the spirit of India, Jahanbegloo has studied the ideas and thoughts of 10 eminent Indians of the 20th century "seen as major interpreters of Indian culture". They are drawn from various backgrounds and diverse fields, yet bound together in their search for tolerance, reconciliation and universal good. The 10 eminent Indians are headed inevitably by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore, the trinity that had dominated the Indian thinking of the last century. Then there are seven others: S Radhakrishnan, the philosopher-statesman; Sri Aurobindo, the patriotic mystic; AK Coomaraswamy the art historian; Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the tolerant Muslim leader; Satyajit Ray, the universal artist; Badshah Khan, the practitioner of non-violence in a violent society; and, Vinoba Bhave, who has been labelled as "the spiritual pragmatist". The author has looked at these key figures of India's public culture "from outside the ideological frames that have dominated our discourse".

The author's theme is India's continued commitment to "peaceful diversity". The concept implies the co-existence of communities and individuals belonging to different cultural and religious backgrounds. "The effort to realise peaceful diversity has existed as long as India has lived as a multicultural society; and, will last as long as India exists." He finds that though diversity has been a source of violence and dissension in India, it "has not led to the destruction of the Indian social contract in the past". He uses a telling phrase: "Spirit of India has always been greater than the sum of its contradictions."

It is not possible to summarise, even briefly, in a short review like this, the author's interpretations of the contributions of these eminent men. One should turn to the book itself for his full analysis and understanding. A few examples nonetheless should whet the appetite of the curious.

Jahanbegloo believes that "Gandhi represents not only the collective conscience of India, but also the collective conscience of all humanity". He goes on to explain that the concept of god is not an absolutist concept. "True religion is not narrow dogma, it is morality." Hence according to Gandhi, "Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality." Gandhi rejected any religious doctrine that was in conflict with morality.

Similarly, the author says, "Nehru's internationalism, his moral regard for human dignity, his great concern for world peace and his conviction that co-existence and tolerance were essential conditions for the survival of human civilisation, were logical outcomes of his struggle for Indian freedom. In this Nehru was delving deeply into the roots of Indian culture."

In the same manner, the author has grasped Tagore's fundamental concept of harmony: "Harmony between the individual and the universal" which was the foundation of Indian metaphysical thought. Tagore had concluded that "the world was dominated by reality and not by illusion. Reality was for Tagore the infinite, which became defined in humanity by seeking co-existence and co-operation".

This slim volume is delightfully written and beautifully expressive. The blind pundits of the NCERT in their political cocoons should look at this book rather than pander contemptible trash like the Sachar Committee report.-- The reviewer is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, London


ramana
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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby ramana » 13 Jun 2008 19:32

And another from Pioneer, 13 june 2008

The world of 'secular' dhimmis

Ram Gopal

Bharat Mein Prachalit Secularvad (Secularism as Practised in India)
Author: Shankar Saran
Publisher: Akshaya Prakashan
Price: Rs 150

This book in Hindi by Shankar Saran gives a realistic account of India's ideological dichotomy and hypocrisy of Hindu intelligentsia. With surgical precision, the author has presented various facets of Indian 'secularism'.

Sharan regards Indian secularism as 'dhimmitude'. Dhimmi is an Arabic word, meaning a non-Muslim subject of a Muslim Government who, on submissive payment of jizya, is permitted to follow his religion, subject to other Islamic laws and without practising polytheistic rituals in the open. Having lived long in such a humiliating subordination, the emerging habitual inferiority complex among non-Muslims is termed 'dhimmitude'.

Dhimmitude persists even after the subject gains freedom. It has infected Hindu intelligentsia in a big way. No wonder Hindu leaders, intellectuals and activists, who had denounced the Pope for criticising Islam, were quiet when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to wipe Israel off the map of the world. It is this dhimmitude which prevents them from seeing any communalism in separatist statements of Muslims or Christians, but makes them vocal against Hindus.

In keeping with the country's skewed 'secular' tradition, when Farooq Abdullah observed on October 14, 2006, that if Mohammed Afzal, the mastermind of the terrorist attack on Parliament House, was hanged, the judge who passed the death sentence would be killed, his statement did not stir a hornet's nest. Had some Hindu leader said so in favour of, say, Dara Singh, the accused of the killing of Christian missionary Graham Staines, the media would have bemoaned the return of 'fascism'.

The author has aptly demonstrated the absurdity of India's 'secularism'. Sixty years ago, India was ruled by Islamic or British imperialism, it is now being ruled by Nehruvian secularism -- a euphemism for Islamic and Christian hegemony. Saran has quoted one Bangladeshi writer saying: "Pakistan and Bangladesh are their (Muslims) fixed accounts. Those are Muslim states. No one else can lay claim on them. India is a joint account. Plunder it as much as you please." The fact that Hindus have calmly accepted this humiliating condition is nothing but dhimmitude.

Cautioning us against the kind of pseudo-secularism we pursue in India, the author has explained its genesis. Between the fourth century and the eighth century in Europe, the Church and the state together exercised dictatorial authority over individual liberty in all matters, mundane as well as celestial. The state worked as the secular wing of the Church. When the entire European population was converted into Christianity, the state had little use of the Church. The state then started feeling the pinch of the Pope's overlordship. From the 15th century began the movement against the Church's dominance. Ultimately, the Church (Pope) was separated from the state. The concept that emerged from this struggle was called 'secularism', meaning non-interference of the Church in state affairs.

Being a PhD on Soviet history from JNU and a keen observer of Indian politics, Saran has given a profound exposition of the negative role of the Communists in anti-India, anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim movements. It all began in 1920 when MN Roy formed a Communist party in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and joined hands with Islamists, who wanted to establish an Islamic rule in India. The plan failed because the British won over the then Amir of Afghanistan, Habibullah.

Time has changed, but not the nature of the Communists. In 2002, the secretary of the Safdar Hashmi Trust and a Communist leader, Shabnam Hashmi, toured the US to propagate among Americans that the Godhra carnage was the handiwork of Hindu activists! Also, Communists have the obsession of protecting Chinese interests in India, besides opposing anything connected with the US. Islamist groups receive considerable ideological support from them. Enjoying Government patronage, the Communists exercise enormous influence in the fields of education, literature, culture and governance.

Presented in a paperback with excellent printing and lucid language, the book is a commendable addition to Hindi literature.


surinder
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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby surinder » 13 Jun 2008 21:01

Posted by Ramana
The Dilemma of a Liberal Hindu
By
Gurcharan Das
...
I think it must have been difficult for my Hindu ancestors in the Punjab, who did not have the living memory of a political heritage of their own. Having lived under non-Hindu rulers since the 13th century, they must have thought of political life as filled with deprivation and fear. After Muslims had come the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh. With its collapse around 1850 came the powerful British, with Christian missionaries in tow. Hence, three powerful, professedly egalitarian and proselytizing religions surrounded them—Islam, Sikhism and Christianity. No wonder, they were eager to receive Dayananda Saraswati when he came to the Punjab in 1877. And not surprisingly, he succeeded beyond his dreams in establishing the Arya Samaj in the Punjab.


In an otherwise fine peice of writing, there is the above quoted that is deceptive and incorrect.

Firstly, Sikhism is *NOT* a proselytizing religion. He should know that. The interesting irony is that it is the faith of Swami Dayanand that is actually proselytizing, for their avowed aim was conversion of Muslims & Sikhs to Hinduism. But this is not the biggest problem: The writer conveniently puts the home-grown local religion in the same bracket as the Semitic faiths and paints a picture of a community in seige from these three religons for a period of 1000 years. He does not mention, that while two of them made *every* possible attempt to obliterate Hinduism, the other made *every* possible effort to protect it. What a fine way to club your closest friend with your worst enemies. With friends like these, who needs enemies.

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Re: Indian Interests - 7

Postby Vikas » 13 Jun 2008 22:40

Surinder,
This brings me back to a earlier question that I had raised. Most of us have no clue about our history or religion and interplay of various forces which shape our culture,society or history.
We have become rootless society which would accept every piece of trash from people who have nothing but contempt for us.
Examply, Outside Arya Samaj, How many people are aware of the work that Swami Dayanand or Swami Shradhanand did.
And Mr. Das makes us feel that Hindus were somehow afraid of *Sikhs* around them.

I am reminded of a couplet by Zafar-II...

Tujhe dushmano ka pata na tha, mujhe dosto ki khabar na thi..


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