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27 September 2008

The Parivar Must Split

The VHP, Bajrang Dal and their supporters in the RSS are blots on Hindu society; it's time the community's visible, educated faces disowned them openly
Surajit Dasgupta
In the aftermath of the Union Government's gentle threat to the Orissa and Karnataka Governments and the mild censure of the militant Hindu outfits by BJP leader LK Advani, some apologists of the Sangh Parivar have now started a wild goose hunt for justifications. Never mind that when Muslims talk of their 'grievances', these very apologists say terrorism cannot be thus justified. This article is not to equate the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal with terrorists. It is to equate how both Hindu and Muslim thought leaders try to justify the violent outlet of frustration and anger by some fellows from their respective communities.

One of the several excuses for hounding Christians in Karnataka, which the Parivar's defenders are forwarding, is the publication and circulation of a certain evangelist book in Kannada called ಸತ್ಯ ದರ್ಶಿನಿ/Sathya Darshini in towns in the districts of Mangalore, Udupi and Chikmagalur. When translated, a part of the book's contents are as follows:
# उर्वषी/Urwashi - the daughter of Lord विष्णु/Wishnu - is a prostitute. वशिष्ठ/Washishtha is the son of this prostitute. He in turn married his own mother. Such a degraded person is the guru of the Hindu god राम/Rama. (p 48)
# When कृष्ण/Krishna himself is wallowing in darkness of hell, how can he enlighten others? Since Krishna himself is a shady character, there is a need for us to liberate his misled followers, (p 50)
# It was ब्रह्मा/Brahma himself who kidnapped सीता/Sita. Since Brahma, Wishnu and शिव/Shiwa were themselves the victims of lust, it is a sin to consider them gods। (p 39)
# When the Trinity of Hinduism (Brahma, Wishnu and Shiwa) are consumed by lust and anger, how can they liberate others? Their projection as gods is nothing but a joke (p 39)
# When Wishnu asked Brahma to commit a sin, he immediately did so. How can such an ‘evil Brahma’ be the creator of the universe? How is it possible for both the sinner and the entity, which provoked the sin to be gods? (p 39)
# God, please liberate the sinful people of India who are worshipping false gods that believe in the pleasures of illicit ‘व्यभिचारी’/wyabhichArI relationships. (p 39)

One may recall the furore in Kerala over a comparable evangelistic literature, Haqeeqat, almost two years ago. Some of its contents were:
# Hindu gods and goddesses are fictitious and were invented to persecute Dalits;
# To prevent indigenous people from acquiring knowledge, Saraswati invented difficult Vedas (which nobody can understand);
# With the progression of time, people all over the world (except India) were freed of their ignorance and they began to disown wicked and cruel gods and goddesses. But in India, because people are (enveloped) in the darkness of ignorance, imaginary gods and goddesses are still worshipped;
# Naked सन्यासी s are worshipped by (Hindu) women. The moment (Hindu) women see naked sanyAsIs, they fall on the ground and prostrate themselves before the sanyAsIs. (Hindu) women pour water on the sanyasis' penises and then happily drink that water. लिङ्ग देवता Linga Dewata is gratified when he sees all these repulsive things and feels empowered... These people are ignorant and do not know the difference between what is right and wrong.
# Sita was abandoned in the forest as per Rama's wishes... Rama later asked Lakshmana to kill Sita. In the end, Rama, frustrated with life, drowned himself in the Saryu. Such are the teachings of half-naked rishis who are praised by हिंदुत्ववादी/HindutwawAdIs.
# Lord Shiwa, to get people to worship him, dropped his penis on the Earth Goddess, shaking the ground and the sky! ... . Poor धरती देवी/Dharti Dewi was shaken by the weight of his penis. Seeing this, all the gods were scared. It seems gods would use their penises as bombs! Whenever and wherever they wanted to, they would drop their 'penis bombs' to terrorise the people. Thus, they were able to enslave the people... But compared to foreign bombs, these penis bombs were a damp squib.
# (Ramakrishna) Paramahansa should have known that Ganga is the world's filthiest and dirtiest river. How many dead bodies float down this river every day? How many half-burnt dead bodies are dumped into it every day? And Hindus call it the holy river! In fact, all the rivers of India are dirty and polluted... HindutwawAdIs pollute the rivers... and then depend on their false gods to cleanse them...
# (For Hindus) men can be gods, women can be goddesses... animals are gods, snakes are gods... they (Hindu gods) fight among themselves, marry among themselves, throw out their wives, run away with others' wives, they steal, get intoxicated, drink blood, are reincarnated as animals, fish and tortoise, some of them can lift mountains... Some gods are in same-sex relationships and are yet able to produce babies. These gods and goddesses are always armed because they believe in killing and plunder. Some gods think their penises are more powerful than nuclear bombs. Others like animals live naked among their followers. Some of them spend their time in yogic exercises, others are in samAdhI and happy to see the number of blind followers swell... You can wash away your sins by worshipping the penises of gods;
# How could आर्य/Arya Hindus bring Aryanisation on this earth? To be Arya, one has to be born of an Arya womb... If Arya Hindus want to bring Aryanisation then they must lend or rent out all Arya wombs to non-Aryans. Non-Aryans should be given Brahmin women so that children are born from Brahmin womb;
# In modern India, many Ramas of this belief are living a carefree life. They marry several times, desert their wives, marry several times, and leave them. Many Ramas kill their Sitas. They are following their god, Rama;
# Krishna had a despicable sex life... Krishna is famous because of his love life. He had 16,008 wives. And all Yadawa women were his illegitimate lovers. (Hindu) women are drawn towards him because of pornographic and vulgar tales of his sex life...

The two aforementioned evangelist pamphlets are still in circulation. Disgusting indeed! The thought, the expressions, the writers, the books... everything about them. But, and this is a massive "but", articles of the type being discussed here are criticised even by the lib-left media. It's curious to note that those who have dug pornography out of the scriptures of the Sanatana Dharma belong to an unscientific, creationist religion that bears the contemptuous sexist belief that the first woman was born of the thirteenth rib of the first man. A Hindu writer may also point out in retort with reference to the Testaments that pigs don't fly. Without sounding salacious, a Hindu may further question the immaculate conception. But such two paise worth evangelist literature can in no way be touted as the 'reason' for vandalism and thuggery by the Bajrang Dal's hoodlums.

Here is a report on what happened in Karnataka and elsewhere after the first evangelist literature quoted above was circulated (other action-reaction theories like induced conversion, too, were cited as a reason for Hindu anger):
MANGALORE/UDUPI/CHIKMAGALUR: After Kandhmal, it is the turn of Christians in Karnataka to face the ire of right-wing Hindu mobs. ( Watch )

Suspected Bajrang Dal activists vandalized seven churches and a house in Mangalore, Udupi and Chikmagalur districts on Sunday, protesting alleged conversions of Hindus to Christianity.

Some preachers and parishioners were assaulted and church property damaged in the attacks. The police in the three districts are yet to arrest anyone.

In Dakshina Kannada district, the activists targeted the Adoration Monastery just off the Milagres Church on Falnir Road. The 10-member group barged into the prayer hall and damaged the tabernacle, where the holy Eucharist is kept. They damaged windowpanes, furniture as well the crucifix. Police said the same group attempted to vandalise another prayer hall in Kankanady, but were driven back.

Later, Christians gathered in large numbers in front of the Milagres Hall to protest against the series of attacks. The day-long stand off between the protesters and the police resulted in violence. Protesters hurled stones at the police who lathicharged them in return. Several vehicles were damaged, including the jeep of the city DSP D Dharmaiah.

Police burst teargas shells to disperse the angry youth. Some of the protesters took shelter in the Milagres Church Hall premises to escape the mob fury. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in the area up to 8 am on Wednesday.

SP N Sathish Kumar said the police stood guard at some churches that they suspected would be targets of attacks. However, the miscreants had changed their plans in the last moment and attacked churches that did not have police security.

In Udupi district, three places of worship belonging to the New Life group in the district were attacked while the Sunday prayers were in progress. No arrests have been made so far.

A prayer hall near the KSRTC bus station was attacked around 10.20 am during a prayer. Over 15 activists entered the hall and attacked the people and ransacked the entire place. A music system and projector were damaged. According to sources, the miscreants came in vehicles.

In Shiroor, near Baindur, the prayer hall of the same group was attacked. A vehicle was burnt and some members of the congregation, including the pastor, were attacked. A similar incident was reported from Mudur near Kollur where some materials were damaged. However, the police prevented another such attack in prayer halls of the New Life group in Kaup and Karkala. Udupi SP Pravin Pawar said he suspected Bajrang Dal activists were behind the attack.

He told TOI that the police registered cases and investigations had started. In Chikmagalur district, the activists attacked three churches and the house of a neo convert. In one incident, 15 activists came in a vehicle and barged into Harvest India church at Makkikoppa near Jayapura in Koppa taluk in the morning and assaulted a parishioner and the protestant pastor. They broke the window panes and the plastic chairs.

Concerned over the prospects of an anti-Christian campaign spreading to Karnataka soon after attacks on minorities in Orissa, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh drew the attention of chief minister B S Yedyurappa to reports of such incidents earlier in the day.

He also talked to governor Rameshwar Thakur. The stage for the PM's telephonic talks had been set by a Congress demand for central interventions to end attacks on churches and Christian institutions allegedly by Sangh Parivar activists. In a statement, party leader Veerappa Moily said that several outfits of the Sangh Parivar had attacked churches and Christian buildings in a number of districts in southern Karnataka.

He said that such incidents had been going on for the past few weeks. Claiming that the culprits were allowed to go free, Moily claimed that the BJP government in the state had looked the other way instead of arresting the hoodlums. "Congress demands that the state government initiate immediate action; otherwise we may have no option but to approach the government of India for appropriate intervention," he said in a statement.

They know not what they do! Innocent Christians assaulted allegedly by Bajrang Dal activists..

Question: How could the women seen here have been a threat to Hinduism?

Photo courtesy: Mangalorean.com

Since the gruesome murder of Graham Staines and his two sons in 1999, a majority of Hindus living in different parts of India have been wondering, "Why Christians?" For, an average Indian Christian is identified as a law-abiding citizen who does not take religion that seriously. To that extent, his thinking matches that of an average Hindu. A few months ago one was pleasantly surprised when television news channel Times Now, while trying to ascertain the extent of alienation among India's Muslims, came across a young, urbane member of the community who said something to this effect: "It's a selfish world where nobody has time to spare a thought for anybody. So, for Muslims to think that nobody thinks about them is foolish." We need a majority of Muslims to think like that young lad.

Such people, who do not wear their religion on their sleeve, are badly needed in our times ridden by faith-driven terrorism. It is utterly harebrained of any Hindu organisation to antagonise especially Christians — most of whom are as casual about their religious identity as Hindus are — when those outraged by bombs detonating in every corner of the country must all be seen standing united inside one fortress.

As for the offensive literature, first, all Hindus do not subscribe to the Puranas. Still if, say, followers of the Vedanta too have been offended, they may not be sure how to defend all of Hindu mythology. Second, even if the Vedantis make an effort in that direction, those bent on inducing conversion cannot be expected to appreciate the extensive use of metaphors in Hindu mythology and their implicit meanings. So it’s better to ignore them as pig-headed propagandists. Why chase their fellow religionists out of their homes and hearths though they may not share the same view? The response to a work of pen must be another work of pen, not a work of swords, pistols and bombs. The VHP must admit that putting down in words their protest against pamphleteers is beyond the capability of their challenged grey matter. As for oratory skills, their speeches lack the educated substance that can sway the Hindu audience.

India reads in newspapers and hears on television a Swapan Dasgupta defending the BJP, and it reads and hears a Ram Madhav feeling duty-bound to defend all actions of every offshoot or sister concern of the RSS. The country may or may not agree to all that Swapan says, but while it listens to him with intent, Ram only manages to make most educated people either baulk or burst into derisive, dismissive laughter. Such is the paucity of knowledge of India's extreme right that it does not surprise when one finds that the wing is in its elements only on the streets. When given a chance to debate in a civilised forum, it looks like two left feet on the dance floor. To every Hindu who has ever felt outraged at an act of evangelism or ﺗﺑﻟﻳﻍ/tablIgh', the Sangh Parivar is a big let down and a terrible embarrassment to be seen as fellow members in the same camp.

Already much of the media led by NDTV is hostile to the right wing. Their strategy is somewhat like this: They will call a BP Singhal to defend his party, knowing fully well that the man loses his cool at the drop of a hat and starts stammering. If it's a more composed character and can articulate better, say someone like Ravishankar Prasad, the show anchor will interrupt only when he speaks or won't intervene when his opponents howl at him when it's rightfully his turn to speak after others have already spoken at length, uninterrupted. It is only when the channel partly agrees with the right wing's position on a one-off issue that an Arun Jaitley or a Sushma Swaraj would be invited to the debate.

When the leftist camp has its publicity machinery ready 24x7 to attack the rightist camp, it becomes imperative for the latter to brush up its knowledge on every issue that concerns the nation. But this is a mission the Sangh's members are too lazy to undertake. They have found in Koenraad Elst and David Frawley two foreign observers to counter Romila Thapar's propaganda. The assumption is that words from the pink lips of a white skinned man would be deemed neutral and the observer cannot be 'accused' of being affiliated to the Parivar.

Indeed, that is the left wing's propensity. Indian observers fear being branded by them as 'fundamentalists' and hence most do not come out in the open to defend even the economic policies of the NDA Government (1998-2004), let alone Advani's Rath Yatra of 1992. But why bite the bait to subscribe to the left's tacit suggestion that if a Hindu speaks for Hindus, he must be a member of the RSS? Why, to avoid this stereotyping, must Indians leave the work of neutral observation of history to the West?

The Parivar's emptiness is not restricted to poor knowledge of history. It pervades every field of study from science to geography to linguistics. Pick up any volume of the RSS mouthpiece and you will be startled out of your wits if you happen to find any technically rich content in the publication. You won't. Most articles have about a paragraph or two that the writer somehow managed to write, followed by half a dozen conveniently picked quotes from established writers who do not belong to the camp.

For one, it is curious that the VHP, which cannot appreciate the difference between a channel and a canal, is fighting the Sethusamudram Project. While writers sympathetic to it can only manage to forward the logic of preservation of a symbol of faith, the publishers affiliated to the Sangh go about copying science-oriented articles that are critical of the project, written by authors not from the Sangh, and pasting them in their own websites with impunity. Such articles include one by yours truly. One may also find this writer's article on River Saraswati featuring in a few pro-Hindutwa websites. Did they seek my permission before using my article? No. Do I want my name to be featured among a plethora of fundamentalists' in a hawkish website? Most certainly not. But I do not belong to the litigious West. I will not sue them. I can only pity the class of gentry their camp has.

The common factor between Muslim and Hindu fanatics — and all fanatics for that matter — is that they are alien to the idea of verbal shields and swords. However, they cannot ignore the importance of mass media in this day and age. So Muslim fanatics seek shelter behind the writings and utterances of the left-of-centre camp and Hindu fanatics find refuge behind the polemics of the right-of-centre camp. But why should the men of letters oblige? An Ashok Malik is better off advocating Narendra Modi's economics of 2008 rather than defending the Gujarat Chief Minister's politics of 2002. While the first, something substantive to write home about, must continue, the second, leaving one awfully discountenanced, can be done away with for all times to come.

The BJP may well be an offspring of the RSS. The party may well be crippled during elections without the help of the RSS cadre. But writers with right-of-centre faith, especially the few who did not join the Sangh or the BJP to further their careers, are under no such obligation.

The BJP too must realise that, first, the RSS is old enough to be sent off to वानप्रस्थ /wAnaprastha. A new generation must take over the ‘kingdom’ as per the Hindu tradition, if the party must stick to it. Second, Hindus by and large are not given to daily provocations; so, the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena can forget the Archies and Hallmark shops during Valentine's Day and other non-issues they constantly sniff out. Third, for the second reason, the NDA coalition appeals to India far more than the BJP flexing its muscles all alone. Of course, allies like the Janata Dal (United) and weathercocks like the Telugu Desam Party and Trinamool Congress must see sense in the repealing of communal laws like Article 370 and separate Personal Laws for different religions. But that's about it.

A big section of Hindu thought leaders had had their schooling in Catholic missionary schools. They will not speak in favour of the goons who attacked their teachers. As for other ordinary Hindu citizens, once in a blue moon, a few think about a temple in Ayodhya (or the mosques in Kashi and Mathura). Even fewer ever lose sleep over it. So, Rajnath Singh, get over it. But we know you won't.

The RSS's myopia did not let it understand Atal Bihari Vajpayee's inclusive politics and the former prime minister was ridiculed and panned by the Sangh's lumpen SMS brigade as a "ﻣﻳﺎﮞ"/"Mian" (the Urdu honorific is the equivalent of “mister”, but Hindu fanatics used it to mean “mullah”). The army of dimwits did not stop at that. Hundreds of स्वयंसेवक /swayamsewaks sabotaged the BJP's campaigns in the 2004 general elections which, for this reason as much as the middle class's lethargy — induced further by the unbearable heat of April and May afternoons — witnessed slim attendance of voters in all polling booths across the country (leaving mostly the abject poor, a class that is always dissatisfied and anti-incumbent no matter whose government it is, to vote). And now the same numskulls will campaign for Advani, hoping he will become the next prime minister and do what Vajpayee didn't.

If terrorism is 'un-Islamic', hooliganism is 'un-Hindu'. It's time law-abiding, peaceful Hindus — the majority, that is — disowned the militant fringe of the community loud and clear in every public forum possible. Continuing as members of this big joint family has become untenable. The Parivar must split.

The writer is a mathematician and linguist, now a corporate communicator and has been a science journalist, a teacher and a marketing manager (in reverse chronological order) in his previous vocations
In transliteration from Indian languages, the conventional use of the letter 'v' has been consciously avoided as this European sound does not exist in any Indian language; 'w' has been used to represent the Sanskrit letter/sound, 'व'. In common nouns, a capital letter vowel, even in the middle of a word, signifies a stretched sound; it's to address the confusing, non-uniform use of 'a', 'aa', 'i', 'ee', 'u' and 'oo' by Indians. Names of organisations have been spelt conventionally.

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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.