Thursday, September 20, 2012

‘A Man among men...’

by Dr. S. Krishnaswamy

(120 years on, Swami Vivekananda’s fiery speech at the Parliament of Religions is still fresh in memory)

This month marks the 120th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s participation in the Parliament of Religions at Chicago.

It is appropriate to celebrate this great event through the month for a simple reason. While it is generally well-known that young Vivekananda had to sleep on a sidewalk in Chicago before being discovered and given a place to stay, what is less known is that his first lecture there on September 11, 1893, catapulted him to such a great stature that the organisers had to invite him to address the gathering every day during that fortnight!

A participant of that conference said, “When the audience was bored with the tedious eloquence of some other speakers and became restive, the president of the conference found that the best means to get them into order was to announce that Vivekananda would be the next speaker again!”

Among those present at that conference, Dr. Annie Besant later commented, “Off the platform, his figure was instinct with pride of country, pride of race – the representative of the oldest of living religions… India was not to be shamed before the hurrying arrogant West by this her envoy and her son. He brought her message, he spoke in her name, and the herald remembered the dignity of the royal land whence he came. Purposeful, virile, strong, he stood out, a man among men, able to hold his own. On the platform, another side came out. The dignity and the inborn sense of worth and power still were there, but all was subdued to the exquisite beauty of the spiritual message which he had brought, to the sublimity of that matchless truth of the East which is the heart and life of India…The huge multitude hung upon his words, not a syllable must be lost, not a cadence missed!”

Profound impact

An agnostic-turned-monk, Swami Vivekananda accomplished in a life span of 39 years what is probably not possible for anyone living even for a couple of centuries. His contribution was not obscurantist revival but rejuvenating renaissance of Hinduism and the Indian ethos. His deep sense of nationalism had a profound impact on the Freedom Struggle. His worldview and success in the Western world revived India’s self esteem in the context of the depressed mood of enslavement. Suddenly, here was a new Indian spiritual leader known to the entire literate world.

His admirers included the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Max Mueller. Swamiji’s personality combined the qualities of the Buddha, Mahavir, Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, and Chaitanya in a manner of syncretism. He was a great musician even as a teenager, attracting hundreds of people to his singing, a tradition which he continued all his life.

Even his religious ideas were radical. He once declared, “I do not know the 30 crore deities of our pantheon. But I know the millions of my suffering fellowmen who are my gods to be served.” He epitomised this sentiment on the lines “Nara Seva is Narayana Seva” (Service to Man is Service to God). He did not believe in salvation by constantly running away from the world to meditate in caves; he believed that such enlightenment was only a means to serve his fellowmen. So he created an Order of Monks at the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, who are dedicated to the uplift of the downtrodden through education, health care and such other activities. He laid the foundation for communal and religious harmony, expanding on the principle his Guru had demonstrated.

The Tamil connection

How can anyone belonging to Tamil Nadu forget the unique relationship this part of the country had with a young Bengali saint who became the world-renowned Swami Vivekananda? It is well known that as a parivrajakacharya (wandering monk), Vivekananda reached Kanyakumari, swam across the sea, reached a rock and sat there in meditation for a few days. Although he had heard that a World Parliament of Religions was to take place in Chicago and a few people in Western India had suggested that he should participate, he could not make up his mind for long.

It was during his visit to Tamil Nadu that he decided to accept the challenge and proceed to America. Even then, he was debating with himself on whether he was genuinely interested in representing an ancient tradition of spirituality or was perhaps giving room to his ego to project himself. The enthusiasm of his disciples in Tamil Nadu led by Alasingar of Tiruvallikeni in Chennai helped him make up his mind.

The decision was clinched when a letter of blessings came from Sri Sarada Mata in Kolkata urging him to proceed to Chicago. The funds collected for his trip by his Tamil devotees became the nucleus which was strengthened by the generosity of the Maharaja of Ketri.

Half a century after the Chicago lecture, Rajaji said in simple words, “Swami Vivekananda saved Hinduism and saved India. But for him we would have lost our religion and would not have gained our freedom. We therefore owe everything to Swami Vivekananda. May his faith, his courage and his wisdom ever inspire us so that we may keep safe the treasure we have received from him!”

(Dr. S. Krishnaswamy is a documentary and television film maker and founder of the recently launched Tamil/English Heritage Channel, KRISHNA-TV.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saudi money helping spread of harsher Islam: Rushdie

Well-known writer Salman Rushdie Monday said that a harsher version of Islam was spreading with the help of Saudi Arabia's oil money. 

"What has developed now is a harsher Islam partly because of the spread of Wahhabi ideas, with the help of colossal amount of Saudi oil money, partly because of the rise of the Ayatollahs and Shia Islam," Rushdie said in an interview to CNN-IBN news channel. 

Religious activists in several countries across the world recently indulged in violence against a film depicting Prophet Muhammad in a negative light. 

But, Rushdie said attacks against free speech in India too were worrying. 

Rushdie has recently published his long awaited memoir 'Joseph Anton', based on his nine years of living under an Iranian religious decree (fatwa). 

"All you have to do is look at the attacks on Ramanujam's essay on the 300 Ramayanas which was removed from the Delhi University syllabus, the attack on Rohinton Mistry's novel which was immediately removed from the Bombay University syllabus, and the attack on cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for his perfectly okay cartoons," he said. 

According to the writer, Indian leaders were lampooned in cartoons after freedom but never attempted to suppress them. 

Stating that Hindu intolerance was just as bad as Islamic intolerance, Rushdie wondered, "It is that majoritarian intolerance. For instance, M.F. Husain being attacked for painting Saraswati unclothed, well I haven't seen pictures of Saraswati clothed, where are they, who paints them?" asked Rushdie.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Are Hindus and Hinduism under attack? Know the truth, act now

by Narinder Mohan Kukar

I attended the 18th symposium on “Hindu Unity Day” held on July 21 in New York City. One would assume that a religion of great antiquity of over 5000 years, which Hinduism is, should be self- sustained.  It would be so, but for the fact that its followers had to withstand the onslaught of conversions under the sword, and later proselytizing by coercion.

Many scholars have tackled the task of defining Hinduism. One of the better interpretations of Hinduism is that it is a system of unity within diversity. In here, cohesiveness exists within its many contradictions.

Gautam Budha said:  “Three things can’t be long hidden: The Sun, The Moon, and The Truth. And there are only two mistakes one can make along the road to the truth: Not going all the way and not starting.”

Hindus are disliked and hated by Muslims particularly wherever they are a majority, especially in Bangladesh, and the fate of Hindus in Pakistan is no better. One would expect even handed treatment of Hindus within the boundaries of India. Alas! It is not so. What an irony. The fate of Kashmiri Pundits is no better in their own homeland. Many of them are still languishing in the refugee camps in Jammu for over 20 years. Why? There is enough blame to go around, from the governmental policy and by happenstance the believers of Islam happen to be in the majority in state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Let us start examining some facts. Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “Facts are many, truth is one.” I hope my readers will see the truth in what I write.  No matter how tolerant, peaceful and law abiding Hindus may be, some faiths just don’t like us. Muslims like to convert us through the power of their sword and Christians do that through the power of their purse. “While the Hindu elaborates his argument, the Muslim sharpens his sword,” said Sir Winston Churchill: Abandoning India,” at Royal Albert Hall on March 18, 1931.

The list of unjust actions against Hindus is long for a very long time. Hindus would not be having a Hindu Sangathan  Divas in New York 18th year in a row if it were not for the reasons of Rape, Conversions, Annexation of Hindu Properties, trampling of Human Rights of Hindus by Pakistan and Bangladesh. (Empires Last Casualty: Sachi G. Dastidhar 2008).

According to Bangladesh census of 1951 and 2001 Hindu population in Bangladesh declined by 20 million, yes 20 million. (Empires Last Casualty: 2008). Where did the 20 million Hindus go or what religion were they forced to convert to? To live as  a Hindu in Bangladesh, is like living in hell so say millions of Hindus who still live there.

Hindus living in Islamic countries are rightfully cautious however it should not turn  into weakness. “With weakness comes ignorance and with ignorance comes misery,” stated Swami Viveka-nand, and in misery they are living in.

For Hindus the last couple of years have been disastrous in Bangladesh (Elisa Griswold N.Y.T January 23, 2005).  Islam is becoming a legitimizing political discussion in Bangladesh (Christina Fair N. Y.T. — January 23rd,2005). Bangladesh is of greatest concern to the Hindus (NY Times — February 2005)and  Immigration and  Refugee Board of Canada: “Hindus in Bangladesh.”  Hindu population in Pakistan is facing the same devil. “Stop all conversion, it is the deadliest poison that ever sapped the fountain of truth.” said Mahatma Gandhi. Enlightened Muslims distancing themselves is not enough, they should rally against radical Islam for the sake of their own children.  Amnesty-International, Human rights  organization  (A survey of Human Rights 2010. Executive summary) and US Congress have only paid lip service.
Twenty million Hindus disappear from Bangladesh, a few million from Pakistan (Hindu  American  Foundation) and not a single in-depth article on crimes committed against Hindus in Bangladesh or Pakistan by any Indian newspaper in the USA or India has been published. “Stop all conversion, it is the deadliest poison that ever sapped the fountain of truth.” said Mahatma Gandhi.

Hindus would not be having a Hindu Unity Day if it were not for the  quota system in India, which favors non-Hindus for admissions to centers  of higher learning and jobs in govt. institutions, higher interest  rates for loans to Hindu businesses. Levying, fees on Hindus for some pilgrimages while subsidizing Muslims when they go to haj. It is back  handed Jizya (Jizya: tax Muslim rulers imposed on Hindus in India) being imposed on the Hindus of India by the government of India

“Muslims are Indians, and the best way for India to integrate them is to strive to treat them as individuals, not members of a group” ( Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, July 21, 2012 ). I would say every Indian should be treated equally and as an individual not as someone belonging to a caste or a class.

The Muslim onslaught on Hindus in the past was hideous(“Ananya” A portrait of India, Association of  Indians in America,1997) and I say continues unabated, but the conversion to Christianity is a cause of no lesser concern. Conversion of Hindus into Christianity is prevalent in India even today. Mahatma Gandhi questioned: “Why should a Christian want to convert a Hindu to Christianity? Why should he not be satisfied if the Hindu is a good or godly man, “and he continued, “If I had power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytizing.”

As if these disparities are not sufficient to hurt Hindus, the government of India has the audacity to use Hindu temple funds for non-Hindu benefits. Who are these officials? I presume these are the people, who have nothing substantial to offer and, therefore, pander to minorities, to keep their political power.

Hindus seem to have more human rights in United States than in India. Hindus have a level playing field in United States. “I am not against the minorities getting equal opportunity, but not at the expense of  quality. Equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.” was  the slogan of 7th President of United States...Andrew Jackson in 1882. It is apt for every politician in every country even today.

These inequities against Hindus are the base for us to yearn for Hindu  Unity. Do we want to unite with a desire to rule over somebody,  certainly not! Or are we uniting to safe guard our legitimate rights as  Hindus, definitely yes! Many Hindus do not realize that we have a much bigger problem; we are in a struggle to preserve our culture and religion. We need to unite to have a level playing field in India too. To be together is an instinct nature bestows on all: birds fly together, fish move in columns, hyenas hunt in a pack, elephants move in a heard. I am not advocating “heard mentality,” I am only suggesting to pool Hindu assets... brain power and financial, for the cause.

Unity is not to be feared if it is for a good cause and what is a better cause than mere survival. In the past nations have come together to fight a common enemy. Today, assets are pooled to battle the brutality of Muslim terrorist organization of Al-Qaeda. Swami Vivekananda’s slogan “Rise and Awake” for Hindus is as appropriate today as when it was first made in the 19th century. I like to paraphrase Karl Marx, German philosopher of 18th century, and say Hindus have nothing to lose but insults, humiliation, subservience and annihilation. Hindus of the world unite

Hindus have been under attacks since the eighth Century by Muslim invaders. Morgan (1939) states that Hindus suffered terribly on account of religious fanaticism of Muslim invaders from 11th century (“Ananya”). Hindus were later on subjected to conversions by Christian Missionaries which is still going on in India. 

Hindus in India have always been respectful to other religions and  given shelter to whosoever landed at its shores from time immemorial  to the present day. Hindus have to act and assert themselves for their rights, nobody  else is going to stand for you. For those who say we have too many  organizations, I would like to quote Blaise Pascal a 16th century French  physicist and philosopher: “The multi-tude, which is not brought to act as a  unity is confusion. The unity which has not its origin in multitude, is tyranny.” Oppression (tyranny) is what you find in Islamic countries, dictatorships  and terrorist organizations of the world.

What should Hindus do? I think Hindus should:
— Have a registered organization; raise funds and have transparent accounting for an infrastructure with offices, employees and volunteers; for Hindus in India to politically target anti-hindu politicians for; their defeat at the ballot box, one at a time;
— Investigative reporting of anti-hindu politicians and bureaucrats;
— Own newspapers, T.V stations in India for a balanced and truthful reporting;
— Educate the public about equal rights, expose corrupt people in power and pick and choose one at a time; and
— Join hands with other likeminded Hindu organizations; Join Hindu temple boards to raise funds and educate its congregation.

Temples have a responsibility to work for the benefit of its  congregation. If there are no Hindus there will be no temples. We need to unite to safe guard our rights of worship in all lands, respect for our human rights and to be treated as equal citizen in  every land including India. Christians unite to rule, Jewish unite to  survive, Muslims unite to conquer and convert. Hindus need to unite to  safeguard its existence and way of life.

Hindu religion is the oldest religion in the world, which respects all  faiths. India today is a Secular Democracy because of 85 percent Hindu  population. If one attacks Hindus and /or Hinduism it is a stroke to  the very core of humanity. This must never happen.

“Facts are many, but truth is one,” wrote noble laureate  Rabinder  Nath  Tagore. My fellow human beings, I have simply enumerated the facts. You know the truth.

Monday, September 10, 2012

4 lakh Bangladeshis go missing

The Assam Government has no clue about the whereabouts of this huge number of foreign nationals —an overwhelming majority believed to be Bangladeshis — who had been detected as ‘illegal foreigners’ by the three-dozen Foreigners’ Tribunals in the State over the years.

According to official records, the 36 Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam detected a total of 3,83,790 illegal foreign nationals living in Assam between 1986 and 2012 (till July). However, shockingly, they have all done a disappearing act, or so the authorities concerned would have one to believe.

The figures of the Foreigners’ Tribunals further make an alarming revelation. The number of detections of illegal foreigners has been increasing every year.

While only 503 illegal foreigners were detected in 1986, a whopping 27,988 such foreigners have been detected by the Foreigners’ Tribunals in the first seven months of 2012 itself (January-July).

Assam’s Director General of Police Jayanta Narayan Choudhury said the problem lies with the Foreigners’ Tribunal Act.

“The suspected foreigners go missing as they cannot be arrested by the police till they are proved as Bangladeshis. It takes a long time — right from a case getting registered in the tribunals against any individual till they are finally confirmed as foreigners by the tribunals. The suspected people go missing, as according to the Act, police cannot even detain them for a longer period,” Choudhury said.

He also said that there is nothing that the State Government can do about this as a Central legislation is required to amend the act. Chief of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and two-time former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta charged the Centre for inaction.

 “The Government of India has not taken up the matter with Bangladesh and there is no extradition treaty between the two countries.

The detected illegal foreigners could not be pushed back due to lack of extradition treaty between the two countries. We have been repeatedly asking the Central and State Governments to trace these missing illegal foreigners and deport them,” he said.

The figures also assume significance in view of the recent change in the demographic pattern in at least six districts of Assam --- Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, Nagaon, Karamganj and Hailakandi. Out of these six districts, only two districts had a Muslim majority in 1971. However, 30 years down the line all the six districts have Muslims as majority (Census 2001).

While Hindus comprised 34.80 per cent of population in Dhubri in 1971, Muslims made up for 64.46 per cent of the populace. In 2001, the Hindu population decreased to 24.74 per cent even as the Muslim population reached 74.29 per cent in the district.

Similarly, Goalpara district had 50.17 per cent Hindu population in 1971 compared to 41.46 per cent Muslims. According to the 2001 census, Hindus constitute only 38.22 per cent of the districts total population while the Muslim population increased to 53.71 per cent.

In Barpeta too, the Muslims constituted 48.58 per cent compared to 51.19 per cent of the Hindu population in 1971. In 2001, Muslims became a majority in the district with 59.37 per cent compared to mere 40.19 per cent of the Hindus. Ditto in Nagaon, where the Muslims constituted only 39.24 per cent of the population in 1971 compared to 59.57 per cent of the Hindus. In 2001 though, the Muslims became a majority in the district with 51 per cent. Hindus became a minority comprising only 47.80 per cent. Karimganj and Hailakandi districts have had a similar demographic change since 1971.

Recently, the 12-hour bandh called by the North East Students Organisation (NESO) to protest illegal infiltration from Bangladesh and demand Central Government’s immediate intervention to find a lasting solution to the burning problem drew a total response in all the seven North-Eastern States.

Justice BK Sarma of the Gauhati High Court in a judgment issued on April 21, 2011 too had said, “…in most of the cases, the declared foreigners have done the act of vanishing and the state administration is without any clue of their whereabouts. In various reports, it has been stated by the State administration that vigorous attempts have been made to nab them, but they could not be traced out. Thus, there is total failure of the State administration to nab the foreign nationals, who after invoking the writ jurisdiction of this Court, do the act of vanishing.”

In the same judgment, the court further instructed the state administration to detain suspected foreigners in detention camps so that with the closure of the proceedings and depending upon the outcome thereof, they can be deported to Bangladesh.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Muslim struggle for reservation is a strategic attempt to get into a position of dominating…

The Muslim struggle for reservation is a strategic attempt to get into a position of dominating Indian governments first through states where they have critical numbers and in turn at the Centre. There is nothing novel about it because it only means broadly a repeat performance of the history as it unfolded between 1906-1947. That history ended with the Partition. The pathetic picture of Pakistan discourages the Muslims of the rest of India into seeking a further sovereign separation. Instead they have chosen a more imaginative alternative of flourishing in India and at the same time living off the economic and intellectual labour of the other communities led by the Hindus. So much for current politics.

The ideological Gangotri of these politics flows from Gandhi's devastating ignorance of the Muslim mentality. One only needs to hear his favourite bhajan Ishwar Allah Tero Naam. Actually, this is highly offensive to a Muslim, whether he reacts or not. There is no God other than Allah, is the starting premise of Islam. Any wonder that Maulana Muhammad Ali said in 1924 that Gandhi is worse than a Musalman without character?

The Khilafat movement which Gandhi proudly led demonstrated his ignorance. When he found that he had not been able to get the Muslim masses to sing his praise, he declared that ensuring the Sultan of Turkey, the Khalifa of Sunni Islam, on his throne was equal to the achievement ofSwarajaya. When the Khilafat movement failed the Muslims felt betrayed and rioting began first with the Moplahs of Malabar. Killing Hindus did not stop for long years.

His eldest son Harilal must have taken a cue from his father's idea of Islam and therefore proceeded to convert himself and become Abdullah without understanding the religion. It was a rare tribute paid by a son to his living father. He abandoned his Ishwar in favour of Allah. Any wonder, he soon returned to being Harilal?

How many politicians of today know the published fact that Gandhi, in September 1944, at Jinnah's residence on Malabar Hill, Bombay, had agreed to Partition? He endorsed the Partition when it came by not even fasting in protest against it. Yet he fasted for giving Pakistan Rs.55 crore thereafter. The message to all his followers was that to appease Muslims is their bounden duty.

How many secular politicians of today realize that the seeds of Muslim strategy were sown in the Simla prayer to Viceroy Minto by 35 eminences led by Sir Aga Khan on 1st October 1906. While these were the seeds, Gandhi's example was the lasting fertilizer for Muslim demands.