Saturday, 22 October 2016

Development of Logic in India: Significance of ‘The Duologue between Pāyāsi and Kassapa’ (“Long Discourses”)

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

ABSTRACT ‘The Duologue of King/Governor Pāyāsi’ (“Long Discourses”) has long been recognised as a source for the proto-materialism current at the time of the Buddha. What needs to be stressed is the significance of the text as a pointer to the development of Logic in India. Perception (observation and experiment employing the joint method of agreement and difference), which is an accepted method of experimental enquiry, and reasoning from analogy, which can lead at best to a probable conclusion – these two are the only means employed to settle the dispute concerning the existence of the other-world. The Jain version of the same duologue-cum-parable, though varying in minor detailsregarding the name and identity of the monk refuting the king/governor, contains the same contrast, namely, perception versus analogical reasoning. There can be little doubt that the original parable was conceived with a view to asserting the existence of the other-world. In the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (sixth century BCE), an earlier Brahmanical text, however, instead of argument by analogy, verbal testimony (śabda) was invoked to settle the same point. Naciketas is assailed by doubt about the existence of a person after his or her death. The authority of Yama, the Pluto of Indian mythology, is invoked to convince him that the other-world does exist. Thus, the three parables taken together exhibit three means of knowledge in operation: verbal testimony and argument by analogy pitted against perception.

In the sixth/fifth century BCE, India was inundated by several new doctrines and strange ideas, unheard-of before. They were proposed and, in turn, challenged by opposite ideas, each one claiming to refute the doctrines of others. We hear of no fewer than sixty-two itinerant philosophers, belonging to different strata of life, moving from one place to another throughout the length and breadth of North India. They are accompanied by a sizeable number of disciples. Six names are often mentioned in Buddhist (Pali and Sanskrit) and Jain (Prakrit and Sanskrit) works. Of them Erich Frauwallner has taken Purana Kassapa (Pūraṇa Kāśyapa in Sanskrit), Ajita Kesakambala (Keśakambalin in Sanskrit), and Kakuda Kaccāyana (Kātyāyana in Sanskrit) as representatives of the ‘oldest materialist doctrine’ (Frauwallner, 1971, pp. 219-221). But, even before mentioning the doctrines of these three, Frauwallner projects King Pāyāsi (Paesi in Prakrit) as ‘the first materialist’(Frauwallner, 1971, p. 216). It is not clear whether he regards Paesi as younger or elder than these itinerant preachers. However, he proposes Paesi to be ‘an old Indian Materialist on the King’s throne,’ and adds in the very next sentence: ‘And Paesi was certainly not the only one of his kind’ (Frauwallner, 1971, pp. 218- 19). Frauwallner treats Purana, Ajita, and Kakuda as materialists because ‘the three are unanimous in the fact that they deny continuance after death and the moral consequences arising therefrom, and are, in this sense, genuine materialistic doctrines’(Frauwallner, 1971, pp. 220-21). It is difficult to agree with this view. The text of the ‘Discourse on the Fruits of Being a Monk’ (‘Sāmāñña-phala-sutta’) in the “Long Discourses” (Dīghanikāya) reveals that among the three only Ajita has the claim to be a materialist (to be more exact, a proto-materialist), and the other two, Purana and Kakuda, are basically immaterialists.

However, it will be improper to identify even Ajita or any one of the itinerant gurus as a full-fledged materialist, for the expositions of their respective doctrines made by all the six preachers are too brief to be considered an adequate description of their worldviews. Frauwallner himself notes: ‘But however interesting and characteristic such accounts are, they can rarely claim a place of the same kind in a history of Indian philosophy. Materialism gains for it an importance from the moment only when it emerged in the form of a regular doctrine and took up arms against the remaining philosophical schools’ (Frauwallner, 1971, p. 221).

The genesis of materialism in India can be traced in, besides the Upaniṣads, some tales found in both Buddhist and Jain works. One such tale, the duologue between King/Governor Pāyāsi and a Buddhist or a Jain monk, has often been cited as an instance of materialism.[i]  The tale, found both in Buddhist and Jain sources,[ii]  however, merely testifies to the prevalence of a non-conformist attitude that denied the idea of the immortal soul surviving after the death of the body in which it previously resided. That is all that is to be found in the Pāyāsi duologue. The legend was presumably composed with a definite view of discrediting those heretics who refused to believe in the existence of the other-world (paraloka), and hence in the immortality of the soul. This task of converting or defeating such a non-believer is accomplished by a Buddhist monk in the Pali Pāyāsi duologue, and by a Jain monk in the two Prakrit versions of the same legend. A duologue between the king and a Buddhist or a  Jain monk is a well-known and oft-used narrative device encountered in many later works.[iii]

Pāyāsi is represented as a non-believer in the existence of the other-world, rebirth, and reward and recrimination of one’s deeds after death, the three axioms of the Buddha’s philosophy as recorded in the canonical Discourses. His assertion, ‘Neither is there any other-world, nor are there beings reborn otherwise than from parents, nor is there fruit of deeds, well done or ill done’ (natthi paro loko, natthisattā opapātikā, natthisukatadukkaṭānaṃ kammānaṃ phalaṃ vipāko),[iv]  is quoted and re-quoted in other Buddhist canonical texts, although his name is not mentioned.[v]  A distinction is made between the affirmativist doctrine (atthikavāda) and the negativist doctrine (natthikavāda) on the basis of the existence and non-existence of the other-world.[vi]

It forms the essence of Ajita Kesakambala’s doctrine of annihilation (ucchedavāda), the first known formulation of the proto-materialist doctrine in India.[vii]  Ajita’s exposition of his ‘worldview’ is more elaborate than Pāyāsi’s, but the essence of their teachings is similar, if not the same, in all respects.

Pāyāsi states his conclusion on the basis of his own observations and experiments, whereas the Buddhist monk offers a series of analogues, and we are told that by means of the argument by analogy he succeeds in converting the king to a faithful believer in after-life, rebirth, and the consequence of one’s deeds.

Here we have not only the conflict between a non-believer and a believer (not however on the existence of god or gods, but on that of the other-world) but also one of the earliest instances of the inductive method in settling a dispute: actual observation and experiment on the one side, and use of analogy on the other. Not in this duologue alone, but in all the dialogues found in other works, the contraposition of sense perception and argument by analogy is a notable feature in the early history of Indian logic.

Dasgupta (1975, pp. 32-33) observes that the Cārvākas – presumably meaning materialists of all sorts before and after the eighth century BCE – admitted perception alone as the valid source of knowledge; the Buddhist and the Vaiśeṣika admitted two, perception and inference; Sāṃkhya added śabda (verbal testimony) as the third source; and Nyāya the fourth, upamāna (comparison). This kind of statement found in earlier sources (see ibidem) is but the enumeration of the means of knowledge admitted by different systems of philosophy arranged in ascending order, not in a chronological order attested by evidence. However, besides comparison, there are no fewer than twenty four different analogues in the Nyāya tradition (for a brief summary of these see Vidyabhusana, 1988, pp. 67 et seq.) which qua argument are not valid, and hence regarded as ‘futile rejoinder’ (jāti) in the Nyāya tradition.[viii]  The point to be remembered is that, long before such analogues were identified, named and included in books of Logic, these were already current in practice. Any simile or metaphor carries within it the rudiments of logic, in so far as comparison is meant to establish a point in recognizing a particular aspect, common to the object of comparison (upameya) and the otherwise dissimilar object that has been brought from outside (upamāna) on the basis of a common point of resemblance (sādhāraṇa dharma). A parable is but an extended simile, didactic and elucidative in nature. Such parables are abundantly found in the whole of Vedic literature as also in the sacred books of the Buddhists and the Jains (Gonda, 1949, pp.4-92). As Gonda observes:
I have made a simile for you that you may understand what I mean, by means of a simile many a wise man understands the meaning of the argumentation are sayings of the Buddha…. [V]ery often these Buddhist similes are broadly elaborated and made into real parables, told in a lively and illustrative way and more than once couched in the form of dialogue. (Gonda, 1949, p. 90, emphasis added)
The ‘Pāyāsi suttanta’ is the most appropriate instance of such a parable ‘couched in the form of dialogue’. It is not the account of an actual argument that took place between a king/governor and a Buddhist Master, but only an imaginary tale with a view to driving home an article of faith of Buddhism, namely, the existence of the other-world.

In this parable Pāyāsi is posited as a heartless and unscrupulous ruler, capable of performing diabolical experiments in order to locate the so-called soul. One of the experiments he undertook was to weigh a felon and then have him strangled with a bow string and weigh him again. The purpose was to see whether there was any difference in the weight of the body. Jayatilleke (1980, p. 105) and echoing his words Franco and Preisendanz (1998, p. 179) refer to such experiments as ‘gruesome’, as if such an experiment was ever actually performed. In a recent article Franco (2011, p. 634) has refrained from using any such qualifier. Refusal to discriminate between a fictitious narrative and an actual event, or rather considering every fictive account to be an unimpeachable fact, is a common blunder that both the wise and the naïve often fall prey to. Jayatilleke, anticipated by Jacobi (1970, p. 770), himself says that “the teachings ascribed to [Yājñavalkya] in different places in the Upaniṣads do not seem to be of a piece, consistent with each other.…The probable explanation for this is that several incompatible doctrines were put in the mouth of an outstanding teacher [viz., Yājñavalkya]” (Jayatilleke, 1980, p. 40).[ix]  Why then an exception is to be made in case of Pāyāsi is not clear. The intention of the authors of this parable in Pali and Prakrit was to portray Pāyāsi in a bad light, which is why he is made to appear as a ruthless ruler, his motto being fiat experimentum, ‘Let the experiment be made’ (in Bacon’s words), totally a-moral and unscrupulous.

The fact of the matter is that all these were mere ‘thought experiments,’ Gedanken experiments, as Albert Einstein used to call them, that is, experiments conceived in thought only, never carried out actually. The so-called ‘gruesome experiments’ of Pāyāsi were similarly imagined, or rather conjured up, by the author of the legend solely to denigrate the king/governor. It is also worth noting that neither the Buddhist monk Kassapa nor the Jain monk Kesi criticizes or censures Pāyāsi or Paesi for undertaking such cruel experiments, nor does either of them challenge the validity of their protocols. Kassapa himself suggests such ‘thought experiments,’ hypothetical situations and events (Cārvāka/Lokāya, 1990, sections 9-28, pp. 13-29). Not being able to offer the results of any counterexperiments (actual or mental) conducted by himself, Kassapa has to resort to analogical reasoning. He uses the word upamā (comparison, also meaning simile and parable) and claims that by ‘by a simile some intelligent persons will recognize the meaning of what is said’ (Cārvāka/Lokāya, 1990, p. 14 et seq.). The Buddha in the Discourses is also made to utter these very words (see Gonda, 1949, p. 90, quoted above). Now, all arguments by analogy can at best be probable, as any college textbook of logic would say. Of course, some arguments or inferences by analogy are rigorous, some non-rigorous, and some downright false (Germanova, 1989, pp. 205-08). The analogues in the two parables belong to the third category. Yet, they prove to be (to be exact, are told to be) more effective than empirical observations and experiments applying the joint method of agreement and difference; Pāyāsi decides to accept the analogical arguments and jettisons the results he had previously obtained by empirical investigation. He is made to declare that he was pleased with Master Kassapa’s very first simile; he was in fact charmed by it. But just because he wished to hear more of the Master’s ready wit, he continued to argue (Cārvāka/Lokāya, 1990, p. 29). Perception (pratyakṣa), the Nyāya philosophers affirm unanimously, is the eldest of all instruments of cognition (pramāṇa-jyeṣṭha). In this parable, however, analogical reasoning is made to appear superior to perception.

More interesting is the way in which the controversy is conducted. Pāyāsi is made to adhere strictly to perceptible evidence, and the Buddhist monk sticks to argument by analogy. Since rebirth and karmic retribution are two pillars of both Jain and Buddhist faiths, their opposition to any form of protomaterialism is understandable.[x] What is striking is the resort to analogical reasoning which was not admitted as an instrument of cognition in later Buddhist logic. In spite of their subtle differences, the four main Buddhist philosophical schools (Yogācāra, Madhyamaka, Sautrāntika, and Vaibhāṣika) were unanimous in admitting only two instruments of cognition, namely, perception and inference, and nothing else (such as, comparison, verbal testimony, etc.). Yet in their rebuttal to the proto-materialist dependence on perception alone, the redactor/s of the Pāyāsi legend opted for argument by analogy, as exemplified in both the Pali and Prakrit versions. The common origin of the story manufactured to denounce the negativists is apparent in the use of analogues by the early redactor/s.

An earlier and parallel instance of fabricating a story with a view to disparaging the disbelievers in the other-world, that is, a parable, is first noticed in the Brahmanical tradition. The Kaṭha Upaniṣad (sixth century BCE) is the Brahmanical version of the Pāyāsi duologues. Admittedly there are several differences: the chief of which is that, instead of a Buddhist or a Jain monk, Yama, the Pluto of Indian mythology, and Naciketas, a young doubter (though not a denier) of the after-world, are made to face each other in this Upaniṣad. Second, there is no argument; Yama acts as the guru and Naciketas, the disciple. However, word (śabda) or verbal testimony takes the place of analogy in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad: Yama is projected as the authority (āpta) and it is his assurance alone that convinces Naciketas that the other-world does exist. Who but the Lord of the Land of the Dead could be a better authority to speak on what happens to a human after his/her death? Whatever doubt (vicikitsā) the young Brahmana boy had (Eighteen Principal Upaniṣads, 1958, Kaṭha 1.1.20) was dispelled by him for good. But in order to make his expertise established in the mind of the listener/reader, an elaborate story starting with a sacrifice (yajña) is introduced; Naciketas is brought step by step in the presence of Yama. Yama is shown to be extremely reluctant to part with ‘the secret knowledge’ he carried within himself. Even the gods, he says, are not conversant with what happened after the death of a person (Eighteen Principal Upaniṣads, 1958, Kaṭha 1.1.21). Thus, without resorting to any argument by analogy, Yama imparts to Naciketas the ultimate affirmativist (āstika) view – not of any god or idea, but of the other-world.

In spite of all this, the point to be noted is that the refusal to accept the continuance of the extra-corporeal soul has been, from the outset, the hallmark of materialist thinking in India.[xi] It is found in a Brahmanical sacred book as well as in the Buddhist and Jain canonical or paracanonical works.
Thus the believers in the other-world, whether a Vedist, a Buddhist or a Jain, combat the negativist (nāstika) view either with the help of argument by analogy or by producing the testimony of an authoritative person. The King/Governor called Pāyāsi is as much imaginary as Yama and Yājñavalkya in the Upaniṣads; Master Kassapa and Kesi too are equally fictive characters like Naciketas and his father. Together they are brought to perform only one task: defeat any sceptic or non-believer in the actual existence of heaven and hell.

Some are of the opinion that Pāyāsi’s experiments reveal Greek influence. Balcerowicz has convincingly shown that experiment was as much a part of the Indian tradition as of the Greek.[xii] He has referred to Uddālaka Āruṇi’s experiments as stated in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad (Eighteen Principal Upaniṣads, 1958, 6.12.1-2, 13.1-2) in support of this view. One interesting point is that, while speaking about arche, Uddālaka too resorts to analogy: the fig fruit and its seeds (Eighteen Principal Upaniṣads, 1958, Chāndogya 6.12.1-3). Argument by analogy is known in the Upaniṣadic times, but in the case of the Kaṭha Upaniṣad, verbal testimony has been considered a better form of argument than analogical reasoning.

The Pāyāsi parables as well as the Yama-Naciketas duologue then do not concern ontology alone; they are no less significant in tracing the development of Logic in India as well. In all the different versions of the parables we come across three specific instruments of cognition employed. They are perception, analogy, and verbal testimony.

[i] SeeFrauwallner (1971, p. 216). Apparently Frauwallner (and those who follow him in this regard) took it to be a real-life account. It is a glaring example of mistaking fiction for fact. There is no evidence of the existence  of a king or governor called Pāyāsi, who had conducted some experiments to find out the nature of the soul. Moreover, the narrative highlights only one aspect of materialist thought, namely, denial of the existence of any immortal soul, and hence of the doctrine of karma and its consequence, rebirth. The most significant aspect of any philosophical system in India is epistemology, more particularly the instrument/s of cognition (pramāṇa) a system admits. Nothing is stated directly regarding this vital issue in any of the canonical works contained in The Three Baskets (Tipitaka), although the duologue of Pāyāsi implies that only ocular proof or perception (pratyakṣa) is what Pāyāsi was prepared to accept. Therefore, it will not be justified to treat the Pāyāsi legend as a true exposition of the materialist doctrine as a whole. Frauwallner (1971, p. 221) – quoted below – too admits this.
[ii] Although the names and hence the characters in the narratives in the ‘The Discourse of King/Governor Pāyāsi’ (‘Pāyāsi(rājañña)-suttanta’) in The Long Discourses (Dīghanikāya) and the two Jain secular works, Dialogue of King Prasenajit (Rāyapasenaijja) and Haribhadra’s Story of Samarāditya (Samarāiccakahā), vary widely, yet the original story (now lost) from which all the three seem to have been derived must have been the same. Tucci (1971, p. 389) rightly observes: “The analogies which the Pāyāsisuttanta shows to have with the Jaina Rāyapaseṇiya and some passages of Samarāiccakahā cannot be explained as mutual borrowings but, rather, as various derivations from real doctrines followed in ancient times.
[iii] We may think of such works as Āryaśūra’s The Garland of Birth Stories (Jātakamālā), Somadeva’s long poem dealing with various religious and philosophical issues from the Jain point of view (Yaśastilaka-campū), and the Jain scholar Hemacandra’s Lives of Sixty-Three Eminent Persons (Triṣaṣṭi-Śalākā-Puruṣa-Carita). The same device is found even earlier in Saṅghadāsagaṇi (sixth/seventh century CE)’s The Wanderings of Vasudeva (Vasudevahiṃḍī). For further details see Bhattacharya (2009, pp. 102-09).
[iv] 4 Dīghanikāya 2:10.1.2 p.23.6.
[v] 5 See, for instance, ‘Apaṇṇakasuttaṃ’ 10.1.3,4, (Majjimanikāya, Part 2, pp. 78-79); ‘Sandakasuttaṃ’, (Majjimanikāya, p. 213).
[vi] 6 ‘Sandakasuttaṃ’, Majjimanikāya, p. 213) cf. also sace kho natthi paro loko evam ayaṃ, sace kho atthi paro loko evam ayaṃ. ‘Apaṇṇakasuttaṃ’, (Majjimanikāya,, 14-15, pp.79-80).
[vii] Ajita explained his ‘worldview’ to king Ajātasattu as follows:
“O King, there is no (consequence to) alms-giving, sacrifice or oblation. A good or bad action produces no result. This world does not exist, nor does the other world. There is no mother, no father. There is no rebirth of beings after death. In this world, there are no samanas [Śramaṇas] or brāhmaṇas established in the Noble Path and accomplished in good practice, who, through direct knowledge (i.e., magga insight) acquired by their own efforts, can expound on this world and the other world. This being is but a compound of the four great primary elements; after death, the earth-element (or element of extension) returns and goes back to the body of the earth, the water-element (or element of cohesion) returns and goes back to the body of water, the fire-element (or element of thermal energy) returns and goes back to the body of fire, and the air-element (or element of motion) returns and goes back to the body of air, while the mental faculties pass on into space. The four pall-bearers and the bier (constituting the fifth) carry the corpse. The remains of the dead can be seen up to the cemetery where bare bones lie graying like the colour of the pigeons. All almsgiving ends in ashes. Fools prescribe alms-giving; and some assert that there is such a thing as merit in alms-giving; but their words are empty, false and nonsensical. Both the fool and the wise are annihilated and destroyed after death and dissolution of their bodies. Nothing exists after death”. (‘Discourse on the Fruits of Being a Monk’, ‘Sāmañña-phala-sutta’, 2.4.21-23, Dīghanikāya, 1: p. 48-49; Ten Suttas from Dīgha Nikāya, 1987, p.83, translation modified). Cf. Pāyāsi’s words quoted above.
[viii] 8 Nyāyasūtra Va 1-3 in Ruben (1928, pp. 129-31); 5.1.1-3 in Gangopadhyaya (1982, pp. 375-78).
[ix] Jayatilleke (1980, p. 40). The way some eminent scholars (not to speak of the devotees) speak of the gods and seers and kings, in short, the dramatis personae in the sacred books of any religion, inevitably reminds me of what has been said of J. J. Bachofen (1815-87), author of Das Mutterecht (1851): “This new but absolutely correct interpretation of the Oresteia is one of the best and most beautiful passages in the whole book. But it shows at the same time that Bachofen himself believes in the Erinyes, Apollo and Athena at least as much as Aeschylus did in his day; he, in fact, believes that in the Heroic Age of Greece they performed the miracle of overthrowing mother right and replacing it by father right. Clearly such a conception – which regards religion as the decisive lever in world history – must finally end in sheer mysticism” (Engels, n. d., p. 15).
[x] For the views of later Buddhist philosophers in relation to the other-world and its deniers, see, e.g., Dharmakīrti and Prajñākaragupta (1953, pp. 52-67). For a general survey of the pramāṇavādin tradition of ‘proving the existence of the other-world’ (paralokasādhana or -siddhi) directed to the refutation of materialist philosophy, see Namai (1991, pp. 227-41).
[xi] It is interesting to note that Dante places Epicurus, not in the first circle of Hell to which many Pre-Socratics (some of whom were proto-materialists) are assigned (Alighieri, n. d., Inferno canto 4), but to the sixth circle, along with similar sinners, ‘who make the soul die with the body’ (Alighieri, n. d., Inferno 10.13-14). Thus the denial of the immortality of the soul is as much an essential part of proto-materialism (a heresy) in non-Indian cultures as in the Indian.
[xii] 12 For details see Balcerowicz (2005), pp. 575-76.


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Acknowledgements: Sourav Basak, Amitava Bhattacharyya, Vandana Dasgupta, Siddhatha Datta, Sunish Kumar Deb and Krishna Del Toso.

Prof Ramkrishna Bhattacharya taught English at Unversity of Calcutta, Kolkota and was an Emeritus Fellow of University Grants Commission. He is now Fellow of Pavlov Institute, Kolkota

This essay was first published in kriterion, Belo Horizonte, nº 133, Abr./2016, p. 177-187 

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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Science versus Miracles: Planchette / Ouija Board

B. Premanand

Effect: Working of the planchette board.

Four persons, one among them is the spirit medium, touch the planchette (ouija board) lightly on four sides and concentrate on the spirit to come and give an answer to the question. Suddenly the planchette starts moving and it gives an answer.

Planchette / Ouja Board

Props: Planchette

Method: While concentrating, the medium assists the volunteers to concentrate and the more intensely the thought-process is directed towards a specific idea or physical part, the involuntary muscular movements make the planchette move and give you the answer to your problem.

Explanation: Whatever action we perform is controlled by the brain. If we have any thought or idea in the subconscious mind, when we concentrate on the same, it manifests as a physical activity without any conscious attempt by the person. This is called idiomotor response. The minute electrical charges in the brain transmit to the muscles through the nerves.

The persons who create motivating force through idiomotor response do not have any idea that they are the cause. It is these involuntary muscle movements, which cause the water divining stick to revolve and the planchette to work.

Annihilation of Caste - Revolution and Counter Revolution

Ram Puniyani

Dalit activist and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament in the Lok Sabha, Udit Raj, in his recent article in the Indian Express titled"‘Where is The Indian Lincoln" highlights some pertinent questions and brings forth the issue of the caste related atrocities. But he goes on to hide things which are more crucial to the process of caste annihilation.

He is on the dot when he says that atrocities against Dalits are due to a mindset which regards them inferior. While this explains how such acts have been taking place earlier as well as now, he undermines the fact that this mindset is due to a political ideology which upholds the caste system in a subtle way.

What he hides is the fact that such atrocities have gone up during past two years. What he does not state is that the Jhajjar violence in Haryana was legitimised by late Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore, who belonged to Udit Raj’s political family called Sangh Parivar. 

It is true that many countries in Europe could do away with birth based hierarchy of class and gender due to industrial revolution ushering in a journey towards substantive democracy. 

India could not achieve such a desirable goal due to the objective restraints imposed by the colonial rule. The industrial revolutions of the West did away with the feudal classes along with their feudal mindset which was justifying the birth-based hierarchies.

In India due to the colonial rule, we have seen the birth of modern institutions along with the foundation of modern society. The foundation and the growth of Indian nationalism did aspire for the formal equality of all irrespective of caste, religion and gender.

Colonial masters in India were least interested in doing away with feudal powers. ‘Feudal-Clergy’ nexus persisted and gave rise to nationalism in the name of religion. Both Muslim nationalism and Hindu nationalism thrived.

The pace of change in colonies is not comparable to the other places where the industrial class along with workers and women combine overthrows the social and political alliance of the feudal-clergy combine.

So in colonies the process of secularization remains arrested and in post colonial societies the feudal mindset persists with the patronage of the certain sections of society.

In these societies the meaning of the word revolution has to be restricted to social transformation. The day to day efforts for social transformation are the revolutionary steps in that sense. India had its own trajectory.

Starting with Jotirao Phule, the Dalits started a slow and long journey towards equality. The journey for women’s equality begins with Savitribai Phule. These streams are totally opposed by the conservative religious elements. These conservatives later crystallize themselves as Muslim League on one side and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS on the other.

The march of Indian nationalism accommodates Ambedkar in some form. While he struggles for social democracy through means of temple entry (Kalaram Mandir), access to public spaces (Chavdar Talao), he goes on to support the burning of Manusmriti and states his resolve for the social equality. We can’t be mechanistic in understanding revolution in diverse societies.

These steps like those of Jotirao, Saviritibai and Ambedkar, Periyar are revolutionary. These are hesitantly supported by Indian nationalism and totally opposed by Hindu nationalism.

Gandhi, a symbol of Indian nationalism, did his best to oppose untouchability, while his stand on reserved constituency can be questioned. Nehru, the architect of modern India, later oversees Ambedkar formulate a Constitution which not only gives formal equality to all but also affirmative reservations to the Dalits.

Nehru’s attempt to bring in reforms like the Hindu Code bill are sabotaged by conservatives within his party and conservatives and Hindu nationalists outside his party.

The persistence of subordination of Dalits is mainly due to the persistence of mindset of Hindu nationalism, which even had opposed the Indian Constitution when it was being formed. 

The Hindu nationalists have been strong opponents of reservations all through; this is what led to anti Dalit riots in Ahmedabad in 1981 and the anti OBC violence again in Ahmedabad in 1986.

The Hindu nationalist BJP intensified its Ram Temple movement in the wake of Mandal Commission implementation.

Udit Raj is right that those perpetrating crimes have not been punished, but that again is due to the prevalent mindset, which has its roots in Hindutva ideology, which spills beyond the parties and organisations working for a Hindu Rashtra (nation) directly.

While longing for revolution is good, ignoring the revolutionary changes at slow speed is disastrous and the likes of Udit Raj sitting in the lap of the BJP, which has been the vehicle of counter revolution as far as social changes are concerned, is a big setback to the process of social change. 

Since BJP is the political arm of RSS, which aspires for a Hindu nation, Hindutva via Hindu nationalism, Udit Raj is contributing precisely to the processes which are hampering the transition of caste equations towards those of equality.

If he wakes up to realise as to how mindsets are formed, he will realise that among other things his party has been transforming national institutions towards the values which will promote an anti-Dalit mindset.

Just one example from many such incidents is the one where the BJP has appointed one Sudarshan Rao as head of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). Rao argues that the caste system had no problems and nobody had complaints against that. 

RSS, BJP’s ideological patron, goes on to say that all castes were equal and problems came in due to the invasion of Muslim kings!

All this is putting the wool in the eyes of society to perpetuate the ideology which is inherently castiest and leads to the strengthening of mindset which looks down upon Dalits. 

So a Rohith Vemula or a Una violence happens.

If Indian Nationalist movement was a mini revolution, the present politics being unfolded by Hindu nationalism is a counter revolution, duly supported by the likes of Udit Raj. 

And lastly, if one concedes that there has been no Lincoln in India, one can also look forward to the post Rohith Vemula-Una upsurge of youth, Dalits and non-Dalits, which is going in the direction of caste annihilation!

Fascism and the BJP

Subhendu Sarkar

It becomes obligatory, at times, to cite an old cliché. The present socio-political scenario in India compels one to remember that history repeats itself and in doing so serves the role of a teacher― it throws a welcome light on the contemporary events and helps negotiate and overcome an otherwise baffling crisis. Indeed, quite a few recent events in India do appear in an altogether new perspective when seen in the context of one of the darkest episodes of modern world history― Hitler’s rule in Germany. It is true, of course, that the BJP-led central government has to work within the framework of a democratic set-up and, therefore, the conditions in India and Nazi Germany cannot be identical. But there are certainly signs that are strikingly similar.

Nazism (or for that matter, fascism) resorted to a dual mechanism to consolidate itself. The repressive regime propagated lies and exerted brute force by an invidious exploitation of the state machinery, besides letting loose its rank-and-file cadres (under various organizations like SA, SS, etc.) on its political opponents. To make things clear and simple, I shall limit myself to refer to only one event that bears obvious resemblance to the present picture― the Reichstagfire (27 February 1933) and its direful consequences. The attack on the parliament building in Berlin was regarded by the Nazis as an act of incendiarism and communists were held responsible for plotting to revolt against the German government. This event was used as a pretext to strengthen Hitler’s power before the elections in March. He passed an emergency decree to suspend civil liberties (which were never reinstated during Nazi reign) and ordered mass arrests of communists, social democrats and other progressives. Nazi newspapers helped his cause by propagating the ‘news’ of insurrection and moulded public opinion which eventually isolated the communists from the masses. Five communists (including Georgi Dimitrov, a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party and head of all Comintern operations in western Europe) were arrested in connection with the Reichstag fire and were tried in the Supreme Court at Leipzig. At the end of the trial, however, only one (Marinus van der Lubbe, a half-wit and formerly a Dutch communist) was found guilty and beheaded by guillotine. The 2 rest were acquitted and sent to the then USSR (after a sustained effort of the anti-fascist forces of the world) where they were greeted as Soviet citizens with immense enthusiasm.

The communists had always believed that van der Lubbe was a part of the Nazi conspiracy ― a poor Faustus who stood before the court but the Mephistophilis behind him had disappeared. The proceedings of the trial can be regarded as a battleground of ideologies where Dimitrov had to defend himself (the Court rejected all the eight defence counsels of his choice) at all odds in a trial which was far from being fair. Dimitrov, in spite of being kept manacled in a prison known for torture, took the opportunity to expose the witnesses (including Goering and Goebbels) and the prosecutor and gave an impassioned call for a united front of all progressive forces against fascism.

However, since 1967 onwards the 1933 verdict has been overturned by several courts in Germany and van der Lubbe has been posthumously acquitted by the reason of insanity and under the general law passed in 1998 which states that whoever convicted under the Nazis is officially not guilty because the laws of Nazi Germany flouted the basic concept of justice. But all said and done the Nazis were successful at least for the moment― they had staged a drama and managed to justify their action to come down heavily on the political opponents by effective propaganda. It was an orchestrated effort to silence the voice of dissent in which agencies, both public and private took equal and active part.

Keeping in mind the Leipzig trial let us now turn, one after another, to three recent incidents that attracted much attention here in India.

Dadri Lynching

Mohammad Akhlaq
On 28 September 2015 two young men, using the local temple's public announcement system in Dadri, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, announced that the family of Mohammad Akhlaq had killed a cow and consumed beef on the occasion of Eid. This was the immediate cause why a violent Hindu mob broke into Akhlaq’s house in the middle of that night, dragged all the members of that family (including women, young and old) out into the open and assaulted 3 them. The police arrived an hour after Akhlaq had died on the spot and Danish, his son, critically injured. The family had been living in Dadri for almost seventy years but the neighbours did not even think twice before launching a brutal attack. The amicable feeling towards a neighbor was relegated to the background as the ugly head of communal hatred raised its head. The event aroused national attention and caused enormous debate. Soon it gained political overtones too when a man, the son of a local BJP leader, was arrested in connection to the case. Not only that, it was also confirmed later by the forensic experts that the meat found in the refrigerator in Akhlaq’s house was not beef but mutton. Dadri incident came to be seen as one of the many recent examples of the BJP-backed heinous design to use rumour to gain political advantage by dividing the nation along communal lines. It is part of their agenda that the Muslims (and other religious minority communities) will have to accept the diktat of the Hindutva brigade to stay in India. This goes against one of the cardinal points of the Indian ConsCtuCon ― secularism.

Rohith Vemula’s Suicide

Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D student at the central University of Hyderabad and a member of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), had to bear the brunt for participating in a demonstration against the death penalty for Yakub Memon (a convict in 1993 Bombay bombings) on 3 August 2015 at the campus. Following the complaint made by the students’ wing of the RSS, ABVP, to the Vice Chancellor, P. Appa Rao, that the students of the ASA were involved in “casteist” and “anti-national” activities, Rohith and four others were suspended and barred from their hostel. As a consequence of severe financial crisis Rohith (as his scholarship was also cancelled) committed suicide on 17 January 2016. The ABVP leader, Nandanam Susheel Kumar, who had taken an active role against ASA and who claimed that he was admitted to a hospital after he was roughed up by around 40 ASA members was later found to have been operated for an acute appendicitis. Besides, the role of the BJP MP from Secunderabad and the Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and the Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani behind the suspension of the students also came to light.

Rohit Vemula
26-year-old Rohith’s suicide sparked protests and outrage across India and gained widespread media attention as yet another case of discrimination against Dalits and low castes in India in the BJP regime. It was apprehended that the BJP was not only against the Muslims (and Christians) but also against the Dalits who fall under the general category of the Hindu community. But why is it so? One must understand that the right-wing political philosophy of the RSS-BJP strongly resembles Brahminism which gained and held supremacy only by oppressing the so-called lower castes of the Hindu population in a feudal set-up. In fact, intercaste tensions within the Hindu society were often the results of an unconscious class conflict that went on for ages. Therefore, the attempt to present a homogenized Hindu society is to ignore the dynamics of a society ruled by a powerful few. It was against such an unjust system that Bhimrao Ambedkar (and other activists both before and after him) had waged a life-long struggle. Ambedkar thought that the Hindu society was a conglomeration of castes without any binding ideological force. No wonder then that the RSS and the BJP would run an orchestrated campaign based on lies against the Ambedkarites like Rohith.

Kanhaiya and the JNU Raucous

Kanhaiya Kumar, the 29-year old President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union and a leader of the All India Students Federation (AISF), the student wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI), was arrested on the charge of sedition by the Delhi police on 12 February for raising anti-India slogans in a rally to protest the hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru convicted for the Indian Parliament attack in 2001. The arrest was made following the complaints lodged by the National Secretary of the BJP and an MP, Maheish Girri and members of the ABVP. A nationwide hysteria was created when the BJP started branding a section of the JNU (that included both teachers and students) apologists for the independence of Kashmir (hence anti-Indians). Audio-visual clippings of the event were also played on television channels as clinching evidence for Kanhaiya and others’ anti-national ideologies. Emotions ran high as the nation was caught in a debate between the ‘nationalists’ and their opponents (who were singled out either as Muslims or communists). Demands for closing down the JNU were also raised citing it as a hotbed of sedition run on the taxpayers’ money. Kanhaiya was even beaten 5 up by some lawyers (read the BJP cadres) inside the courtroom where he was brought for trial. On 2 March 2016, however, he was granted interim bail for 6 months by the Delhi High Court on a 10,000 rupee bail bond and an undertaking that he would not "participate in any antinational activity” (though the judge had said that there were no recordings of Kumar raising anti-national slogans). Interestingly, out of the seven videos of the event sent to forensic laboratory, three crucial ones were found to be doctored including a clipping of a news channel.

This incident, in fact, has brought into focus many issues at the same time: chauvinism, suppression of dissenting voices, organized propaganda (where a section of the media joined hands with the ruling party) based on false and/or doctored reports, etc. Best efforts to commence an academic debate surrounding the topics of either nationalism in its totality or Kashmir issue and the hodgepodge trial of Afzal Guru got drowned in a momentary frenzy of blind nationalism. Of course, the BJP was behind all this. It wanted only to broaden its political base by staging this drama. And many apparently innocent Indians could not keep their cool and judge things properly.

Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi

These three incidents manifest an important characteristic of the RSS-BJP: their attitude towards the religious minorities, the Dalits and the Leftists. Add to this their treatment of the rationalists like Govind Pansare, Malleshappa Kalburgi and Narendra Dhabholkar or doctors like Saibal Jana. Depending on the state machinery and a fanatical band of cadres the Sangh brigade has launched a war on those who resist their right-wing campaign. What is equally important is their simultaneous attempt to use rumour and propaganda to mould public opinion in their favour. But it does not become a matter of discomfiture for them when a particular venture receives a jolt on account of its falsity. In fact, they will continue to make the most of the situation in order to broaden their political base among the middle-class population. And it will not be much difficult particularly when the mood of desperation is acute among the so-called educated Indians and the opposition (both ideological and political) is somewhat disarrayed.

What needs to be reiterated at the end is that this undemocratic contingent has a conscious plan to turn India into a monolithic structure decimating the diverse elements that make it so unique in the whole world. There are plenty of signs that suggest Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy or Spain may not always remain matters of distant past. And it will indeed be a living reality soon unless we stand guard and fight a relentless baOle raising the determined slogan ― “Fascism shall not pass”.

This article that was first published in Frontier [14 May, 2016, Vol 48, No. 44]

Kandhamal: Long Wait for Justice

Ram Puniyani

Today, nearly a decade later when we are remember with pain the horrific violence of Kandhmal in 2008, many issues related to the state of affairs of communal violence, state of minorities, the state of justice delivery system come to one’s mind. 

The incident 

Just to recall, Orissa witnessed unprecedented violence against the Christian minority in August 2008. On August 23, 2008, Swami Laxmananand along with his four followers was killed, probably by a group of Maoists. Immediately, anti-Christian violence began on a big scale. The way it began it seemed as if preparations for it were well afoot. It was systematic and widespread. It sounded as if preparation was already there just the pretext was being awaited.[i]

Christians in India 

Christians are a tiny minority in India. Contrary to the perception that British brought Christianity to India, it is one of the oldest religions of India. Its spread has been slow. Not much was heard against this minority till the decade of 1990s, when suddenly it started being asserted that Christian missionaries are converting. Anti-Christian violence has been occurring more in the remote-interior places and is accompanied by another phenomenon, that of Ghar Vapasi (return home), which is the conversions of Adivasis into the fold of Hinduism, by Vishwa Hindu Parishad-Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram.[ii] 

It is from 1996, that this phenomenon of conversion-anti Christian violence has captured the attention of all of us. Suddenly, as if from nowhere has descended the ‘threat of conversion to Christianity’ by force or fraud. Simultaneously, attacks on priests and nuns increased in distant interior places. It has been a peculiar phenomenon that while these attacks in remote places were being undertaken, the Christian institutions in cities – schools, colleges and hospitals – were hard pressed to cope with the demands on their services related to education and health. The selective targeting of Christian missionaries in distant places was a matter of serious attention, concern and introspection. 

Social Common Sense 

As the ‘social common sense’ started accepting, ‘yes, they are converting’, ‘they have been converting’, a sort of silent approval of layers of society and state officials did accompany these attacks on the missionaries. One was used to hearing about attacks on Muslim minorities so far. How come a new minority came to be perceived as the ‘source of trouble’ and hence started being targeted?[iii]

Anti Christian violence did begin with isolated incidents like the attack on the Catholic Health Centre of India near Latur (1996), burning of Bibles and attacks on the Christian congregations. But most shocking was the burning alive of Pastor Graham Steward Stains (1999, January) along with his two sons, Philip and Timothy, aged 9 and 7 years, who were sleeping in a jeep after a village festival. Gradually the pattern of these attacks started emerging. In the remote places where Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams (Society for Welfare of Forest Dwellers), an outfit of RSS, have been active and doing the propaganda work along with starting of Ekal schools and have been Hinduising Adivasis, the incidents were more pronounced and intense. 

Anti Christian Violence: Characteristics 

The violence against Christian missionaries has by now become a matter of routine. Unlike the anti Muslim pogroms-violence, it has been scattered and generally low key, occurring at sporadic intervals. Barring few dastardly acts like Pastor Stains’ burning and Rani Maria’s being hacked to death the incidents were medium in intensity and did not take the shape of carnage or pogrom against the community till the one in Orissa (December 2007 and later August 2008). The occurrence of these incidents was mostly in places that are having rampant poverty and illiteracy. The apathy in highlighting these core issues, deprivations, by a section of media was appalling. At the same time, by word of mouth the propaganda against Christian Missionaries was intensified. 

The message has been spread that Christian missionaries working in remote places are soft targets and one can get away without much reprisals. Also the anti-Christian mobilization of Adivasi youth through cultural manipulation was the groundwork on which the anti-Christian violence could sustain. In the atmosphere created by the activities of RSS progeny, local communal groups have felt emboldened to pick up any small issue and to make a violent incident out of it. Its’ frightening effect on the victims is tremendous. It also begins to polarize the local communities into Christian and non-Christian camps amongst whom the seeds of tension are sown. 

Cultural:  Agenda 

The physical violence has been accompanied by cultural manipulation in these areas. The silent work to Hinduise Adivasis through religio-cultural mechanisms has been stepped up from last three decades. People like Swami Aseemanand (Dangs), Swami Laxmanand (Kandhmal, Orissa), followers of Asaram Bapu (Jhabua, MP) began their work in popularizing Hindu gods and Goddesses in the region. The choice of Gods/Goddesses from the vast pantheon of Hindu religion was a clever one. Here Shabri (Symbol of poverty and deprivation) was the main goddess, the idol for Adivasis. Temples in her names were started and regular Kumbhs (mass religious congregation of Hindus) were organized in her name. Kumbhs have been a tradition in Hinduism on fixed interval of time on the banks of Holy rivers; Ganges in particular. Modifying that tradition, these Kumbhs were organized in Adivasis areas. Here the work of conversion to Hinduism, the spread of ‘Hate against’ foreigners’, particularly Christians, was spread. In addition an atmosphere of terror was created against those who do not toe the line of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram.[iv] 

A Christian girl who was burned during religious violence in Odisha in 2008 [Courtesy: Wikipedia]

Similarly the God Hanuman, the foremost devotee of Lord Ram was also made popular, by spreading his lockets and through different stories around him, in the Ekal Schools and Sarswati Shishu Mandirs. It created an atmosphere of divide in the Adivasi areas; Adivasis turned Hindus, the Hindu dalits and upper caste versus the Christians. It is this atmosphere of divisiveness, which has been at the root of the violence in these areas. 

Political Agenda

This has been a part of the different activities undertaken by RSS combine to promote the agenda of Hindu nation. While RSS has floated many a organizations to communalize different sections of society, BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal, etc. it has also unleashed a set of cultural activities, set of educational institutions along with infiltration in media, bureaucracy, police and military. They are gradually imposing the idea of Hindu nation and accompanying culture and ideas. The culmination of this has been the violence against minorities, polarization of communities along religious lines and ghettoization of minorities. While all this is going on the violence against minorities’ is the most visible part of this phenomenon. 

The role of state agencies has been no different in these incidents than what it has been in the anti Muslim violence. In most cases, the administration has looked the other way when communal goons were on the rampage. The administration most often provided enough leeway for them to wreck havoc, indulge in intimidation, violence and to get away with that. The Adivasi areas, which were so far peaceful, started witnessing communal tensions. The area of violence in Adivasi regions is synonymous with the map of spread of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams and Vishwa Hindu Parishads in an indirect way. 

RSS had been floating different organizations for different sections of society; Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, to Hinduise Adivasis was founded in 1952 and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad founded in 1964 was to play an important role in the anti Christian tirade in times to come. Another RSS progeny which, directly supported violence against Christians, Bajrang Dal, was founded by RSS in 1984. After the intimidation and browbeating of Muslim minorities, especially after the post Babri demolition Mumbai riots, they stepped up their social dominance and needed another community to target their trishuls for further expansion of their social and electoral base, and that was done by the bogey of forced conversions and accompanying anti Christian violence, which started coming to the fore from 1996 onwards. The targeting of minorities has played an important role in polarizing the communities, in consolidation of the majoritarian politics in various ways.[v]

The burning of Pastor Stains, in that sense was a turning point for Human rights groups, who so far were trying to grapple and respond to the anti Muslim violence. With this many concerned groups took up the investigations of the violence against Christians in the right earnest. As such, the first major cover up had to be undertaken by the BJP led NDA Government itself, in the aftermath of Stains murder. Initially, as a fire fighting measure, the functionaries of the NDA government tried to give a clean chit to the RSS combine. After the murder, the then home minister Lal Krishna Advani stated that he knows Bajrang Dal very well and this act could not have been done by that organization. To put a veil on the episode, the three cabinet ministers, George Fernandez, Murli Manohar Joshi and Navin Patnaik rushed to the site and proclaimed that the murder of Pastor is an international conspiracy to destabilize the BJP Government. This way they tried to bypass the real issue, i.e. involvement of Dara Singh, an activist of Bajrang Dal.[vi] 

Struggle for Justice: People’s Tribunals  

The case of Orissa was specifically investigated by India Peoples Tribunal, led by Justice K.K.Usha (retired) of Kerala High court in 2006.[vii]  This tribunal forewarns about the shape of things to come.  This tribunal assessed the spread of communal organizations in Orissa, which has been accompanied by a series of small and large events and some riots…such violations are utilized to generate the threat and reality of greater violence, and build and infrastructure of fear and intimidation. It further noted that minorities are being grossly ill treated; there is gross inaction of the state Government to take action. The report also describes in considerable detail how the cadre of majoritarian communal organizations are indoctrinated in hatred and violence against other communities it holds to be inherently inferior. If such communalization is undertaken in Orissa, it is indicative of the future of the nation… the signs are truly ominous for India's democratic future. 

It is in this backdrop that when the Kandhamal carnage took place, the offense of RSS affiliates, the lapses and partisan behaviour of state machinery, the lack of rehabilitation and deliverance of justice came as a big jolt to the victims and became the matter of concern for human rights groups. The lack of proper investigation and other actions on the part of state were the key for getting justice for the victims. While many a sincere, scattered efforts to help the afflicted were undertaken by different groups. These efforts were effective but inadequate in their reach. The tribunal organized for Orissa violence under Justice A. P.Shah (Retd) brought out the truth of the carnage. The hope was that the victims will be suitably rehabiliatated and get justice.[viii]  

This tribunal observed, (excerpts)

“The appalling feature of the Kandhamal violence, where rescue and relief work by non-profit, charitable and humanitarian organizations was prohibited through a government notification, indicates the impunity with which the state government acted, and its scant respect for rule of law and human rights of the victim-survivors of the violence.”...
“The dismal conditions in the government-run relief camps  are clearly indicative of the indifference of the state government to the plight of victim-survivors.”...”The testimonies of victim-survivors as well as the reports presented to the Tribunal indicate that victim-survivors were forcibly sent back to their villages, or abandoned near their villages, with total disregard to their safety.”...“Peace-building Initiatives: The fact that many victim-survivors are unable to return to their villages due to threats and intimidation by perpetrators, and many of those who have returned continue to live in constant fear and security, lead us to conclude that the state government’s peace initiatives have been a dismal failure and nothing more than an eyewash.”

It also made lot of recommendations about relief, rehaibilation, compensation and justice. This excerpt is very telling “Implementation of State’s Duty Towards Peace-building, Voluntary Return and Reintegration:  The State should recognize the Internally Displaced Persons’ right to return to their homes and create all possible enabling conditions to facilitate such safe return in accordance with the above standards. The state ought to discharge its duty of creating a conducive, safe and peaceful environment that can sustain return or re-integration of victim-survivors through access to public services, legal and personal documentation, and to livelihoods and income-generating opportunities without any form of discrimination.”

As usual the recommendations of the tribunal remain in the limbo. The heartening feature of struggle for justice in Kandhamal is the dogged determination of the victims and human rights activists to get the justice. This is also the time to understand that justice is a long term goal also which requires a programmatic alliance between the struggling sections of society, be it dalits, Adivasis, women, workers or struggling sections of society. In the light of growing intolerance in society, in the light of the growing stifling of the democracy society the need to build social alliances to preserve democracy and human rights is all the more crucial at this juncture.


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