Saturday, 30 July 2011

Why I Am A Rationalist

The Rational Habit Of Mind Is A Rare One

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

I am, in this age when there are a great many appeals to unreason, an unrepentant Rationalist. I have been a Rationalist ever since I can remember, and I do not propose to cease to be so whatever appeals to unreason may be made. We have listened to a speech, by which I think we were all much moved, about the pioneers in the past who have done what they could to promote the cause of freedom of thought. I suppose it is for me to speak about the great need of continuing this work in our own day, and about how much there is that remains for all who sympathize with its objects to accomplish. We are not yet, and I suppose men and women never will be, completely rational. Perhaps, if we were, we should not have all the pleasures that we have at present; but I think complete rationality is so distant a prospect that we need not be much alarmed by it, and the nearest approach that we are likely to get is sure to be all to the good. I certainly find that there is a very great deal of irrationality still about in the world.

While Professor Graham Wallas was speaking about the bequests that have been made to the Rationalist Press Association I was thinking: What is its creed, what is its dogma, and what is going to be the, so to speak, doctrine that these benefactions are going to be devoted to propagating? You have, of course, to be a little careful, when you find yourself landed with endowments and benefactions, lest you should become another endowed church. (Laughter.) As far as I can see, the view to which we are committed, one which I have stated on a former occasion, is that we ought not to believe, and we ought not to try to cause others to believe, any proposition for which there is no evidence whatever. That seems a modest proposition, and if you can stick to that you will be fairly sure that you are not going to become a sort of ossified endowed church. We ought not to commit ourselves to dogmatic negations any more than to dogmatic affirmations; we ought merely to say that there are a great many propositions about which men and women feel pretty certain, but, concerning which they have no right to feel certain, and it is our business as Rationalists to try to make them see that those things are not certain. I am told that that is a very wicked position to maintain. I have here a book recently published which I commend to your attention. You may or may not know that some little time ago, under the auspices of the National Secular Society, I delivered a lecture on "Why I am Not a Christian." Now, It appears that I did not know why it is that I am not a Christian; and here is a book which will tell you why I am not -- by Mr. H. G. Wood, who is a somewhat eminent member of the Society of Friends, a body for which I have the greatest respect. His book is called Why Mr. Bertrand Russell is Not a Christian. It seems that the reasons are not those which I thought they were. He says in one sentence: "The main reason why he is not a Christian is that he simply does not know what religion is." One might say that Mr. Wood is not an Agnostic because he does not know what Agnosticism is. After all, I had all the benefits of a Christian education, and he did not have the benefits of an Agnostic education; so that possibly the argument might be considered two-edged. Nevertheless, I commend the book to your attention, and you will then know why it is that I am not a Christian.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Saffronisation of Karnataka

Narendra Nayak

It is a tragedy that while the developed world is talking of a society based on human values, we the people of Karnataka have to go back to religious texts for our value systems. In the past few years after the Bharathiya janatha party formed their first government in the South they have been trying to impose their superstitions on the population in the most blatant manner. The machinery of the state is being shamelessly used for this purpose under the guise of education and such high flown labels. the process is taking place in such an orderly manner and the target is the younger generation. As it is the Chief minister is not known for any leaning towards rational thinking. In fact, he has been utilising the resources of the state to promote religious institutions by a mechanism of sly actions by hook or crook.

The first thing he did on getting elected was to go around the maths and temples spending public money on rituals and donations to these places. During each budget huge amounts have been allocated as 'grants' to these institutions under the guise of education and development. That the expenditures of these are not under the scrutiny of any public authority must be one reason for this. These do not even call for tenders for their expenditure and everything is done in an arbitrary manner at the whims and fancies of the heads of these. The communalisation has gone to the extent that even the midday meals schemes are in the grip of these vested interests. When, eggs were proposed as a dietary supplement for children there was an uproar and the scheme was dropped due to opposition from the math heads who were against that. The nutrition of the children was sacrificed to pander to the whims and fancies of these so called religious heads. Th midday meal schemes are now being slowly taken over by a cult called as ISKCON. The International society for Krishna consciousness. These midday meals which were to be cooked in the schools and served hot to the children are being now taken over by this cult who are gradually ensnaring more and more schools into their web. This activity is being fully encouraged by the state govt. in the guise of serving quality food. This is creating unemployment among the locals who have been taken for this specific job to prepare food for the children. But, it is also a sly way to bypass the caste problem too! The food at ISKCON is supposedly cooked by the upper caste brahmins only! It is also a underhand way to spread Hindutwa by making children recite shlokas in sanskrit thanking Hindu gods for providing food paid for by the taxpayers money in a secular democracy.

Not content with this level of communalisation in public life there have been more recent happenings which are worsening the situation. Last month there was conflict between the present and immediate past Chief ministers. They made contradictory statements about a particular incident and each one stuck to his guns and said that his was the truth. Instead of letting the electorate or a court of law decide on that they chose to settle the dispute in the presence of a deity at a place called Dharmastala near Mangalore. The present Chief minister Yaddiyurappa issued ads in many news papers at a cost of millions to the state treasury that a trial for truth would be held at that place on a particular date. When there were protests about the misuse of public money to settle personal scores the cost of the ads was then borne by the party or rather that was what was announced in public. The much awaited confrontation was a damp squib literally as well as figuratively. The former was due to the pouring rain and the latter due to it that the conflicting parties went to the temple at different times! One gets a doubt as to why this confrontation did not take place. It is suspected that it was at the instance of the owner of the temple who requested them not to politicise a temple which was held in reverence by a millions of people. The deity of this place is allegedly so powerful that any one who utters an untruth in his presence would die vomiting blood soon. With two parties making exactly opposite statements it was imperative that one of them would have to face that fate! If that did not happen, what would have been exposed was the powerlessness of the deity! So, one does get a doubt as to why the whole thing was called off! This was a situation where one of the parties had to be right and obviously the other to be wrong! The presiding deity would have been forced to show his powers by punishing one of them!

The BJP govt in Karnataka or rather the Yaddiyurappa dispensation has survived largely due to the interference by the swamis of the various maths. Whenever there was some talk about his removal they used to spring to his rescue and warn the RSS leadership about touching him. He has already shown his gratitude to them by granting huge amounts allegedly for social service activities! What better way to repay that than by ensuring that he stays in office. He has taken back many important decisions based on their dictates too! Very recently, the land acquisition notice for the phase of the SEZ for Mangalore was withdrawn not because of any other reason but by the threat of the Swami of Pejawar math to go on a fast unto death if that was not done! There have been numerous irregularities in the notification and the protests have been going on since long. But, we are told that what clinched the issue was this threat of a fast unto death. The same has happened in another case at Gadag where land was to be taken over for a project by the multinational POSCO. There were protests from those who were going to lose their land. But, nothing much moved until the Swami of a local math called as Tontaradhya math got into the picture. Within days, the order for taking over the land was withdrawn and even those who were in favour of handing over their lands to this company were asked to seek the 'blessings' of this swami before they did so.

More recent of these controversies is the teaching of Bhagawadgita in schools for all the children. It is a per project of one swami which has now been given the sanctity of a govt. project all the time the ministers and party functionaries saying that it is not so. Students regardless of their religious affiliations or lack of one are all supposed the learn what is called as the 'essence' of the Gita. While it is a religious tract being followed by only one section of the society has been ignored here. What is more important is that that India is a secular and that the state cannot support any religious activity. All these things are being merrily carried on by a government elected by the people by the due process of democracy!

So, in Karnataka it is these maths and swamis who are ruling the state! The Yaddiyurappa govt. is a tool in their hands. All decisions have to be taken at their level and then passed by the govt. which is only a rubber stamp! The so called cabinet is busy lining their own pockets trying to save their chairs and from the allegations of corruptions etc. Any way this reminds of the system among the Roman catholics- everything they need from the institutions run by the religious set up needs a letter from the parish priest when it concerns a Roman catholic! That could be anything from a medical appointment to a seat in an educational institution! Most of the time this was applicable to facilities which belonged to them though the education institutions are govt. funded! These criteria are however not applicable to non Catholics! This terminology is used by them to divide the world into them and us. But, Yaddiyurappa and co have been generous. Their dictats have been applied to all people of Karnataka!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Indian State and the Art of Fabricating False Cases

Convention on July 30, 2011 in Bangalore

Two spectres are haunting the civil society in India – the spectres of communalism and globalisation.

As a part this invasion on people, minorities are attacked as it happened in Gujarat or Kandhamal and many other places in the recent past. Multinationals, the World Bank, ADB, IMF and other international organisations decide on the policies of the Indian Government today. Land, forests, hills, lakes, rivers and seas are sold to the corporates. Prices are rising and the corruption level has reached the peak as never before, due to such policies.

While many groups and people’s movements are resisting both these tendencies, the Indian State is using its executive machinery in a brutal way to suppress the dissent. Many innocent people are criminalised, branded and made to suffer for long time. Dr. Binayak Sen is the most well known personality in this category of fabricated cases by the Indian State. Due to active resistance of many groups and concerned individuals all over the country and abroad, he is not only out of jail today, but also absorbed by the Planning Commission. However, there are hundreds of similar such fabricated cases in Chattisgarh itself. Many innocent adivasis are languishing behind the bars in Chattisgarh. While POTA seems to be no more, many innocent muslims are still in jail in Gujarat for no crime. The lesson from Kandhamal is also no different.

Moreover, the growing tendency of the Indian state is to frame false cases on those who are organising and leading peopole’s movements in this country. Many false cases are framed on those who are resisting POSCO. Similar false cases are framed on activists who respond on a number of other issues. When evidences are missing for their guilt, efforts are being made to create false evidences. The real issue is that when they are released without evidences, a part of their lives would already be over.

The mainstream press, predominantly follow the version of the police, politicians and the bureaucracy in all these cases. When genuine investigative reports are being made by some journalists, attempts are being made to criminalise them also.

It is time that the civil society in this country wakes up against this process and say `No’ to the process of fabricating cases by the Indian State. For unless, we say `No’ to this process, the vested interests will silence all dissent in this country, threatening the very pillars of Indian democracy.

Therefore, over 20 organisations in Bangalore have come forward to organise a one-day Convention on the `Indian State and the Art of Fabricating False Cases’. We request you to participate, support, mobilise and contribute to this process.

Venue: NGO Hall, Cubbon Park, Bangalore
Date: July 30, 2011
Time: 9.30 am to 6.30 pm


9.30 am – Inauguration

First session:

False charges on people’s movements: Globalisation, Development and People’s Movements

Chairperson: Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group
Prafulla Samantarai (Well known activist/intellectual from Orissa)
Prashant Paikray (Official Spokesperson, Anti-Posco Movement, Orissa)
Swami Vishua Bhadrananda Shakti Bhodi (Director, Alathoor Siddha Ashramam/Editor, Ethir Disha Magazine)

Second session:

Communalism and Branding

Chairperson: Gauri Lankesh, Editor, Lankesh Patrike


K.L. Ashok (State Secretary, Karnataka, Communal Harmony Forum, A coalition of over 90 organisations
Teesta Setalvad (Well known anti-communal activist, writer and editor of Communalism Combat)
Fr. Ajay Singh (The main initiative from Kandhamal for raising the Kandamal communal issue at a national level)
Dr. K. Muhamed Najeeb (Solidarity Youth Movement)
Lunch Break: 1. 15 pm to 2 pm

Third Session: 2 pm

War on Terror or War on People?

Sebastian Paul (Former Member of Parliament)
U.S. Kumar (Mangalore Human Rights Forum)
Sherif Kottapurath (Former CTO of Sun Microsystems)
Bhasurendrababu (Media Critic/Political Observer)

Fourth Session:

Approaches of the Indian State, Media and Civil Society Responses:

1. S.A.R. Gilani (Professor, Delhi University)
2. Kavita Srivastava (General Secretary, PUCL)
3. Satya Sagar (Journalist/Activist)

Organised By:

Environment Support Group, PDF, PUCL, Pedestrian Pictures, SICHREM, Karnataka Vidhyarthi Sangha, Samanatha Mahila Vedike, Janasakti, Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike, Indian Social Institute, Students Christian Movement, New Socialist Alternative, Department of Women’s Studies – UTC, Concern, Moving Republic, Stree Jagruti Samiti,Solidarity Youth Movement, Visual Search, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Ambedkar Pilosophy Foundation, Swabhimani Dalit Sangha, INSAF, Human Rights Law Network and Open Space.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Terror visits Mumbai yet Again

Ram Puniyani

The three blasts in Mumbai on 13th July 2011 not only killed nearly 20 innocent people but shook the city yet again. The previous attack on Mumbai 26/11 2008 was horrific enough to have killed over 200 people. The tragedy was followed by the great resilience of Mumbai citizens to rehabilitate the victims to line up for blood donations and help in many more ways, the efforts which make us salute Mumbai citizens yet again.

A car shattered by the blast in Dadar

The tragedy of blasts has activated investigations, the sharp tongues and the writers to investigate and hypothesize the ‘who done it’ of the blast. And as is their wont the politicians of different hues also saw this as an occasion to put forward their theories of causes of terror and the remedies. One stream indicated that it is the act of Jihadi terrorists, Pakistan, ISI, the usual suspects in any act of terror. Added with the analysis that since India is not hard enough, the terror attacks are continuing. While US after one attack adopted policies due to which no more terror attacks take place there. The usual suggestion of attacking Pakistan to avenge this act of terror, this time did not surface so much as in 2008 when Baba Ramdev had promised to fund the war against Pakistan to avenge the terror attack. Most hilarious was the statement of Raj Thackeray, the one asserting that Maharashtra is only for Marathi people, who went on to say that the terror attacks are taking place as more and more immigrants are coming to Maharashtra from other states! Digvijay Singh, who has been consistently pointing out that the terror attacks have been taking place due to the likes of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Swami Aseemanand also, cautioned that while trying to look at Muslim culprits those associated with RSS ideology should also be given a look at.

Meanwhile as the act of investigating terror is fairly difficult, the investigating authorities do begin their work on some suppositions and the easiest one to follow for them so far has been to work on the lines that, ‘All Terrorists are Muslims’. In accordance, the names of Indian Mujahedeen and SIMI are already in the air, the theory of scooter being used for the blast is there and one hopes this lead will be given due importance.


The immediate thought of Indian Mujahedeen, a supposed offshoot of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Al Qaeda type outfit is always amongst the most initial ones’. This trend was present all through even when the blasts were taking place in front of Mosques at the most crowded times. The whole creation of AL Qaeda and the US media coining the term Islamic terrorism has been a deliberate ploy on the part of United State in pursuit of the control over oil resources. Al Qaeda itself was in a way product of the US policies. The Russian army’s occupation of Afghanistan on invitation from the local Communist group came in handy for US to undertake its policy to make its presence stronger in the oil zone. US has been working on the theory that ‘Oil is too precious to be left to the Arabs and others of the region’. While pursuing this policy US not only planted Israel in the region, it made pacts with the tyrannical local rulers like those of Saudi Arabia but also went in to promote the radical Islamist groups. In the face of Russian Army’s occupation of Afghanistan, it undertook this more actively. A syllabus was designed to brain wash the Muslim you in Madrassas, especially set up in Pakistan. In this syllabus the word Jihad was presented as killing non Muslims. The meaning of word Jihad in Koran is to strive to the utmost. In Koran this word appears 41 times and none of the times it is equivalent to war. Similarly the word Kafir, for those who hide the truth was distorted and the Muslim youth were indoctrinated to kill and maim the Russian army. Osama was given the leadership of this group and was supplied with 8000 million dollars and 7000 tons of armaments, with the help of which Al Qaeda joined anti Russian forces and succeeded in defeating the Russian forces. Later the offshoots of these groups extended their operations to Kashmir, other parts of India, Mumbai in particular. Its major area of operation remains Pakistan itself where it has been wrecking havoc through different acts of terror, one of which was the killing of Benazir Bhutto.

In Pakistan there are multiple forces. The terrorist groups are close to Army and thereby to ISI. While the civilian government of Pakistan is for control on these groups, the army is promoting them. Every time India and Pakistan try to make initiative for dialogue and peace in the region, these groups are activated to see that the dialogue process is halted. One of the suspicions of the blast can be on those groups who are against the India Pakistan Peace. One recalls such an efforts was there before November 26, 2008 attack. Even now the dialogue process is beginning so those groups opposed to India-Pakistan friendship may have undertaken this heinous act. It is a matter of relief that Indian Government is committing itself to the peace with Pakistan, despite the provocation and noise from the hawks like Advani and Co.


There are many acts of terror which came to surface, especially from 6th April 2006, when a blast killed two Bajrang Dal, an RSS affiliate; workers while making bomb. During this period many such bomb explosions took place in various places in Maharashtra, Jalna, Parbhani, Aurangabad, Panvel etc. Most of these blasts took place in front of the mosques at the time when people were leaving the Masjid or other places of congregation. In this line the bomb blasts of Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, Malegaon, Ajmer and others were very prominent. Despite solid evidence, the police departments were pursuing the leads in a passive fashion, till Hemant Karkare took over as the Chief of Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad. With meticulous investigation he found the connection of motor cycle used in Maelgaon blast to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, This lead unearthed the whole gang involved in these acts of terror, Swami Dayanand Pandey, Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, Retd. Major Upadhyay, Swami Aseemanand and others. Meanwhile the murder of RSS worker Sunil Joshi and the connections of RSS functionary, Indresh Kumar spilled more beans for the investigation. The role of two organizations, Abhinav Bharat and Sanatan Sanstha, both working for the goal of Hindu Rashtra, also came to the surface and National investigation Team is following the case at the moment. The biggest back up information came from Swami Aseemanand of VHP, a major associate of RSS. Swami Aseemanand in a confession in front of the magistrate told the whole story behind these terror blasts, leading P.Chidmabaram to use to word ‘Saffron terror’ for the whole phenomenon.

The question marks raised by many people about Hemant Karkare’s death angered those close to RSS ideology. Just to recall as Karkare was investigating these acts of terror, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi called him Deshdrohi (anti-National) and Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna wrote that ‘we spit on his face’. No wonder the same Hemant Karkare was killed on the attack on Mumbai on 26/11 and various versions put forward by police raised the questions about the death of the police officer. It is in this context that the then minority affairs minister A.R. Antulay said that there is terrorism plus something else in the Mumbai attack of 26/11. Those close to the ideology of these terror groups condemned Antulay to no end.

Related to this was the killing of two Muslim youth in Delhi, Batla House. The death was in mysterious circumstances and it was presented that these were two terrorists who have been killed in the police encounter. The question marks on the authenticity of police version have been put by civic human rights groups and Congress Secretary Digvijay Singh. In the same context the city of Azamgarh was projected to be the terror den and many innocent Muslim youth had to leave their education half way for the fear of being apprehended by police and so they returned to their homes. Even one of the lines of investigation for police is the Azamgarh connection. Very interestingly when all these acts of terror were going on many an innocent Muslim youth were put behind the bar, and their careers were ruined and atmosphere of fear started prevailing in Muslim localities.


Mumbai has been a victim of acts of terror from last several years. To be more precise, the first major one occurred on March 12 1993, in which 13 blasts took place across the city killing 257 people. These were the blasts which took place in the aftermath of Post Babri Demolition Mumbai carnage. Later Mumbai also witnessed the acts of terror on December 2, 2002 when an explosion took place in a bus in Ghatkopar suburb of Mumbai killing two people. The backdrop to this was the massive anti Muslim pogrom in the wake of Godhra train burning. Similar tragedy shook the city on March 13, 2003, then July 29 2003, August 25, 2003 and the last one on July 11, 2006 in the First class compartment of Western Railway Local trains.

The one on November 26, 2008 was of a different nature. It was an operation planned meticulously by a group of jeans tee shirt wearing terrorists numbering nearly ten. It seems they high-jacked a Gujarat registered fishing vessel on the high seas, sailed near Sassoon docks and reached Gateway of India in dinghies. They were carrying heavy backpacks; and divided themselves into 5 teams and unleashed mayhem mainly at CST, G.T. Hospital, Metro Cinema, Hotel Taj, Hotel Trident and Nariman House. The blasts took place at these places and also at Colaba market, Cama Hospital, Nehru Road (Vile Parle), NB Road (Malad) and at Free Press Road. The attack literally took the breath of Mumbai away for a while, the scale audacity, flamboyance and planning of this assault was astounding. It seems a lot of preparation had gone in to plan this attack, Mumbai attackers had clearly been trained well; the conspiracy had been in the making for close to a year. This was the time when India and Pakistan were trying to talk peace.


After the current attack lot of ideas based on misconceptions are floating around. One such goes as saying that since Indian has not hanged Ajmal Kasab, these attacks are repeating. While saying this, one forgets that there are two mechanisms of someone taking to the path of terror. One is when a person or group feels that gross injustice has been done to them and this injustice crosses the threshold, the way it happened after the violence of Mumbai 92-93 or Gujarat carnage of 2002. Second is when due to political and economic goals the groups are set up and youth are brainwashed-indoctrinated to go on the path of terror for the sake of God (Al Qaeda types) or religion (Sadhvi Pragya Thankur or Aseemanand). In both the cases these indoctrinated person is motivated by the goals which are beyond life and death, willing to lay down their lives. So death or any other penalty is no deterrent for them. The terror groups have the ideology which exhorts the youth in the name of God or religion, mixed with great amount of faith. So the point is how one can go to the root of the issue rather than just punishing the culprits, which is easy enough. In addition in case of Kasab, the legal process of punishing him is on any way.

The argument that United States had saved itself by future terror attacks due to its policies is appealing enough on first impression. When we go deeper we realize many a things. Some of these are contentious, the one like who did 9/11, there are enough websites and books doubting the version popularized by US media. Whatever is the truth of that, one thing is sure that US and prior to that the colonial powers have been the major culprits of violence in the World. In order to usurp the wealth of the World they do undertake policies whereby the trouble spots are located far away from their own lands. In case of promoting the groups like Al Qaeda, it is clear that because of the proximity of South Asia to the oil zone where US wanted to create its hegemony, spill over of terror attacks in South Asia is easy enough. That’s how the major victims of Al Qaeda type groups are not only India but also Pakistan, where these terror groups are playing the role of Frankensteins monster.


Terrorism is a phenomenon which is an anti thesis of peace and amity. It has nothing to do with religion’s moral values. It derives its cover from the religion’s identity. A distorted version of terms from religion’s history is misused to indoctrinate the youth. Similarly a sense of injustice is instilled to incite the youth to take revenge by killing the innocents. When Ajaml Kasab sprays the bullets, those killed in the act are Hindus and Muslims both. When Swami Aseemanand talks of ‘Bomb for Bomb’ or such groups spread hatred for the goal of Hindu Rashtra, what is being talked is not the values of Vasudhaiva Kutumbka (whole planet is my family) or Ahimsa Parmodharam (Non-violence is the highest religion), what is being aimed at is the nation based on religions identity, a concept which people of India rejected lock stock and barrel during the freedom Movement.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Treasure of Faith

Hoards of Wealth in Padmnabh Temple

Ram Puniyani

It seems that in this profane world, the ‘Holy’ seem to be most monetarily wealthy. Recently the material goods of the men of God have come to be known more openly than before. Bhagwan Satya Sai of Putthaparthy, not only had over 40000+ crores of wealth; some of this was kept in his personal quarter, in the form of cash and Gold. Not to be left behind the most successful Yoga Guru and the champion of unearthing illicit money stashed abroad, Baba Ramdev, also has hoards of money. It is said he controls over 11000 crores. All this came to prominence once Ramdev began his campaign by undertaking fast at Ramlila maidan. These are just two samples from the Godmen, who are currently ruling the spiritual realm. Other Godmen like Sri Sri Ravishanker, Morari Bapu, Maa Amritanand Mai, Asaram Bapu and other of their tribe are also wealthy to the hilt. Unlike the low caste saints of the genre of Kabir, Tukaram, Narsi Mehta, Dadu or Raidas, most of those in the God market today have made humongous riches.

Padmanabhaswamy temple

The other centres’ of faith, the temples, also have infinite wealth. It is known that Tirupati Balaji Temple, Sai Baba of Shirdi Shrine, Siddhivinayaka in Mumbai and many such places are troves of treasure. This wealth comes from devotees’ offerings. Lately some BJP ruled States, e.g. Karnataka, Governments are also donating money to holy places. Many claim that this wealth is devoted for public welfare. In is reported that only 0.5% of Bhagwan Satya Sai’s wealth was used for social welfare.  How much of these offering are tax paid or comprise of illicit wealth is anybody’s guess. As Godmen are prominently visible currently, more facts about the stinking wealth of these centres of faith are coming to light. Some of these are plain shockers.

One such shocker comes in the form of the news (July 2011) that Shree Padmanabhswamy temple of Tiruvananthpuram’s lockers have incalculable wealth. These lockers were opened on the orders of Supreme Court. It seems that the deity of this Holy shrine is the richest ‘God on Earth’. The mind boggling wealth of Lakhs of Crores has been locked up there from last few centuries.  The source of this wealth is multiple, part of this came from devotees offerings and the major chunk has came from the wealth of King Marthanda Varma, The source of his wealth was taxation of poor farmers, tax income from slave trade, and by appropriating the wealth of other kings. The source of wealth is known but its controls are in the hands of the temple trust. The surfacing of such a vast treasure has raised the issue, to who does this wealth belong?

Marthanda Varma the king who defeated small kings to garner this huge wealth was under the influence of a Brahman priest. In due course King dedicated all his wealth and his sword to Padmnanbha Temple and declared himself as Padmanabhdasa, and acted as the custodian of this wealth. The same regime and temple wealth was partly used for opening up feeding houses for Brahmins, but overall the whole wealth has remained intact in the coffers of the temple. The temple is being managed by a Committee with the heir of Martanda Varma as the controller of the treasure.
Does the God, deity, need so much wealth? And can this vast ocean of riches be of any good to the society at large in the material sense. One concedes that the wealth with the deity is `serving various emotive-spiritual’ purposes, and many a Hindu groups  and even the Congress politicians have claimed that the wealth should remain as it is where it is and a small part of it can be diverted for social welfare.

With Independence and later with abolition of privy purses to the Kings, who were enjoying privileges by claiming to have divine right to rule, the rule passed on to the state, the elected representative of the people. So should mere legality decide the use of this wealth or should the needs of society at large decide the utilization of such wealth. What will make God most happy; the hoarding of this wealth under the control of few or use of this wealth for the larger good of society?

Kabir with a disciple
As such when we are hearing that a lot of wealth kept by Indians in banks aboard should be declared national asset and used for the welfare of the people, should we also pay our attention to this ‘Temple-Baba’ wealth as well? Those shouting hoarse, and correctly so, about nationalizing illicit money are keeping quiet on the issue of wealth with God, and wealth with Godmen, both. It is a bit of a riddle that those who have been fasting and agitating on the issue of illicit wealth seal their lips when this social wealth under the control of Deity or a small group of trustees is concerned.

As such there are interesting historical incidents about Holy places and wealth. Earlier also these places of worship were the places with good amount of wealth and many a Kings, motivated by the lust plundered it. Mahmud Gazni had the clear motive of grabbing Somnath temple wealth, but he claimed that he does not believe in idol worship, so he is destroying the temple. Such historiography became the stuff on which communal divides were drawn and divisive politics sustains itself. Here one forgets that even Hindu Kings have plundered the wealth in temples. Kalhan’s Rajtangini mentions that 11thCentury ruler of Kashmir, Raja Harshdev, had created a new designation of an officer, Decottpatan Nayak, whose job was to uproot the precious idols of Gods in the Holy places. The matters of faith are very delicate and have become more so during last three decades as the temple issues have bypassed the issues of poverty and dignity of weaker section of society.

One should also make it clear that similar wealth is locked up in other religious institutions, like in Churches and with Wakf board, though the source of this may be different. All this needs to be brought to the service of the community at large.

 In current times while there is a need to respect the faith of people, there is also a need to think of social welfare in all possible manners. Such treasures have to be brought under social control and every penny of this must go for programs aimed at alleviation of poverty or empowerment of the weak and poor.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Islam is a Religion of Peace?

Listen to Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray debatIng Zeba Khan and Maajid Nawaz on the subject – “Islam is a religion of peace”.  The debate was held on October 6, 2010. 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of the memoir Infidel, is an atheist and secular humanist. She rebelled against the oppressive laws of Islam and tradition.  Her screenplay for Theo van Gogh's movie Submission led to death threats to her.  Theo van Gogh was later, on 2 November 2004, assassinated by an Islamist extremist.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

The most common definition of religion you will find is the universal quest of humans in search -- in search of the sacred or the holy. That search is expressed intellectually. It's expressed in practice. It is expressed in fellowship. And you look at the religion like Islam, on an intellectual level it was expressed by the founder of Islam as a demolition of all other gods. Polytheism had to end, and all humanity had to be united under one God. From those of you who are familiar with history, and I think a crowd like this is, you know that no monotheistic religion can be a religion of peace. No monotheistic religion is a religion of peace, and definitely not Islam. Monotheistic religions know periods, lengthy periods of peace, but they also know lengthy periods of war.

The combination of a history of empire, of conquest, also leaves a legacy behind. And that legacy is the thrusting together of people of different ethnicities, languages, et cetera. So even if that empire declines, the likelihood, the likelihood of conflict, of war, is probable. It's high, especially where there is a fault line. That's where Samuel Huntington had a point. That history of militarism, combined with the legacy of empire, those two points alone belie the motion tonight, that Islam is a religion of peace, but that's not all. When empires decline, those who are defeated, and the Muslim Empire declined, those who are defeated sometimes themselves in a state of victimhood. That state of victimhood is exploited by the leadership or the self-appointed leaders of Islam. And what do you see? You see a number of people, and I concede it's a minority, who believe that Islam is under siege.

A mentality of victimhood tells those who are conquered, who are vanquished, that the problem was caused by external powers, not by us, and that systematic denial within Islam after the 19th Century to blame only outsiders exempts Islam from blame, from the explanation what went wrong. Yes, it was external, yes, Muslims were humiliated, yes, they were conquered, yes, they were colonized, but how much was also because of the flaws of Islam?

Now listen to the debate:

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Gopal Ganesh Agarkar: Rationalist, Secularist and Social Reformer

Book Review

Gopal Ganesh Agarkar: The Secular Rationalist Reformer
Dr. Arvind Ganachari
Popular Prakashan, Pune (2005)
Price: Rs 395, pp 371

Prabhakar Nanawaty (

Gopal Ganesh Agarkar’s (1856-95) ideas mark the apex of the secular rationalist trend during renaissance of nineteenth century Maharashtra. Arvind Ganashari’s book, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, The Secular Rationalist Reformer, clearly highlights the achievements of a remarkable personality who deeply influenced the national intellectual current.

In one of the essays on Agarkar, Dr Ganachari describes Agarkar's contribution to rationalist thought in following words:

"In the complex movement of renaissance thought in Western India since 1818, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar’s ideas marked the apex of the rationalist strand. Agarkar was a serious student of European Enlightenment and was deeply influenced by the Utilitarian and skeptical writings of 18th and 19th century Western thinkers, especially John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, August Comte, Thomas Huxley, John Morley and Edward Gibbon. Indeed, he was not ignorant of Indian classical lore. But it was the Western liberal—rational thought and the secular— scientific world-view that it represented which made intense appeal to his resilient mind. What he recognised was the revolutionary character of the rational principles, which are timeless and universal, as evolved by the Western rationalists."

In this book the author makes an in-depth study of Agarkar’s rationalist ideas in social, political, economic and other related fields that are accurately reflected in his numerous writings, first as the editor of Kesari (1881-87) and later as the founder – editor of Sudharak (1887-95). The author examines how Agarkar wanted reason and an enlightened conscience to be the sole determinant in regulating human conduct and social behaviour. His rational approach constantly re-examined all social ideas and institutions – whether they served the purpose of social utility and comfort or not. He was among the few contemporaries in whose thought and practice there was no dichotomy. "Education, not just formal but also Lokshikshan," Agarkar said, "holds key to advancement in life. He not only preached but followed: “Persuade, argue, cherish virtuous examples; bring up the youth in the habit of right opinion and right motive, shape your social arrangements so as to stimulate the best part of character”.

In his forward, the great scholar, Dr. Y.D. Phadke sums up about Agarkar in the following manner:

It is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals who have the courage of conviction to criticize politicians in power and demolish myths which influence the general public. In such an atmosphere it becomes necessary to revive the memory of Agarkar, a solitary rationalist, who fearlessly expressed his dissenting opinions and helped his contemporaries to learn by discussions and arguments. 

As a rationalist, secularist, and humanist – you may call anything – this book is a must to know more about these concepts as well as how a person faced the problems in day-to-day life when he tries to adhere to his principles and convictions. The author has put the efforts to make the book to be understood by any lay man and aptly describes the details of the events occurred during Agarkar’s life.  The book has been arranged in a very nice manner wherein the first chapter is devoted to what is rationalism, what is reason, what was the situation in the late nineteenth century in Maharashtra. The second chapter is about the life sketch of Agarkar. The third chapter includes details about how Agarkar became rationalist, who influenced him, what books he used to read etc. Agarkar’s literary works are described in the next chapter. Agarkar wrote mainly in Marathi. विकारविलसित  is a play in Marathi, the translated version of original Shakespeare’s play on Hamlet.  डोंग्रीच्या तुरुंगातील आमचे एकशे एक दिवस (Our 101 days in Dongri Prison) is a sort of prison diary of Agarkar who spent 101 days in jail along with Lokmanya Tilak who were sentenced for writing the editorial in Kesari daily and had to face  a defamation case. The editorials written by Agarkar in Keasri have been compiled and published in two volumes. Agarkar also wrote scholarly books on Marathi grammar analyzing the structure of sentences. विविध विषय संग्रह  is collection of Agarkar’s miscellaneous writings. He also translated a book from Gujarati to Marathi शेठ माधवदास रघुनाथदास यांचे आत्मलिखित पुनर्विवाह.

According to the author, Agarkar’s ideas in social, political, economic and the other related fields are accurately reflected in his numerous writings — first as the editor of Kesari (1881-1887) and later as the founder-editor of Sudharak (1887-1895). Himself an agnostic, he never denied the role that religion played in the certain stage of human development. However, he felt certain that with the growth of science and scientific knowledge, ethics will be separated from religion. He firmly believed in the persuasive power of reason in inducing people to think and overcome blind superstitious faith and to lead a wholesome life on the basis of rationality and equality. He wanted reason and enlightened conscience to the sole determinant in regulating human conduct and social behaviour. To him, no traditional idea, institution or custom was sacrosanct, and anything that was inimical to human progress had to be cast aside.
 The most important chapter in the book appears to be Critique of Hindu Society and Conception of Social Change which includes his ideas of social change, the method of reform and social issues. In fact during his brief life he had to confront issues like the age of consent controversy, on liberation of women, caste system, Sharada Sadan controversy, the panchhouda tea episode, Hindu -  Muslim riots of 1893-94. The author had taken lots of pains to bring out Agarkar’s views by going through the published as well as unpublished papers available. He describes in detail the nature of the issues, the controversies, the people involved, their ulterior motives and how Agarkar tackled these issues. It appears that most of the time Agarkar was victimized by his one time friend, Lokmanya Tilak, who took advantage of sensitive nature of Agarkar.

The next chapter is devoted on religion and morality. The author has summed up Agarkar’s views on liberalism, politics and economics in the next few chapters. He concludes the book by the article ‘Saint of Rationalism’. In one of the papers written by the author, he had emphasized how Agarkar differed with other contemporary social reformers on the question of ideology, and the method and manner in which the desired reform was to be attained. In his opinion, the word Sudharana was not just synonymous to ‘social reform’ but represented an all round human “progress”. He disagreed with other methods of social change, namely, The Mandlik School of Reform—’Reform from within’; the Telang School of Reform—’the line of least resistance’; the Method of Tradition—both Derivative (vyutpattikar) as well as Prarthana Samajists; breaking the continuity and forming a new sect; reform through social legislation; and the Method of Revolution. He preferred the Secular Rationalist Method of social change over other methods which he considered as gaun [The paper also attempts to spell-out what Agarkar meant by the Secular Rationalist Method. Agarkar firmly believed that social good presupposes a living, changing society; if the society does not keep itself in tune with the modern ideas based on rationality and equality, inevitably the forces of change would sweep away everything and bring about a revolutionary change similar to the French Revolution.

While reading the book, one will always feel that Agarkar or persons like him should have been there in the present time to speak and act fearlessly against irrational behaviour of so called intellectuals, social reformers, politicians and educated elite. Thanks to the author as well publisher to bring out such a thought provoking book!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Attack on Kalanathan - Responses

We reproduce the responses we have received from activists from various parts of the country in response to our blog on attack on Kalanathan, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations


This is terrible and I condemn the rowdies whoever involved in such horrible action. I am asking all humanists and rationalists in Europe and USA to express solidarity with Mr Kalanathan and the movement.

Prof Innaiah Narisetti
July 4, 2011

We agree with the declaration of Shri U Kalanathan that the wealth discovered from the Sree Padamanabahswamy temple should be used for the welfare of the public. Same as in the case of the black money in the Swiss Banks of Indians, this money should be declared as the wealth of the people of India. We condemn the attack on the house of U Kalanthan and demand the Kerala government to arrest the miscreants. Along with handing out judicial punishment to the miscreants, Kalanathan should be compensated. The Tarksheel Society, Punjab warns the government that if such miscreants snatch the democratic rights of the people (right speech) then it shall create unrest in the country .The rationalists have the same rights as the theists under Indian Constitution. Hence snatching the human rights of its citizen is a serious crime. The Society condemns all this and shows sympathy for Mr Kalanathan.

Prof. Balwinder Barnala 
Chief Organizer (President) 

Tarksheel (Rationalist) Society, Punjab
Vice President – FIRA
July 4, 2011


The attack on Mr Kalanahan's house is to be seen against the background of growing intolerance of those elements which cannot stomach even the slightest deviation from their mode of thinking. After all what is wrong with his suggestion?  Do these elements want that the huge wealth should continue to lie unused in the temple precincts? From any angle this ides is most nonsensical and anti social. The wealth found in the temple belongs to the people. Whoever had hidden it there had not generated or created it by himself or herself. In a democratic society people ultimately are the owners of the land's wealth.  Mr Kalanathan's idea has to be given the widest publicity possible and public opinion should be created in its favour so that the wealth does not remain idle in the most unproductive fashion.

Ramesh Nagaragere
Peoples' Democratic Forum
July 4, 2011


It is very bad news.

Harchand Bhinder
Tarkasheel Society
July 4, 2011


It is an unfortunate incident. Only those who are having a narrow mind and hatred towards openness can do such heinous job. Let us hope that Kerala government will take astringent actions against the culprits. My full sympathy and solidarity with Mr.Kalanathan.

Venkata Subbarao
Federation of Karnataka Rationalist Associations
July 4, 2011


Please convey to our friends in India that we strongly support Mr Kananathan and his colleagues in india and the cause for humanism and freedom that he defends. 

Prof. Paul Kurtz
Prometheus Books,
Institute for Science and Human Values,
State University of New York at Buffalo

(Message forwarded by Prof Inniah Narisetti)
July 4, 2011


I strongly condemn the attack on the house of U Kalanathan by communal elements for making a suggestion that the treasure found under a temple in Thiruanatpuram be used for social welfare work. It is a known fact that any treasure found in the earth belongs to the whole nation. Likewise, any undiscovered treasure found in hidden godowns whether under a temple or elsewhere should belong to the nation to be used for social welfare. Merely because there stands a temple above it and the temple happens to be managed by some religious body it does not naturally follow that the governing body has a claim over it. The treasure belongs to the people of the country as a whole and not to any person or body.

By attacking the house of Mr. Kalanathan overenthusiastic religious hooligans have only betrayed their contempt for people of other religions and those who do not believe in any religious sect. Such deeds of intolerance of others' views need to be condemned by one and all because every one has the right to express his/her own views. Those who do not agree with such persons also have a right to express their disagreement but not through acts of hooliganism.

I demand an inquiry into the incident so that the guilty may be brought to book.

 Mahi Pal Singh
National Secretary, PUCL
President, Indian Radical Humanist Association, Delhi State
July 4, 2011


On behalf of Odisha Rationalist Association, I would like to express our deepest solidarity with the expression of Mr Kalanathan. In fact, I was in a similar situation when I suggested that the unaccounted for bars of silver recovered from Emar Muth under very unsavoury circumstances be taken over by the state and spend on the persons with disability who sit in front of the temple to beg and make a living. My personal sympathies and we condemn the acts of all these elements who try to brow beat rationality. Our number may be small but in potency and commitment, we would beat them any time. My salute to the soldier of conscience.

Dr P.K.Rath
Vice President
Odisha Rationalist Association
July 4, 2011


This attack on Sri U Kalanathan smacks of cowardliness of those who are eager to appropriate people’s wealth to themselves. All those right thinking people should strongly condemn the attackers and urge the Govt. to book the culprits.

T Surendra Rao
Samudaya,  Bangalore
July 5, 2011


The residence of Sri U.Kalanathan a senior rationalist, President of Kerala Yuktivadi Sangham  and the Patron of the Federation Indian Rationalist associations has been attacked by some miscreants when he was participating in  panel discussion on the utilisation of the wealth found at the Anantha Padmanabha temple at Tiruvananthapuram on a leading TV channel of Kerala. The Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations strongly condemns  this attack and reiterates its stand that all the wealth belonging to the places of worship which ever religion or sect they may belong to is the property of the people and must be utilised for the welfare of the people itself.

Prof Narendra Nayak (
Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations
101, Noel Park, Microwave Station Road
Mangalore - 575006
July 5, 2011


On behalf of Rationalists’ Forum Of Tamilnadu State, India, we condemn this barbaric attack and attitude .The Kerala Government should take immediate action against the miscreants. Police protection should be given to his house and family. Thanthai Periyar told “Human progress is obstructed only by the activities carried on, in the name of religion. “ Yes, Progress of India will be obstructed by this type of barbaric, intolerant attitude. Rationalists’ Forum Patron Dr K .Veeramani   has issued a statement  to the newspaper   that the wealth obtained from the Sree Padmanabaswamy temple and Sree Saibaba  should be used for the welfare of the public. Yes, in one voice we have to demand this. We express our solidarity to Mr.U.Kalanathan who has been working for rationalism and humanism since 1970s.

Dr .V.Nehru,  The President , Rationalists’ Forum,Tamilnadu
V.Kumaresan, The General Secretary, Rationalists’ Forum , Tamilnadu.
July 5, 2011

Mr. Kalanadhan is one of the most dedicated rationalists in India today.He never hides his feelings on whatever he thinks wrong/right.In the issue of the hidden wealth of Padma Nabha Swamy temple in Kerala,what he said in media is not only his own opinion but all the rationalists' in the country.The miscreants who attacked on his  house are anti -social elements.They are not thinking about the welfare of the society .They desire to see the country with poor people and rich gods forever.Not only Tirupathi, Puttaparthi,and Thiruanthapuram,there are so many temples in India dumped with gold, jewellary and other precious wealth.Really,it belongs to people.Our organisation, MANAVA VIKASA VEDIKA supports Kalanathan in this regard and severely condemns the foolish attack on his house. We demand the Kerala government to take serious action against the miscreants and to think about the opinion expressed by Kalanathan.

Sambasiva Rao,
Manava Vikasa Vedika
July 5, 20111

The attack on Kalanathan's house is an attack on on all right thinking people. Such attacks should be condemned by all. The authorities need to take stern action against the  miscreants. A message should go that such cowardly attacks will not deter the the protagonists with going ahead with their task of educating the people of rational thinking.

I thank Bangalore Skeptic for bringing this incident for the notice of like minded people where as the print media and TV media are as usual silent.

July 5, 2011


Rationalist Society Haryana condemns this barbaric attack.We demand that the Govt should stong action against the miscreants.we will stand by you through thick and thin. Misscreants should be aware that Kalanathan's views are supported by millions of indin peoples

Gurmeet Singh Gen Secy.
Rationalist Society Haryana (Regd)
July 7, 2011


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