Monday, 29 July 2013

Science versus Miracle: God’s Spirit on a Wick and Spirit within a Coconut!

B Premanand

God's spirit leaves the oracle and enters a wick which dances when it is lit. This phenomenon occurs in a village temple in South Kanara. The Oracle gets possessed by the god and after the ceremony, it leaves his body and he falls down unconscious. The spirit then enters a wick which when lighted starts dancing.

Experiment: 122

Effect: God’s spirit on a wick.

Props: A live earthworm, cotton, oil and matchbox.

Method: A cotton wick is prepared with a live earthworm packed inside it. At the end of the festival the wick is dipped in oil and lit when the god's spirit leaves the body of the oracle and the wick starts wriggling. What happens is when the wick is lit, the heat troubles the earthworm and it struggles inside the wick. wriggling to escape and save itself.

Experiment: 123

Effect:  Spirit within a coconut

The spirit in the body of the possessed is removed and put in a coconut through incantations by the tantrik. The coconut starts moving.

Props: A live mouse or a frog\, one coconut with the fibre removed fully except at the top, and Quick Fix.

Method: Cut the top of the coconut; remove the pulp and the soft eye, put the mouse or frog inside the coconut and seal the other portion on it. The sealed portion is hidden by the fibre at the top. After a havan and incantations, act as if the spirit has been removed from the body of the possessed and imprisoned inside the coconut. Place the coconut on the floor. The smoke from the fire will make the mouse or the frog uneasy. It will struggle to escape and the coconut will move about.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Hindu Nationalism versus Indian Nationalism

Ram Puniyani

The debate around Hindu Nationalism and Indian Nationalism is not a new one. During colonial period, when the rising freedom movement was articulating the concept and values of Indian nationalism, the section of Hindus, keeping aloof from freedom movement asserted the concept of Hindu Nationalism. The debate has resurfaced again due to the one who is trying to project himself as the Prime-Ministerial candidate of BJP-NDA, Narendra Modi. In an interview recently (July 2013) said very ‘simply’ that he was born a Hindu, he is a nationalist, so he is a Hindu Nationalist! His Party President Rajnath Singh also buttressed the point and took it further to say that Muslims are Muslim nationalists, Christians are Christian Nationalists. So one has a variety of nationalisms to choose from!

Modi’s putting 2+2 together and claiming to be a Nationalist and a Hindu and so a Hindu nationalist is like putting the wool in others eyes. Hindu nationalism is a politics and a category with a specific meaning and agenda. This is the part of the ideology and practice of Modi’s parent organizations, BJP-RSS. During colonial period the rising classes of industrialists, businessmen, workers and educated classes came together and formed different organizations, Madras Mahajan Sabha, Pune Sarvajanik Sabha, Bombay Association etc.. These organizations felt for the need for an over arching political organization so went in to form Indian National Congress in 1885. The declining sections of society, Muslim and Hindu landlords and kings also decided to came together to oppose the all inclusive politics of Congress, which in due course became the major vehicle of the values of freedom movement. These declining sections were feeling threatened due to the social changes. To hide their social decline they projected as if their religion is in danger. They also did not like the standing up to the colonial masters by Congress, which had started putting forward the demands for different rising social groups and thereby for India. Congress saw this country as ‘India is a Nation in the making’.

As per declining sections of landlords and kings; standing up to, not bowing in front of the ruler is against the teachings of ‘our’ religion so what is needed according to them is to promote the loyalty to the British. They, Hindu and Muslim feudal elements, came together and formed United India Patriotic Association in 1888. The lead was taken by Nawab of Dhaka and Raja of Kashi. Later due to British machinations the Muslim elite from this association separated and formed Muslim league in 1906, while in parallel to this the Hindu elite first formed Punjab Hindu Sabha in 1909 and then Hindu Mahasabha in 1915. These communal formations argued for Muslim Nationalism and Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalists also developed the political ideology of Hindutva, articulated particularly by Savarkar in 1923 in his book ‘Hindutva or Who is a Hindu?’ This was an enviable situation for British as such groups would weaken the rising national movement. On one side they quietly supported the Muslim League and parallel to this they handled Hindu Mahasabha with velvet gloves.

Taking a cue from the ideology of Hindutva, RSS came up in 1925, with the path of Hindu Nationalism and goal of Hindu Nation. The values of rising classes embodied in the persona of Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar, Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and many others mainly revolved around Indian Nationalism, built around the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The ideology of Muslim League selectively drew from some Muslim traditions to assert the caste and gender hierarchy of feudal society. While Hindu Mahasabha and RSS had tomes like Manusmriti to talk about similar graded hierarchies of caste and gender. Muslim and Hindu communalists were not part of freedom movement as freedom movement was all inclusive and aimed at secular democratic values. Muslim and Hindu communalists drew from glories of respective Kings of the past and kept aloof from anti British struggle, some exceptions are always there to show the evidence of their participation in the freedom struggle.

Gandhi’s attempt to draw the masses in to anti British struggle was the major point due to which the Constitutionalists like Jinnah; traditionalists of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha further drifted away and consolidated themselves after 1920s. The trajectory of Hindu Nationalism from the decade of 1920 becomes very clear, to be on the side of British to oppose the Muslim Nationalists. Same applies to Muslim League, as it regarded Congress as a Hindu party. The Freedom of the country and tragic partition led to Muslim Leaguers going to Pakistan while leaving sufficient backlog to sustain Muslim communalism here. Hindu Nationalists in the form of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS gradually started asserting themselves, beginning with murder of Mahatma Gandhi, who surely was amongst the best of the Hindus of that century and probably of many a centuries put together. Hindu Nationalists formed first Jan Sangh and later present BJP. The major issue taken up by these nationalists was opposition to cooperative farming, public sector and undertook a program called ‘Indianization of Muslims’.

The identity related issues have been the staple diet for religious nationalist tendencies. ‘Cow as our mother’, Ram Temple Ram Setu, Abolition of article 370 and Uniform civil code has been the foundation around which emotive hysterical movements have been built. While they keep bringing to our notice as to under whose rule more riots have taken place, one forgets that the root of communal violence lies in ‘Hate other’ ideology spread by communal streams. And most of the communal violence led to coming to power of communal party. Its major offshoot is polarization of communities along religious lines. Modi’s claim the democracy leads to polarization is misplaced wrong as in democratic politics the polarization is along social issues, like Republican-Democrat in America. Polarization around social policies-political issues is part of the process of democracy. The polarization brought about by the politics of Hindu nationalism or Muslim nationalism is around identity of religions. This is not comparable to the processes in US or UK. The polarization along religious lines is against the spirit of democracy, against Indian Constitutions’. Major pillar of democracy is Fraternity, cutting across identities of religion caste and region.

 Modi himself, a dedicated RSS swayamsevak has been steeped in the ideology of Hindu nationalism. He glosses over the fact that the large masses of Indian people, Hindus never called and do not call themselves Hindu nationalists. Gandhi was not a Hindu nationalist despite being a Hindu in the moral and social sense. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was not a Muslim nationalist, despite being a devout Muslim, being a Muslim scholar of highest caliber. During freedom movement also most of the people of all religions’ identified with Indian Nationalism and not with religious nationalism as being projected by Modi and company. Even today people of different religions identify with Indian nationalism and not with religious Nationalism on the lines of Modi and his ilk.

Hindu nationalism will require a Ram Temple; Indian nationalism requires schools, universities and factories for employing the youth. Hindu nationalism is exclusive and divisive, Indian Nationalism is inclusive; rooted in the issues of this world, and not the identity related ones.  Unfortunately Hindu nationalists have been raising the pitch around identity issues undermining the issues of the poor and marginalized. The Indian Nationalism, the product of our freedom movement is being challenged by the Hindu nationalism in India, Buddhist Nationalism in Myanmar and Sri Lanka and is a major threat to the process of democratization in those countries, Muslim  Nationalism has wrecked havoc in Pakistan, and many other places.

This is the dark tunnel of History, where such invocations of religion in the arena of politics take a semi respectful place, as being witnessed in many parts of the World and more so over in India. One hopes the distinction between religious nationalism and Indian nationalism will not be lost focus of!
Hindu nationalism, does not subscribe to the affirmative action, so the term appeasement of minorities has been floated. For Hindu nationalists, the proactive supportive action for vulnerable religious minorities is a strict no, while for democratic nationalism, this is the norm. One has to see the clever ploy of the Prime Minister aspirant, to call himself a Hindu nationalist. This is one more attempt to indulge in dividing the Indian society along religious lines.   

Thursday, 18 July 2013

An Open Letter to Dr K Kasturirangan

Madhav Gadgil

Date: Fri, May 17, 2013 9:39 pm

Dear Dr. Kasturirangan,

JBS Haldane, the celebrated 19h century scientist and humanist who quit England protesting its imperialistic invasion of Suez to become an Indian citizen has said: Reality is not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we CAN suppose! I could never have imagined that you would be party to a report such as that of the High Level Working Group on Western Ghats, but, then, reality is indeed stranger than we can suppose!

Courtesy: Wikipedia

In our report to the Ministry of Environment & Forests, based on our extensive discussions and field visits, we had advocated a graded approach with a major role for grass-roots level inputs for safeguarding the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. You have rejected this framework and in its place, you advocate a partitioning amongst roughly one-third of what you term natural landscapes, to be safeguarded by guns and guards, and two-third of so-called cultural landscapes, to be thrown open to development, such as what has spawned the 35,000 crore rupees illegal mining scam of Goa. This amounts to attempts to maintain oases of diversity in a desert of ecological devastation. Ecology teaches us that such fragmentation would lead, sooner, rather than later, to the desert overwhelming the oases. It is vital to think of maintenance of habitat continuity, and of an ecologically and socially friendly matrix to ensure long term conservation of biodiversity rich areas, and this is what we had proposed.

The Great Indian Hornbill
Courtesy: Wikipedia
Moreover, freshwater biodiversity is far more threatened than forest biodiversity and lies largely in what you term cultural landscapes.  Freshwater biodiversity is also vital to livelihoods and nutrition of large sections of our people. That is why we had provided a detailed case study of Lote Chemical Industry complex in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, where pollution exceeding all legal limits has devastated fisheries so that 20,000 people have been rendered jobless, while only 11,000 have obtained industrial employment. Yet the Government wants to set up further polluting industries in the same area, and has therefore deliberately suppressed its own Zonal Atlas for Siting of Industries.

Your report shockingly dismisses our constitutionally guaranteed democratic devolution of decision making powers, remarking that local communities can have no role in economic decisions. Not surprisingly, your report completely glosses over the fact reported by us that while the Government takes absolutely no action against illegal pollution of Lote, it had invoked police powers to suppress perfectly legitimate and peaceful protests against pollution on as many as 180 out of 600 days in 2007-09.

Lion tailed Macque
India's cultural landscape harbours many valuable elements of biodiversity. Fully 75% of the population of Lion-tailed Macaque, a monkey species confined to the Western Ghats, thrives in the cultural landscape of tea gardens. I live in the city of Pune and scattered in my locality are a large number of Banyan, Peepal and Gular trees; trees that belong to genus Ficus, celebrated in modern ecology as a keystone resource that sustains a wide variety of other species. Through the night I hear peacocks calling, and when I get up and go to the terrace I see them dancing. It is our people, rooted in India's strong cultural traditions of respect for nature, who have venerated and protected the sacred groves, the Ficus trees, the monkeys and the peafowl.

Apparently all this is to be snuffed out. It reminds me of Francis Buchanan, an avowed agent of British imperialism, who wrote in 1801 that India's sacred groves were merely a contrivance to prevent the East India Company from claiming its rightful property.

It would appear that we are now more British than the British and are asserting that a nature friendly approach in the cultural landscape is merely a contrivance to prevent the rich and powerful of the country and of the globalized world from taking over all lands and waters to exploit and pollute as they wish while pursuing lawless, jobless economic growth. It is astonishing that your report strongly endorses such an approach. Reality is indeed stranger than we can suppose!

With warm personal regards,

I remain,

Yours sincerely,


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Indian Muslim Youth: Groping for Equity and Security

Ram Puniyani

In most communities youth have a serious struggle on hand to look beyond the present for the future, especially their careers, longing for dignity and a decent existence. While this applies to all the youth, the struggle of youth from marginalized and discriminated against communities are much more. It is on this terrain that, Chetan Bhagat, the popular writer turned columnist, decided to advise Muslim youth about their future path, choices. His advice came in the form of an article, a letter from a Muslim youth, in a leading daily. The article was so insensitive to the plight of Muslims; it amounted to blaming them for their own plight; and so subtly advised them to opt for leaders like Narendra Modi. This was not a direct advice, Modi’s name was not spelt but the hint was obvious.

Chetan Bhagat
Courtesy: Wikipedia
Muslim youth felt hurt and insulted by the tone and tenor of the letter and wrote a response which is widely circulated on the net. The letter in nutshell points out the plight of Muslim community as a whole and Muslim youth in general; it also expressed the hurt feelings of the youth. The feeling of hurt and anger is oozing through this expression of the sigh of Muslim youth, a group currently facing myriad problems. The letter questions the democracy of ours, “If it were so, Afzal Guru wouldn’t have been executed to ‘’satisfy the collective conscience of the nation’’. Muslim youth would not have fallen prey to minority witch-hunting, and their killers not decorated with gallantry awards.” It also questions the popular perceptions that the Muslims are under the influence of Maulanas and that Muslims vote in herds.

The letter is an apt response to the proclivities of the crass writers like Bhagat. But Bhagat is not alone in not understanding the plight of Muslim youth. There is a large section amongst our population who will buy the type of crudity which Bhagat is displaying in his article. As such Muslim community’s plight has been worst compounded during last three decades. There are multiple factors; some of them have a lot to do with the historical background of Muslims in India, partition tragedy, the ascendance of global terrorism in pursuit of oil wealth by US and coining of the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ by US media. Other factors relate to the rise of communal politics, politics of religious identity and some others have a deeper relation with the communalized state apparatus.
A large section of Indian Muslim community comes from the untouchables, the shudras, who embraced Islam under the influence of Sufi saints. This was done to escape the tyranny of varna-caste system. During colonial period, the poor Muslims plight remained unaffected. This was mainly due to the fact that in the aftermath of 1857 rebellion, British subjected Muslims to greater repression as they held Muslims as having bigger role in 1857 event. When the community started recovering from its snubbing, some efforts for modern education leading to Aligarh Muslim University began in right earnest. Still these efforts were restricted more to the Ashraf, elite and low caste poor Muslims remained where they had been from centuries. Majority of Muslims were part of freedom movement, ignoring the communal appeals of Muslim League. Later Muslim League, which began with the sections of landlords and Nawabs also, started getting some support from section of educated and elite Muslims. With partition, a large section of traders, bureaucrats and educated Muslims left for Pakistan, while the majority of poor Muslims remained here in India.

At the time of partition the average condition of Muslims and dalits was practically similar. Despite that the future trajectory of both these communities was diametrically opposite. Dalit identity gradually gained some respect due to the struggles led by Dr. Ambedkar. Dalits also got reservations. The impact of these was very positive on the march of dalits towards equality. Muslim community had another fate in store. They started being blamed for partition, started being looked down upon as ‘other’ and their employment in Government jobs became difficult, much below their percentage in population. This discriminating against became a sort of disincentive for the youth to go for studies. To add to the woes of the community communal violence directed against them started picking up leading to the increased feeling of insecurity by and by. By now this minority, close to 13-14% has a huge representation amongst the victims of communal violence.

The rise of communal politics, beginning with Shah Bano case and then the aggressive Ram Temple movement, started pushing the community into the margins of the society in a very active way. Muslim political representation in the representative bodies, Lok Sabha (Parliament) –Vidhan Sabhas (state assemblies) started coming down heavily. Ram Temple movement and the accompanying violence left the community gasping for survival. To add to this came the global phenomenon of terrorism, Al Qaeda, its entry into Kashmir and the demonization of Muslims which went up in due course of time particularly after 9/11 2001. The investigating authorities had a simple formula, if there is an act of terror, Muslim youth must have done it.  The consequences of this are simple enough, after every acts of blast arrest hundreds of youth put them behind bars and by the time courts declare them innocent, their future life is ruined and the label of terrorist is permanently stuck on their foreheads. To supplement to this the encounters, Batla House, Ishrat Jahan completed the picture of demonization of Muslim community in general and Muslim youth in particular.

Running parallel to this adverse situation a social humiliation, the attitude of state, police bureaucracy and average people picked up rapidly, and by now Muslims are practically barred from buying houses in the mixed localities, ghettoisation of community in major cities has started going up. A de facto second class citizenship for them is being gradually getting constructed. It is against these odds that a large section of Muslim youth stood firm with grit and determination and made their space in IT world and in occupations which did not require state patronage. As such also many of them have struggled to make their space in non formal professions, films sports. Interestingly even in America, the subjugated class of African Americans has higher representation in Films, music and sports. Their bigger presence in similar areas in India also has its own tale to tell.

In such a situation the sympathetic sounding ‘opponents’ of the ilk of Chetan Bhagat are scattered in different walks of life, giving them advices to the effect that Muslims are responsible for their own plight. When a girl is raped many from such tribe blame the girl for the fate she met, something is wrong with her. Victim as the culprit is the language of the conservative ideologies, Chetan Bhagat does represent such a mind set when he writes to Muslim youth the way he has written this article.  

Friday, 12 July 2013

Science versus Miracle: Telling a Number or the Name of any Flower a Person Thinks of.

B Premanand

When people come to the Tantrik to get their problems solved, he asks the person to write a number between 1 to 20 or the name of a flower. The Tantrik, after concentrating on the person, writes something on a piece of paper and puts it in his pocket. Then he asks about his problems and meditates. After meditation, he suddenly asks the person as to what number or the name of a flower, he had written while putting his hand in his pocket and when the man tells the number or the name of the flower, he takes the paper out of his pocket and shows that what he had written is the same number or the name of the flower.

Experiment: 121

Effect: Telling a number or the name of any flower a person thinks of.

Props: Nail writer and pieces of thick paper and pencil.

Image Courtesy:
Method:  Fix the nail writer with the lead on your thumb nail, and hide the thumb behind the palm. Ask the volunteer about the problem which he wants solved. Meditate. Then ask the volunteer to write a number, or the name of a flower on a piece of paper without anyone knowing what he has written and keep it safe in his pocket. At the same time you act as if you are also writing something on a piece of paper and put that paper in your pocket. After reciting some mantras try to give him a solution to his problems. Suddenly ask him what the number is, or the name of the flower, which he has written on the paper at the same time putting your right hand in the pocket as if to pick out the paper in your pocket and simultaneously write the number etc. on the paper in your pocket with the nail writer. Drop the nail writer in your pocket and take out the paper. Show that you had also written the same number, or the name of the flower.

This trick can be performed in many ways. Soak a sheet of paper in water for five minutes and keep it between newspaper sheets. Ask the person to write a number by giving him a piece of paper and place the same on the newspaper After he has written, take the newspaper and stealthily look at the water mark on the wet paper while acting as if you are meditating, and tell him the number or the name of the flower.


How To Make a Nail Writer


The magician asks for a person to think in a number of 3 digits. After the person thinks of a number, the magician writes in a paper block the number that she thought. The number that she thought is the same as it is written in the block.

This trick has an excellent effect.

Items Used:

A very strong glue, a tube of white glue, a penknife or probe, a pencil, a scissors, ribbon adhesive of the colour of the skin, a paper block and a pin.

To Prepare:

1. Get the probe or penknife and cut the point of the pencil.

2. Get a piece of paper and put under the point of the pencil. To proceed get the very strong glue and paste the point of the pencil with the piece of paper.

3. Cut out the paper in a circular format.

4. Get a piece of adhesive ribbon and make a hole with the needle.

5. Get the point of the pencil that is glued in the paper and place in the adhesive ribbon through the hole made with the pin.

6. Now cut the ribbon adhesive of the same size of the paper that is glued the point of the pencil.

7. Get a tube of white glue, and glue the point of the pencil in the thumb. Now you are ready to do the trick.


1. Get a paper block and a pencil. Call a person and ask him to think of any number of 3 digits. Always do that looking at in the person's eyes, so that she doesn't look at the paper block.

2. As soon as he thinks of a number, begin to look at fixedly for the person's eyes (giving the impression that you are reading his thought). Then, pretend to be writing with the pencil the number that she thought. Then give the pencil to the person and ask for him to say the number that he thought. After you gave the pencil, put the thumb on the paper.

3. The position of the paper block should be the same as the illustration. (By doing that he won't see the thumb, so you can write freely). Let's say that the thought number is 957. When the person is saying the number, you must at the same time write it in the block. Say to him to repeat the thought number, giving more time for you to write. Write the number, but don't look at the paper block, you should always be looking at fixedly for the person's eyes, or he can will notice that you are writing something.


Bodh Gaya Blasts: Terrorist Violence and Political Agenda

Ram Puniyani

Since last two decades terrorist violence has been added on to the weapons for polarizing communities along religious lines. In Mumbai for example, we first witnessed the major blasts in the wake of 92-93 post demolition violence, then blasts in the aftermath of Gujarat carnage of 2002 and then 26/11 2008 attack from Kasab and company. This shows the multifaceted nature, many causative factors, of terrorist violence. In the similar vein, the country as a whole witnessed regular repeated violence with loss of lots of lives. In the all India chain of terror attacks, starting from attack on Sankat Mochan temple, Malegaon, blasts, Ajmer, Mecca masjid etc. so many incidents shook the country. The investigation of these attacks is another story mostly it has been guided by biases. Also since the investigation is mired in mystery, many a kite flying about the etiology, the causative factors and the identity of terrorists involved has become a routines story by now. Each commentator and political tendency riding on their own hobby horses as far as the identity of the personnel involved in acts of terror is concerned.

Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya
Courtesy: Wikipedia

Nine blasts hit the Bodh Gaya holy shrine (8th July 2013). Fortunately the damage to lives was not there; only two monks incurred some injury. Immediately after the blasts the statement came that these blasts have been done by Indian Mujahidin operatives to take revenge of atrocities by Buddhists on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. This is by now a routine pattern that after every blast such statements have been made about involvement of some Pakistan based or group with Muslin identity and later some other truth, involvement of the ilk of Swami Aseemanand for example, has regularly emerged. There was a strong suspicion amongst those who have been following the acts of terror from critical angle that Bodh Gaya terror act might have something to do with Neetish Kumar walking out of NDA since Modi was appointed as the campaign committee chief by BJP for 2014 parliamentary elections. In an address to Bihar BJP workers Modi did talk of ‘teaching Neetish Kumar a lesson’. One knows that Modi is likely to be projected as the next Prime Ministerial candidate from the BJP side. As far as Indian Mujahideen, which is the first organization to be named by some investigation agencies and immediately lapped up by BJP family, is concerned many doubts have been raised about its role, its controllers and so on. Same way SIMI has been the major whipping horse so far, from the side of investigation agencies. SIMI was banned also. But when the ban was challenged, Justice Lata Mittal Tribunal found no reason to ban it. In popular perception this has been sunk deeply that SIMI is a terror outfit. The operatives of the type of Kasab have been different cup of poison, dancing to the tune of Pakistan army and Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda itself was a product of US policies to counter the Russian occupation in Afghanistan.

This Al Qaeda impact on the investigation agencies had been so strong that the American media’s coining of the phrase ‘Islamic Terrorism’, in the wake of 9/11 WTC attack was converted into the dictum, ‘All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims’ by communal forces and part of the media. This was the leading understanding of Indian investigation agencies in the wake of most of the terror blasts in India. Starting from the Nanded blast of April 2006 to the blasts in Malegaon, Mecca’s Masjid, Ajmer and Samjhauta Express, the same principle was applied by the biased investigation agencies and led to the arrests of hundreds of innocent Muslims ruining their careers for good and demonizing the community as a whole. This also led to the process, which is still on, fake encounters of Muslim youth, on different pretexts. BJP ruled Gujarat led the pack in this direction and youth like Ishrat Jahan were killed in cold blood; the alibi given was these terrorists, associated with Pakistan based terror groups have come to kill the Gujarat Chief Minister Narnedra Modi. Many a youth were done to death and lately with some investigations taking a proper direction, many a police officers, who are acolytes of Modi are currently cooling their heals in jails. Hemant Karkare played a very crucial role in partly reversing this trend, when during the course of Malegaon blast he could successfully catch the culprits, despite great opposition from the leaders of Hindutva stable, the likes of Bal Thackeray and Narendra Modi labeling Karkare as Deshdrohi (Anti National).

In case of Bodh Gaya tragedy the association of this blast with Myanmar incidents seems to be a deliberate propaganda to polarize the communities. More so this is also aimed to pitch the Buddhists against Muslims. It has already been propagated loudly and section of media is making this as the base of their banner stories.  From BJP camp, many of whose associates are currently in jail for allegedly being involved in acts of terror, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that “The media is saying that they (the perpetrators in the bakery case) had done recce of the temple at Bodh Gaya. There were warnings but no precaution was taken.” And that Bihar Government failed to take any preventing action. Here, there is a clear hint to link the blasts with Mynmar tragic events. In contrast Congress spokesperson Digvijaya Singh says that such statements are an attempt to polarize the communities and the non BJP Governments have to be more careful, more so Niteesh Kumar.

It is true that BJP has in mind the forthcoming elections.  By projecting Modi as the main contender to lead the party, it has already alienated many an allies. So it has to ensure that it should get more seats. It also knows that communal polarization is the best ladder for it to ascend to the seat of power. So far communal violence has been the major polarizing factor. As communal violence went up, the electoral strength of BJP also went up. With the rise of terrorist violence, BJP has also used terrorist violence to polarize the communities along religious lines, leading to further the good harvest in the electoral fields. Why can’t we wait till the investigations lead to some conclusions about ‘who did it’? The early speculations are fraught with dangers. Linking it up with atrocities on Rohingiya Muslims’ will further alienate them and make them more vulnerable. We have seen such speculations have tormented the Muslim community to no end in the wake of so many terror attacks in different parts of the country. One concedes that there has to be a working hypothesis in investigations. Such working hypothesis when biased and probably ‘non professional’ leads to the vulnerable sections being subjected to atrocities of the highest order. One major aspect which is being underplayed is the person Vinod Mistry, a carpenter, whose ID card and bag were found on the spot. In the bag was the robe of a Buddhist monk. What is the inference of this? Rihai Manch a Forum for release of innocent Muslims in jails on the charges of terror attacks, points out "the manner in which one finds mention of a name called Vinod Mistry in this case and the way in which we are finding that clothes normally worn by Buddhist monks were discovered from his possession and the manner in which letters in Urdu were discovered from the temple, it rather vindicates that it was an attempt to stage 'Malegaon' in Bodhgaya where fake beard was found out and where due to wrong/biased inputs many innocent Muslims were lodged in jail for quite some time till real culprits belonging to RSS were discovered"

In Indian political chessboard, the organizations taking inspiration from the ‘Hindu nation’ ideology; have been at the forefront in so many acts of terror, Swami Aseemanand, Swami Dayanand, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and company. The mistaken hypothesis, ‘All Terrorists are Muslims’ kept protecting them and deflecting the line to investigation in wrong directions. What is needed is an unbiased objective approach. While it is unfortunate that the holy place associated with Lord Gautama Buddha has been targeted, one also feels that a professional unbiased investigation should be undertaken and guilty punished. What is also needed that the baseless linking of this terror attack to Rohingya Muslims be shunned till the investigations reveal something substantive. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Sex and Salvation

Margaret Bhatty

There was a time when we depended on little green men from Mars for a world-view. After Mars probes debunked them, we now have ETs - ­computerised caricatures of ourselves. If these voyagers from outer space are as perceptive as Martians were, they too must marvel that as a species we call ourselves Homo sapiens - homo: men, and sapiens: wise. The truth is we are very close to primates and a tiny shift in their genetic make-up would oblige us to offer chimps seats at the UNO. Homo sapiens thinks that intelligence is the natural culmination of the evolutionary process. Yet so manic is he in his passions and beliefs that at the top of the ladder we all jostle for space with eminent mon­sters like Caligula, Nero, Hitler and Mussolini.

A lunatic irrational streak runs through entire cultures, shaping mores and moral values. Consider just two aspects of humankind which ought to afford us most joy - sex and food. The apes take both where they can find it without any drastic consequences. But humans, with their super-intelligence, have devised complex systems of morality around both systems which clearly indicate where we can end up in the afterworld if we fail to measure up. It is possible, in some religi­ons, for the pious to earn “salvation” for their souls by never inges­ting taboo foods, never indulging in taboo sex, never committing stra­nge crimes like “blasphemy” and “sacrilege”, yet never doing a single deed of kindness to their fellowmen.
An erotic sculpture in Khajuraho

Since ETs traverse space we might assume they know its layout and can locate that Never-Never land all good people set their hearts on. Our icons and paintings, assuming the world is flat, depict it  as a place directly “above” which can be reached by chariots drawn by fiery horses, ladders and stairways. However, even astronauts know that in space there is no Up nor Down. There is only outwards or Inwards. It is unlikely that ETs have ever happened upon massed choirs of sexless winged creatures playing harps, or fabulous gardens and orchards with streams, along with beautiful women waiting to serve the deserving. Yet so strong a hold do these myths have on earthlings that all their actions are influenced by other-worldly considerations.

How is it that Homo sapiens, who so arrogantly squanders his environmental inheritance in the belief that he is lord of creation, sho­uld in his turn think it necessary to grovel before the gods? Desmond Morris, behavioural scientist, believes that the whole idea of an aft­erlife is a defence mechanism against extinction. As self-conscious beings we cannot visualise our own deaths. So we find it immensely comforting to believe that a part of us - the soul - survives into another world, or returns again to subsequent existences. From the impulse for self-preservation, humans see God as a super-parent and his priests as super-leaders directing us in the paths of righteousness. “A God that offers an afterlife in another world, that protects his ‘children’ regardless of their age, and that offers them devotion to a grand cause of a socially unifying purpose, triggers off powerful reactions in the human animal” (Manwatching).

Apes might consider themselves fortunate in not having evolved to such profundity. Sexually, they are beasts. Human primates are self-aware and know what modesty is. Their sexuality is of immense social significance to them. Regrettably, most religious cultures of today lay greater emphasis on anti-sex elements in their morality. Pro-sex cultures are denounced as decadent and sinful.

Adam and Eve
No other religion has waged as relentless a war against human sex­uality as the Christian religion. Early Christians believed Eden was the Garden of Innocence. Only after Adam and Eve ate taboo food and were evicted did they indulge in sex. The early Christian Fathers advocated complete sexual abstinence and chastity for anyone who wished to go to heaven. Many believers emasculated themselves rather than forego the promise of eternal life. They followed the Biblical message given by Christ in St Mathew 19:12 – “For there are some - eunuchs which were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs by men; and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it let him receive it”.

Eunuch cults were widespread in the Middle East and Asia long be­fore Christianity. The Mahabharata mentions the eunuch Sikhandi. Indian Hijras claim that Arjun and Bhishma were also eunuchs. Pagan worshippers of Cybele held rites in which novices were initiated. They went into frenzied dancing, slashed off their genitals and hurled them at a statue of the goddess. They were easily recognizable in the str­eets of Rome dressed as women, wearing their perfumed hair long and dancing to the accompaniment of flutes, cymbals, tambourines and castanets.

Bahuchara Mata: Patroness of the Hijra community
Eunuchs are mentioned in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The Book of Daniel tells of the Jews exiled in Babylonia where Daniel and his three friends rose to eminence because of his ability to inter­pret correctly the dreams that troubled Nebuchadnezzar the King (605 - ­562 BC). The four captives were looked after by Aspernaz “the prince of eunuchs”.

In India eunuchs once held high office as confidantes and spies for rulers. Today the Hindu and Muslim cults have combined and members of both religions live together in families. Their patron goddess goes by different names in various temples around the country. While there are natural hermaphrodites among them, the majority have chosen emascu­lation for other-worldly reasons. Impotent males sacrifice their sex to Bahuchara Mata to be assured of virility in the next seven existen­ces. Others, though potent, say the shadow of the goddess fell upon them. All look for reward in the Hereafter.

The Skoptsi Christian sect in Russia, following the verse in Mat­hew's gospel, emasculated themselves down to the 18th and 19th centur­ies. Young male singers in the Vatican choir chose emasculation so that their voices remained a clear soprano in the glory of God for the rest of their lives. The last castrato in the choir died in 1903. From Church writings we know that eunuchs were ordained as bishops and pri­ests in the early church. Origen (185-254 AD), an eminent theologian, emasculated himself. And Tertullian (160-220 AD) another Bible scholar wrote that “the kingdom of Heaven is thrown open to all Eunuchs.” This worthy thinker also said of women: “Thou art the Devil's gate!” With neutering so essential to a man's hope for Heaven it followed that all women were a hindrance sent by Satan.

All religions claim their scriptures were written or revealed by amorphous Super-beings given different names and identities by each faith. Their preoccupation with human sexuality and the need to curb women is evident in the personal laws practised by all faiths today. It is therefore somewhat puzzling why the Creator located woman's cen­tre of virtue not in her mind but in that part of her anatomy where it is most at risk - in a small triangular fold of tissue called the hymen. Its presence or absence in young unmarried females of the human species decided on whether they are upright, chaste and virtuous, or contemptible as “fallen women.” Virginity is a perilous condition and must be guarded jealously by the males in a family because their honour is bound into its presence, until such time as it is legitimately yielded up in marriage. Christian nuns are described as “brides of Christ” and they must be virgin to qualify for this status.

In 1985 a sensational news story appeared in our papers about how upper-class girls from rich families in the Middle East were being treated by Bombay doctors before their forthcoming marriages to men of orthodox belief who placed a high premium on virginity. Having lost their virginity through frivolous misadventure, they were paying Rupees twenty thousand for hymenoplasty. Thus have humans with their superior intelligence now been able to restore chastity and good character in females through surgical means - though we cannot know if this ensures them access to Heaven.

Christian theologians of medieval times conceded that while woman is totally evil, man is a “creation of the Devil only from the waist down.” The church therefore regulated all sexual activity for those who couldn't resist getting married thereby spoiling somewhat their chances of salvation. Abstention was mandatory on Thursdays (in memory of Christ's arrest), on Fridays (in memory of his death), on Saturdays (in honour of the Virgin Mary), on Sundays (because of the Resurrec­tion), and on Mondays (to commemorate the dead.). This left just Tuesdays and Wednesdays for sex - unless the Church was observing the for­ty-day fast before Easter, or the feast of Pentecost and Christmas, or seven, five or three days before communion. A husband keen on achiev­ing eternal life in the hereafter could consult this theological calendar if he wished to have sex with his wife - not for fun but for procreation.

Contraception was a sin, in case it made a woman think that she might possibly enjoy sex safely. Coitus interruptus and oral sex inv­ited sentences from three to fifteen years. And those men who committed these "abomination joyfully" could be publicly whipped, put on fasts of bread and water for years, or have their bottoms exposed to public ridicu1e in the market-place.

"The Anchorite" by Teodor Axentowicz.
Since sex depends heavily on the chemistry of sex appeal, those anxious for their souls rendered themselves as unattractive as possi­ble. Adornment and finery was of the Devil, bathing was a sin. Anch­orites, fleeing temptation by women, lived in the wilderness unwashed for the rest of their lives. St.Abraham, "a man of singular beauty”, fled on his wedding night and never washed for the next fifty years. The dirt on his person "reflected the purity of his soul." Body odour was called "the odour of sanctity" and lice the "pearls of God." Those celibates who couldn't live in the wilderness climbed to the top of tall columns and were called stylites. Up there they were assured of being free from contact with women which could put their souls at risk.

Women who yearned for Heaven had to cancel out their sexual sel­ves by being rigorously filthy. One famous virgin, Sylvia, suffered extreme1y poor health by the age of sixty because she washed only the tip of her fingers. An anchorite in the desert believed he was having a vision of Satan himself when he saw a naked creature, black with filth, and white hair floating behind. It was the once beautiful St Mary of Egypt who had expiated for her sins for 47 years. Today pious women can achieve Heaven more healthfully, but they must cover those parts of their anatomy which men have decided are sinful by dressing in long garments and hiding their hair, going clean-shaven or plucking it out one by one.

Western ascetism promoted celibacy for reward in Heaven. Eastern asceticism uses tapasya, rigorous piety and sexual abstinence to enhance a person's intellectual powers. It endows yogis with supernatural power over other humans and Nature. This sublimation of the sexual impulse has given rise to bizarre folklore in our country which would fill volumes. Hatha Yoga has the Vajroli Mudra which enables a man to suck mil, water and mercury through the penis. This mix taken in reverse makes a man immortal. Ancient texts say that those whose sperm travels upwards are like gods. Semen ejaculated into a woman and drawn back also ensures immortality. Women cannot perform these remarkable feats because they are defectively designed.

Celibacy in all Indian religions is seen as a pious necessity and many practitioners even screen themselves off from the sight of women. Asceticism has a long tradition in India. Among the Jews the Essene sect regarded sexualintercourse as impure and sinful. Some scholars believe Christ was an Essene. Stoicism abhorred sex. St Paul preached celibacy (and possibly emasculation) as the best way to Salvation. He found it regrettable that men needed to marry at all. The neo-Platon­ists were as ascetic as the Christians, and Manicheism, which saw good and evil as a conflict between darkness and light, spread from Persia to influence European thought. Manes (215-275 AD) preached strict asceticism, including abstinence from all kinds of flesh. Even St Au­gustine was one of his followers.

The use and abuse of sex in religion is found the world over - in "civilized" cultures as in "primitive" tribal ones. From the cults of ancient fertility goddesses, phallic worship and orgies surrounding procreative gods like Priapus, vestal virgins dedicated to deities, temple prostitution and our own devadasi system in which credulous wo­men believe they are serving Yellamma when sold into Bombay brothels,  down to weird superstitions surrounding the magical properties of semen hymeneal blood and menstruation. One need not be a traveller from outer space to note and marvel at the manner in which Homo sapiens wallows in laughable mix of infantilism regarding his sexuality and an astonishing arrogance. Cosmic significance is attached to the act of copulation in tantrik cults of ecstasy, but a suitable abhorrence of it is a sure way to salvation in religions which claim to be highly moral.

Undoubtedly, the religious emphasis on celibacy, and the male chauvinism of the anti-sex element in the practice of piety, is largely responsible for the traditional denigration of women, with odium attached to their bodies.

Primitive superstition still survives in our personal laws which deny women sexual equality, control of their own fertility, the right to contraception, the right to join the priesthood, and all those laws binding marriage and divorce which victimize them.

If our simian cousins got a small hint of what awaits them were they to cross the small genetic divide that sets them apart from humans, they would not care to opt even for observer status at the United Nations. Being human is far too perilous a proposition.

Courtesy: Indian Skeptic, September 1995

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Science versus Miracle: God’s Name Appears on the Body when Ash is Rubbed On

B Premanand

To prove that he is a true devotee of god, a man takes a bath, makes a fire in front of him, chants mantras and then smears the ash from the Yajna Kunda on his body. The name of the god appears all over his body

Experiment: 119

Effect: God’s name appears on the body when ash is rubbed on

Props:  A plant which when broken exudes a white gummy liquid or soap and a thin stick.

Method: Write the name of god on the body with the broken twig of the plant and allow the white gummy substance to dry. Or write with the semi-solid soap, dipping the thin twig in the soap. You can use gum also. Allow it to dry. The heat from the fire induces a sweat and when ash from the Yajna Kunda is smeared on the body and dusted, you see name of god allover your body.

Experiment: 120

Effect: Magic tattooing

Props: Artist's brush, Potassium Ferro Cyanide solution in water and Iron Chloride solution in water, in separate bottles.

Method: With an artist's brush write the name of the god on your hand or a paper, dipped in Potassium Ferro Cyanide solution. Allow it to dry. Dip cotton or a piece of cloth in the Iron Chloride solution and apply it over the part you have already painted. What you have painted will appear in blue colour. 

Sleeping with the Enemy: Should minorities get lured by the invitations of Modi And Company?

Ram Puniyani

From 2002 Gujarat carnage Gujarat in particular and India in general has seen the rise of Narendra Modi on the political firmament. His propaganda machinery has given him the image whereby he is regarded as the ‘development man, non corrupt, strong and all that. A substantial section of society has bought this propaganda uncritically. Modi asserted himself within BJP to be named as the Chairman of their election campaign committee of 2014 and in turn giving the overt hints that he is the Prime Ministerial candidate from the side of BJP-NDA. Pursuing this path he has begun organizing conclaves to woo the Muslim community. He has been advising the BJP people that they should try to reach the minorities. As a step in that direction a conclave was organized in Ahmadabad with nearly 200 activists, scholars of different persuasions (June 2013). Thirty of these were Muslims. Many a Muslim leaders/activists/scholars were invited but many of them turned down the insistent invitations from the organizers arguing that it is an attempt by Modi to get credibility by inviting the Muslim leaders to his meeting. No community and group are uniform. Some of Muslim leaders turned up for the sessions, one of them Syed Zafar Mahmood attended the meeting and gave a detailed presentation. Before the meeting when Mahmood was asked how come he is attending the meeting as he has been critical of the policies of Modi? He replied that this question should be asked after he has said what he had to say in the meeting. Mahmood has been the Officer on Special duty for Sachar committee and is currently the chairman of Jakat Foundation of India.

His argument in attending the meeting might have been that it is an opportunity to present the plight of his community to Modi and use this space to articulate the grievances of his community. The presentation made by Mahmood was comprehensive, well researched and gave the picture of the community and criticized the BJP for its various policies. He also advised the BJP as to what they should be doing in coming times. In nutshell he said that the BJP’s is ideologically opposed to Muslims. For Mahmood it was not just a question of asking for justice and constitutional rights for the deprived Muslims of India. He quoted from BJP website to show the anti Muslim stance of BJP at various levels. For example, he pointed out that one of essays on website of BJP titled “Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology” was “full of hate and provocations against Muslims.” Then, he pointed out another essay, with headline, ‘Give us this day our sense of mission’ written by MV Kamath was a “call to Muslims to adopt Hindu names and [for] Muslim women to wear the mangal sutra (a black thread with ornaments to show that a women is married, worn by hindu women in some parts of India).” The third one quoted by him titled `Semitic Monotheism’, saw Muslims and Islam as a problem. This essay posits “We must realize that we have a problem on hand in India, the problem of a stagnant and conservative Islamic society. A national effort is called for to break Islamic exclusivism and enshrine the assimilative Hindutva.”

So far so good all these points are valid as they are blatantly anti Muslim. Presenting the plight of Muslim community, he demanded for implementation of schemes and measures for alleviation of the condition of Muslim minorities. He asked Mr. Modi to implement various demands the major one of which has been implementation of Sachar Committee recommendations. It is to be noted that Gujarat is one of the states which has been returning the scholarship for Muslim students. Incidentally another BJP Chief Minister has declared that he will not implement these recommendations. Mahmood also presented the plight of Muslim community, in Ahmadabad itself.  

One concedes that the points made by Mahmood are on the dot. The issue lies somewhere else. Whatever he said is a common knowledge. Many an activists, writer has been pleading from roof tops about the worsening plight of Muslim community in Gujarat. The ghettoisation of Muslim community, the lack of access to banking and educational facilities and pushing them out from the common stream of society have all been well documented. Many reports, articles and books devoted to this topic are struggling to grab the attention of society and political leaders as such. Modi, more than others is aware of this all round marginalization of Muslim community. His Sadbhavna fasts also showed his refusal to accept the diversity of India, the cap offered by Muslim cleric was refused while he adorned all multi designed head gears given by others. His discrimination against Muslim community is too well known.

Irrespective of the claims that Muslims in Gujarat are comparatively better off, the truth is that Gujarat was a state where the condition of Muslims had been better than in other parts of India. What one observed with the ascendance of Modi and his iron like grip over the matters of Gujarat state is the worsening plight of Muslim in particular and also of Christians to some extent.

Muslims of Gujarat have known Modi too well for the last twelve years. They are the victims of Modi’s fascist and communal policies. Modi led the 2002 genocide from the front. So what did Mahmood achieve in telling Modi what he inherently knows and what the Muslim community is suffering. One understands that while Modi apparently told Mahmood that he will consider Mahmood’s points, Mahmood’s speech was blacked out. On the contrary Modi has been the victor in his attempt to gain legitimacy from the section of Muslim leadership. Dr. Bandookwala, one of the foremost human rights activists from Gujarat, who has been the victim of carnage itself, points out “Right now he (Modi) is obsessed with becoming Prime Minister. That is not possible with strong Muslim opposition. And so there is desperation to appear in public with prominent Muslims, to showcase his acceptability to all Muslims. Sadly our leaders have given him a golden chance, in the naive belief that he must be told what the community feels. Does Zafar Mahmood think we Gujarat Muslims have not spoken on these issues in print and on TV, repeatedly over the last eleven years?”

Modi’s choosing of this time to hold these meetings with a section of Muslim leadership should have alerted the likes of Mahmood, whose naïve approach that it is chance to express our demands is of no use as the real trick being played by Modi is to gain credibility and to win over elements from Muslim community, the way he lured Zafar Sareshwala a businessman who is now serving the cause of Modi in a most loyal fashion. While Mahmood seems to have done some homework by going to the website of BJP and picking up some of the essays with anti-Muslim tone, what else did he expect? The practice of BJP, the political child of RSS, has constantly shown its anti Muslim orientation through the issues which it has taken up all through, the ones’ like Ram Temple leading to demolition of Babri demolition, the one like cow slaughter ban, the ones like freedom of religion bills. One has to know BJP is a part of RSS; the BJP is manned by the swayamsevaks trained by RSS, Modi being one of them. What does RSS want, Hindu Nation. What was its role in freedom movement-a total absence and criticizing the freedom movement as being merely anti British! What type of Constitution does it want? Why did BJP led NDA went for review of Constitution?

There are stark observations and ample literature on the agenda of RSS and its progeny. Modi’s temporary mask of trying to reach to Muslim community is the chameleon like behavior. It is an attempt with the elections of 2014 in mind, a mask is being tried to woo over the minorities. Giving importance to these attempts and to attend their conclaves and meetings may give a moments fame to the one’s attending them, few TV appearances and interviews, they can also be satisfied that they have made their point, but it is an extremely retrograde step for the community. It is like the leaders of Jews calling upon Hitler and telling him that they are being subjected to gas chambers and expecting that they have made the point. It is time that minority communities go beyond the obvious and introspect about the agenda of RSS, which is out to intimidate and subjugate minorities and other weaker sections of society. Some readings into the books like, ‘We or Nation Hood defined’, which praises Hitlers methods vis a vis minorities or Bunch of Thoughts which label Muslims, Christians and Communists as internal threat to Hindu nation, by the ex- RSS Chief Golwalkar may work as an eye opening stimulus for those who still think that BJP can change its long term agenda and that making a point at Modi conclave will change BJP policies towards religious minorities!  


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More