Thursday, 29 August 2013

Who Killed Narendra Dabholkar?

Ram Puniyani

The brutal killing of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar (20th August 2013) is a big jolt to the social movement against blind faith and superstitions. During last few decades the tendency for promotion of rational thought parallel to social change came up as Popular Science movement. In Maharashtra it took shape in the form of a movement, Andh Shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (Committee for Eradication of Blind faith), where it became a powerful campaign for popular awareness, under the leadership of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. There were those who were uncomfortable due to Dr. Dabholkar’s work against blind faith and superstitions and so he started getting threats to his life. Before his death he got several threats, one of which said, they will give him the same fate as that of Gandhi. After his killing Sanatan Prabhat, a Hindutva ideology paper, which constantly spew poison against him, commented that ‘one gets what one deserves’.

The practitioners and supporters of blind faith surely know that their art is a hoax, were sure that their blind magic can’t kill the pioneer of a rationalist movement, so they did hire assassins to kill Dabholkar. He was recipient of regular abuses from the Hindutva organization, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, on their web posted claims that they have exposed anti Hindu conspiracy. In their publications they put across abuses for him in gay abandon, one of which read, ‘Dabholkar’s group” should permanently make their faces black for their misdeeds against Hindu religion.”

As such Dabholakar was not against religion or faith. He strongly condemned the practices of blind faith and superstitions, promoted and practiced by Babas and their ilk, who proactively practiced and propagated retrograde practices.  Some of these practices like and Karni, Bhanamati are the ones’ in which magical rites are performed in the name of supernatural power. Some other practices are like offering of ash, talisman, charms etc. for the purpose of exorcism and to drive out evil spirits or ghosts. These Godmen and their types claim to be in possession of supernatural powers and advertise this claim. Many a times they claim to be reincarnation of a particular Saint or God, and this way they cheat the gullible and God-fearing simple folks. They do perform so called black magic and spread fear in society. The act which Dabholkar was campaigning for, which the Government adopted after his assassination, makes such practices as an offence under this act. Just a reminder that when this act was first brought up for discussion BJP-Shiv Sean combine strongly opposed the same. He was critical of these irrational practices, and for this he was labeled to be anti Hindu.

Apart from these upholders of politics in the name of Hindu religion other conservatives were also against the activities carried out by his organization. Faith is a complicated phenomenon, true it is needed by a section of society. Faith in supernatural power, faith in institution built around the names of prophets and individuals operating in the name of some religion or God have to some extent provided an emotional support to many in this cruel World with gross deprivations and inequalities. Recognizing this weakness of humans many a religio-entrepreneurs have systematically converted the faith into blind faith, a series of rituals, acts, which are deliberately used to exploit the gullible.

The battle between these two tendencies is old enough. Reason on one side and faith on the other. Reason believes in questioning the existing beliefs and to keep going beyond the prevalent knowledge. Faith, particularly the one constructed around the ‘institutions of religion’ begins with unquestioning subservience to the prevalent norms, beliefs and rituals. Many individuals who go in to establish their enterprises around these rituals, claim to be having divine powers. Incidentally, most of the founders of religions, the prophets, had questioning mind and they questioned the existing norms, values and practices. It is precisely for this that many of them were tormented and punished by the powers that ruled. The clergy, which built institutions around the names of these prophets or supernatural powers, developed rituals in the names of these prophets. The clergy and their practices were most static. Such tendency promotes status quo not only of knowledge but also of social situations and relations.  Clergy promoted the social status quo and so demanded unquestioning loyalty to their interpretation of religion and social norms as dictated by them.

There are many incidents in the history, where those who came up with rational thought were not only killed but sometimes harassed to no end. We know the fate of Charvak in India, who questioned the supernatural authorities of Vedas, he was condemned, and his writings were burnt. In Europe, Copernicus and Galileo’s plight at the hand of clergy is another chapter, while the scientists like Bruno, Servatus who argued that diseases are due to Worldly reasons and not due to the wrath of God, were burnt alive by the machinations of clergy. The idea here was very simple, if people start understanding that the diseases are due to bacteria or other etiological factors, the earlier practices of pleasing God through the clergy for healing will come to a halt and clergy’s social power will decline.

In India as the secularization process, the land reforms plus reduction of the hold of clergy remained incomplete, the power of clergy in social field continued. Indian Constitution talks of promotion of scientific temper and people like Nehru kept promoting the inculcation of this scientific temper. Meanwhile the political tendencies operating in the name of religion, kept opposing scientific, rational thinking and kept uncritically glorifying the ancient past, ancient practices cultivated by the clergy to exploit the gullible society, society in the grip of uncertainty and deprivation.

India did witness the rational movements to promote the scientific temper, but its impact in the society remained marginal. With the rise of communal politics from the decade of 1980, the blind faith took a massive leap with hoards of Babas and acharyas, setting up their religious enterprises, enterprises which probably turned out to be most profitable by any standard. One hopes that the business schools are able to calculate the returns on the investments in such enterprises some day. In addition many such Babas extracted the additional bonus of physical pleasures of another kind, the way currently Asaram Bapu is being accused of and so many of them have had their fill. In a crass manner many of the small and high level players also incorporated magical tricks like producing ash and gold from nowhere as their trademark of divine powers. It is these tricks which were being exposed by Dabholkar’s groups. 

The practitioners of blind faith and these hoards of five-seven star babas, get their legitimacy and appreciation from leaders of different hues. While those coming from RSS stable are firmly with them at all the levels, even politicians from other tendencies also personally support and follow these tricksters, Babas, Godmen and their whole tribe. The communalists stand to support them ideologically the way Sanatan Sanstha, while abusing Dabholkar also talked of his work being ‘anti Hindu’! A similar trickster, Benny Hynn did public performances for faith healing, and there is no dearth of the ‘Baba Bangali’ series indulging in such trade.

It took Dabholkar’s sacrifice for Mahrashtra Government to pass and bill against blind faith for which Daholkar was struggling from decades. He had collected data that it is women who are the biggest victims of those practicing black magic. He had been talking of taking on the highly rewarding trade of gems and their magic powers, in due course. Alas, that was not to be! Will other state Governments follow suit and try to bring a control on the flourishing trade of blind faith, black magic and its ilk? Will the progressive social movement take up the cause of the major victims of these abominable practices and take the society forward to the path of rational thought, rational culture and rational politics, away from the trappings of the faith based blindness. While our ‘scientific establishment’ has made giant strides the scientific thinking still lags behind as science is being practiced mostly as an instrument and not as a way of life. That’s how in many of science and technology institutions, on Dussera day, computers are worshipped with flowers and by putting vermillion on the forehead of the monitors! Can sacrifice of Dabholar wake up our policy makers to such a serious lacuna in our teaching and practice of science? We seem to have liked the benefits of technology and have been undermining the scientific way of thought and practice, more so after the politics-nationalism has started wearing the cloak of religion.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Modi Phenomenon: an Attack on Indian Democracy

Ram Puniyani

Currently (August 2013) Narendra Modi is trying to dominate the media, print social and TV through his carefully constructed propaganda machinery and his potential of being nominated as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate by RSS-BJP. Modi has openly used the words like puppies dying under the car wheel, while referring to the victims of Gujarat carnage of 2002. He has also asserted that he is a ‘Hindu nationalist’. While most of the older allies of NDA, are deserting NDA, RSS-BJP hope that he will be able to win the 2014 elections due to his image of a non corrupt, efficient administrator who has taken Gujarat to the heights of development. In social media and other platforms the polarized section of Hindus and the section of middle class are very appreciative of Modi and are creating a delusion of his becoming the next prime minister.

All this is mostly a pipe dream. One knows that Modi is totally disliked by the victims of communal violence, most sections of religious minorities  Those who have gone deeper to the issue of Gujarat development model point out that it is more of a propaganda than reality. We still need to understand as to why ‘Modi phenomenon’ has arisen on the Indian scenario and the dangers of ignoring the politics represented by Modi as such. Even though he may not be able to be the PM after 2014 we need to realize that politics represented by Modi and his ilk is the politics of ‘Communal Fascism’, which at surface looks to be just against minorities, but as a matter of fact, aims to abolish democracy after usurping power through democratic means. Its agenda is to do away with the human rights of the dalits, Adivasis, workers and women in Indian context.

RSS-BJP: Rise in 1980s

Modi is a trained Pracharak (propagator) of RSS, deeply soaked in the ideology of Hindu nationalism, working for the agenda of Hindu nation. In the decade of 1980 multiple factors at global and local level led to the rise of conservative middle classes, the petty industrialists, the rich farmers, the affluent professionals, who are always for the politics of status quo. During this time the global changes, the creeping globalization was on and the attacks on working class movement were stepped up. RSS-VHP during this phase started promoting the religiosity all round. Using the Shah Bano judgment as the pretext, RSS launched the tirade against secular values by putting forward the word ‘Pseudo secularism’ and phrases like appeasement of minorities.
The"Ratha Yatra" of Advani, 1990

In this backdrop Advani started his Rath Yatra for Ram Temple. In the country where the dire need of basic amenities for life and the need for protection of the human rights of weaker sections of society are paramount, the RSS combine deliberately brought forward the issues related to identity of a section of Hindus. At the same time their propaganda targeted the religious minorities, a mix of distorted version of history, and presenting the victims as culprits. The rath yatra of Advani created the atmosphere of ‘Hate towards minorities’ and this led to series of acts of violence.

The major outcome of this campaign for Ram Temple was that the issues related to human rights and the bread, butter, shelter and employment issues got relegated to the background and social-political scene started revolving around the identity issues. As a part of the communal politics unleashed by RSS combine, the anti Christian violence in Adivasis areas also got stepped up. In these areas the corporate giants want to have a free hand and have been able to encroach the lands of Adivasis.
RSS Combine: Epitome of Communalism
RSS began in India during the freedom movement as an organization opposed to the freedom movement, opposed to the concept of Indian Nationalism and harping on the glory of ancient Hindu kings, era of pastoral Aryans and ancient Hindu scriptures. RSS began as a response to the struggle of dalits for their land rights and the rising opposition to the values of Brahminism prevalent in the society. The non Brahman movement was inspired by Jotiba Phule and Dr. Ambedkar. As the average people started coming up in the society, started participating in the freedom movement, the elite-upper castes sections felt threatened and they came together to form Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This organization began by holding shakhas, and developed a training module according to which this (India) is a Hindu nation from times immemorial. The freedom movement’s values of incorporating people of all the religions in the movement were not acceptable to them. They trained the young boys into swayamsevaks, who took oath to work for Hindu nation. They also kept totally aloof from freedom movement. RSS was founded by the Chittapvan Brahmins and is an exclusively male organization.

RSS went on to form various subordinate organizations like Rashtra Sevika Samiti (for women). In this name the word swayam is missing as RSS being a male dominated patriarchal organization, it believes in the inherent subjugation of women as secondary beings. Later RSS went on to form Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad, (Student wing), and then in collaboration with Hindu Mahasabha it formed Bhartiya Jansangh, the previous avatar of the present BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (for bringing together different Hindu sects under the control of RSS) Vanvasi  Kalyan Ahsram (to work amongst Adivasis to Hidutvise them), Bajrang Dal as its foot soldiers (for unleashing street violence against religious minorities) and many other organizations like Durga Vahini etc.

On similar lines it began many an institutions to propagate its views (weeklies like Panchjanya and Organizer), started Sarswati Shishu Mandirs and Ekal Schools for Adivasi children. Its ideological spread was achieved through spread of brahminical norms through various channels. Infiltration of its RSS swayamsevaks into the state apparatus, police, military, bureaucracy is also very deep. 

The ideological indoctrination

Through its shakhas it started spreading the hate for minorities, opposition to the values of secularism and Indian Constitution. This relentless opposition went on through many other channels also. It also made inroads to the IT professionals by the web meetings called IT milans (Gathering). The social media also was and has been used by RSS combine in a very effective way. To add to all these many a Godmen of the likes of Pandurang Shastri Athwaley, Asaram Bapu, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishnkar etc. started propagating the social concepts of RSS, the values of Hindu Nation through their subtle and direct activities. The result has been that the social scene has come to be dominated by the conservative thinking. Meanwhile RSS also popularized the word, Hidnutva. This word Hindutva stands for the politics based on Brahimincal values of caste and gender hierarchy. Mistakenly the politics of Hindutva is supposed to be ‘a way of life’ by many.

 Throughout the decades of 1960 and 1970 there were sporadic episodes of violence. This led to polarization of the religious communities and provided the ground for rise of electoral strength of communal party. In the decade of 1980s, with the Ram Temple campaign picking up, the intensity of violence also started going up. Major episodes of violence took place in various cities of North India. All this was dwarfed by the communal violence Post Babri demolition. The violence in cities like Mumbai, Bhopal and Surat was too horrific for words. The violence unleashed in Gujarat on the pretext of Godhra train burning shamed the nation as a whole, beyond all previous acts of violence.
Modi: Gujarat Violence and After

The post Godhra violence was a sample of the way state can actively promote violence. So far in the communal violence in India, the police, the state had been by and large an onlooker, mostly police siding with rioters. In Gujarat the equation was worsened much further with state, led by Modi actively promoting violence. Though it is claimed that Special Investigation team has given the clean chit to Modi, the fact is that based on the same report, the Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curie Raju Ramchandran feels the report has enough evidence to prosecute Modi for his role in 2002 violence. After the violence the state of Gujarat totally washed its hands off the responsibility to rehabilitate the violence victims. The process of marginalization of religious minorities went quite far. A large section has been living in ghettoes in Ahmadabad itself, while their civic and political rights have been trampled and they are living like second class citizens. There is an intense propaganda that Gujarat is most developing state, the fact is that Gujarat was already amongst the more developed states, the claims of huge investments through Vibrant Gujarat summits have little substance in them, promises have been more than the actualizations. The real indices of social development are lagging behind. The rate of employment generation is very low, Gujarat is low on the per capita spending, the Hemoglobin level of pregnant women is on the lower side and sex ratio has also fallen during last one and a half decade.

Hindutva: electoral Strategy

RSS combine has been entering into the electoral arena by and by. While in 1984 elections when it was giving the slogan of Gandhian socialism, it had only two MPs in Lok Sabha. In 1996, it went on to more than 150 MPs and it emerged as the largest single party. That time no other electoral party was willing to ally with it. The BJP government fell. After going through couple of ‘third-front’ experiments, BJP managed to cobble up the coalition, National Democratic Alliance. For this it had to give up the core issues of Ram Temple, abolition of Article 370 in Kashmir and Uniform Civil Code. This strategy worked and BJP led NDA ruled for nearly six years. During this time it communalized the text books and recruited RSS volunteers in to various government schemes and supported many NGOs with RSS agenda and RSS got a big boost in the political arena and its dominance was painfully perceptible in different walks of life.

The Hindutva combine knows that it was so far not able to come to power on its own. Now it is hoping that it will go with aggressive Hindutva agenda and by coming to power on its own it will bring in Hindu Rashtra.
Agenda of Hindu Rashtra- Hindutva Politics

Modi is the aggressive form of Hindutva agenda. He has openly started saying that they believe in Hindu nationalism. This is a subtle and open hint at the communal fascism which RSS combine, of which Modi is the major leader, wants to bring in. The major support base for RSS combine, more so with Modi at the helm is the corporate sector on one hand and the middle level corporate employees, the Information Technology-MBA groups on the other. Modi has demonstrated in Gujarat that he can open all the state coffers for the industrialists, land, loans and necessary paraphernalia. This has impressed the corporate sector and they are pitching for him in a large way. The corporate media has uncritically propagated his claims about development. The social welfare schemes have been kept in abeyance, due to which the poorer sections are suffering. As for as minorities are concerned all the central schemes related to Sachar Committee are not being implemented, the scholarship funds for the Muslim students is being returned back year after year. Modi in this sense is ruthless as for as schemes related to religious minorities are concerned.

He is the choice of corporate, middle classes, the traders and the RSS support base. Each of these has their own understanding of Modi and he fits in to the bill of these all. Corporates think he will give them a free hand to plunder, the middle classes know Modi is the best guarantee against social change for betterment of the deprived sections and religious minorities. The RSS, discarded Advani on two grounds, one that he made that statement about Jinnah being secular and other that he is on the wrong side of the age. RSS, the real controller of BJP and other affiliated organizations see in Modi a ruthless swayamsevak out to bring in Hindu Rashtra.

Way Ahead

While Modi and RSS agenda is being projected and Modi’s rise is being anticipated it is clear to most that Modi’s coming into the top of power ladder will instill an autocrat who will soon follow the path of Hitler. Our country is rich of diversity with varying interest groups, who know Modi-RSS are going to impose Hindu Rashtra a synonym for communal fascist state. This diversity of the country and the realization of this sort amongst large sections of Indian voters should wake up to this danger to our democracy and ensure their defeat in the electoral area. While RSS combine and corporates will try their best to prop him up, the large section of Indian electorate should not be taken in by such propaganda, as Modi’s reality is too well known to most by now. Though Modi is trying to project as if he is changing his profile and becoming liberal, one knows that a leopard cannot change its spots. And that is the reason as to why Modi’s tricks on the electoral arena should be made to fail in the coming elections.

The responsibility of ensuring that mishap of Modi’s victory does not take place will also rest on the progressive sections of society, the sections who are getting affected by the agenda of communal politics and the religious minorities who have experienced the Modi’s deeds of commission and omission. The realization of this sort will be in the center stage of the progressive sections of society and it is crystal clear that they have to come up to fulfill this historic responsibility to understand the Modi phenomenon and to make the large sections of population aware about this truth. This truth they are trying to mask by the propaganda unleashed by Modi and his minions. Some facts are known and others will have to be made known to the struggling masses, which is the need of the hour for democratic movement in the country. While we have to intensify the struggle for human rights of all, we may have some differences, we also have to come together on this common goal of saving democracy which is being attacked by the communal fascist forces as represented by Modi and those who are prostrating in front of him.

Some people, ideologues try to argue that more violence has taken place in non BJP ruled party, that other parties are not truly secular. What we have to remember is that BJP as a party cannot and should not be compared with any other party, as BJP is not just and electoral party, it is basically the electoral wing of RSS, whose agenda is opposed to the agenda of secular democratic India, the dream of Indian nationalism, the dream of those who contributed to the ‘Making of the Nation-India’, the diverse streams represented by Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Jawaharlal Nehru: Three Letters on Ayodhya

Jawaharlal Nehru

To GB Pant

New Delhi
April 17, 1950

My dear Pantji,

Thank you for your letter about Shahjahanpur. I am quite sure that your Government has taken strong and effective action during these recent troubles in the U.P. I am glad to learn that as a result of that action as well as a consequence of the Agreement, there is a tendency to settle down.

These recent occurrences in the U.P. have greatly distressed me. Or perhaps this was a culmination of what I had been feeling for a long time. People die and the fact of killing, though painful, does not upset me. But what does upset one is the complete degradation of human nature and, even more, the attempt to find justification for this.

I have felt for a long time that the whole atmosphere of the U.P. has been changing for the worse from the communal point of view.[1] Indeed the U.P. is becoming almost a foreign land for me. I do not fit in there. The U.P. Congress Committee, with which I have been associated for 35 years, now functions in a manner which amazes me. Its voice is not the voice of the Congress I have known, but something which I have opposed for the greater part of my life. Purushottam Das Tandon, for whom I have the greatest affection and respect, is continually delivering speeches, which seem to me to be opposed to the basic principles of the Congress. Other members, like Vishambhar Dayal Tripathi, have the presumption to write and speak in a manner which would be objectionable in a member of the Hindu Mahasabha. We talk a great deal of disciplinary action. But these major distortions of the Congress policy are continually being made and accepted.

If the sea loses its saltiness, wherewith shall it be salted?

I have not been to the U.P. for a long time. That is partly due to lack of time, but the real reason is that I hesitate to go there. I do not wish to come into conflict with my old colleagues and I feel terribly uncomfortable there, because I find that communalism has invaded the minds and hearts of those who were the pillars of the Congress in the past. It is a creeping paralysis and the patient does not even realise it. All that occurred in Ayodhya in regard to the Mosque and temples[2] and the hotel in Faizabad[3] was bad enough. But the worst feature of it was that such things should take place and be approved by some of our own people and that they should continue.

It seems to me that for some reason or other or perhaps mere political expediency, we have been far too lenient with this disease, that has been spreading all over India and in our own province. Sometimes I feel that I should leave everything and take up this matter only. Perhaps some day I shall do that. If I do it, it will be a crusade with all the strength that I possess.

Law and order prevails in the U.P. and there are no incidents and the exodus has toned down or almost stopped. That is all very good. But the reports I get of the general atmosphere and of petty happenings reveal the true state of affairs even more than major incidents. A Muslim is walking along the street in a city. He is spat upon and told to go to Pakistan or he is given a slap on the face or his beard is pulled. Muslim women have vulgar remarks passed against them in the streets and always there is the taunting remark, "go to Pakistan". Only a few individuals may do these, but we have tolerated the growth of an atmosphere which permits this kind of thing being done and others look on and approve.

I have an instinctive feeling that our people, those who function in the Congress in large numbers, are still fairly sound at heart and can be made to understand. But the leadership is weak and is always compromising with something that is wrong and so the rank and file goes astray.

The fact of the matter is that for all our boasts, we have shown ourselves a backward people, totally lacking in the elements of culture, as any country understands them. It is only those who lack all understanding of Culture, who talk so much about it.


[1] The Faizabad-Ayodhya area became a centre of communal tension and this caused anti-Muslim feeling in other districts such as Agra, Mathura and Bareilly.

[2] Some images of deities were found in the mosque at Ayodhya on the night of 22-23 December 1949.

[3] A Muslim proprietor of a hotel was ordered to vacate it by the district authorities. Some Hindus occupied it the next day.


To BC Roy

New Delhi
May 18, 1950

My dear Bidhan,

Thank you for your long letter of the 16th May, in which you have given me an account of your meeting at Dacca. On the whole the meeting seems to have gone off fairly well. It is obvious that the problems you deal with bristle with practical difficulties. But something what is even harder to tackle is the psychological difficulty and the suspicion on either side.

You are quite right in saying that the Moulvis and Maulanas are likely to give trouble. Apart from other reasons, there is an economic urge for them, as they want to become Qazis and some kind of judicial officers where Muslim personal law is concerned. But we have our Moulvis and Maulanas too, even though we call them by different names. The two cases you mention, racing and alcoholic drinks, are being attacked and suppressed by our enthusiasts. What is worse is the way some of our Sanatanists are raising religious or semi-religious issues. This has created a good deal of tension in parts of the U.P. In Ayodhya an old mosque built by Babar was taken possession of by a mob led by the Pandas and Sanatanists of the place and I regret to say that the U.P. Government showed great weakness in handling the situation. You will have noticed that there has been a pretty large migration of Muslims from the U.P. Altogether over 100,000 persons have gone to West Pakistan from the U.P., Delhi and parts of Rajasthan. Very little in the shape of incidents has happened in the U.P. and whatever happened took place early in March during the Holi. Nevertheless there has been this migration and there can be no doubt that in some districts of the U.P. the pressure on the Muslims was considerable and created a feeling of insecurity in them. This makes one understand easily enough the greater pressure on the Hindus in East Bengal.

I am glad you had a talk with Mohanlal Saksena. There was no question of your complaining against anyone to me. You wrote to me about Nikhil Sen and said that B.G. Rao had not been seeing much of you. I passed on this information to Saksena. I quite agree with you that you should be kept in the closest touch with all Central activities in West Bengal and indeed should be consulted about them.

The press in West Bengal is, I am afraid, still far from satisfactory. It is possible that when some of these newspapers go to East Bengal, they might increase the tension there.



To Lal Bahadur Shastri

New Delhi
July 9, 1950

My dear Lal Bahadur[1],

Akshaya Brahmachari[2] came to see me yesterday and he gave me a long account of what had happened at Ayodhya. Much of this I had heard previously, much was new. You must be fully acquainted with all these facts and so I need not repeat them. Indeed, I asked Akshaya to keep in touch with you in this matter.

As you know, the Babri Mosque affair in Ayodhya is considered by us a major issue and one affecting deeply our whole policy and prestige. But apart from this, it appears that conditions in Ayodhya have become worse and worse. It is quite likely that this kind of trouble may spread to Mathura and other places. What distresses me most is the fact that our Congress organisation takes no interest in it and some prominent Congressmen like Raghavdas[3] and Vishambhar Dayal Tripathi carry on propaganda of the kind which can only be called communal and opposed to Congress policy.

Akshaya told me that a hotel called the Star Hotel, owned by a Muslim in Ayodhya, was ordered to be vacated in December last under Section 144. The next day possession of this was taken up by some Hindus and four days later they started a hotel there called the 'Gomati' Hotel. This continues. Under what law or rule of commonsense or policy this was done or permitted to be done is not clear to me.[4]

Then I am told that it has become almost impossible for Muslims to be buried in Ayodhya. A case of the wife of one Ahmed Ali was placed before me when the corpse was carried about from one cemetery to another and ultimately sent outside Ayodhya for burial.[5]

A number of Muslim graves have been dug up also.[6]

These are one or two of the points Akshaya told me. I fear that again for some kind of disaster.

Yours sincerely,
Jawaharlal Nehru

[1] He was Home Minister in the U.P. Government at this time.

[2] Akshaya Brahmachari was a Shrivaishnav sadhu of Ayodhya. He was also secretary of the Faizabad District Congress Committee, and a member of the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Congress Committee. He undertook a fast from 30 January to 4 February 1950 when the Hindu-Muslim situation did not improve. It was given up on the U.P. Home Minister's assurance that he would-take action.

[3] Raghavendra Sheshappa Pachapurkar alias Baba Raghavdas (1896-1958); joined Indian National Congress in 1920 and worked in Gorakhpur for social uplift.

[4] A subsequent report from the District Magistrate, Faizabad, said that the previous order served on the hotel was withdrawn in March. The building was allotted to the owner who opened a hotel of his own which was still running. The proprietor of the previous Star Hotel had been allotted another building. The premises were chosen by him with the consent of the owner and there were no problems afterwards.

[5] The Magistrate denied this and said that there was opposition from the Hindus to the burial of bodies “within Panch Kosi Parikrama” limit of Ayodhya but not in the other graveyards.

[6] The Magistrate said that there had been no fresh damage to graves. Earlier cases were investigated and the accused were convicted or acquitted on appeal some Hindi words had been written in coal tar. These cases were being investigated and the culprits were being prosecuted.

Courtesy: Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru – Second Series 14 – Part II
First Published: 1993 Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Resist Anti-Scientific Temper Forces: A Statement by Intellectuals & Activists

We the scientist, rationalists, educators and intellectuals of the country learnt with shock and anger the brutal and inhuman murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar. This murder is part of the series of attacks that have been perpetrated by anti scientific temper forces in the country. The attacks on artists, intellectuals and rationalists, all over the country, have increased exponentially.

Dr Dabholkar, a legendry figure in Maharashtra had contributed significantly to spreading scientific temper and spirit of enquiry. We strongly feel that it is duty of every citizen in the country to unequivocally condemn his murder. His noteworthy, untiring and courageous contribution in framing the ‘anti-superstition and black magic bill’, that is pending before the Maharashtra Assembly speaks volumes about his attitude towards fulfilling the constitutional duty. His murder is an attack on the fundamentals of our constitution.

The atmosphere of intolerance and anti-science attitude is sweeping the Indian sub-continent. It is created by those vested interests, which benefit from spreading myths and superstitions. There is a deliberate plot to push our society towards fanaticism.

On March 13, 1958, Pt. Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India placed ‘Scientific Policy Resolution’ before the Parliament of the country and read the entire document and had hoped that science ‘has provided new tools of thought’ which will ‘expand the mental horizon’. He had also hoped that science will influence the basic values of life and give the Indian civilization and new vitality and a new dynamism. The opposition had demanded a discussion; every speaker endorsed the resolution and raised concerns to strengthen it. The debate is a witness to the commitment that our parliamentarians of the time had towards eradicating myths and superstitions from our society. They had also recognized how difficult the task was.

Today we have come a long way, instead of debating and endorsing a bill that calls for eradication of superstitions, a person who pushes it in the assembly is killed in broad daylight. Those who killed Dr Dabholkar are scared of who hold rationality, independent thinking, questioning, and skepticism.

India, which has a long tradition of skepticism, humanism and spirit of enquiry, is facing a situation where anti-scientific temper forces apparently loom large. We call upon all those who stand by the constitution to rise and rededicate ourselves to spreading scientific temper.

We demand:

The perpetrators of this ghastly act should be immediately arrested, brought to the book and punished as per law of the land.

The anti-superstition and black magic bill should be passed immediately by Maharashtra Assembly.

A similar bill should be drafted, discussed and passed by the parliament of the country.

- Dr. Ram Puniyani, Gauhar Raza, Dinesh Abrol, Amitabh Pandey, Prof. IrfanHabib, Dr.Subodh Mahanti, Dr TV Venkateswaran, Dr Surjit Singh.

20 August 2013

Monday, 19 August 2013

Materialist Philosophy in Chāndogya Upaniṣad

Chandogya Upanisad (viii. 7-9)

As one of the principal Upaniads, the text is usually viewed as pre-Buddha, and hence, might have belonged to c. seventh century BC.

Since in the extract quoted here we have the earliest refer­ence to a view identifying the body with the self, which is reminiscent of one of the typical tenets of the Lokayatas/ Carvakas, S. N. Dasgupta is inclined to read in it an expression of the same, though the text does not mention the word Lokayata or Carvaka and attributes the view to the Asuras.

Note by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya (Carvaka/Lokayata: Source Materials, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1990: Page 3-6)


viii. 7

  1. Thus declared Prajāpati: ‘The self (ātman) is free from evils, without age, without death, without sorrow, without hunger, without thirst; its desire inevitably comes true, its contemplation (samkalpa) inevitably comes true. Such a self is to be searched for, and one should desire to ascertain its nature. One who realises (the nature of) that self, after searching for it (in the prescribed way), attains all the worlds and obtains all the desires.’
  2. Both the gods and the Asuras listened to it (i.e., the words of Prajāpati). They said: 'Well, we shall search for that self - ­the self searching out which one attains all the worlds and obtains all the desires.' Then, from among the gods, Indra went away and from among the Asuras, Virocana. The two, without get­ting acquainted with each other, carrying fuel in hand (i.e., the traditional mode of approaching the preceptor) came into the presence to Prajapati.
  3. The two spent thirty-two years observing celibacy (brahmacarya). Then Prajāpati said to them: 'Desiring what are you living here?' They replied: 'The self is free from evils, without age, without death, without sorrow, without hunger, without thirst; its desire inevitably comes true, its contemplation inevitably comes true. Such a self is to be searched for and one should desire to know its nature. One, who realises that self, after searching for it, attains all the worlds and obtains all the desires. Sir, this is known to be declared by your very self. We are living here only desiring that self. '
  4. Prajapati said to the two: 'The very person (purua) that is seen in the eye is the self about whom I have spoken. It is immortal, it is fearless and it is the brahman.' (Then the two asked for clarification :) 'Sir, of the one that is reflected in the water and that one that is (reflected) in the mirror, which one is actually that (self)?' (Prajāpati replied :) 'In fact, the same one is reflected within all these. '
viii. 8

  1. (Prajāpati said :) 'Look at yourself in an earthen plate (Sarāba) full of water. Tell me then whatever you do not under­stand concerning the self.' Accordingly, they looked in an earthen plate full of water. Prajāpati said to the two: 'What do you see?' The two replied: 'Sir, we see everything of it. We see the self as the exactly corresponding one, even to the hair, even to the fingernails.’
  2. Prajāpati said to the two: 'Adorn yourselves well, put on good clothes, make yourselves clean and then, look in an earthen plate full of water. 'The two adorned themselves well, put on good clothes, made themselves clean and looked in an earthen plate full of water. Then, Prajāpati said to the two: 'What do you see?'
  3. The two said: 'Exactly as we two are, well-adorned, dres­sed in good clothes and made clean; we find ourselves to be the same, well-adorned, dressed in good clothes and made dean.' Prajāpati said: 'That is indeed the self. It is immortal, it is fearless, it is the brahman.' At this, the two went away with a peaceful mind.
  4. Seeing them (leaving in this way) Prajāpati said: 'These two are going away without realising, without ascertaining, the self. Whosoever they may be, gods or Asuras, if they have such doctrines (Upanishad) (i.e., such notions about the self), they will surely be defeated.'
But, then, Virocana, quite peaceful in mind, went to the Asuras and preached this doctrine to them: 'Here oneself alone is to be adored, oneself alone is to be looked after. It is by ador­ing and looking after oneself alone that one can attain both the worlds, this one as well as the other. '
  1. From then on, even till today, the followers of Asura (āsura) are said to be the ones who never give away anything, have no faith and never perform any sacrifice. And strange enough is the doctrine of the Asuras. They adorn the body of a person who has died, with clothes and ornaments 'which (they collect) by begging. They think that by this they will win the yonder world.

viii. 9

  1. Then Indra, even before he had reached the gods, found that there was cause for concern. (He thought :) 'Just as it becomes well-adorned when this body is well-adorned, it has good clothes (when this body) has good clothes, and it becomes clean (when this body) is made clean, so also, it becomes blind (when this body) becomes blind, it becomes sick (when this body) becomes sick, it becomes disfigured (when this body) is disfigured, and it perishes immediately upon the destruction of the body. I do not find anything worth enjoying in it.'
  2. Fuel in hand, he went back. Prajāpati said to him: 'O the munificent one (maghavat)! With a peaceful mind, you went away, along with Virocana. Desiring what have you come back?' He replied: 'Sir, just as it becomes well-adorned when this body is well-adorned, it has good clothes (when this body) has good clothes, and it becomes clean (when this body) is made clean, so also, it becomes blind (when this body) becomes blind, it becomes sick (when this body) becomes sick, it becomes disfigured (when this body) is disfigured, and it perishes imme­diately upon the destruction of the body. I do not find anything worth enjoying in it. '
  3. He (Prajapati) said to Indra: 'O the munificent one! It is indeed so. Well, I shall explain it to you once again. Stay with me for a further period of thirty-two years.' Then he (Indra) lived (with Prajāpati) for a further period of thirty-two years.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Kandhamal Violence -5 Years Later

Ram Puniyani

This August 25, 2013, it will be five years, since the biggest anti Christian, violence, biggest communal violence in the Adivisi area, will complete five years. What has been the plight of the victims of the violence after this ghastly tragedy? What is the state of justice to the victim?

Kandhamal violence began in 2008, after the trailer of the same was seen a year earlier in 2007. The pretext was the murder of Swami Laxmananand, Lakkhanand, who was working in the area from last four decades. He was part of the RSS combine, VHP-Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and was involved in the programs like Ghar Vapasi, the forcible conversion of Adivasis to Hinduism. RSS combine asserts that Adivasis are originally Hindus who had to flee to forests to avoid being converted to Islam in particular. This is a political construct and has nothing to do with the social history. The credit of his murder of Swami was taken by the Maoists, who said that this act was done to stop his activities related to spreading hatred in the area. Immediately after the murder, Pravin Togadia of VHP took out the procession with the body of Swami through a long circuitous route spanning 270 Kilometers. It was on this route that anti Christian violence and destruction of Churches and damage to the property of Christian community took place. It is reminiscent of the Gujarat pattern, where the bodies of Godhra tragedy were taken in a procession to Ahmadabad by the functionaries of VHP-BJP., and the violence followed.

The victims of Kandhmal were poor Christians, most of who were dalits and living below the poverty line. Nearly three hundred Churches were destroyed and four hundred Christians were done to death. With this thousands of them had to leave the areas and were forced to live in the poorly equipped refugee settlements. This violence was targeted against the minority Christian community, it violated the fundamental right to life, liberty and equality guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, and affirmed by many international covenants. The pattern of violence shows that the attacks were targeted, widespread, in the district of Kandhamal. Their execution was done with meticulous planning and preparation. The violence was preceded by various activities and the planning meetings were held by the perpetrators prior to the violence. Apart from this meticulous planning the financial and other forms of assistance were secured months prior to the violence. The violence meets the criteria of ‘Crimes against Humanity’ as defined in international law. The blatant brutality of the violence makes it fall within the definition of ‘torture’ under international laws.

Courtesy: Wikipedia
The winter following the carnage was very intense and the facilities to combat the nature’s fury were far from adequate. The relief came much later but not adequately from the Government sources. Church tried to step in as a stop gap measure. But initially the Government blocked this humanitarian relief on the ground that it will be given only to the Christians. On the intervention of the Court, Government was forced to permit the Church to offer the aid to all the victims. This also partly reminds one of Gujarat. Here also the state washed its hands soon enough and then the religious organizations tried to fill the gap!

The state of justice delivery system as such is abysmal. The communalized state apparatus blocks the justice at various levels. The story of this obstacle begins from the registration of cases, then to investigation and then to the court procedures, the role of public prosecutors and the willpower of state. The whole chain shows that justice is hard to get by especially the way our democracy is being eroded by the communal ideology under various garbs. At this stage the National Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Law Network came forward and brought out good reports showing us the mirror of the prevalent injustice in Kandhamal. A People’s Tribunal was also set up under the Chairmanship of retired Justice AP Shah. Most of these reports indicted the communal forces for their aggressive stance and held the state Government responsible for various acts of omission and commission. Unlike in Gujarat, the BJP, which was part of ruling coalition, was dumped by Biju Janata Dal after which Biju Pattnaik, the Chief Minister could frankly speak about the role of BJP and company in their involvement in instigating the violence against Christians. The role of Hindutva organizations in the carnage was officially acknowledged by the Chief Minister. In response to a question posed in the Legislative Assembly, the chief minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik, admitted, on the basis of state’s investigation that “members of the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal” were involved in the violence. As per the Chief Minister, police arrested 85 people from the RSS, 321 members of the VHP and 118 Bajrang Dal members in the attacks. He said that only 27 members from these groups were still in jail.

Even till date the work of rehabilitation and justice to the victims is far from adequate. Nationally there are so many pressing issues of violations of the rights of minorities that Kandhmal issue has not been so much brought into focus by the human rights groups, which is a bit unfortunate. Despite other pressing demands on the time of social groups, one must appreciate the dogged and determined work of some of the activists who are pursuing the struggle for dignity and rights of the victims of Kandhamal violence.

John Dayal, President of All India Catholic Union and member of National Integration Council points out that “The Chief Minister Pattnaik appointed two judicial commissions… the commonality between the judges of these commissions is the haste in which they have expressed their high regard for the late VHP leader, Swami Laxmananand and their belief that the violence is not religiously motivated but a conflict over land issues between the Tribal Kondhs, mostly Hindu, and the Dalit Panos, many of whom have converted to Christianity, and who are demanding Scheduled Caste status.” Like most of the commissions of inquiry these commission are also working at a snail’s pace to prove once more that a delayed report usually becomes useless as for as delivery of justice is concerned.  The Christian community was so disgusted with the attitude of the commissions that initially they boycotted them but later seeing no other platform to express their pain and anguish have decided to be part of the same.

Today five years down the line the process of rehabilitation is far from satisfactory, a small number is yet to get the compensation. The compensation received is too inadequate to rebuild the life afresh.  As far as justice is concerned while the inquiry commission reports are too slow, the fast track courts which were set up have been suspended. The proceedings of the cases is going on in an atmosphere where the guilty are openly threatening the witnesses, and many of them are reluctant to give evidence out of fear of the accused, who are on bail despite several serious  charges against them.  Quite like Gujarat where many a witnesses turned hostile! In this scenario the state is backing off from rebuilding the Churches destroyed during carnage. The plea being offered is how a secular state can spend money on the places of religious worship. Again quite like Gujarat! When state is unable to protect a place of worship, why should it not come forward to build it?  

Kandhmal is yet another reflection of the impact of communal forces within our system, the difficulty in rehabilitation for them and the lack of adequate justice for riot victims. This is what is the major phenomenon eroding our democratic plural ethos. More and urgent efforts need to be put in for these hapless victims of the carnage.

The Spirit of Science

Jawaharlal Nehru

In the course of less than four months, we have put up, declared open or are going to declare open three national laboratories. I suppose before this year is out some more national laboratories will also be started. This is a great venture testifying to the faith which our scientists and, I hope, our Government have in science. I suppose the putting up of fine and attractive buildings does some service to science; nevertheless, buildings do not make science as Dr Ramal has often reminded us. It is human beings who make science, not bricks and mortar. Properly equipped buildings, however, help the human being to work efficiently. It is, therefore, desirable to have these fine laboratories for trained persons to work in and for persons to be trained for future work.

You, Sir, referred to the spirit of science. I wonder what exactly that spirit is and to what extent we agree or differ in our ideas of it. Is science, as is often supposed, a handmaiden to industry? It certainly wants to help industry, though not merely for the sake of helping industry but also because it wants to create work for the nation, so that people may have better living conditions and greater opportunities for growth. That I suppose will be agreed to but there is something more to it. What ultimately does science represent?

You, Sir, just referred to scientists declaring war on nature. May I put it in a different way? We seek the co­operation of nature, we seek to uncover the secrets of nature, to understand them and to utilize them for the benefit of humanity. The active principle of science is discovery. Now, what is, if I may ask, the active principle of a social frame­work or society? Usually, it stands for conservatism, remaining where we are, not changing and carrying on, though, of course, with some improvement and further additions. Nevertheless, it is a principle of continuity rather than of change. So, we come up against a certain inherent conflict in society between the co-existing principles of continuity and of conservatism and the scientific principle of discovery which brings about change and challenges that continuity. So the scientific worker, although he is praised and patted on the back, is, nevertheless, not wholly approved of, because he comes and upsets the status quo of things. Normally speaking, science seldom really has the facilities that it deserves except when some misfortune comes to a country in the shape of war. Then everything has to be set aside and science has its way, even though it is for an evil purpose.

Einstein and Nehru at Princeton University

It is interesting to see this conflict between the normal conservatism of a static society and the normal revolutionary tendency of the scientist's discovery which often changes the basis of that society. It changes living conditions and the conditions that govern human life and human survival.

I take it that most people, who talk glibly of science, including our great industrialists, think of science merely as a kind of handmaiden to make their 'work easier. And so it is. Of course, it does make their work easier. It adds to the wealth of the nation and betters conditions. All this science does do. But surely science is something more than that. The history of science shows that it does not simply better the old. It sometimes upsets the old. It does not merely add new ' truths to the old ones but sometimes the new truth it discovers disintegrates some part of the old truths and thereby upsets the way of men's thinking and the way of their lives. Science, therefore, does not merely repeat the old in better ways or add to the old but creates something that is new to the world and to human consciousness.

If we pursue this line of thought, what exactly does the spirit of science mean? It means many things. It means not only accepting the fresh truth that science may bring, not only improving the old but being prepared to upset the old if it goes against that spirit. It also means not being tied down to something that is old because it is old, because we have carried on with it but being able to accept its disintegration; it means not being tied down to a social fabric or an industrial fabric or an economic fabric if it goes against the new discovery.

Whatever they may say, most countries normally do not like to change. The human being is essentially a conservative animal. He is used to certain ways of life and anyone trying to change them meets with his disapproval. Nevertheless, change comes and people have to adapt themselves to it; they have done so in the past. All countries, as I said, are normally conservative. But I imagine that our country is more than normally conservative. It is for this reason that I venture to place these thoughts before you. I find a curious hiatus in people's thinking. I find it even in the thinking of scientists who praise science and practise it in the laboratory but discard the ways of science, its method of approach and the spirit of science in everything else they do in life. They become completely unscientific. If we approach science in the proper way, it does some good and there is no doubt that it will always do some good. It teaches us new ways of doing things. Perhaps, it improves our conditions of industrial life but the basic thing that science should do is to teach us to think straight and not to be afraid of discarding anything or of accepting anything, provided there are sufficient reasons for doing so. I should like our country to understand and appreciate that idea all the more, because in the realm of thought our country in the past has, in a sense, been singularly free and it has not hesitated to look down the deep well of truth whatever it might contain. Nevertheless, in spite of such a free mind, our country encumbered itself to such an extent in matters of social practice that its growth was hindered and is hindered in a hundred ways even today. Our customs are just ways of looking at little things that govern our lives and have no significant meaning. Even then, these customs come in our way. Now that we have attained independence, there is naturally a resurgence of all kinds of new forces, both good and bad; good forces are, of course, liberated by a sense of freedom but along with them there are also a number of forces which, under the guise of what people call culture, narrow our minds and our outlook. These forces are essentially a restriction and denial of any real kind of culture. Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. It is never a narrowing of the mind or a restriction of the human spirit or of the country’s spirit. Therefore, if we look at science in the real way and if we think of these research institutes and laboratories in a fundamental sense, then they are something more than just little ways of improving things and of finding out how this or that should be done. Of course, we have to do that, too. But these institutes must gradually affect our minds, not only the minds of the young men and young women who would work here but also the minds of others, more specially the minds of the rising generation, so that the nation may imbibe the spirit of science and be prepared to accept the new truth, even though it has to discard something of the old. Only then will this approach to science bear true fruit. It is because we attach importance to these research institutes that we have ventured to ask you, Sir, Mr. President, to take the trouble to come all the way here to open this third of our great national laboratories and we are very grateful to you that you have taken the trouble to do so. I am sure that your visit here and the visits of the many distinguished scientists will prove a blessing to this institute. Besides, it will help to draw people's attention not only to the external applications and implications of science but to its real value which lies in widening the spirit of man and thereby bettering humanity at large. 

This the speech given at the opeing ceremony of the Fuel Research Institute, Digwadih, April 22, 1950

Courtesy: Jawarlal Nehru’s Speeches 1949-1953 - Volume Two

Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
Government of India
 First Published, January 1954, Fourth Impression, June 1967 (Page: 362-366)


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