Tuesday, April 1, 2014

नववर्ष (चैत्र शुक्‍ल प्रतिपदा) पर विशेष


 

भारतीय नववर्ष (चैत्र शुक्‍ल प्रतिपदा) पर विशेष

सूई से कमल के पत्ते में छेद करने में जितना समय लगता है वह त्रुटि है। यह परिमाप 1 सेकेन्ड का 33750वां भाग है। इस प्रकार भारतीय कालगणना परमाणु के सूक्ष्मतम इकाई से प्रारम्भ होकर काल की महानतम इकाई महाकल्प तक पहँचती है।

by बालमुकुन्द पाण्डेय

link-http://www.pravakta.com/the-new-year-chaitra-shukla-pratipda-on

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भारतवर्ष वह पावन भूमि है जिसने संपूर्ण ब्रह्माण्ड को अपने ज्ञान से आलोकित किया है। इसने जो ज्ञान का निदर्षन प्रस्तुत किया है वह केवल भारतवर्ष में ही नहीं अपितु संपूर्ण विश्‍व के कल्याण का पोषक है। यहाँ संस्कृति का प्रत्येक पहलू प्रकृति व विज्ञान का ऐसा विलक्षण उदाहरण है जो कहीं और नहीं मिलता। नये वर्ष का आरम्भ अर्थात् भारतीय परम्परा के अनुसार 'वर्ष प्रतिपदा' भी एक ऐसा ही विलक्षण उदाहरण है।भारतीय कालगणना के अनुसार इस पृथ्वी के सम्पूर्ण इतिहास की कुंजी मन्वन्तर विज्ञान मे है। इस ग्रह के संपूर्ण इतिहास को 14 भागों अर्थात् मन्वन्तरों में बाँटा गया है। एक मन्वन्तर की आयु 30 करोड़ 67 लाख और 20 हजार वर्ष होती है। इस पृथ्वी का संपूर्ण इतिहास 4 अरब 32 करोड़ वर्ष का है। इसके 6 मन्वन्तर बीत चुके हैं। और सातवाँ वैवस्वत मन्वन्तर चल रहा है। हमारी वर्तमान नवीन सृष्टि 12 करोड़ 5 लाख 33 हजार 1 सौ 4 वर्ष की है। ऐसा युगों की भारतीय कालगणना बताती है। पृथ्वी पर जैव विकास का संपूर्ण काल 4,32,00,00,00 वर्ष है। इसमें बीते 1 अरब 97 करोड़ 29 लाख 49 हजार 1 सौ 11 वर्षों के दीर्घ काल में 6 मन्वन्तर प्रलय, 447 महायुगी खण्ड प्रलय तथा 1341 लघु युग प्रलय हो चुके हैं। पृथ्वी व सूर्य की आयु की अगर हम भारतीय कालगणना देखें तो पृथ्वी की शेष आयु 4 अरब 50 करोड़ 70 लाख 50 हजार 9 सौ वर्ष है तथा पृथ्वी की संपूर्ण आयु 8 अरब 64 करोड़ वर्ष है। सूर्य की शेष आयु 6 अरब 66 करोड़ 70 लाख 50 हजार 9 सौ वर्ष तथा सूर्य की संपूर्ण आयु 12 अरब 96 करोड़ वर्ष है।

विश्व की प्रचलित सभी कालगणनाओं मे भारतीय कालगणना प्राचीनतम है। इसका प्रारंभ पृथ्वी पर आज से प्राय: 198 करोड़ वर्ष पूर्व वर्तमान श्वेत वराह कल्प से होता है। अत: यह कालगणना पृथ्वी पर प्रथम मानवोत्पत्ति से लेकर आज तक के इतिहास को युगात्मक पद्वति से प्रस्तुत करती है। काल की इकाइयों की उत्तरोत्तर वृद्धि और विकास के लिए कालगणना के हिन्दू विषेषज्ञों ने अंतरिक्ष के ग्रहों की स्थिति को आधार मानकर पंचवर्षीय, 12वर्षीय और 60 वर्षीय युगों की प्रारम्भिक इकाइयों का निर्माण किया। भारतीय कालगणना का आरम्भ सूक्ष्मतम् इकाई त्रुटि से होता है। इसके परिमाप के बारे में कहा गया है कि सूई से कमल के पत्ते में छेद करने में जितना समय लगता है वह त्रुटि है। यह परिमाप 1 सेकेन्ड का 33750वां भाग है। इस प्रकार भारतीय कालगणना परमाणु के सूक्ष्मतम इकाई से प्रारम्भ होकर काल की महानतम इकाई महाकल्प तक पहँचती है।

पृथ्वी को प्रभावित करने वाले सातों ग्रह कल्प के प्रारम्भ में एक साथ एक ही अश्विन नक्षत्र में स्थित थे। और इसी नक्षत्र से भारतीय वर्ष प्रतिपदा का प्रारम्भ होता है। अर्थात् प्रत्येक चैत्र मास के शुक्ल पक्ष के प्रथमा को भारतीय नववर्ष प्रारम्भ होता है जो वैज्ञानिक दृष्टि के साथ-साथ सामाजिक व सांस्कृतिक संरचना को प्रस्तुत करता है। भारत में अन्य संवत्सरों का प्रचलन बाद के कालो में प्रारम्भ हुआ जिसमें अधिकांष वर्ष प्रतिपदा को ही प्रारम्भ होते हैं। इनमे विक्रम संवत् महत्वपूर्ण है। इसका आरम्भ कलिसंवत् 3044 से माना जाता है। जिसको इतिहास में सम्राट विक्रमादित्य के द्वारा शुरु किया गया मानते हैं। इसके विषय में अलबरुनी लिखता है कि "जो लोग विक्रमादित्य के संवत का उपयोग करते हैं वे भारत के दक्षिणी एवं पूर्वी भागो मे बसते हैं।"

इसके अतिरिक्त भगवान श्रीराम का जन्म भी चैत्र शुक्लपक्ष में तथा वरुण देवता (झूलेलाल) का जन्म भारतीय मान्यताओं के अनुसार वर्ष प्रतिपदा को माना जाता है। आर्य समाज के संस्थापक स्वामी दयानन्द सरस्वती के द्वारा आर्य समाज की स्थापना तथा राष्ट्रीय स्वयं सेवक संघ के संस्थापक प.पू.डॉ0 केशव राम बलिराम जी का जन्म 1889 में इसी पावन दिन (वर्ष प्रतिपदा) को हुआ था।

इतने वर्ष बीत जाने के बाद भी भारतीय नववर्ष उसी नवीनता के साथ देखा जाता है। नये अन्न किसानों के घर में आ जाते हैं, वृक्ष में नये पल्लव यहाँ तक कि पशु-पक्षी भी अपना स्वरुप नये प्रकार से परिवर्तित कर लेते हैं। होलिका दहन से बीते हुए वर्ष को विदा कहकर नवीन संकल्प के साथ वाणिज्य व विकास की योजनाएं प्रारम्भ हो जाती हैं। वास्तव में परम्परागत रुप से नववर्ष का प्रारम्भ चैत्र शुक्ल प्रतिपदा से ही प्रारम्भ होता है।

-बालमुकुन्द पाण्डेय
(लेखक अखिल भारतीय इतिहास संकलन योजना के राष्ट्रीय सह-संगठन मन्त्री हैं)

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

: In 2014, Hindutva versus caste


 

March 26, 2014 01:41 IST 

 

The question in this general election is whether Hindutva will triumph over caste. There are at least three factors clearly nudging politics towards Hindu consolidation

Of the numerous public appearances by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi over the last year or so, two have been strikingly inconceivable. Both happened in Kerala, often projected as a politically progressive State. In February 2014, Mr. Modi addressed a meeting of Pulayas, a Dalit community that has been for years a bedrock of support for the Communist parties. In April 2013, Mr. Modi was chief guest at the Sivagiri Mutt, founded by Kerala's legendary social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru who led the backward Ezhava community to social awakening. The Ezhavas too have been largely supporters of the Left. At both the platforms — events separated by more than a year — Mr. Modi made a similar pitch. "Social untouchability may have ended, but political untouchability continues," he said, referring to the continuing isolation that he faces from various quarters.

"The next decade will belong to the Dalits and the backwards," he said, emphasising his own lower caste origins, at a rally in Muzaffarpur in Bihar on March 3. That event too was significant as he was sharing the stage with Lok Jansakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who returned to the saffron fold 12 years after he quit it over the Gujarat riots. And there is more to it. Dalit leader Udit Raj, who has been fashioning himself as the new age Ambedkar, joined the BJP. So did Mr. Ramkripal Yadav, who has for years been a shadow of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, a champion of backward class politics in Bihar.

The BJP's efforts to overcome caste barriers in its project to create an overarching Hindu identity are showing signs of success, though it is still far from being a pan-Indian phenomenon. "Mr. Modi has broken the stranglehold of caste. The affinity of these Dalits and backward leaders for the BJP is a clear indication of his acceptance among them," says Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan, BJP general secretary.

The issue of caste identity

Among the several factors that slowed down Hindutva politics in India, caste identity has been prominent. Politically empowered sections of the backwards and Dalits viewed the Sangh project of a unified Hindu society with suspicion, as its insistence on traditions implied sustenance of the hierarchical social structure that disadvantaged them. One of the most pronounced examples of this was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who concluded that Dalit emancipation would not be possible while they remained within the Hindu social order. In turn, Baba Saheb — portrayed with considerable fulmination in Arun Shourie's book, Worshipping False Gods — has been a villain in the Sangh discourse. But in 2013, an article in the Organiser, the mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), portrayed the Dalit icon as someone who contributed to Hindu unity.

The Hindutva project tried a combination of aggressive integration, sometimes accommodating Sanskritising demands from below and constantly working on the fear of an "Other." But until they hit upon the idea of replacing a mosque in Ayodhya with a temple, all of this could not gather enough strength for the BJP to win a majority in any region of India. But coinciding with the Ayodhya movement was also a great upsurge of backwards, triggered by the implementation of the Mandal Commission report. Subsequently, caste and religion alternated as the prime moving force of politics, depending on the particularities of the time and place, in parts of northern and western India. The BJP gained power in several States. But except in Gujarat, the debate has not been settled conclusively in favour of Hindutva.

The question, therefore, in this election is whether Hindutva will triumph over caste. There are at least three factors clearly nudging politics towards Hindu consolidation.

Debate on Muslim reservation

Hindutva politics in Gujarat rode on violent anti-reservation agitations spearheaded by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the 1980s. Though the agitation was against the reservation for backwards, the targets were Dalits. Almost immediately after the agitation, Hinduvta politics struck roots, co-opting vast sections of the lower castes into its fold, even as a rising portrayal of Muslims as the "other" unified them. But the trajectory in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that together elect 120 members of Parliament has been different, as strong backward politics suspected the RSS on the question of reservation and found Muslims as allies. Ironic as it is, quota politics is dividing them now. The lower castes see the demand for Muslim quotas as detrimental to their interests. The case for affirmative action for Muslims is strong, no doubt, but the politics over it has played out much to the advantage of the Hindutva project. A social coalition that has been a bulwark against Hindutva in U.P. and Bihar for the last two decades is showing signs of unravelling.

The Dalit participation in the Muzaffarnagar riots in U.P., and the numerous Yadav versus Muslim skirmishes in Bihar over the last two years have strained the solidarity among the poor and the disadvantaged. Lower caste movements that challenged caste structures have also had a streak of Sanskritising aspirations that seek a better place within the Hindu hierarchy. When the image of the "other" is clearer, this streak becomes prominent.

Willingness to concede leadership

The lower caste sympathy towards the Hindutva project has been matched by a willingness among the upper castes to be content under the leadership of the lower. The turning point was the 2005 Assembly election in Bihar, when the BJP-JD(U) alliance sought a mandate, with Mr. Nitish Kumar being declared as the chief ministerial candidate. Only six months prior to that, when the alliance vacillated over projecting him — because the upper caste segments were not comfortable with the idea of a backward caste CM — it could not win and there was no clear majority for any formation. In 2007, the upper castes voted for Dalit leader Ms. Mayawati in U.P. who won a clear majority, the first for any since the Ayodhya movement. In 2010, the rainbow caste coalition voted for Mr. Nitish Kumar again; in 2012, another variant of the coalition voted for backward caste leader Mr. Akhilesh Yadav in U.P.

This change in the upper caste attitude can dramatically turn round the fortunes of the BJP. The BJP has been responsive to the leadership ambitions of the backwards and Dalits, but the upper caste support to leaders such as Mr. Kalyan Singh and Ms. Uma Bharti has been tentative. "We have the so-called backwards and lower castes standing up and wanting to be counted as Hindus. Sangh has empowered them. Even the communist movements could not accommodate these sections of the society in their leadership," says Mr. Ram Madhav, senior RSS leader. "In 1998, the BJP had 58 MPs who were SCs and STs, possibly the highest for any party ever as a proportion of its strength," he says. With Mr. Modi at the helm and the change in upper caste attitudes, the Sangh's efforts have got a major fillip.

Media-propelled popularity

A third factor that has developed over the last decade is the dramatic popularity achieved by several lower caste gurus, aided by the visual media. To cite two examples, both Swami Ramdev, who was born a Yadav in Haryana and Mata Amritanandamayi, born in a fisherman's community in Kerala, have attained such a huge following that their caste origins have been eclipsed. TV evangelism, as opposed to scriptural Hinduism controlled by priests, has enrolled a large section of poorer and lower caste people into thinking as Hindus. This may be a rerun of how TV serial "Ramayan" contributed to the Ayodhya movement; and lower caste Hindu gurus are not unprecedented. What makes it all extremely potent is the context of a certain level of economic prosperity among the lower castes, media penetration and the Sangh propaganda.

The terms of engagement between the state and the poor, between the upper and the lower castes, and between Hindus and Muslims could change further in the emerging scenario. "Lalu and Mulayam had managed to command backward castes support with a the promise of share in power. Mr. Modi's politics for backwards and Dalits is not based on doles and welfare schemes, but overall development," says Mr. Pradhan.

 

 

Friday, March 14, 2014

ईमानदारी की ताकत (Strength of honesty)


ईमानदारी की ताकत (Strength of honesty)

 

प्राचीन बड़ौदा राज्य में मेहसाना के जिला जज थे- ए.आर.शिंदे। वह अत्यंत ईमानदार और स्पष्टवादी थे। बड़ौदा के महाराज सयाजीराव के हृदय में श्री शिंदे के प्रति गहरी श्रद्धा थी। महाराज जब-जब विदेश जाते, अपने निजी सहायक के रूप में श्री शिंदे को साथ ले जाते थे। एक बार फ्रांस यात्रा के दौरान महाराज ने शिंदे की सलाह पर पैरिस के एक बड़े जौहरी की दुकान से अत्यंत कीमती रत्न खरीदे। अगले दिन दुकानदार का एक प्रतिनिधि शिंदे के पास आया और उसने पूछा, 'सर, आपका कमिशन चेक से दिया जाए या नकद भुगतान से।'

शिंदे प्रतिनिधि की बात सुनकर हैरानी से बोले, 'किस बात का कमिशन?' प्रतिनिधि बोला, ' सर्राफा की दुकानों में यह चलन है कि अच्छे ग्राहक लाने वाले व्यक्ति को कमिशन दिया जाता है।' शिंदे बोले, 'आपके यहां जो भी चलन हो पर मैं सरकारी कर्मचारी हूं और यह नहीं ले सकता।' इस पर प्रतिनिधि बोला, ' यह तो हमारी दुकान की परिपाटी है। मैं यह बात आपके महाराज के समक्ष भी स्पष्ट कर सकता हूं।'

शिंदे बोले, 'आप कमिशन काट कर के अपना बिल बना दीजिए। इस कमिशन पर ग्राहक का हक होना चाहिए न कि उस व्यक्ति का, जो दुकान में ग्राहक लेकर आए।' शिंदे के आगे प्रतिनिधि की एक न चली। उसने कमिशन काट कर बिल बना दिया और बोला, 'सर, आपकी ईमानदारी की सूचना महाराज तक अवश्य जानी चाहिए।' शिंदे बोले, 'ईमानदारी मनुष्य का धर्म है। धर्म प्रचार की वस्तु नहीं है। इसलिए इस बात का जिक्र किसी से न करें। इस बात को यहीं दबा दें।' इस पर प्रतिनिधि ने कहा, 'धन्य है भारत और धन्य हैं आप।'



 

 

 

 

    ------------------------------------------  Surya Global Steel Tubes Ltd, Anjar, India    

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stop fooling people, you're no Gandhi "


 


" Branding anyone is not justified. My view is development of a nation belongs to everyone. One alone can't develop a nation. RSS are also equally members of this country. They may have ideology you may differ with. That kind of branding shows myopic views. If such people rule this country we are doomed. "
Mahatma's great-grandson to Rahul: Stop fooling people, you're no Gandhi

 by FP Staff Mar 11, 2014

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/politics/mahatmas-great-grandson-to-rahul-stop-fooling-people-youre-no-gandhi-1427371.html?utm_source=ref_article

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's barb against the RSS for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi has yielded him a sharp response from an unlikely quarter -- the Mahatma's great grandson, Shrikrishna Kulkarni. Rahul Gandhi. PTI

 Rahul Gandhi had claimed the RSS was involved in Gandhi's assassination. Kulkarni, who posted an open letter to Rahul Gandhi on his Facebook page and then on other social media sites, has said the issue of the killing of Gandhi is "squarely in the past" and that his family has moved on.

Shrikrishna Kulkarni's mother is Mahatma Gandhi's third son Ramdas Gandhi's daughter. She married GR Kulkarni. "To keep harping that the RSS killed Gandhi is akin to saying the Tamils killed your father," he writes to Rahul. "...which would be such a petty falsehood, isn't it? A couple of guys don't make for a community..." Charging the Congress with milking the name of Gandhi for their "selfish benefits", he says the party should just accept the verdicts of various commissions.

 "So please stop this charade, stop this opportunistic usage of the Gandhi name. You are not from the Gandhi family. You have fooled too many people for too long in India. Stop it now."

Somebody from the Gandhi family has to call their bluff, he ends. The post was widely circulated on Twitter. Later, speaking to CNN-IBN, Kulkarni said, there was no need to bring up the issue of Gandhi's assassination. "Couple of points. Gandhi was killed in 1948. Many enquiry commissions were done. Nobody indicted any particular organisation. There are a couple of people involved in his killing, yes. But the fact of life is he is dead and is not going to come back. To bring up the Gandhi name is not needed. We must stop fanning these flames. Stop this politics of hate for selfish reasons," Kulkarni said. Read Kulkarni's complete letter here: Letter From Great Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma's great grandson asks Rahul not to use Gandhi's name in polls

Deepa Balakrishnan,CNN-IBN | Mar 10, 2014 at 04:10pm IST

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/mahatmas-great-grandson-asks-rahul-not-to-use-gandhis-name-in-polls/456961-37-64.html

Bangalore: What does Mahatma Gandhi have to do with this election, asks Mahatma Gandhi's great grandson, as critics question Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's comment blaming the RSS for the Mahatma's killing and Rahul Gandhi gets an earful on misusing brand Gandhi. CNN-IBN's Deepa Balakrishnan met up with Mahatma's great grandson Shrikrishna Kulkarni, who is also an Aam Aadmi Party member, like his uncle Rajmohan Gandhi, who is the AAP candidate from East Delhi.

Shrikrishna Kulkarni's mother is Mahatma Gandhi's third son Ramdas Gandhi's daughter. She married GR Kulkarni.

ALSO SEE RSS people killed Mahatma Gandhi, says Rahul Gandhi

"Was this comment to bring Gandhi into an election, which is critical for India's future seems a bit of travesty? Especially to bring up his assassination. It was not needed. Couple of points. Gandhi was killed in 1948. Many enquiry commissions were done. Nobody indicted any particular orgnisation. There are a couple of people involved in his killing, yes. But the fact of life is he is dead and is not going to come back. To bring up the Gandhi name is not needed. We must stop fanning these flames. Stop this politics of hate for selfish reasons," Kulkarni said.

Rahul Gandhi had last week blamed the RSS for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. "RSS people killed Gandhiji and today their people (BJP) talk of him...They opposed Sardar Patel and Gandhiji," Rahul had said while addressing a public rally in Thane district.

Following is the transcript of the interview with Mahatma Gandhi's great grandson:

CNN-IBN: To brand one group as responsible for this? Is that right?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: I wrote to Rahul Gandhi. I'm not a public face. I have views on many issues. But I have realised over the years that the Gandhi name is rampantly misused. Wherever I go, if people come to know I am related to Bapu, people ask how I am related to Sonia or Rahul Gandhi. I'm at odds on telling we are not related. Rahul is not related to Gandhiji at all. I tell them you go to Gujarat, it's a common surname. But at national level, the name refers to Mahatma Gandhi. So to use the name in a subtle manner and then rampantly misuse. Media calls them Nehru - Gandhi dynasty. I am wondering what doe the real Gandhi family to do with this at all. We should bring this sham to an end

CNN-IBN: And if it matters to anyone, it should matter to you?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: I was born to Mahatma Gandhi's family but don't need any special entitlement. I too use the name for election, for your own selfish benefit. So not correct. In an election rally, you are not even related to Gandhi. Why bring it up?

CNN-IBN: To brand the RSS for the incident that happened 50 - 60 years ago. Was it justified?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: Branding anyone is not justified. My view is development of a nation belongs to everyone. One alone can't develop a nation. RSS are also equally members of this country. They may have ideology you may differ with. That kind of branding shows myopic views. If such people rule this country we are doomed.

CNN-IBN: Just to get your own political inclinations clear, I believe you have been an Anti corruption campaigner?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: I have never paid a bribe. And when Anna did his anshan, my twin brother used to clean the public toilet. I join the AAP via Internet in February. I was in Ejipura (a part of Bangalore) campaigning. I have applied for a ticket in the Lok Sabha polls. I was interviewed and I hope they I'll find me worthy.

CNN-IBN: The fact they continue to use the name. Are they taking advantage of the brand name of Gandhi?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: I definitely think they are trying to take advantage. You take any poster. You will see Gandhi's photo. And then that of Indira's and Sonia's and Rajiv's. In fact, Nehru's photo is often not there. But Mahatma left the Congress in the 1930s. One more thing, there were a couple of misguided Tamils who killed Rajiv Gandhi. Are all Tamils bad? There were a couple of Sikhs who killed Indira. Sad. But are all Sikhs bad? Stop branding. Our issue is development. You can't take the RSS out of India, can't take Sikhs out of India. Who will you keep?

CNN-IBN: What would you want to say to Rahul Gandhi?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: If I'm given an opportunity, I would say Dear Mr. Rahul, I humbly request you to stop misusing the Gandhi name. Either for the Congress or for yourself. Gandhi doesn't belong to you, it belongs to the nation. Also, the Congress didn't throw the British out of India. The people did that. Stop using the name.

CNN-IBN: Raking it up now, do you feel is unnecessary?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: Raking it up generally do unnecessary things.

CNN-IBN: But to rake up this issue now?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: 100 per cent, it is not necessary. It is too far down in memory. We have enough other issues in India. To bring this up is not correct.

CNN-IBN: Just to clarify on your own political inclinations, I believe you have been an anti-corruption campaigner?

Shrikrishna Kulkarni: I am an Indian. The tricolour I what I use belongs to all. Not to RSS or Congress. Each of these parties are also Indians. I prefer to work the AAP. Because I agree with their views. I sleep well at night.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wendy Doniger: An academic caricature

 

http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=3127

 

Wendy Doniger's 779-page tome titled, The Hindus: An Alternative History (2009) is a hurtful book, laced with personal editorials, folksy turn of the phrase and funky wordplays.  She has a large repertoire of Hindu mythological stories, and often narrates the most damning story - Vedic, Puranic, folk, oral, vernacular - to demean, damage and disparage Hinduism.  After building a caricature, she laments that fundamentalist Hindus (how many and how powerful are they?) are destroying the pluralistic, tolerant Hindu tradition. But, why save such a vile, violent religion, as painted by the eminent professor? There is a contradiction here.

 

This article, however, focuses on only one aspect of Doniger's very large book: the chapters dealing with the incursion of Islam into India. As is well known, Islam entered the Malabar Coast in south India with Arab merchants and traders in the 7th century, peacefully. Later, Islam came to India as a predatory and a conquering force. Mohammad bin Qasim ravaged Sindh in 711. Mahmud Ghazni looted and destroyed numerous Hindu temples around 1000 CE. Muslim rule begins with the Delhi Sultanate, approximately 1201 to 1526; it gave way to the Mughal Empire in1526, which ended with the arrival of the British Raj, about 1757.

 

Wendy Doniger makes the following dubious points on Muslim imperial rule in India (1201-1707).

-        Muslim marauders destroyed some Hindu temples, not many (Ch 16)

-        Temple destruction was a long standing Indian tradition. In an earlier period, Hindus destroyed Buddhist and Jain stupas and rival Hindu temples and built upon the destroyed sites - "the Muslims had no monopoly on that" (P 457)

-        Muslim invaders looted and destroyed Hindu temples because they had the power to do so. If Hindus had the power, they would do the same in reverse (P 454-57)

-        The Jizya - the Muslim tax on non-Muslims - was for Hindu protection and a substitute for military service (P 448-49)

-        Hindu "megalomania" for temple building in the Middle Ages was a positive result of Muslim demolition of some Hindu temples (P 468)

-        The Hindu founders of the Vijayanagar Empire double-crossed their Muslim master in Delhi who had deputed them to secure the South (P 467)

 

Each argument is false. First, beginning with Mahmud Ghazni in 1000 CE, the invaders looted, pillaged and destroyed several thousand Hindu and Buddhist temples, as attested by the Muslim chroniclers who accompanied these expeditions and described the destruction of many Hindu shrines. The destruction of infidel places of worship is a meritorious act under Islam (See, The Mohammedan period as described by its own historians, Sir HM Elliot, The Grolier Society, 1906). 

 

Alberuni, who accompanied Mahmud Ghazni, describes one such event: "Mathura, the holy city of Krishna, was the next victim. In the middle of the city there was a temple larger and finer than the rest, which can neither be described nor painted. The Sultan was of the opinion that 200 years would have been required to build it. The idols included 'five of red gold, each five yards high,' with eyes formed of priceless jewels... The Sultan gave orders that all the temples should be burnt with naphtha and fire, and leveled with the ground. Thus perished works of art which must have been among the noblest monuments of ancient India" [1]

 

At the destruction of another famous temple, Somnath, some 50,000 were massacred. The fabulous booty of gold was divided according to Islamic tradition – the Sultan getting the royal fifth, the cavalry man getting twice as much as the foot soldier. Women were sold into concubinage and the children raised as Muslims.

 

The esteemed professor asserts that during an earlier period, Hindus persecuted Jains and Buddhists and destroyed their shrines. She narrates the discredited story about the impaling of Jains at the hands of Hindu rulers in the Tamil country, but admits that "there is no evidence that any of this actually happened, other than the story" (p 365). Then why narrate the story?

 

Whatever the sectarian tensions, Jainism and Buddhism are an integral part of Indian tradition. The Buddha is regarded as an Avatar. Exquisite Jain temples at Mt Abu at the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan built around 1000 CE in a region ruled by Hindu Rajputs, falsify notions of Hindu carnage of Jain temples.

 

Wendy Doniger suggests that Hindus would do the same to Muslims if they had the power to do so (p 457). Hindus did come to power when Mughal rule rapidly declined after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. The Hindu Marathas were the strongest power in western and southern India, as were the Sikhs and Jats in north India. There is no account of large scale demolition and looting of Muslim places of worship either by the Marathas or the Sikhs. If a copy of the Quran fell into the hands of Maratha soldiers, Shivaji instructed that the same should be passed on to a Muslim follower rather than being burned.

 

Doniger claims that Jizya levied on non-Muslims was for Hindus protection and a substitute for military service. Jizya is a long held Muslim tradition; it was levied to begin with on the defeated Jews and Christians, the People of the Book, as a price for the cessation of Jihad. Hindus, not being People of the Book, did not deserve to live by paying the special tax. If defeated in battle, their only option was Islam or death. This was the position taken by the leading Islamic clergy. But Muslim rulers were practical men; if they killed the Hindus en masse for failing to adopt Islam, who would build their palaces, fill their harems, cut their wood and hue their water? [2]

 

Doniger says the Hindu 'megalomania' for temple building resulted from Muslim destruction of some Hindu temples. The truth is that in northern India which experienced 500 years of Islamic rule (1201-1707), all great temples were destroyed; Hindus built new temples wherever they could preserve territory. Temple architecture of some beauty survived in southern India that escaped long Muslim occupation. The slur that the Hindu founders of the Vijayanagar empire 'double-crossed' their Muslim masters in Delhi must be seen in this context.

 

The invasion of Sindh by Arab soldier of fortune Muhammad bin Qasim is described as follows: Qasim invaded Sindh in 713. The terms of surrender included a promise of guarantee of the safety of Hindu and Buddhist establishments. Hindus and Buddhists were allowed to govern themselves in matters of religion and law. Qasim kept his promises. The non-Muslims were not treated as kafirs. Jizya was imposed but only as a substitute for military service for their "protection." He brought Muslim teachers and mosques into the subcontinent (paraphrased)

 

This makes it seem as though Qasim was a blessing. Andrew Bostom (The Legacy of Islamic Jihad in India) provides the following disquieting picture from Islamic sources [3]:

The Muslim chroniclers… include enough isolated details to establish the overall nature of the conquest of Sindh by Muhammad b. Qasim in 712 CE… Baladhuri (an Islamic writer), for example, records that following the capture of Debal, Muhammad b. Qasim earmarked a section of the city exclusively for Muslims, constructed a mosque, and established four thousand colonists there. The conquest of Debal had been a brutal affair … Despite appeals for mercy from the besieged Indians (who opened their gates after the Muslims scaled the fort walls), Muhammad b. Qasim declared that he had no orders (i.e., from his superior al-Hajjaj, the Governor of Iraq) to spare the inhabitants, and thus for three days a ruthless and indiscriminate slaughter ensued. In the aftermath, the local temple was defiled, and "700 beautiful females who had sought for shelter there, were all captured."

 

RC Majumdar, another distinguished historian, describes the tragic outcome:

Muhammad massacred 6,000 fighting men who were found in the fort, and their followers and dependents, as well as their women and children were taken prisoners. Sixty thousand slaves, including 30 young ladies of royal blood, were sent to Hajjaj, along with the head of Dahar [the Hindu ruler]. We can now well understand why the capture of a fort by the Muslim forces was followed by the terrible jauhar ceremony (in which females threw themselves in fire kindled by themselves), the earliest recorded instance of which is found in the Chachnama (cited in Bostom.)

 

Doniger extensively cites Romila Thapar, John Keay, Anne Schimmel and AK Ramanujan as her sources for Islamic history, to showcase meticulous scholarship, but entirely ignores distinguished historians such as Jadunath Sarkar, RC Majumdar, AL Srivastava, Vincent Smith, and Ram Swarup.

 

Doniger claims (p 458) that when Muslim royal women first came to India, they did not rigidly keep to purdah (the veiling and seclusion of women) but picked up the more strict form of purdah from contact with Hindu Rajput women. She finds much to praise in Muslim women during this period: some knew several languages; others wrote poetry; some managed vast estates; others set up "feminist" republics within female quarters (harems); some debated fine points on religion; some even joined in drinking parties (ch 16, 20). Such descriptions are patently negated by other historians (See KS Lal, The Mughal Harem (1988), available on the Internet).

 

If Hinduism is the source of strict purdah among Muslim women, as Doniger contends, how does one explain the strict veiling of women in the Middle East, a region far removed from Hindu influence?  Or, the absence of purdah in southern India, a region that escaped extended Islamic domination?

 

Doniger says "the Vedic reverence for violence flowered in the slaughters that followed Partition" in both India and Pakistan (p 627). One is at a loss what to understand from this weighty pronouncement from the University of Chicago's tenured professor. But if this is her understanding of historical facts for which there is no dearth of unimpeachable evidence, then her inability to fathom the profound and multi-dimensional meanings of Hindu dharma and its deities and philosophies is perhaps understandable.

 

Notes

1] Vincent Smith, The Oxford History of India, Delhi, 1981, pp. 207-08. Smith derives his account of Mahmud's raids from the account written by Alberuni, the Islamic scholar who traveled with Sultan Mahmud to India.

2] See Ram Swarup's Hindu View of Christianity and Islam, 1992. And Andrew Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, 2005, at:

http://www.andrewbostom.org/loj/.

3] Published in 2005 in the American Thinker by Andrew Bostom and available at:

http://www.islam-watch.org/Bostom/Legacy-of-Islamic-Jihad-terrorism-in-India.htm

 

The author is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of West Florida, USA. Based on a chapter in "Portrayal of Hinduism in Western Indology", ed. S. Kalyanaraman and TRN Rao, 2010, published by WAVES, USA

 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fwd: L'AFFAIRE DONIGER: UNTANGLING THE KNOT - JAKOB DE ROOVER


 

http://bharatabharati.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/laffaire-doniger-untangling-the-knot-jakob-de-roover/

 

The controversy about Penguin India's decision to withdraw and pulp Wendy Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History brings to the surface issues likely to trouble scholars of India for years to come. First, the obvious: the banning of any book violates academic or intellectual freedom. Rightly so, this leads to moral indignation among the intelligentsia of India and the West. Our ancestors fought for this freedom, sometimes sacrificing their lives. Not to protect it amounts to betraying their legacy. 

Yet, in this case, the rhetoric is predictable and somewhat stale: 

Another bunch of Hindutva fanatics have succeeded in having a book by a respected academic banned because they feel offended by its contents. They have not understood the book, give ridiculous reasons, and threaten publisher and author with dire consequences if the book is not withdrawn. The Indian judiciary is caving in to religious fanaticism and practically abolishing freedom of speech in India.

This ready-made reaction may sound cogent but it covers up major questions: What brings Hindu organizations to filing petitions that make them the butt of ridicule and contempt? Whence the frustration among so many Indians about the way their culture is depicted? Why is this battle not fought out in the free intellectual debate so typical of India in the past?

So many strands are entangled in this knotty affair that it is no longer clear what is at stake. To move ahead we first need to untangle the knot, but this requires that we take unexpected perspectives and question entrenched convictions. Drawing on the work of S.N. Balagangadhara, this piece hopes to give one such perspective. – Dr Jakob De Roover


Imagine you are born in the 1950s as a Hindu boy with intellectual inclinations. As you grow up, your mother takes you to the temple and shows you how to do puja. Your grandparents tell you stories about Bhima's strength, Krishna's appetite, Durvasa's temper…. Perhaps you rejoice when Rama rescues Sita, feel afraid when Kali fights demons, or cry when Drona demands Ekalavya's thumb as gurudakshina. Your father is indifferent to most of this stuff, but then he is very moody so you prefer to stay away from him in any case.

In school, you are taught about the history of India. You learn that Hinduism grew out of the Brahmanism imported during the Aryan invasion. The caste system is a fourfold hierarchy imposed by the Brahmin priesthood, so you are told, and untouchability is the bane of Hindu society. Caste discrimination needs to be eradicated, as Gandhi said, while the scientific temper should displace superstitious tradition, as Nehru taught.

Your teachers present this account as the truth, along with Newton's physics and Darwin's evolutionary theory. You feel bad about your "backward religion" and ashamed about "the massive injustice of caste." For some time, as a student, you also mouth this story in the name of progress and social justice. Yet you feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with it. You sense that it misrepresents you and your traditions—it distorts your practices, your people, and your experience, but you don't know what to do about it.

What is the problem? Well, the current discourse on Indian culture and society is deeply flawed, even though it dominates the educational system and the media. This story about "Hindu religion" and "the caste system" started out as an attempt by European minds to make sense of their experience of India. Missionaries, travellers, and colonial officials collected their observations; Orientalists and other scholars ordered these into a coherent image of India. In the process, they drew on a set of commonplaces widespread in European societies, which all too often reflected a Christian critique of false religion.

The resulting story transforms India into a deficient culture: 

India has its dominant religion, Hinduism, created by cunning Brahmin priests; this religion sanctions social injustice in the form of a fixed caste hierarchy; instead of freedom and equality, it represents inequality and social constraint; it is basically immoral.

With some internal variation, this story is presented as a truthful description of Indian culture. Contemporary authors use different conceptual vocabularies to explain or interpret "Hinduism" and "caste," from Marx and Freud to Foucault andŽižek. But the so-called "facts" they seek to explain are already claims of the Orientalist discourse, structured around theological ideas in secular guise. In fact, they are nothing more than reflections of how Europeans experienced India. No wonder then that the story does not make sense to those who do not share this experience.


Back to the 1970s now: you are studying hard, for your parents want you to become an engineer. Yet you are more interested in history and the social sciences. You want to make sense of your unease with the dominant story about Indian culture. So you turn to the works of eminent professors at elite universities from the Ivy League to JNU. What do you find? They repeat the same story, in a jargon that makes it even more opaque. You become more frustrated. Everywhere you turn, people just reproduce the same story about Hinduism and caste as the worst thing that ever happened to humanity: politicians, activists, teachers, professors, newspapers, television shows…. They may add some qualifications but to no avail. After spending a few years in America, you return to India, get married, and have two kids. They come home from school with questions about "the wrongs of Hinduism and the caste system." You don't know what to tell them. Your frustration and anger rise to boiling point. You feel betrayed by the intellectual classes.

What are the options of Indians going through similar experiences? They cannot challenge the story about Hinduism and caste intellectually for they do not possess the tools to do so. They are neither scholars nor social scientists so they cannot be expected to grasp the conceptual foundations of the dominant story, let alone develop an alternative. Maximally, they can condemn it as "racist" or "imperialist." Even there, they are ambiguous. They feel that the West is ahead of India in so many ways. In their society, corruption is the rule and the caste system refuses to go away, but then most people around them nevertheless appear to be good men and women. How to make sense of this? There are no thinkers able to help them solve these problems.


When you turn 45, your children leave home. One fine day a colleague tells you he is with the RSS and hands you some literature. Here is an outlet for venting your anger and frustration, the rhetoric of Hindu nationalism: 

"Be a patriotic Indian; the Hindu nation is great; caste is only a blot on its glory; Indian intellectuals are communists engaged in an anti-Indian conspiracy; and foreign scholars must be out to divide the country." 

This rhetoric does not give you any enlightenment or insights into your traditions; actually, it feels quite shallow. But it at least gives some relief and puts an end to the blame and insult heaped onto your traditions. With some fellow warriors you decide that the mis-education of India should stop. What is the next step?

At this point, there are ready-made traps. First, it is difficult not to notice how those in power in India decide what gets written in the textbooks. Under British rule, it was the classical Orientalist account. Mrs Gandhi allowed the Marxists to take control of the relevant government bodies (they could acquire only "soft power" there, after all) and reject Indian culture as a particularly backward instance of false consciousness. For decades now, secularists have set the agenda and funded research projects and centres for "humiliation and exclusion studies." Once the BJP comes to power, why not rewrite the textbooks and run educational bodies according to Hindutva tastes?

Second, there are examples of successful attempts at having books banned in the name of religion. Rushdie's Satanic Verses is the cause célèbre. The relevant section of the Indian Penal Code crystallized in the context of early 20th-century controversies about texts that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad. At the time, some jurists argued that non-Muslims could not be expected to endorse the special status given by Muslims to Muhammad as the messenger of God. That would indirectly force all citizens to accept Islam as true religion. Yet it was precisely there that Muslim litigants succeeded. If one group could use the law to indirectly compel all citizens to accept its claims concerning its holy book, religious doctrines and divine prophet, why not follow the same route?

Third, American scholars of religion came in handy for once. They had identified some questions they considered central to religious studies: What is the relation between insider and outsider perspectives? Who has the right to speak for a religion, the believer or the scholar? Originally, these were questions essential to a religion like Christianity, where accepting God's revelation is the precondition of grasping its message. Yet the potential answers turned out to be useful to others: "Only Hindus should speak for Hinduism and scholarship can be allowed only in so far as it respects the believer's perspective."

What gives Hindu nationalists the capacity to conform so easily to these models? This is because they generally reproduce the Orientalist story about Hinduism, just adding another value judgement. They may believe they are fighting the secularists; in fact, they are also prisoners of what Balagangadhara has called "colonial consciousness." That is, the Western discourse about India functions as the descriptive framework through which Hindu nationalists understand themselves and their culture. They also accept that this culture is constituted by a religion with its own sacred scriptures, gods, revelations, and doctrines. Within this framework, they can then easily mimic Islamic and Christian concerns about blasphemy and offence. Add the 19th-century Victorian prudishness adopted by the Indian middle class and you get prominent strands of the Doniger affair.

Consider the petition by Dinanath Batra and the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti. Doniger's suggestion that the Ramayana is a work of fiction written by human authors—a claim that would hardly create a stir in most Indians—is now transformed into a violation of the sacred scriptures of Hinduism. The petition claims that the cover of the book is offensive because "Lord Krishna is shown sitting on buttocks of a naked woman surrounded by other naked women" and that Doniger's approach is that "of a woman hungry of sex." It expresses shock at her claim that some Sanskrit texts reflect the "glorious sexual openness and insight" of the era in which they were written. To anyone familiar with the harm caused by Christian attitudes towards sex-as-sin, this would count as a reason to be proud of Indian culture. Yet the grips of Victorian morality have made these Hindus ashamed of a beautiful dimension of their traditions. 


In the meantime, our middle-aged gentleman's daughter has gone into the humanities and her excellent results give her entry to a PhD programme in religious studies at an Ivy League university. After some months, she begins to feel disappointed by the shallowness of the teaching and research. When compared to, say, the study of Buddhism, where a variety of perspectives flourish, Hinduism studies appears to be in a state of theoretical poverty. Refusing to take on the role of the native informant, she begins to voice her disagreement with her teachers. This is not appreciated and she soon learns that she has been branded "Hindutva."

Around the same time, she detects a series of factual howlers and flawed translations in the works of eminent American scholars of Hinduism. When she points these out, several of her professors turn cold towards her. She is no longer invited to reading groups and is avoided at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion. In response, this budding researcher begins to engage in self-censorship and looks for comfort among NRI families living nearby. Her dissertation, considered groundbreaking by some international colleagues, gets hardly any response from her supervisors. Looking for a job, the difficulties grow: she needs references from her professors but whom can she ask? She applies to some excellent universities but is never shortlisted. Confidentially, a senior colleague tells her that her reputation as a Hindutva sympathiser precedes her. Eventually, she gets a tenure-track position at some university in small-town Virginia, where she feels so isolated and miserable that she decides to return to India.

Intellectual freedom can be curbed in many ways. The current academic discourse on Indian culture is as dogmatic as its advocates are intolerant of alternative paradigms. They trivialize genuine critique by reducing this to some variety of "Hindu nationalism" or "romantic revivalism." All too often ad hominem considerations (about the presumed ideological sympathies of an author) override cognitive assessment. Thus, alternative voices in the academic study of Indian culture are actively marginalized. This modus operandi constitutes one of the causes behind the growing hostility towards the doyens of Hinduism studies.

Again this strand surfaces in the Doniger affair. When critics pointed out factual blunders from the pages of The Hindus, this appears to have been happily ignored by Doniger and her publisher. She is known for her dismissal of all opposition to her work as tantrums of the Hindutva brigade. The debates on online forums like Kafila.org (a blog run by "progressive" South Asian intellectuals) smack of contempt for the "Hindu fanatics," "fundamentalists" or "fascists" (read Arundathi Roy's open letter to Penguin). More importantly, they show a refusal to examine the possibility that books by Doniger and other "eminent" scholars might be problematic because of purely cognitive reasons.

For instance, the petition charges Doniger with an agenda of Christian proselytizing hidden behind the "tales of sex and violence" she tells about Hinduism. This generates ridicule: Doniger is Jewish and she is a philologist not a missionary. Indeed, this point appears ludicrous and lacks credibility when put so crudely. As said, it also reflects the Victorian prudishness to which some social layers have succumbed. Yet, it pays off to try and understand this issue from a cognitive point of view.

A major problem of early Christianity in the Roman Empire was how to distinguish true Christians from pagan idolaters. Originally, martyrdom had been a helpful criterion but, once Christianity became dominant, the persecution ended and there were no more martyrs to be found. The distinction between true and false religion could not limit itself to specific religious acts. Those who followed the true God should also be demarcated from the followers of false gods by their everyday behaviour. Sex became a central criterion here. Christians were characterized in terms of chastity as opposed to pagan debauchery. (If you wish to see how this image of Greco-Roman paganism lives on in America, watch an episode of the television series Spartacus.)

From then on, Christians believed they could recognize false religion and its followers in terms of lewd sexual practices. Early travel reports sent from India to Europe, like those of the Italian traveller Ludovico di Varthema, confirmed this image of pagan idolatry: "Brahmin priests" and "superstitious believers" engaged in a variety of  "obscene" practices from deflowering virgins in various ways to swapping wives for a night or two. Conversion to Christianity would entail conversion to chastity.

Reinforced by Victorian obsessions, this style of representing Indian religion reached its climax in the late 19th century. Hinduism was said to be the prime instance of "sex worship" and "phallicism," notions popular at the time for explaining the origin of religion. Take a work by Hargrave Jennings—cleric, freemason, amateur of comparative religion—imaginatively titled Phallic Miscellanies; Facts and Phases of Ancient and Modern Sex Worship, As Illustrated Chiefly in the Religions of India (1891). The opening sentence goes thus: "India, beyond all countries on the face of the earth, is pre-eminently the home of the worship of the Phallus—the Linga puja; it has been so for ages and remains so still. This adoration is said to be one of the chief, if not the leading dogma of the Hindu religion…." It goes on to explain that "according to the Hindus, the Linga is God and God is the Linga; the fecundator, the generator, the creator in fact." In other words, the Hindus view the phallus as their divine Creator and its worship is their dogma. This is one of a series of works from this period, expressing both fascination and disgust.

This focus on sex remained central to the popular image of Indian religion in the Western world. In her infamous Mother India (1927), the American Katherine Mayowrites that the Hindu infant that survives the birth-strain, "a feeble creature at best, bankrupt in bone-stuff and vitality, often venereally poisoned, always predisposed to any malady that may be afloat," is raised by a mother guided by primitive superstitions. "Because of her place in the social system, child-bearing and matters of procreation are the woman's one interest in life, her one subject of conversation, be her caste high or low. Therefore, the child growing up in the home learns, from earliest grasp of word and act, to dwell upon sex relations". From there, Mayo turns to a reflection on the obsession for "the male generative organ" in Hindu religion. Among the consequences are child marriage and other immoral practices: "Little in the popular Hindu code suggests self-restraint in any direction, least of all in sex relations".

In short, the connection established between Hinduism and sexuality was based in a Christian frame that served to distinguish pagan idolaters from true believers. Wendy Doniger's work builds on this tradition. Like some of her predecessors, she appreciates the sexual freedom involved, but then she also tends to stress two aspects: sex and caste. This is not a coincidence, for these always counted as two major properties allowing Western audiences to appreciate the supposed inferiority of Hinduism. In other words, the sense that the current depiction of Indian traditions in terms of caste and sex is connected to earlier Christian critiques of false religion cannot be dismissed so easily.

Does this mean that researchers should give in to the campaigns of holier-than-thou bigots? Does it justify the banning or withdrawal of books? Not at all! First, who will decide what counts as true knowledge and what as salacious or gratuitous insult? In the US, evangelicals would like to remove Darwin's Origin of Species from schools because they consider it unscientific and offensive. If it continues to follow its current route, the Indian judiciary may well end up banning a variety of such books. Second, book bans fail to have any fundamental effect on the kind of work produced about India. The epitome of the "sex and caste" genre,Arthur MilesThe Land of the Lingam (1937), was banned many decades ago. Even though political correctness altered the language use and removed explicit mockery, many works continue to represent Hinduism along similar lines. Third, the Kama Sutra and the Koka Shastra, the temples of Khajuraho and Konarak, Tantric traditions and the Indian science of erotics are all fascinating phenomena, which need to be studied and understood. But we have an equal responsibility to make sense of the concerns of Indians horrified by the currently dominant depiction of their traditions. All this research should happen in complete freedom or it shall not happen at all.


The dispute about Doniger's book is a product of all these forces, including the peculiarities of the Indian Penal Code (better left to legal experts). What is the way out? How can we untangle the knot?

To cope with complex cases like these, the first step should take the form of scientific research. The disagreement with the work of Doniger and other scholars can be expressed in a reasonable manner. The theoretical poverty and shoddy way of dealing with facts and translations exhibited by such works can be challenged on cognitive grounds. This is the only way to alleviate the frustration of our Hindu gentleman (a grandfather by now) and to illuminate the intellectual concerns of his daughter. In any case, we need to appreciate how the current story about Hinduism and caste continues to reproduce ideas derived from Christianity and its conceptual frameworks. As long as we keep selling the experience that one form of life (Western culture) has had of another (Indian culture) as God-given truth, the current conflict will not abate and our understanding of India will not progress.

But the same goes for using the Indian Penal Code to have books banned. Inevitably, this has effects on the search for knowledge, at a time when India needs free research more than ever to save it from catastrophe. As is always the case, scientific research will bring about unexpected and unorthodox results. At any point, some or another group may feel offended by these, but this should never prevent us from continuing to pursue truth.

Unfortunately, the Indian government and judiciary have taken the route of succumbing to "offence" and "atrocity" claims by all kinds of communities. Given the political situation, this is unlikely to change any time soon. We can express moral outrage today. But tomorrow the challenge is to develop hypotheses that make sense of the current developments in India, including the violent rejection of the dominant representations of Indian culture. These need to show the way to new solutions so that an end may be brought to the banning and destruction of books in a culture that was always known for its intellectual freedom. – Outlook, 18 February 2014

» Dr Jakob De Roover is a researcher at the India Platform, Ghent University, Belgium. His research concerns the cultural differences between Europe and India, particularly in the domain of politics and questions of secularism and tolerance.