Mental shift

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Posts Tagged ‘India’

Hindu Fundamentals are Under Attack

Posted by jytmkh on October 14, 2008

Shashi Tharoor

There are basically two kinds of politics in our country: the politics of division and the politics of unity. The former is by far the more popular, as politicians seek to slice and dice the electorate into ever-smaller configurations of caste, language and religion, the better to appeal to such particularist identities in the quest for votes. But what has happened in recent weeks in Orissa, and then in parts of Karnataka, and that threatens to be unleashed again in tribal districts of Gujarat, is a new low in our political life. The attacks on Christian families, the vandalism of their places of worship, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, and the horrific rapes, mutilations and burning alive that have been reported, have nothing to do with religious beliefs – neither those of the victims nor of their attackers. They are instead part of a contemptible political project whose closest equivalent can in fact be found in the “Indian Mujahideen” bomb blasts in Delhi, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad, which were set to go off in hospitals, marketplaces and playgrounds. Both actions are anti-national; both aim to divide the country by polarising people along their religious identities; and both hope to profit politically from such polarisation.

We must not let either set of terrorists prevail.

The murderous mobs of Orissa sought to kill Christians and destroy their homes and places of worship, both to terrorise the people and to send the message ‘you do not belong here’. What have we come to that a land that has been a haven of tolerance for religious minorities throughout its history should have sunk so low? India’s is a civilisation that, over millennia, has offered refuge and, more important, religious and cultural freedom, to Jews, Parsis, Muslims and several varieties of Christians. Christianity arrived on Indian soil with St Thomas the Apostle (‘Doubting Thomas’), who came to the Kerala coast some time before 52 AD and was welcomed on shore by a flute-playing Jewish girl. He made many converts, so there are Indians today whose ancestors were Christian well before any European discovered Christianity (and before the forebearers of many of today’s Hindu chauvinists were even conscious of themselves as Hindus). The India where the wail of the muezzin routinely blends with the chant of mantras at the temple, and where the tinkling of church bells accompanies the gurudwara’s reading of verses from the Guru Granth Sahib, is an India of which we can all be proud. But there is also the India that pulled down the Babri Masjid, that conducted the pogrom in Gujarat and that now unleashes its hatred on the 2% of our population who are Christians.

As a believing Hindu, I am ashamed of what is being done by people claiming to be acting in the name of my faith. I have always prided myself on belonging to a religion of astonishing breadth and range of belief; a religion that acknowledges all ways of worshiping God as equally valid – indeed, the only major religion in the world that does not claim to be the only true religion. Hindu fundamentalism is a contradiction in terms, since Hinduism is a religion without fundamentals; there is no such thing as a Hindu heresy. How dare a bunch of goondas shrink the soaring majesty of the Vedas and the Upanishads to the petty bigotry of their brand of identity politics? Why should any Hindu allow them to diminish Hinduism to the raucous self-glorification of the football hooligan, to take a religion of awe-inspiring tolerance and reduce it to a chauvinist rampage?

Hinduism, with its openness, its respect for variety, its acceptance of all other faiths, is one religion which has always been able to assert itself without threatening others. But this is not the Hindutva spewed in hate-filled diatribes by communal politicians. It is, instead, the Hinduism of Swami Vivekananda, who, at Chicago’s World Parliament of Religions in 1893, articulated best the liberal humanism that lies at the heart of his (and my) creed. Vivekananda asserted that Hinduism stood for “both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” He quoted a hymn: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.” Vivekananda’s vision – summarised in the credo Sarva Dharma Sambhava – is, in fact, the kind of Hinduism practised by the vast majority of Hindus, whose instinctive acceptance of other faiths and forms of worship has long been the vital hallmark of Indianness.

Vivekananda made no distinction between the actions of Hindus as a people (the grant of asylum, for instance) and their actions as a religious community (tolerance of other faiths): for him, the distinction was irrelevant because Hinduism was as much a civilisation as a set of religious beliefs. “The Hindus have their faults,” Vivekananda added, but “they are always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbours. If the Hindu fanatic burns himself on the pyre, he never lights the fire of Inquisition.”

It is sad that this assertion of Vivekananda’s is being contradicted in the streets by those who claim to be reviving his faith in his name. “The Hindu militant,” Amartya Sen has observed, presents India as “a country of unquestioning idolaters, delirious fanatics, belligerent devotees, and religious murderers.” To discriminate against another, to attack another, to kill another, to destroy another’s place of worship, is not part of the Hindu dharma so magnificently preached by Vivekananda. Why are the voices of Hindu religious leaders not being raised in defence of these fundamentals of Hinduism?

(Originally published in the Times of India, September 29, 2008)

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Respect an Individual’s Decision

Posted by jytmkh on October 14, 2008

Shashi Tharoor

My last column has triggered an overwhelming response. Gratifyingly, many readers (including several describing themselves as believing Hindus) are as outraged as I was at the anti-Christian thuggery that has been perpetrated in the name of Hinduism. Killers of children are not Hindus, even if they claim to be acting on behalf of their faith; it is as simple as that. Murder does not have a religion — even when it claims a religious excuse.

Of course, it is easy enough to condemn anti-Christian violence because it is violence, and because it represents a threat to law and order as well as to that nebulous idea we call India’s ‘image’. But an argument that several readers have made needs to be faced squarely. In the words of one correspondent: could the violence ”be a reaction to provocations from those religions that believe that only their path is the right path and the rest of humanity are infidels?” He went on to critique ”the aggressive strategy being pursued by some interests in the US to get people in India converted en masse to Christianity, not necessarily by means fair.”

In his view, ”aggressive evangelism directed against India by powerful church organisations in America enjoying enormous money power, has only one focused objective — to get India into the Christian fold, as they have succeeded, to a considerable extent, in South Korea and are now in the process of conquering Mongolia.” Arguing that ”mass conversions of illiterates and semi-literates — and they also happen to be poor, extremely poor” is exploitative, he concluded: ”powerful organisations from abroad with enormous money power indulging in mass conversion” are ”a destabilising factor provoking retaliation”.

I have great respect for the reader in question, but on this issue I strongly disagree. I cannot accept any justification for the thugs’ actions, nor am I prepared to see behind the violence an ”understandable” Hindu resistance to Christian zealotry. Put simply, no non-violent activity, however provocative, can ever legitimise violence. We must reject and denounce assaults and killings, whatever they may claim to be reacting to. Our democracy will not survive if we condone people resorting to violence in pursuit of their ends, however genuine and heartfelt their grievances may be. The whole point of our system of governance is that it allows all Indians to resolve their concerns through legitimate means, including seeking legal redress or political change — but not violence.

Let us assume, for the purposes of argument, that Christian missionaries are indeed using a variety of inducements (development assistance, healthcare, education, sanitation, even chicanery — though there is only anecdotal evidence of missionary ”trickery”) to win converts for their faith. So what? If a citizen of India feels that his faith has not helped him to find peace of mind and material fulfillment, why should he not have the option of trying a different item on the spiritual menu? Surely freedom of belief is any Indian’s fundamental right under our democratic Constitution, however ill-founded his belief might be.

And if Hindu zealots suspect that conversion was fraudulently obtained, why do they not offer counter-inducements rather than violence? Instead of destroying churches, perhaps a Hindu-financed sewage system or paathshala might reopen the blinkered eyes of the credulous. Better still, perhaps Christians and Hindus (and Muslims and Baha’is, for that matter) could all compete in our villages to offer material temptations for religious conversions. The development of our poor country might actually accelerate with this sort of spiritual competition.

Of course i am being frivolous there, but my point is a serious one. Freedom of conscience is not a negotiable right. An India where an individual is not free to change his or her faith would be inconceivable. Some have been citing Gandhiji’s criticism of conversions, but his view was based on an eclectic, all-embracing view of religiousness that is a far cry from the narrow bigotry of those who today quote him in opposing conversions. Gandhiji’s point was that there was no need to convert from any religion to any other because all religions essentially believed the same thing. But when he famously asserted that ”I am a Hindu, a Christian, a Mohammedan, a Parsi, a Jew”, Jinnah sharply retorted, ”only a Hindu could say that!”

The fact is that many faiths do tend to see theirs as the only true path to salvation, and their religious leaders feel a duty to spread the light of a supposedly superior understanding of God to those less fortunate. As Gandhians or as rationalists we are free to decry their views, but the Indian Constitution gives each Indian the right to ”propagate” his religion — and to challenge that right would, in the most fundamental sense, be unconstitutional.

So, let each religion do its thing, and let each Indian be free to choose. At the same time, let conversion be an issue of individual conscience and not mass delusion. I would have no difficulty in considering, in principle, the idea of a democratically-elected legislature deciding that the constitutionally-protected right to convert to another faith can only be exercised by an individual, rather than by an entire clan, tribe or village.

An end to ceremonies of mass conversion might not be a bad thing: let each individual who believes he or she has seen the light go through an individual act of conversion — one in which he or she must affirm that they know what they are giving up and what they are entering into. If an entire village wants to convert, that will make for a very time-consuming process, but at least it will not be open to the suggestion that a large group has been duped, or forced, collectively to embrace a faith that its individual members do not properly understand.

Of course, the debate is not merely a religious one — it is profoundly political. So i will brace myself for more mail and return to the topic next week. (huffingtonpost)

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“Hinduism is most tolerant religion”

Posted by jytmkh on October 13, 2008

From the time, immemorial – Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhist, Parsees lived together in a sub – continent known as India. This Country was conquered many times from other countries; lastly, the British conquer India and ruled for many years. When the British was ruling – there was a saving that, – “there is no sunset in the British Empire”. Against this mighty rulers, United India fought against the British ruled and India got her freedom. The spirit of freedom movement was instigated by Christian first who opened Anglo-Indian society. The founder was Christian, who at last give the Birth of Freedom Movement after struggling Independence for more than 100 (hundred) years Indian got Independence. This speaks freedom of India movement was initiated by the Christians in the beginning-therefore; Christians contribution for the Independence of India is the Historical Record. But, the present Hindu fundamentalist seems to have only one eye, or as to why they are scare of Christians, and started destroying and torturing the Christians in India. Never in the History of India, Christians has done anything wrong against the nation or to the people of India, rather than the contribution and offerings of money in the Church are all spent for the down trodden and poorest people in India. For the last many years Hindus and Christians, lived together peacefully. As for example, I was given opportunity to go around the world at the expense of Govt. of India. In the town and cities, I used to look at any Indian, in those places, countries. One day, in Tokyo, I saw a Sadarji, with Turban, while walking, I run after him and we talked to each other in broken Hindi, and we feel happy that, we are from the same country. That, very moment we feel homely. This is the case, with every Indian, once we go out from India, no consideration of Religion, Custom Traditional and the Language. But one is an Indian or not is the feeling of every citizens of India. Therefore, the Kitchen quarrels of Indian family should be immediately stopped.
Recently, atrocities of Christians in India are increasing and the Christians are suffering in many parts of India. This Christianity is not founded by the present living people in India. They are simply followers of Great sons of Indians, who have written many Books about the Bible, Religion of different Books. To mentioned of them, Ram Mohan Roy, Kishap Chandra Sen, Nehemiah Coreh (Nilakantha) from Maharastra, Ram Krishna and Vivekananda, Brahma Bandhah Upathyaya, Surendar Singh, Sadhu Sundar Singh, A.G. Apapa Samy, H.A. Pilai, Narayan Vaman Tillak, Rama Nujia, B. Chen Chiah, V. Chalkare, B.D. Devenanda, Surjet Singh, S. Kulandran (Greece), Thangi Bhai fakir Bhai, Paul Sudha Kar, Jules Mon Chanian, Raymond Panikar, Mani Lal C. Parekh, K. Subha Rao, K.M. Banerjea, M.M. Thomas Ex-Governor of Nagaland, Swami Abhishek Damanda, A.C. Dharma Raj, R.H.D. Boyd, Dr. Baago etc, St. Thomas, personal disciples of Jesus Christ came to India in 50s B.C’s. This is the living witness which is found in Madras known as the Missionaries who first came to India in the Asian countries. This is how God love the people of India.
Those persons mentioned above had worked so hard to convert the Hindus to Christianity, through the Spirit of God. Christianity is the most peaceful and followed the principle of non-violence, because their God is peace of Prince which means Jesus. The Christian faith teaches not to take revenge but pray for those people who do wrong against them; Roman chapter 12: verse 14: Bless those who prosecute you. Bless and do not curse.
If it is not the prince of God, for the last nearly 10 (ten) years atrocities against the Christians, people of Nagaland in particular, and North East in general, would have resented and agitated against the Hindus. Even now you will see the Hindu priest roaming every nook and corner of Nagaland, and house to house, giving false promises of coming good luck and approaching bad luck, and collect money from the people. Nowhere there was or there are any incidents, or insult or tortured to those half naked priest, instead, Nagas give them food and sheltered in many places. There are Temples, and in some Temples, there is no Human Being, but, no body destroys it. During the Naga operation, where the Army was posted, in those places, Temples were erected and images of goddesses have been installed. Those images of goddesses remained un-destroyed, even though Army have vacated during the Indo-Pakistan, (Kargil) war. This shows how the Christians respect other religion and the individual faith. No Reverend, Pastor, Evangelist, and Preacher asked the Christians to destroy those images and Temples. It is written in the Bible in St. John Gospel-God is Omnipotent and Omani present. Religious teachers should properly educated and guide their followers and the Worshippers. In the words of or in the preaching of Sai-Baba (Shop Ka Mallik) which means every bodies God and God is for all Humanity.
Chief Minister of Orissa has to shoulder the whole responsibility that is happenings in the state of Orissa. Every citizen in Orissa is supposed to be his subject and it is his duty to make them happily survived. He should not antagonize or practices favoritism, to any community or any tribe. He should also understand that, the people of Orissa are spread all over India but majority of Orians people are in the North East and having Villages, in many part of the state of Nagaland and Assam.
If the Naga people behave like Orissa Govt. the people of Orissa will be in trouble. It is a shame on the part the people of Orissa for not finding out their culprit and started murdering the innocent people, without rhyme or reason. It has already declared that, Maoist had killed Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four others in Jalespata Ashram in Kandhamal District. It is a great shame on the part of Govt. and the people of Orissa for their criminal wrong judgement by killing innocent people.
It is a pleasant record of the Christians contribution for the struggle of India Freedom and upholding integrity and unity of India. These Christians concentrated helping the poor and down trodden people to make them lived and survived from the hunger and against the diseases, This is in the Bible James Chapter 2 Verse 26… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without work is dead. Accordingly the faith is to help other while practicing this Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Bajrang Dal, and (RSS) Rastrya Sevak Sangh and other Hindu organization should not misjudge the other people.
I have to say this, because India is also a community of the Nations, which the whole world look upon us as a Nation. A Nation should be united with understanding, love, affection and feeling of oneness. There is no beggars in the Christians dominated areas, whereas, India is known as a beggar’s country. This shows India is not doing anything for the poor and down trodden people.
Whichever, Government comes; it is the duty of the Government to see that lives and property, economy and living standers of the citizens are advancing. It is none of my business to write all these, but as a Senior and prominent citizen of India, I have concerned for the people of India-towards advancement, and achievement in all fields. This makes me not to be a silent spectator when something is going wrong in the body of India Nation. Lastly, I appeal people of India, to jointly and unitedly work for restoration of peace in the country without considering, religion, culture, caste, regionalism etc.
As per the constitution of India, Government of India should dismiss the Government of Orissa, Karnataka, to fulfill the constitutional propriety, so that, such ugly occurrence will stop in the near future.
(The Morung express)
T.A. Ngullie
Ex-Finance Minister and
Senior Prominent Citizen
(Advisor) UNDP, Nagaland

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Terror in Orissa

Posted by jytmkh on October 13, 2008

A Christianity Today editorial

Religiously motivated terrorism is constantly in today’s headlines, and Islam has faced its share of scrutiny of late (see, for example, “Islam According to Gallup,” page 38). This is not surprising, given that we are barely seven years removed from Osama bin Laden’s attacks against the United States. Yet no faith has a corner on the terror market. Bloodshed darkens the ranks of every religion.
India, the world’s second most populous country, has long been wracked by sectarian violence. In the six-plus decades since Indian independence, Hindu mobs have attacked Sikhs, Muslims, and other Hindus. In fact, a Hindu assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
It’s time for India to start acting like the world’s largest democracy
Christians, too, who constitute about 2.4 percent of India’s 1.1 billion people, have long been easy targets for those who believe that to be Indian is to be Hindu. This summer, terrorists in Orissa launched a pogrom against the state’s defenseless Christian scapegoats after Maoist rebels assassinated a prominent Hindu swami (see page 15). As local police looked the other way, dozens of Christians were murdered, hundreds of homes were destroyed, scores of churches were torched, and thousands of Christians fled to nearby forests for safety. Some faced this stark choice: Become a Hindu or be killed. The mayhem quickly spread to five more states. Pledging aid to the victims, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—whose secular government did too little, too late—called the violence a “national shame.” What an understatement that is.

An Attack Every Three Days
The real embarrassment to the world’s largest democracy is not this incident. No, it is the fact that this flashpoint is not all that unusual for India. Orissa witnessed other attacks against
Christians just last Christmas. According to All India Christian Council, which defends the human rights of the nation’s long-oppressed Dalits, somewhere in India an attack against Christians occurs on average every three days. Readers of this periodical will likely recall the grisly murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa nearly a decade ago (ct, March 1, 1999).
Freedom of religion is currently under threat in India. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom notes “a marked increase in violent attacks against members of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians” in the late 1990s. The Institute on Religion and Public Policy (irpp) counts four Indian states—Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh—that formally restrict the right of Christians to share their faith with non-Christians.
Anti-Christian activists use these laws to punish followers of Jesus who attempt to obey the Great Commission, often claiming that Christians illegally bribe the poor to convert. This is a distortion at best. There is no doubt that many downtrodden Indians advance economically when they break the millennia-old chains of caste. How could they not? When you are at the very bottom, any move is a move up. Not to mention that many prefer the freedom Christ offers to Hinduism’s caste system.
As Doug Bandow of the irpp dryly observes, “Rather than address the horrid treatment of lower-caste Indians, Hindu militants prefer to attack Christians.” George Orwell could have been referring to the evils of caste when he wrote, “Imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” Many Dalits have decided to shout, “No!” to the caste system’s pitiless boot, and convert.
State anti-conversion laws contradict India’s sprawling constitution, which formally prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. The charter also recognizes that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion.”
These pernicious state laws also go against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 60 years ago, right after India’s independence. That document recognizes “the inherent dignity and … the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” Article 18, which highlights the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, notes, “This right includes freedom to change … religion or belief, and freedom … to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” It’s time for New Delhi to get serious about religious freedom.

‘Where Does It End?’
Prominent Hindus who rightly see their nation as an emerging world power are beginning to turn away in disgust from the militants. “I am a Hindu myself,” Indian television talk-show host Rajiv Bajaj says. “Hinduism is a strong, ancient, rich tradition. Are we so insecure about our identity and heritage that it should lead to this kind of mindlessness? First the Sikhs, then the Muslims, now the Christians. Where does it end?”
Columnist Karan Thapar, meanwhile, believes “the time has come for the silent majority of Hindus—both those who ardently practice their faith as well as those who were born into it but may not be overtly religious or devout—to speak out.” They will find ready allies in Christians, who have blessed India since the first century, building schools, feeding the hungry, and standing up for the God-given dignity of all people. And we will continue to do so, come what may from the terrorists.

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