Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Its the problem with Fundamentalism not the religion"

I hear this remark often made by the likes of Arnab, Rajdeep and all the other media folks who talk about terrorist attacks.

They comfortably blame it on fundamentalism. But I find that stupid. Simply because it is incomplete!

The "www.freedictionary.com" definition of this term is roughly "rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism."

Hence, if you say it the problem of adherence to "something".....then.....
unless that "something" gets filled with Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Communism, Marxism, Capitalism etc. it is not complete.

Hence "Fundamentalism" CANNOT be the problem standalone.

It has to be what follows/precedes "Fundamentalism" which acts as the base.

The following things lay the foundation of fundamentalism

1) A doctrine/philosophy in which you absolutely believe
2) A leader/teacher/motivator/father figure who has applied that doctrine/foundation in real life (or has at least pretended as if he/she followed it and is misguiding you)
3) The context of your life (where/when are you born, who are your parents, where did you study, what did you study, how poor or rich were you? etc.)

The three factors above play a huge part in what you turn out to be.

Now, assuming you are a fundamentalist, that STILL is NOT a problem.


Mahatma Gandhiji was one of the greatest fundamentalists in recent history. Although a Hindu, he was unknowingly or knowingly in my opinion, a hardcore Jain philosopher who probably resembled Jesus Christ  (he actually refers to Leo Tolstoy's works in his book My Experiments with Truth, who in turn takes on Jesus Christs Non Violent ideology).

Bill Maher once calls the Mahatma "He was so f***ing Christian that he was a Hindu".

The context in which he was born into turned this combination to lead him to become the greatest crusader of freedom movement in India. Take away the doctrine or the leader or if he was born today, it is hard to tell if he would be revered the same way he is.

Turn it the other way, if you look at an Ajmal Kasab, who was made to believe in a version of Islam, by a group of terrorist elements, and he was a poor man (who in his own interview goes to say that he would have done anything for Rs. 1.5 lakhs and that was the amount that the terrorists had promised his mother would get). And what you get out of the above is a terrorist.

Now, having seen the examples, let us analyze these three factors in a bit more detail.

1) Doctrine/Philosophy - you can NEVER have a Fundamentalist Jain terrorist bomber. It is an oxymoron to call a true Jain, a terrorist. Hence it is wrong to say that the doctrine has "Nothing" to do with making you a terrorist. It does. It very much does.

If the doctrine is full of violence, it has expletives, it encourages violence, if it promises wild rewards for acts of violence etc. then  it is quite possible that it will play a role (how much of a role it plays is also dependent on who your teacher or motivator is) in turning you into something which is not desirable for the society.

I certainly believe that all the doctrines of the world can easily be compared scientifically and we can definitely grade them on some parameters such as
1) Equality of gender
2) Freedom of speech
3) General violence factor

etc. etc. what is today considered as a moral construct for general human well being (as what a Sam Harris would say)

I will not be giving out what i think is the gradation of the different religions of the world, but it is definitely possible to do this scientifically. Take for example violence, we can look at

1) How many instances of chopping of limbs/head etc. per 1000 words in the text exist?
2) How many instances of child abuse are shown as examples?
3) How many instances of robbery etc. are there in the doctrine?
4) What kind of punishments does the book prescribe?

 etc. etc.

Basically what I am talking about is giving a CBFC(Adults only or Universal) type rating to the religious texts around the world and you can decide the gradation of violence, equality , freedom etc.

Take the above and you can easily plot a graph around it.

The basic point of this exercise is that if you arrive at the conclusion that religion X is the most violent based on the above gradation, there is a good likelihood that if you belong to that religion and the below two factors are also right, you may end up being an anti-social element. I am willing to bet Jainism will be the least violent religion as per above yardstick!

And I do believe that the doctrine is the most important factor in contributing to fundamentalism - because it is the basis. Without it, a leader/context is going to do nothing to you

2) Now comes the motivator. This is another important factor. A clever speaker can twist the most non-violent doctrine to make it the most violent, while at the same time can moderate a very heavily violent text into something which is very peaceful.

We can see for example a doctrine being, rights for Tamilians. Combine it with a Prabhakaran and you may get the first suicide bomber in modern history  Thenmozhi Rajarathnam (who killed Rajiv Gandhi) - combined of course with the context in which she was born and brought up etc. Now, a similar Tamil sentiment exploited in India for instance during Indira Gandhi regime, and you may get a DMK party in a different context, under different leaders which is now a leading political party in Tamilnadu. Completely different results in both cases.

3) Lastly, the context, I believe critical too. And it is quite self explanatory why a context can shape you completely differently. A most violent doctrine, combined with a most violent leader may still not force you into committing a crime, if you are quite well off, and are well taken care of in your life.

Now, to conclude, to say that fundamentalism is the problem in terrorism, and NOT that of the religion is NOT correct.

Religion or Doctrine has the most important role.
So does the motivator as well as the context. You cannot separate these from a terrorist or a hero.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Secularism = Anti Hinduism = Minority Appeasement in India

Indians, and especially several Hindus find it very fashionable (take our Home Minister Mr.Shinde’s recent irresponsible remark) to bash other Hindus and organizations which are doing welfare in the country with a nationalistic bent of mind. More so if you are from the Congress party (who call themselves secular but have been directly/indirectly behind some of the worst communal riots in India).

There are some events that I have been seeing in the recent past as well as some of the events which have happened in history which I want to bring the readers’ attention to which have led me to writing this article.

Discrimination of Hindus by the Government

     1)Several lakh temples in India have been nationalized. Their revenues are not being utilized for Hindu Temple development. There are several temples which are now collecting spider webs because of lack of money to renovate them. I recently learned that much of the revenues of all Hindu temples go to the Government of India which turned out to be a shocker.

You can google for this, but I can post a few places where you can read about this

Now I do not have a problem with this if the same is done to mosques and churches. However the sad truth is that mosques and churches and other sacred places of worship are not even audited.

Why this double standard?

      Is this the Government’s (read-Congress as they have been in power in India for over 80% of the time) idea of secularism? 
     2)      The clear hypocrisy when the Government deals with Hindus vs. other religions is visible with the examples below

a.       As per indications in some of the Vedic rituals a recommended age for marriage is prior to puberty for both men and women (not that I am in favor of this in today’s context). Please read Shri Chandrasekara Saraswati’s book “Hindu Dharma” for references to what the Vedic rituals prescribe on marriage. However, the Government finds it convenient to BAN this effectively and increase the marriageable age to 18-21. However, in 2012 a high court declared that Muslim women can marry at 15. On top of this, to be tolerant to the Muslim faith, a Muslim man can marry more than one woman under the Indian law.

Don’t get me wrong, you can tolerate other faiths and you should.

But why do you go “anti-Hindu” in your policy? Why the double standard? Either you permit a much younger marriageable age for Hindus as per their customs or you do not allow it for everyone in the country. When it comes to passing a law which hurts Hindu sentiments people find it ok, but not when it comes to other religions

b.      Next comes the way divorce is handled. People of all other religions go through a rigorous process when it comes to divorce. However, the triple talaq is accepted in the court of law.

As per the constitution of India, equal rights are given to men and women (Article 14, Article 15 and Article 21). Fundamentally the triple talaq allows a man to say it and be done with the wedding, but does not bestow a similar privilege to a woman. So this is in direct violation of the above articles.

Men are misusing this left right and center (such as giving telephonic talaqs) and there are several people in Islam itself who say this is a repugnant practice. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_(Islamic))

Please also read the famous Shah Bano case. The Congress (under Rajiv Gandhi) in an effort to pose as secular, passed the The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, which denied even utterly destitute Muslim divorcĂ©es the right to alimony from their former husbands.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shah_Bano_case)

To me, it is a simple question.

Does Indian Constitution come first or does Sharia come first in India?

If you say the Constitution comes first, then the triple talaq as well as the above act should be disallowed or changed as it violates the fundamental rights espoused in the constitution. If it is religion above the nation, then is it not a question of danger to national security? I am not sure if I am missing a point here?

Any self-respecting Indian should proudly say they are Indians first and Hindus/Christians/Muslims/Sikhs/Parsees etc. next.

c.       Why does the Government give subsidies only for Haj Pilgrims? Why not for Kashi/Amarnath/Rameshwaram yatra for the Hindus or for a trip for Christians to the Vatican or Jerusalem or the Sikhs to Amritsar?

I am not against giving subsidies for the Haj Pilgrims. By all means do. But please also give it to the Hindus in that case. Do not show leniency to one religion and call it secular.
Increasingly I get the feeling that “anti-communal” is seen as secular and true secularism is just dropped into the dust bin.

These are just some of the things which the Government does. I can go on about the Kashmir problems, Tripura conversion problems and several other areas where the Government chooses to look the other way. 

Media Discrimination of Hindus

It is not just the Government which has acted in a biased way in this regard. The media too has played a significant role in contributing effectively to defining anything “Anti-Hindu” or “Anti-Communal” to mean secular.

Let us take some examples

     1)      One of the Heads of Hindus, Seer of Kanchi – Shri Jayendra Saraswathi swamigal is arrested (for a crime for which he was eventually absolved by the courts), and all that I could see in the TV that day was how he “conspired” to commit the crime. There was absolute horror in our houses, and the media only portrayed one side of the story.

Turn it around and there was hardly any attention paid to Owaisi who openly declares war against Hindus and no action is taken even for a month and a half. Eventually media wakes up and we see our dear Arnab trying to play the Devils’ advocate. Instead of focusing attention on Owaisi (who by the way I did not see any Muslim cleric openly declare that what he said was wrong), he talks about Praveen Togadia and Hindu Terror. Talk about changing the gear and shifting attention toward Hindu terror.

I really fail to understand how one can compare the two?

    2)      Hindutva – The moment the word is used the media persons turn pale. Nobody wants to use the “Hindutva” word because that has been clearly branded as a communal word. I strongly contest this. Here is my take
a)      The western world (who we acknowledge as secular democracies) – be it US or Canada or UK, are all Christian states. They support all religions and they allow all religions to flourish, but they are clear about their roots. There are hardly any communal riots in the US. There are instead more communal riots in Pakistan where Shias are murdered in hundreds every year. Why is it wrong for an Indian to acknowledge that long before we had our Christian, Muslim and other brothers stay with us, the land was practicing the Vedic religion? Why is that so hard to believe? There is today archaeological evidence of this.

But no – the media will never allow such topics to even be discussed

b)      Aryan invasion theory is now gone to dust. It has also been clearly established through DNA analysis that all Indians have a particular DNA strain. Why is this not mentioned at all in the media?

The moment this calling everyone as “Hindustanis” or “Bharatvanshis” is called for, media brands us as communal forces

I think it is high time we stop having double standards and call a spade a spade. All the pseudo-intellectual Hindus who go on appeasing other religions should pause and think how many countries are there where they are the religious minority and the majority religions support their free speech, support gender equality, support equality among humans the way it happens to minorities in India.  For sure I encourage friendliness, and mutual brotherhood with all the religions. However, that should not be at the cost of your own faith. The two are NOT opposed to one another if you are a Hindu. Please understand that.

Take this data point for a minute - at the time of independence there were close to 20% Hindus in both Pakistan and Bangladesh and about 10% Muslims in India. Today, there are 2% and 7% Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh whereas there are over 15% Muslims in India (probably a lot more as latest census data has not revealed the religious mix, this is based on 2001 census)

This goes to show who is secular and who is not.

There is nothing wrong in proudly declaring that I am a Hindu. I am NOT COMMUNAL if I do so. There are Sikhs, Christians and Muslims who I am proud to have known. Nevertheless, I am an Indian and I am a Hindu and I will not let my religion be exploited at the cost of pseudo-secularism.