For those who think that I am a “Hindu fundamentalist’, a ‘saffron journalist’, or even a hater of Muslims, let me explain again, girls and boys, why I am one of the very very very rare western journalists to defend Hindus and to go after those who demean or hurt them. :
WHY I CONSIDER MYSELF A HINDU
I was a born and brought-up as a catholic and knew absolutely nothing about India, Hinduism and Hindus. When I was a young Frenchman of 19, I had the privilege to hear about the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, through a friend, whose father was the last Governor of Pondichery. My friend told me that a caravan of 5 cars was about to drive from Paris to Pondichery. On a hunch, I joined this caravan.Upon arriving in Delhi after driving trough nine countries, I felt I had come home and that this country was a very special place.
I lived in the Pondichery Sri Aurobindo ashram for seven years. These were wonderful times: the Mother was still alive and everything looked new, everything seemed possible. One read Sri Aurobindo, of course, as he was the Master and the inspiration of the place, but one either did not understand or felt disconnected to his political writings. Then, having done some journalism and photography in France, I started freelancing in South India and I discovered the Hindus. What I chanced upon was that their religion was not in their heads, as it is for us Christians – “I must pray, I must be good, I must not sin” – but that it was rather something they lived: they seemed, for instance, to accept me, a Westerner, a non Hindu, as they seemed to accept all other religions. This discovery would never leave me, even when I became a political journalist in Delhi for major French newspapers.
Thus slowly, I became acquainted with the eternal principles of Hinduism:• A Hindu is one who searches for the Ultimate Truth.• Unlike other religions, Hinduism refuses to sanction the monopoly of one God, or one Scripture as the only way to salvation.• Hinduism is the eternal faith, Sanataana Dharma, or the universal law by which all humans are governed.• Hindus believe that the soul takes birth in a physical body, dies, gets reborn, until it has attained Perfect Divinity.• Hindus know that one can cleanse oneself from karmas through yoga practices, such as pranayama, meditation or asanas.• One can be a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, or from any other religion and still practice Hinduism. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar @SriSri has shown the way: breath has no religion and pranayama can be practiced by anybody, whatever their creed.
This was on the spiritual side, but when I started studying Indian History, I quickly realized that the greatest Holocaust in the history of the world is that of the Hindus. Muslim invaders have meticulously recorded their deeds, whether the razing of the most ancient and holy temples in Benares, Ayodhya, Mathura, or the killing of one hundred thousand Hindus in one day (by Timur), or the terrifying sack of Vijaynagar for three weeks (rivers turned red with the blood of Hindus).
There was also one man, who has been idolized by most historians, wstern and Indian, who caught my attention: it was Aurangzeb. Upon studyingh records, I discovered that he was not only a monster to Hindus, killing them, humiliating them, taxing them, destorying their temples, forbidding them to ride any horse or palanquin, but also to his own family: he imprisoned his own father Shah Jahan and had him poisoned, beheaded his brother, Dara Shukoh, who was the rightful heir to the throne, imprisoned his son and made the life of India’s greatest yogi warrior, Shivaji Maharaj, a living hell.
But this was still at the mental level. However, when I started covering the Valley of Kashmir, in the late eighties, I saw first hand what the Hindus have endured for centuries: the threats over the mosques loudspeakers (‘Hindus, covert or die); the killings of the Kashmiri Hindus leaders, one by one; and finally the exodus of 350.000 Hindus, who became refugees in their own land, a tragedy that did not find mention in @NarendraModi speech in Srinagar last week.
We are all born during our thousand of lives in different countries with different religions. For sure I have also been a Muslim: when I drove from Paris to Delhi by car, my best friend was a Moroccan Muslim, Mzali – and in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, he would say ‘Salam Alikum’ and all the doors would be opened to us, people would smile, invite us in their houses, offer us tea, food, the hookah… And I experienced first hand the universal brotherhood of Islam, which does not exist amongst Hindus. Another time, reporting in Karachi, my pakistani journalist contact made me wear the local pyjama and kurta – and with my Raybans, being quite tall, I looked as a Pathan. People would stop and talk to me in Pashto. I felt so secure and at peace and I understood intimatel the universal attraction of Islam.
But nevertheless, in this life, I have felt many times that my dharma, my duty, what has been asked of me, is to defend Hindus with my pen and heart. Also India has given me so much in terms of my professional life, my sentimental life (I have a lovely wife), the incredible spirituality, that I am only repaying my debt.
In that sense, I consider myself a Hindu