Category Archives: analysis

India should pause and act

François Gautier

Source: Expressbuzz
First Published : 30 Jan 2009 02:01:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 30 Jan 2009 08:45:50 AM IST

How many of us remember the young Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cadres in the mid-Eighties, when they walked freely in the streets of what was known as Madras: young, nice Tamils, who looked more like students than militants? There is no doubt that over the years the LTTE has become a deadly terrorist outfit, eliminating in cold blood anyone it felt was in the way of its aspirations, including other Sri Lankan Tamil leaders.

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was symbolic of that ruthlessness: he was murdered on the assumption that he would then follow an anti- LTTE policy once back in power after the experience of the IPKF.

Today the Tamils of Sri Lanka are paying a heavy price for the assassination: they are losing the war with the Sri Lankan army, mostly because the Congress of Sonia Gandhi, who has never forgiven them for her husband’s murder, is backing the Sinhalese leadership.

But before the LTTE is wiped out, India would do well to think whether it would serve its geopolitical purposes to have a triumphant Sinhala neighbour. For this, one has to first look at the history of Sri Lanka.

There seems little doubt that a few thousand years ago, India and Sri Lanka were linked by a small strip of land, which can still be seen today from the air: Adam’s Bridge, or Ram Setu. This is how the first Tamils, those who settled in the North, came to Sri Lanka. One has to go back a long time to understand what factors shaped the psyche of the island’s two communities. The decisive factor bears the names of two of the world’s greatest religions: Buddhism and Hinduism.

The first is a gentle, peaceful creed that teaches non-violence and brotherhood, even to enemies. Unfortunately, Ceylon, the “isle of beauty”, has always been a tempting prey for sea-faring invaders.

Successive colonisers, from Arabs to Africans, from Portuguese to Dutch and finally, British, preyed on the tiny, defenceless island.

In the name of Buddhism and because the Sinhalese are by nature a fun-loving people, not only did they hardly resist these invasions, but often their women mingled freely with the invaders. The result can be seen today in the faces of many Sinhalese women folk, with their kinky hair or Arabic features.

As a result, the Sinhalese slowly lost their sense of identity, their feeling of collective being, to the point that when the British came, they collaborated wholeheartedly and had to be handed back their independence on a platter, for want of a real freedom movement.

Today, democracy and western institutions are just a cloak that the Sinhalese wear. Lurking underneath is a sense of hopelessness and a terrible violence. Its politicians have been among the least farsighted of the entire subcontinent: nothing is made in Sri Lanka. Only tea, tourism and Western grants help it survive. On the other hand Hinduism, with its strict caste hierarchy, protected the Tamils from mingling with their invaders. They preserved their identity and culture. The Sinhalese live an easier life in the South, always more fertile than the arid North. As a result, Tamils are often better at studies and more hard working, (although one should not generalise). The British noticed it and often gave Tamils preference for jobs and university grants, angering the Sinhalese, who after all were the majority community.

It is this deep-rooted resentment that is in greater part the cause of the present troubles. When the British left, the Sinhalese quickly moved to correct what they saw as an imbalance, depriving Tamils of most of the rights they had acquired under the British and proceeded to establish a Sinhalese-dominated Ceylon. Every time a Sinhalese politician tried to give the Tamils their just share of power, he was forced to backtrack for fear of Sinhalese resentment.

For years, Tamils bore the brunt of Sinhalese persecution. But one day, too much became too much and Tamil armed groups started springing up to defend their people. To cut short a long story, the LTTE finally emerged as the most ruthless and sole militant organisation.

Yet, in 1988, Rajiv stepped in to mediate between the warring Sinhalese and Tamils. All kinds of insulting epithets have been used to describe the Jayewardene-Rajiv Gandhi peace plan and the IPKF’s role in Sri Lanka, but these are unfair.

The plan was the best that could be done in the circumstances, and the IPKF did not come to conquer, but to help. All the same, India got bogged down in a guerrilla war, with one hand tied behind the back to avoid killing civilians. Ultimately, it had to leave because of pressure at home and Premadasa’s intense dislike of Indians.

Today Tamils are on the verge of being completely overrun. And this raises the question of India’s security.

What will be the consequences of a triumphant Sinhalese majority? Are not Sri Lankan Tamils closer to Indians, culturally, socially and spiritually, than the Sinhalese? Will Sri Lanka, like Bangladesh before it, turn on India once it has achieved, with India’s help, its goals? The Government of India should think twice and remember Rama and Ravana before it allows the Sri Lankan army totally to subdue the north.

fgautier@rediffmail.com

‘Gandhi was a misfit in India’

Nehru, writes French historian Alain Danielou, “was the perfect replica of a certain type of Englishman. He often used the expression ‘continental people’, with an amused and sarcastic manner, to designate French or Italians. He despised non-anglicised Indians and had a very superficial and partial knowledge of India. His ideal was the romantic socialism of 19th century Britain. But this type of socialism was totally unfit to India, where there was no class struggle and where the conditions were totally different from 19th century Europe.”

It should be added that Nehru was not a fiery leader, maybe because of his innate “gentlemanship” and often succumbed not only to Gandhi’s views, with which he sometimes disagreed, not only to the blackmailing of Jinnah and the fanatical Indian Muslim minority, but also to the British, particularly Lord Mountbatten, whom history has portrayed as the benevolent last viceroy of India, but who actually was most instrumental in the Partition of India, whatever Freedom at Midnight a very romanticised book, says. (Remember Churchill’s words on learning about Partition: “At last we had the last word”!).

It may be added that the British had a habit of leaving a total mess when they had to surrender a colony, witness Ireland, Palestine, or India-Pakistan.

Mahatma Gandhi was indeed a great soul, an extraordinary human being, a man with a tremendous appeal to the people. But, unfortunately, he was a misfit in India. Karma or fate, or God, or whatever you want to call it, made a mistake when they sent him down to the land of Bharat. For at heart, Gandhi was a European, his ideals were a blend of Christianity raised to an exalted moral standard and a dose of liberalism ‘à la Tolstoy.’ The patterns and goals he put forward for India, not only came to naught, but sometimes did great harm to a country, which unquestionably he loved immensely.

Furthermore, even after his death, Gandhism, although it does not really have any relevance to Modern India, is still used shamelessly by all politicians and intellectuals, particularly Congressmen, ‘secular’ Muslims and pseudo-Marxists, to smoke-screen their ineffectiveness and to perpetuate their power. To understand Gandhi properly, one has to put in perspective his aims, his goals, and the results today.

One has to start at the beginning. There is no doubt that after his bitter experiences with racism in South Africa, he took to heart the plight of fellow Indians there. But what did he achieve for them? Second class citizenship! Worse, he dissociated them from their black Africans brothers, who share the same colour and are the majority. And today the Indians in South Africa are in a difficult position, sandwiched between the Whites who prefer them to the Blacks but do not accept them fully as their own, and the Blacks who often despise them for their superior attitudes.

Ultimately, they sided with the Moderate Whites led by de Klerk and this was a mistake as Mandela was elected and the Blacks wrested total power in South Africa — and once more we might have an exodus of Indians from a place where they have lived and which they have loved for generations.

The Mahatma did a lot for India. But the question again is: What remains today in India of Gandhi’s heritage? Spinning was a joke. “He made Charkha a religious article of faith and excluded all people from Congress membership who would not spin. How many, even among his own followers believe in the gospel of Charkha? Such a tremendous waste of energy, just for the sake of a few annas is most unreasonable,” wrote Sri Aurobindo in 1938 (India’s Rebirth, page 207). Does any Congress leader today still weave cotton? And has Gandhi’s Khadi policy of village handicrafts for India survived him? Nehru was the first to embark upon a massive “Soviet type” heavy industrialisation, resolutely turning his back on Gandhi’s policy, although handicrafts in India do have their place.

Then, nowhere does Gandhi’s great Christian morality find more expression than in his attitude towards sex. All his life he felt guilty about having made love to his wife while his father was dying. But guilt is truly a Western prerogative. In India, sex has (was at least) always been put in its proper place, neither suppressed, as in Victorian times, nor brought to its extreme perversion, like in the West today. Gandhi’s attitude towards sex was to remain ambivalent all his life, sleeping with his beautiful nieces “to test his brahmacharya,” while advocating abstinence for India’s population control. But why impose on others what he practised for himself?

Again, this is a very Christian attitude: John Paul II, or Mother Teresa, fifty years later, enjoined all Christians to do the same. But did Gandhi think for a minute how millions of Indian women would be able to persuade their husbands to abstain from sex when they are fertile? And who will suffer abortions, pregnancy and other ignominies? And again, India has totally turned its back on Gandhi’s policy: today its birth control programme must be the most elaborate in the world — and does not even utilise force (except for a short period during the Emergency), as the Chinese have done.

For all the world, Gandhi is synonymous with non-violence. But once more, a very Christian notion. Gandhi loved the Mahabharata. But did he understand that sometimes non-violence does more harm than violence itself? That violence can also be “Dharma,” if it is done for defending one’s country, or oneself, or one’s mother, or sisters? Take the Cripps proposals for instance.

In 1942, the Japanese were at the doors of India. England was weakened, vulnerable and desperately needed support. Churchill sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India to propose that if India participated in the war effort, Great Britain would grant her Dominion status (as in Australia or Canada) at the end of the war. Sri Aurobindo sent a personal letter to the Congress, urging it to accept. Nehru wavered, but ultimately, Gandhi in the name of non-violence put his foot down and the Cripps proposal was rejected. Had it been accepted, history might have been changed, Partition and its terrible bloodshed would have been avoided.

Gandhi also never seemed to have realised the great danger that Nazism represented for humanity. A great Asuric wave had risen in Europe and threatened to engulf the world and it had to be fought — with violence. Calling Hitler “my beloved brother,” a man who murdered 6 million Jews in cold blood just to prove the purity of his own race, is more than just innocence, it borders on criminal credulity. And did not Gandhi also advise the Jews to let themselves be butchered?

Ultimately, it must be said that whatever his saintliness, his extreme and somehow rigid asceticism, Gandhi did enormous harm to India and this harm has two names: Muslims and Untouchables.

The British must have rubbed their hands in glee: here was a man who was perfecting their policy of rule-and-divide, for ultimately nobody more than Gandhi contributed to the Partition of India, by his obsession to always give in to the Muslims, by his obstinate refusal to see that the Muslims always started rioting, Hindus only retaliated. By his indulgence of Jinnah, going as far as proposing to make him the prime minister of India.

Sri Aurobindo was very clear about Hindu-Muslim unity: “I am sorry they are making a fetish of Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; some day the Hindus may have to fight the Muslims and they must prepare for it. Hindu-Muslim unity should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Every time the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organise themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unity would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem, when in fact we have only shelved it.” (India’s Rebirth, page 159)

Gandhi’s love of the Harijans, as he called them, was certainly very touching and sprang from the highest motivations, but it had also as its base a Christian notion that would have found a truer meaning in Europe, where there are no castes, only classes. Glorifying the scavenger as a man of God makes good poetry, but little social meaning. In the words of Sri Aurobindo: “The idea that it needs a special ‘punya‘ to be born a Bhangi is, of course one of these forceful exaggerations which are common to the Mahatma and impress greatly the mind of his hearers. The idea behind is that his function is an indispensable service to society, quite as much as the Brahmin’s, but that being disagreeable, it would need a special moral heroism to choose it voluntarily and he thinks as if the soul freely chose it as such a heroic service to the society and as reward of righteous acts, but that is hardly likely.

“In any case, it is not true that the Bhangi life is superior to the Brahmin life and the reward of special righteousness, no more that it is true that a man is superior because he is born a Brahmin. A spiritual man of pariah birth is superior in the divine values to an unspiritual and worldly-minded Brahmin. Birth counts but the basic value is in the soul behind the man and the degree to which it manifests itself in nature”. (India’s Rebirth, page 201)

Once more Gandhi took the European element in the decrying of the caste system, forgetting the divine element behind. And unfortunately he sowed the seeds of future disorders and of a caste war in India, of which we see the effects only today.

Non-violence, you say? But Gandhi did the greatest violence to his body, in true Christian fashion, punishing it, to blackmail others in doing his will, even if he thought it was for the greater good. And ultimately, it may be asked, what remains of Gandhi’s non-violence today? India has fought three wars with Pakistan (four, if you count Kargil), had to combat the Chinese, has the second biggest army in the world and has to fight counter-insurgency movements in Punjab, Assam and Kashmir. Gandhi must have died a broken man indeed. He saw India partitioned, Hindus and Muslims fighting each other and his ideals of Charkha, non-violence and Brahmacharya being flouted by the very men he brought up as his disciples.

However, his heritage is not dead, for it survives where it should have been in the first instance: in the West. His ideals have inspired countless great figures, from Martin Luther King, to Albert Einstein, to Nelson Mandela, the Dalaï Lama or Attenborough and continue to inspire many others. Gandhi’s birth in India was an accident, for here, there is nothing left of him, except million of statues and streets and saintly mouthings by politicians, who don’t apply the least bit what Gandhi had taught so ardently.

History will judge. But with Nehru on one side and his Westernised concept of India and Gandhi on the other, who tried to impose upon India a non-violence which was not hers, India was destined to be partitioned. Thus when the time came, India was bled into two, in three even, and Muslims took their pound of flesh while leaving. India never recovered from that trauma and today she is still suffering from its consequences. Yet has anybody really understood the lessons of history?

Francois Gautier

We need an India based on merit, not on caste

July 03, 2006

You knew about OBCs, Other Backward Classes. Now you have to learn about OUC — Other Upper Castes, a term coined by a bureaucrat from the Union home ministry.

The Congress has become adept at cornering the votes of Dalits and OBCs, that is enough to bring any government to power. But do they know that Brahmins and OUC, according to the National Sample Survey’s 1999 report, constitute 36 per cent of India, a huge vote bank which ignores its own power?

And are the Brahmins and OUC aware that together they may constitute more than the OBCs vote bank, if one excludes Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Trtibes, which constitute 13 per cent of the 52 per cent Mandal OBC list?

There are further post-1931 caste census adjustments to be made, due to the merger of Rajput-Dominated Princely States with the rest of India, which took off 4 per cent; and another 4 per cent due to migration at the time of Partition in 1947.

Thus we come to an OBC actual population, All Religions Taken, excluding Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, of 22.5 per cent.

People think that Brahmins and OUC are rich, arrogant and cut off from society. We have already shown that today Brahmins and OUC work as toilet cleaners, coolies, rickshaw pullers, that temple priests sometimes earn less than Rs 350 a month.

But what about the Thakurs, the farmers and landlords, who have such a bad reputation in Bihar and UP, as having huge lands and exploiting the lower castes?

A paper by D Narayana, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthpuram (‘Perception, Poverty and Health: A Contribution’ CICRED Seminar on Poverty and Health, February 2005), shows that 69.8 per cent of Brahmins and OUC never went past the 12th standard, that 52.4 per cent of Brahmins and OUC farmers don’t own land bigger than 100 cents, quite insufficient to nourish a family, and that that 53.9 per cent of the upper caste population is below poverty line.

So much for the clich�s and prejudices in India about Brahmins and Thakurs.

Narayana thus concludes: ‘Just as the higher ritual status of Brahmins does not necessarily translate into economic or political supremacy, those lower in the ranks are able to move up in the local hierarchy through the capture of political power, the acquisition of land, and migration to other regions. A combination of these strategies and India’s policy of quotas or reservations have particularly benefited the so-called backward castes, or Shudras. Referred to as ‘other backward classes’ (OBCs) in administrative parlance, backward castes are defined as those whose ritual rank and occupational status are above ‘untouchables’ but who themselves remain socially and economically depressed. Contrary to the general presumption that the OBCs belong to the deprived sections of Hindu society, few groups in independent India have made progress on a scale comparable to the OBCs.’

We are often shown Tamil Nadu as an example of successful reservation policies. But the Dravidian movement’s success has its origins in the anti-Brahmin movement launched in the first part of the 20th century.

One century on, the DMK continues to stoke those feelings. Most of the Brahmins who once enlightened Tamil Nadu have now fled to other parts of India and abroad, probably one of the greatest migrations of intellectuals from any country in the world.

It is true that thanks to reservation, social justice has returned to Tamil Nadu. But at what price?

The only Brahmins left there are priests and the DMK, back in power, is on the verge of also stripping them of this last privilege. But it takes decades to master the art of Sanskrit and puja and priesthood today is not a very lucrative career, as many Pandits are wallowing in poverty.

So how many takers will there be for their post? This is another empty vote bank posturing, which will split India more on caste lines.

This is the third part of the article on Brahmins. rediff has received a considerable amount of messages. We get huge amount of mails from Brahmins and OUC, grateful that someone has at last taken note of their plight, but also a few mails (3 per cent) from people saying that we are anti-Dalit.

First, I would like to say that after so many years in India, particularly in the cities, I am still not able to see the difference between a Dalit and a Brahmin, except if I see a Brahmin wearing a sacred thread and a Dalit in a loincloth, which is never the case in cities.

Second, we live partly in the South near Pondicherry, where most of the local inhabitants are Vanniars, an OBC caste, just above the untouchables. I play basketball with them, our marriage witnesses were both Vanniars and our best friend there is a Tamil OBC.

Thirdly, as all Westerners (and French), I am revolted by social inequalities. When during the tsunami in Pondicherry, Vanniars stopped Dalits (whose access to their burial ground had been flooded), from crossing their village to bury their dead, I was appalled.

When in Banares during a recent survey, a few Brahmins tell us that they still will not let a Shudra enter their house, I am revolted and I think to myself that Brahmins deserve the treatment they are getting today.

Today the Hindus, the huge majority of this country, they whose culture is the backbone and the genius of India, with virtues of tolerance, spirituality, acceptance of all, are treated like a minority by the Congress and more and more ostracised.

It may be true that chunks of India are still ruled by some of the erstwhile upper classes; but the 36 per cent upper castes of India — the Brahmins, Thakurs, Vaishiyas, Jains, Marwaris, Baniyas — are more and more marginalised, their voices are not heard, and their children have to emigrate abroad, because merit is not any more sufficient to get admission in a university or a government job.

When will this great brain drain stop?

What a terrible loss for India. Not only Brahmins and OUC kept alive India’s old age spirituality carried down throughout the ages, India’s sacred texts, including the Bhgavad Gita, humanity’s Future Bible, but they are also some of the top most scientists, engineers, software people, writers, artists of this country…

Will this 36 per cent so-called upper castes forever remain disunited, silent, and see its role more and more diminished, India more and more Christianised, Islamised, de-Hinduised, Marxist-ised? This may be the dream of the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress, but that will spell the doom of the India we all love.

Today, although outwardly many of the OUC still control parts of India there are many areas, such as the bureaucracy, schools, universities, hospitals, where the backward classes, often without merit, exercise huge control.

We need an India based on merit, not on caste. Indians should feel Indians first and then belonging to that caste or that religion after. But what is happening at the moment, under the Congress reign, is that Indians are made to believe that they are first OBC and then Indians, first Muslims and then Indians, first Christians and then Indians. This is very wrong and has got to be fought.

O Brahmins and OUC, awake, not against the lower castes, who are your brothers and sisters and whom you did sometimes mistreat for centuries, but against this cynical government that is trying to divide India more and more along caste and religion lines.

Let go of your centuries’ old disunity and selfishness, and unite. The power is still with you.


West and Islam

Author: Francois Gautier

Publication: Pioneer:
Date: July 10, 2002
Boston, Massachusetts – American newspapers publish daily commentaries by eminent Muslims, who all want to prove that Islam is a tolerant creed, that the Taliban were an isolated aberration, and that Osama bin Laden is desecrating the scared non-violent tenets of Islam with his terrible deeds.

It is in such times that it is useful to remind the world, particularly the United States – which has chosen as a frontline state for its war on terrorism, a nation which breeds terrorism – that while Pakistan is an aberration of what Islam has stood for since its inception in the 7th century, India is a living example of a peace loving nation, tolerant of other creeds, ethnic groups and religions. Most Western history books, for instance, eulogise the Mughal period in India as a time of refinement and enlightenment, and many of them say that Aurangzeb was a strict but just emperor. What is the truth?

Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered all temples to be destroyed and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction. A few examples: Krishna’s birth place temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujarat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Varanasi and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures. According to his own official court chronicles: “Aurangzeb ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices.” Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions.

We can see, Romila Thapar and Percival Spear’s statement of a benevolent Aurangzeb is a flagrant attempt at negationism. Even the respectable Encyclopedia Britannica, in its entry on India, does not mention in its chapter on the Sultanate period any persecutions of Hindus by Muslims, except “that Firuz Shah Tughlaq made largely unsuccessful attempts at converting his Hindu subjects and sometime persecuted them”.

Many orthodox Indian Muslims still cling to the Deoband school, which says that India was once “Dar-ul-Islam”, the house of Islam, and should return to that status. The Aligarh school, on the contrary, led by Mohammed Iqbal, propounded the creation of Pakistan. What particularly interests us in the Aligarh school is the attempt by Muslim historians, such as Mohammed Habib, to rewrite the chapter of Muslim invasions in India. In 1920, Habib started writing his magnum opus, which he based on four theories: One, that the records (written by the Muslims themselves) of slaughters of Hindus, the enslaving of their women and children and razing of temples were “mere exaggerations by court poets and zealous chroniclers to please their rulers”. Two, that they were indeed atrocities, but mainly committed by Turks, the savage riders from the Steppes. Three, the destruction of the temples took place because Hindus stored their gold and jewels inside them and therefore Muslim armies plundered these. Four, the conversion of millions of Hindus to Islam was not forced “but what happened was there was a shift of opinion in the population, who on its own free will chose the Shariat against the Hindu law (Smriti), as they were all oppressed by the bad Brahmins…”

Unfortunately for Habib and his school, the Muslims invaders did record with glee their genocide on Hindus, because they felt all along that they were doing their duty; that plundering, enslaving and razing temples was sanctioned by their religion. Indeed, whether it was Mahmud of Ghazni (997-1030) – no barbarian; although a Turk, he patronised art and literature and would recite a verse of the Quran every night after having razed temples and killed his quota of unbelievers – or Firuz Shah Tughlak (1351-1388) who personally confirms that the destruction of Pagan temples was done out of piety and writes: “On the day of a Hindu festival, I went there myself, ordered the executions of all the leaders and practitioners of his abomination; I destroyed their idols, temples and built mosques in their places.” Finally, as Belgian historian Konraad Elst points out, “Muslim fanatics were merely faithful executors of Quranic injunctions. It is not the Muslims who are guilty but Islam.”

It is not only Indian historians who are negationists, but also Western historians and India-specialists. We know that the first historians of India, the British, twisted India’s history to suit their theory that they had come to civilise a race which was not only inferior to them, but was also supposed to have been heavily influenced in its philosophies or arts by European invaders (read the Aryans or Alexander the Great).

However, but what is less known is that today many Western historians not only still cling to these outdated theories, but also actually, more or less willfully, mislead their public, which is generally totally ignorant and takes these “knowledgeable” comments about India as the absolute truth. Many of these India-specialists are not only Left-leaning, but they are also specialists of the Mughal period of Indian history, which is to say that they are sympathetic to Islam’s point of view on India, while they often consider Hindus fanatics.

It is time Indian historians looked again at their own history and wrote it based on the latest archaeological and linguistic discoveries, so that the West is better able to understand India.

Negationism and the Muslim Conquests

The following is based on one of the chapters in the book Rewriting Indian History (Vikas). In this first part, the author argues that History books should be rewritten.

It is important to stop a moment and have a look at what the Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst, has called “negationism in India”. In his foreword to the book of the same title, Koenraad explains that negationism, which means in this context “the denial of historical crimes against humanity”, is not a new phenomenon. In modern history, the massacre by the Turks of 1,5 millions Armenians, or that of the 6 million Jews by the Nazis, the several millions of Russians by Stalin, or again the 1 million Tibetans by the Chinese communists, are historical facts which have all been denied by their perpetrators… But deny is not the exact word. They have been NEGATED in a thousand ways: gross, clever, outrageous, subtle, so that in the end, the minds of people are so confused and muddled, that nobody knows anymore where the truth is.

Sometimes, it is the numbers that are negated or passed under silence: the Spanish conquest of South America has been one of the bloodiest and most ruthless episodes in history. Elst estimates that out of the population of native Continental South America of 1492, which stood at 90 million, only 32 million survived; terrible figures indeed but who talks about them today?

“But what of the conquest of India by Muslims”, asks Elst?

In other parts of Asia and Europe, the conquered nations quickly opted for conversion to Islam rather than death. But in India, because of the staunch resistance of the 4000 year old Hindu faith, the Muslim conquests were for the Hindus a pure struggle between life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and their populations massacred. Each successive campaign brought hundreds of thousands of victims and similar numbers were deported as slaves. Every new invader made often literally his hill of Hindu skulls. Thus the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000, was followed by the annihilation of the entire Hindu population there; indeed, the region is still called Hindu Kush, ‘Hindu slaughter’. The Bahmani sultans in central India, made it a rule to kill 100.000 Hindus a year. In 1399, Teimur killed 100.000 Hindus IN A SINGLE DAY, and many more on other occasions. Koenraad Elst quotes Professor K.S. Lal’s “Growth of Muslim population in India”, who writes that according to his calculations, the Hindu population decreased by 😯 MILLION between the year 1000 and 1525. INDEED PROBABLY THE BIGGEST HOLOCAUST IN THE WHOLE WORLD HISTORY. (Negat.34)

But the “pagans” were far too numerous to kill them all; and Hinduism too well entrenched in her people’s soul, never really gave up, but quietly retreated in the hearts of the pious and was preserved by the Brahmins’ amazing oral powers. Thus, realising that they would never be able to annihilate the entire Indian population and that they could not convert all the people, the Muslims rulers, particularly under the Hanifite law, allowed the pagans to become “zimmis” (protected ones) under 20 humiliating conditions, with the heavy “jizya”, the toleration tax, collected from them.

“It is because of Hanifite law, writes Mr Elst, that many Muslim rulers in India considered themselves exempted from the duty to continue the genocide of Hindus”. The last “jihad” against the Hindus was waged by the much glorified Tipu Sultan, at the end of the 18th century. Thereafter, particularly following the crushing of the 1857 rebellion by the British, Indian Muslims fell into a state of depression and increasing backwardness, due to their mollah’s refusal of British education (whereas the elite Hindus gradually went for it) and their nostalgia for the “glorious past”‘. It is only much later, when the British started drawing them into the political mainstream, so as to divide India, that they started regaining some predominance.

Negationism means that this whole aspect of Indian history has been totally erased, not only from history books, but also from the memory, from the consciousness of Indian people. Whereas the Jews have constantly tried, since the Nazi genocide, to keep alive the remembrance of their six million martyrs, the Indian leadership, political and intellectual, has made a wilful and conscious attempt to deny the genocide perpetrated by the Muslims. No one is crying for vengeance. Do the Jews of today want to retaliate upon contemporary Germany? NO. It is only a matter of making sure that history does not repeat its mistakes, as alas it is able to do today: witness the persecution of Hindus in Kashmir, whose 250.000 Pandits have fled their 5000 year old homeland; or the 50.000 Hindus chased from Afghanistan; or the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. And most of all, to remember, is to BE ABLE TO LOOK AT TODAY WITH THE WISDOM OF YESTERDAY. No collective memory should be erased for appeasing a particular community.

Yet, what has happened in India, at the hand of Hindus themselves, is a constant denial and even a perversion of the genocide committed by Muslims in India. Hasn’t the “radical humanist” M.N. Roy, written “that Islam has fulfilled a historic mission of equality and abolition of discrimination in India, and that for this, Islam has been welcomed in India by the lower castes”. “If AT ALL any violence occurred, he goes on to say, it was a matter of justified class struggle by the progressive forces against the reactionary forces, meaning the feudal Hindu upper classes..”

Want to listen to another such quote? This one deals with Mahmud Ghaznavi, the destroyer of thousands of Hindu temples, who according to his chronicler Utbi, sang the praise of the Mathura temple complex, sacred above all to all Hindus… and promptly proceeded to raze it to the ground: “Building interested Mahmud and he was much impressed by the city of Mathura, where there are today a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful. Mahmud was not a religious man. He was a Mahomedan, but that was just by the way. He was in the first place a soldier and a brilliant soldier”… Amazing eulogy indeed of the man who was proud of desecrating hundreds of temples and made it a duty to terrorise and humiliate pagans. And guess from whom is that quote? From Jawaharlal Nehru himself, the first Prime Minister of India and one of the architects of independence!

M.N. Roy, and Nehru in a lesser degree, represent the foremost current of negationism in India, which is Marxist inspired. For strangely, it was the Russian communists who decided to cultivate the Arabs after the First World War, in the hope that they constituted a fertile ground for future indoctrination. One should also never forget that Communism has affected whole generations of ardent youth, who saw in Marxism a new ideology in a world corrupted by capitalism and class exploitation. Nothing wrong in that; but as far as indoctrination goes, the youth of the West, particularly of the early sixties and seventies, were all groomed in sympathising with the good Arabs and the bad Jews. And similarly in India, two or three young generations since the early twenties, were tutored on negating Muslim genocide on the Hindus. In “Communalism and the writing of Indian history”, Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra, professors at the JNU in New Delhi, the Mecca of secularism and negationism in India, denied the Muslim genocide by replacing it instead with a conflict of classes. The redoubtable Romila Thapar in her “Penguin History of India”, co-authored with Percival Spear, writes: “Aurangzeb’s supposed intolerance, is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts such as the erection of a mosque on a temple site in Benares”. How can one be so dishonest, or so blind? But it shows how negationism is perpetuated in India.

What are the facts? Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered ALL temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them. A few examples: Krishna’s birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. (Neg 60). The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures; according to his own official court chronicles: “Aurangzeb ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the Pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices”. The chronicle sums up the destructions like this: “Hasan Ali Khan came and said that 172 temples in the area had been destroyed.

.. His majesty went to Chittor and 63 temples were destroyed..Abu Tarab, appointed to destroy the idol-temples of Amber, reported that 66 temples had been razed to the ground”.. Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions. As we can see Romila Thapar and Percival Spear’s statement of a benevolent Aurangzeb is a flagrant attempt at negationism. Even the respectable Encyclopedia Brittannica in its entry on India, does not mention in its chapter on the Sultanate period any persecutions of Hindus by Muslims, except “that Firuz Shah Tughlaq made largely unsuccessful attempts at converting his Hindu subjects and sometime persecuted them”. The British, for their own selfish purpose, were of course greatly responsible for whitewashing the Muslims, whom they needed to counterbalance the influence of the Hindus and the Congress. It is sad that Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress perpetuated that brand of negationism. But that is another story.

The happiest in this matter must be the Muslims themselves. What fools these Hindus are, they must be telling themselves: We killed them by the millions, we wrested a whole nation out of them, we engineer riots against them, and they still defend us!… But don’t the Hindus know that many orthodox Indian Muslims still cling to the Deoband school, which says that India was once “Dar-ul-Islam”, the house of Islam, and should return to that status. Maulana Abul Kala Azad, several times Congress President, and Education Minister in free India, was a spokesman for this school. The Aligarh school on the contrary, led by Mohammed Iqbal, propounded the creation of Pakistan. What particularly interests us in the Aligarh school is the attempt by Muslim historians, such as Mohamed Habiib, to rewrite the Chapter of Muslim invasions in India. In 1920, Habib started writing his magnum opus, which he based on four theories: 1) that the records (written by the Muslims themselves) of slaughters of Hindus, the enslaving of their women and children and razing of temples were “mere exaggerations by court poets and zealous chroniclers to please their rulers”. 2) That they were indeed atrocities, but mainly committed by Turks, the savage riders from the Steppe. 3) That the destruction of the temples took place because Hindus stored their gold and jewels inside them and therefore Muslim armies plundered these. 4) That the conversion of millions of Hindus to Islam was not forced, “but what happened was there was a shift of opinion in the population, who on its own free will chose the Shariat against the Hindu law (smriti), as they were all oppressed by the bad Brahmins”…!!! (Negationism p.42)

Unfortunately for Habib and his school, the Muslims invaders did record with glee their genocide on Hindus, because they felt all along that they were doing their duty; that killing, plundering, enslaving and razing temples was the work of God, Mohammed. Indeed, whether it was Mahmud of Ghazni (997-1030), who was no barbarian, although a Turk, and patronised art and literature, would recite a verse of the Koran every night after having razed temples and killed his quota of unbelievers; or Firuz Shah Tughlak (1351-1388) who personally confirms that the destruction of Pagan temples was done out of piety and writes: “on the day of a Hindu festival, I went there myself, ordered the executions of all the leaders AND PRACTITIONERS of his abomination; I destroyed their idols temples and built mosques in their places”. Finally, as Elst points out, “Muslim fanatics were merely faithful executors of Quranic injunctions. It is not the Muslims who are guilty but Islam”. (Negationism in India, p. 44)

But ultimately, it is a miracle that Hinduism survived the onslaught of Muslim savagery; it shows how deep was her faith, how profound her karma, how deeply ingrained her soul in the hearts of her faithfuls. We do not want to point a finger at Muslim atrocities, yet they should not be denied and their mistakes should not be repeated today. But the real question is: Can Islam ever accept Hinduism? We shall turn towards the Sage, the yogi, who fought for India’s independence, accepting the Gita’s message of karma of violence when necessary, yet had a broad vision that softened his words: “You can live with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live peacefully with a religion whose principle is “I will not tolerate you? How are you going to have unity with these people?…The Hindu is ready to tolerate; he is open to new ideas and his culture and has got a wonderful capacity for assimilation, but always provided India’s central truth is recognised.. (Sri Aurobindo India’s Rebirth 161,173) Or behold this, written on September 1909: “Every action for instance which may be objectionable to a number of Mahomedans, is now liable to be forbidden because it is likely to lead to a breach of peace. And one is dimly beginning to wonder whether worship in Hindu temples may be forbidden on that valid ground (India’s Rebirth p. 55). How prophetic! Sri Aurobindo could not have foreseen that so many Muslim countries would ban Rushdie’s book and that Hindu processions would often be forbidden in cities, for fear of offending the Muslims. Sri Aurobindo felt that sooner or later Hindus would have to assert again the greatness of Hinduism.

And here we must say a word about monotheism, for it is the key to the understanding of Islam. Christians and Muslims have always harped on the fact that their religions sprang-up as a reaction against the pagan polytheist creeds, which adored many Gods. ” There is only one real God they said (ours), all the rest are just worthless idols “. This ” monotheism versus polytheism business ” has fuelled since then the deep, fanatic, violent and murderous zeal of Islam against polytheist religions, particularly against Hinduism, which is the most comprehensive, most widely practiced of all them. It even cemented an alliance of sorts between the two great monotheist religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, witness the Britishers’ attitude in India, who favoured Indian Muslims and Sikhs against the Hindus; or the King of Morocco who, even though he is one of the most moderate Muslim leaders in the world, recently said in an interview: ” we have no fight with Christianity, our battle is against the Infidel who adores many gods “.

But the truth is that Hinduism is without any doubt the most monotheist religion in the World, for it recognises divine unity in multiplicity. It does not say: ” there is only one God, which is Mohammed. If you do not believe in Him I will kill you “. It says instead: ” Yes Mohammed is a manifestation of God, but so is Christ, or Buddha, or Krishna, or Confucius “. This philosophy, this way of seeing, which the Christians and Muslims call ” impious “, is actually the foundation for a true monotheist understanding of the world. It is because of this ” If you do not recognize Allah (or Christ), I will kill you “, that tens of millions of Hindus were slaughtered by Arabs and other millions of South Americans annihilated by the Christians. And ultimately the question is: Are the Muslims of today ready to accept Hinduism ? Unfortunately no. For Muslims all over the world, Hinduism is still the Infidel religion ” par excellence “. This what their religion tell them, at every moment, at every verse, at the beginning of each prayer : ” Only Allah is great “. And their mollahs still enjoin them to go on fight ” jihad ” to deliver the world of the infidels. And if the armies of Babar are not there any longer; and if it is not done any more to kill a 100.000 Hindus in a day, there is still the possibility of planting a few bombs in Bombay, of fuelling separatisms in the hated land and eventually to drop a nuclear device, which will settle the problem once and for all. As to the Indian Muslim, he might relate to his Hindu brother, for whatever he says, he remains an Indian, nay a Indu; but his religion will make sure that he does not forget that his duty is to hate the Infidel. This is the crux of the problem today and the riddle if Islam has to solved, if it wants to survive in the long run.

We will never be able to assess the immense physical harm done to India by the Muslim invasions. Even more difficult is to estimate the moral and the spiritual damage done to Hindu India. But once again, the question is not of vengeance, or of reawakening old ghosts, but of not repeating the same mistakes. Unfortunately, the harm done by the Muslims conquest is not over. The seeds planted by the Moghols, by Babar, Mahmud, or Aurangzeb, have matured: the 125 million Indian Muslims of today have forgotten that they were once peaceful, loving Hindus, forcibly converted to a religion they hated. And they sometimes take-up as theirs a cry of fanaticism which is totally alien to their culture. Indeed, as Sri Aurobindo once said: “More than 90% of the Indian Muslims are descendants of converted Hindus and belong as much to the Indian nation as the Hindu themselves”…(Rebirth of India, p.237) The embryo of secession planted by the Mahomedans, has also matured into a poisonous tree which has been called Pakistan and comes back to haunt India through three wars and the shadow of a nuclear conflict embracing South Asia. And in India, Kashmir and Ayodhya are reminders that the Moghol cry for the house of Islam in India is not yet over, as Kargil has just shown.

Correspond to values

Correspond to values
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 30, 2002
Dear friends – India’s image in the West has never been so bad. We, the foreign correspondents, have been propagating in the last few weeks a picture of an intolerant Hindu majority, ruthlessly hunting down the Muslim minority. Not only has this falsified public opinions abroad about India, but has also put pressure on governments to bring out so-called Human Rights reports on Gujarat, whereas they have no right to interfere in India’s affairs, given the fact that it is one of the very few working democracies in Asia.

Would the British, who left a mess wherever they colonised, dare to interfere in such a way in China’s affairs, whose human rights record is a million times worse than India’s? This is unfair: Those of us who have lived long enough in this country, know that not only have Hindus historically been extremely tolerant, accepting the fact that God manifests himself at different times under different forms, but also that, in spite of the bureaucratic hassles, the dirtiness and the heat, we westerners are living in a paradise of freedom compared to what would be our lot in, for instance, China. Here we can criticise as much as we want, slander even, without fear of reprisal.

As a foreign journalist having covered India for the last 25 years, I am shocked by the ambivalence of our standards when it comes to writing or reporting on Hindus. There were 400,000 Hindus in Kashmir in 1947; there are only a few hundreds left today. All the rest have been made to flee through terror in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. I remember the time when Muslim militants would stop buses in Kashmir and kill all its Hindus occupants – men women and children. None of the foreign correspondents and diplomats protested about human rights the way they are doing now, after the Gujarat riots. There are 400,000 Hindus who are refugees in their own land, an instance of ethnic cleansing without parallel in the world.

Why are none of us interested in highlighting these facts? Do we know that Hindus themselves have been for centuries the target of a genocide at the hands of Muslim invaders, and that today in Bangladesh and Pakistan they are still at risk? In Assam, Tripura, and Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorised by pro-Christian separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye.

Are we playing our role, which is to inform and educate our fellow countrymen, who are generally totally ignorant about India? Many of us are using the word “genocide” to describe the riots in Gujarat, or even making comparisons with the Holocaust. But do we tell our readers that Jews in India were never persecuted and that they lived and prospered in total freedom till most of them went back to Israel? The same cannot be said about my country, France, where even today they face problems. We do not care to balance our articles: We take an isolated incident such as the murder of Graham Staines or the riots against Muslims in Gujarat, and we make it look, as it is a whole, telling our readers abroad that Christians and Muslims are persecuted in India.

When the Ayodhya mosque was brought down, it was as if eternal shame had descended upon India. ‘Death of secularism’, ‘Hindu fundamentalists have taken over the country’, ‘Black Day in the history of our democracy’, we screamed…

However unfortunate, the Ayodhya episode was, nobody was killed there; but the terrible Bombay blasts which followed, orchestrated by Indian Muslims, with the active help of Pakistan and the silent approval of Saudi Arabia, which took the lives of hundreds of innocent Hindus, never warranted the kind of moral indignation which followed the rioting against Muslims in Gujarat. Why does nobody bother to say that, maybe, the tolerant, easy-going middle class Hindu, is so fed-up with being made fun of, hated, targeted, killed, bombed, that he is ready to take to the streets?

If you dare say that there are 850 millions Hindus in this country and that they not only represent the majority culture, but also a tradition of tolerance and gentleness, and they cannot be the fundamentalists that the Press makes them out to be, you are immediately branded as an RSS spokesman or a VHP lover. Why this primitive labels? In the West we are not ashamed to call ourselves a Christian civilisation: The American President swears on the Bible when he takes office and look also how all European children, be they Italian or German, are brought-up on the values of Christianity and the greatness of Greek philosophy.

It would be impossible, in France for instance, for the Muslim minority – immigrants from France’s ex- colonies such as Algeria or Morocco – to impose their views and culture on the government. In fact, Muslim girls are not allowed to wear a veil when they go to French school: “You are in France, you have been given the French nationality, so behave like a French first and like a Muslim, second,” they are told bluntly. Would that be possible in India? Does any Indian, except the much-maligned RSS, have the courage to ask Muslims to be Indians first and Muslims second? Or tell Catholics and Protestants that they have to revert to a more Indianised Christianity, such as the one that existed in Kerala before the arrival of the Portuguese Jesuits? And see how stridently Muslims and Christians – backed by most of the foreign media – react when Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi wants to teach Indian children a little bit of the greatness of their culture!

I know that many foreign correspondents arrive here with an aspiration to understand India and to report on it fairly. The problem is that there is no way we are going to know India if we stay in Delhi, or fly all over the place, staying in five-star hotels, to do features which give justice to a civilisation which is 5,000 years old. It is also true that in Delhi, an arrogant, superficial city, we are never in contact with the real India, and always hear the same stories in the journalists’ parties, or diplomatic cocktails, about secularism, the Sangh parivar or human rights in Kashmir. We should take some time off the political situation and go out to the South, which is so much more gentle and easy-going than the North.

Write, for instance, some features on Kalaripayat, Kerala’s martial art that gave birth to kung fu and karate; or on Ayurveda, the oldest medical science still in practice; or see for yourself the extraordinary Ayyappa festival in the mountains bordering Tamil Nadu; or witness one million Christians who descend every year on the “Lourdes” of India – Velangani on the Coromandel coast. There you will discover that the genius of India, its tradition of tolerance, hospitality and gentleness lies in rural areas, amongst the humble people – and not in the arrogant westernised cities that have lost contact with their own roots. Or else, do an Art of Living basic course and learn first-hand India’s ancient traditions of meditation and pranayama… For the truth is that if you want to know and understand this country in some degree, you have to live India from the inside.

Toughness pays

Toughness pays
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 29, 2003
Have you ever taken an El Al flight from Mumbai? The security is drastic: You are asked a hundred questions by young men and women, Indians, but of Jewish origin, whose parents emigrated from the first century onwards after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, to find refuge in India where they prospered and lived in peace till many of them went back to Israel in 1948 (indeed, India is probably the only country in the world where Jews have not been persecuted).

Why did I visit Israel? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the 144 countries-wide Art of Living movement, had been invited by the Government of Israel, thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Cooper and Dr Balitzer from Wisenthal, US-based foundation. All along our trip Rabbi Cooper and Dr Balitzer proved invaluable. I was tagging along because I have always believed that India and Israel have to come together. For 40 years after Independence, India did not have relations with Israel. Yet, India and Israel have much in common – both can learn a lot from each other. Like Indians, Israelis are one of those “elected people of God” – of whom Sri Aurobindo speaks in his book the Hour of God – who have managed to keep their spirituality alive in spite of oppressions, invasions and genocides.

Indians and Israelis also share a serious problem with Muslim fundamentalists. And India could learn a few lessons from the way Israel handles this problem, however much it is criticised by the Western media. Unlike India, which since Independence has chosen to deal with this problem in the Gandhian spirit, that is, by compromising most of the time with Islamic intransigence (if not giving in); Israel has showed that toughness first, followed by negotiations, pays better. Basically, the concept of “land for money” is something that India could learn from: In 1967, Israel was under threat of getting engulfed by its fanatical neighbours, so it stole the initiative by crushing them in a lightning Six-Day War and kept some land which it used later as bargaining chips with Egypt and Syria.

FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism), which I launched this year, was taking to Israel an exhibition on Kashmiri Pandits, one of the biggest genocides of the 20th century at the hands of Islamic terrorism, to see how it could be put up at different places in Israel to create public awareness there. Because of the hostility of Arab countries to Israel, El Al cannot overfly any of them and a journey which should take four hours takes, instead, seven hours, nearly the same time as a flight to Europe. We landed in Tel Aviv early in the morning. Tel Aviv is a modern city on the Mediterranean coast. It is much more relaxed than Jerusalem, as it is less subject than the capital to suicide attacks. People there speak several languages, girls look gorgeous and the affable Indian ambassador, Mr Raminder Jassal, who has done so much to improve Israeli-relations, hosted for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a gracious meeting with the Indian community in Israel.

The drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is short, but the impressions are striking: The landscape is dry, rocky and arid and one wonders whether this land is worth fighting for. But Jerusalem is a beautiful city, perched on a hill, all constructed in white stone. As we arrived, the city was shining against the setting sun of a cool November evening. The King David Hotel, whe-re we stayed, is probably one of the most beautiful hotels in West Asia: Old world, stately and entirely furnished in mahogany. It also has a history of violence, as it once housed British troops and was bombed by Jewish activists. The rooms offer a view of the old city of Jerusalem and everything looked so peaceful.

Peaceful? Not really: As soon as you step out, you can feel fear: Suicide bombers can strike any time, anywhere and our security would not even allow our car to stop near a bus, for fear of it being blown up! It is Friday evening and we went to the Wailing Wall on this most holy Shabbat day. It is an impressive sight: Hundreds of young men and women, in ancient velvet black coats and funny fur hats, locks falling one each side, face the wall swaying back and forth while chanting an age old prayer that their forefathers have repeated for centuries. Sri Sri too touched the wall reverentially and concentrated for a few minutes: Two very ancient spiritualities met.

As in Ayodhya, Muslims have placed their mosque on the most sacred space of the Jews, exactly where their ancient temple was built. The golden mosque stands there as a perpetual taunt, as an unending expression of aggression. After the Seven-Day War, the Israelis control the entire area. But it remains very tense: As a mark of respect to Islam, we want to meditate in the mosque, but we are facing the wrong direction and the imam takes objection when he sees the rishi from India in a dhoti and kurta with long flowing beard and tells our security men that “Infidels” are not allowed to worship there. Luckily there are not many faithful at this time and an incident is avoided.

We met a number of dignitaries. The President of Israel, a soft-spoken gentleman, who is very worried about the Palestinians suicide bombers – “No religion condones that kind of barbaric act,” he told us; the mayor of Jerusalem, who proudly showed us the magnificent view of Jerusalem from his office terrace; Mr Shimon Peres, Nobel Prize winner and Israel’s best known face, who preaches tolerance – but even he condemns the suicide bombers; or the deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Sherenzki, a well-known dissenter from the erstwhile Soviet Union who is seen as a hawk by observers, but appears very gentle to us.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talked about all the marvellous work his volunteers are doing amongst India’s poor villages: Bringing housing, hygiene, human values, and harmony in diversity. He also speaks about the stress and post-trauma Art of Living courses – a combination of pranayama, meditation and relaxing techniques – done to great success in Iraq and Bosnia, and how they could also be taught in Palestine and Israel. When asked about terrorism, Sri Sri said: “The problem is that children should be taught a little about each religion, so that they develop a broader perspective.” If the Taliban had known even a little about the Buddha, he added, they would not have destroyed the Bamian statues.

I was surprised to note that whenever I mentioned Kashmir, neither of our interlocutors blinked: Kashmir did not mean anything to them, although it faces more or less the same problem that Israel does at the hands of the Arabs. Even, Mr Sherenzki, the Deputy Prime Minister, looked blank. That is when I realised that an exhibition on Kashmiri Pandits had to come up and we arranged for two venues, one in Tel Aviv, with the possibility of it coming up also at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. We thus left with a sense that so much more has to be done so that Indian and Israel, two ancient people sharing some of the same spiritual, cultural and contemporary problems, really start understanding each other.