Category Archives: culture

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

What made Hindus angry in Karnataka ? Francois Gautier

Francois Gautier

06 Oct 2008 02:12:00 AM IST
Source: Express buzz

I WAS born in a Catholic family. My uncle was a priest, a wonderful man of warmth and compassion and I spent most my early years in Catholic boarding schools. When I was young I wanted to become a missionary and to ‘convert’ pagans in Asia. What I was taught by priests was that Hindus worship false gods and they needed to be brought back to the True Word by Jesus Christ.

Then of course, I came to India and discovered that actually Hindus, far from being the heathens, as had been portrayed in Europe, not only believed God’s diversity, the wonderful concept of avatar, but had given refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world, whether the Syrian Christians, the Parsis, the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted), the Armenians, or today the Tibetans.

I am also aghast at the one-sided coverage by the Indian media of the Christian- Hindu problem: blasts after blasts have killed hundreds of innocent Hindus in Varanasi, Delhi, Mumbai train blasts, Jaipur, etc. Yet, neither Manmohan Singh nor Sonia Gandhi have pronounced once the word ‘Islamic terrorism.’ But when furious Hindus, tired of being made fun of, of witnessing their brothers and sisters converted by financials traps, of seeing a 84-year-old swami and his Mataji brutally murdered, of reading blasphemy about their Gods, vent their anger against churches, many of them makeshifts, the Indian government goes after the soft target which the Hindus are. The same thing applies to the United States: they never warned Muslim organisations in India about the killing of Hindus, but when dollars are used to buy new converts and it angers the majority community of India,Washington has the arrogance to issue a warning, and Manmohan Singh does not have the pride to tell the US to mind its own business.

Neither the Indian press nor the western correspondents bothered to write about what made Hindus angry in Karnataka: Newlife, one important westernfunded missionary centre ( http://www.newlifevoice.org), began making conversions in and around Mangalore by accosting poor people in market areas, or in bus stands, befriending them and then taking them to churches to introduce them to the father.

Upon introduction they were paid Rs 2,500 per person and then taken to the Velankanni shrine, in Tamil Nadu, where they would get another Rs. 3,000.

When they finally converted to Christianity by changing the name, they got an incentive of Rs 10,000 onwards.

Newlife would then give them instructions to abandon wearing tilak on forehead, not to visit and offer prayers at the Hindu temples, replacing the photos and idols of Hindu gods and goddesses with a Cross, etc.

But what really angered local Hindus was when Newlife went one step further and published a book in Kannada — Satya Darshini — which was widely distributed by its missionaries. Here below is the translation of some of the most abusive passages: “Urvashi — the daughter of Lord Vishnu — is a prostitute.

Vashistha is the son of this prostitute.

He in turn married his own Mother. Such a degraded person is the Guru of the Hindu God Rama. (page 48).

When Krishna himself is wallowing in darkness of hell, how can he enlighten others? Since Krishna himself is a shady character, there is a need for us to liberate his misled followers (page 50). It was Brahma himself who kidnapped Sita.

“Since Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva were themselves victims of lust, it is a sin to consider them as Gods. (page 39).

When the Trinity of Hinduism (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) are consumed by lust and anger, how can they liberate others? The projection of them as Gods is nothing but a joke. (page 39). God, please liberate the sinful people of India who are worshipping False Gods. (Page 39).” When blasphemy and much worse is brought against the most sacred Hindu Gods, Hindus are supposed to take it meekly as sheep and let themselves be converted to a foreign religion! There are more than 4,000 foreign Christian missionaries involved in conversion activities across different states.

In Tripura, there were no Christians at the time of independence. There are 1,20,000 today, a 90 per cent increase since 1991. The figures are even more striking in Arunachal Pradesh, where there were only 1,710 Christians in 1961, but 1.2 million today, as well as 780 churches! In Andhra Pradesh, churches are coming up every day in far-flung villages and there was even an attempt to set up one near Tirupati.

Christians throughout the ages have strived on the concept of persecution and as a brought up Catholic, I remember feeling bad about all those martyred saints of Christianity. Christians in India like to say that they are only two per cent and can do no harm. But it is a sham: in the Tamil Nadu coastal belt from Chennai to Kanyakumari, there must be now 10 per cent Christians posttsunami and the same may be true in other parts of south India.

My heart goes out to Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa who took a courageous stand against unethical Christian conversions, but is now under pressure from the Centre.

The BJP, having learnt from bitter experience that the Congress has no qualm in invoking President’s rule under fallacious pretexts in states which are ruled by non-Congress governments is in a quandary: it must show some action against militant Hindu groups while remaining true to itself.

This is why Yeddyurappa took some action against Hindu groups while saying that his government will not tolerate forcible conversions and will take stringent action against missionaries involved in conversions.

And ultimately, the blame must fall on Hindus: they are 800 million in India, the overwhelming majority; they have the brains, they have the money and they have the power. But either their intellectual and political class sides with the minorities, out of fear, inferiority complex imbedded by the British or just sheer crass political opportunism, or the bigger mass is indifferent inert, selfish, un-civic conscious. Every Hindu is the inheritor of the only surviving spiritual knowledge which at the moment is under a concerted attack by Christian missionaries, Americanisation, Marxism and Islamic fundamentalism.

TOURISM: India can keep one of these, all hinges on how it treats tourists

TOURISM
Dollars Or Soul?
India can keep one of these, all hinges on how it treats tourists
Francois Gautier

STATISTICS prove that India has received 1.2 million tourists since January, a drop of 40 per cent compared to last year. As against the 3.5 million tourists who flocked to China during the same period! The Indian government blames this on the sanctions imposed after India’s nuclear tests, but the reality is quite different.

Take flying. I often shuttle between Chennai and Delhi. An Indian Airlines (IA) return ticket costs more than Rs 15,500. For that price, I can fly Paris-New York and back, and that’s double the distance. Also, IA runs only two flights daily between New Delhi, the capital of a one billion nation, and Chennai, of five million souls, the gateway to the South; and even these don’t run full (only ten per cent of IA passengers pay their actual fare—the rest are bureaucrats, executives of state and private companies; so most of the money goes from the government to the government!) The French, on the other hand, have one flight every half hour between Paris, the capital, and Nice, their gateway to the South; and they’re always full, due to the incentives on offer: discounts, off-season fares…

Absurd visa laws, steep airfares and hotel bills, is what marks the Indian tourism scene.

Try telling IA that they should give discounts on return-tickets and all they’ll give you is a dirty look!

This complacency when there’s a 15-day waiting list for a Chennai-Delhi IInd class AC sleeper ticket costing Rs 3,000 taking
36 hours—that’s if you are lucky and the train isn’t a few hours late, or isn’t hit by another train from behind, as it happened to my wife and me a few years ago. If IA had the foresight to offer their Chennai/Delhi tickets at Rs 4,000, I’m sure train passengers would gladly pay another thousand bucks to avoid the 36-hour business. And IA could run six Airbus 300s full daily and make a tidy sum, instead of hiking up prices four times in five years. It’s also very sad that many governments, including the present one, have sabotaged the Tata proposal for a private airline, which would have given IA, the world’s most-staffed airline, a run for its money.

Take hotels. When Jacques Chirac, the French President, visited India in January, he stayed at the Taj Bombay and we journalists tagged along. The price of a room in the new wing was $300 plus, that’s nearly Rs 13,000. The rooms were nothing extraordinary, save for the view of the Gateway. The sea was dirty, with plastics floating around and there were hawkers, snake-charmers and con-men galore, waiting to pounce on tourists who dared to step out of the hotel. The food at the Taj and other fivestar hotels can’t compare even with that of a one star restaurant in a minor French town. For the price charged, one can stay at a better hotel in Paris, or Madrid, and enjoy better cuisine and service.

Take visas. In Sri Lanka, all foreigners are automatically handed a one-month visa on landing. But not in India. One has to apply to sour-faced, underpaid staffers at Indian embassies abroad—forget five-year visas, even if you’ve been visiting India for 35 years, like Roger Anger, the famous French architect, who designed Auroville, near Pondicherry, and was recently refused one. Renewing a tourist visa can be a nightmare too, though I have a friend who recently bought one through an ‘agent’ in Nepal for Rs 10,000 and even got a genuine embassy receipt for it!

Take banks. Thirty years ago, it took half-an-hour to change $100 in Pondicherry’s State Bank of India branch. Today, despite computers, it still takes half-an-hour! Being a resident of India and married to an Indian, I have an Indian Grindlays Credit Card, besides American Express and Visa international credit cards (since the Indian government has a policy of milking tourists: one rate for Indians in rupees at hotels, or air/ railway tickets, another for foreigners in dollars, which is 40 per cent higher).In short, Grindlays, which charges an outrageous interest rate for the card and debits Rs 100 for clearing cheques, cancelled my credit since I was six days late in paying my monthly installment. So my card was refused by IA when I had to pay for a ticket and had to use my Visa card instead, ie. 40 per cent extra! I’m considering the consumer courts…

Take the Indian Tourist Department. In Paris, I met the Indian Director of Tourism, a courteous man. He explained that he spent most of his time there showing Indian ministers and their wives around, and had practically no budget to invite French journalists to India. And when scribes were invited by the Indian Government, it was usually the wrong ones—instead of reporting on India’s positive aspects, they dwell on its negative, more sensational side—Calcutta, poverty, Mother Teresa, etc, or ‘fanatic’ Hindus (like Christophe Jaffrelot, who wrote The BJP and the compulsion of politics in India) because that’s what foreigners wanted to hear.

However, after all is said and done, it may very well be that the politicians stalling pri-vatising India’s airlines, the obscure bureaucrats who make absurd visa rules, the arrogant hoteliers and bankers who inflate prices, are all doing a great service to India.

Because tourism kills the soul of a nation. As it did in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal. India lives for itself, within itself—its festivals, dances, ways of life are not (yet) custom-made to please ignorant tourists. As for myself, I’ll willingly suffer at the hands of IA for the rest of my life, if it helps India keep its soul, which is what makes it so unique.

(The author is a French journalist, who has lived in India for 30 years. He’s the correspondent in South Asia for Le Figaro, France’s largest circulation newspaper and has published Rewriting Indian History.)

A Diwali for ALL Indians

A Diwali for ALL Indians

<!– Views : 310
–> November 8, 2007

Mumbai (Maharashtra): Diwali is the Festival of Lights. This Light is symbolic of the spread of Knowledge. What is this Knowledge that is still alive in this wonderful country which we call India?

Firstly and foremost: “I accept you; I accept that you may be White or Black, Red or Yellow, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim. I accept that God may manifest at different times, under different names, using different scriptures. Thus God is Krishna, but also Jesus Christ, Buddha or Mohammad. “This is an extraordinary statement and a marvellous instrument towards world peace, at a time where terrorism is striking everywhere in the world in the name of One God.

It is also a Knowledge that only the body dies, but not the soul, which is born and reborn again till it achieves perfection. A Knowledge that whatever you do bears consequences in this life or another. A Knowledge that all human beings are made out of Love, even beneath the hate and the killings.

And also: “I have inherited from my ancestors the tools to become a better man, whatever my religion, ethnicity and profession: a better Christian, a better Hindu, a better Muslim.”

What are these tools?

Hatha yoga, India’s gift to the world, which has been copied and imitated everywhere. Meditation, this extraordinary technique of coming back to one’s Self, of settling the mind and the body, which is today practised by millions around the world – another bequest of India to humanity.

Pranayama, the science of respiration, perfected by Indians for three millenniums.
“Does the breath have any religion,” asks His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living movement, which has spread today in 140 countries. “Is the air we breathe around us Muslim, Christian, or Hindu ?”

This knowledge thus does not only belong to Hindus, but also to the Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Muslims of India.

Once upon a time, the Syrian Christians of Kerala, though they remained faithful to the word of Jesus Christ, had incorporated some basic tenets of hinduism such as reincarnation and karma.

Once upon a time, great Sufis such as Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s eldest and preferred son (who should have become emperor instead of Aurangzeb), while remaining true Muslims (and not apostate ones), could translate the Upanishads and step into a temple without thinking they were committing a mortal sin.

Once upon a time, Sikhism was born out of Dharma, to defend the Hindu Dharma and neither Sikh nor Hindu saw any difference between themselves. Once upon a time, Buddha, although he did strike against ritualism and hereditary Brahmanism, did not found a religion, but a path that led to the same Ananda he came from.

This knowledge is unique to India. For the West has lost the truth. We have lost the Great Sense, the meaning of our evolution, of why so much suffering, why dying, why getting born, why this earth, who are we, what is the soul, what is reincarnation, where is the ultimate truth about the universe. And this will be India’s gift to this planet during this century: To restore to the world its true sense; to recharge humanity with the real meaning and spirit of life.

Thus, if you are an Indian settled abroad, whatever your religion, you should carry that identity in your actions and your aura, that you may shine without words, for it is a great privilege and responsibility to be born an Indian. Yet, too often, Indians in the US or Canada, or even the UK for that matter, hide their identities and try to merge into the mainstream culture, becoming more American than Americans, more British than the British.

Sometimes Indians are even ashamed to say that they are Indians and it is a tragedy to themselves and to their children, who lose the connection with one of the most ancient cultures in the world, which is not a religion but the last living spirituality on this planet.
You should also know that today this Knowledge is under attack from all sides. Foremost, from the Globalisation and Westernisation which is taking place at the moment in India at a frantic pace. Television channels and advertisements must be the biggest culprits.

Is white the most beautiful colour, does having a white skin make you so hep? Do a cell phone, a suit or a fancy car really make you a man? This is what millions of innocent villagers or lower middle class viewers are enticed to believe.

There is also a rapid Christianisation of many villages in India, whether in Tamilnadu post-tsunami or in the North-East where innocent tribals are converted with the help of million of dollars.

What about the radicalism that seems to grip some Muslim youth? Nowhere but in India do they have so much freedom to practise their faith. And we know that the Pakistani or Bangladeshi bombers in Hyderabad or Mumbai could never function without the active participation of some Indian Muslims.

Lastly Hindu renegades, those intellectuals who want to cut off India at any cost from her past and make a copy – however brilliant – of a Marxism which has died everywhere else, or of the United States of America, where violence, divorce and depression are affecting three persons out of five, are extremely active at the moment, thanks to a government who chooses to close its eyes while this is going on.

Yet, it is for this Precious Knowledge that all Indians, be they Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or Sikh, should retain their dharmic identity, while being faithful to their Creed or Supreme God. This Diwali thus should symbolise for all Indians, the rekindling of this Light in their hearts.

Let Mother India protect shine in them and rekindle their common indentity beyond their religions.

A Happy And True Diwali to ALL Indians.
Francois Gautier

Source: http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/nov/07francois.htm

CRICKET THE VAMPIRE

Source: http://www.francoisgautier.com

Forget about the cricket scam! If the Indian Government would legalize betting, not only it would lessen scams, but it would also reap huge profits. Most of the black money, cheating, smuggling happening in India, is triggered by obsolete laws enacted by Nehru, which were meant to tax the rich to benefit the poor, but which in the end made the rich richer (with black money) and the poor poorer (with white money). If only this present Government would ignore the demagogic demands of its allies and understand that it has huge popular support – forget what the secular press says – it could make bold decisions in liberalizing, privatizing and above all TRUSTING the people of India. This would help the country make giant strides forward for the BJP government is here to stay for decades. Maybe because India’s time has come; or it maybe that India’s time has come because the BJP government is in power.

But to come back to cricket, think of it thus: here is a game which is a colonial legacy of the British. It is meant to be played in a cool weather on a green English meadow with a few spectators who shout “jolly good” from time to time, while sipping lemonade. It is not a game meant for a tropical country where you stand for hours under a blistering sun with frenzied fans screaming their approval or displeasure. Cricket has become an obsession in India

But above all, cricket has totally vampirized all the other sports in India. There is so much money that sponsors, televisions and even the Government has concentrated only on cricket at the expense of all the other sports. For the truth is that India is nowhere on the international area of sports and its standard is pathetic if not ridiculous in all sports except for another two British legacies: tennis and hockey. But look at China, in the early eighties it also could not compete in any discipline, bare table tennis, but in a span of thirty years, it has become a sports superpower in all areas, even in some where its does such as swimming.

Why can’t India, the country which gave to the world hata-yoga, which has been copied the world over, or even pranayama which is now spreading like wildfire all over the planet, have a coherent and comprehensive program which would build world-class athletes in two decades?

Because of cricket! And it is so unfair, athletes such as long distance runners will train in miserable conditions, get a pittance as sponsorship and often have to work full or part time in some obscure Government jobs. Compare this to cricketers who are often spoilt brats, who stay in five star hotels, get millions of rupees in sponsorship and advertisement, are often arrogant and. still manage to lose most of the time!

The INDIAN Government should restrict the number of international matches played by Indian cricketers happening both within and outside India. This will ensure automatically that cricketers get less sponsorship and have to concentrate on home turf. And it should evolve a bold and clear plan for developing other sports, trying as much as possible to bypass bureaucracy who stifle and kill all the good plans (it would maybe make sense to privatize some of the areas such as training). The only will India become a superpower ports. It has the manpower in sports and cricket takes its just place as just another sports where Indian excel.

P.S. A reporter from Outlook was asking a propos the controversy with the Indian President’s visit to France: ” how is it that the French press behaved that way with the President (stressing his untouchability and only highlighting Hindu fundamentalism on the rise in India) when there is such a strong tradition of French n academic interest in India: people like Christophe Jaffrelot, Sanjay Subramaniam etc.”? The answer is: the French press behaved in the way it did with the President BECAUSE of people like Christophe Jaffrelot, or Sanjay Subramaniam. Because these are the India specialists in France towards which. And what are they continuously highlighting, in the articles they write for respected newspapers such as Le Monde or Le Figaro, or in the history books on India to which they collaborate? On untochability of course, on how India is still a caste ridden country, on Hindu fundamentalism, on how the Muslims and Christians are persecuted in >India… Very rarely do they bother to mention that this country has an unparalleled history of tolerance having given and still giving (Tibetans) refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world, that Hindus have been at the receiving end of persecution for ten centuries, or that India is an unparalleled democracy, a rampart of pro-westernism and bulwark against islamisation of Asia. It is thus strange that when Christophe Jaffrelot comes to India to release the English version of his “Hindu nationalism”, which has greatly contributed to India’s wrong image in France, he is feted by most if the Indian Press…

FRANCOIS GAUTIER