Category Archives: foreign affairs

Ramachandra Guha and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Ramachandra Guha represents the typical Indian intellectual: brilliant, totally westernized – and who looks down on anything Hindu – because he has inherited from the British colonization a gigantic inferiority complex about his own culture and spirituality. And like many of his brothers and sisters of India’s intelligentsia, he feels nowhere better than in the West. This can be gathered from his Oslo diary published in the Outlook magazine of 20th October, where he says, and I quote : “…After two weeks in Oslo, my hosts send me off to Svalbard, deep into the Arctic CircleI spend four enchanting days in and around the little town of Longybein, located at 78° N. I have the privilege of sampling the northernmost bar, the northernmost cafe, the northernmost supermarket, and the northernmost souvenir store in the world “… Then he adds – and this shows that this Macaulayan fixation is transmitted since many generations from father to children: “The person most envious of my trip is my daughter, who has read evocative descriptions of Svalbard in the novels of Philip Pullman”. Wow: I am a born Frenchman, brought up in some of the best European schools, I vaguely known of Philipp Pullman (do you?), but have never heard of that he wrote about the archipelago of Svalbard” (have you?). <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

Once he has proved his credentials of a connoisseur of western literature and lover of western atmospheres, Guha, because he is in Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, chooses to attack Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, who has been the most nominated Indian in the last three years: “After my talk, a lady comes up and introduces herself as a doctor, and an advisor to the Peace Institute. The names I had mentioned were all very good, she said, but surely it was time that the peace prize went to an Indian? She mentions the name of a fellow townsman of mine (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), a man who has grown long hair, given himself four fancy initials (HH/SS), and whose name is also that of a very great exponent of the sitar”. And of course, Guha tells her gleefully: “I suggested to the doctor that if not giving Gandhi the prize was a scandal, awarding it to my fellow townsman would be an even bigger scandal”. How typical of these Indian intellectuals, who are always spitting on their own culture, specially if it is Hindu-related.

Yet, there is no doubt that Guruji, as he is known to his followers, qualifies for the NPP – in fact he does tenfold time the work of a Mother Teresa or a R.K Pachauri: he not only performs charity work in many of India’s villages, he also promotes pesticide and fertilizer free farming, takes orphans from Kashmir or the North-East in his ashram, and his volunteers do relief work, both at the physical and psychological level, whether in Bihar during the floods, in Iraq or in the US during the recent cyclone. Sri Sri is also trying to revive single handed, the ancient Vedic tradition by training young priests in a Gurukkul which blends ancient knowledge, with modern thought, while promoting Ayurveda as the medicine of the 21st century. He is attempting as well to mediate in many conflicts, in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, or between the Christians and Hindus. And lastly he has revived and modernized the ancient science of pranayama.

Of course, Guha is an unabashed admirer of the Norwegian Peace Committee: “The Nobel Peace Prize is itself a splendid example of Norwegian internationalism, in keeping with the country’s ethos of generous aid to poorer countries, not to mention its efforts to resolve ethnic conflicts around the world”. But not everybody in Europe would agree with him : Norwegians have sometimes the reputation of being staunch, left-leaning Protestants, who often have a condescending view of Asia. Thus, when they award prizes, they are necessarily influenced by a Christian vision of the world and an idealistic left-leaning sympathy. For, as most Europeans, they have been brought-up in the belief that democracy and philosophy started with Greece and that a Humane civilization, began with Jesus Christ. And of course, they have a covert – or at best unconscious – suspicion, if not of India, at least of Hindus, who for them remain the heathen, the pagans which the missionaries of yesteryears, and unfortunately those of today too, have created in the minds of many westerners.

They can only agree with Mr Guha: how can they then, give their Peace Prize to a Hindu?

François Gautier

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Call a spade a spade

Courtesy: Daily Pioneer

Francois Gautier

In most of the cases, it is Indian Muslim terrorists

I have often been accused of being a ‘Right-winger’, a ’saffron journalist’, a ‘Hindu-lover’. Actually I am proud to be a lover of the Hindus — 850 million in India, a billion in the world, one in every six humanbeings on this planet. I am proud to defend people who have always accepted others, who have given refuge to all persecuted minorities in the world, and who still possess knowledge of karma, yoga, avatar and the hidden realities behind life. People who still produce gurus, ashrams, individuals for us to learn from.

What surprises me the most is that there must be around 200 foreign media correspondents posted in India and that I do not know another one who defends Hindus, except maybe Mark Tully, in a roundabout manner.

I am appalled at what is happening at the moment. For, make no mistake, it is not a question of buying MPs to get through a dubious vote of confidence, it is not even a question of the Communists versus the Samajwadi Party, or even so-called secularist forces against the BJP, or the unleashing of terrorism on Indian democracy. It is, in fact, an all out attack on Hindus and their values.

Nobody wants to call a spade a spade, or else, apologists of Islam will say that Islamic fundamentalism happens because of Palestine or Ayodhya or the Gujarat riots. But make no mistake. All these attacks in Jaipur, Mumbai, Varanasi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad are only targeting Hindus; it is an accident if some Muslims also get killed. Why is it then that at the moment India seems to be paralysed into inaction in the face of an all-out war against Indian liberties and values by Islamic terrorists?

One is really shocked and suspicious as to why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears hell-bent to impose upon the nation a nuclear deal with the US which will neutralise India’s nuclear weapons in the face of the aggressive nuclear weaponisation of China and Pakistan, and negate India’s independence in foreign policy, as well as to bring with it immense Westernisation, not to speak of a huge influx of Christian missionaries. Here again, Hindus will lose.

Most of today’s media, sadly, is anti-Hindu. Nothing symbolises this more than CNN-IBN. This channel has chosen to sit on sting operation tapes that clearly show someone close to a very senior Samajwadi Party leader handing over a crore of rupees to three BJP MPs as inducement for abstaining from the trust vote moved by the Prime Minister. If the tapes had been aired, it would have immediately led to the postponement of the trust vote and the UPA would have ultimately lost confidence motion.

Instead, CNN-IBN decided not to telecast the tapes. It sat on them for 24 hours before handing them over to the Speaker. Is this the role of the media? Can a mainstream television news channel, which is associated with a well-known international television organisation, be so partisan and unethical? And get away with it?

Whenever Hindus are hit, the Government looks the other way. It happened when four lakh Hindus were chased out of the Kashmir Valley and many were killed in terrorist attacks over a period of time — both the Centre and the State Government just kept watching. It happened over the recent Sri Amarnath Shrine Board land transfer issue. How dare Mr Omar Abdullah make a self-righteous yet untruthful speech in Parliament and then complain that he was booed?

And now look at the inertia of the Union Government and the media after the Bangalore blasts followed by the the horrible bombings in Ahmedabad, killing more than 50 innocent people.

Does the UPA think that the common citizen of India is a nitwit and does not understand that the Government of India, by pointing its finger at Pakistan’s ISI, or at some Bangladeshi outfit, is trying to deflect attention from the fact that most of the recent terror attacks have been perpetrated by Indian Muslims, with or without Pakistani or Bangladeshi (or Al Qaeda) help?

It is not only a matter of vote-bank in times of election but also a fact that politicians in India want to keep their citizens blindfolded and pretend that nothing is happening. Does not the Government realise that we have all become cynical to its usual conduct on such occasions. It first condemns ‘in the strongest terms’ the ‘barbarous act’ and appeals for calm and ‘communal harmony’, and then gives a few lakhs each to the families of the dead or injured, so that they shut up, and finally never catches the culprits. And so it goes on till the next terrorist strike.

I am a born Christian, but I marvel at the greatness that is Hinduism and Hindus. Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Manmohan Singh are doing all they can to cut Hindus to size. Unless Hindus wake up now, unless they realise that they are under attack from all sides, one of the greatest civilisations of all times will slowly pass away. That will be a great loss to the world.

Terrorism – Islam in India must be different

Terrorism – Islam in India must be different
Source: The Sunday Indian
Terrorist attacks in India will stop if Indian Muslims stop actively participating in them
Francois Gautier

French Journalist

Islam in India is different. It is the inheritor of a long tradition of Sufism – the blending of Vedanta and the best of Islam – and a certain philosophy of acceptance. I remember when I was covering Kashmir in the late seventies, one could still see remnants of that tradition and observe Hindus and Muslims worshipping in dargahs and visiting each other’s homes during their respective religious festivals.

Then the Sunni Wahabite influence, via the Paksitani and Afghan jehadis, who supplanted the early JKLF movement, seeped in and everything changed for the worst. I was there in 1995 when the last Sufi shrine – the magnificent Chrar-e-Sharif, tomb of Sheikh Nuruddin, which was a sumptuous brick-and-cedar building with architectural and aesthetic roots right out of Central Asia – was burnt to the ground.

Though it has been rebuilt now, its destruction signalled the end of Sufism and tolerance in Kashmir. The 300,000 Kashmiri Hindus who had to flee their ancestral homeland are the living testimony of it.

For a long time, the present Indian government has been able to blame the successive terrorists attacks – Jaipur, Varanasi, Mumbai train blasts, Hyderabad, etc. – on the ISI or Bangaldeshi outfits and get away with it. The Delhi blasts signal the end of the charade and for the first time – barring the Ahmedabad blasts, where the Centre did not have much to do with the investigations – it was recognised that they were the handiwork of Indian Muslims.

Yet, the Indian government went on with the same pattern it used repeatedly after a terrorist attack in the last four years: (a) condemn ‘in the strongest terms’ this ‘barbarous act’; (b) appeal for calm and ‘communal harmony’; (c) give a few lakhs each to the families of the deceased or injured, so that they shut-up; and (d) never catch the culprits and go on as before till the next terrorist act.

But look at America, the most hated and targeted country in the world: it has not suffered a single terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. Which Indian politician will have the courage to call a spade a spade and tackle terrorism with courage and determination?

Does the UPA think that the common citizen of India is a nitwit and does not understand that Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi have never pronounced once the word ‘Islamic terrorism’ not only because of the matter of vote banks in times of coming elections, but also because of the fact that politicians in India want to keep a blindfold on their citizens and pretend that nothing is happening?

Muslims should also realise that their Hindu brothers and sisters are angry now. Hindus gave refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world – from the Parsis, to the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted) to the Armenians, and the Tibetans today. The first Christian community in the world, that of the Syrian Christians, flourished in Kerala, thanks to Hindu tolerance; Arab merchants were welcomed by Hindu rulers to do trade and live in India, while freely practicing their religion, from very early times. It’s a pity that these two communities turned against their Hindus brothers and sisters, the former by way of lured conversions, and the latter with bloody invasions.

Ultimately, Islam in India can still preserve its difference, show the rest of the world that Muslims can live in peace with their brother and sisters and practice an Islam which is faithful to its own creed, while accepting other religions. But for that, terrorists attacks have to stop in India – and they will if Indian Muslims stop participating actively in them.

Islam cannot be wished away. As Sri Aurobindo said, “Mohammed’s mission was necessary, else we might have ended by thinking, in the exaggeration of our efforts at self-purification, that earth was meant only for the monk and the city created as a vestibule for the desert”.

Thus, Indian Muslims have to keep their faith and any attempt by Hindus to convert them back is not only futile but counterproductive. But the question to be asked to them is: what kind of Islam do you want to practice? An Islam which looks westwards, towards a foreign city, the Mecca, swears by a scripture, the Koran, which is not only not relevant to India, but which was meant for people living 1,500 years ago, in a language which is not Indian ? Or do they want to practice an Islam which is ‘Indianised’, which accepts the reality of other Gods, as Hinduism and Buddhism accept that there have been other avatars than Ram or Buddha.

Do India Muslims want to worship Babar, a man who destroyed everything which was good, beautiful and holy and lived by the power of violence, or do they want to imbibe the qualities of Ram, who believed in the equality of all, who gave-up all riches and honours of the world because he thought his brother deserved the throne more than him?

Why must India kow-tow to China?

April 18, 2008
For 60 years, China has humiliated India at every step. It betrayed Jawaharlal Nehru’s naive trust in a Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai friendship. It treacherously attacked India from Tibet [Images] which Nehru had implicitly left to the Chinese, humiliating the Indian army which would take decades to recover.

It directly or indirectly encouraged separatist movements in the Northeast; it used Nepal as a front State against India; it armed, and worst of all, gave the nuclear bomb to Pakistan, a crime against humanity.

Today it is still sitting on a million square metres in Aksai Chin (supposedly given to Pakistan), which rightfully belongs to India; it claims Arunachal Pradesh, and sometimes Sikkim, does regular incursions into Indian territory and is still busy encircling India in Burma.

The Chinese despise Indians, witness how they summoned the Indian ambassador at 2 am in the morning as if she was some lower hireling.

Indian leaders are also perfectly aware that the Chinese, in a span of fifty years, have killed 1.2 million Tibetans, razed to the ground 6,254 monasteries, destroyed 60 per cent of religious, historical and cultural archives and that one Tibetan out of ten is still in jail.

As we have entered the Third Millennium, a quarter million Chinese troops are occupying Tibet and there are 7.5 million Chinese settlers for six million Tibetans — in fact, in many places such as the capital, Lhasa, Tibetans are outnumbered two to one…

India has also to wake up to the plain fact that China needs space and has hegemonic aspirations: It got Tibet, it got Hong Kong, it got part of Ladakh; now it wants Taiwan, Arunachal Pradesh, the Spratly islands and what not!

Fifty years ago, during the Korean war, Sri Aurobindo, had seen clearly in the Chinese game: ‘the first move in the Chinese Communist plan of campaign is to dominate and take possession first of these northern parts and then of South East Asia as a preliminary to their manoeuvres with regard to the rest of the continent in passing Tibet as a gate opening to India.’

And magically, for once, India had a chance to get back at China without appearing to do so. It would have been easy to have a little less security for the Olympic torch and let the Tibetans express their anger and resentment in a way that would have once more been flashed all over the world.

Yet, India did exactly the opposite: It went overboard to please the Chinese, giving more security to this sham that was the Olympic relay in New Delhi than it does for Republic Day.

Did anybody see the utter farcical absurdity of this flame, which slept in a five star hotel, had to be guarded by 17,000 security men and ran without spectators, creating unheard off problems for the poor citizen caught in traffic jams?

Is there any peace, is there any sporting and Olympic spirit in such a flame which has become the symbol of Chinese repression, arrogance and thirst for domination in Asia?

Tibet is so important for India: It has always acted as a peaceful, non-violent buffer zone between the two giants of Asia: China and India. And the Dalai Lama [Images] wants it even more peaceful: A demilitarised, denuclearised harmony region.

But it’s exactly the opposite which has happened: According to the CIA, China has transferred one third of its nuclear arsenal to Nagchuka, 250 kms away from Lhasa, a region full of huge caves, which the Chinese have linked together by an intricate underground network and installed nearly 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles, many of them pointed at Indian cities.

The reason for this is that the Chinese, who are probably among the most intelligent people in the world, have always understood that India is their number one potential enemy in Asia — in military, nuclear and economic terms.

Today India is encircled by hostile neighbours, from Pakistan to Bangladesh, from Chinese-occupied Tibet, to a Maoist Nepal.

Never has India faced a darker hour whatever gurus say. Never has she faced so many enemies at the same time — and truly China is one of the most dangerous ones. Yet India always bends backwards to please the Chinese.

Why is that so? Because the Indian intelligentsia, the secular politicians, the journalists, top bureaucrats, are the descendants of these Brown Sahibs, created by Macaulay more than 250 years ago.

The man who thought that all the historical information which can be collected from all the books which have been written in the Sanskrit language, is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgement used at preparatory schools in England [Images], wished to make of Indians a darker version of the British. He has been immensely successful and has created a nation with a colonised mind.

Many of India’s politicians, bureaucrats and journalists are always aping the West, or are always worrying about what the West thinks of them. They never think Indian, they have no idea about India’s great culture, philosophy and spirituality. Very few have read the Bhagavad Gita, or understood that it encourages yoga in action and that sometimes it is important to defend one’s country, culture and borders, by force if necessary.

They are no match for the Chinese, who are proud of themselves and their nation and will use any means, open and covert, legal and foul, to foster their dream of a Greater China. The Olympics [Images] are just such a tool for them.

Francois Gautier

INDIA’S ETERNAL SPIRITUALITY GOING GLOBAL

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… But India has kept this truth. India has preserved it through seven millennium of pitfalls, of genocides and attempts at throttling her santanam dharma.

And this will be India’s gift to this planet during the next century: to restore to the world its true sense. to recharge humanity with the real meaning and spirit of life. India will become the spiritual leader of the world, as India’s Great Sage, Sri Aurobindo, had predicted nearly a century ago :

“It is this religion that I am raising-up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the Rishis, saints, and Avatars, and now it is going forth to do my work among the nations. I am raising forth this nation to send forth my word…When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Santana Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists”. (India’s Rebirth. p. 46 -Uttara speech)

And one is tempted to shout in the ears of all those westernised Indians of today, the eternal mantra: “Rise up, O India of the Vedic ages. Thou livest in the hearts of all thy people. Rise up O Westernised “secular” India, because thou art also the true India. Realise in your hearts the genius of the country which is yours. Stop comparing it to a civilisation, which is crumbling and cease equating it with parameters that are not hers. Wake up to the greatness of thy country. Not only the past greatness, which thou seekest to repossess in its music or in its temples, but the greatness that IS, there, waiting to be grasped again, waiting to be brought down concretely. Rise up O India, to the greatness that IS in you. Rise up O true India”.

Ah, we are coming back again full circle to the wonder that WAS India, the India of the Vedas and the Upanishad, which A.L. Basham, the best-selling author of “The Wonder That Was India”, criticised as being militant and politically disunited. But the truth was that they were united in their diversity, that it was much more democratic and allowed much more freeplay and freedom, individually and collectively, than the India of today allows. Let us again reread history, let us look at India, not through the Western prism, but with the ancient wisdom that She has bestowed upon us.

For indeed, this is one of the most amazing paradoxes of today’s world: here you have a country, India, which rates today as one of the poorest on this planet, which is disregarded by most Western nations (and many of its own people), as irrelevant, backward, too bureaucratic – and lately, as a hotbed of Hindu fundamentalism. Yet, India holds the key to the world’s future. For India is the only nation which still preserves in the darkness of Her Himalayan caves, on the luminous ghats of Benares, in the hearts of her countless yogis, or even in the minds of her ordinary folk, the key to the planetary evolution, its future and its hope. This knowledge which once roamed the shores of the world from Egypt to China, is today lost everywhere. Europe has now entered a turbulent Age; it will take a long time before it unites in spite of the near uniformity of its races and religions. The West, in its thirst for materialism, does not know anymore where it stands and has lost this precious knowledge, which India still holds, alone in the world.

The 21st century then, will be the era of the East; this is where the sun is going to rise again, after centuries of decadence and submission to Western colonialism; this is where the focus of the world is going to shift. And as when India used to shine and send forth Her Dharma all over the Orient: Japan, Thailand, China, Burma, or Cambodia and influence their civilisations and religions for centuries to come, once more She will emit Her light and radiate, Queen among nations: “India of the ages is not dead nor has She spoken Her last creative word; She lives and has still something to do for Herself and the human peoples. And that which She must seek now to awake, is not an anglicised oriental people, docile pupil of the West and doomed to repeat the cycle of the Occident’s success and failure, but still the ancient immemorial Shakti recovering Her deepest self, lifting Her head higher towards the supreme source of light and strength and turning to discover the complete meaning and vaster form of Her Dharma. (Sri Aurobindo).

But for that India has to succeed in her attempt to liberalise her economy, it has to learn to decentralise the heavy hand of its Government in Delhi, it has to rewrite its Constitution, which it adapted blindly from the British, it has to re-indianise her education methods, reform her political system, which has made a mockery of democracy… In one word, She has to become a superpower on par with any western nation. Then, when She will have the respect and the attention of the West, can Her message of spirituality and the ancient wisdom of santanam dharma, once again shine forth and bring down a New World to this beleaguered planet, which is on the brink of self-destruction.

FRANCOIS GAUTIER

* The author is the editor in Chief of La Revue de l’Inde, Paris-based magazine devoted to India and the correspondent in South Asia for Marianne, the largest selling French political magazine.

Bush’s five mistakes

President George Bush has committed five major mistakes in the handling of the terrorism crisis which might cost America dear in the long run:

1. He has made the Arab attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon a matter of national ego. ‘How dare a few arrogant terrorists strike at the heart of the great, mighty, and proud United States?’ But Bush forgets two things: The first is that, however, spectacular and deadly these assaults were, America is not the only nation to suffer from terrorism. Countries like India lose thousands of lives to Islamic fundamentalism each year, without the Western world taking any notice.

Secondly, apart from its political angle, the aggression reminded America that capitalism, with all its flamboyant ego, is no more an answer to the world’s problems than was communism. We have to find another way to a more equalitarian and spiritualized society. The frenzied and hysterical reaction of the United States and Western powers (how long is CNN going to brainwash us with its ‘War on terrorism’?) is also completely overdone. What does Mr Bush mean by ‘an attack on freedom’? Did not Western nations often support bloody dictators such as Pinochet or Mobutu who produced bloodbaths on their people, sometimes more deadly than the WTC attacks?

2. George Bush has more or less ignored India, a vibrant, democratic, pro-Western nation. Why? The Asura, which the Mother of Pondichery called the ‘Lord of Nations,’ seem to be presently actively at work in the world. It is ‘he’ who makes men perceive what is true as false and who gives an aspect of truth to what is fundamentally false or even evil; it is he who precipitates countries into war; it is he who was the voice which Hitler heard dictating him what he had to do. Is it this same Asura which makes America think that Pakistan is the answer to solving their problems with terrorism?

How do you eliminate terrorism with terrorism? Because Pakistan is at the root of terrorism. The Taleban came out of Pakistani madarasas and were able to take nearly the whole of Afghanistan with the help of Pakistani officers. Pakistan has made jihad a national enterprise, not only hitting India, but also training militants who struck in the US, Bosnia and Chechnya. By lifting the economic sanctions on both India and Pakistan, the US has also — once again — put on the same footing two nations which, whatever their respective merits (all is not evil in Pakistan), cannot be compared.

India, a giant of a nation, is a bastion of freedom in an Asia torn by fundamentalism and the shadow of Chinese hegemony. Pakistan, a small country, always on the verge of bankruptcy, has been for most of its independence under military dictatorships. This equating Pakistan and India is an old perverse English strategy which had the purpose of dividing Muslims and Hindus so that the British could rule. It is sad to say that 200 years later this policy is still alive in the minds of Western leaders.

3. The third error is to think that by killing Osama bin Laden and bombing Afghanistan, he is going to solve — partly or fully — the problem of Islamic fundamentalism. Bush has also invited Muslim leaders to the White House, telling them that his fight is ‘not against Islam, but against terrorism.’ The first thing Bush should understand is that the problem is not with Muslims, who are like all other human beings in the world — some of are very good, some are okay and some are bad — but with Islam, a religion which teaches that there is only one God and that jihad is justified to convert others to the true religion.

4. The fourth error is to perceive bin Laden as a simple terrorist. If you look at the man’s eyes, you will notice a certain softness, a mystical glow even, that is not far from recalling some of the great Sufi saints. The man has incredible faith and whatever the murderous consequences of that faith, it has to be respected. The US might ultimately succeed in killing him, but will not other bin Ladens surface elsewhere in the world?

You cannot ignore the fact that Islam is the most rapidly spreading religion in the world today when Christianity is on the decline and capitalism shows its ugly, selfish and crass uniformity all over the planet. If only Islam would accept the fact that it has to adapt itself to the world, it could become a wonderful religion. Does it not care for others as no other faith does? It is enough to say anywhere in the world Salam u alli kum, to be treated like a brother, fed, clothed and sometimes helped financially. All Muslims belong to the Ouma, the great universal Muslim brotherhood. Also the pure of Islam do not smoke, do not take drugs, do not drink alcohol; and this is why the Shariat is so successful in Muslim countries.

5. Finally, there is one factor which Bush has completely overlooked. What is China going to do?

At the times of the attacks, Beijing was on the verge of strengthening its ties with the Taleban. Since then, it has closed its borders with Afghanistan for fear that some of the terrorists might spill into Xinjiang and worsen the already simmering Islamic problem there.

But China is a cold calculator and it will do only what serves its interests regardless of the moral consequences. We have seen how it armed Pakistan to counter India and gave Islamabad the technology to build nuclear weapons — and even the capability to deliver them, thanks to North Korean M-11 missiles. Will China ultimately side — even if temporarily — with the Muslim world, when it starts uniting against American imperialism? Only then will the possibility of a third World War really emerge.

Francois Gautier

Being Indian abroad

Being Indian abroad

What is it to be an Indian abroad — in the United States for instance? How much of yourself do you give to your American identity — and how much space do you preserve for your Indian-ness? This what Indian expatriates should ask themselves today. Many second generation Indians whose parents settled in the US twenty or thirty years ago, have merged themselves totally in the American way of life, speak with an American accent, think American… and in the process forget all about their wonderful Indian culture…

What is it in the American way of life that fascinates so many Indians? The fast life? Right: fast is exciting; but Americans live so fast — eat breakfast in their cars, gulp down meat and French fries, and often grow immensely fat. They also run the risk of getting ulcers and heart attacks by the age of 65. What else dazzles Indians in the American way of life? The lights? True, New York is a fascinating city, with its illuminated skyscrapers, its million of pulsating lights, its giant electronic billboards, its fancy bars, that one feels a kind of throbbing vitality entering as one walks the streets by night. But what a waste of energy, when the world is fast losing its sources of energy; and isn’t this a kind of artificial vitality, that fades away when one wakes up in the morning, with a hangover and one has to face the reality of life?

What else? America’s nature? No doubt, the United States boasts of some wonderful natural beauty and Americans have shown us what it means to plant trees and live in a green environment. But nature can also be an illusion here: a highway is never very far from the forest, with its thousands of cars pouring out millions of cubic feet of carbon dioxide, which annihilates natures’ bounty, as the Los Angeles smog amply demonstrates. Besides, America is an unending suburban concrete jungle, with its boring repetition of mega stores, parking lots, and KFCs. When you have seen a city, you have seen them all.

What else? The ‘quality’ of American life: barbecue parties, beaches, tattoos, fun and frolic? Yes, except that one out of three American couples divorce within three years, one out of four Americans consults a psychiatrist for depression, bulimia, schizophrenia or plain boredom, and American children often indulge in shooting other children, just because they are exposed to so much violence…

Is this the legacy you want to bequeath to your children, O Indian brothers and sisters, who long for the American way of life? For this great brain drain that has been going for so long, does not affect only the ordinary middle and upper class ‘secular’ Indian, but also many good Hindus. They put their children in the best US universities and accept the fact that their children will settle in the American way of life and will probably never go back to India. True, their kids get heftier pay cheques in the US, better facilities, escape the Indian bureaucracy, corruption… But what are they going to bequeath to their own children in the long run: insecurity, violence, divorce, depression… Above all their offspring, unknowingly, will be afflicted by a loss of identity. They will not know, nor feel like their grandparents did, this natural space of Indian-ness, which automatically confers certain qualities. What is that Indian-ness?

First and foremost it is this belief: ‘I accept you; I accept that you may be White or Black, Red or Yellow, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim. I am even ready to go and worship in a church or a mosque, besides my temple. I accept that my Gods are avatars, incarnations of the Divine, but so is Jesus Christ, and also Buddha and even Mohammed.’

This an extraordinary statement and a marvellous instrument towards world peace, at a time when the two great monotheist religions of the world, Islam and Christianity still say: ‘There is only one true God in the world — mine — and if you worship any other god, you are an infidel and a pagan and it is my right to convert you by any means, or even to kill you.’

The September 11 attacks are nothing but a result of that dangerous theorem. As a result, Indians adapt easily wherever they go, particularly in the West, as they are very open to Western culture. Of course, Indians also go to the other extreme: ‘not only I accept you, but I am going to become exactly like you — not even Whiter than the White: I am going to denigrate my own culture, spit on my religion, belittle my countrymen.’ This is why so often in the US you can come across negative articles on India written by Indians — nay by Hindus. The Gujarat massacres were actually a great opportunity for these Hindu haters, such as Pankaj Mishra, to come out full blast and prove to the world that India is a land of Hindu fundamentalists where nobody is safe, particularly the Muslims ‘who are regularly victims of pogroms.’

Mishra conveniently forgot to mention that India is an extraordinary country of freedom, where all persecuted religious minorities in the world have found refuge over the centuries, whether Jews, Parsis, Syrian Christians, or today the Tibetans.

What else? ‘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, carpenter, or CEO, IT engineer, or sailor.’ What are these tools? Hata-yoga, India’s gift to the world, which has been copied and imitated everywhere (although Time magazine did a story on yoga without mentioning the name ‘India’ once). What else? Meditation, this extraordinary technique of coming back to one’s self, of settling the mind and the body, which is today practiced 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 Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, which has spread today in 140 countries.

What first generations Indians in the States should ask themselves today is: ‘How can I repay my debt to India’? After all not only did they get a nearly free education in India which was good enough for them to obtain well paid jobs in the US, but did they also not inherit that certain Indian-ness, which has been a great help to adapt to the American way of life? As for second, or third, or even fourth generations Indian Americans, what they need to tell themselves is: ‘what can I do for my country’? ‘In what way can I contribute to this great nation which is India, which is so maligned and sidelined in the United States’?

The first thing they can do is to counteract the highly unfair and biased press coverage which India gets in America by writing to editors, or challenging the shameful coverage of CNN (which depicts Vajpayee as an old feeble man, but gives hours of live retransmission of the recent Pope’s visit to Canada), or canvassing their elected representatives.

Finally, because of the continuing confrontation between Islam and the United States (Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan etc), even though Mr Bush thinks that the problem will be over once he kills the elusive Bin Laden, Hindus in the US are going to come more and more under threat. It will not matter that they speak with a perfect Yankee accent and think of themselves as one hundred percent Americans — they will be seen in the streets as ‘coloured’ Asians and could be mistaken as Afghanis or Saudis and targeted like the unfortunate Sikh after the September 11 attack.

The only solution for them would be that they start regrouping themselves under an ‘Hindu American’ banner. Not only will it rekindle in them an ancient beautiful and powerful identity, but also grant them protection, as it will quickly become known that Hindus in the US are upwardly mobile, Western friendly and themselves a target of Muslim fundamentalism. How will it be done? By the force of circumstances, probably, because left to themselves Hindus are too passive and selfish to do anything. Committed Hindus groups should also apply pressure on them, as the LTTE does on expatriate Tamils with funds and lobby.

Being Indian abroad, II

My article, Being Indian abroad, I triggered such a massive reaction that I felt it is better writing another column to respond to points made by readers, rather than answer e-mail.

Obviously, America is not only fast food, artificial lights, cars and a superficial vitality. There is a certain openness about America, a willingness of the American people to listen to other points of view, which is unique. Yes, America is also a land of freedom where in the last 300 years, people from all nationalities, social classes, have been given the chance to make it good. They have in turn responded to this unique trust by giving the United States their 100 per cent, which makes it the leading industrial and military nation in the world. One finds too a sense of collectiveness, a caring for others, which gives America some of the best road systems in the world and first-class public amenities, such as the community centers found in many American cities.

But is America really the benevolent, casteless society some readers are convinced it is? Well, I am not sure. For one, what the White Americans did to the Blacks not that long ago must rank amongst some of the saddest deeds perpetuated by one class of humanity on another; not to speak of the terrible and shameful treatment inflicted upon the hapless Red Indians, the original inhabitants of their land, a karma the US will have to pay for sooner or later.

There are also a lot of inequalities in the States: extremely rich people and some incredibly poor folks, mostly Blacks, for such a country of tremendous wealth. Secondly, are the Blacks today on a truly equal footing with the Whites? I am not convinced either. Barring a few exceptions here and there, one still finds an invisible and subtle ghetto, an unwritten caste system existing in the US between the two communities and their problems are far from solved.

India has had an untouchable President. Has the US ever had a Black president, or vice-president? American journalists and human rights activists like to highlight the ‘oppressed’ condition of women in India. But as early as the late sixties, India democratically elected a woman prime minister, the highest post of the nation — and that for nearly twenty years. Can the country of triumphant feminism and gender equality boast of a woman President? The problem is that most Indians suffer too much from an inferiority complex vis à vis the West, to point this out to the Americans who are constantly criticising India for its human rights in Kashmir and Gujarat.

Yes, in America one enjoys the liberty to do whatever one wants without bureaucracy and heavy taxation that one is subjected to in India, or even in industrialised countries such as France. But after September 11, freedoms have been heavily curtailed in the US, especially if you have brown skin. Compare this to India: I have lived here for 33 years, I have gone to the most remote places, traveled to sacred spots with my cameras, tape recorder and white face. And never once have I been aggressed, never once has my passport been asked for in the streets (try traveling in the subway in Paris if you have a brown face and a leather jacket), never once have I been mugged at late nights in Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai, whereas in Washington, the capital of the ‘land of freedom,’ we were told not to go out alone in certain parts after 8 pm.

Some e-mail dealt with the extraordinary ‘religious freedom one can enjoy in the US, where nobody bothers whether you are a Jew, a Hindu, or a Christian.’ Fair enough. But let’s put it that way: the American population is overwhelmingly Christian and nobody there finds anything to say that the President of the United States is sworn in on the Bible, or that in some states a Christian prayer is uttered before the start of the school.

India has a thumping Hindu majority (80 per cent), but imagine the uproar if Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been sworn in on the Bhagavad Gita! And remember what happened when Murli Manohar Joshi wanted to introduce the chanting of the Saraswati Vandana in schools. Yet, India has today a Muslim President, the third one since Independence. Did the US ever have a Muslim President?

Some of you have a point: when I say all Indians settled in the US should regroup themselves under a ‘Hindu American banner,’ it does look as if I want to exclude Christians, Muslim and Sikh Indians. Indeed, most of the protesting e-mail were from Christians, Muslims and Sikhs. Let’s answer the objections from Christians first. One Christian reader tells me: ‘Christians have no freedom in India, or else they are killed like Australian missionary Graham Staines.’

There is no denying this was a horrible crime and that its perpetrators should be punished — and they are in the process of being punished. But this is an isolated case and our friend disregards what the Christians have done to Hindus over centuries. The first Christian community in the world, that of the Syrian Christians, settled in India in the first century. They were not only allowed to practice their religion in peace, but they prospered here, whereas at the same time they were persecuted in Rome and later in many Arabic countries. But when Vasco da Gama landed in India in the 16th century, the Portuguese, with the active collaboration of many Indian Christians, unleashed a reign of terror in Goa and some parts of Kerala, crucifying Brahmins, razing temples, forcibly marrying their soldiers to Goanese women.

The British, even if they did not use such violent means, gave a free hand to missionaries to convert huge parts of India, particularly in the Northeast. Today, American or Australian dollars are used to still convert unethically, by using the economic incentive amongst tribals and untouchables, teaching the new converts to hate their culture and customs and creating a spirit of separatism, as the Christian Bodo and Mizo militants have shown.

A few Sikh friends also resented my not having mentioned Sikhism. Let me quote straightaway from Sri Aurobindo: ‘The Sikh Khalsa was an astonishingly original and novel creation and its face was turned not to the past but to the future. Apart and singular in its theocratic head and democratic soul and structure, it was the first attempt to combine the deepest elements of Islam and Vedanta. But it could not create between the spirit and the external life the transmitting medium of a rich creative thought and culture. And thus hampered and deficient it began and ended with narrow local limits, achieved intensity but no power of expansion…’

Unfortunately, the Sikhs, because they had to defend themselves against the terrible persecution by the Muslims, cut themselves from the mainstream spirit of Hindu tolerance — from where they originally came, and where they might ultimately return. But do they not come from the great Hindu family? Has not till lately every good Hindu family donated one of their sons to Sikhism? Do not Hindus still today go to gurdwaras? Yet today, many expatriate Sikhs want to have nothing to do with Hinduism, and sometimes even with India.

What about Indian Muslims? Today we see, even though they benefit in India from a freedom they would not have in Saudi Arabia, or even in Pakistan, Indian Muslims often feel their first allegiance goes to Islam and not to India. The irony of it all is that Muslims invaded India, ran it with an iron hand, attempted to make India a totally Islamic country by forcibly converting millions of Hindus — and today they manage to portray themselves in the eyes of the world as the persecuted.

Another strong objection from some readers: religion divides. First let me say Hinduism, as Sri Aurobindo or Vivekananda, or Sri Ramakrishna envisioned it, is not a religion but a living spirituality which has given to the world — and still gives it today — wonderful tools: hata-yoga copied all over this planet, meditation, or pranayama. Secondly, at a time when the two largest monotheistic religions of the world, Islam and Christianity still claim their God is the only true one, while Hindus, through the extraordinary concept of the avatar, recognise that God manifests himself at different times, in different countries, under different names and thus grant to everybody the right to worship God under any form. This is a very precious spiritual (and not religious) knowledge which has been lost to the world and which, even the most humble Hindu peasant spontaneously practices.

It is also true that things in India are not as they should be. Hindus there are not united, India is divided along caste and religious lines by unscrupulous politicians. Yes, Hindus can also be racists, as one rediff reader remarked; they do suffer at the same time, as another one commented, from a big inferiority complex, as well as one of superiority, quite an achievement! Yes, it is as well correct that expatriate Indians do often tend to become more conscious of their roots than India Indians: they will send their children to learn Bharata Natyam and will remember all the festivals. Good, there is a whole generation of upper middle class kids in India who are so desperately aping the worst of the West, that they are lost for India.

Yes, Hindus can be selfish, passive, cowardly, miserly, whereas many of them are extremely rich. But nevertheless, they remain a wonderful people, alive with an inbred joy and spirituality.

Contrary to what one of the readers assert, there is a definite atmosphere in India, something special, something unique, which is there nowhere else in the world. Those of you who spent a lot of time abroad will notice a certain quality in the atmosphere as soon as you enter India, if you are a little sensitive.

Indian Americans or Hindu Americans? To start with, there are already Indian Americans, those that Columbus mistook for real Indians and you can’t usurp their names. Secondly, it ultimately depends on the Christians, the Sikhs and the Muslims, who in the last few decades, have drifted more and more from the Indian psyche, striving to strike a fundamental identity of their own. We have also seen that the numerous Indian Americans associations in the US, where there are indeed Muslim, Christians and Sikh Indians, are frequently paralysed by these three groups.

Thus, if Hindus in the United States regroup themselves under a ‘Hindu American’ label it might prompt the three minorities to wake up to the reality of a stronger, overwhelmingly Hindu majority. It will give a clear-cut identity to Indians in the States, dissociating them from the Pakistanis, the Bangladeshis, the Saudis, or the Afghans. It will also help make known to the average American the extraordinary achievements of the Hindu community in the US.

Lastly, it will help the Indian government, by creating a powerful and effective lobby in the US, free from the shackles imposed by Christian, Sikh and Muslim Indians. Ultimately, it will be up to these three minorities to decide whether they want to re-join this great family that is ‘Induism.’ For we should then give back to ‘Hindus’ its proper meaning: Indus from the civilisation of the valley of Indus, probably the most ancient civilisation of the world still active today. Once upon a time, Indian Christians, Parsis, Muslims and Hindus were called ‘Indus’ by the invaders without differentiation of caste and religion. Is it not time to put back this habit into practice?

Finally, is America going to be perpetually the El Dorado that still make Indians dream? Not sure. There are certain signs which show that the US economy is entering a period of darkness: the slump in the stock market, the packing up of half of Silicon Valley, the near bankruptcy of many American airlines, and more than that, the erosion of the American confidence.

There are bound to be more terrorist attacks on the US in the next few years, as Samuel Huntington’s prophecy of a ‘clash of civilizations’ between Islam and the West, with China siding with Islam (let’s us not forget that Beijing already gave Pakistan the technology to build its nuclear weapons) and Hindu India allied with the West, will prove more and more true. This in turn will trigger more panic, more loss of confidence amongst Americans and eventually a stock market crash on the lines of the one which happened in 1929.

On the other hand, India, this ‘Third World country,’ has learnt to live with Islamic terrorism, its people do not panic as Americans do, it has a relatively stable stock market, its software business is still expanding and is beginning to offer salaries which will compete with the West. Could it be that this great brain drain towards America could be reversed and that NRIs start coming back to their country of origin in search of greener pastures? One could even dream: today one still sees this huge humiliating queues in front of the US embassy in Delhi, where visa applicants are treated like cattle. Will we one day witness Americans waiting in line in front of the Indian embassy in Washington to obtain working visas in India? It will happen my friends. One day.

Post Script: Out of the 350 e-mails, nearly 80 per cent were messages of praise and encouragement from Hindus. Out of the 20 per cent who disagreed, 14 per cent were (surprisingly) from Indian Christians, 3 per cent were from Sikhs, 2 per cent from Muslims and 1 per cent from Hindus.

Francois Gautier