Category Archives: Freedom

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

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

‘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

SRI AUROBINDO, THE FORGOTTEN GIANT OF INDIA’S INDEPENDANCE

Source: http://www.franoisgautier.com

A huge biography of British statesman Sir Stafford Cripps, has been brought out. Although it is mentioned that if India had accepted in 1943 Sir StattSri Aurobindo was born on the 15th August 1872 in Calcutta, he spent his first years at Rangpur (now in Bangladesh) and at the age of 5 is sent to Loreto Convent school in Darjeeling. His father, who wants him to have a thorough Western education, packs him then to England, where he enters St Paul’s School in London in 1884 and King’s College, Cambridge in 1890. Sri Aurobindo is a brilliant student and passes the I.C.S., but “fails” to appear for the riding test and is disqualified. After 13 years in England Sri Aurobindo returned to India on February 6, 1893 at the age of 20. He joined the Baroda State Service from 1897 to early 1906 and taught French and English at the Baroda college, before eventually becoming its Principal. It was at that time that he started writing a series of articles “New lamps for Old” in the Indu Prakash, a Marathi-English daily from Bombay. Sri Aurobindo realised quickly that passive resistance, constitutional agitation “a La Congress”, was not the right path to achieve an independent India. In the true spirit of a yogi, he re-enacted the Baghavad Gita’s great message: that violence is sometimes necessary, if it flows from Dharma -and Dharma then was the liberation of India. Thus he began contacting revolutionary groups in Maharashtra and Bengal and tried to co-ordinate their action. At Sri Aurobindo’s initiative, P. Mitter, Surendranath Tagore and Sister Nivedita formed the first Secret Council for revolutionary activities in Bengal. But action was accompanied by inner vision: “While others look upon their country as an inert piece of matter, forests, hills and rivers, I look upon my country as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on her mother’s breast and started sucking her blood?..I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen race. It is not physical strength- I am not going to fight with sword or gun, but with the strength of knowledge”.

In 1905, the terrible Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal. This divide-and-rule move was meant to break the back of Bengali political agitation and use the East Bengal Muslim community to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims, a policy that was to culminate in India’s partition in 1947. Bengal responded to its partition with massive and unanimous protests in which many personalities took part, such as Rabindranath Tagore, Surendranath Banerjee, Bepin Chandra Pal… The ideal of Swadeshi, which called for the boycott of British goods, spread widely.

It was at this time that B.C. Pal launched the famous English daily, Bande Mataram; Sri Aurobindo joined it and soon became its editor. Day after day, he jotted down his vision and tried to instil fire and courage in the nation through the pages of Bande Mataram : “Nationalism is not a mere political programme; nationalism is a religion that has come from God; Nationalism is a creed which you shall have to live.. If you are going to be a nationalist, if you are going to assent to this religion of Nationalism, you must do it in the religious spirit. You must remember that you are the instruments of God… Then there will be a blessing on our work and this great nation will rise again and become once more what it was in the days of spiritual greatness”. But Sri Aurobindo had to fight against the Congress Moderates, who, it must be remembered came out openly for complete independence only in 1929, of whom he said: “There is a certain section of India which regards Nationalism as madness and they say Nationalism will ruin the country.. They are men who live in the pure intellect and they look at things purely from the intellectual point of view”….

Sri Aurobindo was very clear in what was demanded of a leader of India: “What India needs at the moment is the aggressive virtues, the spirit of soaring idealism, bold creation, fearless resistance, courageous attack”. But if the Moderates dismissed Sri Aurobindo as a “mystic”, Lord Minto, then Viceroy of India, made no such mistake, calling him, “the most dangerous man we have to deal with at present”. Thus Sri Aurobindo was arrested on May 2d 1908, following a failed assassination attempt on a British judge by a nationalist belonging to his brother’s secret society. Sri Aurobindo spent a year in jail, which proved to be the turning point of his life as he went through the whole gamut of spiritual realisations. When he came out, the nationalist movement had nearly collapsed and he set about giving it a fresh impetus, launching a new English weekly, the Karmayogin, as well as a Bengali weekly, Dharma. This following is an extract from his famous Uttarpara speech, where he speaks of his spiritual experiences in jail: “When it is said that India shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Santana Dharma that shall be great… But what is the Hindu religion? It is the Hindu religion only, because the Hindu nation has kept it, because in this peninsula it grew up in the seclusion of the sea and the Himalayas, because in this sacred and ancient land it was given as a charge to the Aryan race to preserve through the ages. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others. If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal…. Santana Dharma IS nationalism”…

In mid-February 1910, news reached that the British had again decided to arrest Sri Aurobindo and close down the offices of the Karmayogin. By that time Sri Aurobindo had the vision that India was free, for the external events are always preceded by an occult happening, sometimes long before they become “fait accompli”. Sri Aurobindo then received an “Adesh”, an inspiration that he must go to Pondichery, then under French rule. He settled there, with a few disciples, the number of whom slowly swelled, until it became known as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. He wrote all his masterpieces and devoted the remaining of his life to bringing down what he called the “supramental manifestation on the earth”. The great Sage passed away on 5 December 1950.

FRANCOIS GAUTIER

SRI AUROBINDO, THE FORGOTTEN GIANT OF INDIA’S INDEPENDANCE

Source: http://www.franoisgautier.com

A huge biography of British statesman Sir Stafford Cripps, has been brought out. Although it is mentioned that if India had accepted in 1943 Sir StattSri Aurobindo was born on the 15th August 1872 in Calcutta, he spent his first years at Rangpur (now in Bangladesh) and at the age of 5 is sent to Loreto Convent school in Darjeeling. His father, who wants him to have a thorough Western education, packs him then to England, where he enters St Paul’s School in London in 1884 and King’s College, Cambridge in 1890. Sri Aurobindo is a brilliant student and passes the I.C.S., but “fails” to appear for the riding test and is disqualified. After 13 years in England Sri Aurobindo returned to India on February 6, 1893 at the age of 20. He joined the Baroda State Service from 1897 to early 1906 and taught French and English at the Baroda college, before eventually becoming its Principal. It was at that time that he started writing a series of articles “New lamps for Old” in the Indu Prakash, a Marathi-English daily from Bombay. Sri Aurobindo realised quickly that passive resistance, constitutional agitation “a La Congress”, was not the right path to achieve an independent India. In the true spirit of a yogi, he re-enacted the Baghavad Gita’s great message: that violence is sometimes necessary, if it flows from Dharma -and Dharma then was the liberation of India. Thus he began contacting revolutionary groups in Maharashtra and Bengal and tried to co-ordinate their action. At Sri Aurobindo’s initiative, P. Mitter, Surendranath Tagore and Sister Nivedita formed the first Secret Council for revolutionary activities in Bengal. But action was accompanied by inner vision: “While others look upon their country as an inert piece of matter, forests, hills and rivers, I look upon my country as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on her mother’s breast and started sucking her blood?..I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen race. It is not physical strength- I am not going to fight with sword or gun, but with the strength of knowledge”.

In 1905, the terrible Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal. This divide-and-rule move was meant to break the back of Bengali political agitation and use the East Bengal Muslim community to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims, a policy that was to culminate in India’s partition in 1947. Bengal responded to its partition with massive and unanimous protests in which many personalities took part, such as Rabindranath Tagore, Surendranath Banerjee, Bepin Chandra Pal… The ideal of Swadeshi, which called for the boycott of British goods, spread widely.

It was at this time that B.C. Pal launched the famous English daily, Bande Mataram; Sri Aurobindo joined it and soon became its editor. Day after day, he jotted down his vision and tried to instil fire and courage in the nation through the pages of Bande Mataram : “Nationalism is not a mere political programme; nationalism is a religion that has come from God; Nationalism is a creed which you shall have to live.. If you are going to be a nationalist, if you are going to assent to this religion of Nationalism, you must do it in the religious spirit. You must remember that you are the instruments of God… Then there will be a blessing on our work and this great nation will rise again and become once more what it was in the days of spiritual greatness”. But Sri Aurobindo had to fight against the Congress Moderates, who, it must be remembered came out openly for complete independence only in 1929, of whom he said: “There is a certain section of India which regards Nationalism as madness and they say Nationalism will ruin the country.. They are men who live in the pure intellect and they look at things purely from the intellectual point of view”….

Sri Aurobindo was very clear in what was demanded of a leader of India: “What India needs at the moment is the aggressive virtues, the spirit of soaring idealism, bold creation, fearless resistance, courageous attack”. But if the Moderates dismissed Sri Aurobindo as a “mystic”, Lord Minto, then Viceroy of India, made no such mistake, calling him, “the most dangerous man we have to deal with at present”. Thus Sri Aurobindo was arrested on May 2d 1908, following a failed assassination attempt on a British judge by a nationalist belonging to his brother’s secret society. Sri Aurobindo spent a year in jail, which proved to be the turning point of his life as he went through the whole gamut of spiritual realisations. When he came out, the nationalist movement had nearly collapsed and he set about giving it a fresh impetus, launching a new English weekly, the Karmayogin, as well as a Bengali weekly, Dharma. This following is an extract from his famous Uttarpara speech, where he speaks of his spiritual experiences in jail: “When it is said that India shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Santana Dharma that shall be great… But what is the Hindu religion? It is the Hindu religion only, because the Hindu nation has kept it, because in this peninsula it grew up in the seclusion of the sea and the Himalayas, because in this sacred and ancient land it was given as a charge to the Aryan race to preserve through the ages. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others. If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal…. Santana Dharma IS nationalism”…

In mid-February 1910, news reached that the British had again decided to arrest Sri Aurobindo and close down the offices of the Karmayogin. By that time Sri Aurobindo had the vision that India was free, for the external events are always preceded by an occult happening, sometimes long before they become “fait accompli”. Sri Aurobindo then received an “Adesh”, an inspiration that he must go to Pondichery, then under French rule. He settled there, with a few disciples, the number of whom slowly swelled, until it became known as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. He wrote all his masterpieces and devoted the remaining of his life to bringing down what he called the “supramental manifestation on the earth”. The great Sage passed away on 5 December 1950.

FRANCOIS GAUTIER