Category Archives: letter

Letter to Mr Greenway,

Dear Mr Greenway,

To equate Hindu extremism with Muslim fundamentalism, as you do in your column published in the Opinion page of The Boston Globe on July 12, is highly unfair. There is no such thing as ‘Hindu nationalists,’ or ‘Hindu fundamentalists,’ since in the whole history of India, Hindus — who let me remind you are 850 million in India today and constitute the overwhelming cultural and political majority of this country — have not only shown that they are extremely tolerant of others, but Hinduism is probably the only religion in the world which never tried to convert others, or conquer other countries to propagate their own religion. The same is not true of Islam and Christianity.

Again, equating Pakistan with India is an old British colonial policy, which helped them to divide and rule. By going to Islamabad, before reaching Delhi, visiting American and European officials are demeaning India. Would they dare first go to Taiwan, then travel to Beijing? The Chinese government would never allow it! We are putting on the same footing two nations which are entirely different: the first one, India, whatever its shortcomings and I am aware there are many — is a superpower in the making, a vast country with a billion people and a democracy for more than fifty years. The other, Pakistan, whatever its own merits — and it has many — has little more than one tenth the population of India, is nearly bankrupt and has been under military dictators for half of its independence.

You speak of a Hindu genocide on the Muslims in Gujarat, but you forget to mention that the rioting in Gujarat against Muslims was in reaction against the murder of 58 innocent people, 30 of them being women and children, who were burnt alive in a train by a Muslim mob, only because they were Hindus. In fact, Hindus have been for centuries at the receiving hand of Muslim extremism: some historians put at 25 millions the number of Hindus killed during 10 centuries of bloody Muslim invasions in India, a genocide probably unparalleled in world history. Today this persecution goes on: there were 400,000 Hindus in 1947 in the valley of Kashmir and barely a few hundred today. Thousands were killed in the late eighties by Islamic fundamentalists, trained, armed and financed by Pakistan and the rest fled the valley. Today Hindus have become refugees in their own country, a first on this planet.

You also talk about the ‘Hindu bomb.’ But you should know that it is was Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s father, who in 1971, after Pakistan lost the second war it initiated against India, realised that they could not win a conventional war against the Indian giant. He thus decided that Pakistan should have the nuclear bomb, which it did in the course of time, with the active help of China and North Korea, a fact which has been well documented by the CIA, but which is generally ignored by the American public. India was thus forced to acquire nuclear weapons, with a certain reluctance, as Indians have generally had a nonviolent bend of mind — some have even termed it cowardly — inherited from Buddhism and Gandhian philosophy.

Today, President Pervez Musharraf, whatever his obsession about Kashmir, which is basically a revenge for the loss of Eastern Pakistan, now Bangladesh, thanks to India’s support, is an intelligent man: he knows that if he does manage to drop one nuclear bomb on Delhi or Mumbai, there will be no more Pakistan worth the name, as all major Pakistani cities will be wiped off the face of the earth. Islam, which has made use of violence a near religious practice, understands the language of violence: see how it kept quiet when America showed its muscle after the September 11 attack, or when the Allies invaded Iraq. Thus Musharraf is doing a nuclear blackmail on the world, which is unfortunately working, as so many nations have evacuated their nationals and so much pressure is brought upon on India by the US and the EC to negotiate on Kashmir.

You must doubtlessly know that historically and geographically, Kashmir has always been part of India and that the calling of a referendum there would be a suicide for any Indian government, because the Muslim majority of the valley would automatically vote for a union with Pakistan. That in turn, would not only mean that Pakistan would have an immense strategic advantage on India, because of overlooking the Indian plains, but also that other Indian states, who are in a secessionist mood, might follow suit. Bear in mind also, that Indians do not understand why the West is giving lessons to India about Kashmir, when England battled thousands of miles away from their home soil to keep the Falkland islands — which geographically belong more to the Argentineans than to the British — or as France uses its armed might to retain Corsica, an island which has mixed French and Italian roots, or when your own country intervenes militarily in parts of the globe where you feel your interests are endangered!

Finally, you show a lot of sympathy for Pakistan, which I understand, as the Pakistanis are very engaging and friendly people specially when you meet them in the United States. Nevertheless, you must be aware that not only has Pakistan sponsored bombings, murders and terror in India, but that it has exported terrorism all over the world: in Bosnia, Chechnya and even towards America, as the September 11 attacks have a Pakistan connection. By making Pakistan its frontline state, America is trying to fight terrorism with terrorism, which might not be such a good idea, given the problems encountered by the US in Pakistan, as well as the blank that American forces are drawing in Afghanistan. It is also a sign that India, a democratic, pro-Western nation, would be a much better bet for the US in its war on terrorism. Unfortunately, your article will certainly not help US policymakers to see the light.

Yours sincerely,

François Gautier

The author, a French journalist based in New Delhi, is the South Asia correspondent for Ouest-France, the largest circulation French daily (1 million copies) and LCI, France’s 24 hour television news channel.

Francois Gautier

Bana Singh : a hero of our times

Bana Singh was born on 6 January 1949 and now lives in R.S.Pura near Jammu. He joined Indian Army’s Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry (JAK LI) on 6 January 1969 After training at the High Altitude Training School along with his battalion at Gulmarg, he was posted in Siachen in April 1987. Pakistan had already occupied a vantage point called Quaid Post named after Mohammad Ali Jinnah. This is the most important and highest post in the area. From the top of this post the entire Saltoro range is visible, including other posts like the Amar and Sonam which get food and other materials by Indian helicopters. On April 18, 1987, the Pakistan army at Quaid post began firing at the Indian troops. A Junior commissioned Officer and five soldiers were killed at Sonam. It became necessary to gain control over the post for the safety of the men and supporting helicopters. It was therefore decided to recapture Quaid Post.

On 26th June 1987, Bana Singh got the green light to lead his platoon up the 90° slope with iced walls, after two previous attempts failed with heavy casualties. This is how he remembers it: “Though it was day time, because of the heavy snowing we could not say if it was day or night. The Pakistanis must have been knowing that something was going on because our troops were firing at them from the base camp (to divert their attention). When we reached the top, there was a single bunker. We had been trained for such a fight. I threw a grenade inside and closed the door. At the end, a total of six Pakistanis were killed. We brought back their bodies which were later handed over to the Pakistanis authorities during a flag meeting in Kargil. Some must have escaped towards the Pakistani side, perhaps over the cliff. I think that I have bayoneted three or four persons, I don’t remember now.”

For this act of valor Bana Singh was awarded Param Vir Chakra.and was presented the Param Vir Chakra on January 26 1988.The Quaid Post was renamed as Bana Post after its liberation by Bana Singh. Today some twenty years after liberating Quiad Post and earning a PVC, Bana Singh is sad man, because of the indifferent attitude of the J&K government who pays him paltry Rs 166 per month whereas neighboring state of Panjab, HP and Haryana pay much higher amounts to PVC winners. (in Punjab a PVC winner gets Rs 12,500 every month, in Haryana it is Rs 10,400 and in Himachal Pradesh it is Rs 10,000).

How can a nation retain its independence if it does not reward its defenders suitably? Does it behove a great country like India to treat one of its greatest present day heroes, one of the three living PVC recipients, so shabbily? This is why we have decided to bestow our first Shivaji-FACT award of Courage to Captain Bana Singh and are trying to raise money to hand him over as well a substantial prize money.

The Shivaji-FACT award of Courage, which will be handed over by HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on 12th March 2008 in Mumbai on the occasion of the opening of the Shivaji exhibition (see below), ” A Hero for Modern India”.

Venue P.L. Deshpande, Maharashtra Kala Academy, Prabhadevi, Mumbai
Date 12th March 2008.
Time: 4.30 pm.
4.30 pm – Arrival of Chief Guests His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Chief Minister Gujarat Shri Narendra Modiji, Shri Uddhav Thackerayji, Shri Gopinath Mundeji
4.40pm – His Holiness chants a mantra at the venue
4.45pm – His Holiness and Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modiji, Shri Uddhav Thackerayji and Shri Gopinath Mundeji light the lamp in turns to inaugurate the exhibition
4.45 to 5.00pm – the Chief guests view the exhibition.
5.00pm – Chief guests proceed to auditorium
5.05pm – Vande Mataram
5.10pm – Francois Gautier gives the welcome address
5.15pm- Film ‘Heros of Kargil’ to be screened
5.20 pm- All the Chief guests are requested to sit on the stage.
5.25pm- Shri Gopinath Munde will address the audience.
5.35pm – Shri Uddhav Thackerayji will address the audience
5.55pm- Hon Chief Minister Gujarat Shri Narendra Modiji will address the audience. Topic ” Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj- a Hero for Modern India”
6.10pm – His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji will address the audience Session will end with a guided meditation by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji

Francois Gautier Writes

Francois Gautier Writes

Publication: Hindu Views International
Date: May 7, 2003

Dear friends,

India’s image in the West has never been so bad. We foreign correspondents have been propagating in the last few weeks a picture of an intolerant Hindu majority, ruthlessly hunting down the Muslim minority. Not only has it falsified public opinions abroad about India, but it has put pressure on Governments to bring out so called Human Rights reports on Gujarat, whereas they have no right to interfere in India’s affairs, given the fact that it is one of the very few working democracies in Asia. Would the British, who left a mess wherever they colonized, dare to interfere in such a way in China’s affairs, whose human rights record is a million times worse than India?

This is unfair: those of us who have lived long enough in this country, know that not only Hindus have historically been extremely tolerant, accepting the fact that God manifests himself at different times under different forms, but also that, in spite of the bureaucratic hassles, the dirtiness and the heat, we Westerners are living in a paradise of freedom, compared to what would be our lot in China, for instance:- we can criticize as much as we want, slander even, without fear of reprisal.

As a foreigner having covered India for 25 years, I am shocked by the ambivalence of our standards when it comes to Hindus. There were 400.000 Hindus in Kashmir in 1947 – and only a few hundreds today. All the rest have been made to flee through terror in the late eighties and early nineties. I remember when Muslim militants would stop buses all over Kashmir and kill all the Hindus, men women and children, none of the foreign correspondents and diplomats protested about human rights the way they are doing now after the Gujarat riots. There are 400.000 Hindus who are refugees in their own land, an ethnic cleansing without parallel in the world.

Why are none of us interested in highlighting this fact? Do we know that Hindus themselves have been for centuries the targets of genocide at the hands of Muslim invaders and that today in Bangladesh or Pakistan they are still at risk? In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being chased out by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorized by separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Are we playing our role, which is to inform, educate our fellow countrymen, who are generally totally ignorant about India? Many of us are using the word “genocide” to describe the riots in Gujarat, or even making comparisons with the Holocaust. But do we tell our readers that Jews in India were never persecuted and lived and prospered in total freedom till most of them went back to Israel? The same cannot be said about my country France, where even today they face problems. We do not care to balance our articles: we take an isolated incident such as the murder of ‘Graham Staines’ or the riots against Muslims in Gujarat, and we make it look, as it is a whole, telling our readers abroad that Christians and Muslims are persecuted in India.

When the Ayodhya mosque was brought down, it was as if eternal shame had descended upon India: “death of secularism, Hindu fundamentalists have taken over the country, a Black Day in the history of our democracy”, we screamed ad infinitum… However unfortunate the ‘Ayodhya’ episode was, nobody was killed there; but the terrible Bombay lasts which followed, orchestrated by Indian Muslims, with the active help of Pakistan and the silent approval of Saudi Arabia, which took the lives of hundreds of innocent Hindus, never warranted the kind of moral indignation which followed the rioting against Muslims in Gujarat.

Why does nobody bother to say that maybe, the tolerant, easy going middle class Hindu, is so fed-up with being made fun of, hated, targeted, killed, and bombed, that he is ready to take to the streets? If you dare say that there are 850 millions Hindus in this country and not only they represent the majority culture, but they have a tradition of tolerance and gentleness and they cannot be the fundamentalists that the Press makes them out, you are immediately branded as an RSS Spokesman or a VHP lover. Why this primitive labels?

In the West we are not ashamed to call ourselves a Christian civilization: the American President swears on the Bible when he takes office and look also how all European children, be them Italian or German, are brought-up on the values of Christianity and the greatness of Greek philosophy. It would be impossible, in France for instance, for the Muslim minority – immigrants from France’s ex-colonies such as Algeria or Morocco to Impose their views and culture on the government. In fact, Muslim girls are not allowed to wear a veil when they go to French school: “you are in France, you have been given the French nationality, so behave like a French first and like a Muslim in second”, they are told bluntly. Would that be possible in India? Does any Indian, except the much-maligned RSS, have the courage to ask Muslims to be Indians first and Muslim second? Or tell Catholics and Protestants that they have to revert to a more Indianized Christianity, such as the one that existed in ‘Kerala’ before the arrival of the Portuguese Jesuits? And see how stridently Muslims and Christians – backed by most of the foreign Media * react when the Human Resources Minister, Dr Joshi, wants to teach Indian children a little bit of the greatness of their culture!

I know that many of the foreign correspondents arrive here with an aspiration to understand India and report fairly. The problems is that there is no way we are going to know India if we stay in Delhi, or fly all over the place, staying in five star hotels, to do features which give justice to a civilization which is 5000 years old. It is also true that in Delhi, an arrogant, superficial city, we are never in contact with the real India and always hears the same stories in the Journalists parties, or diplomatic cocktails, about secularism, the ‘Sangh Parivar’ or Human Rights in Kashmir. We should take some time off the political situation and go out to the South, which is much more gentle and easygoing than the North.

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