Category Archives: New indian express

When war becomes dharma

When war becomes dharma

In the Bhagvad Gita, Arjuna once throws down his bow and tells Krishna, “I will not fight.” Many scholars consider this an exhortation to an inner war instead of a physical one, against one’s own ego and weaknesses. While the Gita is essentially a divine message of yoga — of transforming one’s own nature while reaching for the absolute — it reconciles war with the notion of duty and dharma. Since the beginning of times, war has been an integral part of man’s quest.

Yet, war is the most misunderstood factor of human history. Sri Aurobindo in his remarkable Essays on the Gita writes: “Man’s natural tendency is to worship nature as love and life and beauty and good and to turn away from her grim mask of death.” War has always repelled man: Ashoka turned Buddhist after the battle of Kalinga, American youngsters refused to participate in the Vietnam war, and we are witnessing today massive protests against the atom bomb.

Yet, the Gita says that while protecting one’s borders, wives, children and culture, and when all other means have failed, war can become dharma. War is a universal principle of our life as Sri Aurobindo argues: “it is evident that the actual life of man can take no real step forward without a struggle between what exists and what seeks to exist”. And that humanity periodically experience time in which great forces clash together, resulting in destruction and reconstruction, intellectual, social, moral, religious, andpolitical.

According to the Gita, there exists a struggle between righteousness and unrighteousness, between the self affirming law of good and the forces that oppose its progression. Its message is, therefore, addressed to people whose duty in life is to protect those who are at the mercy of the strong and the violent. “It is only a few religions,” writes Sri Aurobindo, “which have had the courage, like the Indian, to lift up the image of the force that acts in the world in the figure not only of the beneficent Durga, but also of the terrible Kali in her blood-stained dance of destruction.”

Has India understood this great nationalist message of the Gita? Yes and no. On the one hand, you have had a Shivaji, a Rani of Jhansi, and a Sri Aurobindo, who, let us remember, gave a call as early as 1906 for the eviction of the British — by force if need be — at a time when the Congress was not even considering independence. On the other hand, the Indian masses seem never to have resisted invasions for centuries. Wave after wave of Muslims intruders were able to loot, rape, kill, raze temples and govern India, because Hindu chieftains kept betraying each other and nonational uprising occurred against them; the British got India for a song, bled it dry (20 millions Indians died of famine during British rule), because except for the Great (misguided) Mutiny, there was no wave ofnationalism opposed to them until very late.

We witnessed how in 1962 the Indian army was routed because Nehru had refused to heed the warnings posed by the Chinese. Just a year ago, we also witnessed how India reacted during the hijack of the IC flight from Kathmandu: instead of storming the plane when it was in Amritsar, India’s leaders got cowed down by the prospect of human casualties from their own side and surrendered to terrorism. But in the process India’s image and self-esteem suffered a lot and the liberated separatists are now spitting even more venom and terror.

Why is this nationalistic message of the Gita forgotten? There are two main reasons: Buddhism and Mahatma Gandhi. Buddhism made of non-violence an uncompromising, inflexible dogma. Thus it was literally wiped-off the face of India within a few centuries. Buddhism indirectly influenced Hinduism and Mahatma Gandhi, whose sincere but rigid adherence to non-violence may have indirectly precipitated the 1947 Partition.

Today, well-meaning “secular” Indians intellectuals still borrow from th Buddhist and Gandhian creed of non-violence to demonstrate why India should not have the bomb and get wiped-out by Pakistan or China, countries which have no such qualms.

There is, however, a lining in the sky: the Kargil war has shown that Hindu, Muslim and Christian soldiers can put their country above their religion and fight alongside each other. Today, we see a new wave of nationalism, both in India, as well as amongst its influential expatriate. 

Freedom gagged

Freedom gagged (New Indian Express)

This exhibition is not about raking-up the past or “creating communal disharmony”, it is about Indian children, Hindus and Muslims alike, knowing their own past and making sure it does not happen again. Aurangzeb’s shadow and legacy is very much present
BY FRANCOIS GAUTIER

O N the March 7, 2008, in Lalit Kala Academi, Chennai, Assistant Commissioner of Police K N Murali, took off the wall an exquisite miniature painting, which showed the destruction of the Somnath temple (which has been razed six times) and threw it on the ground, shattering it. Then his men started removing all the paintings from the wall, further damaging many of them. On that day, the morale and the reputation of the Tamil Nadu police must have sunk to a new low : of bowing down to their master’s wishes and those of a few fanatics, of forsaking moral decency and all the qualities that a police officer should embody.

The previous day the Nawab of Arcot visited the exhibition and lashed out at FACT volunteers accusing them of “misrepresenting facts.” He was particularly enraged by two miniatures – the first depicted Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple and the second showed the destruction of the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura. We are told that he has direct access to the CM’s office and that orders to the police to clamp down on exhibition came down from there. Otherwise, Mr Murali would not have dared to go so far, so brazenly.

Soon, the nawab sent a group of goons, allegedly from TMMK (Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam) and MNP (Manitha Neethi Paasarai) to pick up arguments with the volunteers, most of them elderly women from decent family backgrounds.

They came back again on 7th afternoon when I was there, screaming on, top of their voices in Tamil and in English that this exhibition was absolutely false and that unless it was closed immediately they would come back in force the next day (Friday) to break it down. I tried to reason with them, that these were all documents from Government archives, that I could explain everything to them, that we could even debate on TV, but they shouted even louder and got more threatening. When all these arguments were going on the police did not bother to come up.

(The hall is on the first floor.) Then the goons closeted them selves with Mr Murali, two other officers and Mr Palaniappan, the secretary of the LKA, in his office and when I barged in, Mr Murali told me he was closing down the exhibition. I decided to rush to the Commissioner’s office in Egmore to plead for a stay order.

But meanwhile Mr Murali swung into action: he terrorised the harmless ladies calling them ” stooges of a white dog,” threw two paintings on the ground and ordered his policemen to remove the rest. Then he arrested four volunteers (Mrs. Srarswathi, Mrs. Vijayalakshmi, Mrs.

Malathi and Mr. B.R. Haran) and took them to the Thousand Lights police station. There ACP termed Mr. Francois as a “Foreign Terrorist” and threatened to book the volunteers “for helping and assisting him to incite communal violence in the otherwise peaceful Tamil Nadu.”

What was all the noise about? Lalit Kala Academi was showing an exhibition: “Aurangzeb as he was according to his own records.” This is an artistic exhibition on Aurangzeb, the great Mughal emperor using his own records and firmans (edicts), many of which are still preserved in Indian museums, such as the Bikaner archives.

Aurangzeb was truly a pious Muslim, copying the Koran himself, stitching Muslim skullcaps and enforcing strict laws, according to his own documents, which we were careful to show. How come Aurangzeb is such a hero with the Nawab of Arcot and his henchmen? Forget what he did to Hindus : reimposing the humiliating jiziya tax, forbidding them from riding horses, elephants or palanquins and ordering all temples destroyed (Among them the Krishna’s birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujarat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya), he was also a monster to his own family, having his father poisoned, his two brothers killed, and imprisoning his own son.

This exhibition was sponsored by FACT, which I created in 2003, when I received at the hands of the Prime Minister in the Lok Sabha the Natchiketa Award of Excellence in Journalism. With the Prize money, my Indian wife Namrita and myself mounted an exhibition on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, four hundred thousand of them having become refugees in their own country.

This exhibition travelled around India and then in the world and was shown in Capitol Hill, Washington, in July 2005, leading to a bipartisan resolution on the Human Rights of the Kashmiri Pandits in the US Congress . Another exhibition on the persecution of Hindus, Christians and Buddhists in Bangladesh was inaugurated in Mumbai on November 18, 2006. We have also a huge show on Shivaji ‘a Hero for Modern, India’ in Mumbai on March 12 in Ravindra Natya Mandir.

A lot of historical research and artistic efforts have gone into the making of this exhibition. It is also an effort to help a dying craft, of the painters of Rajasthan, that of miniature painting. Each original painting, which portrays a historically docu mented incident in the times of Aurangzeb, has been done in the original Mughal style and is signed and dated. Professor V. S. Bhatnagar of the Rajasthan University, Jaipur, has contributed the historical research part.

We are hiring a lawyer to file a case on FACT’s behalf on five counts:

1) Assistant Commissioner of Police K N Murali, took two of the paintings, which showed the destruction of the Somnath temple and threw them on the ground. I hear six more paintings have been damaged and we have no news of the exhibition as it has been sealed. It costs 8 lakhs to do (all original miniature paintings not counting my time).

2) We paid Lalit Kala Academi a lot of money and they cancelled the show.

3) The police took in a police van three innocent ladies to the police station after 6 p.m. which is illegal.

4) The police totally sided with the goons, closeting themselves in the manager’s office for one hour.

5) Mr Murali threatened the ladies repeatedly that they were ‘terrorists.’ 6) Lastly, we will file a case against Lalit Kala Academi for damage to our paintings, infringement upon our freedom of expression and we will demand that they reopen the exhibition in their premises so that the people of Chennai may have the opportunity to make their own judgment about it.

This exhibition is not about raking up the past or “creating communal disharmony,” it is about Indian children, Hindus and Muslims alike knowing their own past and making sure it does not happen again. For Aurangzeb’s shadow and legacy is still very much present in India.

It was there in Kashmir when all the Hindus were forced by terror to leave their homeland; it is there when Indian Muslims help plant bombs in Mumbai trains, Varanasi, or Delhi; it was there in Chennai when a few Muslim rowdies hold at ransom an entire state and its political apparatus. This is why we had that exhibition.

François Gautier is political correspondent in South Asia for ” Le Figaro” for eight years. He is now the editor in chief of Paris-based La Revue de l’Inde (lesbelleslettres.com)