Category Archives: terrorism

Not India’s first woman saint

Francois Gautier, Pioneer

Indian media went into a tizzy while covering the canonisation of Sister Alphonsa, an obscure nun, to prove its secular credentials! Indian journalists forget that this country has had other women saints too.

As a Frenchman, I was coached right from childhood that logic, what we in France call cartesianism, is the greatest gift given to man and that one should use one’s reason to tread in life. Thus, I taught to my students in a Bangalore school of journalism, the SSCMS, that the first tool of a good reporter is to go by his or her own judgement on the ground, with the help of one’s first-hand experience — and not go by second hand information: What your parents thought, what you have read in the newspapers, what your caste, religion, culture pushes you into…

Yet in India, logic does not seem to apply to most of the media, especially when it is anything related to Hindus and Hinduism. One cannot, for instance, equate Muslim terrorists who blow up innocent civilians in market places all over India to angry ordinary Hindus who attack churches without killing anybody. We know that most of these communal incidents often involve persons of the same caste — Dalits and tribals — some of them converted to Christianity and some not.

However reprehensible was the destruction of the Babri Masjid, no Muslim was killed in the process. Compare that with the ‘vengeance’ bombings of 1993 in Mumbai, which killed hundreds of innocent people, mostly Hindus. Yet Indian and Western journalists keep equating the two, or even showing the Babri Masjid destruction as the most horrible act of the two.

How can you compare the Sangh Parivar with the Indian Mujahideen, a deadly terrorist organisation? How can you label Mr Narendra Modi a mass killer when actually it was ordinary middle class, or even Dalit Hindus, who went out into the streets in fury when 56 innocent people, many of them women and children, were burnt in a train?

How can you lobby for the lifting of the ban on SIMI, an organisation which is suspected of having planted bombs in many Indian cities, killing hundreds of innocent people, while advocating a ban on the Bajrang Dal, which attacked some churches after an 84-year-old swami and his followers were brutally murdered?

There is no logic in journalism in this country when it applies itself to minorities. Christians are supposedly only two per cent of the population in India, but look how last Sunday many major television channels showed live the canonisation ceremony of Sister Alphonsa, an obscure nun from Kerala and see how Union Minister Oscar Fernandes led an entire Indian delegation to the Vatican along with the Indian Ambassador. It would be impossible in England, for instance, which may have a two per cent Hindu minority, to have live coverage of a major Hindu ceremony, like the anointment of a new Shankaracharya. What were the 24×7 news channels, which seem to have deliberately chosen to highlight this non-event, trying to prove? That they are secular? Is this secularism?

The headline of the story “India gets its first woman saint”, run by many newspapers, both Indian and Western, is very misleading.

For India has never been short of saints.

The woman sage from over 3,000 years ago, Maithreyi, Andal, the Tamil saint from early in the first Millennium CE and Akkamahadevi, the 15th century saint from modern-day Karnataka, are but a few examples of women saints in India.

What many publications failed to mention in the story is that this is the first woman Christian saint — not the first Indian woman saint.

This statement is ok, when it comes, for instance, from the BBC, which always looks at India through the Christian prism (BBC ran a few months back an untrue and slanderous documentary on Auroville), but when it comes to the Indian media, it only shows the grave lack of grounding in Indian culture and history of most Indian journalists.

As a result, they suffer from an inferiority complex.

This inferiority complex, as expressed by television’s live coverage of the canonisation of Sister Alphonsa, is a legacy of the British, who strove to show themselves as superior and Indian culture as inferior (and inheritor of the ‘White Aryans’, a totally false theory).

Is it not time to institute schools of journalism, both private and public, where not only logic will be taught, but where students shall be made aware of Indian history and of the greatness of Indian culture, so that when they go out to report, they will use their own judgement and become Indian journalists, with a little bit of feeling, pride and love for their own country?

Iraq and Hinduism

March 19, 2003

We see today that the whole world is shying in horror from the war America is planning against Iraq. And indeed the devastating consequences of war on human beings and the environment have been so well documented, that no man or woman, in his or her right mind, would condone it in the 21st century.

There is on top of that in the West, a growing distaste for violence, to which Christianity, which not only emphasises love for the neighbour but also adds a sense of guilt at having committed a sin when you kill someone, has greatly contributed.

In India, Buddhism and Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy, have also given rise to a similar distaste for battle, even if it is done in self-defence. It is not the purpose of this piece to debate the moral wrongs or rightfulness of an eventual war on Iraq, as it has been widely and repeatedly done — and very brilliantly — elsewhere. But rather to look at war from a Hindu point of view, a point of view that has often been the subject of many misunderstandings.

‘Man’s natural tendency,’ writes Sri Aurobindo, India’s great nationalist, yogi and prophet of the New Age, ‘is to worship nature as love and life and beauty and good — and to turn away from her grim mask of death. We adore god as Shiva, but refuse to adore him as Rudra.’

Thus, war has often baffled or even repelled man. We saw how Ashoka turned Buddhist in Kalinga, or how Gandhi refused to help in the war effort against the Nazis and the Japanese, or how today, youngsters all over the world have spontaneously risen in protest against the impending US battle against Iraq.

Five or six thousand years ago, Arjuna faced the same dilemma. Remember how, casting down the divine bow given to him by the gods for that tremendous hour, he says: ‘It is more for my welfare that the sons of Dhritarashtra, armed, should slay me unarmed and unresisting… I-will-not-fight.’

In the words of Sri Aurobindo, Arjuna’s refusal to fight, ‘is the emotional revolt of a man hitherto satisfied with action and its current standards, who finds himself cast by them into a hideous chaos where human beings are in violent conflict with each other and where there is no moral standing ground left, nothing to lay hold of and walk by, no dharma.’

Yet, if we observe man and nature closely, we find — even today — that war and destruction are not only a universal principle of our life here in its purely material aspects, but also of our mental and moral existence. Everything is a struggle in our planet, all plants, animals and human beings have to struggle against each other, right from the moment of birth; even business is a warfare in disguise. It is then evident that the actual life of man can make no real step forward without a struggle between what exists and lives and what seeks to exist.

The Gita, as we have seen, takes for its frame such a period of transition and crisis as humanity periodically experiences in its history, in which great forces clash together for a huge destruction, and reconstruction, intellectual, social, moral, religious and political.

Furthermore, in the words of India’s great avatar: ‘It is an illusion to think that our hands should remain clean and our souls unstained for the law of strife and destruction to die out from the world. On the contrary, abstention from strife and concomitant destruction may help one’s moral being, but leaves the slayer of creatures unabolished.’

We have seen for example how France has still not come to terms with the collaboration of many Frenchmen with the Germans during the Second World War, or how the neutrality of Switzerland is a sham. The prosperity of Switzerland often rests on the ill-gotten gains of dictators, or on the stolen money of Jews murdered by the great asura Hitler.

‘It is only a few religions 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 and to say: “this too is the Mother.” And it is significant that the religion which had this unflinching honesty and tremendous courage, has succeeded in creating a profound and widespread spirituality such as no other can parallel.’

The Gita thus proceeds from the acceptance of the necessity in nature for such vehement crisises and it accepts the moral aspect of the struggle between righteousness and unrighteousness, between the self affirming law of good and the forces that oppose its progression. The Gita, concludes Sri Aurobindo, is therefore addressed to the fighters, the men of action, those whose duty in life is that of war and protection of those who are at the mercy of the strong and the violent and for the maintenance of right and justice in the world.

In this light, the proposed war on Iraq takes another shape: men in their folly, think they are the deciders, the doers, the great arbiters, but who is pulling the strings from behind? Mr Bush and his generals believe they have planned every possibility, plugged every loophole. But there is no way they can control the consequences of the action they are going to undertake.

Who is right and who is wrong in this whole affair? There is no such thing as a good Bush and a bad Saddam and the tendency of the whole Western and Indian intelligentsia to portray America as an evil empire bent on hegemony and Iraq as an innocent, persecuted nation, makes one a little uneasy. After all, has not the United States risen up and paid with its blood every time the free world was in danger and is not Iraq one of the nations which has sponsored international terrorism, particularly against Israel?

Therefore, in the present state of human nature, with its ego, ambition, lack of love and brotherhood, war is still inevitable and we have to accept it. Awaiting better times, the ‘supramental’ which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Pondichery came to usher, we should only remember what Krishna tells Arjuna on the eve of the Kurukshetra battle: ‘You are not killing the soul, but merely the material body: we will all be reborn, again and again, till humanity understands that love — and love only — is the only answer to all our differences.’

Francois Gautier

Import Of Bomb Blasts… – Francois Gautier

Import Of Bomb Blasts… – Francois Gautier

(The author, a French Journalist, correspondent in South Asia of Le Journal de Geneve, and a resident of India for 24 years.)

A while ago, when after centuries of having been at receiving end, a handful of Hindus dared to destroy a mosque, however mistaken this gesture was, they were treated ruthlessly. The whole Indian media and political world went into a frenzy: ‘Nazis, monsters, Hitlers’… ‘The end of secularism, the doom of democracy, the seed of India’s splitting’… ‘Hindu rabid fundamentalists, Hindu this, Hindu that’…

Yet, the Hindu fundamentalists did not kill a single soul. In fact, during its long history, Hinduism has been one of the most peaceful creeds in the world. Never trying to impose itself upon others, accepting the reality of different beliefs, never trying to convert; submitting itself to numerous invasions. But what happened after the Bombay blasts which were coldly and meticulously planned, killing more than 350 innocent souls, in one of the most horrifying terrorist bombing of this century? Not a word about the religion to which belong the perpetrators of this ghastly murders. Mum, silent are our wonderful intellectuals, who not so long ago raved and ranted about the threat of Hindu extremists. Our ‘secular’ politicians have also lost their tongue suddenly, mouthing only cliches about ‘the wonderful communal spirit of Bombay’, or accusing conveniently ‘the Pakitani ISI’.

But it’s not only a conspiracy of silence; it’s an attempt to deceive a whole nation. The facts are, however, clear; the hand seems to be without doubt that of the Bombay underworld, whose majority is Muslim (who will ever explain to me why most of the smugglers in India are Muslims? Is it because their religion teaches them that there is nothing wrong in cheating a government which is non-Muslim, even though it is their own?) But the amount of explosives and the meticulous character of the operation shows another hand behind it.

All right, all right, the Pakistanis are probably the ones; they’re also Muslims and since they lost Bangladesh through (they think) the conniving of India, they are in a hurry to take their revenge; Kashmir and Punjab are part of their plan to get back at India and the financing of the Bombay blasts sounds like something they learnt from their old masters of the CIA.

Why did not the Indian government ask the United States to put pressure on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan to hold the Memon brothers? The USA would have probably complied. It just suffered a similar ghastly bombing and is thus sympathetic to India’s woes, without speaking of the fact that it does not hold Pakistan in the same esteem that Reagan and Bush did. Why did not India immediately and formally ask the Gulf countries to detain the Memon brothers? How scandalous, shameful at best and criminal and highly suspect at worst…..

And indeed, India looks today like a humbled fool. It was kicked nicely in the ‘arse’ and all the world heard was a few worn-out statements about communal harmony and the usual ‘foreign hand’. It is one thing to shoot unarmed kar sevaks in Ayodhya, or mobilise half the country’s police and paramilitary forces to a harm- less meeting called by a democratically elected party. It is one thing to call its own religion, which is one of the greatest, most gentle, most tolerant creeds, the last living spiritualised religion in the world, fundamental and rabid. It is another thing to have the guts to call a spade a spade and stand up to an occult menance to one’s own country: the conscious attempt by universal Muslim fundamentalism to implode India and finish it once for all.

Are Hindus cowards then? Are they forever going to take things lying down? Have centuries of Muslim conquests, rape, looting, forced conversion, razing of thousands of temples, imprinted so much on India’s psyche, that we can only endlessly produce Vijay Amritrajes; talented, nice, but unable to fight, to win, to defeat the opponent?

But India has to stand up now. Its very existence is threatened. There are forces, which are actively working to disintegrate her. The fact that these forces happen to be Muslim – at the moment at least – does not mean that they cannot be fought. Whoever coached India to always appease Muslim whatever wrong they did, however much they demanded, even if it means the breaking up of India? Who instilled this terrible unconscious fear in Indians that Muslims should never be antagonised? Is it because there are 110 millions of them in India? But the Hindu are 500 million, theirs is an ancient culture which has been capable of sustaining numerous invasions, colonisations, blows, pitfalls. Theirs is one of the oldest and most wonderful civilisations of the world.

COME ON INDIA: Don’t listen to your intellectuals and your so-called secular politicians. It you do, they will lead you to doom, hasten the process of breaking up this wonderful country which once stretched from Cape Comorin to the Afghan frontiers. Or else theywil1 make it into a faithful Westernised copy.

COME ON INDIA: Stand up and fight. There is no question of throwing out 110 million Muslims out of your country. They are part of your culture and your soul; they are only another element of the wonderful mosaic of Indian culture; they only have to be told clearly that their first loyalty is to India and then to Islam; and not vice versa. What is needed now is a firm hand, which as a clear vision of India’s inner potential and pat greatness and not coteries of politicians who are more interested in preserving their perks, than protecting their own country against a dangerous, concerted attack.

COME ON INDIA: Stand up now, show the world your inner strength and resolve, use your dharma, draw force from the million of tapasyas performed by your yogis, the courageous hearts of your women and the simple prayers of your people. Come on India, stand up and tell the truth.

(Excerpts- The Ferangi’s Column–Blitz. 10.4.1993)

INDIA AND AMERICA: TWO WAYS OF DEALING WITH TERRORISM

INDIA AND AMERICA: TWO WAYS OF DEALING WITH TERRORISM

Terrorism has been a way of life in India for more than two decades: Indians have been killed in Punjab in the eighties, in Kashmir and the north-east (Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, etc) in the nineties. Entire bus loads of Hindus have been shot in cold blood, trains blown, planes have been hijacked, huge bombings have happened periodically in Bombay (Mumbai), or Coimbatore, in the South. Every time you step out of your house in Delhi, the capital, you never know if you are not going to get blown-up by some bomb. Today, there are 300.000 Hindus who had to flee the valley of Kashmir under terror and have become refugees in their own land, an ethnic cleansing without parallel in the world.

The 11th September 2001 attacks on the WTC were spectacular and tragic and the scars they have left in America’s psyche will take a long time to heal. Yet, they do not compare with India in terms of loss of human life: every day, hundreds of people die on the dangerous and terrible Indian roads; each month, hundreds of innocent human beings are killed in Kashmir, Assam, Tripura, or Jammu; and in Kashmir only, 25.000 people have lost their lives in ten years. It is true that in the East there is a more philosophical acceptance of death, a more fatalistic attitude towards loss of life. But nevertheless, death is death: the loss of a wife, a father, a mother, is as heart-rending to any human being, whether Indian or American, White or Colored. It is also a fact that in the West, there is more a fear of death, maybe because Christians believe that this life if the only one, whereas a Hindu, Jain, or a Buddhist thinks that only the body dies, the soul is immortal and free and is reborn again and again, till union with God is achieved.

These two attitudes towards death are reflected in the ways both India and America deal with terrorism. In India, people know that it may be written that you have to die at this very moment – and no amount of precautions can prevent it. Whereas, in the United States, it is believed that one can ward off death by taking all possible precautions. Indeed, one sometimes feel, although it is in done in good faith, that the American Government has overreacted to the 11th September tragedy. The Western mind likes to think that it can plan everything, forecast everything – but Fate is unpredictable, Death always comes unannounced. Does the US Govt think that the terrorists are again going to use the same tactics than on 11th September? They are not that stupid! You cannot stop a resolute terrorist, as Palestine suicide bombers are showing in Israel. What if Al Qaeda decides to use human bombs in the States? Anybody can walk into an airport in the US and the havoc would be terrible.

In fact, the impression one gets while traveling in the US is that the American Government may be in the process of stifling some very necessary space of freedom in the US collective consciousness, as there are now video cameras everywhere: at airports, in the streets, at traffic lights, in shopping malls… More and more, everything is known about you through computerization and there is actually a very thin line, which is in danger of being crossed, between prudence and fear: “you may go to jail for something you say as a joke”, we once heard on the Atlanta airport PA system. Security in airports has gone to ridiculous lengths and it is putting a psychological strain on passengers, in addition to a huge economic strain on airlines, as the bankruptcy of US Air and the seething troubles of two other airlines are showing. Ultimately the American govt, by reacting excessively, is playing in the hands of the Islamic terrorists: if passengers fly less – and they are bound to do so, as it is such a hassle to travel by air now – and airlines go bankrupt, the terrorists must be laughing all the way to heaven! It is also true that airlines are using the security threat to be callous in the handling of their passengers, as we learnt, care of American Airlines India, who refused even to give us a claim form, after they lost all our three baggage in Boston.

Indian Airlines and Air India have faced more attacks, hijackings and casualties than US air companies, yet their security, however tough, do not compare with the US in terms of the stress it puts on passengers. What the US can learn from India is to have a little more philosophical attitude, while taking all necessary safety measures. India is a vast land of diverse ethnic groups, various religions, with different aspirations – and that sometimes trigger violent separatist movements. Yet for fifty five years of India’s independence, life has unfolded normally here: people go on with their businesses and bureaucrats run the country, regardless of political upheavals. More than that, even the Indian psyche has remained unchanged: peaceful, fatalistic, and tolerant of others, in spite of a few recent aberrations. There is also such a thing as karma. You can call it Fate, or Destiny, but basically, Hindus believe that an individual, or a nation, creates his or her own karma by his or her actions, good or bad. And that sooner or later, you repay this karma by benefiting from favorable circumstances, if you have done good; or by some unhappy situations, if you have done bad. What is the karma of the United States? It is a question that only it can answer.

America is still the major superpower in the world, a power which has always shown that it rises-up on exceptional occasions, whether during the Second World War, when it helped humanity to get rid of the terrible menace of nazism, or today in this very important war against terrorism. But first the battle lines have to be clearly drawn and friends and enemies have to recognize each other. Therefore the US has to realize that it cannot find a better friend in Asia than India. Not only Indians are intensely pro-American, not only India is a democracy, whereas China, Pakistan, or Singapore are not, but also India, which has been a victim of terrorism for so long, could help the US on how to deal with terrorism, both in a military speaking manner, as well as in a psychological way.

François Gautier

WTC Attacks : The Double Standards Of Western Journalism

WTC Attacks : The Double Standards Of Western Journalism

However dramatic, however enormous, however spectacular, however deadly in terms of human lives, these attacks on the United States were, it should not be forgotten that India has been the target of Islamic terrorism for years, with the world not only taking no notice, but the United States also turning a blind eye to the perpetrators of these barbarous acts.

The Western press has, for instance, devoted pages and pages to the “saffronisation” of India’s education, when it is entirely justified for a country to teach its children about the greatness of its ancient civilisation; but when Islamic groups in Kashmir throw acid on women to force them to wear the burqua, it is reported in most of foreign newspapers in a few lines, without any of the outrage shown against Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, who has not thrown any acid on women, nor killed anybody. The Press has shown the same partiality during the recent conference on Racism in South Africa. This whole exercise was a sham and a shame, concentrating on Zionism as the worst form of racism, whereas, like India, Israel is fighting a life and death battle against Muslim fundamentalism; or on the issue of the persecution of Dalits in India, forgetting that India is one of the only countries in the world to have initiated a reservation policy for its underprivileged (does the US have a reservation policy for its poor Negroes?), that India’s President is a Dalit, which shows that here, someone born in a low caste can rise to the highest post, while in France for instance, a Jew will find it very difficult to become President, or that Krishna, India’s most beloved God was from a low caste, as are many Indian saints and sages.

These attacks are indeed terrible and we mourn the loss of human lives. But maybe they were necessary to wake-up the West to the reality of Islamic terrorism (let us also not forget that the United States literally created the Taliban, by arming, training and unleashing Pakistani fundamentalism against the Soviets in Afghanistan). India has been fighting (with Russia and Israel) a very lonely battle against Muslim fundamentalism, which is a real threat to a free and democratic world. Hindus are not only hounded and killed in Kashmir, but also all over India in bomb attacks, be it in Kerala or in Delhi. Hindus are persecuted in Pakistan, in Bangladesh, in Afghanistan, in Fiji, all this not only in the midst of total indifference from the world community and the western Press, which only harps on Ayodhya – where no Muslim was killed, whereas the Islamic world enacted a terrible revenge by planting bombs in the heart of Bombay – and highlights “atrocities” against Christians and Muslims. It is time now that the West, particularly the United Sates, understands that India is a bastion of pro-Western democracy in the midst of an Asia in the throes of a growing Islamic fundamentalism, from Kabul to Srinagar, from Karachi to Indonesia, from Chechnya to Sin-Kiang.

Once again, these terrorist attacks are terrible, but not only will they serve awake the West to the reality of Islamic terrorism, to which they have turned so often a blind eye (remember how an Egyptian pilot “suicided” his whole Egyptian Airlines 767 last year and how it was hushed for fear of “offending” America’s Arab allies), but it is also a blessing in disguise for India. The Indian Government can now take strong measures against Islamic fundamentalism on its soil and it will have the support of the whole western community. Pakistan will also be seen in its true light, as a supporter of international terrorism, and the only country on the world, with Saudi Arabia, which supports Afghanistan and Bin Laden.

Finally, Samuel Huntington was right: in his book “The Clash of civilisations”, he had predicted that the 21st century would see a battle between Islamic fundamentalism, with the sometimes covert support of China (as witnessed in Pakistan, who got its nuclear Bomb thanks to Chinese technology), on one side, and the West and India on the other side. What happened on the 12th of September 2001 is going to dramatically alter the political outlook of the West towards Islamic fundamentalism in general and towards India, in particular. Israel is going to come out of its political isolation (in greater part fostered by the medias, such as the BBC, which portray the Palestinians as freedom fighters, in the same way that they paint the Chechnyans or Kashmris as heroes) and the Israelis as the bad guys. Even China is going to lose some of its lustre, as India is going to slowly become the West’s privileged ally in Asia.

Francois Gautier

PS The author is a French journalist and writer, who was for eight years political correspondent in India and South Asia for Le Figaro “, France’s right wing paper and now writes for “Ouest-France, France’s largest circulation newspaper. François Gautier has published several books: Un autre Regard sur l’Inde” (Editions du Tricorne), for which he appeared last year on “Bouillon de Culture”, France’s most popular TV literary programme and which has been reprinted twice since. He has published in English “Rewriting Indian History (Vikas), and “Arise O India” (Har Anand) 1999 (three reprints). He is married to an Indian from Delhi and has lived in India for the past 31 years