Tag Archives: controversy

THE Hindutva, Sex and Adventures (continuing) CONTROVERSY

The controversy over who wrote Hindutva, Sex and Adventures(Roly Books, New Delhi): Mark Tully, or myself, continues unabated. Critics keep on implying I wrote the book – and Mark Tully did not. Yet, as I have already said, I am a much more ardent – and militant – defender of Hindus than Mark Tully ever was and will ever be. The brand of Hindutva proposed in Hindutva, Sex and Adventures reads rather mild to me. In reality, I think that not only Dharma, the Truth that is behind Hinduism, is the very foundation of Indian civilization, but that if it dies, as it is attacked today from all sides: by Christian conversions, islamization, marxism, westernization & minorytism, it would be a catastrophe for the whole world.

If you read between the lines of most of Mark Tully’s books, you will see that he says – albeit in a diluted manner – that: a) secularism is a colonial left over; b) Hinduism constitutes the genius and the base of Indian civilisation. There is no doubt that Sir Tully is a well liked personality. But Mark was never too bold in his moral stands: see how he is now saying that Hindutva, Sex and Adventures is affecting his reputation. Why should he be ashamed of being a defender of the Hindus? I am not. In fact, I find his establishing a dialogue in the book between Imla, the Indian journalist, who is a diehard secularist (as most Indian journalists are) and Andrew, who gradually realizes that Hindus are a very wonderful – but persecuted people, is a brilliant ploy. It is a pity that every single critic has demolished the Hindutva part of the book, without even bothering to analyse the very important points Tully raises on Kashmir, Ayodhya, Sonia Gandhi, or Islamic terrorism.

Mark Tully may also have wanted to atone for his coverage of South Asia. I remember when we were both reporting on the Valley of Kashmir in the early nineties, that he would always highlight human right abuses on Muslims by the army, but hardly ever spoke about the 400.000 Kashmiri Hindus who were chased out of their ancestral homeland by threats, violence, rapes, torture and murder – and today have become refugees in their own countries. Mark Tully is known for his ‘fair’ reporting, but actually, he and the BBC coined phrases and set standards in reporting on South Asia, which still stand today and harm India’s image. Many of us know that since the mid-eighties Pakistan encouraged, financed, trained and armed Kashmiri separatism. But Mark always made it a point to say: “India accuses Pakistan to foster separatism in Kashmir”; or :”elections are being held in Indian- held Kashmir”; or “Kashmir militants ” have attacked an army post, instead of “terrorists”. All the other foreign journalists, yesterday and today, (except myself and maybe Tiziano Terzani) have followed the BBC’s benchmarks.

 This near colonial attitude towards India has even influenced today’s politicians in the West. For instance, Obama’s present foreign policy of thinking he can fight terror by making a frontline state of the very country which fosters 3/4th of the terror attacks in the world, and of putting the screws on India so that it negotiates with Pakistan, even at the cost of compromising on its sovereignty in Kashmir, is a direct offshoot of the BBC’s reporting in South Asia for 25 years. We also can read between the lines and know that Mr Obama is pressuring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give-up India’s military nuclear programme, leaving her at the mercy of not only Pakistan’s , but also China’s formidable nuclear arsenal.

The irony is that the Indian Government seems to be enamoured of Mark Tully. But if you observe carefully, he was a strong detractor of Indira Gandhi, particularly on Blue Star and during the anti-Sikh riots. Though he praised Rajiv Gandhi in his beginnings, he became a critic of his style of functioning in the later years, specially after the IPKF fiasco. And he has been saying “that the moribund and leaderless Congress party has lashed onto Sonia Gandhi, who is Italian by birth and Roman Catholic by baptism”. (‘Nehru Dynasty’ for the BBC).

The below extract of Hindutva, Sex and Adventures seems to reinforce that statement.

EXTRACT “HINDUTVA SEX AND ADVENTURES”: SONIA GANDHI

 – I am coming to Delhi to cover Sonia Gandhi’s election as President of the Congress party, Imla said. They met at the Taj Mansingh for a cup of tea before walking to 1 Akbar Road, the Congress headquarters. Andrew could see that she was getting more and more snappy and she was actually looking for subjects about which she could disagree with him, sometimes violently, for she definitely possessed a very bad temper.

 They had such a fight about Sonia Gandhi. Andrew had found Sonia Gandhi quite likable when she was just Rajiv Gandhi’s (the pilot) spouse, a loving wife, who had adopted the Indian way of life; a good daughter in law: Indira Gandhi died on her lap on the way to the hospital, after being shot by her Sikh bodyguards; and more than everything, a good mother, who doted on her children and tried all her life to protect them. Andrew suspected she had kept her Italian passport, even after taking the Indian nationality (India does not allow you to hold two passports), but he had met quite a few foreigners in Delhi who also retained their origin passports after having obtained the Indian one. He had toyed himself for some time with the idea of taking the Indian nationality, now that he spoke Hindi quite fluently, but it was too difficult to travel with an Indian passport. He did not mind also her remaining a Christian: after all, he was still one himself. Indeed, one of his Italian journalists friends had prayed with her, along with Rajiv Gandhi, at a mass in Calicut with the bishop officiating – that was her private business. But after her husband was blown to pieces by the LTTE, he observed a drastic change in her: she did not seem to trust anybody anymore, became aloof and suspicious. He watched with dismay how the Congress leaders, some of them men and women of substance, whom he knew personally, applied pressure on her to enter politics for years. He had learnt also, through some well placed friends, that gradually, via the Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi foundations, she started controlling huge amounts of money. He knew also that in India money means political power, as a party needs hundreds of crores of rupees to win a general election. Thus, he thought that in her fortress of Janpath, surrounded twenty-four hours by security, she gradually lost touch with the reality of India.

Andrew, who had met her a few times after Rajiv’s death, thus took discreetly his distances with her, though in typical British fair play, he never made any comments publicly.

 When they reached the Congress headquarters amidst unprecedented security, which Andrew thought was unwarranted, considering there had never been any threats on Sonia Gandhi’s life, there must have been at least a hundred other foreign correspondents awaiting the crowning of Mrs Gandhi. As usual, Sonia made them wait (once when Andrew was covering Sonia’s campaigning in Hospet, Karnataka, she was late by eight hours). She lived literally next door in Janpath, but she finally arrived in a caravan of vehicles, with dozens of security guards running around her car, as if she was the American president. When she got out, most Congressmen bowed down in front of her, while some even touched her feet. Andrew was shocked: he felt that it was debasing for Indians, people of talent and culture to scrape down in front of someone who in the West would be an average person. But most of his colleagues did not seem to find anything wrong in it. As for Imla, she was smiling. Sonia’s election as Congress President was a foregone conclusion, nobody really opposing her. It’s like the crowning of an empress, thought Andrew.

When they were walking back, he had an argument with Imla:

– It would be impossible for a non-Christian, non-English, non-White Hindu woman, to become the supreme ruler behind the scenes in England, he said. Don’t you find this a little humiliating?

– Not at all. It’s because you don’t understand us, she retorted, we accept the others, not like you Britishers.

He tried to remain cool:

 – But this goes to extremes, Imla: there are a billion Indians, many talented; can’t you find one of your own to lead this country ?

 This time she was getting angry:

 – She is one of our own, ok? She has an Indian passport, she wears a sari, she speaks Hindi and she has India at heart. Not like some of your Hindutva fanatics, she threw at him.

 – You know I am not Hindutva, he replied, hurt

 – Oh yes, you are… Your sympathy goes to them now. That’s why you hate Sonia Gandhi.

– But I don’t hate her my dear, I just think that she wields too much power, being just an elected MP like hundreds of others…

But Imla had already stormed away and hailed a rickshaw to go back to her aunt….

The lives of Sri Aurobindo

François Gautier

Source: Express buzz

First Published : 27 Feb 2009 03:52:00 AM IST

There is no greater mystery than the Divine incarnating Itself upon earth, what in India is called the Avatar or the Guru concept. It is also a story of Ultimate Sacrifice: Jesus Christ was crucified physically, but every guru is crucified by his or her disciples, even if he or she does not end on a cross. It is the mysterious alchemy of how the All-Perfect, the All-Powerful, agrees to don a human body, along with not only the suffering that goes with it, but also the imperfections a human life is endowed with, which makes it so powerful. Peter Heehs, an American historian, who lives in the Sri Aurobindo ashram, Puducherry, has attempted to recount the life of 20th century’s greatest avatar, in The Lives of Sri Aurobindo (Columbia University Press, May 2008). It created a furore even before it was released in India, as extracts were circulated on the Net. This led to a lot of unpleasantness for Heehs.

Someone slapped a case against him in Orissa, stopping the book from being published in India. He was asked to leave the archives of the Sri Aurobindo ashram, where he worked for two decades; and it is rumoured that he was even assaulted by a student of the Sri Aurobindo school. All biographies of gurus and saints face a painful choice: should they paint over human blemishes and glorify them, as it helps the devotees better focus on the divine? Or should they give the entire picture of a journey from the human to the perfect? Most religious texts and scriptures have chosen the first option. But Peter Heehs went for the second one — and we are grateful for that. For his work will be regarded by future generations as the absolute biography of Sri Aurobindo, avatar extraordinary, poet, revolutionary, philosopher and yogi. Not only is the book remarkably well researched but, as the title indicates, he has really covered all aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s life. When an Avatar or a Master comes upon earth, he or she delivers a teaching adapted to the times, the language and the mentality of the period, for they always live in the present moment. But when the Master goes — and sometimes even during his or her lifetime — the disciples start the process of making a religion out of their teaching and make him or her in their own little image. Thus many of the sadhaks of the Mother have swept under the carpet Sri Aurobindo’s revolutionary years, which are very important, as he is the true father of the Indian nation, being the first to openly ask for outright independence.

Most of today’s disciples in the ashram or Auroville do not know, for instance, that Sri Aurobindo allowed his brother Barin to manufacture bombs in his own house and secretly endorsed early assassinations of select Britons, thereby re-enacting 5,000 years later Krishna’s message to Arjuna. But how does that tally with ideas about spirituality, which we basically associate with non-violence? This aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s life, protecting dharma, standing for what is good and true and noble, by force, if necessary, is today ignored and not applied to the enemies of modern India. It is difficult to write about something close to us, as one often tries to make a distance by being too critical. It is thus true that Heehs is harsh in some of his assessments — but not where he has been pilloried by disciples of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Like most Western Indologists, for instance, he has a deep suspicion of Hinduism. He therefore glosses over the famous Uttarpara speech, where Sri Aurobindo clearly defines what he calls the Sanatana Dharma, as the spirituality which is contained in the Hindu religion: “That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others”.

But Peter only mentions that “left wing critics use the Uttarpara speech as a proof that Sri Aurobindo’s nationalism was Hindu to the core; and right-wing enthusiasts regard the speech as an expression of the imperishable Indian spirit” (p.187). Heehs also passes some judgments on Sri Aurobindo, which are at best puerile: he calls him “intransigent”, which tended “to limit his effectiveness” (p.212); he also finds “his poetry and prose outdated” (p.414). But Savitri, Sri Aurobindo’s Magnum Opus, will be read hundreds of years from now, and compared to the Iliad and the Odyssey, with the prophetic and supramental element added. This stated, I have to say that reading this book has been one of the most uplifting literary experiences: it has refreshed and upgraded my relationship with Sri Aurobindo. I have understood better the extraordinary mystery of avatarhood and the terrible sacrifice made by all great gurus of all religions.

The rhythms of that book accompanied me in my sleep, primed my mornings and touched my heart to the deepest. Thank you, Peter Heehs. I hope some sensible judge will quickly lift the ban and that all your detractors will have the courage to read this remarkable biography and change their opinions.