Tag Archives: FACT India

Francois Gautier: Custodian of India’s Historical Heritage

Houston Web

HOUSTON: Eminent journalist and author Francois Gautier is passionate about India. His love affair with that country began in the ‘70s, when as a young student, he left his native France and meandered across Europe and arrived in India. So captivated was he by India’s arresting liveliness and the warmth and kindness of the people, that years later in the early ‘80s he returned to India and made it his home. During the last three decades, he has been a high-profile ambassador to India through the power of his pen.

“It is a wonderful privilege to be born Indian,” said Gautier to a multigenerational gathering at the Arya Samaj of Greater Houston on August 10. “I’m a westerner but I feel it is a privilege to live in India.”

The renowned writer is currently visiting several cities within the US to raise funds through his visionary foundation FACT – India for the creation of an Indian history museum in Pune, in the state of Maharashtra in India. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History, named for the Indian military leader Shivaji (1627 – 1680), will cost an estimated US$40 million. Gautier is eager to begin work as soon as he returns to India and is confident that this fundraising tour will bring in the much-needed initial $100, 000 to jumpstart the project. A wall within the museum will bear the names of donors supporting the museum project. The museum will be built on land donated by a private trust. Gautier believes that with the help of commissioned historians hired by the museum, visitors will be privy to accurate chronicles of India’s great history. For Gautier, the epiphany came upon him when he started research on a book he was writing. He found that history books carried outdated theories such as the Aryan invasion that have since found to be fictional.

Earlier in the day, he chatted informally with Indo American News sharing his thoughts and vision for the museum.

“India has been largely maligned by distorted information and misrepresentation. No records or schoolbooks have a correct account of the Hindu Kush genocide, where millions were slaughtered. Exactly how many were killed isn’t known but that was India’s holocaust. Yet everyone knows about the Jewish Holocaust,” said Gautier. “India’s history, falsely propagated by the British, Christian missionaries, and western media, has made me realize that we need to show Hindu civilization in its correct and true context. For the sake of our children and the generations to come, and the world!”

The first exhibit to be set up will honor the life and times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. India’s rich cultural heritage will be portrayed through the Vedas. The museum will document and exhibit the various invasions from Alexander the Great to the Arabs, the Goa Inquisition, the ongoing massacre of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus by Muslim terrorists, the persecution of the Syrian Christians, Buddhism’s rise and decline, India past and current. Highlighted too, will be India’s glorious contribution of yoga and Ayurveda to the world community.

“The museum will be there for our children, for them to know that regardless of the fact that the British broke the backbone of our agricultural system and caused the deaths of millions of Indians from famine, and despite the Muslim onslaught, India prevailed and remains prosperous,” added Gautier, a practicing Hindu who was spiritually influenced by the writings of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950). He has since joined forces with spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who supports him in his quest for the truth about India’s past. Gautier estimated that it would take several years till completion of the museum.

“I’m thinking about 10 to 15 years. Once people realize how important this project is, and how essential, the funds will pour in,” confided Gautier. Speaking softly in a lilting Indo-French accent, his messages however were undoubtedly strong as he condemned the slaughter and maniacal “ethnic cleansing” of Hindus in the Kashmir valley by the Muslims, an area Gautier covered as a political journalist from 1987 to the late ‘90s.

“There were over a million Hindus living peacefully in Kashmir. Today there are a mere hundreds. The Kashmiri Pandits moved me with their despair, but nobody else seemed to give a damn. Indian media abroad and in India were only covering the Muslim angle,” said Gautier.

Through FACT – India, an organization he founded in 2003 to draw attention to human rights abuses in South Asia, Gautier documented the genocide in Kashmir in a video called Terror Unleashed – An Exhibition on Kashmir, and presented it to the US Congress in the desperate hope that Washington would intervene and help resolve the issue.

“Several House Representatives saw it and lauded the video but nothing was really done about it,” said Gautier. “US presidents think that by pouring money into Pakistan, it will curb terrorism. That won’t work.”

Gautier said that the dissent among Hindu community leaders has led to disunity.

“If there’s fighting among ourselves, how do we present a united front to the world? After all this time that Indians have been in the US and enjoy great prosperity, they still do not have a voice that is heard. Yet other communities work together and in that unity, they find a voice. Indian organizations need to share a common agenda and work towards that.”

He confided that it is “tragic” that the children of Indian immigrants adopt the American way of life and are lost to India.

“They’re hostile to spirituality. And it’s mostly the fault of the parents who either don’t care, or don’t instill cultural pride in their children. Families are fragmented, values lost. Instead of pushing children to visit the temple, engage them in other spiritual activities like the classical arts and yoga. It will bring them closer to their cultural roots,” said Gautier. “It’s such a pity that India is so poor at sports, as that could have helped make them proud of India.”

At a private meeting with local youth at the Arya Samaj, Gautier urged young people to be proud of their cultural heritage. “It is a privilege and a responsibility to have Indian roots and there is no contradiction here – you hail from the lineage of the Vedas. People are moving forward and coming to Hinduism for spiritual answers,” said Gautier.

By Kalyani Giri, www.indoamerican-news.com

It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu: Francois Gautier

_Gauiteweb_912441932NEW YORK: Noted French journalist and writer Francois Gautier who has made India his home and propagation of Hinduism his cause and mission for over three decades, is currently traveling across the US to raise funds through his foundation, FACT – India, for the setting up of an Indian history museum in Pune, India.

Gautier, perhaps one of the very few Westerners to have unconditionally adopted a Hindu way of life, feels the widely prevalent distorted image of Indian history as propagated by the British, Christian missionaries, communists and the western world in general for over two centuries, has necessitated the museum to portray Hindu civilization in the right light.

In an interview with India Post during his visit to New York last week, Gautier spoke about his ambitious museum project, the many threats to Hinduism in today’s world and how Hindus can gain the respect of the world.

IP: Can you tell us about the Museum of Indian History?

Gautier: I have been donated some land in Pune by a private trust where I want to build the museum to be called the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History.

I see in India there are no museums of Indian history worth the name. So the idea is to start from the Vedas, go on to talk about the greatness of the whole of India and the entire drama of the invasions through history, the Hindu holocaust, and then portray India of today and tomorrow.

IP: What kind of funds do you need and how long will it take to complete the museum?

Gautier: It’s a huge project but definitely it will happen. It’s about $40m dollars, and I don’t know how long it will take — perhaps 10-20 years, because I don’t have the money right away. But I am ready to start, once I start, the donations will come and people will understand the importance of this museum.

IP: Why is it important to have such a museum?

Gautier: As a journalist and writer, when I started documenting for my book, I realized that most history books on India are based upon very old theories considered defunct or debatable such as the Aryan invasion theory, which evidence shows has never taken place.

Both British historians and later Nehruvian historians have toned down the considerable impact on Indian culture of the invasions starting from Alexander the Great to the Arabs, the Muslim invaders and the British — that entire part of the history has been swept under the carpet. And even later, the history of India’s Independence is very unfairly portrayed.

The need of the museum is very important so we can look at India’s history in a very scientific manner, which is what my organization FACT India is doing.

IP: Will the museum focus only on the Hindu history of India?

Gautier: The museum will also broach upon many of India’s dark periods in its history like the inquisition in Goa by the Portuguese, the Sufi persecution, the Ahmedi Muslim persecution in Bangladesh, how the Buddhist history was wiped out and how some of the early Syrian Christians of Kerala were persecuted. And of course the Hindu holocaust right from Hindu Kush (massacre of Hindus) to the current terrorist activities against them.

I want school children to come to the museum and learn of their own culture and be proud. Kids in Indian schools are learning about Shakespeare and Milton, not about their Hindu or Indian culture. In my country we are taught about great French people like our poets, social reformers, artists etc… so I grew up proud of my culture, but Indian kids do not grow up learning about or feeling proud of their culture.

IP: Do you see any kind of opposition to your project from either the government or any section of the Indian society?

Gautier: Of course there’s bound to be some opposition, you can’t make everybody happy. But one has to go by the truth. Whatever one’s limitations, if backed by truth, even if it is opposed, there will be some kind of direction and protection.

In fact, there are three reasons for setting up the museum in Pune: One– of course the land donated is in Pune; second– since I work in Pune, I found that people of Pune, irrespective of their political affiliations, are quite nationalistic in nature. I feel my museum will be more protected in Pune than anywhere else in India; thirdly– Pune is Shivaji’s birth place. There is no museum of Shivaji anywhere in Maharashtra though he is a true hero. So naming it after Shivaji will be a protection for this museum.

IP: Over the many years of your career, how successful have you been in changing western perceptions of Hinduism?

Gautier: It’s a very difficult task, because unfortunately the image of Hinduism is not that good. But, there is more ignorance than hostility. Westerners do not know that it is a monotheistic religion. Secondly, Hindus, especially Brahmins have been at the receiving end of many like the British, the missionaries, the Islamic invaders all of who created a very negative image of Hinduism — particularly the missionaries emphasized only the negative sides of Hinduism and amplified them a thousand times. Today we still find that even after 200 years, these negative images have survived even in the minds of Hindus in India.

Unfortunately it is a great handicap for journalists like me who like Hinduism and want to defend it. I can’t say I have been very successful, but at least now westerners are open to going to India and understanding Hindus.

There are so many good things to be said for Hinduism, but unfortunately there is no will among Hindus to try to explain to westerners. Hindus are just content to come to the West and melt into local cultures or at best keep their spirituality and religion to themselves.

IP: What do you think of the role of the Indian intellectual elite and media in projecting the image of Hindus?

Gautier: The British have left such a mark on the minds of much of Indian intelligentsia and elite, right from the erstwhile Maharajas who have copied the British way of life that it has left a deep impression on generations after that. Today Indians think that everything that comes from the West is good. It’s very stupid, because many things in the West have failed like family values etc.

This generation of Indian intelligentsia is aping Marxism so brilliantly, which is dead even in Russia, and is probably only left in Cuba, but I don’t see why Indians should copy Cuba (laughs).

Look at the Chinese, they are so proud of their culture; nobody dares to fiddle with them, even America will not dare to interfere with their affairs.

IP: Many Hindus fear the very survival of Hinduism in the face of Islamic fundamentalism. How real are their fears?

Gautier: The fear is very real. I see there are five or six enemies that may be covertly or overtly attacking Hinduism. In the past there was any one threat at a time like the Greek, British or Muslim invasions. But today, there are the threats of Muslim fundamentalism, Christian conversions, Marxist onslaught, Westernization and so on which are eroding the Indian culture all at the same time. However, there are many great gurus today like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and others who are repackaging the Hindu tenets like spirituality. pranayama, yoga, ayurveda etc for everyone’s easy consumption while not associating them with Hinduism. Though I do not agree with that, it’s an important movement today and helping to preserve that culture.

It’s true that Hinduism is under attack and it looks frightening at times. That’s why the museum is so important.

IP: Have you ever felt conflicted about the culture you were born into and the one you adopted?

Gautier: Personally I have never felt conflicted, but people of my country often do not understand why I defend the Hindus– that has been a bit of a problem. Though my country is sympathetic to India, when you touch the intellectual layer – people who are fed on the Nehruvian history and the downgrading of Hindu culture, I have come into conflict sometimes with these people. But for me living in India is a protection; people often appreciate the work I do. Some of my friends do not understand why I poke the dangerous Islamic fundamentalism by defending Hindus. I started speaking about it (Islamic fundamentalism) 20-25 years ago when it was not at all politically correct to speak about it. Even those friends who like me sometimes do not really understand me. I have faced a lot of hostility also.

IP: What can Hindus living in America do to preserve their culture?

Gautier: For Hindus living in the US, whether fist or second generation, it is important that they carry their Hinduness. It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu, because you inherit the knowledge which is very ancient and very practical. Also the many Hindu groups which are scattered should unite to become a lobby like the Jews. They should teach their children to be proud of being Hindu while being faithful to their Americanness. They should create a lobby in the US to be able to influence South Asia policy at the administration level and see that it does not cap India’s nuclear policy.

IP: Is there something that really frustrates you?

Gautier: Hindus don’t think big. Most Hindu movements in the US have mostly people without a vision, they don’t unite; it’s very frustrating. When I last visited the US in 2002, the Hindu community was more vibrant, today I find many of the Hindu leaders of that time burnt out or taken a back seat or gone back into mainstream life; that is saddening. If only Hindus knew their own power — there are one billion in the world — Islam is conscious of its might and its numbers; Christianity though on the decline, is conscious of its greatness in terms of technology and power. Hindus, who are not all that small in number, have to use more muscle. Meekness and submissiveness will not take them far, they have to show muscle power. That’s the way to get respect in the world.

By SRIREKHA  N. CHAKRAVARTY, India Post News Service

URL: http://www.indiapost.com/us-news/5138-special-privilege-born-Hindu-Francois-Gautier.html

Years of violence

Author: Francois Gautier

Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 6, 2003Do you know the real history of Kashmir? There is a great deal of misconception among the people about the State: That Kashmir did not always belong to India, or that it is a “disputed area”. This is why we recently at FACT (Forum Against Continuing Terrorism) chose to hold an exhibition at the India Habitat Centre, which was a great success. Here are some of the facts we highlighted through the photographic exhibition.For two thousand years, the Himalayan Valley of Kashmir in Northern India has been the home of learning and wisdom. From this small Valley have emanated masterpieces of history, poetry, romance, fable, and philosophy. Many of the greatest Sanskrit scholars and poets were born and wrote in the Valley. Kashmir flourished under some of India’s greatest rulers such as the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, who reigned between 273 and 233 BC, and is recorded to have founded the old city of Srinagar. It was under his sovereignty that many Buddhist scholars, missionaries, and intellectuals permanently settled in the Valley. Then there was the great Hindu King Harshavardhan (1089 to 1101 AD) who was versed in many languages, was a good poet himself, a lover of music and the arts. He had made his court a centre of luxury, learning and splendour.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of 14th century, a ferocious Mongol warlord, Dulucha, invaded the Valley from its northern side, Zojila Pass, with an army of 60,000 men. His savage attack ended for all purposes the Hindu rule in Kashmir, and Dulucha is said to have destroyed many temples and killed thousands of Hindus. Muslim rule was further tightened in 1389, during the rule of Sultan Sikandar. He banned all celebrations and would not even listen to music. He imposed jizia (tax on infidels) upon Hindus and stopped them from using tilak on their foreheads. Almost all the Muslim chroniclers of that time speak of wholesale destruction of Hindu shrines, including the famed Martand Temple, and forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam. Thousands of Hindus fled southwards to the plains of India to save their religion and holy books, and also to escape the wrath of the Sultan.

Then, after a period of relative tolerance and peace, came the rule of Afghans warlords till 1819 – roughly, a period of 67 years. The very first Afghan governor Abdullah Khan Aquasi, immediately after assuming powers, began his reign of terror. People were looted and killed indiscriminately, and even soldiers began to amass wealth beyond imagination. Fortunately, in 1819, 30,000 soldiers of Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh attacked Kashmir, defeated the Pathans, and Kashmir became a part of Ranjit Singh’s empire for nearly 40 years, providing some relief to Hindus in the process. However, the British defeated the Sikhs and became the undisputed masters of India. Not interested in Kashmir, they sold it in perpetuity for Rs 75 lakh (approximately $150,000) to Maharaja Gulab Singh of the Dogra dynasty. (What wonderful merchants, the British, who sell something which does not even belong to them!)

By treaty, conquest, or inter-marriages, the Dogras created a state comprising five major units, which are fundamentally very different from each other in terms of geography and ethnicity and have further complicated the problems of Kashmir: The territory around Gilgit (today in Pakistan), which belongs basically to Central Asia; Ladakh, which is an extension of Tibet and is peopled at 55 per cent by the Buddhists and 45 per cent by Muslims; the area around Muzaffarabad, which is today in Pakistan’s control, comprises mostly Punjabi Muslims; Jammu, which in essence belongs to Himachal Pradesh and is Hindu in majority; and the Valley of Kashmir, of course, which was Indian Muslim at 95 per cent in 1947.

India gained its independence in 1947 but was disastrously divided by the British, against the advice of saints and seers such as Sri Aurobindo, along religious lines into India and Pakistan. Although many Muslims chose to stay back in India, knowing they would be granted the freedom of practicing their own religion, most Hindus had to flee Pakistan as they were being slaughtered mercilessly. Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir decided to attach his state to free and secular India. Furious, the Pakistan Government invaded Kashmir, and encouraged the Muslim tribal people to carry loot, plunder, death and destruction into the hearths and homes of innocent Kashmiris in general and among Hindus in particular.

Since 1947, Pakistan, aided by China, which also claims parts of Indian territory (well, Mr Vajpayee, you got led up the garden path by the Chinese, like other prime ministers before you!), has initiated three wars to regain Indian Kashmir, and four if you include the Kargil war fought in the icy reaches of upper Kashmir. Worse, the proxy war which Pakistan is today waging on India by arming, training and financing not only Kashmiri separatists, but also Islamic militants from Afghanistan, or even faraway Sudan, has taken the lives of nearly 60,000 innocent people, both Hindus and Muslims.

It should be added that Pakistan decided in the late 1980s that it would be easier to regain Kashmir if all its Hindus were pushed out by a campaign of terror, both in the Valley, where they are a tiny minority and in Jammu where they still have a thin majority. Thus 450,000 Kashmiri Pandits, constituting 99 per cent of the total population of Hindus living in the Kashmir Valley, have been forcibly pushed out of their homes by terrorists. Since 1989, they have been forced to live like exiles in their own country.

People should also be reminded that terrorism in Kashmir is not about separatism alone; it is also an ideological struggle with specific fundamentalist and communal agenda. Terrorist violence aims at the disengagement of the State of Jammu & Kashmir from India and its annexation to Pakistan. It is a continuation of the Islamic fundamentalist struggle.

Finally, I would like to thank all those who contributed to FACT and helped make the exhibition on Kashmiri Pandits at the India Habitat Centre a success. We are pursuing our efforts further. The exhibition will now travel to Bangalore at the end of August. Thereafter, on September 10, we have been invited to Poland for a conference, ‘World Without Aggression’, which will take place in the main Warsaw Congress Hall, which seats 3,000 people, in the presence of the President of Poland and many VIPs.