Tag Archives: Freedom

Ganga Sagar – “Freedom Gagged”

FREEDOM GAGGED

Ganga Sagar, located on the western edge of the Sunderban Delta in West Bengal, is for many Hindus a very renowned Place of Pilgrimage, because there the Ganga river has a confluence with the Bay of Bengal. At the edge of Sagar town – adjacent to the beach – is an ancient temple dedicated to Kapil Muni, the sage responsible for initiating the chain of events that ultimately resulted, according to the legend, to ‘Mother Ganga’ descending to the earth from heaven and giving mankind an opportunity to wash away its sins in her pure water. The earliest mention of this place is found in the Mahabharata where a sage explains to Bhishma the significance of taking a dip at the confluence of Gangasagar.

Thus, millions of Hindu pilgrims visit this holy place all year round to take a dip in the Ganges, particularly during the Kumbha Mela and Makara Sankranti festivities. Last Thursday, a Hindu social group, named the Hindu Sanghati, led by its National convener, Sri Tapan Kumar Ghosh, had started conducting there for 180 men, women and children, a three-day Yoga and meditation camp in a building close to the confluence owned by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. After attending the first Yoga and meditation session in the morning, the group went to take a dip in the Ganga Sagar confluence, and thereafter to pay obeisance in the Kapil Muni shrine. On its way, the group chanted “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Jai Sri Ram”. This was enough to anger the local people, mostly immigrant Bangladeshi Muslims. Later in the day, led by Sheikh Ismail, who happens to be CPI(M)’s Panchayat Samiti seat winner in the area, about 3000 men reached the building were the pilgrims were put up, and started throwing gas cylinders and petrol bombs (Molotov cocktails) and kept on attacking incessantly for a few hours, till all 180 of the camp were trapped inside this burning camp along with Tapan Ghosh.

The local police-appeared to side more with the Muslims than the Hindus, maybe just out of plain fear, and only very small posse of 15 policemen was sent, totally inadequate for resisting such a huge armed mob. The police could not control the mob of Muslims even after firing several rounds. As a result, quite a few Hindus attending the camp have been injured in the carnage, and at least 7 of them are in critical condition, apart from 2 others who could not be identified because of serious facial burn injuries. 2 policemen have also been seriously injured due to the assault by the Muslim mob. Apart from throwing petrol bombs to incinerate the camp building, the mob also attacked and seriously damaged some nearby houses of the local Hindus as well as an adjoining Kali temple and a ‘Yatri Nivas’ (Travellers’ Lodge) run by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. In a travesty of justice, 15 of the pilgrims were arrested by the local police, and booked under Sections 147, 148, 149, 307, 310 and 323 of IPC (Indian Penal Code) for inciting “communal disharmony”. Out of these 15, the organiser of the camp, Tapan Ghosh, and one other have been remanded 7 days’ police custody in Kakdwip Thana (Police Station) in West Bengal and it is feared they will be tortured. A pilgrim who was injured in the clash, said: “We got beaten up only for chanting religious slogans; Jayanta Mukherjee, the SDPO of the area also abused us and arrested many of our members.” Ironically, not even one of the attackers was arrested by the police. It seems like a reverse logic: instead of punishing the attackers, you penalize the attacked !

The communists, by allowing knowingly hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis to settle in West Bengal, out of ideology (Muslims are our allies), but also for electoral purposes (they are furnished fake identity cards, so that they vote for them) have created a monster that will come back to haunt India, not only in Nandigram, but other places, such as Jaipur or Varanasi, though communists, once more have shown that they will side with Muslims if they attack Hindus. One has to laud Nehru’s concept of protecting the oppressed and the minorities, but is it not now going overboard, with the police seeming to side increasingly with minorities, at the expense of the majority community of India, the Hindus, who have been known throughout their history to be extremely tolerant and to accept diversity?

Is it a common pattern? Yes ! the same thing happened in Chennai when on the 7th March 2008, the Tamil Nadu police vandalized an exhibition on Aurangzeb and threw some paintings on the ground, shattering them. Yet it was an artistic exhibition on the great Moghol 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. Nevertheless, according to his own documents, he was a very ruthless and cruel emperor. Forget what he did to Hindus : re-imposing 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 Gujurat, 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. The day before the Nawab of Arcot, local Muslim leader, had visited the exhibition and had been 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. Soon, the nawab sent a group of Muslims 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, 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 tomorrow (Friday) to break it down. The volunteers tried to reason with them, that these were all documents from Government archives, that they could explain everything to them, that they could even debate on TV, but they shouted even louder and got more threatening. Then the police openly sided with the TMMK, vandalized the exhibition and closed it down.

This raises the question of what kind of freedom exists in India at the moment. We understand that without the support of the communists the present Government would collapse. But does that mean that the Congress leaders have to turn a blind eye to what the communists are doing to the social fabric of India and South Asia? There is such a thing as Karma. By allowing hundreds of Bangladeshis to settle in India, or having helped the Maoists to take over Nepal, or letting artistic freedom be gagged, these people, who soon will be out of power, will hand over to the next government extremely difficult situations to handle.

– François Gautier

Why the cynicism about Indian gurus?

Why the cynicism about Indian gurus?

Westerners have often a deep suspicion of ‘gurus’ and are wary of anything which has a ‘Hindu’ flavor. It is true that some of the gurus teaching in the West might have brought a bad name to Hinduism; but is this a reason to clamp them all together under the same ‘fake’ label?

Indian journalists unfortunately share often the same resistance to gurus as their Western counterparts. And one can also understand their misgivings, given the problems there has been in India with certain gurus having political connections. But these are the exception to the rule. Why then brand all gurus as ‘godmen,’ a negative and slightly cynical term, as many Indian journalists do? Or why always ask gurus the same pointed and devious questions about their opinions on Ayodhya and ‘Hindutva?’

Isn’t it also strange that Indian journalists do not display the same aggressiveness towards Christian bishops or priests, whom they never call godmen, but ‘holy father?’ They also like to question the ‘miraculous’ powers of Indian gurus, as it was done a few months ago in an issue of India Today targeting Sai Baba. But is it less rational or Cartesian to think, as the Christians do, that Jesus Christ multiplied breads, or resurrected the dead?

Running down Hindu culture and Hindu gurus is fine — but a huge majority of the Indian population — which, let us remember, is 85 per cent Hindu — sees nothing wrong in this culture: ordinary Indians meditate, do pujas, perform asanas, chant bhajans, or practice pranayama. There is no sectarism here, no fake mysticism, no pagan obscure rites. The irony is that this very spirituality on which Indian intellectuals tend to look down, is taking root in the West: more and more sportsmen, for instance, are using pranayama to enhance their performances; ordinary Americans are meditating by the millions (see this week’s Time magazine showing American children learning meditation); hata-yoga has long taken Europe by storm and has been copied by all kinds of gymnastics or aerobics…

Does India need the West to realise what an inconceivable spiritual inheritance it has in its hands? A knowledge which once roamed the shores of the world, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, from Greece to Babylon, but which today has disappeared in a world peopled by intolerant churches? Do Indian schools have to wait for the United States, before they start teaching Indian children their own culture?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, for example, the founder of the Art of Living has also been catalogued as a ‘godman’ by The Deccan Herald. Yet, he too is helping to spread both in India and abroad this wonderful spiritual inheritance, promoting as much the revival of Sanskrit and Vedic knowledge, as an ecological concern for plastic disposal, or trying to save the centenary trees which are in danger of being chopped down on the Bangalore-Kanakapura road, as it is being widened.

His numerous associations prove that he is not only a “guru of the rich,” as he has been accused by The Indian Express: his village schools, for instance, do so well, that children have a 95 per cent rate of success in exams; his youth training programs bring to India’s remotest hamlets in Karnataka or even in Naxalite infested Bihar, Housing, Hygiene, and Human values. His volunteers work with their own hands in villages to clear the garbage, clean the sewage infested roads and generally renovate the place. Finally, the medically-tested Sudarshan Krya technique is today taught in Tihar jail, or in corporate offices in California.

The Kumbh Mela has just concluded. It was an extraordinary event: probably the biggest spiritual gathering in the history of the human race. At a time where the West has lost its spiritual moorings and when, even Eastern countries such as China or Japan are submerged by Western culture — MTV, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s — India has shown that in spite of tremendous odds, she has succeeded in keeping her spirituality alive. But once again during the Kumbh Mela, the Indian media coverage showed the same Western slant against gurus, saints and sadhus.

Instead of highlighting the remarkable degree of cleanliness, orderliness and efficiency demonstrated by the organizers, the UP Government and the police, it chose to focus on naga sadhus smoking ganja, or the VHP “hijacking the mela,” or on Western “hippies” in search of enlightenment.

Indian journalists could have shown a little more pride in their own culture by saying, for instance, that it is miraculous that there are still men in the world who are ready to give-up everything, including their clothes, for the love of God; or that as long as Indian villagers were smoking ganja, they did not beat their wives, gobble-up their salaries and drink themselves to death, as they are doing today, now that (foreign owned) alcohol has invaded India; or that any religion worth its name tries to protect its own interests, as the VHP is doing (the VHP is not trying to convert other religions, yet they are subjected to a much greater bashing by the Indian press than Christian priests or Muslim mullahs); or that it is to India’s credit that Westerners come here searching for the spirituality they can’t get any more in the West.

It is part of the freedom of the Press to be able to criticize anything and anybody. And we must acknowledge that Indian journalists have often played a positive role by highlighting injustice or corruption in public life. But the spitefulness that they sometimes display towards the saints, sadhus and gurus of India seems a little bit unfair. For however much poverty there is in this country, however many problems it is facing, India’s gift to the world in the 21st century will be its spirituality, this eternal knowledge which alone She has preserved.