Tag Archives: gandhi

A Fatherhood More Equal?

Outlook India
In exalting Gandhi, we’ve elbowed Sri Aurobindo into the shadows
Francois Gautier on Sri Aurobindo
In this time of elections, the Congress has again claimed ownership to the Father of the Nation. But is the Mahatma, whose tremendous personality cannot be denied, indeed the architect of Indian independence, as most history books, Indian and western, are claiming?
The Lives of Sri Aurobindo (Columbia University Press, May 2008), a recently released biography by the American Peter Heehs, sheds new light on Sri Aurobindo’s role as a leader of the Congress. Not many people know that originally, the Congress was created in December 1885 by an Englishman, A.O. Hume, with the avowed aim to “allow all those who work for the national (read British) good to meet each other personally”. Yet, between 1906 and 1910, Sri Aurobindo was not only demanding outright independence from the British, but he also re-enacted Krishna’s message in the Bhagavad Gita by allowing his brother Barin to manufacture bombs in his own house and secretly endorsing early assassinations of select Englishmen. Compare this to the Mahatma, who only asked for independence in 1940—and that because he was against cooperating with the British in their war efforts against the Nazis.
Heehs writes: “Sri Aurobindo never ceased to believe that Indians had the right to use violence to topple a government maintained by violence.” This enormously important aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s life, of protecting dharma, of 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. Many of today’s disciples of Sri Aurobindo and his companion, the Mother, would rather sweep this aspect of his life under the carpet. Thus, someone has slapped a court case against Heehs in Orissa, thereby stopping the book from being published in India.
Heehs also dwells on the famous Uttarpara speech, in which Sri Aurobindo, after one year in Alipore jail, clearly defines what he calls the Sanatana dharma: “Something has been shown to you in this year of seclusion, something about which you had your doubts and it is the truth of the Hindu religion. It is this religion that I am raising up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the rishis, saints and avatars, and now it is going forth to do my work among the nations. When, therefore, it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatana dharma that shall rise.”
If we, in France, had a great man such as Sri Aurobindo, who comes out in the Heehs biography not only as a revolutionary and a yogi, but also a tremendous philosopher and peerless poet, we would cherish him endlessly. His poetry would be taught to children, his philosophical works would be part of the university curriculums, books would be written about him, museums would be built…. In fact, France’s outspoken ambassador in India, Jerome Bonnafont, is an ardent admirer of Sri Aurobindo’s political works.
But today, amongst Indian politicians (apart from Dr Karan Singh, a scholar on Sri Aurobindo), everybody quotes conveniently from Gandhi, although nobody applies his ideals of charkha, non-violence, khadi and birth control by sexual abstinence. No journalist ever mentions this extraordinary yogi, whose sayings of one hundred years ago are still one hundred per cent relevant today. Not only is he absent from schools and universities, in some manuals written by the Congress, he is branded a ‘terrorist’. Shame on India!
Somnath Chatterjee, who has been made an icon by the Indian media in spite of his sitting on the cash-for-votes scam, has built an Indian history museum at the Parliament annexe. In this museum, the history of India more or less starts with Ashoka (because he was supposedly Buddhist), jumps to Akbar (who is glorified beyond measure) and finishes with Subhash Chandra Bose, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.Not one mention of Sri Aurobindo or even Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Isn’t it time Indian history is rewritten?
Heehs’s book can be used to rectify some of the major injustice done to Sri Aurobindo, the true father of Indian independence, who prophetically said about Pakistan in 1947: “India is free, but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom. The whole communal division into Hindu and Muslim seems to have hardened into the figure of a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that the Congress and the nation will not accept the settled fact as for ever settled…. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled; civil strife may remain always possible, possibly even a new invasion and foreign conquest.” How prophetic!
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Ramachandra Guha and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

UNPUBLISHED

Ramachandra Guha represents the typical Indian intellectual: brilliant, totally westernized – and who looks down on anything Hindu – because he has inherited from the British colonization a gigantic inferiority complex about his own culture and spirituality. And like many of his brothers and sisters of India’s intelligentsia, he feels nowhere better than in the West. This can be gathered from his Oslo diary published in the Outlook magazine of 20th October, where he says, and I quote : “…After two weeks in Oslo, my hosts send me off to Svalbard, deep into the Arctic Circle … I spend four enchanting days in and around the little town of Longybein, located at 78° N. I have the privilege of sampling the northernmost bar, the northernmost cafe, the northernmost supermarket, and the northernmost souvenir store in the world “… Then he adds – and this shows that this Macaulayan fixation is transmitted since many generations from father to children: “The person most envious of my trip is my daughter, who has read evocative descriptions of Svalbard in the novels of Philip Pullman”.  Wow: I am a born Frenchman, brought up in some of the best European schools, I vaguely known of Philipp Pullman (do you?), but have never heard of that he wrote about the archipelago of Svalbard” (have you?).

Once he has proved his credentials of a connoisseur of western literature and lover of western atmospheres, Guha, because he is in Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, chooses to attack Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, who has been the most nominated Indian in the last three years: “After my talk, a lady comes up and introduces herself as a doctor, and an advisor to the Peace Institute. The names I had mentioned were all very good, she said, but surely it was time that the peace prize went to an Indian? She mentions the name of a fellow townsman of mine (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), a man who has grown long hair, given himself four fancy initials (HH/SS), and whose name is also that of a very great exponent of the sitar”. And of course, Guha tells her gleefully: “I suggested to the doctor that if not giving Gandhi the prize was a scandal, awarding it to my fellow townsman would be an even bigger scandal”. How typical of these Indian intellectuals, who are always spitting on their own culture, specially if it is Hindu-related.

Yet, there is no doubt that Guruji, as he is known to his followers, qualifies for the NPP – in fact he does tenfold time the work of a Mother Teresa or a R.K Pachauri: he not only performs charity work in many of India’s villages, he also promotes pesticide and fertilizer free farming, takes orphans from Kashmir or the North-East in his ashram, and his volunteers do relief work, both at the physical and psychological level, whether in Bihar during the floods, in  Iraq or in the US during the recent cyclone. Sri Sri is also trying to revive single handed, the ancient Vedic tradition by training young priests in a Gurukkul which blends ancient knowledge, with modern thought, while promoting Ayurveda as the medicine of the 21st century. He is attempting as well to mediate in many conflicts, in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, or between the Christians and Hindus. And lastly he has revived and modernized the ancient science of pranayama.

Of course, Guha is an unabashed admirer of the Norwegian Peace Committee: “The Nobel Peace Prize is itself a splendid example of Norwegian internationalism, in keeping with the country’s ethos of generous aid to poorer countries, not to mention its efforts to resolve ethnic conflicts around the world”. But not everybody in Europe would agree with him : Norwegians have sometimes the reputation of being staunch, left-leaning Protestants, who often have a condescending view of Asia. Thus, when they award prizes, they are necessarily influenced by a Christian vision of the world and an idealistic left-leaning sympathy. For, as most Europeans, they have been brought-up in the belief that democracy and philosophy started with Greece and that a Humane civilization, began with Jesus Christ. And of course, they have a covert – or at  best unconscious – suspicion, if not of India, at least of Hindus, who for them remain the heathen, the pagans which the missionaries of yesteryears, and unfortunately those of today too, have created in the minds of many westerners.

They can only agree with Mr Guha: how can they then, give their Peace Prize to a Hindu?

François Gautier

Francois gautier’s Interview with Tribune

Meet the author
“Content-wise, Indian fiction writers have
little to offer”
Source: Tribune India

Francois Gautier
Francois Gautier

RECIPIENT of this year’s Nachiketa Award for Excellence in Journalism, Francois Gautier is one of those rare writers who mince no words when it comes to telling the truth. Although French by birth, his knowledge of contemporary and historical Indian affairs gives him an unparalleled position among the major writers of non-fiction. He came to India when he was barely 19, an age, in his own words, when the mind has not yet settled into hard and frozen patterns. It was during his stint as a journalist that he discovered the real India while traversing its length and breadth. Unlike most foreign journalist who usually highlight the negative aspects of the Indian society, Francois Gautier talked about the positive aspects as well.

He has been lambasted by his critics for his rather unorthodox writings and applauded by his admirers for acquainting them with the rich legacy of India. His works, spanning over two decades, have been condensed into two books, Arise O India and A Western Journalist’s View on India, brought out by Har Anand Publishers. Not only is the content of his books unusually striking but their spontaneity and lyrical rhythm are also enthralling. The thorough research that has gone into his writings adds a compelling tone to his essays. Aditya Sharma met him for an interview. Excerpts:

When did you come to India for the first time and what was it that held you back ?

I visited India in 1969 with a friend of mine whose father was the last French Governor of Pondicherry. Although India was just another stopover in my journey around the world at that time, but it turned out to be the final destination for me. In Pondicherry I came to know about the Aurobindo Ashram where I got to learn a lot through Sri Aurobindo’s writings. Slowly I found myself so besotted with Indian culture and its pioneering philosophies on spiritualism that I decided to make this country my home.

What were your early experiences in the Aurobindo Ashram like?

When I first went there I discovered an entirely new approach of looking at life. It was as if I had sudden awakened from deep slumber. And later when I met Mother personally, I was left with an ethereal sensation of existence. Her gaze transfixed me and it didn’t take me long to realise that there was more to life than a wholehearted participation in the blind race for material gains.

At what stage of your life did writing begin to interest you?

Prior to coming to India I used to write for a national daily based in Paris. Thereafter after living for a few years in the ashram at Pondicherry, I resumed writing for various national and international papers but this time about Indian affairs.

Did freelancing for various newspapers pay enough for you to be able to support yourself?

It is rather difficult to make one’s ends meet merely through freelancing. The payments made by our various national dailies to such writers are rather nominal, no matter how well they write. I was, however, fortunate enough to write columns for various newspapers based in the West, which fetched me enough to keep myself going.

Some people say that your writings are political, while others feel that you also blend spiritualism into them. In what category would you place yourself as a columnist?

Both politics and spiritualism are inherent parts of our lives. There is actually no distinction between the two. In ancient India it was a rishi who advised the king on the political and other affairs of the country. I only try to combine relevant topics in my columns, be it politics, literature, spirituality, economics or any other subject of significance.

You are quite critical of Gandhi’s policies in your writings and also accuse him of precipitating the process of Partition.

Leaving aside his saintliness, I believe his extreme and somewhat rigid romanticism did enormous harm to India. Right from the beginning he adopted a policy of appeasement towards the Muslim fundamentalists in the hope of making them see light. It, however, never really worked. On the contrary, it led to further demands from them until finally they asked for the partition of the country. History has shown time and again that the policy of appeasement has never worked against bullies. Another classic example of this is Nehru’s policy of pacifism towards China. Did it ever work?

What does India need to do to make all-round development possible?

I believe for that our government needs to drastically revamp its systems.

Besides non-fiction, do you also plan to write a novel or short stories?

I have just finished a novel in French. It is at present with a prominent publisher in France awaiting publication at the earliest. I hope to provide its English translation within a year or so.

Is the story autobiographical?

If the French title is translated into English it will read The Last Caravan to India. It is the story of a Westerner who comes to India and of his impressions of Indian life. It is not strictly autobiographical, although I have, like all novelists, liberally drawn material from my own experiences.

What do you think about the many Indian fiction writers winning laurels outside the country?

Its nice to see Indian fiction writers making their presence feel in international circles. Judging from their style and command over the language, they are evidently quite talented, but content-wise, I think they have little to offer. Most of them end up in catering to western tastes. Unfortunately, many of them have drawn a very dismal and backward picture of India in their stories, which is exactly what the West likes to read.

Besides reading and writing, what other interests occupy you?

I am quite interested in sports and play basketball and go swimming. I also practice yoga regularly. Other than that I enjoy my teaching assignment in a school of journalism at Bangalore where I am a visiting faculty member.

You donated the entire Nachiketa prize money.

Yes I gave away the award money to FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism). Its an organisation which is genuinely involved in helping and highlighting the plight of the Kashmiri Pundits who have ironically become homeless in their own country.