Tag Archives: Islam

RECIPROCITY and HINDUS

This starts as a beautiful story. Once upon a time, there was a tiny village in South Arcot’s district of Tamil Nadu, called Bampralayam. Now Bampralayam is like hundreds of villages in South Arcot: it is peopled with Hindu Vanniars, a caste slightly higher than the untouchables, poor, living off agriculture, usually a few meagre fields of cashew nuts. But then Bampralayam happened to be near Pondichery, where many westerners live.

Thus Bampralayam prospered: its inhabitants learned trades needed for Pondichery: carpenters, masons, craftsmen, a few of its children attended some of Pondichery’s schools and were educated along with western kids and in time graduated and went into white collar jobs. From a few cycles 40 years ago, Bampralayam has today motorcycles, tractors, cars, vans, cable TV, cell phones, etc. The main road of Bampralayam which used to boast only shady huts, became lined-up with fancy shops which sell everything, from vegetables to handicrafts.

And then the unavoidable happened: a Kashmiri Muslim from Chennai heard about Bampralayam and its new found prosperity, and understanding that he could make a packet with so many westerners passing though Bampralayam, he opened the usual shawls & carpets’ shop in the village. Now Bampralayam never counted a Muslim amongst its population in its 1200 years of recorded history; but in the true Hindu tradition, this one was welcomed and nobody raised an objection, although he was competition for some of the other shops. Our Kashmiri Muslim, seeing his success, called his cousin in Kolkata, who came and opened another shop; and that one phoned his friend in Mumbai, who also landed-up and opened a third shop. Still nobody found anything to say, even when it became known that they also dealt in drugs which they sold to the youth. Kashmiris are sociable fellows and they quickly made friends with Westerners, most of them blissfully unaware of the political situation in India, so business was booming, till they were twelve Kashmiri shops in Bampralayam. And again nobody complained, even when the fellows started doing their naamaz in their backyards. “Isn’t God everywhere and isn’t He Krishna, as well as Allah”, said one of the villagers?

But one day, Bhoumi, one of the young boys of Bampralayam, who had gone to study in Delhi, told his parents when he came back, about the fact that not only no Hindus were allowed to buy land or start a shop in the Valley of Kashmir, where the shopkeepers came from, but that four hundred thousand Hindus, were chased out of the Valley by terror, many of them having been murdered and that many were still living as refugees in camps in Jammu and Delhi. His parents started talking to their friends and there was the first hint of resentment against the newcomers.

Then some elders of Bampralayam heard that Muslims of Kashmir rioted when the Government allotted some land in Amarnath, one of the most sacred and ancient Hindu pilgrimages, high in the Himalayas. Bhoumi’s father went to see a group  of Bampralayam Kashmiris having tea, and told them that Hindus never complained about their government giving billion of rupees in  subsidies to Indian Muslims so that they can perform the Haj in their most Holy place, the Mecca. “But when Hindus, he continued, need shelters, toilets and basic facilities at height of 15.000 feet to worship at one of the holiest places of Hinduism, why do you Kashmiri Muslims deny it to us” ? The Kashmiris looked a bit uneasy, then replied “that anyway the Amarnath ice lingam had been discovered by a Muslim shepherd and that Muslims have always welcomed their Hindu brothers to Armanath”. But this did not convince the Bampralayam man who had heard from his son that many grenade attacks had happened over the years against the Amarnath pilgrims. And anger started mounting in Bampralayam.

So it is all a question of reciprocity. Most Hindus are peace-loving people. The average Hindu that you meet in a million Indian villages, such as Bampralayam, is easy-going and accepts you and your diversity, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Parsi or Jain, Arab, French or Chinese. He goes about his business and usually does not interfere in yours.

In fact Hindus take it a little further:  they hate trouble and go out of their way to avoid it. Have you noticed how every time there is a possibility of a strike or trouble, Hindus stay home? Or how – forget about rioting – Hindus never speak-up, complain or protest in a united manner. Not only that, but everywhere in the world, Hindus are hounded, humiliated, routed, be it in Fiji where an elected democratic government was twice deposed in an armed coup, or in Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Muslims indulge in pogroms against Hindus every time they want to vent their hunger against India (read Taslima Nasreen’s book “Lalja”). In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorized some of them, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Their temples are being taken over in many states like in Kerala or Karnataka, and the donations appropriated by the state governments.

Yet, in 3500 years of known existence, Hindus have never military invaded another country, never tried to impose their religion upon others, by force or even by induced conversions. No, it has rather been through peaceful invasions that Hinduism has stormed the world, whether in the East, witness Angkor Vat, or in the West today, where the by-products of Hinduism, yoga, meditation, ayurveda, pranayama, spread by great gurus such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, have been adopted by millions.

Thus Hindus, who accept everybody, welcome all religions, allow Indians from other parts to trade next to them, as it happened in Bampralayam, do not receive in return any gratitude and the same respect. On the contrary, they get mocked at, bombs are planted in their markets, their trains; their temples, their five star hotels get attacked, they are chased out of their homelands; television and newspapers make fun of them, their own politicians ostracize them… Hindus recognize the fact that God may manifest at different times under different names, the concept of the avatar –  Krishna, Buddha, Mohamed or Jesus Christ. Indeed, Hindus gave refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world from the Parsis, to the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted, or killed bar the 26/11attack on the Nariman house in Mumbai) to the Armenians and the Tibetans today.

So recently, the elders in Bampralayam went back to confront the Kashmiris, but now in anger: “You people have been the most brutal and ruthless in our country: you razed our temples, killed our people, enslaved our women and children. But still, we accepted you – and at Partition, many Indian Muslims chose to stay here in India, for they knew that they would get the freedom of speech and religion that we Hindus are denied in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. Yet today, you continue to bully us, chasing our brother and sisters from the Valley of Kashmir, rioting and burning all over India, every time you are dissatisfied, keeping silent when Islamists attack our hotels or temples. On top of that, you portray yourselves as martyrs, like Shah Rukh Khan who is idolised by millions of Hindus, yet complains that because he is a Muslim, he is discriminated against. And lately, you deny the very truth that Vishwaroopam dared to depict,: that in the name of your Holy book, your coreligionists kill and maim all over the world and have just coldly executed 39 innocent westerners in Algeria”.

This time the Kashmiris kept quiet and looked down. But Bhoomi, who was present, saw that they did not agree at all and that they would not change…

François gautier

HINDU TERRORISM

Is there such a thing as ‘Hindu terrorism’, as Home Minister Shinde is heavily hinting at? Well, I am one of that rare breed of foreign correspondents — a lover of Hindus! A born Frenchman, Catholic-educated and non-Hindu, I do hope I’ll be given some credit for my opinions, which are not the product of my parents’ ideas, my education or my atavism, but garnered from 25 years of reporting in South Asia (for Le Journal de Geneve and Le Figaro).

In the early 1980s, when I started freelancing in south India, doing photo features on Kalaripayattu, the Ayyappa festival, or the Ayyanars, I slowly realised that the genius of this country lies in its Hindu ethos, in the true spirituality behind Hinduism. The average Hindu you meet in a million villages possesses this simple, innate spirituality and accepts your  diversity, whether you are Christian or Muslim, Jain or Arab, French or Chinese. It is this Hinduness that makes the Indian Christian different from, say, a French Christian, or the Indian Muslim unlike a Saudi Muslim. I also learnt that Hindus not only believed that the divine could manifest itself at different times, under different names, using different scriptures (not to mention the wonderful avatar concept, the perfect answer to 21st century religious strife) but that they had also given refuge to persecuted minorities from across the world—Syrian Christians, Parsis, Jews, Armenians, and today, Tibetans.

In 3,500 years of existence, Hindus have never militarily invaded another country, never tried to impose their religion on others by force or induced conversions. You cannot find anybody less fundamentalist than a Hindu in the world and it saddens me when I see the Indian and western press equating terrorist groups like SIMI, which blow up innocent civilians, with ordinary, angry Hindus who burn churches without killing anybody. We know also that most of these communal incidents often involve persons from the same groups—often Dalits and tribals—some of who have converted to Christianity and others not. However reprehensible the destruction of Babri Masjid, no Muslim was killed in the process; compare this to the ‘vengeance’ bombings of 1993 in Bombay, which wiped out hundreds of innocents, mostly Hindus. Yet the Babri Masjid destruction is often described by journalists as the more horrible act of the two. We also remember how Sharad Pawar, when he was chief minister of Maharashtra in 1993, lied about a bomb that was supposed to have gone off in a Muslim locality of Bombay.

I have never been politically correct, but have always written what I have discovered while reporting. Let me then be straightforward about this so-called Hindu terror. Hindus, since the first Arab invasions, have been at the receiving end of terrorism, whether it was by Timur, who killed 1,00,000 Hindus in a single day in 1399, or by the Portuguese Inquisition which crucified Brahmins in Goa. Today, Hindus are still being targeted: there were one million Hindus in the Kashmir valley in 1900; only a few hundred remain, the rest having fled in terror. Blasts after blasts have killed hundreds of innocent Hindus all over India in the last four years. Hindus, the overwhelming majority community of this country, are being made fun of, are despised, are deprived of the most basic facilities for one of their most sacred pilgrimages in Amarnath while their government heavily sponsors the Haj.. They see their brothers and sisters converted to Christianity through inducements and financial traps, see a harmless 84-year-old swami and a sadhvi brutally murdered. Their gods are blasphemed. So sometimes, enough is enough.

At some point, after years or even centuries of submitting like sheep to slaughter, Hindus—whom the Mahatma once gently called cowards—erupt in uncontrolled fury. And it hurts badly. It happened in Gujarat. It happened in Jammu, then in Kandhamal, Mangalore, Malegaon, or Ajmer. It may happen again elsewhere. What should be understood is that this is a spontaneous revolution on the ground, by ordinary Hindus, without any planning from the political leadership.

Therefore, the BJP, instead of fighting over each other as to whom should be the next party president, or who will be their PM candidate for the 2014 elections, should do well to put its house together. For it’s evident that the Congress has decided on this absurd strategy of the absurd, the untrue, the unjust, the treacherous, only to target Mr Narendra Modi, their enemy number One.

It should also fight the Untrue with Truth: there are about a billion Hindus, one in every six persons on this planet. They form one of the most successful, law-abiding and integrated communities in the world today. Can you call them terrorists? Let the BJP compile a statistics of how many Hindus were killed by Muslims since 1947 and how many Muslims by Hindus. These statistics will speak by themselves

Francois Gautier

DARA SHUKOH THE LAST SUFI SAINT

From an early age, Shah Jahan’s four sons, Dara Shukoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad Bakhsh, grew up in an atmosphere of bitter rivalry, writes Hambly, even though they were all children of the same mother, Mumtaz Mahal. In 1657, Shah Jahan became seriously ill. The expectation of an early death provoked the four sons into making a desperate bid for the throne. Only two candidates, writes Hambly, stood much chance of success — Dara Shukoh, who was 42 years old, and Aurangzeb, who was 39.

Dara Shukoh, Shah Jahan’s favorite and his heir, was a man of broad intellectual interests, writes Hambly. He was a Sufi and a religious eclectic who had translated the Upanishads into Persian.

Aurangzeb, notes Hambly, was well educated, knowledgeable in the traditional spectrum of Islamic studies, and strict in his religious orthodoxy. Aurangzeb had an acute sense of political realism and a fierce appetite for power. Although Aurangzeb’s personality was considered less attractive than that of Dara Shukoh, writes Hambly, Aurangzeb was the superior in both military talent and administrative skills.

Guru Nanak, Kabeer, Shaikh Ali Hujweri, Al-Beruni, Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya, Dara Shukoh, Sheikh Qadiri, Mirza Mazhar Jani-I-Jahan, Jalal-Al-din Rumi…

As I did not look at this infidel’s face in his lifetime, I do not wish to do so now.”1 Aurangzeb is reported to have remarked when decapitated head of Dara Shukoh  was presented to satisfy him that no fraud or substitution had taken place. On Aurangzeb’s order Dara’s “corpse was placed on an elephant, paraded through the streets of the city a second time, and then buried in a vault under the dome of the tomb of Humayun, without the customary washing and dressing of the body.”2

Before his decapitation, such was the hatred of Aurangzeb towards his brother that after his capture, Dara Shukoh and his son were paraded through the streets of Delhi dressed in tattered clothes and seated on a miserable-looking female elephant.3

Dara Shukoh was executed not only on the charge of heresy and infidelity, but also for the crime of calling Hinduism and Islam ‘twin brothers’.4

The charge of Dara’s heresy and infidelity mostly stems from his dealings with the Brahminical and Islamic thought, his original work Majma’-ul-Bahrain (The Mingling of Two Oceans) and his translation of fifty Upanishads, Sirr-i Akbar (The Great Secret).

However, there is nothing in Dara’s Sufistic career to suggest that at any time he had renounced Islam. He was (along with his sister Jahan Ara) a Qadiri Sufi, believer in the Wahdat al-Wujud (Unity of Being) school of Sufism and a disciple of Sufi Mulla-Shah.

After his discourses with Baba Lal and other Hindu saints, yogis and ascetics, Dara Shukoh had come to believe that there was one and the same Absolute who was merely expressed in different forms in different religions. This was really nothing new. Similar ideas had previously been developed by Ibn ‘Arabi. It seems Dara was not familiar with the earlier comparison of the Nath terminology and Dvaidadavaitita-vilakshanvada and terminology of sufism and Wahdat Al-Wujud in Shaikh Gangohi’s Rushdnama. However, he worked independently on the same topic and in 1654-55 wrote the Majma’u’l-bahrain (Mixing of the Two Oceans).5 Dara drew parallels between the Hindu mystic and Islamic sufi terminology and was convinced that apart from verbal differences, the understanding of Reality of the two systems was essentially the same. He justified his conclusions on his interpretation of the ‘Light Verse’ in the Qur’an (24:35)6

Dara Shukoh divided the prophets in three categories and regarded the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad who he thought harmoniously blended the Absolute and the determined, the Colorless and the colored, and the Near and the distant was the “comprehensive prophethood”.7

According to Dara Shukoh, only such saints who combined Prophet Muhammad’s tasbih (immanence) with tanzih (absolute transcendence) were perfect. In this category he included the first four caliphs, Hasan and Hussein, a number of Prophet Muhammad’s companions and a host of sufis including his pir Mulla-Shah. Only one Hindu saint — Baba Lal Bairagi — was included in his list of “perfect saints”. 8 Even Kabir did not make the grade.

His other work Sirr-i-Akbar (The Great Secret) was the translation of fifty Upanishads. Study of the Upanishads satisfied Dara Shukoh’s intellectual curiosity in a way all other works had failed to do. He regarded them as fountainhead of Tawhid (Wahdat al-Wujud). He correlated them with the Qur’an and thought the latter to be commentary on them. He believed the Upanishads were the secret books mentioned in the Qur’an (LVI, 77-80)

That (this) is indeed a noble Qur’an

In a book kept hidden

Which none toucheth save the purified,

A revelation from the Lord of the Worlds.9

With the support of the Qur’anic verses that many earlier sufis had also argued that the ancient Indians had been recipient of the Divine revelation but Dara Shukoh asserted that the four Vedas were also Divinely revealed books and he regarded the “study of the Upanishads as the highest form of worship”. 10

The Majma’u’l Bahrain was Dara Shukoh’s most important work and was singled out by the Ulema as a justification for accusing Dara Shukoh of calling infidelity and Islam as ‘twin-brothers’ and condemning him to death.11

Did Dara Shukoh really call Hinduism and Islam as ‘twin-brothers’ or did he ever apostasize from Islam?

Rizvi maintains that “the work itself lies within the ideological framework of Ibn ‘Arabi’s teachings and asserts that the stage of universality and perfection was reserved for Prophet Muhammad, and that tanzih was harmoniously blended with tasbih only by his successors and the Muslims sufis, to whom alone were addressed the following words in the Qur’an:

Ye are the best community that hath been raised up for mankind. (3: 110) “12

In all his works there is no evidence of Dara Shukoh having renounced Islam or regarding Hinduism, independently on its own, as equal to Islam. His assertion of the Divine nature of the Vedas and the greatness of the Upanishads, he justifies only with the support of Qur’anic verses.

In his Safinatu ‘l-aulia, Dara gives glimpse of his Sunni orthodoxy. He had never denied the Prophethood or finality of the Prophet Muhammad , and as stated above, regarded Prophet Muhammad as the “perfect prophet”. He had never denied the validity of the revelations of the Qur’an. He was also convinced of the superiority of the first four Caliphs and graded them in the order they became Caliphs.13

He was a Qadiri sufi and believed in the superiority of the Qadiriya order started by Shaikh ‘Abdu’l-Qadir Jilani who he believed had received its rules directly from the Prophet.14

Dara Shukoh was conscious of his own scholarship and combined his personal spiritual interests to vindicate the universality of the Qur’anic worldview and to show how monotheism was echoed in classical Vedic and philosophical texts. He does not present the translation of the Upanishads as a means of religious syncretism of the Islamic and Hindu communities but claims that these are themselves Islamic texts as witnessed in the Qur’an and bearing witness to true and untarnished monotheism.15

Dara Shukoh begins the preface of Sirr-I Akbar by celebrating God and the revelations of the Qur’an, as well as paying tributes to his Qadiri preceptors. It is his “devotion to the Qur’an and a desire to more perfectly comprehend Tawhid that Dara is first drawn to the investigation of non-Islamic religious traditions.” In closing, he turns to the Qur’an again “for an omen of God’s blessing on his project”. More than half of the text of his preface of his translation is devoted to hope that it will be “perceived as an orthodox mantle of commentator.” 16

What Dara Shukoh was claiming was that like the Qur’anic revelations were an extension and completion of the Biblical revelations in the same way these were also an extension of the revelations of the Vedas. And as Biblical revelations stand superseded by the Qur’an so do the Vedic revelations. In claiming that the secret revelations mentioned in the Qur’an were the Upanishads, he clearly implied that the Qur’an is simply a continuation of the earlier revelations. In asserting the perfection of prophethood of Prophet Muhammad, he was also implying the perfection of revelations in the Qur’an. The Hindus were essentially Muslims, only they were not aware of this — a secret that he had unraveled.

Implications of such a scenario are far reaching as can be seen from the recent sermon by Shaykh Salih Bin-Muhammad Al Talib in a Saudi mosque.

In his sermon in the Holy mosque in Mecca, Shaykh Al Talib said

“Is it not time the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] pondered and acknowledged that Islam is a continuation of the messages that came before it and that it is the religion that God has chosen for the whole of mankind?”

He continued: “From the time of Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, until the Day of Judgment, God will not accept any other religion or creed,” the imam says and cites the Qur’anic verse: “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost.” 17

Dara Shukoh had extended the concept the “People of the Book” to the Hindus also.

In Dara Shukoh’s case more was in play than just his views on the Vedas and the Upanishads. Aurangzeb’s animosity to Dara and the struggle for the throne was no hidden secret but it was as much the Mullahs who ultimately decided his fate. And Dara’s contempt of the Mullahs was a foregone conclusion.

Ridiculing the Mullahs he had written:

Paradise is only at a place where no Mulla lives,

Where no uproar or clamor from a Mulla is heard,

May the world rid itself of the terror of a Mulla.

May none pay heed to his fatwa

In a city where Mulla dwells,

No wise man is ever found.18

While on this subject, I also might add:

Many Muslim commentators assert had Dara Shukoh succeeded to the Mughal throne, Islam would have disappeared from India. This may actually be a false conclusion. Accession of orthodox Aurangzeb to the Mughal throne and his Islamic zealotry, probably caused more harm to the cause of Islam in India. His re-imposition of jiziya, decree to demolish Hindu temples, political and economic conversions and generally harsh measures against the Hindus caused widespread resentment against the Mughal rule which ultimately resulted in the empire’s disintegration.

Rizvi thinks “political fear and economic incentives during the reigns of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb had little effect on Islamic proselytization. Nevertheless between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries conversion of Hindus to Islam did occur on a considerable scale, due to successful prosyletizing techniques used by the new sufic orders and because of social factors inherent in the fresh wave of urbanization then taking place.”19

Though it is purely a matter of speculation today but it cannot be ruled out, given the nature of Hindu thought, it is quite possible that the approach adopted by Dara Shukoh might have proved to be more fatal to Hinduism than the harsh measures adopted by Aurangzeb. Once converted to Islam, the mild approach of Dara would have faded into oblivion, and India today might been just a larger version of Pakistan.

To conclude, there is no evidence of Dara Shukoh having renounced Islam or calling Islam and Hinduism as ‘twin-brothers’. Dara Shukoh was a Qadiri sufi in the Sunni tradition of orthodox Islam. He also regarded himself as wearer of mantle of Orthodox Sunni Islam. It is quite ironic the orthodox Mullahs led by Aurangzeb, in their zealotry, killed the golden goose that might have laid the golden egg of Islamic India.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1 Masum , 143b-145b; Bernier; 102, Tavernier, i.354; et al quoted in Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, vol. 1&2, Orient Longman, 1973, pp. 341 (quoted in footnote)

2 Sarkar, pp. 340

3 Rizvi, A History of Sufism in India, vol. 2, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1983, pp.128

4 ‘Alamgirnama, Calcutta1868, p. 432; Ma’asir-I ‘Alamgiri, Calcutta, 1870-73, p. 27; Quoted in Rizvi, pp.128

5 Rizvi, pp. 417

6 Rizvi, pp. 421

7 Rizvi, pp. 421

8 Majma’u’l Bahrain, pp. 101/56-57, Quoted in Rizvi, pp. 422

9 Rizvi, pp.423

10 Rizvi, pp. 423

11 Rizvi, pp. 422

12 Rizvi, pp. 423

13 Safinatu’l Aulia, p. 23, Quoted in Rizvi, pp. 132

14 Rizvi, pp. 134

15 Douglas L Berger, Oakmont Community College, IL., The Unlikely Commentator: The Hermeneutic Reception of Sankara’s Thought in the Interpretive Scholarship of Dara Shukoh, unpublished manuscript, pp. 2

16 Berger pp. 4

17 http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=20089

Saudi Sermon: Time for Christians and Jews to Convert to Islam [FBIS (US Government service) Translated Excerpt] [With thanks to http://www.mideastweb.org/mewnews1.htm ]  Riyadh Kingdom of Saudi Arabia TV1 in Arabic, official television station of the Saudi Government, carries on February 27, 2004 at 0945 GMT a live sermon from the holy mosque in Mecca.

18 Diwan-I Dara-Shukoh, quoted in Rizvi pp. 145

19 Rizvi, pp. 426

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….

A LETTER TO ALL THOSE WHO ACCUSE ME TO BE AN ANTI-MUSLIM. BY FRANCOIS GAUTIER

What is intellectual fascism? It is to accuse the other, without bothering to analyze these charges by the test of logic and reason … 

Fascism is also to refuse dialogue, which can take place before witnesses in the form of a debate. All Indologists who denigrate India, whether American ones, such as Witzel, or French like Jaffrelot, always refuse to dialogue with those they denigrate or those who defend the Hindus. 
Fascism is to label someone who has lived 40 years in India, has been married 20 years to an Indian, whose friends are Indians of different ethnic origin or religion, to be a right wing fascist. Someone, who in his private life, is neither racist nor hateful, nor fascist .
Intellectual fascism is sitting behind a plush desk in Harvard or Paris (or in this big bubble that is Delhi) and dissect India, using prejudices and false theorems, based on the politically correct, which are only a product of one’s education, atavism, or what one reads (this is called second hand knowledge). 

Fascism is to label as a fascist someone who has covered Kashmir for 15 years at the time of its most serious unrest, who has traveled extensively in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and who crisscrossed India like very few western journalists, except maybe Mark Tully. Even if he is wrong – at least he speaks from experience – and perhaps the time will prove him right…
All I did when I was working for Swiss newspaper Le Journal de Genève and later French daily Le Figaro, was to state that there was a problem with Islam in South Asia, at a time when it was not politically correct to say so. I also wrote a series of articles on major religions in India, showing the enduring tolerance of Hinduism, the brutality of Islam, the proselytizing tendencies of Christianity and the disappearance from India of Buddhism – not at the hands of Brahmins – but thanks to Muslim invasions.  These articles provoked the ire of French Indologists, who began writing to Le Figaro an impressive number of letters of protest, demanding my resignation. From that day, I was marked and a smear campaign at all levels has been initiated against me.
When one is accused of being anti-Muslim, it’s worse than being a leper, one is sentenced without trial, without the accusers putting themselves in question for a second. If they did, they would realize that it is a terrible irony: we excuse suicide bombings in Israel or in Mumbai which kill thousands of innocents, in the name of  the ‘persecution’ of Palestinians, Chechens and Kashmiris; but accuse of the worst crimes someone who has never murdered anyone, or even advocated hatred, but simply wrote about the reality he found on the ground with his own eyes, during twenty years of reporting.
Throughout my career I have thus suffered from these labels that are not explained but are passed on from person to person and quickly make the around of everything related to India, whether travel agencies, expatriates, diplomats or journalists: “He is an anti- Muslim, a pro-Hindu, a Fascist” … Nowadays, even the most enlightened only want to listen to the politically correct, the current ideologies of the masses, they rarely want to listen to something different which strives to go beyond appearances. I have seen six ambassadors of France, but never have I been asked about my opinion on one subject or another. I was even recently thrown by the current ambassador, Jerome Bonnafont, who called me a fascist … … because I told him that it was only after 59 innocent Hindus including 36 women and children, had been burnt in a train by a mob of Muslims, that the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat have started (Jerôme Bonnafont who is the first openly gay foreign ambassador, should know better).
It is this very French arrogance, which is not normal in the land of Descartes, which labels as a sect, anything which has a Hindu color, or casts as fascists anybody with whom they disagree, without giving them the chance to defend themselves. President Sarkozy, who showed he could be different, should form a small committee of French who LIVE India from within, so as to advise him.
F G

LETTRE DE FRANCOIS GAUTIER ADRESSEE A TOUS CEUX QUI L’ACCUSENT D’ÊTRE UN FACHISTE

Le fascisme c’est d’accuser l’autre sans prendre la peine de faire passer ces accusations par le test de la logique et de la raison…

Le fascisme c’est de refuser le dialogue, comme le font tous les indianistes du CNRS et de l’EHESS quand on leur tend la main, dialogue qui peut prendre place devant témoins sous forme de débat…

Le fascisme c’est de traiter de fasciste quelqu’un qui vit depuis 40 ans en Inde, est marié depuis 20 ans à une Indienne, dont les meilleurs copains sont des Indiens appartenant à toutes les religions. Quelqu’un qui dans sa vie privée n’est ni raciste, ni haineux, ni méchant…

Le fascisme c’est d’être assis sur son pesant derrière à Paris (ou dans cette grosse bulle qu’est Delhi) et de disséquer l’Inde à partir de préjugés, de faux théorèmes, en se basant sur le politiquement correct, qui n’est que du reçu de son éducation, son atavisme et ce qu’on lit (cela s’appelle  de la connaissance de deuxième main)….

Le fascisme c’est d’accuser de fascisme quelqu’un qui a couvert le Cachemire pendant 15 ans, au moment des troubles les plus graves, qui a parcouru de long en large le Pakistan, le Bangladesh, l’Afghanistan, qui a sillonné l’Inde comme aucun autre journaliste français… Même s’il se trompe – au moins il parle d’expérience – et peut-être le temps lui donnera raison…

Tout ce que j’ai fait, lorsque je travaillais pour le Figaro, c’est de dire qu’il existait un problème avec l’islam en Asie du sud, à un moment où il n’était pas politiquement correct de le dire. J’ai aussi rédigé une série d’articles sur les grandes religions en Inde, qui ont provoqué l’ire des indianistes. Ceux-ci ont écrit au Figaro un impressionnant nombre de lettres de protestation, demandant des droits de réponse et ma démission. De ce jour là, j’ai été marqué et une campagne de diffamation à tous les niveaux a été initiée contre moi.

Quand on est accusé d’être antimusulman, c’est pire que d’être un pestiféré, on est condamné sans jugement, sans que les accusateurs s’objectivent une seconde. S’ils le faisaient, ils réaliseraient que c’est une ironie terrible: on excuse les attentats suicide en Israël ou à Bombay qui tuent des centaines d’innocents, au nom de la ‘persécution’ des Palestiniens, des Tchéchènes ou des Kashmiris; mais on accuse des pires crimes quelqu’un qui n’a jamais assassiné personne, ni même prôné la haine, mais a simplement écrit ce qu’il a constaté de ses yeux, en vingt ans de reportages.

Tout au long de ma carrière, j’ai souffert de cette étiquette qui ne s’explique pas mais est véhiculée de personne en personne et fait rapidement le tour de tout ce qui touche à l’Inde, que ce soit les agences de voyage, les expatriés, les diplomates ou les journalistes : « c’est un antimusulman, un pro-hindou, un fasciste »… Les gens, même les plus éclairés, ne veulent écouter que le politiquement correct, l’idéologie de masse, ils ne veulent jamais entendre la différence. J’ai connu six ambassadeurs de France, mais jamais m’a-t-on invité pour me demander mon avis sur un sujet ou un autre. Je me suis même dernièrement fait jeter par l’ambassadeur actuel, Jérôme Bonnafont, qui m’a traité de… fasciste… parce que je lui ai fait remarquer que c’est après que 59 hindous innocents, dont 36 femmes et enfants, aient été brûlés dans un train par une meute de musulmans, que les émeutes antimusulmanes du Gujarat ont démarré. Pourtant Jérôme Bonnafont ne fait pas lui-même exactement dans le politiquement correct: il est le premier ambasadeur étranger à Delhi ouvertement gay, ce qui fait jaser le tout Delhi francophone.

C’est cette arrogance bien française, qui ne s’explique pas au pays des cartésiens, de traiter de secte tout ce qui a une couleur hindoue, ou de fascistes ceux avec qui on est en désaccord, sans leur accorder la chance de s’expliquer et sans même s’expliquer à soi-même la logique de ses accusations. Le président Sarkozy, qui a montré qu’il savait être différent, devrait constituer un petit comité de Français qui VIVENT l’inde du dedans, pour le conseiller.

RECIPROCITY & HINDU ANGER

RECIPROCITY & HINDU ANGER

This starts as a beautiful story. Once upon a time, there was a tiny village in South Arcot’s district of Tamil Nadu, called Kuilaplayam. Now Kuilapalayam is like hundreds of villages around Pondichery: it is peopled with Hindu Vanniars, a caste slightly higher than the untouchables, poor, living off agriculture, usually a few meagre fields of cashew nuts. But then Kuilapalayam just happened to be in the midst of Auroville, the international township, founded by the Mother of Pondichery, based upon the ideals of the great yogi and revolutionary, Sri Aurobindo.

Thus Kuilaplayam prospered: its inhabitants learned trades needed for the city: carpenters, masons, craftsmen, some of its children attended Auroville’s schools and were educated along with western kids and in time graduated and went into white collar jobs. From a few cycles 40 years ago, Kuilapalama has today motorcycles, tractors, cars, vans, cable TV, cell phones, etc. The main road of Kuilapalayam which used to boast only shady huts, became lined-up with fancy shops which sell everything, from vegetables to handicrafts.

And then the unavoidable happened: a Kashmiri Muslim from Chennai heard about Auroville and the prosperity of Kuilapalaym and understanding that he could make a packet with so many westerners passing though Auroville, he opened the usual shawls & carpets’ shop in the village. Now Kuilapalayam never counted a Muslim amongst its population in its 1200 years of recorded history; but in the true Hindu tradition, this one was welcomed and nobody raised an objection, although he was competition for some of the other shops. Our Kashmiri Muslim, seeing his success, called his cousin in Kolkata, who came and opened another shop; and that one phoned his friend in Mumbai, who also landed-up and opened a third shop. Still nobody found anything to say. Kashmiris are sociable fellows and they quickly made friends with Westerners, most of them blissfully unaware of the political situation in India, so business was booming, till they were seven or eight Kashmiri shops in Kuilapalayam. And again nobody complained, even when the fellows started doing their naamaz in their backyards. “Isn’t God everywhere and isn’t He Krishna, as well as Allah”, said one of the villagers?

Then Bhoumi, one of the young boys of Kuilapalayam, who had gone to study in Delhi, told his parents when he came back, about the fact that not only no Hindu were allowed to buy land or start a shop in the Valley of Kashmir, where the shopkeepers came from, but that four hundred thousand Hindus, were chased out of the Valley by terror, many of them having been murdered and that many were still living as refugees in camps in Jammu and Delhi. His parents started talking to their friends and there was the first hint of resentment against the newcomers.

Then some elders of Kuilapalayam hear that Mulsims of Kashmir rioted when the Government allotted some land in Amarnath, one of the most sacred and ancient Hindu pilgrimages, high in the Himalayas. Bhoumi’s father went to see a group of Kuilaplayam Kashmiris having tea and told them that Hindus never complained about their government giving billion of rupees in subsidies to Indian Muslims so that they can visit their most Holy place, the Mecca. “But when Hindus, he continued, need shelters, toilets and basic facilities at height of 15.000 feet to worship at one of the holiest places of Hinduism, why do you Kashmiri Muslims deny it to us” ? The Kashmiris looked a bit uneasy, then replied “that anyway the Amarnath ice lingam had been discovered by a Muslim shepherd and that Muslims have always welcomed their Hindu brothers to Armanath”. But this did not convince the Kuilapalayam man who had heard from his son that many grenade attacks had happened over the years against the Amarnath pilgrims. And anger started mounting in Kuilapalayam.

So it is all a question of reciprocity. Most Hindus are peace-loving people. The average Hindu that you meet in a million Indian villages, such as Kuilapalayam, is easy-going and accepts you and your diversity, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Parsi or Jain, Arab, French or Chinese. He goes about his business and usually does not interfere in yours.

In fact Hindus take it a little further: they hate trouble and go out of their way to avoid it. Have you noticed how every time there is a possibility of a strike or trouble, Hindus stay home? Or how – forget about rioting – Hindus never speak-up, complain or protest in a united manner. Not only that, but everywhere in the world, Hindus are hounded, humiliated, routed, be it in Fiji where an elected democratic government was twice deposed in an armed coup, or in Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Muslims indulge in pogroms against Hindus every time they want to vent their hunger against India (read Taslima Nasreen’s book “Lalja”). In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorized by pro-Christian separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Their temples are being taken over in many states like in Kerala or Karnataka, and the donations appropriated by the state governments.

Yet, in 3500 years of known existence, Hindus have never military invaded another country, never tried to impose their religion upon others, by force or even by induced conversions. No, it has rather been through peaceful invasions that Hinduism has stormed the world, whether in the East, witness Angkor Vat, or in the West today, where the by-products of Hinduism, yoga, meditation, ayurveda, pranayama, spread by great gurus such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, have been adopted by millions.

Thus Hindus, who accept everybody, welcome all religions, allow Indians from other parts to trade next to them, as it happened in Kuilapalayam, do not receive in return any gratitude and the same respect. On the contrary, they get mocked at, bombs are planted in their markets, their trains; their temples, their five star hotels get attacked, they are chased out of their homelands; television and newspapers make fun of them, their own politicians ostracize them… Hindus recognize the fact that God may manifest at different times under different names, the concept of the avatar – Krishna, Buddha, Mohamed or Jesus Christ. Indeed, Hindus gave refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world from the Parsis, to the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted, or killed bar the recent attack on the Nariman house in Mumbai) to the Armenians and the Tibetans today.

The first Christian community of the world, that of the Syrian Christians was established in Kerala in the 1st century and Christians in this country always had freedom of worship and respect from Hindus. But how did Christians repay their Hindu brothers and sisters? When the Portuguese landed in India in the 16th century, their Jesuits started a reign of terror in Kerala and particularly in Goa, forcibly marrying young Hindu girls to their soldiers, razing hundreds of temples to build churches, crucifying Brahmins. Today, Indian missionaries are converting with unethical means innocent tribals and Dalits in states like Orissa with the million of dollars donated by Westerners thinking it is to alleviate poverty. I am a Westerner and born Christian, but I cannot condone conversion from one religion to another by using cash and other financial baits. Furthermore, the new converts are encouraged to look down on their own culture and it creates tensions and havoc in their society as seen recently in Kandhamal.

So, sometimes, Enough is Enough. At some point, after years or even centuries of submitting like sheep to slaughter, Hindus, the most peace-loving people in the world, those the Mahatma Gandhi once called gently ‘cowards’, those who cringe in their houses at the least sign of riot, erupt in fury – uncontrolled fury. And it hurts. It hurts badly. It happened in Gujarat. It happened in Jammu. It is happening in Orissa now. It may happen again elsewhere, as Hindus are reaching a boiling point.

Yes, one should condemn the pogroms that happened in Gujarat or in Orissa, but one should look also in the causes. It is not only the 36 innocent Hindu women and children who were burnt savagely in a train by a mob of criminals, worse than animals, or the fact that an 84 year old harmless swami and his Mataji were brutally murdered. It is also how much silent frustration and anger must have built over the years, decades, or centuries even, amongst Gujarati or Orya Hindus, that in one moment, normal Hindus, peaceful people, many of them Dalits, tribals, or even upper middle class, came out on the streets of Ahmedabad or the jungles of Khandamal with such fury.

François Gautier