Tag Archives: kashmir

REMEMBERING THE KASHMIRI PANDITS: THE ROLE OF BENAZIR BHUTTO

When Benazir Bhutto died  in December 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described her as “one of the outstanding leaders of our sub-continent, who always looked for reconciliation between India and Pakistan.” Most magazines did cover stories on her and Benazir Bhutto became a “martyr of democracy”.

It is a sad that a mother of three children was so brutally killed and we all mouredn her terrible death. Nevertheless, truth must be told. For, as usual, what the press says is not exactly what happened. Firstly, under Bhutto, anti-Indian terrorism in the Kashmir region was fostered and increased. Benazir was also directly responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir. “She was instrumental in sponsoring jihad, openly inciting militants to intensify terrorism in India,” says Ajai Sahni, the executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management. “I find it very difficult to discover a single element with her relationship to India that is positive and for the betterment of her country or the region”, he adds. Remember how she was shouting her slogans of azaadi, and exhorting the people of Kashmir to cut Jagmohan, then governor of the state, into pieces, as in “jag-jag, mo-mo, han-han”. She would say this while making chopping motions with her right hand as it moved from her left wrist to the elbow, leaving nobody in any doubt as to what she meant.
Secondly, under Benazir Bhutto, the Taliban formed and, helped by Pakistan’s intelligence service, swept across Afghanistan and later hosted Osama bin Laden. It is a bit of an irony that she may have been killed by the very people she helped foster if at all she was murdered.
Thirdly, she deliberately increased tension levels and then threatened India with a pre-emptive nuclear strike. The tension peaked when Benazir repeated her late father’s immortal boast of waging a thousand-year war against India and even Rajiv Gandhi was forced to mock her in Parliament, asking if those who talked of a thousand-year war could last even a thousand hours.

And fourthly, in her last speech before she died, she alluded to India as one of the threats Pakistan had to face, implying that if she was elected she would deal firmly with it. Then why is it that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called her a friend of India and that Indians still remember
affectionately ?

I interviewed Benazir Bhutto twice, the last one as she was campaigning to be re-elected for a second term.
The first question I asked, was about Kashmir, as she was the one who had called for ‘Azad Kashmir’, a Kashmir free from India, which had triggered the ethnic cleansing of most Hindus of the Valley of Kashmir, 400.000 of them having to flee their ancestral land.
–    – You know, she answered, you have to understand the Pakistani point of view on Kashmir. If one goes by the logic of Partition, then at least the Kashmir valley, which is in great majority Muslim – and it should be emphasised that for long the Hindus Pandits in Kashmir exploited and dominated the Muslims, who are getting back at them today – should have reverted to Pakistan. But let us say that officially we want to help grant Kashmiris their right to self-determination
–    – That’s the only reason, I continued ?
–    – No, answered Benazir, it should be clear also that Pakistan never forgot the humiliating loss of Bangladesh at the hands of India, although India claims it only helped Bangladesh to gain its freedom in the face of what the Bangladeshis say was Pakistani genocide. Zia’s emergence was a result of that humiliation.
–    – But Zia hanged your father, I interrupted…
–    – Yes and I hate him, and God the Almighty already punished him for that, said Benazir (alluding to Zia’s death in a plane crash). But Zia did one thing right, he started the whole policy of proxy war by supporting the separatist movements in Punjab and Kashmir, as a way of getting back at India.
–    – What about Pakistan’ nuclear bomb, I asked?
–    -That’s my father’s work she said proudly. He realized, after having lost the 1965 and 1971wars with India, that both numerically and strategically, we can never beat India in a conventional conflict. Thus he initiated the programme by saying that “we will get the nuclear bomb, even if we have to eat grass”.
–    – But is it not a dangerous weapon if it falls in the hands of the fundamentalists of your country, I asked?
–    No such danger, Benazir answered. Anyway, it is not only a deterrent against India’s military conventional superiority and an answer to India’s own nuclear capability, but also the ultimate weapon to reassert Islam’s moral superiority.
–    – We in Europe have united in a Common Market, why don’t Pakistan and India forget their differences and form some kind of confederation with other South Asia countries, instead of killing each other?
–    – Pakistan and India were never one country, answered the imperious lady. They were only kept together by force, whether by Mauryan, Moghul or British rule. Hindus have recognised the reality of Islam, and we needed our own country to feel free.

I was flabbergasted: here was a lady educated in Oxford and Harvard, who mouthed such irrational statements. She spoke good English, was pretty, articulate and appealed to the Press. But when in power, she had to resort to anti -Indianism to please her voters, her husband, now President of Pakistan, was known as Mr 10%, and she was hounded out of power twice for incompetence and corruption. Is she then a martyr of democracy ? History will tell. But today we see that her niece, Fatima Bhutto, as pretty as Benazir was, is the toast of the Indian Media, every time she comes to the Literary Festival of Jaipur, to sell her books! If one day Fatima becomes PM,as Pakistan have also their favorite dynasty, for sure, she will tread in her aunt’s footprints, for the only way to please the Pakistani voters, is to called for Azad Kashmir…

François Gautier

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….

HINDUTVA, SEX AND ADVENTURES 2

However angry I am at the accusation of having written Hindutva, Sex & Adventures, whereas I never hid under a pseudonym to say what I think, I cannot but feel that Mark Tully – or whoever has written this book – has raised some very pertinent issues. In fact I am aghast at most of these reviewers – all of them Hindu journalists – who bash the Hindutva part of it. Dilip Bobb, for instance, rubbished the book in a few words, without even taking care to debate the validity of the points which are raised. Is it because Hindutva is abhorrent to Mr Bobb’s Christian identity?
In fact, I even agree with some portions of the book. The description of the Indian journalist/heroin of the book below, for example, seems to me to apply to most of the Indian journalists of the feminine kind.
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… Andrew had heard about yoga before coming to India and felt no inclination towards it, as it was so different from his Anglican practice. But, as he would say later, you cannot live in India long, without taking some interest in yoga. There was a mammoth yoga conference in Rishikesh, where many yogis, gurus and teachers were to take part and Andrew decided to cover it, not only because it was there that the Beatles had gone to study yoga in Maharishi Yogi’s ashram, but also because it is a holy place for most Hindus….

… The next morning he went to the yoga conference where security was tight at as many famous saints were there, such as the shankaracharya of Kanchi, Ma Amrita Anandamai, B.K Iyengar, who more than anybody had helped to spread yoga in the West and swami Bhakta, an upcoming young guru, clean shaven, with flowing orange robes, who taught yoga and a revitalized form of pranayama and with whom Andrew had fixed an interview the next day.

Andrew, standing under an awning near the entrance, noticed her immediately. She was impatiently flashing a press card at one of the security guards and animatedly arguing with him. She was not only pretty, but her anger also exuded a kind of intensity that was appealing to him. He liked girls with personalities and had discovered, of late, that pretty girls are often shallow and self-conscious and that desire dies quickly when beauty is just an empty shell. She was wearing a white shirt and black pants, her black hair was tied behind her head, nothing flashy, but it suited well her personality. She must have felt the weight of his stare and she turned her head and their eyes briefly met. God, she also has pretty eyes, thought Andrew.

Andrew would not give up so easily, he followed her and as she was sitting down in the empty last but one row, he slipped into the chair next to her. She gave him a cool look, she had always been mistrustful of strangers:
-Thanks for having helped me, she nevertheless said and then turned her head away.
But he would not give-up
– Hi, my name is Andrew  Luyt and I am a British radio journalist, he said, extending his hand.
She hesitated and then shook it, noticing with a slight surprise that he kept it in his, longer than was decent to do.
– My name is Imla What are your doing here, she asked ?
–    I am learning all about yoga
–    – Oh, she answered, there is a lot of bull here. It’s all about marketing and brainwashing people.
Andrew was surprised: she looked so Indian, in spite of her western attire.
–    Well, he replied, I am an Anglican and some of my clergy think that yoga is very un-Christian, but how can you dislike something that was born in your country and that has taken the world by storm ? Every gymnastic discipline, every aerobic has some yogic ancestry !
But she was not convinced:
–    What we need in India now are good roads, honest politicians and lots of high tech, not godmen which are two dime a dozen in every nook of this country !
Andrew heard for the first time the word ‘godman’, used derogatively by the Indian media to call Hindu gurus and which he would encounter again and again. He asked:
– Then, why are you here ?
–     Oh, she replied, my newspaper has sent me to write a piece on Swami Bhakta for the Sunday magazine, because he is becoming very big in India, though I do not care much for him. But I have not even managed to catch his secretary so far.
Now I have her he thought:
– Well I have an appointment with him tomorrow morning. Would you like to join me ? I will give you a little bit of time at the end.
For the first time, she seemed interested in him:
– Yes, of course, she said, quick as only a journalist can be. Can you give me a few tips ?
– Sure, he smiled, if you let me buy you dinner at the pizzeria.

The pizzeria was then the only decent western restaurant in Rishikesh, run by a fat Italian, who talked a lot and baked fairly decent pizzas in his makeshift tandooori oven. She met him at seven o’clock. She had put on a salwar kameez and looked even more beautiful, slim, demure and pretty. They sat facing each other in the tiny restaurant overlooking the Ganges. She was distant and eyed him suspiciously, yet he could feel that she was curious about him.
He started asking her questions. She was born in Delhi but worked in Mumbai for the largest midday paper. Her father was an officer in the army, her mother a teacher and she was still living with them.
She was so Indian, yet in many ways, she was more westernized than him. She did not care about yoga and spirituality. Her political views were pretty straightforward:
–    I think the Congress represents the best chance for our country where there are so many minorities, so many religions and ethnicities, she said defiantly to Andrew (who then, could not agree more with her). Seeing Andrew silent, she continued:
–    You westerners have a romantic idea of India. But it’s all about half of our population not having access to proper sanitation, drinking water, or even one meal a day. This is why, Nehruvian socialism is also the right choice for us, as we need to uplift the destitute, the untouchables, which a brahmanic society has kept down for centuries.
But what astounded Andrew even more, was her culture. She had never read Kalidasa, whom Andrew had jus discovered in a bookshop in Khan market. His poetry, genius and sensuality shined even in the bad translation from the Sanskrit and Andrew intuitively felt that he was as good as Homer, as Shakespeare even. When he told her, she laughed :
–    Kalidasa, who ?
But she knew Tennyson’s poem ‘All things will die’, of which she recited the last stanza in a singsong voice, which sounded so out of place in this tiny restaurant serving Italian food in one of the holiest cities of India :
– And the blue wave beat the shore;
“For even and morn
Ye will never see
Thro’ eternity.
All things were born.
Ye will come never more,
For all things must die.”


He felt touched somehow: there was spirituality in this poetry, which was so close to his own atavism and culture.
She also knew the latest bestsellers in the US: Mario Puzzo, Ken Follett, Danielle Steele, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, Dick Francis, half of whom Andrew had never read.

– But what about you, she asked, you are a typical journalist, prying information and not giving away anything ?
He told her freely about himself, his being born in India, his difficult schooling, his radio days and coming back here, which felt like home, in spite of the wide difference in cultures. He told her about his first features and his recent trip to Kashmir. He planned to cover the entire subcontinent and was excited by it. Yes, she may be right about the Congress and Nehru, but he came from a journalist culture where one had to report everything to give the radio listener a chance to make his or her own opinion.

She asked him a few questions in Hindi, to which he answered pretty fluently with his British accent, having worked hard at his Hindi in Delhi. She looked at him with interest now. He was not that handsome, but he had a puppy dog air that sometimes endeared him to women. She also found that as he talked, she completely forgot his gruff face and got caught by the melodious power of his voice, which had a near sexual energy in it. He was a charmer too and knew how to weave stories about his encounters with funny maharajas or his solitary ride on the Dal lake, which enthralled her. At some point, however, she got a little bit aggressive :
–    Don’t think Kashmir is all about sentimental boat rides. We Hindus have a lot to answer there… We have exploited Kashmiris for centuries and the army today is killing innocent men in fake encounters and Indian soldiers regularly rape kashmiri women …
Andrew, who had always hated pushy female journalists, did not answer. He had noticed that in India the most aggressive journalists, those who were often the most bitingly nasty in their reporting, were women. Was it because they had to compete in a man’s world, he thought, or was it – as he had also found out through personal experience – because Indian women have a strong masculine streak in them ? India, he would say later, appears to be ruled by men. But if you look carefully in all marriages, from the CEO to the farmer, it is often the woman who takes all important decisions.

Suddenly he disliked her. He found her too precocious, too made-up in her conversation, too westernized for his own taste, and with so little roots in that Indian-ness which he was looking for all over India. He thought her ideas were clichéd and he resented her I-told-you-so answers to his questions. At some point he nearly asked for the bill to signify that the meeting was over. Then he looked at her again: she was so lovely. And he repeated it aloud, in the midst of a conversation that was going nowhere and as she was getting more and more remote and cold.
–    –  You are so beautiful…

Normally she would have either slapped the guy or just taken her bag and walked out. But it was so unexpected, it was said with such conviction and simplicity, that she did not know what to say. She always had a tart and ready-made reply for such frontal and indecent statements, but this time she was speechless. And when the compliment really started sinking in, she realized that it pleased her. It was not just a man trying to make her happy, it was something she had been yearning for so long: a recognition that not only she was beautiful, but also that beneath her beauty there was a stuff that was worth discovering – and no man had ever tried before to touch that inner stuff of her. It seemed to her for a moment that Andrew was referring to both her beauties: the known and the invisible

She hesitated for a second and then said, as spontaneously and effortlessly as Andrew had thrown his compliment:
–    – Thank you.
Let’s swim in the Ganges early tomorrow morning, he said, I have been told by a colleague that there is a small beach upstream, near the Laxman jhulla, where we can even sunbathe. After that we will go to interview swami Bhakta as it is on the same bank. Again she hesitated for a moment and then agreed. They parted in front of the restaurant with a formal handshake….

HINDUTVA, SEX AND ADVENTURES

I have been wrongly accused to have written the novel “Hindutva, Sex & Adventures (Roly Books, 2010).  But in my 25 years of journalism, books and conferences, I never hid behind a pseudonym to say what I think and to defend Hindus. There are four other foreign correspondents who could have very well written this book; Mark Tully, John Eliott, Bernard Imhasly and David Housego. Of all these, Mark Tully is the only one who time and again indicated he had ‘soft’ sympathies for Hindutva.

However angry I am at being falsely accused, I do think that Mark Tully, who is a decent guy, or whoever wrote this book, has raised very pertinent issues, by having a dialogue between the hero Andrew Luyt, who slowly sees that Hinduism is the basic structure of India – and Imla, his Indian journalist girlfriend,  who like most Indian journos, is a diehard secularist. Thus I cannot resist posting a few extracts of the books:
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…Like most western journalists, and in spite of being born here, Andrew came to India with a fair amount of goodwill and an aspiration to do justice to this huge and diverse subcontinent. But, also like most correspondents, he also landed armed with a number of prejudices, picked-up here and there during his strict protestant education: poverty, castes, gods and goddesses, fakirs, elephants, sacred cows and maharajas…


On the second day, he was invited by a British colleague to a party. He had heard that Delhi parties were famous for being boozy and late. It was in East Nizamudin, a place he would come to love and where he would live. But this time he got lost, not having grasped yet the maddening illogic patterns of street numbers in India. It was in the apartment of another foreign correspondent, a Frenchman, known for his love of women and stupendous capacity for drinking and it was full of journalists, both Indian and Western. The apartment was wide and beautifully furnished with teak antic pieces, there was a lot of alcohol, quite a few stunning women- mostly Indian – the foreign ones did not look like much to Andrew – and one could hardly hear oneself talking. Andrew, still a little shy, in spite of his booming voice, stuck himself in a corner and just observed. The western journalists wore all white cotton trousers, white open shirts, and had a seriousness about them that stuck Andrew. The Indian journalists had a glass of whisky in one hand, a cigarette – or sometimes a pipe – in the other, and loudly talked of politics to the western journalists who listened to them enthralled.

For the first time Andrew heard words, which later would become part of his vocabulary:
– Gosh, said, a chap from the London Telegraph, whom Andrew had briefly met once, these Hindu fundamentalists will bring curse to this country; see how they are claiming that most the mosques in India, including the Babri Masjid, are built on destroyed temples…
– Yeah, replied another chap, whom Andrew had never met, in a German accented-English, we journalists, have to do our bit for India’s persecuted minorities, you know, the Christians who are attacked in tribal ideas, or the Muslims who do not get the same education as Hindus and are nowhere to be found in the top layers of Indian society.
– Right you are, continued the Telegraph chap. I am actually compiling a report of Human Rights abuses in India. We need to preserve Secularism, which I believe we British bequeathed to this country, he concluded, rather pompously, thought Andrew…

All these new words, plus the smoke, noise, and movement, left him slightly stunned after the quietness of British parties. Dinner was served at 11 pm, which struck him as rather late. He ate quickly, mumbled a goodbye to his host and went back by rickshaw to the Claridges, again baffled by what he was encountering in India

He started hunting for a place in Delhi, which was easier said than done. Even in those times, foreign diplomats, who were ready to pay anything for a house in posh areas of Delhi, had helped to make rental prices skyrocket to ridiculous heights: 75.000 Rs for a big flat in Golf Links, or one lakh for a house in Jorbagh. The owners were usually rich Punjabis, who asked for 50% of the money to be paid in black in foreign accounts and demanded one – sometimes two – years in advance. One day Andrew went to see a flat in Sujan Singh Park, near the Ambassador hotel, where lived the famous writer and journalist Kushwant Singh. The owner was a fat Sikh who had rings on every finger. Flat was nice, but when Andrew requested to see the servants’ quarters, he was shown a dump of a room without any windows and when he asked about the bathroom, the fat Sikh replied
– they don’t need bathrooms, they can use the public toilets in Khan Market !
Andrew, in spite of his British self-control, nearly slapped the guy and left without a word. He would discover much later that rich North Indians often paid and treated very badly their servants and whenever he saw in papers that a servant had murdered his or her masters and fled with their money, he remembered the servants’ quarters in Sujan Singh Park. Finally he settled for a run down flat in East Nizamudin,  overlooking the shrine of the Muslim Sufi saint, Nizamud-din Chishti, a district which then was not yet as popular as it would become with intellectuals and journalists. He remodelled it, hunted Delhi’s antic markets for old colonial furniture and made it in a haven of peace. Ultimately, he would become known as the ‘Knight of East Nizamuddin’…
.

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

Pale Fires Don’t Scorch

col_franco_20090209Deviants of Mangalore and Malegaon are demonised fallaciously   
 Francois Gautier  

Source: OutlookIndia.com
 
 
When I began reporting, I went to interview the RSS leadership in Delhi, expecting, from what I had heard, a few bloodthirsty fascists. I was surprised to meet those old daddies with their long khaki shorts, who would not hurt a fly. Twenty-five years later, the word ‘Hindu Talibanisation’ is being heard amidst the clamour following the odious pub episode in Mangalore. Such incidents should be condemned, as it has no precedent in Indian history—from Prithviraj Chauhan to Shivaji, Hindus respected the women of even their enemies. Yet, I beg to disagree: this is not about the Talibanisation of Hindu groups, it is about their demonisation.

British colonisers in league with the Christian missionaries realised 200 years ago that the biggest obstacle to fully subjugating India was Hinduism, as it was ancient, woven into the fabric of life and held the country together. They set upon defaming Hinduism, by dwelling on what they perceived as its negatives: castes, sati, superstition, etc. Simultaneously, they created in a span of two or three generations a class of Indians who looked up only to the West.

Macaulay, the architect of the scheme, summed it up in his Minute on Education: “We must do our best to form a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” Macaulay despised Indian culture: “Hindus have a literature of small intrinsic value, hardly reconcilable with morality, full of monstrous superstitions….” The demonisation of Hinduism was apace.

As a result, these Anglicised Indians became ashamed of their own culture. This Western/anti-Hindu outlook was handed down from generation to generation, right down to our age, where many of India’s brilliant and articulate Hindu-Marxist intellectuals, products all of institutions like jnu, or St Stephen’s, keep on repeating, as if by rote, what their hoary forebears were taught by the British. And unfortunately, they pass it back to their friends from the West, neatly marking a full circle. How else could a film like Slumdog Millionaire, made by an Englishman, which literally craps on India from the very first frame, be feted by most of India’s intelligentsia? How else could India specialists like Christophe Jaffrelot peddle to his gullible French readers the spurious theory that there is a “Hindu tradition of terror”?

Politically, the Congress just took over from the British, as I explain in my new book (A New History of India, 2008, Har Anand), and used its English-speaking press to present Hindu social and political parties as fanatical and ridiculous. The goal was to corner the Muslim vote, which was—and still remains—achieved. It does not help today that the supreme leader of India is a Christian. Whether her aides or her ministers (many of them capable people in their own right) rush to gratify her in true bhakti spirit or whether she directly speaks her will, one does not know. But what better way to please her than by equating Hindu fundamentalism with the Muslim one and to turn the flak on to small Hindu outfits which are amateur lambs compared to the Islamic ones?

There are two standards today used by India’s media and intelligentsia. One for minorities and the other for Hindus. It is totally illogical: if 4,00,000 Hindus are hounded out of the Kashmir Valley which has always been their home, nobody protests; but New Delhi has been rooting for Palestinians for four decades and recently donated a million dollars for their welfare. When blast after blast wrecks Indian markets, when trains are bombed, hotels attacked by men worse than animals, intellectuals blame it on Babri Masjid (where nobody was killed) or Gujarat (triggered by the burning of 59 innocent Hindus).But when a few Hindus plan to establish a Hindu rashtra and plot a clumsy, small-scale revenge, they are equated with deadly fundamentalists. A universal theorem is made of their single act, which should stand out as isolated, because Hindus have been for thousands of years tolerant to the point of cowardice. Our intellectuals never theorised when, in Kashmir, militants used to throw acid on women who did not cover up, but now devote reams to the goons of Mangalore.

Finally, to be fair, one has to say that a lot of prudishness has seeped into India because of the Islamic purdah and, later, Victorian stuffiness. Yet, Hinduism always enjoined its adherents to live life fully, including its sexual aspect. We do not want an Indian youth which blindly apes the West: drinking, drugs and promiscuity. But the Hindu political leadership should also shun rough, prudish and moralistic acts which will only alienate its young voters.
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(Francois Gautier is the editor-in-chief of the Paris-based La Revue l’Inde)

KASHMIR AND DEMOCRACY

Source: Kashmir Herald

 

François Gautier

[Editor’s Note: Kashmir Herald is honored to have Mr. Francois Gautier write this article exclusively for Kashmir Herald.]

No doubt Mr Vajpayee is a nice man, no doubt he is well-meaning, no doubt he also embodies some of the better virtues of tolerance and ahimsa of Hinduism, but lately, he has all but surrendered Kashmir to Islamic separatism, not only losing elections there, even amongst his own people, but also saying that “democracy has won in Kashmir”. Democracy has won in Kashmir? Does democracy mean that a state where Hindus and Muslims used to live in harmony, where Islam had a gentler more tolerant face, has now become a haven for violence, intolerance, bullets and treachery? Is this democracy? Does democracy mean that 400.000 Kashmiri Pandits have become refugees in their own land, an ethnic cleansing without parallel in the recent history of mankind, worse even that in Yugoslavia ? It is also an irony that Mr. Vajpayee, whom the Press likes to call a Hindu “nationalist”, may have all but handed to Pakistan on a platter what has belonged to India for millennia.

I am a white man and a Christian, but I feel ashamed for India when I see in Sundays’ newspaper the photo of a Christian, and a white woman, Sonia Gandhi, along with two Muslims, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, royally offering to the latter the governance of Kashmir. Have Indians forgotten how Mufti Mohammed Sayeed surrendered the might of the whole Government when his daughter was taken hostage and he was a Union Minister? Does a country of 860 millions Hindus, inheritors of one of the most ancient civilizations on earth and today comprising some of the most brilliant people on this planet, need a Christian white woman and a Muslim to run what was once the cradle of Shivaism?

Western correspondents (and unfortunately sometimes Indian journalists) keep lionizing the Kashmiri “freedom fighters” and demonizing the “bad” Indian army. But they should do well to remember Sri Aurobindo, who wrote in 1940: “in Kashmir, the Hindus had all the monopoly. Now if the Muslim demands are acceded to, the Hindus will be wiped out again.” (India’s Rebirth, p. 220) How prophetic! Because nobody cares to remember today that Kashmiris were almost entirely Hindus or Buddhists, before they were  converted by invading Muslims six centuries ago. True, today these Muslims in Kashmir have not only accepted as their own a religion which their ancestors had rejected, but they have also often taken-up the strident cry of Islam. Does any one remember too, that at the beginning of the century, there still were 25% Hindus in the Kashmir valley and that today the last 350.000 Kashmiri Pandits are living in miserable conditions in camps near Jammu and Delhi, refugees in their own land, they who originally inhabited the valley, at least 5000 years ago, a much bigger ethnic cleansing than the one of the Bosnian Muslims or the Albanians in Yugoslavia?

It’s a common refrain today in most newspapers to say that since Independence  India alienated Kashmiris through years of wrong policies. But those who have been in close contact with Kashmir, even in its heydays of  tourism, know for a fact that as a general rule, Kashmiri Muslims never liked India. There was only one thing that attached them to India, it was the marvellous financial gains and state bounties that they made out of tourism.  Even those Kashmiri Muslims who are now settled in India make no bones about where their loyalty lies. Talk to them, specially if you are a Westerner, and after some time, they’ll open their hearts to you; whether it is the owner of this Kashmir emporium in a five star hotel in Madras, or the proprietor of a famous travel agency in Delhi: suddenly, after all the polite talk, they burst out with their loathing of India and their attachment to an independent Kashmir.

Nowadays Mufti Mohammed Sayeed wants us to believe that with a certain degree of autonomy, Kashmiri Muslims will be appeased. This may be true in most Indian states, who are often rightly fed-up with the Centre’s constant interference in their internal affairs, but basically, there is only one thing which Kashmiri Muslims are craving for and that is a plebiscite on whether they want to stay with India or secede. The answer in the Kashmir valley, would be a massive “no” to India (98%?). And as for Mufti, he would be quickly eliminated by the militants, who would immediately seize control of Kashmir and attach it to Pakistan.

The Indian security forces in Kashmir are accused of all kind of atrocities. But this is war, not a tea party! If India decides to keep Kashmir, it has to do so according to the rules set by the militants: violence, death and treachery are the order of the day. And men are men: after having been ambushed repeatedly, after having seen their comrades die, after weeks and weeks of waiting in fear, one day, they just explode in a burst of outrage and excesses. Amnesty International chooses to highlight “the Indian atrocities” in Kashmir. But Amnesty which does otherwise wonderful work to keep track of political atrocities world-wide, can sometimes become a moralistic, somewhat pompous organisation, which in its comfortable offices in London, judges on governments and people, the majority of whom happen to be belonging to the Third World. Its insistence on being granted unlimited access to Kashmir is a one-sided affair. Did Amnesty bother at all about the support given by the CIA to the most fundamentalist Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, support which led to the bleeding of Afghanistan today and the Pakistani sponsoring of terrorism in India? (Without mentioning the fact that most of the Western countries which today sit in judgement of India, raped and colonised the Third World in the most shameless manner; and after all it happened not so long ago).

And this leads to the next question: should then India surrender to international pressure and let Kashmiris decide their own fate? Well it all depends on the Indian people’s determination. Each nation has, or has had in the past, a separatist problem. Today, the Spanish have the Basques, the French the Corsicans, and the Turkish,  the Kurds. Amnesty International will continue to lambaste India in its reports about human rights violations. But has Amnesty the right to decide what is right or wrong for each nation?  Sometimes double standards are adapted by the West. Yesterday it colonised the entire Third World. Today; the United States, under the guise of human rights, is constantly interfering in other’s people’s affairs, often by force. It uses the United Nations, as it does in Iraq, in Somalia and Yugoslavia and is getting away with it. Can Amnesty International, the United States and the United Nations decide today what is democratic and what they deem anti-democratic and use their military might to enforce their views? But this is the trend today and it is a very dangerous and fascist trend. Will tomorrow the United Nations send troops to Kashmir to enforce Pakistan’s dreams?

Furthermore, there is today another very dangerous habit, which is to fragment the world into small bits and parts, thus reverting to a kind of Middle Age status, whereas small nations were always warring each other on ethnic grounds. It is the West and particularly the United States’ insistence to dismantle Communism at all costs, thus encouraging covertly and overtly the breaking up of Russia and Eastern Europe, which started this fashion. But this is a dangerous game and tomorrow Europe and indirectly the USA will pay the price for it: wars will bring instability and refugees to Europe and the United States might have to get involved militarily.

Can India get herself dragged into this mire? Why should India which took so long to unite herself and saw at the departure of the British one third of its land given away to Pakistan, surrender Kashmir? The evolution of our earth tends towards UNITY, oneness, towards the breaking up of our terrible borders, the abolishing of passports, bureaucracies, no man’s lands; not towards the building up of new borders, new customs barriers, new smaller nations. India cannot let herself be broken up in bits and parts just to satisfy the West’s moralistic concerns, although it does have to improve upon its Human Rights record, particularly the police atrocities. To preserve her Dharma, India has to remain united, ONE, and even conquer again whether by force or by peaceful means, what once was part of her South Asian body . For this she should not surrender Kashmir, it could be the beginning of the breaking up of India.

[Francois Gautier, who has lived in India for 30 years and is married to an Indian, is a French journalist, was the correspondent in South Asia for Le Figaro, France’s largest circulated newspaper. He has published Rewriting Indian History (Vikas) and Arise O India (Har Anand).]

NOTE : He is about to release his latest book The New istory of India this october 2008