Tag Archives: nehru

A WESTERN JOURNALIST ON LK ADVANI

When I started reporting in India, I had the same ideas as most western journalists : secularism, as practiced by Jawarlahal Nehru, was the best policy for India, given its caste and religion differences; Islam was a peaceful religion; and there were also Hindu fanatics.

But I had been given three boons by the Lord: I spent the first seven years of my life in India far from Delhi (in Pondicherry); I read Sri Aurobindo extensively and discovered that he had a towering mind, educated in the West, but Himalayan in its breadth; & I started freelancing in the South, which is much softer, much more attuned to its culture and spirituality than northern India.

Thus, when I interviewed K.R. Malkani, then one of the spokespersons of the BJP in 1988, I went there thinking I would get a Hindu ‘nationalist’ spiel. I was surprised to find a very cultured man, who spoke softly and courteously. And funniest of all, most of the things he said made sense and reminded me of what Sri Aurobindo had written nearly a hundred years before. Thus I became, probably the only ever western correspondent sympathetic to the BJP (Mark Tully, who has an intuition of Hinduism, always remained too British and too Christian to cross that threshold).

I met LK Advani in Jaipur in 1989 and took an instant liking to him: his forthrightness, Spartan simplicity and forceful thoughts. I remember in these days, there were only 3 pillars of the BJP: Advani, MM Joshi and Vajpayee. I was never very impressed by Mr Vajpayee, though no doubt he was a consensus man and an able statesman: but both the times I interviewed him one to one, I found that he had no knowledge about the world and nothing much of interest to say. But I had a lot of admiration for Mr Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Both demonstrated that they had guts: MM Joshi by raising the Indian flag in Srinagar in 1992, which at that time was made fun by the entire Indian media; and LK Advani by breaking a jinx : Muslims destroyed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of temples in india, but he was the one who had the guts to destroy that one mosque, abandoned as it was. It was a symbolic message of the Hindu renaissance.

The pity is that these three kept each other neutralized: MM Joshi and LK Advani have hated each other for the last 20 years and Vajpayee made sure that Advani always remained N°2 in the BJP.

I however always though that L.K. Advani’s reputation as a fanatic hardliner and a hawk was misplaced: I have spent many moments in his home and I have never heard him raise his voice. In fact, I doubt he ever hit someone in his life: he is very much a family man, dedicated to his wife Kamla and daughter Pratibha, both of them remarkably intelligent. In fact, it often struck me that these two women were the two biggest influences in his life.

Wen the BJP again lost the last elections in 2009, I met Mr Advani shortly thereafter alone in his office & he firmly told me: “it’s time for me to retire from politics”. I believed him then: Advani is a quiet man, whatever the press says, he likes to read, think, watch films and spend quality time with his family.

Yet today, he is clearly positioning himself as the BJP PM candidate for 2014 and that is wrong. For one, he will be 87 at the beginning of his mandate and 92 at the end of it, when most of the leaders in other parts of the world are in their fifties or even forties. Secondly, he is wrecking the chances of the BJP, because, whether it is fair or not, he does not have a good image with the electorate. Thirdly, as usual, in the true tradition of Hindu disunity, he is stabbing in the back Narendra Modi, the only man who has a chance to beat Rahul Gandhi and bring the BJP back to power. Fourthly, however much I liked LK Advani, when he was Home minister and deputy PM, he did not do better than the Congress: neither did he help the poor Tibetans as he had promised, nor did he show any iron hand in Kashmir, nor did he stand up to the Chinese. In fact he did nothing except trying to project a goody image of himself and the BJP.

For all these reasons, I , who has been the one and only western correspondent friend of the BJP in all these years say:
DEAR MR ADVANI, PLEASE BE TRUE TO YOUR WORD AND STEP DOWN FROM THE BJP, SO AS TO LEAVE THE PLACE TO NARENDRA MODI, WHO NOT ONLY SHOWED THAT HE DOES THIBGS BY MAKING OF GUJARAT A MODEL FOR ALL OTHER INDIAN STATES, BUT ALSO IS THE ONLY CHANCE OF THE BJP IN THE NEXT ELECTIONS

Francois Gautier

PS It does not help that LK Advani refused point blank to help the Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History, Pune. If there ever was a Museum dedicated to the Hindus, it was this one

A Fatherhood More Equal?

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