Monday, December 29, 2008

Birth of a new Bangladesh: Joy Bangla
Although today I am overtly delighted with landslide victory of progressive force of Bangladesh, I shared same anxiety of
secular people of Bangladesh ever since, I was introduced to Bangladesh eforums late back in 2004, when there was a hue and cry among rank and files of secular groups in Bangladesh that secularism is on retreat in the golden land of Bangla which boosts a poetic harmony for mankind from time immemorial. It is a land of Lalan Fakir, Rabindranath Tagor and Nazrul Islam who spoke of undivided humanity at best and broke the fallacious barrier of being a Muslim or Hindu. This is a land which spoke human being and humanity above all and everything. Unfortunate as it is, with birth of Muslim league, communal harmony of Bengal plunged into rock bottom in the beginning of last century. Perhaps many of my readers do not know, that in 1946, Bengali Muslims actually got caught up with sinister design of two nation theory for exploitation of Bangla by Punjabi Muslims and therefore, along with Hindu leaders like Sarat Bose, Bengali Muslim leaders actually pressed for an united Bengali nation refuting Jinnah's Pakistan and favoring Bengali nationalism over Islamic identity. This was turned down by Muslim league and Congress alike. Although Bengali nationalism in Bangladesh was nipped in the bud in 1947, it took them another 24 years before breaking up with falsehood of Islamic nation theory of Pakistan paying an untold cost of three million people-largest genocide since Holocaust. Although a secular Bengali nation was born in 1971 led by Seikh Mujibur Rahaman, soon military coup d'e'tet took over in 1975 killing the forces of secularism and modern Bangladesh reversing back to Islamic nation. Since these coups were aided by US-Pakistani nexus who were apprehended by Indian-Russian influence over Bangladesh which, at that time, was full of socialist zeal to reorganize the country in Soviet fashion, Ziaur Rahaman took no time to bring back Islam into politics because it is only in Islam, he would have created a new alternative power circle against Bengali nationalism. Like any other military general, Zia started off with populist measure but reversed the momentum of modern Bangladesh into Islamic Bangladesh. After General
Ershad took over, he cunningly balanced the country between Islam and Bengali nationalism. However, he was so corrupt to begin with, he too failed the aspiration of common people and was deposed subsequently by a bloodless democratic coup. Since 1991, three elections were held in which BNP led by widow of General Zia and Awami League led by daughter of Seikh Mujibar Rahman shared their power and again failed common people's aspiration for a modern affluent Bangladesh by mindless corruption and complete collapse of state system. However, it is during this democratic time of '91 to 2006, independent media flourished in Bangladesh. This is the biggest gain
of democratic era which would prove decisive during present election of 28th December, 2008.

Ever since Bangladesh politics was torn between bitter battle of Bengali versus Islamic nationalism, poor and marginal people of Bangladesh were increasingly frustrated who were asking for food and job rather than anti-Indian or pro Islamic jingoism of BNP or "living in the past ideologies" of the Awami League. It is only in Dec,2008 election, for the first time, Awami League recognized the need for a future looking vision and the fact that young generation is not looking forward to Islam or India or Bengali but a better material living. Their strategy paid off handsomely against the backdrop of outdated conspiracy theorists turned corrupt leaders of BNP and Jamati Islami. Added with it, was empowerment of women voters who outnumbered male and was well aware of danger posed on them by Jamati Islami through Sharia law. They thrashed out all the Islamic parties sending clear message to them that they want Islam as spiritual religion and they do not want criminals
as torch bearer of Islam.

Today's victory of Bangladeshi secular modern force is a decisive victory over Islamist extremist force with 4/5th majority and after this, they can not have any excuse of why they could not turn around a modern a Bangladesh with all needed mandate with them. Now they have the opportunity to root out reactionary force that opposed Independence of Bangladesh. As Leon Trotsky once said "
in a serious struggle there is no worse cruelty than to be magnanimous at an inopportune time"- I believe, for progressive force in Bangladesh, that time is now to eradicate poverty and malice of religious extremism. If they fail to listen to marginalized people once again as they did in 1996-2001, they too, will be trashed in history.

For a long time secular intellectuals groused over reversal of attainment of '71 freedom struggle-well people of Bangladesh has given them back what they wanted. So ball is in their court to take Bangladesh to 21st century. I hope with decimation of Islamist force, Hasina, now can be assured that people are asking for "dal vat" (lentil-rice) and they do not want religious appeasement politics which is a contagious virus in whole south Asia. I am also glad that people of Bangladesh realized hunger is the real enemy and propaganda of Islam or nationalism is a tool for the rulers to mislead them from their fundamental right for food and future.

Joy Bangla!

Friday, December 5, 2008

At the root cause of Islamic terror in Pakistan

Democracies don't go to war against each other, and by and large they don't sponsor terrorism. They're more likely to respect the environment and human rights and social justice. It's no accident that most of the terrorists come from non-democratic countries.”-Bill Clinton

While cause of terrorism is multi-faced, terrorists on the other hand are always unique in their background-ideologically guzzled, citizen of autocratic states and almost invariably exploited by foreign policy makers. While our leftist friends could not recuperate from American conspiracy theory, undeniable nemesis of rise of Islamist ideology and associated fundamentalism in south Asia needs more focus on failure of leftist politics in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. From its birth, Pakistan has been ruled by a few handful families in old tradition of Islamic family centric power politics and this group of elites ruined Pakistan for retaining their power. Worst of this case happened in 2nd December, 1978, when General Zia-Ul-Haq captured the power in a promise to set up true Islamic republic of Pakistan. Secular syllabus was overhauled and general directed Islamic brainwash from the buds-Official school texts of Pakistan started emphasizing glory of Islam and doom of polytheist Hindus in horror Casteism and Sati burning. Note that this anti-Hindu, anti-India propaganda started a year before United States got heavily involved with Mujahidin in Afghanistan at the backdrop of Russian aggression. For Zia, it was a golden opportunity to bolster his power base since he was son of a farmer and didn't belong to power broker aristocratic families of Pakistan. He saw anger among Pakistani poor people against these western educated elites and metamorphosed that anger by feeding them Wahabi Islam to consolidate his basics with added blessing from Ronald Regan, who used the general to counter Soviet in central Asia. Therefore Islamic brotherhood was call of the day since in no other way Pakistan would have been inspired to fight in Afghanistan given long history of animosity between two countries.

When Noor Muhammad Taraki of Marxist PDPA assumed power in Afghanistan in 1978, he started modernization of Afghanistan by land reform and eliminating local landlords. At the beginning, he enjoyed mass support of the poors and the military. But United State found the situation unacceptable as another country falling in the hand of communists. Therefore, US backed up feudal landlords using Pakistan as base. A mass insurgency against PDPA in whole Afghanistan was hatched using Islamic sentiments of the poor Afghans who was actually benefitting from PDPA's land reform. But atheist communists were portrayed as enemy of Islam in Afghanistan and in order to do so massive Islamic machinery was set up in Pakistan which is intact even today. Remember this started even before Russia officially marched in Afghanistan. Many a times, we find, USA has used the pretext of Soviet aggression but in reality, CIA was actively planting Islamism in this area to depose PDPA blessed by Soviet Union. From 1978 since withdrawal Russian troops in 1988, Jamat-e-Ulema-i Islam, a Deobandi school of Islamic scholars, led the task of mushrooming Islamic millitants including Talibans in Pakistan. Given by the present insurgency level in Pakistan, attempt to reverse this militant Islam since 9/11 met with very little success and the gruesome event in Mumbai reminds us once again, strength of ideology can not be reversed unless political leaderships is truly willing for eradication of Islamism. As I said before in another editorial, even if we enhance our security, our flaws against Islamists ideology would remain as permanent seed for causing more terrorism in the future. And at this point, even BJP would not be touching this sensitive issue of virus of Islamic brotherhood which is creating hell in the whole world. Instead, they would be more interested in blame game to reap harvest in voting season. Worst is the double standard of world politicians when we hear, these terrorists are rootless exception among peace loving Muslims, wolves in the herd of the cow, and rest is fine. That's why we don't see even a single protest against Osama Bin Laden in the Islamic world where as even if an order is passed to secularize immigrant Muslim in Europe, the whole Muslim world burns in anger. It never occurred to the Muslims that in Saudi Arabia, all other religions are officially banned. It can never unsettle a Muslim, that in the land of their greatest enemy, that is America, he can open a Mosque, gets his hallal meat and if wishes, he can be a senator as well where as in Saudi Arabia, Bible is burned and religious police looks out for idols in the households of the Hindus. In Middle Eastern countries, only Muslim can be citizen and such gross violation of human right never dodges a Muslim mind. However, thousands of miles away even if a Kashmiri dies in India, their feelings of brotherhood exalted them into terrorist attack on India.

Thanks to overwhelming anger of the Indians, we now know everything about perennial security flaws. But security by definition is like a porous pot-no matter how you tight it, it can always be breached. On the other hand, we can ensure our fight against virus brewing this trouble-that is the ideology of Islam which is expansionist and intolerant. And this fight must be a fight from secular and scientific perspective without giving away to right wing ideology since all the religions in the world are merely a product of sociological evolution and construct of anthropological need and nothing more. I know a religion can be interpreted in thousands of different ways and Islam is not monolithic but when human beings are attempting genetic revolution for immortality and setting out for other planets in solar system, unquestioned loyality of the Muslims to their outdated ideals is becoming anti-thesis of the civilization. Muslims must remember their glorious past of Mutazilas, the free thinkers of ancient of Arabs who questioned Islamic theology and in that critical reasoning, they excelled to be foremost civilization of their time. A society, a religion can not get better without criticism of its past and ideals since we are all evolving with changing mode of production triggered by computers, internets and genetics. That's why Nobel Lauriat Prof Abdus Salam said greatest crime against Islam has been committed when Muslims stopped questioning Quran and its principles like Mutazila-prosecution of the free thinkers among Muslim was the end of Islamic domination in the world. But right now their choice is limited-accept modern ideals or face consequence which our diplomatic leaders will not be able to deter for a long time as the experience of Mumbai would continue to happen.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Is present concept of secular state flawed?

Is present concept of secular state flawed?

-Biplab Pal
California 1/8/07

Idea of secularism in 19th and 20th century

In the simplest and precise form, by secularism we mean separation of the church and the state-that religion has no business in the matter politics, governance and law. Holyoake, Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill are undoubtedly the greatest philosophical motivation behind the concept of secular state as one may find in Holyoake’s treatise on secularism: (English secularism, 1896)

Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: (1) The improvement of this life by material means. (2) That science is the available Providence of man. (3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.

Despite the existence of International humanist and ethical union (IHEU) and the secular humanism it is professing, it is more than clear that a lot more number of people are finding their meaning of life in religion than that of secular humanism. Also, religious leaders are becoming more and more vocal against the concept of secularism except with a few notable exceptions like Dalai Lama who adhered to secularism by stating "We need these human values. I call these secular ethics, secular beliefs. There’s no relationship with any particular religion. Even without religion, even as nonbelievers, we have the capacity to promote these things”.

I have been thinking deeply on this serious issue-why secular ethics is only welcome to a few limited literate elites and not as welcome as religious ethics to the most of the young generation? And also why the concept of secular state is getting cornered as a result of denial of ‘man-made’ secular ethics and laws? We might talk about American influence, capitalist conspiracy etc. but in my view that will be dilution of an extremely serious issue which will determine the future of secularism.

Is secular state compatible with existentialism?

What do I mean when I utter the word ‘I’? Does it mean a mind and a flesh ?

Not really- the existence of ‘I’ is broken into multitude of sub-existence as father, son, husband, friend, employee, engineer, citizen etc. etc. I am all of the above packed together. Then what does it mean when I say I am a Hindu or a Muslim?

If I pray five times, go to the Mosque, perform Hajj and do all the rituals, can I be a Muslim? Which part of my existence needs these rituals?


I go to Durgapuja, offer the sacrifice to Kali and take bath in Proyag. Does that make me a Hindu?


Then what is it that makes me a Muslim or a Hindu? How is this religious identity born?

Clearly not the rituals that have no link with my existence as social being-a son, a father, a husband, a friend. Rituals only render a mask of identity as Hindu or Muslim and do not get deeper into our existence because it’s not linked with it!

But think of these-a Muslim any where in the world has a feeling for a suffering Muslim in Iraq –he does not have any for the Tamils in Shrilanka. In the case of a Hindu it is reversed but the matter remains the same- we strongly feel for the group that forms our supporting system. Of course a supporting system can be a city, can be a state but for believer of Hinduism or Islam, feeling of sympathy arose from the primary cause of religion -- to self-organize our society by forming a supporting system.

Yes, now you must get the point. One becomes a Muslim only when he/she tries to perfect his behavior as a father, as a son, as a husband/wife and as a friend according to his religion or its interpretation he/she believes in. Following rituals does not make him/her a Muslim. In a secular state, the laws of divorce, the laws of treating a woman are governed by secular ethics and not by religious verdicts. So one can not be a true Muslim or a true Christian unless laws of the land are derived in accordance with their religion. That is why Muslims in a dar-ul-haram demand for a separate Muslim personal law as we have seen in the recent events of Canada, UK and Denmark. Or for that matter, the reason is the same as to why the Christian religious leaders are bitching against the secular state as a destabilizing factor for Christian way of life in America, UK, France and Italy.

Therefore, the concept of secular state and religious way of living can not survive side by side and the clash is imminent and inherent in a system.

But what is the common ground? A way out?

Option one: Have red revolution and wipe the religion out for ever and for good! But the concept of communism turned out to be such a draconian experience, this one is already a forgone conclusion-neither feasible not advisable.

Optione two: Censor the religion and transform it into a dynamic process of self-quest like a sufi or saint. Of course someone can be adhyatamik ( I can not use the word spiritual-because I want to mean study of self and its objective) and yet be a secular person but a person believing in Islam or Hinduism or in any other religion can not be a truly secular person for the said reason of existentialism problem.

It is not possible to censor Koran or Gita in a democracy-one will not find a single believer who wants to dilute Koran even if it tells you to beat your wife-they would rather find logics and reasons to either follow so no matter how idiotic that can be or decent people would find an interpretation that would rationalize the Ayat as obsolete from historical perspective when humanism was not so much of a prevailing idea. Irrespective of religious background, no religious person would support any less of their religious texts because their rational sense is already curtailed and lost in their crisis of theist existentialism. That’s why you will find so many devout Muslims with PhD degree would still believe in Koran rather than in secular humanism.

Only an autocratic government can force it through state education system and machinary-but this is neither a feasible option in democracy not it is advisable to institute an autocracy to implement a change.

Option three:
Clue to the failure of two is theist existentialism-which prompts to provide a stronger alternative to theism that would meet the needs that theism provides to the common people. On my quest to science and religion, I found science can answer all the philosophical questions of religion more satisfactorily than God oriented religious scriptures. The idea that religion and science have different realm is flawed and Richard Dawkins was very right to point out S J Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) between science and religion is nothing but a sweet political move to balm the theists. Indeed science can be a complete alternative to religion if it is expanded and promoted in that fashion. I am convinced we will achieve nothing by proving religion is wrong or opposed to science unless we provide an effective alternative to emotional need and quests of human beings- answering and defining their spiritual quests through science or proven empirical method.

So looking at all the possibilities, I found third one is the only feasible way out to secularism. It is not enough to prove a religious belief is rotten , inhuman or unscientific. It won’t help because religion is about interpretation and apologetics will always bring about the best of humanism from religion to prove that other interpretation exists and that the problem in religion has to do with its wrong interpretation. And we will lose the game because trusting in ‘right’ interpretation in religion would serve more purpose in common people.

I am citing an example from Imrana case. When the case exposed the ugly face of Sharia and Indian media was all over for imposing uniform civil codes on the Muslims, comes the balming face of All Indian Muslim Ulema who started a propaganda stating that Deoband Ulemnas erred in this case failing to understand Koran!
In the Imrana case the father in law forced himself onto his daughter in law. She screamed and shouted for help. Clearly it was not with consent. The father in law is obviously guilty, while the daughter in law is the victim. The above injunction applies only when consent is involved. The Imrana angle has to be viewed from the viewpoint of a number of other injunctions in the Koran that demands compassion and kindness to the victim. I am surprised the Deoband ulemas failed to apply these Koranic commands. Certainly Imrana, her husband and her five children deserve these considerations. By declaring this marriage to be null and void, the final price for this dastardly act will be paid by the victims. That violates the spirit and the letter of the Koran. The Deoband ulemas have erred badly.

Prof J. S. Bandukwala
Vadodara, Gujarat

The issue abated since then. Note that this professor –while advocating Sharia based on correct and diverse interpretation, has no concern over the fact that the right interpretation of religion needs a strong secular background. If the people like Deoband ulameas who belong to the most prestigious school of Islam in whole Indian subcontinent can issue a fatewa like this, what will be the condition of thousands of rural muslims women living in obscured part of the subcontinent? Can he ensure right interpretation of Koran by the illerate Mullahs when the most literate like Deobands are issuing a fatewa like this?

Therefore, we are left with no alternative but to provide a scientific alternative to religion. Because science is objective truth that does not change with interpretation. We need to provide more satisfactory answer from science meeting the emotional need-specially on the purpose of life. One can not continue to live without knowing what is the purpose of his/her birth into this world.. We don’t do that and let religion takes the precedent in this important philosophical question, secularism is already out the door. Please do understand that we can not rely on Awami League or CPM for implementing secularism on our behalf- I bait we would achieve nothing for secularism and instead of cornering fundamentalists we would get thrown out from state system as it has already happened in Bangladesh.

Some people also reverie in utopian idea that humanism can replace religion. No it can not. When you are attacked by an enemy humanism does not and can not tell you what to do but religion does. That is the whole concept of Jihad or crusade. We may hate this religious product but what else other than a call to arms would have liberated Bangladesh against the oppressors? Both Koran and Gita advocate armed uprising against oppressors and consider that as an essential part of religion. On paper, Jihad is a perfect concept but on history, both the Hindu and Muslim rioters in great Calcutta killing were motivated by the same Jihad or DharmaYudha. Hence again we are back to the vicious circle of interpretation, interpretation and interpretation! And that is the reason why we do need science to replace the religion-so that we do not chase the ghost of interpretation anymore and the social laws be firmed on an objective and empirical method.

However humanism can replace one strong aspect of religion- a support system of life but unfortunately I am yet to see secular humanists are sacrificing their career in numbers to support poor kids in Africa or Asia which we find in God inspired Christian missionaries.

Therefore, I am of the strong opinian that in order to set up a true secular state, one can not ignore the demand-supply aspect of religion in the emotional journey and realization of human being and the support system it forms around its follower. If science can not be a part of that realization and support system, it does not serve any significant purpose just by proving God does not exist or religion is vile. There will not be mass taker of rationalism except a few intelligent beings-not enough to form a political force. And unless we are a part of a strong political force, concept of secularism will be out from the self-organization of human society.

In the last century, communism was replacing religion and gaining political power because it was addressing those basic questions that otherwise religion is left to handle. And in the history of mankind, nothing could raise a stronger idea of a true secular state than communism. But it failed because, it misconceived the the question on purpose of life and deviated from the basic method of science that demands that there is no better alternative to democratic system. It is only with the opposing voice, opposing force can be developed which is the most important aspect of dialectic materialism-without it, there can not be any evolution of the society. Also, you can easily see either in communist North Koria or in Cuba, political power is inherited by a family and not the people as promised. You may ask why? Simple, because the purpose of human life is to continue its genetic code and definitely this drive is stronger than the idea of establishing socialism as supreme objective of life! Hence denying this basic purpose of life, we can not build a movement or a political philosophy that would aim to set up a secular state.

We can not expect the people to derive their objective of life from religion and the same person would support man made laws-that is an inherent contradiction of secularism we are trying to promote. And as a result, secularists are losing all over. Hence we have to provide some alternative to religion or else the idea of secularism is destined to lose its political weight.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whom Hindus should blame for conversion?

-Biplab Pal

11/17/2008: Washingtin DC


Recent incidents of ongoing communal riot between Hindus and Christians that resulted in death of more than sixty people in last two months, tarnished the pluralist image of India. We held this sacred image of religious tolerance as our supreme ethos for last two thousands years. Christianity stepped into India with Saint Thomas in first century AD-at a time when Christians were persecuted ruthlessly by the Roman empire . Judaism came to India in 70 AD, soon after they were expelled from their land by Romans. Nathan Katz observes ( Who are the Jews of India) -India is the only country where Jews were neither discriminated nor persecuted. Such tradition of religious tolerance over thousands of years is unmatched in the history of civilization. Magnanimity of Indian civilization radiated from the core philosophy of Sanatan Dharma-Ekam Sat. Reality is everywhere and in every being! Unlike Abrahamic faiths, Sanatan philosophy is not in pursuit of 'perfect belief' but in search of truth accepting personal evolution of individual spiritual quest. The whole idea of Adaitya Vedhanta, at the center of Hinduism, accepts highest level of plurality by Aham Brahman-realization of universal consciousness in individual consciousness in their own way. Therefore, modern Hindu spiritual leader of 19th century, Shri Ramakrishna declared this plurality of Vedanta as Jato Mat Toto Path-as many ways that many paths to realize the truth. In short, this is the true summery of Hinduism-unity in diversity of faiths.

However political reality of India experienced an entirely different version of Hinduism, devoid of enlightenment and encapsulated with casteism supporting Brhamnical supremacy. Question of social identity of lower Sudra caste, who are not considered a Varna( high class) Hindu, happened to be at the root of all communal tension till to date. Hindu epic Ramayan unambiguously promotes casteism and Brahmnical supremacy. However , in Mahabharat, although in Bhagbad Gita, Lord Krishna unabashedly supported casteism, the epic reveals an ambivalence position of casteism in Hindu society. For example, when Ghotakatch, mighty son of Vima, second of Pundav, asked explanation from Krisna-whether he has not been summoned to war because he is not born of a caste Hindu mother and that whether caste Hindu warriors would find it embarrassing to fight with him, a low birth by Hindu caste system, Lord Krishna gracefully replied- caste of a person is not by birth but by his achievement. This seemed to sound a very different note with Pundav's attitude towards mighty "Suta Putra" Karna, who has never been addressed by Pundavas as King of Angada but always by suta-putra (son of Chariot owner) despite Karna exceeded high caste Pundavs in the grace of might and generosity. Based on the numerous evidences in Mahabharat, one but can not fail to see, Hindu's position on castism has always been ambiguous but it was ruthlessly implemented as 'birth based' social system denying the social identity of the working labor class. This ambiguity and sometimes, ruthless denial of human position of lower castes in Hinduism made them vulnerable to conversion. When Islam invaded India, scheduled caste Hindus, specially in Bengal, embraced them as boon against tyranny of Brahmanism. However, Islamic rule didn't create much of a communal tension because majority of Muslim leaders were also supporter of cast based Hindu system and indeed, Indian version of Islam adopted its neo-casteism by attaching their elites to superior ethnicity to distinguish themselves from local low caste Hindu converts. Except for Aurangazeb, who was an Islamic zealot, a very high degree of cohesion between Hindus and Muslims can be found throughout entire Islamic history of India.

When Christian missionaries came to India, they too found their soft targets in scheduled cast Hindus during sixteen and seventeenth century. However, they faced a daunting task of conversion because by then, Hindus were aware, that lower castes may leave Hindu society altogether and therefore waves of reformist movement swept across India to eliminate casteism as a response against egalitarian message of Islam. In Bengal, Shri Chaitanya led the reformist movement through Gauriya Baishnavism where he proudly declared abolition of casteism in fifteenth century. His magic worked among lower class Bengali Hindus who accepted his teaching and mass conversion to Islam virtually came to a full stop. However, effect of casteism was only reduced but never nullified. Nevertheless, success of Christian missionaries in terms of conversion were very limited and they established themselves by social service to common mass. Even today, all the best schools and hospitals in India are run by Christian missionaries. Most of the Hindu elites of today are product of these Missionary schools and none of them would ever complain that these missionary fathers ever made any attempt to convert them. Till Hinduvta movement started swinging in full glory in late 80's , there was no tension between Hindu and Christian community who are almost invisible minority in India. What is then root cause of new wave of communal hatred against each other?

Much of it is hidden in recent rise of Hinduism as aggressive political response to monotheist faiths. Historically Hinduism always responded to Islam or Christianity by reforming its religion. For example, Gauriyo Baishanvism was response to Islam and Brahmo Samaj was Hindu counter response to Christianity. Indeed, in those days, Hindusim took to intellectual and meaningful spiritual response very successfully because it didn't enjoy political power. But this time, since Hinduism is having more political power than ever before, it is stooping to low by responding the problem of conversion politically where need of the hour is to address the problem and isolation of lower caste Hindus who are getting converted because neither they get any social recognition nor any material support by staying in Hinduism. Instead of choosing the most difficult and meaningful path of accommodating vast number of scheduled casts and tribes into the fold of Hinduism by giving them equal social status and material means as Shri Chaintanya did it in fifteenth century, todays' Hindu leaders, devoid of spiritual and intellectual ardor, are more interested in the politics than spiritual quest. They are foxy political leaders who are more after a fortune harvest by playing Holi with bloods of the innocent Christians.

I hear much noise about legal ban on conversion. First of all conversion is a foolish idea and it serves only the purpose of social identity exploited in politics. But question that a caste Hindu must ask first-why even today, position of casteism in Hinduism is as ambiguous as it was during the time of Mahabharata? This simple truth exposes why reformist teaching of Hindu spiritual maestros like Shri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Dayananda Sarawati could not change Hinduism when it comes to casteism. Why we don't see any strong denouncement of castism by Hindu organizations? In theory, they do and speak of abolition of casteism but can anybody cite me single example of any Hindu caste leader got his children married to a scheduled tribe? Why they are still apologetic like Lord Krishna and never can come out very clearly rejecting it like Vivekananda who condemned it in the harshest language? How long do they think, these scheduled casts and tribes can be fooled by their empty slogan of equal social status in Hindu hierarchy?

Therefore, need of the hour is for another socio-spiritual reform movement inside Hinduism to abolish caste by encouraging wide-spread inter caste marriage. Though, I am not entirely sure, how many of Hindu zealots, who seem so conscious and worried about conversion game, would comply or encourage marriage of their relatives to scheduled cast and tribes. Gandhiji felt this need at his heart but he too, could not take any affirmative position. Therefore, now it is left to consciousness of Hindu mass to realize that conversion is happening because of their failure to eliminate castism which is aptly exploited with material means by Christian missionaries.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Analysis of failure of secularism in West Bengal

-Biplab Pal 11/27/2007

Take one: Taslima hurricane on Indian secularism

At no point of Indian history, a person from other country occupied such a central stage in Indian politics and media as Taslima did in last few days. Her saga emerged as litmus test for ‘secularism’ in India . While Indian constitution provides for censorship of religiously sensitive material, it does not approve any kind of vandalism or intimidation to anybody. Over last few days we have seen so called leftists have miserably buckled before Islamic fundamentalists and exposed their ideological bankruptcy. At the same time, Narendra Modi is making ‘Taslima’ as his prime and prized campaign against Congress. Congress, at last, has been able to show some secular character by a tough statement from Prime Minister vowing full security for Taslima and action against Islamic extremists. I would try to shed some lights on how WB leftists become completely bankrupt in the matter of secularism.

Take two: Legacy of Muzaffar Ahamed and CPI

CP(I)M was founded by Muzaffar Ahamed. The Communist party of India was first set up at Taskhent on 17 October 1920. Comrade Muzaffar established contact with the International Communist Movement and began collecting papers and journals in large numbers from abroad. The Vanguard of the Indian Independence , the first publication of the party, came out on 15 May 1922. Muzaffar met Comrade Abdul Halim towards the end of 1922 and jointly took up the task of building the Communist Party of India.

Between 1938-40, the Communist Party had spread to all 28 districts of undivided Bengal and party members began to be enrolled in thousands. Trade Unions and Kisan Sabhas developed in large numbers. The task of re-organizing the party continued throughout the fifties. The party began to emerge as a national party both inside and outside the legislature. Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed was at the centre of all these activities. He was the Secretary of the Bengal Provincial Committee of the party from 1940 to 1943. Throughout his life Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed remained in the leadership of the party.
Several features of Muzaffar Ahmed's life attracted everyone's attention. His deep devotion to working class internationalism, firm conviction in democracy, and tremendous enthusiasm for equal rights of women combined to make him a great revolutionary.
Ahmed believed that freedom of press and speech is essential for expansion of mind and that the exchange of ideas is essential to encourage thought. He used to protect and nurture press, paper and bookshops with loving care. The National Book Agency and Ganashakti Press are his contributions. His articles on many different subjects are to be found scattered in many journals and magazines. His writings on peasant problems, his Communist Party of India : Years of Formation 1921-1933 and his Myself and the Communist Party of India throw valuable light on contemporary politics.

Every Bengali comrade who took to street for undivided CPI in '70s was disciple of comrade Muzaffar-you name it-be it Jyoti Bose or Biman or Buddha or Promad Dasgupta. In the seventies, three distinct characters made communism popular in West Bengal —their struggle for working mass, liberation of women and protecting democracy against Congress goons. This was the legacy of comrade Muzaffar, popularly known as KakaBabu. Every CP(I)M member lived by these principles till they captured power in 1977.

Take three: 1977-to present: sordid history of decline of CPM party ideology

Before that, we look for how CP(I)M succumbed to religious right wing and lost its secular values. Before 1977, party workers had nothing to gain-except to embrace misery at the hand of Congress and Naxal goons. They worked purely for their dedication to ideology. Who were they? Mostly a group of educated people who struggled in their personal life to realize class struggle. Post 1977, saw emergence of a different set of leadership devoid of their commitment to secularism. It is extremely important we analyze the class and character of this new leadership. First I will start with Muslim leadership in CPM. One has to understand, communism in India mostly started with Muslims as they have seen and been subjected to oppression more than educated Hindus.

Muslims leaders of CPM used to be better secular minded than their Hindu counterparts in '70s and '80s--but they have been gradually removed from the party power because they could not gather much support among Muslim community as Congress did wide-spread propaganda that communists do not approve Allah. I have witnessed this gradual deterioration sadly. I have seen how Abdul Bari established CP(I)M in Murshidabad since 1970s. He was a close friend of my father and both once worked for leftist cause in Muslim dominated areas of Murshidabad. By 1982-84, Bari uncle was a frustrated man--he frequently complained how fundamentalist Muslims are rising on CPM ranks-and finally he was removed. He died broken heart. Today leaders like Muhammad Selim, Abu Sufian are the face of minority in CPM--who are at best Islamic leftists --a garden variety of Sonar Pathar Bati. There are exception like CPM MP Moinul Hossain, a young comrade who took ardent task to secularize Muslim community in village area by writing book and criticizing Islamic texts. But look what happened! Last time he lost his seat because Congress capitalized his criticism and he was portrayed as Murtad. This is true secular character of Congress. Bottom line-CPM Muslim leaders already succumbed to religious rights to garner vote by 1987.

Now, let focus on Hindu leadership in CP(I)M. CP(I)M allowed sublime castism in its intra-party power. I lived in a locality where Mahishya cast were majority. Their vote bank matters the most. So even if, there were more charismatic Brahmin leader of CP(I)M, all the top party positions were filled with the people from Mahishya cast. Even I can not blame Congress with this kind of cast bias. What better you can expect from this kind of leadership that was elected based on cast politics? Leftists? I have quite a high number of relatives in CP(I)M rank and file-they have not abandoned their cast and religious bias completely.

Take Four: Rise of Islamic fundamentalism in WB

Muslims in WB comprises mostly working class peasants in rural areas. There are two kinds of Muslims in West Bengal—Urdu speaking in Calcutta , called Bihari Muslims and Bengali speaking Muslims in the village area. Religion of Bengali speaking Muslim is a inheritance of mixed culture drawn from Baul, Fakir-Sahajia tradition of Bengal . Very little influence of orthodox Islam could be found among them till ‘80S. When I was a kid, I have not found a single Bengali Muslim offering five time prayer in village area-they were exception. Gradually they become a norm. How? Arab Petrodollars fueled billions of dollars in these area and Madrasas after Madrasas, Masjids after Masjids were mushroomed during ‘80s-2000 as value of gasoline took a meteoric rise in international market. Arab money provided free food to the poor kids and converted them into orthodox Islam. In the past, spiritual need of the Muslims was mostly drawn from soil—musical tune of the Bauls praising the love for Allah—cult of devotion was the source for their spiritual inspiration. Gradually Imams took their place with their hate mongering teaching—so the cult of love was shifted to the cult of hatred.

Was CP(I)M watching? Of course. Mr Bari wanted to stop mushrooming of Madrasa and reported to leadership but in vein. As the Muslim fundamentalists gained power, they kicked out CP(I)M. CP(I)M is weak in two districts-Murshidab ad and Maldah—in both the districts, Muslims are majority. Congress enjoyed power here thanks to Islamic fundamentalists in their ranks. So Islamic fundamentalists are boon to Congress but a threat to CP(I)M. But then why CP(I)M is buckling before the Muslim fundamentalists? To understand this, we need to analyze Bengali Hindu Nationalism and failure of BJP as political force in WB.

Take Five: Why buckling before Muslim fundamentalists?

Rise of BJP posed a threat to Bangladeshi refugee vote banks of CP(I)M during ’91-96. But it failed. BJP never gained any ground in WB because Hinduism in Bengal is quite different than Hinduism promoted by BJP. Most of the Bengalis follow reformed Hinduism-either from the tradition of Chaitanya for poor mass or Ramakrishna order for educated elites. Both the orders promote ritual free spiritual Hinduism. This image of Hinduism does not fit with cast infested Hinduism of cow belt championed by BJP. So it is difficult for Bengali Hindus to accept the ideology of Hinduvta which appears to them as imperialism of the North India . However, it will be wrong to assume that Bengali Hindus are secular-indeed they are soft towards Hinduvta but not enough inclined to bring them into the power. It is because of this problem of separate Bengali Hindu nationalism, CPM knows that their Hindu vote bank is secured. It will not switch to Congress either because its image has already been tarnished as party of Islamic fundamentalists and servitude of Delhi high commands. So CPM emerged as the only champion of Bengali Hindu Nationalism!

So question is, when there is no threat of losing Hindu votes, how they can win back their lost ground to Muslim fundamentalists? CPM is choosing easiest option. Recruit the fundamentalists in their leadership. Lot of Imams are party leaders in the district of Murshidabad and Maldah. They are the latest comrades of CPM. Which ideology do you expect from them?

Take six: The future?
Bengali Hindu nationalism is the most prevailing sentiment of WB yet it is not represented by any political force. Bengali Hindu nationalism is characterized by reformed Hinduism, Bengali music " culture, defiance of power management from Delhi and rejection of or apathy towards Islamic culture. Except for element of hatred towards Muslims, it has nothing in common with Hindu nationalism. And the very reason, it has not evolved into a political force despite a dominance of sentiment, has to do with its element of hatred towards the Muslims. This is a tragedy and let me explain this point further.

Bengali Muslims in general are highly respectful of spiritual tradition of Chaitanya and RamaKrishna. However, they are opposed to ritualistic Hinduism of cow belt. So is Bengali Hindu Nationalism. Al Amin Mission started following the footsteps of RamaKrishna Mission and not any Arabic NGO. So far Al Amin Mission is the most successful reform movement among Bengali Muslims producing hundreds of doctors and engineers by adopting poor Muslims to their schools. Bengali Hindus have failed to recognize fellow Muslims and isolated them from Bengali nationalism.

Therefore, need of the hour is to convert Bengali Hindu nationalism into Bengali nationalism by rejecting the element of hatred and apathy towards the Bengali Muslims. Bengali nationalism is the only political force that can unite Hindus and Muslims of Bengal against confused and fallen leftists of Bengal . Order of Chaitanya, Ramakrishna and Sufism represent liberal spiritual tradition of Bengal . Neither of the order is in conflict with Marxism or any scientific thinking as they are the product of reformed movement that acknowledges dynamic nature of an evolving religion and opposed to any class exploitation. Rich tradition of Bengali culture and literature can serve as basic ground of political motivation. Bengali secularism can not be devoid of spiritualism—it is impossible given the spiritual inclination of the mass and our tradition. Instead we can assimilate tradition of Sufism, Chaitanya, Ramakrishna, Rabindranath and Nazrul to promote secular spiritualism of Bengal .

Basic hindrance for evolution of such political force in WB is the pathetic attitude of Bengali Hindus towards the Muslims. Sooner, they would be able to assimilate them into Bengali nationalistic force better. Or else Bengali Muslims will be hijacked by Arab nationalism (Jamat) and Hindus will be dominated by North Indian imperialism as a result of collapsing ideology of CPM.

[The article is not copyrighted- and meant for free circulation]

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Existential crisis of Bengali Babus in North America

By Biplab Pal

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass

-Hollow Men, T.S .Elliot


For those who have been to Laguna Nigel’s Kali temple, Prufullada (real name withheld) is a ubiquitous face. In his late fifties, he still looks pretty young. Although, I have been living in Orange County for last three years, I never visited the Temple . Couple of weeks back, I drove there for a melodious evening of Shyama Sangeet.

-You must be new to this area.

I heard an amiable voice.

- I am Prafullad Sarkar. And you?

- Amio Bangali. Bolun. Ami Biplab

(Am also Bengali, ya tell me, I am Biplab).

- Tai vabchilam. Katodin halo Americai ?

(I was thinking the same. For how long you are here in America?)

I have perfected this trail of conversation. He wanted to claim his superiority by virtue of his arrival date in America . Immigrant population of any ethnicity follows this hierarchy-first come first seniority basis status in the community. That’s why any senior person you would meet will kick off by reminding his seniority. A very linear story.

- Cha bachar

( Six years)

- Bah. Amar kuri bachar haye gelo. Software ye naki? Ekhanei permanent thakcho? (I am here for twenty years. Are you in software? Will you be staying here permanently? )

- Na software noi. Dwitio prashno tar uttar to jani na dada

(Not in software, but I don’t know the answer of the last question)

- Family niye thaka hoi ?

(Do you stay with family?)

- Ha, kintu sobai pujote Kolkatai

(Yes, I do. But they are in Calcutta now. Puja time.)

- Kolkatar pujo katodin dekhi ni

(For how long I have not seen Pujas in Calcutta )

Then he introduced me to his teenage daughters Tanisha and Rina. They greeted by saying "Hi Uncle". Yes, anybody in America with an Indian accent is uncle to second generation Indians. We are uncle by association of accent-eternal guilt, perennial fate of being born in another land.

We exchanged a few trifles. Prafullada is a Shivpur BE college alumni, who settled here as an Engineer during ‘80s. We promised we would meet again.

But that didn’t happen. He handed over his phone number to me. Since he is a senior, I was supposed to call. My wife does not like to be in touch with senior Bengali families. She thinks their wives are worst than torturous and slightly better than mother-in-laws. True, Bengali wives of America , even in their fifties put up a heavy make up. Quite unusual by Bengali modesty standard. But hay we are in America . Gotta understand most of them are working women. In America , you must look younger. Either by make up or by exercise. Bengali diet is not too healthy. So veil of make-up is the only way out..

-You go and meet with those old witches, I can’t. Their make-up, hoity-toity attitude towards new comers like me is simply unbearable! They pretend to be helpful but in reality that was a gesticulation for superiority. They like to advice on everything-starting from butts and boobs to what I am supposed to feed to my kids. You can’t even talk about any singer. They would rather boost how close she was to him! Bunch of morons.

I thought my wife is over reacting. Some of the Boudis are quite accommodating and helpful to new generation. It is always true, immigrants are so busy in managing their lives, earning a little more by working a little extra, they do not have time to groom themselves to the latest cultural fad and greatest literal output. This is true all across the board. Amidst the assiduous schedule, their cultural mind does stretch beyond a few movies. A weekend meet (Dawat for Bangaldeshi and Nemanttana for Bengalis of Indian origin) among the families serves as the only refreshing recreation in the absence of close friend circles.

What’s about the identity then?

What nonsense, I am talking about! Just think. I am into office, working as a middle class hardworking American. I am 100% American in the office including my lunch. I step out; drive back home and then I become a dad. Dad of an American. Given the cultural difference between these kids and the dads, it is not the same dad-son chemistry we have enjoyed in our teens. There was depth of criticality and appreciation which is obviously missing here. So I am a half dad and a half Bong.

What’s about my Bengali identity?

The hardest part. When I go out and meet new people in the job, I hear the phrase-Are you an Indian? Yes, sir. That’s about being an Indian. My colleagues are such a bosom friends and cohorts, my ethnic identity already desiccated into cosmopolitan American whirlwind.

And of course, I have a Bengali wife, few Bengali friends, a Bengali TV channel and once a year Durga Puja. Thanks to my wife, I still enjoy some of the ethnic Bengali dishes. And thanks to Internet, I am connected to my motherland. Yes BS from Ananda Bazar, I am relying on-what else to do. But that’s all about it

Death of a Bengali inside the Babus is not as painful as the death of a feudal lord inside. Adjustment from feudalism to capitalism. In our homeland, most of us were somebody. We were made to feel somebody-either by virtue of good academic career or by the respect from commoners who can not afford two squares meal a day. What ever it is, we were identifiable somebody-either as a secretary of student organization or as a good student.

In America , we, the Babus are nobody. Very few make it to the top management –because success as a manager needs cultural assimilation with its own accent. Mathematical skill is not much of a help to ride in the ladder. Bengali immigrants of post IT era are still better off-at least they are the proud Indians who have a Bangalore in their pocket. Old Bengalis of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s suffer from a chronic inferiority complex. Despite their talents, they never made it to the cream of the American Corporate except with a few notable exceptions. Blame it to discrimination, but one can clearly see its lasting effect on their lives.

After IT revolution, Indians made it to the top of the American society-as venture capitalists, managers, scientists and doctors. So young Babus like us have very little corpus to complain-no room to blame discrimination for our flop career. But for the senior Babus, it is still a big sore. Chronic discriminations they have faced in their days when Indians were not that of a recognized face, still make them depressed. At least when asked about my education, I can proudly say I am IITian. I don’t need any American stamp what so ever, to prove myself further. Surely that was not the case in the seventies and eighties. Hard works of our seniors established the Indian brand-name. Beyond doubts, we are the beneficiary of their hard work.

But then comes the worst part. In America , we can exist in a real or virtual ghetto in our cultural life. We were, somewhat, forced to. I don’t know of many first generation Bengalis or Indians, who would be comfortable with American night life. First, scary discrimination from the blonds in the night clubs. To those bimbos, our physique and look is slightly better than that of a monkey. An au fait revenge on the behalf of womanhood for au courant racist Babus who have very little appreciation for swarthy Bengali brides back home. Second, many do not like acid rocks. Immature death of eardrum smoothened by RabindraSangeet and chocolate melodies.

I have a lot of good American friends but in general they are not very sociable outside office relation-specially in comparison to the Europeans. I have lived with American families twice as a paying guest. They do not socialize copiously even with other Americans in comparison to what we Bengalis like to do. In the matter of social skills, Americans in the mid-west are better off than those from the coast. Mid-westerners are better cultured than coastal people, specially the yahoos of west coast. Europeans are somewhat like Bengalis-they love adda as much as we like it. That’s why I have more European friends than Americans.

But what ever it is-the fact remains the same. We need Bengali friend circles, Hilsa and a Durga puja to keep alive. Hilsa Vape is still substitutable by smoked Salmon. But Bengalis friends and Durga puja are indispensable.

Hence comes the reality. And a bitter truth. Every senior Babu wants to rein his control over Puja committee. Just to save himself from a losing identity of nobody. I saw the same among Bangladeshi community. In their case, identity crisis metamorphosed into a meaningless Awami League versus BNP tug of war in a foreign soil. Jahed Ahamed may not appreciate it. But I have full sympathy for those people who are struggling, fighting, throwing extravagant parties to be a leader in the community-striving to be somebody from the eternal hollow of nobody.

Allusive pursuit of existence in a meaningless ruckus.

Well, that’s what the life is all about! Isn’t it?

Anaheim 10/26/06

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Anti-Americanism of Bengali intellectual

For time being, let's assume, invasion of Afganisthan and Iraq was US imperialism.

But then could anybody tell me, does there exist a single example in the history, when a country could transform into democracy from a bloodthirsty detector without intervention of a foreign power, directly or indirectly? Hitler & Mussolini had to be deposed by external power, and invaded (?) so as to call! From Stalin's Soviet to democratic Russia took 50 years for a peaceful gradual transition to democracy!

In Afghanistan, it was definitely for cleaning up Talibans, the breeding ground for Islamic terrorists. People who could smell a pipeline there, are definitely some brainwashed islamists and mentally off-balanced leftists. Then came Iraq, the most controversial one because Iraq has oil and US foreign policy has not been too kind for the countries who nationalized their oil resources. On the top of that, no WMD could be found in Iraq led to overwhelming suspicion that Iraq was invaded for oil.

Now that people of Iraq responded en mass in the concluding election is a direct proof that people of Iraq are determined to change their own destiny. If their elected Parliament supports for nationalization of oil, what would my leftist friends would say?
America invaded for oil but once democracy was established they were kicked out?

Question, then I would ask to my leftist friends: who paid for this democracy?
Who shed blood for establishing this democracy in Iraq and Afganisthan?

Answer is US and only US.

One might argue that US did so, so that their defense manufacturing companies like GD, Lockheed, Bechtel or Haliburton can profit from the war. May be it is true, but so what? Isn't it true that we are living a good life because of new discoveries like life saving drugs , cars, TV, Internets etc. all of which have been discovered by capitalist greed? The honest and truthful assessment of Iraq and Afghanistan would be the same- these two countries are seeing horizon of hope because of US capitalist greed. And when a person speaks against US capitalist greed, he or she is no better than a hypocrite ( or worst than a terrorist because terrorists are at least honest in stating that they are the enemy ) because he survives on medicine & equipments invented in USA, he communicates through telephone and Internet invented in USA and enjoys through sound/media equipments invented in USA! And guess what, behind his quality of life, only single factor that contributed is American capitalist greed. Socialist systems or other countries never invented any significant commercial discovery, that is worth talking about.

If you are enjoying its fruit, why then don't we admit it!

Well here comes the intellectual problem--Bengalis intellectuals are born hypocrit because they are trained by their hypocrite mentor who are half literate at best. Even if they never read Karl Marx except a few quotes by him, they would portray as if they have a PhD in Marxism! Most of them even don't know the difference between dialectic materialism and historical materialism, between Marxism and Leninism! Short cut way to be an intellectual icon of common mass in our society is to shed tears for the poverty and then blame it to American capitalism. You don't need to pursue logic and reason but to find an enemy, an wealthy one so that you address both hunger and jealousy of the common mass. And then finally promise them a free lunch of socialism that could not feed any society at any given time of the history.

And thus an intellectual leader among the Bengalis is born. Except for Tagore and Amartya Sen, in last one century we didn't get an intellectual whose contribution
in world history of intellectualism is worth mentioning.

And yet, we are proud, we the Bengalis are genius, the intellectual race.May be on a moribund shore of industrial wasteland in West Bengal and Islamic bomb industries in Bangladesh.

Chairman Mao versus Naked Gandhi: Who will have the last laugh?

Biplab Pal04/07/05

This is not an article. It’s a prelude to a great debate. A debate that will continue to hunt the mankind as the tyrannical oppressors will continue to bleed the civilization.
Oppressed nations and subjugated ethnic minorities always revolted back with arms…throughout the history. Central power of Rome was engaged in endless battles to suppress the revolution of independence by Gaul, Goths, Normans and Egyptians. Countless revolution against Mughal Empire by Marathas, Rajputs, Bengalis and Southern India finally pulled down the whole empire. In that sense, Mao’s method of arm resistance against oppression is not new and he is not the only icon of great arm resistance in the last century. Truly speaking every nation has its own hero. Bengalis have Netaji and Mujibar. Marathis have Shibaji. But still Mao emerged as the final prophet of arm struggle for independence because in him, oppressed people of all kinds see the hope of a utopian society-free of class and oppression. Final independence.
Compared to Mao, nonviolence resistance of Gandhi is rather new. Principal of nonviolence as a form of protest is a direct consequence of Buddhist and Jain renouncement. Self immolation to protest tyrannical regime is a historical Buddhist tradition. In 900 AD, during seize of the Nalanda and Takhashila by Muslim invaders, monks sacrificed their life as a protest against burning of the valuable books. The same tradition continues even in modern Burma where often we find the news of self-burning of the monks as a form of the protest. In that sense, Gandhi does not hold the patent of Satyagraha (nonviolence resistance) but he emerged as an icon because for the first time, he successfully applied this method to liberate the largest colony of the world-India under British Raj. Not only Gandhi achieved success both in South Africa and India, he also proved his superiority as a civilized culture over British. A nation too proud of their civilized ancestry, bowed before Gandhi-Gandhi as a man. Never had it happened in world civilization that a man who liberated a nation from empirical power also achieved highest esteem from the ruthless power lords of the empire. Mujibar Rahaman is still considered to be a traitor and conspirator in Pakistan. Status of Netaji to British historian is no different. But when it comes to Gandhi, he is a hero both in his home and abroad.
Here is a glimpse of the current conflicts in the world. A brief summery will tell you, influence of Gandhi and Mao.
Naxalite struggle in India: In last two years around 56 districts in India have been brought under grip of communist rebels – Inspired by Mao
Communist rebels in Nepal: Mao
Kashmiri freedom struggle: Islamic Jihad
Tibetan Freedom movement: Gandhi
Democratic movement in Burma : Gandhi
Armed struggle of Palestine : Islamic Jihad/Che
Democratic movement in Uzbekistan : Gandhi
Rebels in Chechen :Islamic Jihad
Liberation movement in South Africa: Gandhi
Tigers in Lanka: Tamil nationalism
Several rebel groups in Latin America—Mao/Che
It is interesting to note that the nature of the rebel movements is undemocratic (authoritarian) if it is not inspired by Mao or Gandhi. Movement inspired by Gandhian philosophy gained more respect and support from the rest of world because of its democratic and spiritual nature. Movement inspired by Islamic Jihad gained most notoriety and hatred because of its cruelty against common people. Besides, non-Gandhian rebel movements always produced authoritarian monsters like Osama Bin Laden, Pol Pot and Pravakaran. It is interesting to note that cruelty against Tibetan people by China is no less than cruelty of Israel against Palestine. But Dalai Lama successfully managed to keep Tibetans nonviolent and established his cause before the world. Therefore Tibetan freedom struggle gained respect all over the world where as Palestine freedom movement gained notoriety as its nature transgressed from secular (initially Arafat was greatly influenced by Che) to Islamic.
I am summarizing the view of Gandhi and Mao over different aspect of life and society.
Struggle for independence:
Mao’s method is definitely by gun but there is bigger truth. Gun should be in the hand of poorest of poor people. It is only when the last section of the mass will be mobilized for true independence –a society without oppression will emerge following Marxism. I am attaching a few famous quotes to understand Maoist viewpoint of freedom through arm struggle.
War is the highest form of struggle for resolving contradictions, when they have developed to a certain stage, between classes, nations, states, or political groups, and it has existed ever since the emergence of private property and of classes.
"Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War" (December 1936), Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 180.
However there are good wars and bad wars in Maoism unlike Gandhi who dumped all kinds of wars as manslaughter. In this respect, Mao’s vision is same as that of Krishna in second chapter of Gita. However unlike Krishna, Mao’s justification for war is based in dialectic analysis and not on metaphysical duty.
“History shows that wars are divided into two kinds, just and unjust. All wars that are progressive are just, and all wars that impede progress are unjust. We Communists oppose all unjust wars that impede progress, but we do not oppose progressive, just wars. Not only do we Communists not oppose just wars; we actively participate in them. As for unjust wars, World War I is an instance in which both sides fought for imperialist interests; therefore, the Communists of the whole world firmly opposed that war. The way to oppose a war of this kind is to do everything possible to prevent it before it breaks out and, once it breaks out, to oppose war with war, to oppose unjust war with just war, whenever possible.
Ibid., p. 150.
Revolutions and revolutionary wars are inevitable in class society, and without them it is impossible to accomplish any leap in social development and to overthrow the reactionary ruling classes and therefore impossible for the people to win political power.
"On Contradiction" (August1937), Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 344.*
Gandhi on the other hand analyzed the history and came to conclusion that anything that is achieved through violence loses its objective of supreme value of humanism. He saw an inherent contradiction in violent method of resistance.
“Violent means will give violent freedom. That would be a menace to the world and to India herself.!”
Clearly Gandhi didn’t see any merit in Mao’s arm revolution because it destroys the supreme divinity in the heart of the revolutionaries.
“It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself, for we are all tarred with the same brush, and are children of one and the same Creator, and as such the divine powers within us are infinite. To slight a single human being, is to slight those divine powers and thus to harm not only that Being, but with Him, the whole world.”
Nature of virtues in a Man and experimenting with truth:
Both Gandhi and Mao had strong view on evolution as a human being. While Gandhi stressed on honesty and truth, Mao focused on evolution of human being as an intelligent analytical persona. Mao is definitely more inclined with true nature of evolution—it is the cunning and deceptive method to kill the prey has made us evolved as human being.
The only virtue I want to claim is truth and non-violence
Mao analyzed the truth in dialectic manner-which is also the basic method of science. To him every truth is like a hypothesis that needs to be tested in the due course of social evolution.
In their social practice, men engage in various kinds of struggle and gain rich experience, both from their successes and from their failures. Countless phenomena of the objective external world are reflected in a man's brain through his five sense organs - the organs of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. At first, knowledge is perceptual. The leap to conceptual knowledge, i e., to ideas, occurs when sufficient perceptual knowledge is accumulated. This is one process in cognition. It is the first stage in the whole process of cognition, the stage leading from objective matter to subjective consciousness, from existence to ideas. Whether or not one's consciousness or ideas (including theories, policies, plans or measures) do correctly reflect the laws of the objective external world is not yet proved at this stage, in which it is not yet possible to ascertain whether they are correct or not. Then comes the second stage in the process of cognition, the stage leading from consciousness back to matter, from ideas back to existence, in which the knowledge gained in the first stage is applied in social practice to ascertain whether the theories, policies, plans or measures meet with the anticipated success. Generally speaking, those that succeed are correct and those that fail are incorrect, and this is especially true of man's struggle with nature. In social struggle, the forces representing the advanced class sometimes suffer defeat not because their ideas are incorrect but because, in the balance of forces engaged in struggle, they are not as powerful for the time being as the forces of reaction; they are therefore temporarily defeated, but they are bound to triumph sooner or later. Man's knowledge makes another leap through the test of practice. This leap is more important than the previous one. For it is this leap alone that can prove the correctness or incorrectness of the first leap in cognition, i.e., of the ideas, theories, policies, plans or measures formulated in the course of reflecting the objective external world. There is no other way of testing truth. -Mao
Science in Society:
Gandhi’s view on applied science is controversial. According to him, science is the main cause of growing materialism in the society. Materialism destroys the inherent spiritualism of a man—he saw the negative impact of science. He witnessed the devastation brought by scientific invention in the First and Second World War. He didn’t see any value in material comfort as a result of scientific discoveries.
A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes a hindrance instead of a help. Therefore the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and a snare.
Mao also believed in limited materialism but he also welcomed science to enrich materialism –as a mean to progress in the society and as a society. His assessment of science in the society is by far the best one can find in any leader.
Natural science is one of man's weapons in his fight for freedom. For the purpose of attaining freedom in society, man must use social science to understand and change society and carry out social revolution. For the purpose of attaining freedom in the world of nature, man must use natural science to understand, conquer and change nature and thus attain freedom from nature.
Speech at the inaugural meeting of the Natural Science Research Society of the Border Region (February 5, 1940).
“The history of mankind is one of continuous development from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. This process is never-ending. In any society in which classes exist class struggle will never end. In classless society the struggle between the new and the old and between truth and falsehood will never end. In the fields of the struggle for production and scientific experiment, mankind makes constant progress and nature undergoes constant change, they never remain at the same level. Therefore, man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing, creating and advancing. Ideas of stagnation, pessimism, inertia and complacency are all wrong. They are wrong because they agree neither with the historical facts of social development over the past million years, nor with the historical facts of nature so far known to us (i.e., nature as revealed in the history of celestial bodies, the earth, life, and other natural phenomena).
Quoted in "Premier Chou Enlai's Report on the Work of the Government to the First Session of the Third National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China" (December 21-22, 1964).
Mao was a great lover. He was married four times. He wrote a lot of beautiful love poems. He has insatiable sexual appetite for daughters of the proletariat. It is rumored Mao never turned down any request to sleep with him!
Gandhi saw sex as a stigma. A deterrent to spiritual attainment. Sex is merely a necessity like urination for the purpose of reproduction.
However there is a link between Gandhi and Mao in their sexual practice. Sleeping with teens to enhance the internal energy is a Taoist (Daoist) practice. Both followed this Taoist practice to elevate their metaphysical male energy level!
In his book The Sexual Teachings of the White Tigress: Secrets of the Female Taoist Masters, Hsi Lai writes that Mahatma Gandhi "periodically slept between two twelve-year-old female virgins. He didn't do this for the purpose of actual sexual contact, but as an ancient practice of rejuvenating his male energy. . . . Taoists called this method 'using the ultimate yin to replenish the yang.'"
Mao’s private Doctor Li wrote a book on unknown sex life of Mao “Memoirs of Private Physician of Mao Ze Dong” where he also found how Mao fell in love with Taoist sexual practice to regain his youthful energy. The practice is same as what Gandhi did with naked young girls. However Gandhi used virgin girls merely as a testimonial of his celibacy control where as the Chairman grew found of group sex in the form of Taoist practice.
A few controversial lines from “Memoirs of the private physician of Mao Ze Dong”
The English edition claims that Mao adopted the Daoist practice of complementing Yang with Yin via sex:
"Mao became a practitioner of Daoism then [when he was 67]: sex was intended to prolong life and not just for pleasure." (p.343)
That is all there is to the sensationalist story of Mao practicing Daoist sexual methods. No mention of Yin or Yang or any other details. In the English edition, this sentence is slightly altered:
"It was then that [Mao] became an adherent of Daoist sexual
practices, which gave him an excuse to pursue sex not only for
pleasure but to extend his life.[italics added]"
Then the "editors" of the English version proceed to add two entirely new sentences that are not in the Chinese edition:
"He was happiest and most satisfied with several young women
simultaneously sharing his bed. He encouraged his sexual partners
to introduce him to others for shared orgies, allegedly in the
interest of his longevity and strength." (p.358)
On the same page, the "editors" also insert a long footnote, amplifying the term "Daoist Sexual Practice" with the explanation how Yin could be made to complement Yang. There is another reference to group sex in the English edition:
"[It was at] the height of the Cultural Revolution, that Mao was
sometimes in bed with 3, 4, even 5 women simultaneously."(p. 517)
There is no explanation of who saw this or under what circumstances it was observed. The Chinese edition makes no mention whatsoever of group sex for the simple reason that the Chinese would see through the lie. Likewise, the Chinese Edition does not make the assertion that Mao also liked to have sex with men as is alleged in the English edition.(p358--359).
Gandhi’s experiment of sleeping naked with naked young teens looks less scandalous before Mao’s sex life as described by his physician.
Gandhi yoke did sleep with young females--and what's more, both parties were often naked at the time. He was 77 when this odd practice came to light, and from what we know sleeping was all they did. However, when a renowned holy man of any age pulls a stunt like this, he takes the chance that it'll turn up in a book with a title like The Sexual Teachings of the White Tigress.
Gandhi's sleeping arrangements attracted public attention during the winter of 1946-47, when he was trying to quell violence between Muslims and Hindus in the Noakhali district in what is now Bangladesh. It came out that Gandhi was bunking nightly with his 19-year-old grandniece, Manu. In part this was an effort to stay warm in the winter chill, but Gandhi soon acknowledged there was more to it: he was testing his vow of brahmacharya, or total chastity in thought and deed. If he could spend the night in a woman's embrace without feeling sexual stirrings, it would demonstrate that he had conquered his carnal impulses and become "God's eunuch." It turned out that Manu was not his first brahmacharya lab partner--he'd also recently gotten naked (partly, at least) with another young woman in his extended family, starting when she was 18.
There were quite a few raised eyebrows in India. One of the most vocal critics was Nirmal Kumar Bose, a university lecturer who served as Gandhi's interpreter in Noakhali. While conceding that no hanky-panky had taken place (Gandhi and his entourage typically all slept in the same room) Bose protested that the master was exploiting the women, each of whom felt she had a special place in his affections and became "hysterical" if slighted. (Here I follow the account by author Ved Mehta in his 1976 New Yorker series on Gandhi and his followers.) Gandhi, far from being abashed, vigorously defended himself in meetings, letters, and articles, arguing that making a woman "the instrument of my lust" would be far more exploitative than what he actually did.
Remarkably, the critics eventually quieted down. Even Bose, who quit in protest and later discussed the issue in a book, My Days With Gandhi, remained an admirer. Gandhi continued to sleep with women until his assassination in 1948, and the matter is little remembered today. The esteem in which Gandhi was held no doubt partly accounts for the lack of repercussions, along with his advanced age. His notoriously eccentric views on sex may have been a factor too. Gandhi believed that sex for pleasure was sinful (for that matter, he felt eating chocolate was sinful), that sexual attraction between men and women was unnatural, and that husband and wife should live together as brother and sister, having sex only for purposes of procreation. (I take most of this from a memoir by journalist William Shirer, another admirer.) He swore off sex at age 36, required a similar vow of his disciples, and publicly freaked when he had a nocturnal emission in 1936 at age 67. Many hearing him rationalize his unusual blanket substitute probably figured, eh, that's the mahatma for you. (For what it's worth, the kinkier takes on the story--e.g., that Gandhi was regularly massaged by naked women--have no basis in fact that I can discover.) Whether or not you buy the notion that he didn't get off on contact with his very young bedmates (or feel that that would make it any less creepy), it says something about this profoundly strange guy that you can hear his claim that naked sleepovers were tests of purity for both participants.
Religion and God:
While Gandhi sought final salvation and supreme goal of mankind in achieving his relationship with God, Mao’s view of God was completely sociopolitical based on Marxism. Gandhi’s perception of God starts with Spinoza but then it quickly gets dissolved in Gita.
My own experience has led me to the knowledge that the fullest life is impossible without an immovable belief in a Living Law in obedience to which the whole universe moves. A man without that faith is like a drop thrown out of the ocean bound to perish. Every drop in the ocean shares its majesty and has the honor of giving us the ozone of life.
If you think, this sounds more like Spinoza then read another quotation from Gandhi on Religion
“Religion is more than life. Remember that his own religion is the truest to every man even if it stands low in the scales of philosophical comparison.”
Clearly, Gandhi could not think of a life with a religious purpose.
Mao not only rejected religion but also any metaphysical or any subjective idealism.
“Idealism and metaphysics are the easiest things in the world, because people can talk as much nonsense as they like without basing it on objective reality or having it tested against reality. Materialism and dialectics, on the other hand, need effort. They must be based on and tested by objective reality. Unless one makes the effort one is liable to slip into idealism and metaphysics. “
Clearly Mao adopted more scientific approach than Gandhi. But in personal life Mao failed to rise above personal greed in his old age. His individualistic lust to retain power forced China into its nightmare –Cultural Revolution. Millions of people died so that Mao could eliminate his opposition. Gandhi was also power hungry but he never sacrificed his ideals to subdue his opposition-to him that would have been end of the supreme objective.
Here lies the triumph of Gandhian policy that emphasized and warned
Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.
However a stronger and better philosophy is not necessarily the best contender for survival. Survival is determined by the natural selection-which theory can adapt to changing social dynamics. I don’t know who will be the ultimate survivor.

Theist Existentialism and Islamic Terrorism

-Biplab Pal, 10/27/05

In those days of crusade, both the crusaders and the defenders were highly confident-killing infidels is not a sin but the surest path to God (Allah)!

Thousands of years passed by. I am not sure how many among 1.2B Muslims can think otherwise for this rubbles of deaths in Delhi, which must have crossed sixty now. Only one thing has surely changed. Thousand years later, they have developed another face-public face to be apologetic, no matter whatever they discuss in the inner circle.

Situation is same with Hinduism-I was reading that in every 40 minutes on average, we have have one death from dowry! Speak in public with any Hindu, specially if he is new to you, he will show you how progressive he is against all the Hindu rituals! Dig deeper, he might be one of those who beats his wife for dowry. His actual self, didn't change from days of Manu, but he did develop a modern face to speak and live in the religious world of double standards.
Majority of the Muslims belong to same category, specially if they live in the west. They speak of death to infidels in their Mosques while put up an apologetic face in the public. As if Islam will be the last religion to sanction terrorism!

Well, problem of terrorism is complicated. It is like poison ivy, that needs seeds, some watering and some negligence to clean it. In this case seed is Koran, Arab money is watering it and American defense corporates are making sure that they grow it well, so that at the end, we need their service to clean terrorism! That's why we find double standard of US Govt which will never recognize Koran as source of terrorism.

Koran starts with invectives against those who do not believe in the advertisement of Allah and promises toughest treatment against them by all 'merciful' Allah. Anybody who has a minimum gray matter in his/her head will immediately understand from Koran that Muhammad faced a daunting task to establish his new religion specially when Jews, Christians and Pagans were quite advanced civilization of their time. To cash on the angers of poor pagans, to fuel their hatred against rich pagans, Muhammad would have done only one thing. That is to sanction this anger and hatred in the name of Allaha- that is what the Koran is all about. This is nothing new in the history, specially this is a prescribed one from Kautilya (400 BC). In Artha Satra, Kautilya wrote, the easiest way to induce hatred or love among the common people is to sanction it in the name of God-A king must preach his subjects that he talks to God and a king's will is therefore the God's will. Muhammad, definitely proved himself as the most worthy student of Kautilya!

But wait, who does not know the above! Non-Muslims of course. Yes, even Muslims do understand above. But they can not believe it, because believing that Muhammad is as good fraud as any other king when it comes to religion, is tantamount to disbelieving his own existence. Yes, this is the classic problem of theist existentialism, existence precedes essence. Root of all terrorism.

Most of the Muslims do not know what rotten egg is there inside Koran as the most of Hindues do not know what garbage is called Vedas. But they believe, these are sacred book. Why?

Because they want to find a meaning of life-an objective, as to why they live and they should live. So they believe that these books have defined their objective of life-submit to Allah and reach kingdom of heaven. This mortal life is sin and eternal life in heaven is defined as supreme objective of life. If you look at all the Muslim terrorists, they have defined their objective in heaven!

Sometimes, I laugh at the desperate attempts of the Muslim apologetics who want to prove that the terrorism is a handiwork of American corporate. American corporates definitely didn't define their objective in heaven. Koran did. Americans merely utilized a seed of poison ivy-known as Koran. Tomorrow, when Americans will not be the master imperialist, the seed will remain. Other master race will use it.

Surely we need to destroy the seed. It must be destroyed by the Muslim themselves-understanding that Koran is merely a problem of existentialism for them. Understanding that they can have an independent existence without Koran. A Muslim as human being,a biological being who can love his friends of all religions and Koran are two independent existence- it is mixed up because they are born and brought up that way.

But that can not be done, unless we can provide an alternative to religion.

An apologetic may argue that merely a few thousands are terrorists among the hundreds of millions ( Like Taj Hashami). But is there any difference between an apologetic and a terrorist? Both the apologetics and the terrorists are suffering from the same problem- problem of existentialism. Neither can think of their existence disbelieving in Koran. One is explicit, others are implicit, silent supporters of same supreme objective. That's why everywhere, it is a few of thousands of fundamentalists, run over millions of others- who are ' apparently' good religious people-nonterrorist type. Why? Because these millions do not have moral strength to oppose these few hundreds. Opposing is equivalent to destroying their own existence as Muslim! They are essentially on the same boat. Iran fell in to the hands of Islamic terrorists because of these apologetics.

My bottom-line would be to provide an alternative to religion-philosophy of science. Which I deem to be the only solution.

Origin of Hindu Fundamentalism : In search of Montheism

-Biplab Pal :12/3/05
In my recent debate with Mehul Kamdar, I proved the fact that Hindu fundamentalism has grown up from Indian nationalist movement that started during 1870-1900. My argument is simple-there was no such cohesive religion as Hinduism before British. It was merely a paganism of diverse culture with obscured religious texts, divided into thousands of sects, casts and subcasts. Such a dilapidated and dying force, striving for its existence in fanatic forces of Maratha nationalism and thousands of local feudal kings serving under Newabs, could never unite against pan-Islamic and Christian fundamentalism that was threatening the existence of local pagan culture. In those days, it was a mixture of Bramhinical Hinduism with locally rooted deism. By 1830, Christian missionaries with their everlasting zeal of mass conversion caused resentment among conservative Hindues. Along with it, grown a section of Hindu population, educated in Lord Bentinck’s vision of humanism, started a mass reform of Hinduism. Notable among them are Raja RamMohan Roy, VidyaSagar, Keshav Sen, Debendranath Tagore , Dwananda Swaraswati and Bal Gangadhar Tialak, who were increasingly aware of the fact that in order to establish Hindu unity against the threat of monotheism, polytheist deism in Hinduism would be of very little help. Hinduism as a platform boosted virtually every religious philosophy, and therefore, a booming need for monotheism forced the reformed Hindues towards Gita and Adityabad or non-dualism in Vedanta as a primary source of inspiration.
Though Gita was written around 1000BC and Koran was composed roughly about 7th century AD, central message of Gita and Koran are similar:
Both the texts transpire a non-material philosophy based on sacrifice of materialism. Sacrifice and submission of ego as our existence as biological being on the feet of supreme creator is the central theme of both Gita and Koran.
Both the holy texts demand absolute devotion to the lord (Allah) and nothing but the lord (Allah)
Also similar are the facts that both the books demand they are the absolute truth-all other religious texts are adulterated!
And both the books declared war against invaders and tyrannical leaders-holywar is translated as DharmaYudhya in Gita and Jihad in Koran.
Difficulty is, considering the historical timeline of the past, when science didn’t emerge as supreme military power, above mentioned cannons were extremely powerful tactics to unite and strengthen a society. Pure deism is good for a flourishing culture but it can not boost a military unity. The central canons expressed in 1-4, are deadly religious weapon which can be used for both fundamentalism and unification of a society.
I was looking for more information into the subject and found this wonderful article by a professor from University of Utah on the origin of Hindu fundamentalism.
Strangely the article supports and states everything I stated in the debate in connection to political promotion of Monotheism for Hindu fundamentalism. Hope the article will be interesting reading to our audience.
Let me begin with some observations that should give any reasonable person pause. In 1998 Hindu fundamentalists proposed that a new Goddess temple be built at Pokharan, 50 km from the site of the atomic bomb tests that were conducted in April of that year. According to their program this would be the 53rd example of Shaktipeeths (seats of strength, literally Goddess power) of Hindu preeminence. Another power center is the new temple to Rama in Ayodhya, being built on the site of the Babri mosque, destroyed by a Hindu mob in December 1992.) Some suggested that radioactive sand from the test site should be distributed as prasad, the Hindu sacrament, but cooler heads vetoed that idea. Some Hindu fundamentalists also believe that ancient Indians actually possessed atomic weapons, which they call AOm-mad-bombs.
The Indian military helps to fuel this religious enthusiasm by having named its long range missile after the Vedic god of fire Agni. (The Pakistanis countered by appropriating the power of the Hindu Goddess by naming their missile Ghauri, a name for the Goddess in Southern India.) The followers of Shri Shena, a fundamentalist organization in Mumbai, proudly proclaim that, after the bomb tests, Hindus were no longer eunuchs and now could stand up to the world as real men. During 1999 Durga festival in Calcutta celebrants found new figures in the traditional tableau of the Goddess Durga and her attendants. They saw life size figures of brave Indian soldiers who won a victory in the mountains of Kashmir because of Durga’s divine grace. Hundreds of years ago Hindu kings went into battle only after receiving Durga’s blessing by sacrificing dozens of water buffalo to her.
Another chilling experience is to read about the recovery of an original Hindu Empire, extending West into Afghanistan and Central Asia encompassing all Buddhist sites; extending North to recover the Tibet, the original land of the Aryans according to Dayananda Saraswati, extending Northwest to Cambodia to recover the Hindu Khmer kingdoms of Angkor Wat and North Vietnam, where Shiva lingas have been found; and extending Southeast to Java, where a Hindu-Buddhist kingdom once flourished, and Bali where three million Hinuds still live. This reminds me of Zionist maps of Greater Israel or plans by some Calvinists for a new Confederate States of America where God-fearing Anglo-Celtic top males will rule their households and their nation of fifteen states.
The origins of Hindu religious nationalism are quite recent considering the long history of advanced cultures in the Indian Sub-Continent. V. D. Savakar’s Hindutva (literally Hinduness ) was published in 1923, but the ideas of this book go back to the beginning of the 19th Century. The supreme irony about Hindu fundamentalism is that its first writers were profoundly influenced by European Orientalism and its archeological and linguistic discoveries. The same Orientalism that gave Europeans the excuse to view Asians as effeminate and impotent, thereby lacking the capacities for self rule, was used by Indian writers to create a view of India as a unified nation that gave birth to not only to the European languages but also to its first civilized peoples and the world’s greatest religion. The idea of India as the cradle of civilization and spirituality is, amazingly enough, found in Voltaire, Herder, Kant, Schegel, Shelling, Hegel, and Schopenhauer. Some scholars argue that the Indian philosophy that we now know as neo-Vedanta found in Aurobindo, Vivikeananda, and Gandhi, is just as much German idealism and Indian philosophy.
Hindu fundamentalists were flattered by Aldous Huxley’s idea of the Perennial Philosophy and its mystic monism, originally found in the Upanishads and only later, according to their views, spread to other cultures. Thesophists such as Annie Besant turned orientalism on its European creators, claiming that what they perceived as weaknesses-- namely, non-dualism, nonviolence, renunciation, meditation, and tolerance were precisely what was needed for the salvation of Western societies. In the 1870s there was a concerted effort on the part of English theosophists to merge with the Indian Arya Samaj (Society of Aryans) as part of Annie Besant’s vision of a World Federation of Aryans. Ironically, in another move of reverse orientalism, members of Arya Samaj vetoed this idea because they insisted that Indians were the only true Aryans! Interestingly enough, both Indians and Europeans agreed on at least one proposition: Hindu civilization was indeed corrupt and suffering a long decline, but Hindu fundamentalists believed that the solution to that problem was not Christian capitialism; rather, it was the recovery of a glorious Hindu past that Europeans had conveniently rediscovered for them.
Even before Arya Samaj there was the Brahmo Samaj (Society of Brahma, the Hindu Creator God) founded in Calcutta in 1828 by Rammohan Roy, who, although still preserving the idea of Vedic authority, developed a fully modernist, that is rationalist and humanist, approach to Indian identity and nationhood. Debendranath Tagore, father of the more famous Rabindranath Tagore, broke with Roy over the issue of Vedic authority, and another nationalist Keshab Chandra Sen proposed that Hinduism ought to be Christianized. The result of these developments within the Bengal Renaissance was a growing view of Hindu supremacy and exclusivity. One of the most dramatic examples of these views came from Bajnarain Basu, who waxed eloquent as follows:
The noble and puissant Hindu nation rousing herself after sleep, and rushing headlong towards progress with divine prowess. I see this rejuvenated nation again illuminating the world by her knowledge, spirituality and culture, and the glory of the Hindu nation again spreading over the whole world.
Rajnarain was insistent that the Hindu Motherland could have no place for Muslims because their religion was alien to India. India’s religion should be a cultural Hinduism based on the Upanishads but allowing for the mediation of the one true God by means of the traditional idols. The Brahmo Samaj proposed gradual but sure reform on the elements that had tarnished the image of Hinduism word wide: caste problems, widow remarriage, untouchability, and child marriage.
Arya Samaj was founded by Dayananda Saraswati in 1875 in Bombay, now renamed Mumbai because of Hindutva. (Madras is now called Chennai and Hindu nationalists want to change all English street names to Hindi and do not want their children to attend English medium schools.) Dayananda’s philosophy is sometimes called neo-Hinduism or Semitized Hinduism, what I would call an Abrahamic Hinduism. Dayananda claimed that the Aryans originated in Tibet, a hypothesis that the Nazis tested by sending Ernst Schaefer and Bruno Beger on two expeditions there in the 1930s. (The Nazis were also captivated by an alternative bizarre idea that the Arctic was the home of Aryans, an idea promoted by Hindu nationalist B. G. Tilak.) While in Tibet the Aryans, according to Dayananda, purged themselves of inferior people (identified as the dasyus in the Rigveda) and then spread to the rest of the world. In India they established the Hindu Golden Age described in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. This great age came to an end with the Kurukhetra War, the beginning of which is dramatically described in the Bhagavad-gita and the result, according to the text, was over a million deaths. Hindu civilization then descended into a long decline that was exacerbated by the pacificism and nihilism of Buddhism and Jainism, which were seen as failed off shoots of Hinduism and not separated religiously from Hinduism. During the Second Millennium CE a weakened Hindusim was easy prey for first the Mughal invaders and second British imperialism.
Dayananda saw the Aryans as paragons of virtue and the world’s first monotheists. Even though he uses the Hindu epics as proof of the Golden Age, he argued that only the Vedas and the Upanishads have religious authority. (Oddly enough, the members of the Ayra Samaj retained the Vedic fire ritual for their services.) He rejected the authority of the priests to interpret scripture and set himself up, in a way very similar to some preachers in the Abrahamic religion, as the only one that could interpret the Vedas correctly. He saw the Vedas and Upanishads as the literal Word of God and as the infallible text of the one true Hindu church, a concept alien to the Indian religious tradition, but one again very similar to the Abrahmanic religions. Setting the stage for 20th Century Hindutva, Dayananda lauched systematic attacks on traditional Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, and Buddhists.
On the plus side, Dayananda believed that the subjugation of women came with the decline of Hinduism and declared that this was a social ill that needed correction. He also spoke out against the thousand plus subcastes (jati) that divide Indians according to specific vocations and prevent lateral movement in Indian society. With regard to the four main castes Dayananda thought that it was a mistake to think of them as hereditary, a position that was an advance over Gandhi, who, while rejecting the oppression of the Dalits, still maintained the hereditary nature of the four main castes.
After Dayananda’s death there was a campaign to reconvert Dalits whose families had gone over to Christianity and syncretistic Muslims who, because they so fully participated in Hindu celebrations, ought, according to Arya Samaj, to return to the fold of the true faith. This campaign of reconversion is still at the forefront of Hindu fundamentalist efforts today, especially among the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
A key figure in the transition from the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj is Chandranath Basu who is the author that coined the term Hindutva (Hinduness) and he turned Hindu nationalism in a decidedly conservative and reactionary direction. In 1892 he published Hindutva: An Authentic History of the Hindus in which he defended traditional views Hindu ritual, caste, restriction of women’s education and civil rights, and the maintenance of male authority. Chandranath was firmly committed to demonstrating the superiority of Hinduism over Christianity, especially after the wide spread concern that conversions to Christianity were increasing in the latter half of the century.
In the novels and commentaries of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya, we see again the profound influence that European philosophy had on the rise of Indian nationalism. Particularly important was the work of Immanuel Kant, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and Auguste Comte. Interestingly enough, Bankim early support for women’s equality, presumably under Mill’s influence, disappeared in his later works, which also contain stronger claims to Hindu supremacy and more stringent anti-Muslim comments. He criticized Mill and Comte for their atheism and substituted Krishna’s religion of love as the key to human spiritual cultivation and progress. Nineteenth Century Indian nationalists were fully caught up in the idea of evolution and Bankim proposed that Hinduism was the perfect candidate for Comte’s idea of Apositive religion, the final stage of human perfection. Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy finds a new Indo-European home, but it has a new humanistic twist. Bankim rejects both the abstract monotheism he finds in Abrahamic religions and the impersonal monism of his own Brahmo Samaj in favor of the divine incarnation of Krishna as a human being.
At the turn of the century one of the most important Indian nationalist figure is B. G. Tilak, whose importance and standing in the Congress Party was second only to Gandhi. For purposes of our study of Hindu fundamentalism, Tilak was instrumental in inventing a powerful new form of devotionalism centered on the elephant god Ganesha. Tilak’s strategy was calculated and very effective: the new Ganesha festival (first celebrated in 1893) would compete with the Muslim festival of Muharram, which Hindus had always attended. Hindu nationalists in the state of Maharastra were successful in creating a new division between Muslims and Hindus that would intensify decade by decade into the new century. The Ganesha festival in Bombay is now so huge that it is common to see pictures and stories of it in the international press.
Tilak also resurrected King Shivaji, who, by the grace of his patron goddess Bhawani, was by far the most successful Hindu warrior king against the Mughal Empire during the 17th Century. Hindu fundamentalists admire Shivaji’s courage and excuse his ruthlessness against the Muslims he defeated. Tilak also instigated celebrations honoring Shivaji but many of them in the 1890s turned violent, the beginnings of the communal conflict that was to increase in the next century but was an uncommon occurrence in earlier times. Tilak used the Bhagavad-gita to justify Shivaji’s campaigns against the Mughals but also the violence that may be necessary to keep the Muslims of his day in line. Shivaji has become a hero and a model for a militant leader who will bring back the glory of all things Hindu. It is significant, however, in terms of the historical Shivaji that while Muslims repeatedly declared jihad against him, Shivaji principal motivations were Maratha nationalism rather than a broader Hindu nationalism based on the concept of the Indian Sub-Continent as one nation and the idea of Hinduism as a universal religion. Tilak also ignored the fact that Shivaji not only had Muslim allies but employed Muslims in his army and administration, demonstrating that his concept of a Martha nation included non-Hindus as well. Nonetheless, the revival and revision of Shivaji’s reign resulted in a number of Shivaji societies that believed that violence against British rule was a religious duty.
Tilak was also involved in researching and writing about the origins of Hinduism and the Hindu nation. I have already mentioned his wacky thesis, defended in a book entitled The Arctic Home of the Vedas, that Aryan culture actually goes all the way back to the last Ice Age. Drawing on astronomical allusions in the Vedas, Tilak takes Vedic history back 8,000 years and argues that the Vedic gods were polar deities worshiped by arctic Aryans. From all of his research he drew the same conclusion that many other 19th Century Indian nationalists did, and I will conclude with this illustrative but problematic passage:
During Vedic times, India was a self-contained country. It was united as great nation. That unity has disappeared bringing great degradation and it becomes the duty of the leaders to revive that union. A Hindu of this place [Varanasi] is as much a Hindu as one from Madras or Bombay. The study of the Gita, Ramayana, and Mahabharata produce the same ideas throughout the country. Are not these. . . our common heritage? If we lay stress on forgetting all the minor differences that exist between the different sects, then by the grace of Providence we shall long be able to consolidate all the different sects into a mighty Hindu nation. This ought to be the ambition of every Hindu.
The sects of which Tilak speaks the Sikhs, the Jains, and the Buddhists. Not at all included, unless they pledge allegiance to Hindutva (conversion itself is not mandatory), are India’s 40 million Christians and 120 million Muslims.
Needless to say, seeds sowed by Tilak, Bankim and Dawananda have grown up as today’s RSS, Bishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiva Sena. That will be another story.