Monday 31 March 2014

They die unsung – children of a lesser Goddess!

It was a British magazine 'The Guardian' which revealed that more 500 Indian workers have died in Qatar since 2012.  Qatar is on a fast-track building spree. It is hosting the world football tournament in 2022. So it is harnessing all the human labour it can to build infrastructure. Indian embassy in Doha has meekly confirmed to The Guardian the deaths of 237 Indians 2012 and 241 in 2013 and another 24 Indians in January 2014. It has been found by the reporters that at Doha's main hospital r more than 1,000 people, falling from heights, constructing the needed infrastructure for 2022 World Cup, had been admitted to the trauma unit of the facility in 2012. Ten per cent of these were disabled, and the resulting mortality rate was "significant." Suddenly the warning of International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) that up to 4,000 workers may die before a ball is kicked in 2022 without meaningful reform of the Kafala system, does not seem to be an empty rhetoric but a dire warning of the shape of things to come. 

Kafala system is actually a kind of adaptation. With adaption looked down traditionally in Islamic world, it has come to mean a form of slavery. It ties workers to their employers. Thus Kafala is the Islamic equivalent of indentured labourer system. It places the worker somewhere between a complete slave and a sponsored labourer. Poor Indians and Nepalis seeking livelihood, haunted by unemployment and spiraling prices and escalating bills to be paid for the bare minimum standard of living including education for the children, come to Gulf countries with dreams of a better future. They come ready to toil and sweat. However their willingness to work hard and their extreme financial needs have made them a great human pool of exploitation by the forces that run the Kafala system.  Kafala system is a big pipe which pumps in cheap labor from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Lanka.  Those who are brought through this system are worse than slaves They live entirely at the mercy of the touts and if they survive all these it is a miracle.

During the British colonialism India's poverty was caused by colonial exploitation. The famines created by the British were then used to export Indians to British colonies all over the world to work as indentured labourers. Today with the present political system exploiting India with the same ruthlessness, our people are selling themselves for a dream of a better life – for the enjoyment and entertainment of the Western and Arabian world. The wealth that has been stolen from Indian masses by the political establishment is a huge one. Usually this stolen wealth finds its way into foreign banks. In other words we are in the same situation our forefathers were before independence. The net result is such ugly phenomenon of Indian workers dying for the entertainment of the world. Indian lives have become so cheap thanks to the callous attitude of our government and more deeply thanks to the corrupt Indian polity.

Exploiting this deep malaise certain fake messiahs have arisen in the political field. Anti-national to the core, fascist in their attitude and mob anarchy as their methodology they want to further weaken the democracy of this already wounded nation. Corruption is of course a major disease that is ruining this nation. However such a ruthless corruption of fellow Indians is the result of the lack of patriotism. If a political party hobnobs with anti national forces like the Jehadists and Maoists, if a political party cannot even pay respect to the bodies of the CRPF jawans martyred in the Naxal terror attacks then that party can only capitalize on corruption but cannot root out corruption. Meanwhile Indian fishermen continue to get killed and jailed in the Indian Ocean. Italian marines who killed our fishermen are promised no capital punishment and that they would not be charged under piracy. 

It is anyone's guess that there are substantial number of Indian Muslims in those workers who died in Qatar. The marines who killed the Indian fishermen were Catholics like the fishermen themselves. Yet in both cases their religion did not matter much to their more affluent co-religionists who are from Arabia and Europe. Major Archbishop Mar George Alencherry, an Indian, who was then ordained Cardinal by then Pope even spoke of using Catholic influence in Kerala politics to secure not justice for the slain Catholic fishermen but secure the safety of the killer marines of Italy. In other words, alien religions work as savior of alien people at their service. Indians are ultimately brown skinned heathens left alone as children of a lesser Goddess in the world dominated by Abrahamic religions. Religion is soft-power used by colonial and to-be colonial Arabia and the West.

It is in such a situation that we Indians should forget all our differences to bring in a leadership to the nation that is dynamic, determined, which can provide an all inclusive development model and which is fiercely Indian. We need someone as a Prime Minister who will guard the catholic fishermen from the alien killers and who will bring justice to Indian workers who toil in Qatar under the Kafala system.  We need a leader who stands by the words of Swami Vivekananda – to shun all sectarianism and worship only Mother India and her children as Divine. Today India needs a leader who stands by this true secularism which is defined simply as India first – always and ever. 
Aravindan Neelakandan

Yuvabharati : Youth Icon : April 2014

Saturday 22 March 2014

Wendy Doniger and Freedom of Speech

When Penguin publishers decided to withdraw the book 'The Hindus: An Alternative History' in an out of court settlement with a litigant, many overjoyed Indians over this 'victory', have failed to notice that this may be a well constructed exercise in defaming India and Hindus. 

The book was published in 2009. Professor Wendy Doniger, the author, is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor Chair in History of Religions at the University of Chicago. Her works exhibit a major uniting chord: a reductionism which reduces Hinduism as a symbolic manifestation of Freudian unconscious. Some of her works can definitely be classified as having some kind of brilliance. But as she emerged as a power-center in American academy she increasingly became obsessed with Freudian reductionism of all aspects of Hinduism. She favored such a study of Hinduism among Indologists.  Each of her important doctoral students has produced works that have deconstructed Hindu phenomenon in an amateur Freudian fashion.

For example David Gordon White in his 'Sinister Yogis' has argued that the modern conception of yoga derives much from nineteenth-century European spirituality and in Indian tradition they are mainly  'wonder-workers or sorcerers who use their dangerous supernatural abilities—which can include raising the dead, possession, and levitation—to acquire power, wealth, and sexual gratification'.  Wendy Doniger herself stated, “The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think,… Throughout the Mahabharata ... Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviours such as war.... The Gita is a dishonest book; it justifies war…. I'm a pacifist. I don't believe in 'good' wars.” (Philadelphia Inquirer of 19 November, 2000)

Another important uniting theme in her writings as well as in the writings of the scholars of her lineage is that they want to denounce the good image that Hinduism has among the Westerners and deconstruct everything in Hinduism that appeals to the western mind.  Once the Freudian deconstruction of Hinduism, however unscientific it was, became the rule in American academic institutions teaching Hinduism or Indology, they received a support from an unexpected quarter, Indian Marxist academicians. For long, Marxists have stated that Freudian psychoanalysis was a bourgeois degeneration. But now when the object of attack is Hindu religion and culture they happily joined hands with the Freudian right. 

Jeffrey Kripal another of Wendy Doniger's disciple wrote a book on Sri Ramakrishna 'Kali's Child' in which he portrayed Sri Ramakrishna's spirituality as emanating from his repressed homosexuality. The book was promoted in the American academic circles so much so that at one point  the book was placed prominently in the "related books" column of the "Ramakrishna" entry in the online edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in 2000. Here it should be mentioned that Wendy is a member of the International Editorial Board of Encyclopedia Britannica. The assault continues unabated as for example, in an undergraduate study on Hinduism in an American university another Freudian deconstructionist of Hinduism, Paul Courtright has his work on Ganesa as textbook which informs the students that Ganesa 'remains celibate so as not to compete erotically with his father, a notorious womanizer, either incestuously for his mother or for any other woman for that matter'. The attack on Sri Ramakrishna mission extends far beyond the walls of academic world. For example, in his 1985 book the 'The City of Joy', Dominique Lapierre slandered the monks of Ramakrishna order as 'pimps' selling the victim children of a cyclone devastation into prostitution in Mumbai with assistance from Indian police. The book went on to become a best seller. However the then Marxist government in West Bengal refused permission to shoot the film as a book in Calcutta and even Satyajit Ray is said to have declined to make a film on Teresa as they saw these as colonial attempts to defame the self reliance of the people of the Third World. But then the neo-Marxists we have today have better connect with the globalized transnational capitalism when it comes to attacking Hinduism.   

Such attacks on Hinduism in the western world are almost taken for granted in a way attacks on Jews in the works of 'scientific studies' and fiction were taken for granted in the pre-holocaust west.
However, what is the most salient feature of these attacks on Hinduism has been that Hindus in United States never indulged in violence. Of course a rare angry Hindu shot an email threatening with violence and these authors tried to make of them, a Hindu version of Salman Rushdie and market them the American way. However the mainstream Hindus in United States took an entirely different approach to the problem. They published a detailed Hindu study of each of these Freudian deconstructionists and published an anthology of completely annotated studies of these worthies. It was the professional Hindu deconstruction of the amateur Freudian deconstruction.

Titled 'Invading the Sacred', Rajiv Malhotra's Infinity Foundation launched the book. The book provided the Hindu fraternity of students in the American academic world the needed counter points, point by point, sometimes angry, sometimes polemical but always authentic. It did not incite violence, it did not cry 'insult to religion', it did not ask to cut the slits for blasphemy; it simply put down the facts from Hindu side and misquotes, tortured texts, wrong translations which plagued the armor of the other side. It was an honest, brilliant, democratic call for an open debate and dialogue. Prof. Balagangadhara of the University of Ghent, spoke of this dignified scholarly Hindu response as 'early signs of an awakening' that signal the realization that 'western explanations of their religions and culture trivialize their lived experiences; by distorting such explanations transform these, and this denies Indians access to their own experiences.'  
But the Wendy's side not only shied away from the debate but also wrote tangentially and threateningly that Hindus being a minority in United States should behave.

In India:
The problem reached India during the NDA rule. L.K.Advani was then the home minister. A request was made to ban the book Kali's Child. But Sri.Advani refused to ban the book, disappointing the pseudo-secularist forces which were waiting to beat the Hindus and portray them as fanatical.  On the other hand two monks from Sri Ramakrishna mission, Swami Tyagananda and Pravrajika Vrajaprana, came out with a scholarly work 'Interpreting Ramakrishna Kali's Child Revisited'. The book analyzed in detail the framework in which Kali's Child was written: the historical context, the review of literature and then went into the actual textual data. It proved beyond doubt that the author of Kali's Child, Jeffery Kripal had mistranslated and then misinterpreted the mistranslations and then had sensationalized the misinterpretations of the mistranslations. Again the silence from the other side was deafening. In the case of ''The Hindus: An Alternative History' Vishal Agrawal an Engineer turned Indic scholar, has made an exhaustive study of the errors in the book (Vishal Agarwal, The Hindus: An Alternative History by Prof. Wendy Doniger, A Chapter-wise Review, Voice of India).  There has not been any worthwhile response from the denigrators of Hinduism.  However the particular litigation against the book is on flimsy ground and it is most likely that the case would have been dismissed in favor of the book.

So why did Penguin decide to remove the book?

Hindus do not have the ability to indulge in mass violence as for example it was done by certain religionists in the case of a controversial youtube video or Danish cartoons case. Nor Hindus have the ability to do backdoor lobbying in the corridors of power as certain religionists did when Dan Brown's movie 'Angels and Demons' was to be released in India or when they stopped a premier channel from airing a documentary on the alleged burial site of Jesus and Magdalene. So why did Penguin act this way – four years after the publication of the book, when it has become a no issue. It may be a strategy by Penguin to play 'martyr' and at the same time a marketing strategy to get the book popular and also a political ploy to paint India as 'becoming fascist'.

We have as our example Adi Sankaraacharya who went out of his way to save the Jain texts which Jain scholar Amarasena, was committing to fire in a mood of defeatist depression, after Sankara vanquished him in debate. Hindus do not seek book banning and book burning.  Hindus seek a neutral platform and debate and dialogue with no ulterior motive.  

Aravindan Neelakandan

From delusion to God...

Life in our times appears to be mundane and hectic bundled together. With no great purpose on hand and with all the material indulgences pulling us away, we get desperation and delusion at regular intervals. Will spirituality provide the solution for this muddle? Will it not be fine if an “Avatar” descends at our time to salvage us from our problems?  These thoughts do come in our mind as we are helpless.

But there is one person who can guide us from this delusion.  Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, who is an embodiment of our spiritual and cultural heritage, shows us the way. Knowing well that the material thirst is one which can never get satiated, he advises  people to meditate and be with the thought of God constantly, as that alone can take us towards the  liberation. He says,” The magnetic needle always points to the North, and hence it is that the sailing vessel does not lose Direction. So long as the heart of Man is directed towards God, he cannot be lost in the ocean of Worldliness.”  This longing for God will ultimately lead a person towards a virtuous life. This is crux of Indian spirituality where 'Dharma' is the bedrock.

We need conviction, commitment in our search for God. Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna Says that in order to realize God one must have perseverance and utmost desire. To emphasise this he gives an analogy. 'when can I realize God? asked a disciple. The guru didn't reply.Instead he caught his disciple by the hand, took him to the river and pushed his head down into the water and kept it like that for a few minutes. The aspirant struggled for breath and the guru wouldn't leave him. Finally in a desperate action the disciple gathered all the strength he had and pushed away Guru's hand. When he came out of the water Guru said, “when you have desperate desire to get your breath back, you gathered all your strength to come up. Likewise you can realize God with the same kind of strength and persistence. It will not come with mere study”. Sri Ramakrishna was in fact called as mad for his love towards God. Swami Vivekananda articulates it nicely for people to understand the persona of Sri Ramakrishna when he says, “ I know one ( Sri Ramakrishna) whom the world used to call mad, and this was my answer: 'My friends, the whole world is a lunatic asylum. Some are mad after worldly love, some after name, some after fame, some after money, some after salvation and going to heaven. In this big lunatic asylum I am also mad, I am mad after God. If you are mad after money, I am mad after God. You are mad; so am I. I think my madness is after all the best.' (cw3:100).

It was Sri Ramakrishna, who arrived at a time when our spirituality and cultural heritage were waning. He revived it and revitalized it by living rather than eulogizing it. His contribution can be understood through the words of French Litterateur, Romain Rolland, who said, “The man whose image I invoke here was the consummation of two thousand years of spiritual life of three hundred million people'. These words will imply the importance and greatness of Sri Ramakrishna and his crucial role in reviving the lost sheen of our Spiritual and Cultural Heritage. Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna continues to inspire us and guide us. His light will help us through the tunnel.