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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't forget the real issues

Published on :-5 Oct 2008,

No amount of hurt and pain inflicted on Hindus by aggressive Christian proselytizers can justify what we are seeing in Orissa. It's neither resis
tance, nor courage. It's simply a self-injury borne out of ineptitude, weakness and cowardice.

We must stand with the sorrows of the Christians in Orissa with as much conviction and courage as we opposed and condemned the dastardly murder of a great soul - Swami Lakshmanananda ji. We have to decide who we are. A committed Hindu, who believes in the loftier ideal of Vedanta and Sanatana Dharma, which had its flag bearers in Adi Sankara, Paramacharya, Vivekananda and Dayananda, or be counted with the Taliban.

Yes, defend your dharma, never pardon the unrepentant wicked, but the method and rules of your battle can't be Adharma. Then you cease to be a Hindu. The problem before the Hindu today is the self-obsessed, political and money-making Hindu who doesn't care a hoot for the Hindu interest and remains busy in counting votes and money at the cost of the Hinduness of the land.

After all, how many Hindu saints and great preachers reached and condoled the murder of the Swami? How many Hindu politicians reached the ashram and sympathized with the poor ashramites and sternly demanded an inquiry and arrest of the culprits? The real enemies of the Hindus are not among the Muslims and Christians but among hypocritical Hindus. They earn money, wield political power; enjoy immense wealth - all for their personal ends.

How many rich, politically powerful Hindus felt perturbed over such incidents? Isn't it true that the largest number of slaughterhouses are run by Hindus and that illegal smuggling of cows to Bangladesh is facilitated by Hindu officers and politicians? They say they worship the cow. What a joke. Hindus alone facilitate cow slaughter and they have been unable to impose an effective law banning this in spite of its inclusion in the directive principles of the Constitution because Hindu leaders and seculars opposed it.

Who treats their own flesh and blood and religious fellow travelers with as much hate and contempt as we do, just because they belong to a different caste? Except RSS and a few other reformist religious organizations like the Arya Samaj, Gayatri Pariwar and Swaminarayan, not many organizations have been successful, that too partly, in removing discrimination based on the caste system. Why?

Name one Hindu millionaire who has set up a school of excellence for the disadvantaged sections of Hindus from among Scheduled Tribes and Castes? They only make a mockery when someone takes the initiative in this regard. After Babu Jagjivan Ram, how many SC or ST leaders has this heavily casteist political system been able to produce who are accepted and respected as national leaders and not just leaders of their caste segments?

Equality, you said?

Yet, it will be injurious to the health and values of the land if we simply brush aside the reason for this unusual Hindu unrest which has gone beyond the control of any organisation. Look at today's newspapers. The front page informs about how a poor girl was raped. Yesterday, there was a story of a Kargil victor brutalized in his village. Can there be anything more shameful than this? But will you allow me to say, in the same breath, could there have been a more shameful incident than the killing of an old woman monk Bhaktimoyee on the night of Krishna Janmashtamai, 23rd September to be exact?

I have yet to see a picture of the slain woman in any newspaper and any nice, humane Indian perturbed by the incident. None of the channels broadcast her story, how she had devoted her life for the cause of tribals and tried her best to serve the poor. Not a single soul was pained or felt compelled to write a line condemning her slayers. None demands that the murderers of Swami Lakshmanananda be brought to book. Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik's head is demanded because he is supported by the BJP. When Graham Staines' ghastly murder took place there was a Congress government in the state - nobody demanded its dismissal. Still they say they are secular, civilised and want everyone treated equally.

And then they want us to feel bad when a light goes off in their house. But pray, who, among the French, Americans, seculars, pseudo-seculars, Saudi rightists and Jamia's "my student, my children brigade" rose to wipe the tears of those Hindus who were driven out of their homes and whose women were raped, children killed and temples razed?

Gandhi path.

Love, sympathies and civility can't be weighed in religious colours. False seculars have taught Hindus to do so. So, even if they don't do to us what they expect us to do to them, it's fairly Hindu to stand with the victims and fight for our just cause with the instruments of Dharma. They will have to stand up in solidarity, choosing a path that makes them proud adherents of their faith. There can't be any shortcut to greater goals.

Gandhi was one of such strong-willed ideal Hindus. Many would disagree with his path, yet he re-defined India for the world community.

He was frail, yet could bend the fiercest steel. Had unassailable faith in his Hinduness, yet loved all and received every faith's respect, lived to his professed ideals and entertained severest criticism too, could innocently love his enemies and stayed away from Delhi when the nation became independent to share the grief of the riot-hit in Noakhali. He was a Mahatma who died with Ram on his lips. India is known the world over as the land of Gandhi.

Those who disagree with him hate him. Those who love him, find it hard to follow. Yet he has become an indispensable icon, for India and as the years pass the more relevant he becomes. He emerges as the new icon of the Gen X who finds in him an essence of Indianness, so Hindu, yet overwhelmingly acceptable to all. A quintessential part of our land and her culture.

Gandhi. All encompassing, yet no power on earth could shake his commitment to Ram and get a nod for religious conversion of Hindus. Those who find it hard to come closer to him, stone him. So what? The Buddha statue being damaged and bombed in Bamiyan is a reflection on those who bombed it. None could steal his smile or lower his power to make the world feel peace and breathe the deep, cool air of bliss.

I met Gandhi.

I met him last week in Yeotmal, the region where the first cotton crop flowered more than a century ago. The Vidarbha land where the largest number of farmers are committing suicide. The land which is still struggling to come back on a path to its green future. Here Vinoba established his world famous Pabnar ashram on the banks of river Dham. Many RSS workers donated their land to his Bhudan andolan land, to the landless movement. They have done wonders in encouraging and supporting farmers to get more yield and get the Pardhi nomadic tribe's children good education. This tribe was known as the 'criminal tribe' thanks to the arrogance of the British and still suffers 90 per cent illiteracy. I saw Gandhi in the dreamy eyes of those Pardhi children, first-generation learners who were studying in various classes in a hostel run by Sangh workers.

I saw him again when Devaji Topha, a simple villager, rose to receive the Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay award for bringing about a social revolution in Gadchiroli, an area better known as the hotbed of the Naxalites in Maharashtra. He is small and frail, wears a short loin cloth and none could imagine he would deliver such a powerful speech in Marathi whose each line drew claps and spontaneous praise. He said: "Shashak aur shoshan ek saath ata hai - governance and exploitation come together. No governance, no exploitation. So we resolved we will have our own Raj, our own village government, we will decide what we need here and how, and not let those decide who come from Delhi or Mumbai.

"We started a struggle saying that the forests belonged to the whole village, and not any individual or official. We are Gond tribals, and there are around 80 families in our village. People used to get firewood for use and for sale, but after Independence, the forest officials stopped this. The village faced lots of problems because of this new measure. A gram sabha was organised and everybody participated. It was decided in the gram sabha that the forest belongs to the village, and its permission must be taken. We felt that if the villagers did the work, then the villagers and not somebody in the government should fix the pay. We had no idea about government rules, so went to the government office to find the wage rate. We found that the contractor was giving us only half the required payment, since the previous five years. We confronted him with the evidence and forced him to pay the required fee. Later we felt that it would be better if the villagers were the contractor and not some outsider.

"Ten per cent of our wages for labour goes to the village and 10 per cent of all the grain produced goes to the village. The teacher should be able to speak the Gond language, and should not drink alcohol. We feel that one, who is educated in the present system, forgets his parents and village and becomes an exploiter. Women have an upper hand in decision-making. Our culture keeps changing; we retain what is good and discard what is bad. The women in our village have all authority, who are we to give it to them."

Aren't these the real issues? No Dharma, empty stomach.

Devaji receiving a Deen Dayal Upadhyaya award represented such a positive energy that I am sure the issue of hate and communal divide would never show their ugly heads. Vivekananda said you can't teach Dharma to the poor on an empty stomach. Why are we forgetting that?

These are inconvenient questions and there is no escape route except to answer.

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