Gandhism, Post modernism and Hindutva

The Hindu nationalist political party, BJP has taken over the reins of government in India. Though they were in power twice before, this time they have a good majority of their own, and need not depend on non Hindutva parties for support.
modi sworn in
Today the brand ambassador of Hindutva is Narendra Modi, the new Prime minister of India. He comes from Gujarat, from a place near the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. Is it surprising that muscular and intolerant Hindutva’s strength is coming from land of apostle of non-violence, Gandhi? Not at all. Many facets of Hindutva are closely related to ideas of Gandhi. Hindutva also derives it strength from western and Indian post modernist ideas and post colonial philosophies. Though this electoral victory is recent, the hegemony of ideas of Hindutva on Indian social and cultural milieu is present for last 2 decades and was greatly strengthened by Gandhians and post modernist Leftists.
A strong proponent of the above thesis is the scholar Meera Nanda, and this post is inspired by reading her.

Gandhism and Hindutva

Vision of Gandhi and that of Hindutva are similar in many areas.
See what Meera Nanda writes:
There is no doubt at all that Gandhi himself had no sympathy for the vicious anti-Muslim and anti-Christian sentiments that mark the muscular nationalism of Hindu nationalists. Hindu nationalists themselves recognize this difference, declaring Gandhi to be “too saintly” to fully comprehend the “evil” of Islam (Agarwal 1999).
But when it comes to the larger vision of a good society, the Hindu right wing’s relation to Gandhian philosophy is far from opportunistic. Indeed, the official philosophy of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the “integral humanism” of Deendayal Upadhyaya, is almost an exact paraphrase of Gandhi’s vision of a future India. Both seek a distinctive path for India, both reject the materialism of socialism and capitalism alike, both reject the individualism of modern society in favor of a holistic, varna-dharma based community, both insist upon an infusion of religious and moral values in politics, and both seek a culturally authentic mode of modernization that preserves Hindu values (see Fox 1987).

Gandhi was opposed to untouchability, but was not opposed to caste system per se. Modern day RSS takes the same view. Both Gandhi and RSS give importance to celibacy. Our new Prime minister, who left his wife for Hindutva work within weeks of his marriage, is an example of Hindu patriarchal thinking that women/sexual desires are an obstacle to performing useful work in society.
So it is not at all surprising that the Hindutva leader Modi is coming from near Gandhi’s home town.

Post modernism, Post Colonialism and Hindutva

It is difficult to define post modernism because it means different things to different people. Still it can be summarized as a philosophy which does not believe in single logical objective reasonable truth, but multiple subjective truths.
Post colonialism is a philosophy which tries to highlight and reinvent colonized people’s culture and portray it as opposite, equal or superior to Western culture.
Both did not believe in universal and culturally progressive nature of science. For a post modernist, science is just one of the several ways of attaining knowledge.
Thus a post colonial post modernist vision of India meant a new, non western model of development for India. They believed ‘western’ ideas like Capitalism, socialism, secularism, scientific temper, universality of scientific truth are not applicable in India. Main proponents of such a post modernist discourse included intellectuals like Ashish Nandy, Vandana Siva and Rajini Kothari. The Gandhian post modernists joined hands with ecological Marxists to fight against Nehruvian scientific temper
Meera Nanda writes:
The critics accused the Nehruvian promoters of science of disrespecting and insulting the ordinary citizens by daring to suggest that they need to revise their ways of knowing. True equality demands that ordinary people should have as much right to question science from their perspective. The most common example cited was that of astrology. Inspired by Feyerabend, the self-proclaimed defenders of the common man argued that astrology was the myth of the weak, as much as science was the myth of the strong. Scientists and those who dare criticize astrology as a superstition must take the empirical experience of the ordinary people as evidence, and rethink their opposition to it. Astrology stood for local knowledge in general.

This strengthened the hands of Hindutva forces as they were saying the same thing. Legitimacy was given to local, not scientifically tested “knowledge”. Foolish utterances of babas and swamis should be considered seriously as they form the local knowledge, which cannot be tested or known to modern science. No local inhuman customs, especially that of minorities and tribals (weaker sections) could be criticized as Universal human rights are a Western colonial concept. Science they said was a neo-colonial tool of multinational Corporations to continue control of colonies. It rapes the holy motherland and creates natural disasters.
Thus this anti-science movement saw a strange collaboration between Gandhians, Hindutva forces and some Leftists. Such an attack on science and secular liberal thoughts resulted in Indian society losing many of the progressive gains of the 50s and 60s. Identity politics based on caste, religion, language etc gained legitimacy. Superstitions became fashionable and spurious and dangerous remedies became popular in the field of health. Unscientific health care systems like Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Sidha and Homeopathy flourished under State patronage. Anti vaccine movement gained momentum. Freedom of expression suffered as the list of holy cows that cannot be criticized increased enormously.
In short, Gandhians and post modernist Leftists have played an important role in elevating Hindutva forces to power in India.
A successful fight against Hindutva or any other communal forces needs a reaffirming of our faith in scientific method, as the only way to attain knowledge. We need to propagate scientific temper in our society. Democracy and Secularism are universal concepts essential for well being of human beings all over the world. Traditions, like anything else should be rigorously questioned. Instead of sitting on the fence, rational criticism of religion and religious superstitions/ common sense should come from science movements.
Secular polity should not accept religion/traditions as another method to attain knowledge. Whether it is minority or majority religion, hurt sentiments should never be accepted to absolve criticism. Caste based groups, even of the lowest caste, represents a regressive grouping and should not be encouraged.

A liberal humanist India is possible only with more science and less religion.


From Dandi to Dantewada. A study in contrast

April 6. 1930

Millions of Indians led by Gandhiji made salt illegally defying the law as a non- violent form of protest against exploitation and injustice of the ruling British empire.

April 6, 2010.

 Maoists killed 72 jawans of the CRPF in an ambush in Dantiwada in a grossly violent form of ‘protest’ against alleged exploitation and injustice of the rulers.

 Methods of agitation cannot be as dissimilar as the above two. Ironically both happened on the same date 80 years apart.

Salt Sathygraha

Civil disobedience by symbolically breaking the Salt law was the strategy adopted my Gandhiji to create a political awakening in India and there by bring pressure on British to leave India.Salt he knew is essential for all communities, rich and poor alike. He announced his intention to the British through this letter.

                                  LETTER TO LORD IRWIN
                                                                 SATYAGRHA ASHRAM, SABARMATI,

                                                                                                           March 2, 1930
Dear Friend,
I cannot intentionally hurt anything that lives, much less fellow human beings, even though they may do the greatest wrong to me and mine. Whilst, therefore, I hold
the British rule to be a curse, I do not intend harm to a single Englishman or to any legitimate interest he may have in India.

And why do I regard the British rule as a curse?

It has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinously expensive military and civil administration which the country can never afford.
It has reduced us politically to serfdom.

It is common cause that, however disorganized and, for the time being, insignificant it may be, the party of violence is gaining ground and making itself felt. Its end is the same as mine. But I am convinced that it cannot bring the desired relief to the dumb millions. And the conviction is growing deeper and deeper in me that nothing but unadulterated non-violence can check the organized violence of the British Government. Many think that non-violence is not an active force. My experience, limited though it undoubtedly is, shows that non-violence can be an intensely active force. It is my purpose to set
in motion that force as well against the organized violent force of the British rule as [against] the unorganized violent force of the growing party of violence. To sit still would be to give rein to both the forces above mentioned. Having an unquestioning and immovable faith in the efficacy of non-violence as I know it, it would be sinful on my
part to wait any longer.
But if you cannot see your way to deal with these evils and my letter makes no
appeal to your heart, on the 11th day of this month,1 I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard theprovisions of the salt laws. I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land the beginning will
be made with this evil. The wonder is that we have submitted to the cruel monopoly for so long. It is, I know, open to you to frustrate my design by arresting me. I hope that there will be tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me, and, in the act of disobeying the Salt Act to lay themselves open to the penalties of a law that should never have disfigured the Statute-book.
This letter is not in any way intended as a threat but is a simple and sacred duty peremptory on a civil resister. Therefore I am having it specially delivered by a young English friend who believes in the Indian cause and is a full believer in non-violence and whom Providence seems to have sent to me, as it were, for the very purpose.
I remain,
Your sincere friend,

Gandhiji started the march along with 78 satyagrahis, well trained in strict discipline and adherence to satyagraha and non violence on March 12. Walking around 15-20 kms a day through 4 districts covering scores of villages he reached Dandi and broke the Salt law on April 6, along with millions of Indians through out  the country.
Here is how United Press reporter Webb Miller described the Darsana Salt Work Satyagraha which was broke up by the British Police.

Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow. Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down

Maoist violence

Maoists believe Indian State should be overthrown by an armed revolution. They are of the opinion that the exploitation of poor of the Country can only end by a violent revolution. For them each and every person representing the State or the Capitalist class is a legitimate target to kill.Thats why they killed in cold blood 72 jawans of CRPF.

Study in contrast
Maoist believes the end justifies the means by which it is achieved. In contrast Gandhiji believed violence begets violence and an illegitimate way of achieving an end makes the end meaningless. Violence for a good cause makes the cause bad.Non-violence unites while violence divides people.

Is Gandhiji’s strategy and beliefs outdated? I do not think so. All over the World it is getting more and more acceptance. You can see such strategies working in anti-war movements and in agitations of environmental groups.

Looking back at the history of the World I am sure that this mindless violence produced by Maoist fundamentalist ideology is bound to fail.

But how many more lives will it take before its inevitable failure?

A page from History!

‘This day that age’!

Harijan and local political workers proclaim that they will enter the Sri Ekambareshwarar Temple at Chettipulam near Vedaranyam, for the first time ever on September 30.
On that day and on the next day they find the temple locked. They do a sit-in for few hours and depart.
On October 14 they try temple entry again .The upper caste mob had blocked the road, placed tree logs, concrete tunnel pipes etc. at intermittent gaps. Heavy stone throwing by ‘caste’ Hindus greeted them and many got injured

A glimpse from India’s not so glorious past?

Unfortunately No. This happened this year in 2009 in Tamilnadu, the bastion of backward class politics.

There has been long standing feud between politically and economically powerful ‘Vanniyars and the Dalits in several parts of Tamilnadu.In many of the temples run by Vanniyars Dalits are never allowed entry.

About 300 CPI (M) workers and Dalits, led by Nagapattinam MLA Marimuthu, organised a temple entry agitation at Chettipulam on September 30 along with the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front. But they found the temple locked. When they tried to force entry Police stopped them.

It was decided at the peace talks that Nagapattinam RDO Rajendran held with the Dalits,’Caste’ Hindus of the village and CPI (M) cadres on October 7 that dalits, led by Mr Marimuthu, would enter the temple on October 14 along with the villagers.

But on October 14, the village witnessed violence, lathicharge and police firing when the vehicles in which Dalits, accompanied by police and revenue officials were proceeding to the temple, were attacked by a mob.

Now the Good news

On October 27,Tuesday the District Collector Mr Munianathan under heavy Police security ushered in the Dalits inside the temple for the first time in its history.

“Hordes of women and men jostled each other as they crossed the threshold of the temple and walked towards the sanctum sanctorum with flowers, garlands and coconuts as offerings to the deity. As they craned their necks to catch a glimpse of their god, the DRO and the Collector personally collected their offerings and passed it on to the priest into the sanctum for special prayers.

The general folks of the village, other than the Dalits, were absent at the temple. Most of the men are said to be on the run, following the legal crackdown by police after the violence of October 14.”

 Dalits offering prayers at the Ekambareshwarar temple in Chettipulam village near Vedaranyam at Nagapattinam district. Photo:M_Moorthy from The Hindu

“I am delighted that my many-year-old desire has been fulfilled today.”

This is how Mahatma Gandhi wrote in the visitors’ book shortly after offering worship at the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, along with Dalits and members of certain other “excluded communities” on February 4, 1946.

Speaking at a rally in Palani soon afterwards, he said worship of God’s image would serve no good unless people cleansed their hearts of hardness against fellow beings. God should be enshrined not in images but in human hearts. He said he worshipped the deities at the Madurai temple because that shrine was now open to Dalits.

Though more than 60 years have gone by discriminatory practices against Dalits continue in several parts of Tamil Nadu.

In a recent survey of 658 temples in 5 southern districts of Tamil Nadu it was found that some form of discrimination takes place in 200 of them.

Dalits have been denied entry into 121 temples. In 128 temples they do not have access to the sanctum sanctorum. They are not permitted to perform pujas at 106 shrines. Temple cars skip Dalit colonies at 174 places. Dalits are allowed to enter the places of worship only during specific hours fixed for them in 103 cases. In 86 temples, the honour of tying “parivattam” (a cloth tied around the head) has been denied to Dalits.

When will this shame of India and Hinduism be erased forever?

adapted from deccan chronicle,expressbuzz,the hindu,the frontline

Once up on a time this ‘man’ lived here

It has been 140 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. And his autobiography continues to be a bestseller with annual sales of 200,000 copies even in these rapidly changing times.

Most of Gandhi’s written works have been compiled into 100 volumes. These are known as the Complete Works of Mahatma Gandhi, and they run into about 50,000 pages.

The apostle of non-violence is said to be the only public figure to have written so much.
“He wrote without stopping. When his right hand got tired, he would use his left. There is still so much of his work not in the public domain – as many as 30,000 pages are scattered in the form of letters and other writings,” said  Anupam Mishra, director Gandhi Peace Foundation.

Here are some excerpts from his writings.

Absence of Hatred

“I hold myself to be incapable of hating any being on earth. By a long course of prayerful discipline, I have ceased for over forty years to hate anybody. I know this is a big claim. Nevertheless, I make it in all humility. But I can and do hate evil wherever it exists. I hate the system of government that the British people have set up in India. I hate the ruthless exploitation of India even as I hate from the bottom of my heart the hideous system of untouchability for which millions of Hindus have made themselves responsible. But I do not hate the domineering Englishmen as I refuse to hate the domineering Hindus. I seek to reform them in all the loving ways that are open to me.”

“The trouble with our votaries of ahimsa is that they have made of ahimsa a blind fetish and put the greatest obstacle in the way of the spread of true ahimsa in our midst. The current-and, in my opinion, mistaken-view of ahimsa has drugged our conscience and rendered us insensible to a host of other and more insidious forms of himsa like harsh words, harsh judgements, ill will, anger, spite and lust of cruelty; it has made us forget that there may be far more himsa in the slow torture of men and animals, the starvation and exploitation to which they are subjected out of selfish greed, the wanton humiliation and oppression of the weak and the killing of their self-respect that we witness all around us today.”

On Voluntary Poverty
“When I found myself drawn into the political coil, I asked myself what was necessary for me, in order to remain untouched by immorality, by untruth, by what is known as political gain. I came definitely to the conclusion that, if I had to serve the people in whose midst my life was cast and of whose difficulties I was a witness from day to day, I must discard all wealth, all possession.

I cannot tell you with truth that, when this belief came to me, I discarded everything immediately. I must confess to you that progress at first was slow. And now, as I recall those days of struggle, I remember that it was also painful in the beginning. But, as days went by, I saw that I had to throw overboard many other things which I used to consider as mine, and a time came when it became a matter of positive joy to give up those things. One after another then, by almost geometric progression, things slipped away from me. And, as I am describing my experiences, I can say a great burden fell off my shoulders and I felt that I could now walk with ease and do my work also in the service of my fellow men with great comfort and still greater joy. The possession of anything then became a troublesome thing and a burden.”

On travelling in third class in trains

“The third class compartments are practically as dirty, and the closet arrangements as bad, today as they were then, There may be a little improvement now, but the difference between the facilities provided for the first and the third classes is out of all proportion to the difference between the fares for the two classes. Third class passengers are treated like sheep and their comforts are sheep’s comforts. In Europe I travelled third and only once first, just to see what it was like but there I noticed no such difference between the first and the third classes. In South Africa class comforts are better there than here. In parts of South Africa third class compartments are provided with sleeping accommodation and cushioned seats. The accommodation is also regulated, so as to prevent overcrowding, whereas here I have found the regulation limit usually exceeded.

The indifference of the railway authorities to the comforts of the third class passengers, combined with the dirty and inconsiderate habits of the passengers themselves, makes third class travelling a trial for a passenger of cleanly ways.

I can think of only one remedy for this awful state of things that educated men should make a point of travelling third class and reforming the habits of the people, as also of never letting the railway authorities rest in peace, sending in complaints wherever necessary, never resorting to bribes or any unlawful means for obtaining their own comforts, and never putting up with infringements of rules on the part of anyone concerned. This, I am sure, would bring about considerable improvement.”

About denying his children education in ‘elite’schools

“I could have sent them to the schools for European children, but only as a matter of favour and exception. No other Indian children were allowed to attend them.Had I been without a sense of self-respect and satisfied of myself with having for my children the education that other children could not get, I should have deprived them of the object-lesson in liberty and self-respect that I gave them at the cost of the literary training. And where a choice has to be made between liberty and learning, who will not say that the former has to be preferred a thousand times to the latter”

About accepting Gifts
“The Natal Indians bathed me with the nectar of love. Farewell meetings were arranged at every place, and costly gifts were presented to me. The gifts of course included things in gold and silver, but there were articles of costly diamond as well.

What right had I to accept all these gifts ? Accepting them, how could I persuade myself that I was serving the community without remuneration ? All the gifts, excepting a few from my clients, were purely for my service to the community, and I could make no difference between my clients and co-workers; for the clients also helped me in my public work.

The evening I was presented with the bulk of these things I had a sleepless night. I walked up and down my room deeply agitated, but could find no solution. It was difficult for me to forego gifts worth hundreds, it was more difficult to keep them.
 I decided that I could not keep these things. I drafted a letter, creating a trust of them in favour of the community
I am definitely of opinion that a public worker should accept no costly gifts.”
On Satyagraha
” Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and a determination to search truth….Satyagraha is an attribute of the spirit within….Satyagraha has been designed as an effective substitute for violence…. Satyagraha is a process of educating public opinion, such that it covers all the elements of the society and makes itself irresistible….The fight of Satyagraha is for the strong in spirit, not the doubter or the timid. Satyagraha teaches us the art of living as well as dying….Satyagraha, of which civil-resistance is but a part, is to me the universal law of life….Satyagraha can rid society of all evils, political, economic, and moral…A genuine Satyagraha should never excite contempt in the opponent even when it fails to command regard or respect….Satyagraha thrives on repression till at last the repressor is tired and the object of Satyagraha is gained….Satyagraha does not depend on the outside [for] help; it derives all its strength from within….The method of Satyagraha requires that the Satyagrahi should never lose hope, so long as there is the slightest ground left for it….In the dictionary of Satyagraha, there is no enemy. Since Satyagraha is a method of conversion and conviction, it seeks never to use the slightest coercion… For a Satyagraha brigade, only those are eligible who believe in ahimsa–nonviolence and satya–truth… A Satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, and ample hope….A Satyagrahi cannot go to law for a personal wrong….In the code of the Satyagrahi, there is no such thing as surrender to brute force.”  

About his Autobiography

My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. And if every page of these chapters does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realization of Truth is ahimsa, I shall deem all my labour in writing these chapters to have been in vain. And even though my efforts in this behalf may prove fruitless, let the readers know that the vehicle, not the great principle, is at fault.”

The World March for Peace and Nonviolence to begin on Gandhi Jayanti Day

A World march for Peace and Non-violence is scheduled to begin on Gandhi Jayanti day this year.
The World March will begin in New Zealand on October 2, 2009, the anniversary of Gandhiji’s birth, declared the “International Day of Nonviolence” by the United Nations. It will conclude in the Andes Mountains (Punta de Vacas, Aconcagua, Argentina) on January 2, 2010. The March will last 90 days, three long months of travel. It will pass through all climates and seasons, from the hot summer of the tropics and the deserts, to the winter of Siberia. The American and Asian stages will be the longest, both almost a month. A permanent base of a hundred people of different nationalities will complete the journey.

The march is organised basically by the World Humanist movement. through one of its organisation World Without Wars[WWW].

WWW subscribes to and promotes the “Humanist Document” whose main points are:

Condemnation of physical violence, whose maximum expression is war, and of all other forms of violence: economic, racial, religious and sexual.
Affirmation of freedom of thought and diversity of beliefs for all human beings.
Development of science and all knowledge at the service of life.
Recognition of personal, ethnic, racial and cultural diversity throughout the world.
Affirmation of the equality of all human beings.
Considering the human being as the central value and concern.

The main objectives of the World March are

To denounce the dangerous world situation that is leading us closer and closer to nuclear war, which would be the greatest catastrophe in human history – a dead end.

To give a voice to the majority of world citizens who want peace. Although the majority of the human race opposes the arms race, we are not sending out a unified signal. Instead we are letting ourselves be manipulated by a powerful minority and suffering the consequences. The time has come to stand together and show our opposition. Join a multitude of others in sending a clear signal, and your voice will have to be heard!

To achieve: the worldwide eradication of nuclear weapons; the immediate withdrawal of invading troops from occupied territories; the progressive and proportional reduction of conventional weapons; the signing of
non-aggression treaties among nations and the renunciation by governments of war as a way to resolve conflicts.

To expose the many other forms of violence (economic, racial, sexual, religious…) that are currently hidden or disguised by their perpetrators; and to provide a way for all who suffer such violence to be heard.

To create global awareness – as has already happened with environmental issues – of the urgent need to condemn of all forms of violence and bring about real Peace.

Details of the march like the route and the mode of transportation can be found here

You can endorse the march and learn about what you can do to help by clicking here.

In Kerala veteran singer Padmabhushan K J Yesudas is the ambassador for the World March for Peace and non-violence.

Let us all endorse this noble cause and make Peace and non-violence a reality.