Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Guha, Foa, Verghese, and Danino

(Is was first published in Expressions of Christianity, With a Focus on India, Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan, Chennai, 2007, pp. 83-97)

Christian evangelistic literature abounds in condemnations of Hindu society; so do, occasionally, “secular” Indological studies. The favourite bête noire is of course the caste system; the Hindu woman — depressed, oppressed, suppressed, if we are to believe the suave messengers of the Good News — comes a close second. I will not go here into the correctness of the charge, as it has already been abundantly answered. But it helps to look at the way the Christian West treated its women, not only in its scripture but in actual practice.

Let us not be told that this treatment, whatever it was, belongs to the past and is of no relevance to current situations. True, from the nineteenth century onward, the status of woman in the West has considerably improved (although not always as much as is projected). But that in no way prevents us from asking the evangelist how he views the Bible’s degrading pronouncements on woman, and Christianity’s appalling record in the matter. For if he justifies them, he automatically falls from his moral high ground; if he condemns them, he condemns the very creed he is asking others to embrace; and if he attempts to conceal or to overlook them — his usual and safest line of defence, for its strength derives from people’s profound ignorance of history — then he is open to the charge of intellectual dishonesty.

Confronting the past is always a healthy exercise. Let us brace ourselves and have a glimpse of just a few cases studies; they are enough to edify us on what many have revealed, what many more have concealed, and what most remain unaware of. [...]

Despite the age of Enlightenment, prejudices against women have persisted well into our rational age. Matilda Joslyn Gage, a courageous pioneer of the feminist movement in the U.S.A., authored in 1893 a monumental study of the status of woman through the Christian ages.21 Her scrupulously documented book is a call to women as well as a challenge to both Church and State: “As I look backward through history I see the church everywhere stepping upon advancing civilization, hurling woman from the plane of “natural right” where the fact of her humanity had placed her,” 22

Woman, Church and State makes for painful reading, detailing numerous forms of abuse perpetrated right up to the nineteenth century, including the most revolting sexual exploitations ordered by Church authorities and Christian nations. A few years ago, the case of the “Magdalene laundries” was brought to light, a case that matches point by point some of those narrated by Matilda J. Gage.23

Michel Danino Michel Danino is a writer, researcher and a founder member of International Forum for India’s Heritage. He’s also the author of the much acclaimed “The Lost River: On The Trail of the Sarasvati.” - The Abrahamic God By Michel Danino

Viswa Ghosh Public 4d
Viswa Ghosh commented on a post on Blogger.
Sadly, the debates and discussions around AIT and OIT have been plagued with name-calling and personal insinuations. Ad hominem arguments have replaced substantive and evidence-based ones.

Personally, I would love to have the OIT established, a very strong case against the OIT thought is the very absence of (or yet to be identified and deciphere) proper scriptures in the IVC. If the Vedas originated there, it seems implausible that archeology has not yet dug up artifacts that reveal the language with proper scriptures. Further, so far we have not seen any relationship between any of the Indian languages with what has been uncovered in the IVC.

Having said that, it is also improbable that a 2000-year IVC would simply disappear without passing over anything to, say, the subsequent Ganges Valley Civilization that emerged. In which case, why haven't we identified the links from IVC to the civilizations that emerged in modern-day Iran, Afghanistan, and the Gangetic Plains? Is it our mindset that is preventing? OR, is it our technology?

This is when I start wishing for time travel so that I can actually observe "What Happened in History"!

The ancient Indian history has been a source of cantankerous debates and of vilification campaigns especially since the 1990s. According to one school, we have Aryans *invading* India, coming in waves over several centuries from their origins somewhere in central Asia. Aryans did not invade just India, but spread to Anatolia plateau, eventually finding their way into Europe. The branch that turned to India further sub-branched into Iran. We have consequently “Indo-European language family”, then its subset, “Indo-Iranian”, and finally it culminates into Indo-Aryan Sanskrit, the language of the gods, in which sacred Vedic texts and scriptures were composed and eventually reduced to writing in Dev Nagari script. The Vedic Aryan culture left an outstanding legacy of literature. [...]
I personally find this whole enterprise of speaking authoritatively about ancient or even medieval history simply preposterous. One may only discuss possibilities and probabilities when evidence is bound to be thin and only suggestive rather than conclusive, and at most point out why a particular alternative looks more attractive to fit the available evidence. For example, usage of language changes, the meanings derived from the words in the past may get fossilized though words themselves may survive albeit imbued with totally different meanings. [...]

There are many obvious pitfalls in interpreting ancient texts with modern sensibilities. When it is difficult to establish truth about current events in modern times, why some people firmly believe they hold the truth in matters belonging to antiquity defies reasons. It is therefore a foolhardy enterprise that seeks to draw firm conclusions about the past. However, this OIT-AIT debate acquired urgency for political reasons. There has been a doctrinal current that has flowed since the latter part of 19th century to date, which seeks to found the modern notion of Nation and Nationalism on One people, One Language, One culture, One ethnos, and if possible One religion that have continued uninterrupted right from the hoary antiquity of the Indus-Vedas civilization. It is this unwieldy endeavour, which has proved to be so fractious and divisive. What passes to us as history or historical narratives are frankly no more than current agreements between majority of the academic historians over what transpired in the past. Such agreements must, if one is aware of their shaky foundations, remain temporary and tentative, until something better comes on the scene.

Those who are firm adherents for ideological reasons of Out of India Theory or of Aryan Invasion Theory would always find ways to bitterly squabble, foul mouth and get at each other’s throats. However, for those who are interested to know what the scholars and academicians think on both sides of the divide there is a very interesting volume to peruse: The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History, edited by Edwin F Bryant and Laurie L Patton. Posted 4th July 2013 by Sadanand Patwardhan
Apr 4, 2016 - ... Kuppuswami Sastri, M Hiriyanna, Michel Danino, iNagendra, Navaratna S ... Goel, Sri Aurobindo, Sushil Kumar Dey, Swami Vivekananda, V S Sukhthanker, ...
Any system that is to be improved needs periodic assessments and shake ups. The worst thing for traditionalists to do is to promote vyakti-puja (idolatry) of any scholar by making him too big to be criticized. Ganesh is great, no doubt, but his limitations concerning Western Indology must be discussed in a constructive manner. [...] 
The problem of tunnel vision is brought out in Satyajit Ray’s movie, ‘Shatranj ke khilaadi’, based on the story by Premchand. It shows two elite Indian men playing chess and constantly engaged in petty and pedantic arguments.

A thoughtful essay on studying medieval history beyond Hindutva and secular whitewashing:

Observers of Indian history have generally had to choose between one of two perspectives. The first is the view of Hindu nationalists, who have repeatedly exaggerated acts of violence and bigotry under Muslim rule, and called for retribution in the present. The second is from secular historians, who have largely treated the temple demolitions, forced conversions, and massacres of the medieval and early modern eras as anomalies or fabrications, and dismissed demands for restorative measures. We argue for a middle way between these two extremes – one that rejects both excessive focus on precolonial Islamic violence, as well as a secular whitewashing that is insensitive to local memories and histories.

We believe that religious violence occurred quite often in India’s past; that it should be considered in the context of the times; and that this violence should be acknowledged, analysed, and discussed. The failure to come to terms with precolonial religious violence, though intended as a means to communal harmony, has had the opposite effect. By not acknowledging the traumas left by past events, secularists have allowed grievances to fester, to a point where the debate can no longer be avoided. [...]

One final critique is that to focus on Muslim bigotry during the medieval period is to risk fanning the flames of anti-Muslim violence today. By contrast, we would argue that it is precisely by recognising the sectarian atrocities of the past, that we are best placed to avoid repeating such calamities in the present. Meanwhile there are still many practical measures that could help Indian Muslims, and other minorities, live in peace and security. Brown University political scientist Ashutosh Varshney points to the power of intercommunal associations. Steven Wilkinson at Yale University has suggested that constituencies be drawn so as to provide politicians with an electoral incentive to protect minority swing voters. One thing that is highly unlikely to help Indian Muslims, however, is to construct a version of the past that can easily be assailed as illegitimate.

Roberto Foa is author of a doctoral thesis at Harvard University on the legacies of Indian precolonial regimes, and has been advisor to the Shared Societies project of the Club of Madrid. He tweets at @robertofoa

Ajay Verghese is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. His research focuses on South Asian politics, ethnicity, violence, and historical legacies. His book, The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Violence in India, came out in March 2016 from Stanford University Press. He tweets at @ajayverghese

"Neither Hindu nationalist,nor secular historian..we argue for the middle way"says Ramguha & truth becomes casualty! 
@rahulkanwal @Ram_Guha Fertile imagination of RamGuha. A Historian shud record history with all its warts & moles .His integrity is in doubt
@BihariTweeter : RamGuha is a Historian who is painfully subjective. History tailored to order.
Must read: 'Guhatva' of rabid hindu hater aka pseudo historian RamGuha, exposed by @SandeepWeb Via @IndiaFactsOrg 
@vanichandra2010 RamGuha at best is a palace historian,sir, A commie and a "Distortionist", the pseudo calls himself a historian! @Ram_Guha

Friday, April 08, 2016

Women have valuable skills such as empathy and a nurturing spirit

Vedica Opens Admissions for 2016

Business Wire India (press release)-05-Jan-2016
The Vedica Scholars Programme for Women (VSPW) now invites applications for its second batch, commencing classes in June 2016. VSPW is a unique ...

Vedica hopes to make a mark with management course for ...
Pradipti Jayaram Sep 8, 2015 - In a mini auditorium-like set-up, where classes are held, situated inside the lush campus of the New Delhi-based Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication (SACAC), around 38 women students sit in rapt attention.
Why women only?
But B-school lessons are supposed to prepare students for real life. Women need to know how to deal with men and vice-versa, so that they can successfully navigate the workplace. So won't not having any men in the mix be a drawback? Also, gender diversity in B-school programmes and in the corporate world is a big concern. When new institutions are looking to promote it, isn’t launching a programme only for women digressing from this mission?
“Women have enough opportunities for such socialising outside of their education. What we offer is space where women can recognise and work on their strengths and gain confidence before getting into the workforce,” says Anuradha Das Mathur, founding Dean of the programme.
Vedica takes the women’s perspective into account as the regular curriculum doesn’t, she adds. Women have valuable skills such as empathy and a nurturing spirit, and the present curriculum doesn’t harness this competitive advantage, she adds.
“Women are often at a disadvantage and not given the right tools to help themselves.” Another focus is to make sure that women are committed to their careers. “Women often drop out of good jobs five years down the line due to other commitments such as a family. And the current education system is not teaching them how to keep and regain jobs,” she says.
Women need not wait till they’re 35 to join women-only executive learning programmes when they realise men and women face different challenges in the corporate world. We can equip them much earlier in their career through this programme, says Mathur.

Story image for Cuttack from The Hindu

Recognition at the right time

The Hindu-So I thought, if I have to do choreography, I must have my own group, my own students. Second reason was that I wanted to pass on whatever I had learnt from Guruji (Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra). I learnt it in great details as I stayed with him for more than 20 years till his death. I meticulously reported every item I learnt with their variations and corrections, if any. I was lucky that I learnt from him in the early 1980s when his style and maturity was on top . So all the compositions and the refinements that are being carried on now had matured at that time and I was receiving them all. So I wanted to pass it down. Along the way, there have been a lot of frustrations also.
Can you elaborate?
All the students of the first batch got married. After giving so much energy and time, they go away. Most of them are girls and their destinies are all similar. In Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s school, I had hardly seen any boy students.

The unassuming master

The Hindu-5 hours ago
After 1980 Jena moved to Cuttack and established Kamala Kala Pith to train local young dancers and also dancers who came from abroad to study Odissi.
Mirra Alfassa
I belong to no nation, no civilization, no society, no race, but to the Divine. I obey no master, no rules, no law, no social convention, but the Divine.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Treatises full of absurd conceits, quaint fancies, and chaotic speculations

It is an exhaustive painstaking job that I have been researching in for sometime. I beg excuse from my honourable readers for its length but such topics need dealing at length to clarify and substantiate the various views supported with quotes from experts. Space constraint will either spoil or confuse it. As noted, authors have published voluminous books on these topics. Islam is about 1400 years old but Sikhism is only three to four centuries old. I am amazed to find such an extensive caste degradation in Sikhism, which is my next topic to dwell on. I certainly would welcome the esteemed readers to point out any erratum or if I erred somewhere in my work.
@Irfan Bhai,
First I welcome you here to express your personal opinion, right or wrong. You are entitled to. My contention is not to malign Islamic scriptures. In fact I am agreeable to your gut feeling about Quran and Hadiths.
Despite that the caste exists in Muslim societies. I have quoted the experts in my write up. I hope you have cared to read it carefully before posing the question.
In such a situation, if the castes are extant and being practiced blatantly in Muslim society without Quranic or Hadith authority, it certainly makes it worst and shameful; as I percieve it. It concerns me and I have succeeded in my point. Your non-denial by asking your question do not wipe out the malaise from the society in question. I have not intended a religious discourse but a prevailing system, please note the difference.

One can go on endlessly, and fruitlessly to deal on this topic of universal social malady wherein directly or indirectly, every existent society is involved with a continued hidden interest. It is being used more as rhetoric and sloganeering to exploit one section than explicitly eliminate it by demoralising. Caste appears like the system of flesh trade, which is denounced by everybody but nobody is prepared to eliminate it. They all like to immerse in it in the darkness of their daytime and enjoy it in the light of night time.
Dr. O. P. Sudrania
The Sachar Committee report of 2006 revealed that scheduled castes and tribes of India are not limited to the religion of Hinduism. The 61st round Survey of the NSSO found that almost nine-tenths of the Buddhists, one-third of the Sikhs, and one-third of the Christians in India belonged to the notified scheduled castes or tribes of the Constitution: In Buddhism, scheduled castes are 89.50% and scheduled tribe 07.40%. Peruse at:
At any rate, nothing in Buddhist history justifies the modern romance of Buddhism as a movement for social reform. Everywhere it went, Buddhism accepted the social mores prevalent in that country, be it Chinese imperial-centralistic bureaucracy, Japanese militaristic feudalism, or indeed Hindu caste society.
A deeper unbiased analysis may depict that either it is human ignorance or their materialistic greed or other weaknesses. Unfortunately the masses in any or every community are like a flock of sheeps which move in herds, led by the front leader. They hardly seem to have their individual say. Thus the so called human societies behave no different in this respect. Another human aspect of sensibility is a sentimental phenomenon which help create a mass movement; political, religious, sports, games, nationalism, or otherwise. All these factors work in tandem to divide et impera. In such matters, the individuals hardly seem to have their choice. There are extraneous factors also with their vested interests in creating further diversity
Ambedkar described the Untouchables as belonging to the same religion and culture, yet shunned and ostracized by the community they lived in. The Untouchables, observed Ambedkar, recognised the sacred as well as the secular laws of India, but they derived no benefit from this. They lived on the outskirts of a village. Segregated from the rest, bound down to a code of behavior, they lived a life appropriate to a servile state. According to this code, an untouchable could not do anything that raised him or her above his or her appointed station in life. The caste system stamped an individual as untouchable from birth. Thereafter, observed Ambedkar, his social status was fixed, and his economic condition was permanently set. The tragic part was that the Mahomedans, Parsis and Christians shunned and avoided the Untouchables, as well as the Hindus. Ambedkar acknowledged that the caste system wasn’t universally absolute in his time; it was true, he wrote, that some Untouchables had risen in Indian society above their usually low status, but the majority had limited mobility, or none, during Britain’s colonial rule. According to Ambedkar, the caste system was irrational. Ambedkar listed these evils of the caste system: it isolated people, infused a sense of inferiority into lower-caste individuals, and divided humanity. The caste system was not merely a social problem, he argued: it traumatized India’s people, its economy, and the discourse between its people, preventing India from developing and sharing knowledge, and wrecking its ability to create and enjoy the fruits of freedom. The philosophy supporting the social stratification system in India had discouraged critical thinking and cooperative effort, encouraging instead treatises that were full of absurd conceits, quaint fancies, and chaotic speculations. The lack of social mobility, notes Ambedkar, had prevented India from developing technology which can aid man in his effort to make a bare living, and a life better than that of the brute. Ambedkar stated that the resultant absence of scientific and technical progress, combined with all the transcendentalism and submission to one’s fate, perpetrated famines, desolated the land, and degraded the consciousness from respecting the civic rights of every fellow human being.
Ambedkar condemned Gandhi’s use of the term Harijans as saying that Dalits were socially immature, and that privileged caste Indians played a paternalistic role. Ambedkar and his allies also felt Gandhi was undermining Dalit political rights. Gandhi had also refused to support the untouchables in 1924–25 when they were campaigning for the right to pray in temples. Because of Gandhi’s actions, Ambedkar described him as “devious and untrustworthy”. Gandhi, although born into the Vaishya caste, insisted that he was able to speak on behalf of Dalits, despite the presence of Dalit activists such as Ambedkar.
Unfortunately this is merely being talked about lately for two reasons: One is vote bank political tool for Indian myopic leaders and second by the more vicious and powerful non Hindu machinery with a vested interest of predatory proselytisation on one hand and politico-religious exploitation on the other hand for divide et impera. Even the current UPA II central government wants the embers of caste burning.
Christian Missionaries and Indian Caste Cancer
It is unfortunate that both Christians and Muslims are predating on the soft Hindu community for the conversion politics of their brand of global caliphate where both of these Abraham’s offsprings are badly competing in the market to harvest the Hindu souls by misguiding the gullible people to divide and conquer. That is the reason for repeatedly branding, “Who is a Hindu”? They incite the various subgroups by saying, “So and so is not a Hindu because they say so”. This is maliciously absurd and rumour mongering technique to incite the illiterate rural folks and then using them by enticing with the basic living requisites in life e.g. health care through their establishment of hospitals and medical colleges, education through their missionary controlled schools from nursery till the highest post graduation standard in all fields, the religious proselytisation through their Churches tagged with both the previous types of institutions for health and education where there is a direct interference of Church from admission to funding all other privileges which acts as a cushion of incentives as well as draws respect for their brand of God and religion. Lastly the multinational business houses act as their final saviors in providing the jobs for their living. This projects the image of Christian Missionaries as their sole guardian and apostle on the earth.
In a globalised world, where there are many players calling the tune, it has to be a well intentioned sincerely selfless approach devoid of any vested interest that this malaise can be remedied. The more it is discussed, the more smug it becomes because it is not the discussion and laws or reservations and one off temporary subsidy that will eliminate caste but a well intentioned unbiased approach away from the politics of caste by concentrating on the socio-economical status of the affected selective groups; will only mitigate this problem, which is not just confined in India alone. Its slur and impact is far wider and ramifications global. The Christian proselytising industry must awake to the monstrous virus of caste which has at last engulfed even the Christianity and Islam, as clearly observed in the Afro-Asian nations; documented in my earlier series. Further the preferential caste based treatments have its demerits. Among the common consequences of caste based preference policies are:
-They encourage non-backward groups to redesignate themselves as members of backward groups to take advantage of group preference policies;
-They tend to benefit primarily the most fortunate among the backward caste (e.g. creamy layer), often times to the detriment of the least fortunate among the non-backward (e.g. poor upper caste Hindu);
-They reduce the incentives of both the backwards and non-backward to perform at their best — the former because doing so is unnecessary and the latter because it can prove futile — thereby resulting in net losses for society as a whole; and
-They engender animosity toward backward groups as well as on the part of backward groups themselves, whose main problem in some cases has been their own inadequacy combined with their resentment of non-backward groups who — without preferences — consistently outperform them.