Category Archives: Threats

Creating Hinduphobic narrative – A case study

By: Ratan Sharda

I chanced upon the following article from a little known news portal “The Art Newspaper” through Flipboard. Obviously, this portal is supposed to focus on Art and Culture, however, it has other interests that match with our Indian illiberal class. It is a classic example of the creation of a Hinduphobic narrative with partial facts and loaded reporting on a smallest pretext.

News: A small temple in a small lane of a small crowded village called Shahpur Jat (a protected ‘Lal Dora’ area) in south of Delhi, obviously populated mostly by native jats had a Sai Baba murti which was removed/broken down and removed by the trustees of the temple. This is the news. Period. Now, Left illiberal groups decide to blow it up into a Hinduphobia narrative.

So, this is how it is reported by the Left illiberal class. The title of the news story is –

Hindu nationalists tear down Delhi temple statue of Indian spiritual teacher, claiming he is a Muslim (https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/jihadi-statue-removed-from-delhi-temple)
Title could have been ‘Jat owners of a temple remove Sai Baba statue from their temple.’ But, that won’t suit their narrative. Ok, ok. It could have been ‘broken’ not removed.

The report then says that the men who demolished the idol (not my words, as a Hindu I would call it a Murti because it was being worshipped, not a show piece) It is true that Sai Baba is worshipped both by Hindus and Muslims. I would rather say, was worshipped. Because they have abandoned the entire holy area of Shirdi temple complex and it is being controlled and managed by Hindus now since decades. BJP/RSS have no role in this appropriation. Even the mosque in the premises of the temple of Sai Baba is no more a mosque. It is just an exhibit where Sai Baba lived. Regular artis are held, no namaz is held there. Reason may be that Islam does not allow worshipping any god or bowing to any human being. It is a big sin. A senior Maulvi of Tuscon mosque quotes many ayats about it, I am quoting just one –

[4:48] GOD does not forgive idolatry,* but He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up idols beside GOD, has forged a horrendous offense. Footnote: *4:48 Idol worship is not forgivable, if maintained until death. One can always repent from any offense, including idolatry, before death comes (see 4:18 & 40:66).
(For complete reading on this issue, read this article – https://www.masjidtucson.org/submission/monotheism/idolworship.html)

The news rightly notes that, “A number of Sai Baba’s devotees in Delhi have since filed a complaint, but a formal case has yet to be launched.” In the next para the reporter plays a trick. He/she brings in Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, with no peg to hang on in this story. There is no elaboration of this statement by the reporter. It says, “Appearing in several of the videos is the high-profile Hindu priest Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, who has been described as “the high- “one of the shrillest voices in the Hindutva ecosystem.” I tried searching for this information, I did find that he had praised the act according to some reports .But, isn’t he repeating what the Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati had said earlier? (I will come to him later). Worst has been said about Hindus and their belief system by various Maulvis, I am not even talking about politicians. No Left illiberal group has ever found them objectionable enough.

The story is further developed with demonising this ascetic who could be earning millions of dollars but chose to be Sadhu to work for Hindu society. It says, “He is currently under investigation by Delhi police for stoking religious tensions with an inflammatory speech against the Prophet Muhammad, in which he calls for a “war on Islam”. Earlier this month, he publicly praised the beating of a 14-year-of Muslim boy, who was seriously injured on 12 March for drinking water from a Hindu temple in the northern city of Dasna, Uttar Pradesh.”
The reporter simply refuses to acknowledge the other side of the story that the temple is in an overwhelmingly Muslim majority area where Muslims have kept harassing the people who manage the temple including worse desecration of the murtis, that the boy who came deep inside the temple for water could have gone to two more taps, one outside the temple and one near the entry. But, he chose to harass the managing person there. Reporter refuses to admit that managing this temple has been a nightmare as Muslims boys deliberately walk in to harass the local priest and temple had to be fortified to keep away the mischief mongers. There are videos available on line to vouch for it. But, story must always be of ‘poor’ minority boy being harassed, while boys are from ‘majority’ in that area, where the so called ‘majority’ is an oppressed ‘minority’ actually. This is the background from where Yati’s angst rises. He has witnessed a Jihad like situation from close quarters. He has studied Islam. This sanyasi has come into lime light only recently due to Dasna. His only tenuous link to Hindutva forces is a local BJP leader of Delhi, Kapil Mishra. But, for reporter he is THE ‘Right-Wing Hindutva force’, to be mainstreamed so he can be demonised and Hindus can be demonised.

Scroll.in quoted by this reporter may be right when it writes that a local Padam Panwar ‘reportedly’ said that the figure, which was erected in 2009, was taken down because it was old and damaged. In the video he (Panwar) can be heard saying: “He is no god. He died in 1918. He is Muslim.” Scroll.in reported that a message forwarded by Panwar on the Shahpur Jat society’s WhatsApp group on 27 March claims that the popularity of Sai Baba “also known as Chand Miyan” was a “conspiracy economically supported by the Islamic world”.

A person does have a right to his/ her opinion. Isn’t it? Hindus don’t issue fatwas for beheading of a person who has a different view on faith, even if he/she insults a God. It is obvious that it is his and many of his friends’ view as he seemingly had not been scolded by his brethren in the group. This local issue, obviously’ has nothing to do with “Hindu Nationalist” forces. No recognised “Hindu Nationalist” force has ever made a comment about Sai Baba being Muslim. We can judge who is being indirectly named. But, ‘Hindutva forces’ have never claimed monopoly on representing Hindu society. Yati has equal right to present his view point. Don’t our Left liberals keep talking of freedom of speech?

The report rightly points out that, “Sai Baba is worshipped widely across India and the world, with numerous temples and monuments dedicated to him.” Now, comes the unsubstantiated sly blow: “However in recent years, his (Sai Baba’s) philosophy has become a hot button issue amid rising Hindu nationalism abetted by the ruling political party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).” Can the honourable journalist show one instance of any BJP leader ever speaking against Sai Baba? Infact, during BJP rule in Maharashtra, the temple trust of Sai Baba was headed by a BJP leader, who gave his best to create a world class infrastructure in Shirdi, the seat of Sai Baba.
Next allegation can be termed as ‘shooting one’s own foot’. I love this!

Reporter says, “Soon after the BJP came to power in 2014, a conclave of Hindu priests passed a resolution that he should not be worshipped.” Obviously, the reporter is blindsided by his/her Hindu and Hindutva hate. The person who led this attack on Sai Baba’s worship was Shankaracharya Swaroopananda who has openly spoken of his love for Congress. He was so incensed when Modi ji became PM that he slapped a journalist for mentioning his victory. Here is one such link – (https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/mp-shankaracharya-swaroopanand-slaps-journalist-for-question-on-modi/story-emlQ01sUt38SHYej6fZoYI.html)

It was his congregation that passed something like what the reporter calls a resolution. (https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/sai-babas-worship-causing-maharashtra-drought-says-shankaracharya-317347-2016-04-11) He and his followers came on TV during this period to put forward their point of view. No Hindutva leader (obviously the entire report is an exercise in BJP/RSS/VHP bashing, so let us name the nameless devil) ever supported their arguments.

This Shankaracharya is known to make controversial statements including criticising VHP/BJP and Ram Mandir construction. He has targeted RSS/VHP/BJP leaders routinely where he says BJP and RSS have done maximum damage to Hinduism. Here is just one example – https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/bjp-and-rss-caused-the-biggest-damage-to-hinduism-in-recent-times-says-shankaracharya-swaroopandanda-saraswati-1225003-2018-05-02.

I am not surprised, because Left – illiberal ecosystem has a selective amnesia. This lobby has a single minded focus of creating a Hindu-phobic narrative, as Mumbaikars say, “Masala maar ke” – by spicing it up – with half truths, falsehood and poisonous reporting. I hope this case study opens the eyes of ‘Hindtuva’ leaders and they put some efforts to counter this poisonous narrative.

Courtesy: Organiser

Pope denies St. Thomas evangelised South India – Ishwar Sharan

Pope Benedict XVI’s statement on September 27, 2006 during a public audience, that the apostle St. Thomas only reached as far as North-West India—today’s Pakistan—was factually correct and reflected the statements of the Early Church Fathers and the geography of the Acts of Thomas. That the Pope’s minders changed his statement the next day on the Vatican website, to include South India in Thomas’s travels, is no surprise to us. Telling lies for Jesus and his Vicar in Rome are also very much part of Catholic Church tradition and history. – Ishwar Sharan

On 27 September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI made a speech in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City in which he recalled an ancient St. Thomas tradition. He said that “Thomas first evangelised Syria and Persia and then penetrated as far as western India, from where Christianity also reached South India”.[1] This statement greatly upset the Indian bishops in Kerala, and as it was perceived to be a direct violation of the beliefs of many Indian Christians, it was brought to the attention of the Pope’s editors and amended the next day on the Vatican’s website to read that St. Thomas himself had reached South India. G. Ananthakrishnan’s article “Thomas’s visit under doubt” in the Times of India, 26 December 2006, reads:

His reluctance to believe what fellow disciples said about Jesus Christ’s resurrection earned him the name Doubting Thomas. Centuries later, St Thomas—believed to be the man who brought Christianity to India—finds himself in the shadow of ‘doubt’ with none other than the Pope contradicting his evangelical trek in the country, only to modify it a few days later. But far from dousing the fire, the Pope has rekindled a debate and given critics an issue on the platter.

Pope Benedict XVI made the statement at the Vatican on September 27, 2006. Addressing the faithful during the Wednesday catechises, he recalled that St. Thomas first evangelised Syria and Persia, and went on to western India from where Christianity reached Southern India. The import of the statement was that St. Thomas never travelled to south India, but rather evangelised the western front, mostly comprising today’s Pakistan.

Knowingly or unknowingly, he had in one stroke challenged the basis of Christianity in India and demolished long-held views of the Church here that St Thomas landed in Kerala, where he spread the gospel among Hindus. The comments were especially a letdown for the Syrian Christians of Kerala, who proudly trace their ancestry to upper-caste Hindus said to have been evangelized by St Thomas upon his arrival in 52 AD.

The comments went unnoticed until Sathya-Deepam, the official mouthpiece of the Syro-Malabar church, picked it up. Writing in it, George Nedungat, a member of the Oriental Pontifical Institute of Rome, conveyed the community’s anguish and claimed that previous popes had recognised St. Thomas’s work in south India.

The Pope’s original statement given out at St. Peter’s, before it was amended on the Vatican website, was factually correct and reflected the geography of the Acts of Thomas, i.e. Syria, Parthia (Persia/Iran) and Gandhara (Afghanistan, North-West Pakistan). There is no historical evidence to support the tradition that St. Thomas came to South India, and on 13 November 1952 Vatican officials sent a message to Kerala Christians stating that the landing of St. Thomas at Muziris (Cranganore now Kodungallur) on 21 November 52 AD was “unverified”. When this writer sought confirmation of the 1952 Vatican statement in 1996, the Vatican’s reply was disingenuous and non-committal. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said that he needed more information and that the life of St. Thomas was the object of historical research and not within his congregation’s competence.[2]

Earlier, in 1729, the Bishop of Madras-Mylapore had doubted whether the tomb in San Thome Cathedral was that of St. Thomas and wrote to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome for clarification. Rome’s reply was never published and we may assume it was a negative reply. Again, in 1871 the Roman Catholic authorities at Madras were “strong in disparagement of the special sanctity of the localities [viz. San Thome, Little Mount, and Big Mount identified by the Portuguese after 1517] and the whole story connecting St. Thomas with Mailapur.” However, in 1886 Pope Leo XIII stated in an apostolic letter that St. Thomas “travelled to Ethiopia, Persia, Hyrcania and finally to the Peninsula beyond the Indus”, and in 1923 Pope Pius XI quoted Pope Leo’s letter and identified St. Thomas with “India”. These papal statements also reflect the geography of the Acts of Thomas, as does Pope Benedict’s statement, and make no reference to South India. In fact, the India they refer to is now Pakistan.

Pope John Paul II visited India twice in 1986 and 1999 and prayed at the alleged tomb of St. Thomas in San Thome Cathedral, but, like St. Francis Xavier before him, he had nothing to say about St. Thomas’s visit to South India or Mylapore in the first century. This is a curious omission on the Pope’s part in that he was an ardent missionary who openly promoted the evangelising of India and Asia, and a statement from him confirming a visit by St. Thomas to South India would have certainly supported his agenda and that of his Indian bishops.

1. As quoted in Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, of 23 November 2006, under the title “Pope angers Christians in Kerala”.

2. Our letter to the Prefect, Sacred Congregation of Rites, Vatican City, dated 26 August 1996, read: “I am doing research on St. Thomas in India and have learned that your office issued a letter on November 13, 1952 which stated that the landing of St. Thomas at Cranganore in 53 AD is unverified. I would like to know if in fact the said letter was issued and, if that is not the case, whether you can confirm that St. Thomas was martyred and buried in Madras. I would be most grateful if you could direct me to any authentic evidence supporting the story of St. Thomas in India.” The reply from the Prefect, Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Rome, dated 11 September 1996, read: “This Congregation for the Causes of Saints has received your letter of 26th August last in which you have asked for information regarding Saint Thomas’ presence in India. We have not found in our Archives the letter supposedly written by this Congregation on 13th November 1952, of which you speak, because of a lack of more precise data (Diocese, destination, etc.). Nor do we have other data regarding Saint Thomas since this Archive was begun in 1588. His life is the object of the research of historians which is not the particular competence of this Congregation.” This reply was a brush off. The Prefect knew what we were asking for and could have located the 1952 Vatican letter in a few minutes if he wished to.

Courtes: www.ishwarsharan.com

For more details read this book…

Declaring tribals as non Hindus shows lack of understanding of Bharat

-Dr Manmohan Vaidya

It is not mere coincidence that Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh that are at the epicentre of the activities which form the subject matter of this write-up, have been hotspots of conversion activities.

The Jharkhand state government recently passed a bill with majority that deems Sarana Dharma followers as non-Hindu and claims “Sarana” to be a separate religion. At around the same time Andhra Pradesh government declared that with the view that the members of Scheduled Tribes are non-Hindu they will be listed as just “Scheduled Tribe” in the 2021 census. These developments are an indicator of a lack of realisation of Bharat and correct understanding of Hindutva (Hinduness), which is combined with an insatiable hunger for political power on the part of these decision-makers.  Hindutva is not some religion. Even the honourable Supreme Court of the country honoured and established the fact that it is a view of life. One hallmark of this view of life is that it is based in spirituality. Notwithstanding language and worship-related differences, countless lineages of people born in the Bharatiya sub-continent have identified themselves as Hindu from time immemorial. Deep identification with this view of life has led to a distinct outlook and personal character of these people.

“Truth is one, but the wise call it by different names.” This shloka from the Rig Veda means the truth or god is one but there may be many paths to its realization and all paths are equal. This tenet of the Hindu view of life was well-ingrained in the Hindu psyche and the people here have been practising this for long. Jews, Parsis and Syrian Christians fleeing religious persecution and conversion in their countries of origin sought asylum in different kingdoms of Bharat, at various points in time. The itinerants, though ethnically, religiously and linguistically alien here, the treatment given by the kings or the locals who granted them asylum were equally liberal and respectful. They were welcomed, accepted and nurtured within each of those geographies.  This behaviour was an outcome of their adherence to the Hindu view of life. To see unity in diversity is the hallmark of this view of life. We’ve held that one Spirit (Chaitanya) manifests in different life forms and therefore the ability to see the underlying oneness among seemingly apparent diversities is the default view of Bharat. This is why diversity is not perceived as differences here. Bharat has the unmatched capacity to take all the apparently diverse expressions together while protecting the uniqueness of each of those units while assimilating them into one cohesive whole. The third uniqueness of Bharat is the recognition of the fact that every soul (man or woman) is potentially divine. The very goal of human life is to manifest the divinity within to ultimately merge with the Supreme Divinity. Different people may walk different paths to manifest their divinity and each of those paths may be called their religion or faith. The body of thought with an amalgamation of these unique qualities has been popularly perceived as “Hindutva” around the world. Whether someone refers to it as Bharatiya, Sanatan, Indic or any other name, the essence is the same.

Now the question is which among these unique features is un-relatable or offensive to the Sarana people or other Scheduled Tribes?

The first President of independent Bharat, Dr S. Radhakrishnan referred to Hindutva as “Commonwealth of All Religions”. Swami Vivekananda in his 1893 Chicago address at the World Parliament of Religions described Hindutva as the “Mother of all religions”.

The view that sees diverse people as one, that accepts and assimilates different paths and faiths is what Hindutva is. This civilisation that predates 10,000 years has seen people worship different deities at varied points in time. To be able to keep pace with evolving faith-based norms and to accept changes is what Hindutva is all about. Swami Vivekananda propounded this very fact by reciting this shloka in his famous 1893 Chicago address.

Meaning: O Almighty! Innumerable paths lead one to you—Sankhya, Vaishnav, Shaiva, Vedic ways of life, etc. As per their orientation people choose any one path, but like many rivers eventually converge into one sea, all these paths lead to the same, Eternal Truth. It is true that regardless of the path we choose we can all realise the Divine.

The beauty of this Bharatiya view of life is that it recognises the fact that in tandem with man’s continuous evolution he is sure to discover and worship newer deities. Nurturing the old while making space for newer deities is Hindutva.

Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur explicitly stated: “To experience unity in diversity and to establish unity amongst variety—this is the inherent Dharma (the spirit) of Bharat. Bharatvarsh never interpreted diversities as hostility and, neither considers the outsider as an enemy. Thus, without sacrificing our own, without destroying others, Bharat aspires to assign a distinct place to everyone in one vast ecosystem. Thus, it is willing to accept all ways of life, and acknowledges the greatness of each in its own way.

“As Bharatvarsh possesses this trait, we would never get frightened by visualising any society as our opponent. With every new dissension, we inevitably will grow. The Hindu, Bauddha, Muslim and Christian would not fight with each other and die in Bharat. Rather they would find a balance, a meeting point here. This balance will not be non-Hindu, but very specifically Hindu. However foreign may be its body parts, its life and spirit will of Bharat.”

This holistic approach and assimilation are intrinsic to the Hindu view of life. Given this definition, what deems Sarana and Scheduled Tribe members as radically distinct from Hindutva is a mystery. Because Hindutva does not emphasise on the Almighty to be one definitive form, rather appreciating the common thread underlying all manifestations of the Divine is Hindutva.

Some years ago, a survey was conducted in North-Eastern states in the Assam region that has a sizable population of the Scheduled Tribes. Representatives of 18 Scheduled Tribes present at the conference expounded their responses over: 1. Their concept of God. 2. Their view of Earth. 3. What do they pray for? 4. Their concepts of virtue and sin. 5. Their opinion over faith-based practices of those from other religions. And lastly, 6. If they wish to compel followers of other faiths and religions to forcefully convert to their religion.

Their responses were consistent with the views of a common Hindu living elsewhere in the country. It was surprising for the surveyors to note that despite apparent language differences their beliefs are more or less similar and reflective of the age-old spiritual tenets of the Hindu belief system. That which unifies the diverse religious and faith-based beliefs and practices of this geo-cultural unit of Bharat is Hindutva and our spirituality-centric holistic, unifying and all-encompassing Hindu view of life.

The Semitic basis of Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam prevents those religions from having a similar view of human life. In fact those religions divide the human race into binaries, which cannot coexist in harmony. It is for the same reason that these religions have a bloody, violent, deceptive and greed-ridden history of conversion. Among the tribals of the North-Eastern states of Bharat also the Christian Church propaganda to impose the view that those tribes are non-Hindu has been underway for a long time now, first with the support of the British colonial ruler and later by those in power after our Independence. This is the direct cause of the emergence and strengthening of separatist militant groups in the region. As part of their agenda, they lured the people of the land with the temptation of a new and separate identity and uprooted their cultural roots to start “soul harvesting”. But the tribals of the region have understood that this barter with the Christian missionaries may be too costly. It can lead to a complete disappearance and annihilation of the rich, faith-based realisations of their ancestors. They also realise assimilating with the Hindu society will prevent such a fate and in this way they can preserve and pass on their unique customs and traditions to the future generations. This belief is taking a firm hold over their consciousness with each passing day and has resulted in the emergence of indigenous faith movements like “Donyi Polo” and “Seng Khasi” in those areas. Leaders of groups like the Sarana and other Scheduled Tribes must learn from the experiences of the organisers of these indigenous faith movements reconnecting to their roots so as to preserve their unique cultural and faith-based practices and further enrich their culture and people.

With “ ” meaning, “the entire creation is habitated/dwelled by the Supreme Spirit or Isha” as the basis of faith mankind invoked, venerated and worshipped the formless Divine Truth even at the time when gods and goddesses hadn’t yet been personified. Thereafter that same truth began to be pursued by the means of worship of various gods with a definite form. However, the worship of nature and that of the five basic elements is eternal. Many self-realised men or so-called Avatars added newer paths to the list of faiths, yet the worship of nature in the form of worship of earth, water, fire, air and space continued. Therefore, nature-worship is eternal, only newer practices and dimensions emerged with the march of time. Nature worship also features in several forms in the Hindu culture. It is for this reason that Hindu society sees itself as one with those who strictly worship only nature. But certain elements are bent on projecting the variations in practices as differences and disillusioning people.

In fact it is not only true of the Sarana or the Scheduled Tribes. For the last several years, organised drives to brainwash members of many communities are underway across Bharat into believing that they are not Hindu. Operations to splinter Hindu society are being carried out at an international level by  distorting and erasing from people’s memory the propensity of Hindutva to appreciate oneness in diversity, and instead highlighting and misrepresenting the diversities among different faiths as differences among people. If Hindus remain united, society remains united and hence the country remains united. And the country will progress only if it is united. All those elements who have a vested interest in preventing the country from progressing are engrossed in the fragmentation of Bharat.

Several fact-based, well-researched books that illuminate the details about such efforts (breaking India forces) and drives are available in the market. One key player in that scheme is the Christian church. Their aim—to increase the number of believers in Bharat by converting more people—finds an explicit mention on the websites of all their proselytising agencies. Some agencies that have assumed fake identities are working to first create disillusion, then opposition and then fragmentation in the society, which would ultimately result in separatism. They connote conversion as “harvesting”. These organised efforts of “harvesting” have been ongoing since the British era. But Bharat’s cultural roots run deep and are strong. Many ascetics and enlightened people took to reigniting the spiritual and cultural conscience of our society from time-to-time. No tribe or caste is devoid of the inheritance of such knowledge, as such ascetics were born in every tribe and caste that ever lived on this land to share the nectar of their realisations. It is for this reason that the conversion efforts of missionaries have been comparatively less fruitful in Bharat, thus compelling those agencies to adopt newer tactics to fulfil their agenda. The elements that aim to fragment Bharat work closely and cohesively to actualise each of their agendas. Incessant efforts of the ascetics and social reformers to facilitate socio-religious and spiritual and cultural enlightenment, generation-after-generation, has resulted in a firm cultural foundation of the society. Therefore, successful conversion requires uprooting the deep religio-cultural roots of the potential converts. Where the foundation is weak and roots bared loose, harvesting is easier. Therefore, brainwashing drives wherein false and unreasonable claims are being concocted. We will all have to remain alert and aware of these dangers.

Famous Bharatiya poet, Prasoon Joshi, writes in one of his poems:

“Gather the soil around you, oh tree,

Else you will wither.

The deeper your roots,

Greener your leaves will be.” It is not mere coincidence that the two states that are at the epicentre of the activities which form the subject matter of this write-up have been hotspots of conversion activities. Uprooting is imperative for harvesting. If we see and analyse the forces working on this agenda and their funding sources, one can understand that creating such misconceptions for uprooting various groups from their cultural moorings is part of a larger conspiracy hatched over a period of time.

Dr Manmohan Vaidya is Sah Sarkaryawah (Joint General Secretary), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Courtesy: The Sunday Guardian

INHERENT INCOMPATIBILITY OF CHRISTIANITY AND INDIAN TRIBAL FAITHS

‘We are Tribal first and Christians next. We are nature worshippers. We worship rivers, mountains and forests’.

This is a statement we get to hear very often from Scheduled Tribes who have converted to Christianity. Is it possible to practice tribal faith and Christianity at the same time? Is it compatible with theology of monolithic Christian religion?

To start with, let us examine the most common elements of tribal faiths which are practiced across the Indian sub-continent stretching from Ladakh in the north to all the way in south and north-east corners of India. Irrespective of the tribe or region, the common elements in tribal faith are:

1)      Worship of nature
2)      Worship of Mother Goddess
3)      Idol worship
4)      Worshiping Ancestors  

None of the above tribal beliefs are acceptable to Christianity. As inhabitants of forests and river valleys, Tribals are true children of mother nature. They are the closest to mother nature and have co-existed with nature for thousands of years. Worship of nature finds a very important place in almost all Tribal cultures. For instance, in every Santal village there is a sacred grove on the edge of the settlement where many spirits live and where a series of annual festivals take place. The most important spirit is Maran Buru (Great Mountain), who is invoked whenever offerings are made and who instructed the first Santals in sex and brewing of rice beer. Maran Buru’s consort is the benevolent Jaher Era (Lady of the Grove). Similar concepts exist in many Tribal faiths.

What is the stand of Christianity regarding worship of nature? The Holy Bible has quite a few references to nature worship and they are unanimous in their view – worship the creator and not the creation. In other words, nature is not to be worshiped. In fact, nature worship is to be punished with ‘stoning to death’..!

‘..  who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the hosts of heaven,  which I have not commanded, 4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. 6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses’

–Deuteronomy 17- 3-6

MOTHER GODDESS WORSHIP:

Mother Goddess worship is prevalent in most Tribal faiths. The oldest shrine to Mother Goddess was found in Madhya Pradesh. In 1980, Indo-US archaeology team stumbled upon evidence of prehistoric ‘Shakti’ worship in Son Valley, Sidhi District of the state. The small shrine is estimated to be 11,000 years old, making it one of the oldest shrines built by humans. The Kol and Baiga tribes of the area still worship similar shaped stones as manifestation of female energy  or ‘Shakti’. This is proof of importance of women in ancient societies and continuity of worship of mother goddess as a core, continuous belief for thousands of years by tribals of Indian sub-continent.

On the contrary, Mother Goddess worship finds no place or little place in Christianity. While major sects like Protestants firmly disallow worship of anyone other than Jesus Christ, other sects like Catholics, orthodox and Anglican Christians today regard Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, as the Theotokos or ‘Mother of The God’ and not ‘The God’. Christianity does not accept the most ancient and core belief of Tribal – worship of mother.

Link : https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/heritage/story/19820630-indo-us-archaeology-team-stumbles-upon-evidence-of-prehistoric-shakti-worship-in- madhya-pradesh-771928-2013-10-12

IDOL WORSHIP:

As shown above, idol worship is an integral part of tribal faith, though not all tribes necessarily practice idol worship. The idol or object of worship could be a simple stone as above, or a simple piece of wood or images drawn on the walls of the place of worship.

Christianity comes down heavily on idol worship. Several verses from the Holy Bible explicitly prohibit idol worship. Few verses go as far as calling for destruction of idols and altars.

Leviticus 26:1

Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up [any] image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I [am] the LORD your God.

Leviticus 26:30

And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

Ezekiel 6:4

And your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken: and I will cast down your slain [men] before your idols.

Ezekiel 6:5

And I will lay the dead carcases of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about your altars.

Corinthians-1 10:14

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

CHRISTIAN EXCLUSIVITY AND RIGIDITY :

Christianity with its exclusivity, rigid insistence on worship of a single God and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the sole saviour who can save sinful mankind from eternal hell fire, can never be at peace with native tribal faiths. If you do not accept the ‘salvation theology’, eternal hell fire awaits you..!  Tribal faiths have a wide variety of underlying philosophy, beliefs and worship practices. These beliefs are very inclusive and can accommodate any new philosophy without any sort of conflict. The same cannot be said of Christianity. The Holy Bible clearly commands Christians to keep away from non-Christians, not to partake in their rituals, offerings and discourages normal social contact with non-Christians.

2 John 1:9-11 ESV 

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 ESV

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

Tribal society and their religious practices have a harmonious relationship not only with nature but also amongst different tribes. Inter-tribe conflicts are rare and, in many cases, different tribes have common deities.  In Chattisgarh, Danteshwari is one of the most revered goddesses known for bestowing wishes on her devotees and protector against evil. In Telangana, the Sammakka-Sarakka Jaathara attracts lakhs of tribal devotees cutting across tribes, states and languages.  Sacrificial offerings are shared freely amongst the entire community through common feasts.

But what is the stand of Christianity on food offered to idols? Can a Christian accept food (Prasad) offered to non-Christian gods and idols ? Holy Bible explicitly forbids partaking of food offered to idols.

Corinthians-1 8:4

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol [is] nothing in the world, and that [there is] none other God but one.

Corinthians-1 10:28

But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof:

Thus the very word ‘tribal Christian’ is an oxymoron. Conversion of Tribal into Christianity brings about deep divide in tribal societies and splits society into believers and non-believers. With its exclusivist ideology, Christianity creates unrest and chaos in tribal societies which otherwise have lived peacefully and harmoniously for thousands of years.

By
K. Sahadev

Partitioned freedom : The Conclusion

(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 1” from this link – 1)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 2” from this link – 2)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 3” from this link – 3)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 4” from this link – 4)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 5” from this link – 5)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 6” from this link – 6)

The final years and the lessons:

A decade of appeasement had only helped the Muslim League gain greater legitimacy. When the Second Round Table Conference came in September 1931, the League leadership played an even more divisive role.

Jinnah and the Aga Khan were present in London for the Conference on behalf of the League. Gandhi was the lone Congress representative. Dr. B R Ambedkar was there representing the Depressed Classes. There were envoys from several communities including the Sikhs, the Parsis, the Anglo-Indians, and the Concord of Princes. Behind Gandhi’s back, the Aga Khan held secret meetings with the leaders of various groups and put forward a proposal before the British for enhanced separate representation for all of them in the Indian legislature. Gandhi firmly rejected this fragmentation of the Indian society in the name of creating separate electorates. Already, the Muslims and a few other minorities enjoyed separate electorates under the Government of India Act 1919.

Communal Award 1932:

British Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald went ahead with a modified version of the League’s recommendations and announced the famous Communal Award 1932. It came as a rude shock to the Congress leadership. They were especially aghast at the British decision to provide exclusive electorates for the Depressed Classes by separating them from other Hindus.

Gandhi viewed the Communal Award as the negation of his years of toil. He rightly believed that the separate electorates would eventually perpetuate social evils like untouchability as they excluded the depressed classes from the rest of Hindu society. Disheartened and back in India, Gandhi announced an indefinite fast against the Award on September 20, 1932.

Poona Pact:

The Congress command persuaded the leader of the depressed classes, Dr. Ambedkar to engage in negotiations with Gandhi at the Yerawada prison. The negotiations led to the Poona Pact, which was signed by Dr. Ambedkar from the depressed classes and Madan Mohan Malaviya from the Congress. Under the pact, Dr. Ambedkar agreed to give up the demand for exclusive electorates for the depressed classes and secured instead a larger number of seats for the community from 71 to 147 under the Hindu quota. The Communal Award was accordingly amended in 1933. Gandhi thus prevented the Hindu society from further fragmentation.

However, regarding the rest of the Award, Congress continued its politics of ambiguity and appeasement. Though it opposed the Communal Award in principle, the consent of the minorities was needed to take a final position, the Congress leaders argued. The Muslim leaders in Congress like Dr. Ansari started supporting the Award. Finally, Congress took a bizarre stand of “neither accepting nor rejecting” the Communal Award. This new concession irked leaders like Madan Mohan Malaviya and Loknayak Aney, who resigned and started the Congress Nationalist Party.

The Communal Award came as a significant setback to Gandhi’s efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity and it gave greater teeth to Jinnah and the Muslim League. The stridency of the League’s separatist rhetoric increased. Jinnah now insisted that the Congress should represent Hindus only.

Provincial Elections:

The provincial elections of 1937 provided an excellent opportunity to the Congress. Despite its separatist rhetoric, the Muslim League was decisively rejected in all the Muslim majority provinces in the country. Out of the 482 exclusive Muslim constituencies, the League could hardly win 109 seats. While the Congress was able to form governments in eight provinces, the League could not form even in one. The Muslim voters preferred other Muslim parties like the Unionists in Punjab, the Krishak Praja Party in Bengal, and the Assam Valley Muslim Party in Assam. Several of those regional Muslim outfits were keen to join hands with the Congress.

The Muslim League was in utter disarray, and Jinnah demoralised. But two steps taken by the Congress leadership helped Jinnah revive his fortunes once again:

First was the Congress’s decision to reach out to Jinnah instead of talking to the leaders of the regional Muslim parties. Gandhi, Nehru, and Bose approached Jinnah once again with a proposal to work together. This gave Jinnah a fresh lease of life. While the League refused the Congress’s offer, Jinnah succeeded in attracting smaller Muslim parties into his fold.

The second self-defeating move was the decision of the Congress on October 22, 1939, to ask all provincial governments to resign in response to Viceroy Linlithgow’s decision to involve India in the Second World War without committing to grant Self-rule after the War. The League seized this opportunity and declared its support to the British in return for enhanced protection to the League in the provinces. Jinnah appealed to the Muslims to celebrate December 22, 1939, as the ‘Day of Deliverance’ from the ‘unjust Congress regime.

Jinnah’s Demand for ‘Pakistan’:

At Lahore in 1940, when the League demanded Pakistan, Gandhi realised that it was time for a more decisive action. On August 8, 1942, at its Mumbai session, the Congress launched the Quit India movement. The Muslim League responded by asking the British to ‘Divide and Quit’. March 23, 1943, was observed by the League as Pakistan Day.

C Rajagopalachari approached Gandhi at Yerawada prison with a formula for a thaw between the Congress and the League. Known as the C R Formula, it proposed that if the League endorsed the demand for national independence, the Congress would agree to the demarcation of contiguous Muslim majority districts in the North-West and the North-East of India after the War. A plebiscite would be conducted on the basis of the adult franchise over the demand for Pakistan. Jinnah immediately dismissed the proposal as a “shadow and a husk, a maimed and moth-eaten Pakistan.” But he also expressed vicarious satisfaction that at last, Gandhi had accepted “the principle of Pakistan”.

Gandhi persisted. “Let us meet whenever you wish. Do not disappoint me,” he wrote to Jinnah. The two finally met at Mumbai. For full nineteen days, from 9th to 27th September 1944, Gandhi climbed up the steps of Jinnah’s place, ‘almost daily, and sometimes even twice in a day’. Gandhi would address Jinnah as ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ – Great leader, while Jinnah would reciprocate with ‘Mr. Gandhi’. On September 27, 1944, Jinnah announced the termination of the talks without any result.

In the provincial elections in 1946, the League secured convincing victories in Muslim seats but it fell short of a majority everywhere. In fact, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which became Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2010, gave a huge majority to the Congress. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the senior Congress leader of the NWFP, famous as the Frontier Gandhi, shed tears when his province became a part of Pakistan. In Punjab, the Congress and the Akalis together had an equal number of seats to that of the League. Eventually, those who did not vote for the League ended up in Pakistan, and those who voted for it remained in India.

The Direct Action ensued in 1946 and Partition followed a year later.

Partition saga has several lessons:

Why is this history relevant today? India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are three sovereign nations. We respect the sovereignty of each of our neighbours and strive for cordial relations with them. But the partition saga has several lessons. Firstly, countries should never pander to separatist sentiments even with good intentions. Compulsions of time should not become convictions. Secondly, Jinnah’s notion of religion-based nationhood couldn’t stand the test of time. In less than 25 years, Pakistan was split into two.

But most importantly, as the Spanish writer-philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 19, 2020).

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