Category Archives: Threats

Arrest of Ranjan Chutia and Christianity in Assam: An Existential Danger

By: Dr. Ankita Dutta

The World Healing Prayer Center at Doomordolong, Moran, in Dibrugarh district has become a hotbed of Christian conversion activities in Assam. Recently, a video went viral in social media which showed that Hari Naam-Kirtan of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva and the Assamese Bihu dance was distorted by Ranjan Chutia and his group to convert emotionally naïve Hindus into Christianity. Ranjan Chutia has been instrumental in spearheading the conversion of Hindus from both Upper Assam and Lower Assam into Christianity by faking his Church as a Namghar (religious prayer hall-cum-cultural centre of the Assamese Hindus). The FIR against Ranjan Chutia was initially lodged by Hindu Yuva Chatra Parishad on July 25 at the Moran Police Station in Dibrugarh.

On receipt of further inputs, a high-level team of Police was deployed from Guwahati to Dibrugarh around 3 A.M. on Tuesday night. He was arrested in the wee hours of Wednesday, i.e. July 28. Ranjan Chutia is also a prominent YouTuber who has been using his channel for a long time to propagate the teachings of Jesus and claiming to cure life-threatening diseases through miraculous prayers. It was on July 19 that Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha, the largest Vaishnavite religious organisation of Assam, had requested the Government of Assam to initiate an enquiry into the issue, saying that the use of songs and musical instruments associated with the Mahapurusiya Naam-Dharma tradition of Srimanta Sankardeva to spread a foreign faith is unpardonable.

It needs to be mentioned here that the World Healing Prayer Centre at Moran has been functioning since the last 17 years. Ranjan Chutia claims himself to be a messenger of Jesus and seeks to cure people of all illnesses and worldly troubles. Numerous videos that had been circulating in social media since the last few days brought to light certain shocking incidences of religious proselytisation. Distorted copies of the Bhagavad-Gita, Naam-Ghosha and Kirtan-Ghosha replaced with the name of Jesus in place of Bhagwan Krishna, could be seen lying inside the Prayer Center. The Dibrugarh Police has booked the accused under Sections 153 (A) and 195 (A) of the IPC. It was after his arrest during the mandatory health check-up that Ranjan Chutia tested positive for COVID-19. The Police later admitted him at a local COVID hospital.

It was earlier in November 2019 that the Legal Rights Observatory (LRO) had requested the Assam Government to take swift action against Ranjan Chutia for illegally occupying Government grazing land near the village Doomordolong at Moranhat to construct a Church. Entire Upper Assam is today in the dangerous grip of Christian missionary mafias like Ranjan Chutia. Since the Namghar is the pivotal centre of worship and identity for every Assamese Hindu, the Christian missionaries have very cleverly made use of this institution and the different aspects associated with it from songs to lyrics to dance and festivals to convert the people. The place where Jesus is worshipped, a Chandrataap (a red and white coloured cloth hanging above the sanctum-sanctorum of the Namghar) is used so as to give it the appearance of a typical Namghar.

To understand the root of this problem, we briefly need to revisit history. Although the British Government in had adopted a policy of non-interference in the social and religious affairs of the Hindu society after the Revolt of 1857, but, in the context of Uttar Purba Bharat, this never actually happened. The Church continued to flourish with the aim of helping the British secure their rule in this extremely resource-rich part of the country. The post-Independent Indian state too, under the garb of “charity”, actively facilitated these sinister activities of the Christian missionaries that have only expanded with time. It has been a strategically engineered agenda such that entire Uttar Purba Bharat was eventually made to appear among the people in the rest of Bharat as a region that had always been Christian-dominated.

Of the 2.78 crore Christian population counted in the Census of 2011, 78 lakh are settled in Uttar Purba Bharat alone. According to a report published by the Centre for Policy Studies titled, The Christianisation of the Northeast: It All Began on the Eve of Independence, this is the largest concentration of Christians in India after the coastal region beginning from the southernmost part of Tamil Nadu to Kerala, and stretching through coastal Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra. Christianisation of Uttar Purba Bharat has largely been a result of political and strategic considerations, and thus cannot be said to be an entirely religious phenomenon. E.g. in an agreement that was reached in the 1960s between Jawaharlal Nehru and “noted” anthropologist, the late Dr. Verrier Elwin, the entry of sadhus was formally banned into the state of Nagaland.

The Christian population in Nagaland increased from a mere 20% in 1947 to a whopping 88% as per Census data of 2011. Nehru had also appointed Elwin as the Anthropological Adviser to the Government of NEFA (today’s Arunachal Pradesh). Elwin was of the belief that Bharat was never a nation of one people with a shared heritage and culture, and that the different janajati communities were the “original aborigine inhabitants”. It was this exclusivist preservation policy of Elwin that gave a free hand to Christian proselytizers in Uttar Purba Bharat, leading to inter and intra community hostilities with the subsequent decline of Hindu Dharma and the rise of separatist movements.

Assam had acquired a significant Christian presence already in 1901. These early Christians mostly belonged to the migrant communities who had come from the present-day states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and settled in the tea plantations of Upper Assam. It was especially during the 2nd half of the 20th century that Christianity widened its reach and spread among several janajati communities of the region. Today, the share of Christians in the districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, and in some of the Bodo-dominated districts too, such as Kokrajhar and Udalguri, is much higher. In the present times, Christianity is one of the fastest growing religions in Assam after Islam, with Christians constituting around 3.74% of the total population of the state as per the Census of 2011. Dima Hasao district accounts for the largest population of Christians (30%) followed by Karbi Anglong (16.5%).

The entire region of Upper Assam covering the districts of Jorhat, Golaghat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, and Tinsukia share a border contiguous with the Catholic Christian-dominated states of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Christian educational institutions have become one of the most favourite destinations for educating the young kids. The chief factor behind such a preference has been the usage of English as the primary language of instruction in these schools. The importance given to the English language grew continuously during the period of British colonisation of Bharat. But, it became an obsession after 1947 when the colonial masters left the country. It suited the colonised minds of the Indian elite to continue with this colonial hangover, owing to the obvious advantages of social and political capital that accrued from such an arrangement.

Christian missionaries have been quite successful in being able to project their religion as the only saviour of the poor and the sick. “Charity” in the garb of social service is used by them as a cover for their immoral and deceitful practices, luring the poor with financial and other material aid. They have utilised the economic backwardness of the poor to their maximum advantage through numerous allurements and inducements, with the promise to release them from the clutches of poverty. In various YouTube videos from the World Healing Prayer Center at Moran, it can be observed that Ranjan Chutia has explained the reason behind all epidemics, diseases and natural disasters inflicting the world as God’s curse on the poor, and which can only be cured through prayer and the worship of Jesus.

Christian missionaries zealously believe that they have been decreed by Jesus himself to spread Christianity all over the world; hence, unless every group and community of people in the world becomes Christian, Judgement Day will not arrive. The strategic tactic of religious proselytizers like Ranjan Chutia has been to enmesh morality and charity together with faith. In this way, their message has been marketed widely without raising an iota of doubt both among the newly converted ones and as well as the common populace of the region. As argued by Rajiv Malhotra in his famous work Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, Christianity is popularly marketed in America today as an act of saving the heathens from a lifetime of fear and demonic oppression. The target includes Hindu deities, gurus, society, rituals and any spokespersons who speak up on behalf of Dharma.

This same tactic has been employed in Bharat too. An interesting aspect of the religious conversion activities undertaken by the missionaries is that the converts, most of whom are largely poor and unsuspecting Hindus, are allowed to carry on with their cultural-identity markers which differentiate one religious community from the other. In the context of Assam, this includes the wearing of sindoor and bindi on the foreheads of converted Christian women and dhoti-seleng saador among the converted Christian men when they visit the Church for prayers. Cultural appropriation of religious names and symbols can at best be seen in the nomenclature of the Church which is referred to as ‘Jixu Krisno’r Namghar’ by the people who regularly visit the World Healing Prayer Center at Moran.

It is because the symbolism associated with a particular culture and its rituals (not necessarily religious) is so powerful that it is able to leave behind a significant amount of cultural memory among its followers, for whom it is not completely easy to forego the distinctive traits of that culture, passed on to them over several generations. The Christian missionaries have well understood this fact. Accordingly, Christianity has indigenised itself in the region by first borrowing and then appropriating important cultural aspects from the local Hindu traditions. Eventually, this appropriation becomes normalised in the regular day-to-day lives of the people. It poses a serious danger to the unique and diverse cultural and religious practices and belief systems of the Hindus, which have been diluted of their original Vedic essence through co-option into Christianity.

In order to eventually Christianise the Hindus, the initial attempt of the Church is to establish separate identities among them, by showing their linguistic separation from devbhasha Sanskrit. The next important step is to reinterpret their oral narratives, stories, and diverse forms of nature worship in a manner that maximises the difference from or opposition to Sanatan culture and civilisation. Eventually, those aspects of Hindu Sanatan Dharma that can be accommodated within Christianity are credited to Christian influences, whereas those that contradict it are denigrated as the distortions by greedy Brahmanas. A separate history is then developed to show that the ancestors of these communities (especially janajatis) were the inhabitants of the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation, prior to the hypothetical colonisation perpetrated on them by the ‘foreign Aryans’.

This represents the beginning of the formation of a politicised sub-national identity among these communities, who then position themselves as historical victims in their relationships to the rest of the Indian population. It becomes a trigger to the eventual rise of secessionist movements, as we have seen in the states of Nagaland and Mizoram in particular, in Uttar Purba Bharat. The Constitution of India declares that the ‘Right to Propagate’ one’s religion does not include the right to convert another person through means, fair or foul. It is because religious conversions impinge upon the ‘freedom of conscience’ guaranteed to all persons alike, i.e. the inner freedom of an individual to mould his/her relationship with Ishwar or other living/non-living creatures in whatever way he/she desires.

We need to understand that a very well-organised and powerful global machinery is in operation behind people like Ranjan Chutiya and many others. Both Islam and Christianity are non-Indic faiths that have imposed themselves on Bharat through military conquest and political domination. The grand narrative of our country is rooted in Hindu/Indic values based on acceptance (not tolerance), rather than a copy-cat version of Western (European) secularism. In the matter of religious conversions, what is ‘forcible’ and what constitutes ‘voluntary’ is a rather shady area that is very much dependent upon people’s subjective feelings and emotions at a particular point of time with regard to a matter as sensitive as religion. ‘Forcible’ relates to against one’s own will, while ‘voluntary’ comes closer to individual choice.

Although some sections of the Christian converts in Assam and elsewhere claim that they voluntarily chose to convert into Christianity, but the irony remains as to whether such a choice has really been an informed one. The issue is whether the religious belief systems of one community have been critiqued in an honest and comprehensive light or always portrayed in a disparaging manner by the other. If the idea is to prove the superiority of one faith by projecting it as more simplistic, less complicated and less time-consuming than the other, the targeted person lacking a proper understanding of his own faith is ultimately made to feel apologetic about it in his subconscious mind. Understanding religious conversions in the light of freedom of choice, but re-conversion back to one’s original faith as communalism and a divisive policy has, for long, been a tactic of the Church to tap into the fault-lines of caste and community divide of the Hindu society.

References:

  1. Census of India, 2011. Ministry of Home Affairs. Government of India.
  2. Malhotra, Rajiv & Neelakandan, Aravindan. (2011). Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines. New Delhi: Manjul Publishing House.
  3. Sahat, K.N. (1990). A Theoretical Model for the Study of the Christianization Process among the Tribals of Chotanagpur, in Buddhadeb Chaudhuri (ed). Tribal Transformation in India (Five Volumes). New Delhi: Inter-India Publishers.
  4. https://www.google.com/amp/s/swarajyamag.com/amp/story/culture%252Fhow-northeast-india-was-christianised-in-the-last-100-years/
  5. https://www.dharmadispatch.in/amp/story/history/how-nehrus-fascination-for-verrier-elwin-helped-christianise-indias-north-east?

(The writer holds a PhD in Political Science and regularly writes on issues related to Assam and Uttar Purba Bharat).

Demand for Prophet Mohammed Bill Amidst Rise of Ex-Muslims

By: K Sahadev

Muslim religious groups like Raza Academy and Tahaffuz Namoos-e-Risalat Board and Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) have reportedly pressurised the Maharashtra state government to introduce ‘Prophet Muhammad Bill’. The aim is to bring an act to stop blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad and religious figures of all religions.

As per a report in the Times of India, though the bill is promoted as the ‘Prophet Muhammad Bill’, the draft bill prepared and submitted to the government has been titled ‘Prophet Muhammad and Other Religious Heads Prohibition of Slander Act, 2021’ or ‘Hate Speech (Prevention) Act, 2021’.

A group of Muslims in Mumbai has decided to fight provocative and blasphemous posts videos and cartoons through the legal route. Instead of hitting the streets and adopting a confrontational approach, they will counsel youths not to get violent and find remedies within the constitutional framework. Floating a legal cell under Tahaffuz Namoos-e Risalat Board Protection of the Honour of the Prophet Board, the group held its first meeting at Islam Gymkhana on 13 Feb and decided to counter blasphemous and provocative posts and videos in a peaceful and democratic manner.

It has often been seen that Muslim youths get agitated over blasphemous and provocative posts and hi the streets and clash with the police. This results in arson, rioting and then arrests and harassment.

In the recent past, there has been no instance of anyone making derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed, why this demand is being made? Could it be due to the rise of ex-Muslims in social media?

RISE OF EX-MUSLIMS:

Till recently, critical analysis of Islam in Youtube/ Social Media was done mostly by Western scholars and ex-Muslims from Syria like Wafa Sultan who is now living in USA. Later on couple of Pakistani expatriates living in countries like USA/Canada/Europe started their own Youtube channels and started expressing their views / life experiences. Few of the popular channels are:
1) Haris Sultan
2) Dr. Fouzia Rauf ( Saraswathi Dasi)
3) Amina Sardar ( No Love for Islam)
4) Mahleej Sarkari.

In India, one of the earliest ex-Muslim YouTube channel was that of Pandit Mahendra Pal Arya, a Muslim cleric who converted to Arya Samaj. Youtube Channels like Jaipur Dialogues, Neeraj Atri conducted discussions on various aspects of Islam. Neeraj Atri has produced around 50 videos in a series labelled Islam for Dummies. In addition to discussions based on Quran/ Hadees with Sri Shankar Sharan evoked lot of interest and following. Simultaneously these channels started hosting Indian ex-Muslims. This paved the way for Indian ex-Muslims to open their own Youtube Channels. Few of them are:

1) Dystopia to Reason
2) Ex-Muslim Zafar Heretic
3) Azad ground ex-Muslim
4) Indian Ex-Muslim Sahil
5) Kali Dasi (Sarah Khan)

These channels started sharing their experiences of ex-Muslims – their life as Muslims, how they became ex-Muslims, reaction of family/society and life after leaving Islam. One of the channels started a series labelled ‘Islam se Insaniyat tak- story of ex-Muslim’ where ex-Muslims share their life experiences.

ARRIVAL OF ‘SACHWALA’:

The quality of discourse in these channels underwent big change with the arrival of an ex-Muslim who calls himself ‘Sachwala’. According to him, from age of 10, he has undergone education in Madrassa and passed many examinations on Islam. He also had a passion for calligraphy. Later on, he went and worked in Saudi Arabia for around 18 years and there he acquired further in-depth knowledge of the Quran, Arabic and its various variants like classical Arabic. As he delved deeper into Islamic literature, the more he was convinced of various fabrications and interpolations. An article in Hindi on him Equipped with in-depth knowledge of Arabic and Islamic literature, he appears in various ex-Muslim YouTube channels with a specific question where people are invited to prove the same through Quranic verses alone. Some of the topics shook the basic foundation of Islam itself. A few of the topics are:

1) Prove that Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed
2) Is not taking of slaves, sex with slaves and sale/purchase of slaves by Prophet Mohammed against humanity?
3) Are declarations of Quran (Bayanat) against communal harmony?
4) Why should I be punished if Allah guides and misguides?
5) Is the present day Mecca the same as the one described in Quran?

These live debates which question the very basic structure of Islam last 3-5 hours and several Muslims come forward to put forth their point of view on above topics. It is worth noting that most of the callers are ordinary Muslims or those who are presently studying in Madrassas. None of the callers are well known figures of Islamic theology or scholars of Islam. Undoubtedly Sachwala has made a deep impact in the online ex-Muslim and Muslim community.

In channels run by women like Kali Dasi or Amina Sardar, women discuss how they became ex-Muslims, torture at hands of family members/ husband. While some have become Hindus after leaving Islam, many remain atheist.
In the course of various debates/ shows, many ex-Muslims join the discourse and they express their desire to discuss their own experiences with Islam. The hosts then include them in their ‘Islam to Insaniat’ series. Quite a few ex-Muslim women from India/ Pakistan who are now living elsewhere are also coming together and are on the verge of starting a separate ex-Muslim women’s channel. With Urdu being understood both in Pakistan and in India, these channels are having an impact in both countries.

EX-MUSLIM WOMEN DISCUSSING IN YOUTUBE LIVE:

In addition, the free and easy availability of the Quran in several languages, Hadees in English, books written by Ali Sina ( Understanding Mohammed ) etc. have spurred a big debate on Islam, its founder Prophet Mohammed, various wars fought in the course of the expansion of Islam, enormous suffering of humanity at the hands of Islam. Massacre of innocents in wars led by Prophet Mohammed, the capture of women and children as slaves particularly the battle with Banu Quraiza and capture of one of the wives of Safiya as a slave are being heard for the first time by Muslims. The marriage of 6-year-old Aisha with 54-year-old Prophet Mohammed is cited by women ex-Muslims as a prime motivator for leaving Islam.

It can be safely concluded that as critical analysis of Islam or open criticism of Prophet Mohammed in cyberspace has spurred Islamic clerics to put forth the demand for a Prophet Mohammed blasphemy law. Unable to counter threadbare discussion of Islam and Prophet Mohammed, through traditional methods like street protests, threats to life, Islamic clerics want to silence these channels through legislation. Such a demand was made in Pakistan and the Pakistan- Punjab assembly passed a resolution in May 2020 to this effect. A similar demand is being in India now.

(Author is Research Associate at ‘Center for South Indian Studies’, Hyderabad)

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

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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