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Cyberabad Police slammed for replying to Twitter user’s tweet on ‘Jihadis’

People questioned the police’s implicit support to a tweet that could be termed as ‘Islamophobic’

09 Jan 2020

TweetImage Courtesy: siasat.com

The Cyberabad Police found itself in a soup, minutes after it replied to a Twitter user, Suresh Kochattil who asked if the Cyberabad force was conducting background checks in American software companies citing that many ‘wannabe jihadis’ worked there.

https://twitter.com/kochattil/status/1214251486466564097       

The Cyberabad Police replied with the following response.

https://twitter.com/cyberabadpolice/status/1214256337288171520

Soon after, not only politicians and activists, but even the general public, began to question the police for implicitly endorsing Suresh’s partisan views against a particular community. Facing the heat, the Cyberabad police issued a statement to the Telangana DGP clarifying its reply to Kochattil.

https://twitter.com/cyberabadpolice/status/1214837710185103360

However, the people wouldn’t have it. From questioning how the Cyberabad police defined ‘wannabe jihadis’, what exactly they were monitoring, and why they hadn’t booked Kochattil for what constituted as hate speech instead, the angry Twitterati alleged that the police was indulging in the religious profiling of certain communities.

https://twitter.com/asadowaisi/status/1214765278355050496       

https://twitter.com/Shehla_Rashid/status/1214734724901396482

https://twitter.com/indohistoricus/status/1215108299076636678

https://twitter.com/yehlog/status/1214775028857704448 

https://twitter.com/zuberpasha33/status/1214954694751031296 

https://twitter.com/digitaldutta/status/1214813142502363136 

https://twitter.com/TawakkkalAllah/status/1215153662172884995

Twitterati alleged that instead of reprimanding Kochattil, the police ended up encouraging his inflammatory thoughts; especially at a time when the country’s minorities are gripped with the fear of being branded as ‘outcasts’ in their own country.

Related:

Enactment of the CAA has sparked a primordial fear among Muslims
In a first, BJP leader, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi objects to the ‘Go to Pakistan’ slogan for Indian Muslims
Hate speech runs through the veins of the Vijayvargiyas

Cyberabad Police slammed for replying to Twitter user’s tweet on ‘Jihadis’

People questioned the police’s implicit support to a tweet that could be termed as ‘Islamophobic’

TweetImage Courtesy: siasat.com

The Cyberabad Police found itself in a soup, minutes after it replied to a Twitter user, Suresh Kochattil who asked if the Cyberabad force was conducting background checks in American software companies citing that many ‘wannabe jihadis’ worked there.

https://twitter.com/kochattil/status/1214251486466564097       

The Cyberabad Police replied with the following response.

https://twitter.com/cyberabadpolice/status/1214256337288171520

Soon after, not only politicians and activists, but even the general public, began to question the police for implicitly endorsing Suresh’s partisan views against a particular community. Facing the heat, the Cyberabad police issued a statement to the Telangana DGP clarifying its reply to Kochattil.

https://twitter.com/cyberabadpolice/status/1214837710185103360

However, the people wouldn’t have it. From questioning how the Cyberabad police defined ‘wannabe jihadis’, what exactly they were monitoring, and why they hadn’t booked Kochattil for what constituted as hate speech instead, the angry Twitterati alleged that the police was indulging in the religious profiling of certain communities.

https://twitter.com/asadowaisi/status/1214765278355050496       

https://twitter.com/Shehla_Rashid/status/1214734724901396482

https://twitter.com/indohistoricus/status/1215108299076636678

https://twitter.com/yehlog/status/1214775028857704448 

https://twitter.com/zuberpasha33/status/1214954694751031296 

https://twitter.com/digitaldutta/status/1214813142502363136 

https://twitter.com/TawakkkalAllah/status/1215153662172884995

Twitterati alleged that instead of reprimanding Kochattil, the police ended up encouraging his inflammatory thoughts; especially at a time when the country’s minorities are gripped with the fear of being branded as ‘outcasts’ in their own country.

Related:

Enactment of the CAA has sparked a primordial fear among Muslims
In a first, BJP leader, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi objects to the ‘Go to Pakistan’ slogan for Indian Muslims
Hate speech runs through the veins of the Vijayvargiyas

Related Articles


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Close to 500 families or more, all Muslim, evicted: Assam

07 Jan 2020

Assam

GUWAHATI: As many as 426 Muslim families, totaling 1800 persons have been evicted from their houses in Chotia assembly constituency of district Bishwanath of Assam, arbitrarily without following due process, since December 6. Their houses have been demolished by the administration. Tragically, all these families having their names in the National Register of Citizens(NRC), a proof of being genuine Indian citizens in Assam, now no roof over their heads in this chilly winter, nor food. They also don’t have warm clothes to protect themselves from cold weather. CJP’s Team Assam has been at the forefront of collecting and distributing blankets and other aid to the evicted. The pictures below show the activities of CJP’s Team Assam. So far there has been scant media coverage due to the internet shutdown in Guwahati and other parts of the state owing to anti-CAA agitation all over the state.

Sabrangindia exclusively covered the Assam government’s new land policy which aims to “evict” without due process hundreds of thousands Bengali Hindus and Muslims. Tabled in the Assam Assembly on November 28, 2019, discussion on it was deferred after the opposition raised serious questions on the discriminatory move. Though the speaker of Assam Assembly Mr. Hitendra Nath Goswami issued a ruling in the Assembly stating that the new land policy will be implemented only after proper discussion (during the January-February 2020 session) the state Government has begun this controversial policy of eviction in various parts of the state with scant regard for legal niceties.

 

Assam

Currently, all the evicted families live in tent filled camps with meagre facilities in the bitter cold of winter.

Assam

Assam

Assam

Related:

1.      EXCLUSIVE: BJP Govt plans to evict 70 lakh Muslims, 60 lakh Bengali Hindus through its Land Policy (2019) in Assam

2.       Devil’s Arithmetic in Assam: 1.29 lakh ‘declared foreigners’, 970 in detention camps, 6 deported

3.       Without defining who the ‘indigenous’ are, Assam Cabinet passes Land Policy for indigenous people

 

Close to 500 families or more, all Muslim, evicted: Assam

Assam

GUWAHATI: As many as 426 Muslim families, totaling 1800 persons have been evicted from their houses in Chotia assembly constituency of district Bishwanath of Assam, arbitrarily without following due process, since December 6. Their houses have been demolished by the administration. Tragically, all these families having their names in the National Register of Citizens(NRC), a proof of being genuine Indian citizens in Assam, now no roof over their heads in this chilly winter, nor food. They also don’t have warm clothes to protect themselves from cold weather. CJP’s Team Assam has been at the forefront of collecting and distributing blankets and other aid to the evicted. The pictures below show the activities of CJP’s Team Assam. So far there has been scant media coverage due to the internet shutdown in Guwahati and other parts of the state owing to anti-CAA agitation all over the state.

Sabrangindia exclusively covered the Assam government’s new land policy which aims to “evict” without due process hundreds of thousands Bengali Hindus and Muslims. Tabled in the Assam Assembly on November 28, 2019, discussion on it was deferred after the opposition raised serious questions on the discriminatory move. Though the speaker of Assam Assembly Mr. Hitendra Nath Goswami issued a ruling in the Assembly stating that the new land policy will be implemented only after proper discussion (during the January-February 2020 session) the state Government has begun this controversial policy of eviction in various parts of the state with scant regard for legal niceties.

 

Assam

Currently, all the evicted families live in tent filled camps with meagre facilities in the bitter cold of winter.

Assam

Assam

Assam

Related:

1.      EXCLUSIVE: BJP Govt plans to evict 70 lakh Muslims, 60 lakh Bengali Hindus through its Land Policy (2019) in Assam

2.       Devil’s Arithmetic in Assam: 1.29 lakh ‘declared foreigners’, 970 in detention camps, 6 deported

3.       Without defining who the ‘indigenous’ are, Assam Cabinet passes Land Policy for indigenous people

 

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Swami Nithyanand: Founding of a Hindu Rashtra

18 Dec 2019

Swami nityananda

Religion is probably the most complex human phenomenon. For centuries, philosophers have tried to understand and define it. Different commentators have emphasized on its many facets. Probably one of the most comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon has been put forward by Karl Marx, when he writes “Man makes Religion…This state, this society produces religion, a reversed World consciousness, because they are a reversed World…Religion is the reversed theory of the World, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form…religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless World, just as it is the spirit of the spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.”

From its last sentence, the phrase, ‘opium of the people’ has become very popular, but it does not give the total picture. The richness of this formulation has remained untapped, particularly its ‘sigh of theoppressed creature’ has not been explored much. All this comes to one’s mind when one is witnessing the intervention of religion, in an aggressive form, in most spheres of life. On the one hand, we see that the politics to control oil resources comes up in the name of ‘Islamic terrorism’, nationalism has been mixed up with religion, there is an intensification of blind faith, and at yet another level, we have the proliferation of godmen, a phenomenon just a few decades old, becoming stronger in last three decades, in particular.

While religion did have multiple roles all through, the major one had been that of the clergy on the one hand and saints on the other. The clergy was with those in power (King-Pope, Raja-Rajguru and Nawab-Shahi Imam) while the saints, like the Bhakti and Sufi saints in India, stood with the common people, talking about practicing humanism and opposing social inequality. The present phenomenon of godmen is unique in more ways than one. In the changed political scenario, their role is not exactly that of the clergy of the previous centuries. They have a support base among the rich and the not-so-rich, both. While they talk in moral and spiritual terms, most of them do have an underbelly, where a lot of suspicious activities can be discerned very clearly.

Taking recourse to various means to dodge the law for their illegal activities has been the norm with many of them. We see a new process in Swami Nithyanand. He was born A. Raja Sekharan and adorned the saffron robes to become Nithyanand. Hehas a large following, both within and outside India. He was involved in rape and murder cases, like many other of his ilk. Unlike others, who first tried to escape the arms of law, he chose another path, founding a new country. Nithyanand bought an island, near Trinidad and Tobago, from Equador, on the West Coast of South America and declared it to be a ‘Hindu Nation’ named Kailassa, a place where persecuted Hindus can buy citizenship with heavy fees and will be able to practice the Hindu religion.

It has already made its national flag, chosen its national languages and other symbols, with website to boot. It has named its Prime Minister and a Cabinet, which will take decisions about the affairs of this Hindu nation. One is not very aware of godmen like tendencies in Islam or Christianity, barring the likes of Benny Hinn, while politics in the name of Islam, Islamic fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism and Buddhist fundamentalism is flourishing in the world, more so in West and South Asia.

Prior to Nithyanand, we had seen how first Asaram Bapu, and then Gurmeet Ram Rahim Insaan were arrested with great difficulty. Hundreds died when Ram Rahim was arrested. One courageous journalist, Chhatrapati Ramchandra was murdered as he was bringing out the happenings of Dera Sacha Sauda, the empire of Ram Rahim Singh Insaan. Gurmeet was given lakhs in donation by Haryana BJP Government, and the whole Cabinet of the previous ministry visited Dera to seek his blessings. In Asaram’s Ashram also, there was a long queue of political heavy weights, including our present Prime Minster.

Swami Nithyanand has the backing of powerful money bags, many from Gujarat. Apart from the affluent followers, the ordinary people also follow these paddlers of faith. Those who died while protesting against the arrest of their Guru were ordinary people. Recently, while on the way to Panipat, my escort pointed out a spot and told me that just a small distance from the road, is the jail where Gurmeet is lodged. His devotees, while travelling; stop on that spot near the jail and pay their respects before proceeding further. What shook me the most was the brutal murder of the brave journalist,Ramchandra, who, despite threats to his life, carried on with what a journalist should do - reveal the truth about Gurmeet.

Sexual escapades of these godmen can fill volumes, and their victims have painful tales to tell. There are others in this group, who specialize in different tricks. We had Satya Sai Baba, sitting over an empire of hundreds of crores; we have seen the Yoga Guru Ramdev making a transition from Yoga to Patanjali enterprise and being counted among the rich entrepreneurs of the country. The godwomen are fewer in number but they are very much here, Maa Amritanand Mayee, RadheMaa being two such, who have made headlines on occasions.

Surely, social scientists do need to burn the midnight oil to tell us what this new phenomenon means for the society. While those named here are the leading biggies, surely there are hundreds of them flourishing in this business, under the patronage of the state and the affluent of the society, which is mostly looking away. The political parties ignore their violations with an eye on the vote bank. All this is happening in the name of faith, religion. Critiquing them does not gel well with the powers that be nor with large sections of the society, which are in awe of their apparently spiritual powers, but more than that, their social powers, which insulate them despite their illegal and immoral deeds. 


RELATED ARTICLES:

  1. Globally remove links of video defaming Ramdev, Delhi HC directs Facebook, Google, Twitter
  2. Writers and Scholars Come Out in Support of Film Critic Kathi Mahesh
  3. The Karnataka Anti-Superstition Act and its Impact
  4. Victim of repeated rape, young woman slices off godman’s genitals; “brave girl”, says Kerala CM
  5. One More Godman, Alwar-based FalahariMaharaj accused of Rape, Victim Motivated by Ram Rahim case, Arrested

Swami Nithyanand: Founding of a Hindu Rashtra

Swami nityananda

Religion is probably the most complex human phenomenon. For centuries, philosophers have tried to understand and define it. Different commentators have emphasized on its many facets. Probably one of the most comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon has been put forward by Karl Marx, when he writes “Man makes Religion…This state, this society produces religion, a reversed World consciousness, because they are a reversed World…Religion is the reversed theory of the World, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form…religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless World, just as it is the spirit of the spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.”

From its last sentence, the phrase, ‘opium of the people’ has become very popular, but it does not give the total picture. The richness of this formulation has remained untapped, particularly its ‘sigh of theoppressed creature’ has not been explored much. All this comes to one’s mind when one is witnessing the intervention of religion, in an aggressive form, in most spheres of life. On the one hand, we see that the politics to control oil resources comes up in the name of ‘Islamic terrorism’, nationalism has been mixed up with religion, there is an intensification of blind faith, and at yet another level, we have the proliferation of godmen, a phenomenon just a few decades old, becoming stronger in last three decades, in particular.

While religion did have multiple roles all through, the major one had been that of the clergy on the one hand and saints on the other. The clergy was with those in power (King-Pope, Raja-Rajguru and Nawab-Shahi Imam) while the saints, like the Bhakti and Sufi saints in India, stood with the common people, talking about practicing humanism and opposing social inequality. The present phenomenon of godmen is unique in more ways than one. In the changed political scenario, their role is not exactly that of the clergy of the previous centuries. They have a support base among the rich and the not-so-rich, both. While they talk in moral and spiritual terms, most of them do have an underbelly, where a lot of suspicious activities can be discerned very clearly.

Taking recourse to various means to dodge the law for their illegal activities has been the norm with many of them. We see a new process in Swami Nithyanand. He was born A. Raja Sekharan and adorned the saffron robes to become Nithyanand. Hehas a large following, both within and outside India. He was involved in rape and murder cases, like many other of his ilk. Unlike others, who first tried to escape the arms of law, he chose another path, founding a new country. Nithyanand bought an island, near Trinidad and Tobago, from Equador, on the West Coast of South America and declared it to be a ‘Hindu Nation’ named Kailassa, a place where persecuted Hindus can buy citizenship with heavy fees and will be able to practice the Hindu religion.

It has already made its national flag, chosen its national languages and other symbols, with website to boot. It has named its Prime Minister and a Cabinet, which will take decisions about the affairs of this Hindu nation. One is not very aware of godmen like tendencies in Islam or Christianity, barring the likes of Benny Hinn, while politics in the name of Islam, Islamic fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism and Buddhist fundamentalism is flourishing in the world, more so in West and South Asia.

Prior to Nithyanand, we had seen how first Asaram Bapu, and then Gurmeet Ram Rahim Insaan were arrested with great difficulty. Hundreds died when Ram Rahim was arrested. One courageous journalist, Chhatrapati Ramchandra was murdered as he was bringing out the happenings of Dera Sacha Sauda, the empire of Ram Rahim Singh Insaan. Gurmeet was given lakhs in donation by Haryana BJP Government, and the whole Cabinet of the previous ministry visited Dera to seek his blessings. In Asaram’s Ashram also, there was a long queue of political heavy weights, including our present Prime Minster.

Swami Nithyanand has the backing of powerful money bags, many from Gujarat. Apart from the affluent followers, the ordinary people also follow these paddlers of faith. Those who died while protesting against the arrest of their Guru were ordinary people. Recently, while on the way to Panipat, my escort pointed out a spot and told me that just a small distance from the road, is the jail where Gurmeet is lodged. His devotees, while travelling; stop on that spot near the jail and pay their respects before proceeding further. What shook me the most was the brutal murder of the brave journalist,Ramchandra, who, despite threats to his life, carried on with what a journalist should do - reveal the truth about Gurmeet.

Sexual escapades of these godmen can fill volumes, and their victims have painful tales to tell. There are others in this group, who specialize in different tricks. We had Satya Sai Baba, sitting over an empire of hundreds of crores; we have seen the Yoga Guru Ramdev making a transition from Yoga to Patanjali enterprise and being counted among the rich entrepreneurs of the country. The godwomen are fewer in number but they are very much here, Maa Amritanand Mayee, RadheMaa being two such, who have made headlines on occasions.

Surely, social scientists do need to burn the midnight oil to tell us what this new phenomenon means for the society. While those named here are the leading biggies, surely there are hundreds of them flourishing in this business, under the patronage of the state and the affluent of the society, which is mostly looking away. The political parties ignore their violations with an eye on the vote bank. All this is happening in the name of faith, religion. Critiquing them does not gel well with the powers that be nor with large sections of the society, which are in awe of their apparently spiritual powers, but more than that, their social powers, which insulate them despite their illegal and immoral deeds. 


RELATED ARTICLES:

  1. Globally remove links of video defaming Ramdev, Delhi HC directs Facebook, Google, Twitter
  2. Writers and Scholars Come Out in Support of Film Critic Kathi Mahesh
  3. The Karnataka Anti-Superstition Act and its Impact
  4. Victim of repeated rape, young woman slices off godman’s genitals; “brave girl”, says Kerala CM
  5. One More Godman, Alwar-based FalahariMaharaj accused of Rape, Victim Motivated by Ram Rahim case, Arrested

Related Articles


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Half and Half: A community that is both Hindu and Muslim

The Cheeta-Merat(Kathat)community of Ajmer, Rajasthan practice a unique syncretic religion combining Hinduism and Islam

07 Dec 2019

RajasthanImage Courtesy: theindianfeed.in

With a population of almost 400,000, the Cheeta-Merat a.k.a. Kathat community is spread across 160 villages in Ajmer and Bewar towns of Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. The Cheeta and the Merat are two separate clans who intermarry with each other. Most of them are small peasants and landless labourers. They call themselves Chauhan Rajputs, and identify their religion as ‘Hindu-Muslim’, or either ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ or simply ‘Cheeta-Merat’. The community supposedly descended from Prithviraj Chauhan. The popular theory about the Cheeta-Merat is that their ancestor Har Raj voluntarily converted to Islam at the hands of the renowned Sufi, Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. This is why, it is argued, he is also known as Pir Har Raj, having received the honorific title of Pir, which is used for a Muslim saint.

The Kathat community is said to follow the footsteps of Pir Har Raj who accepted three rules of Islam- khatna (male circumcision), dafan (burial after death), and eating Halal meat. The Kathat people have mixed Hindu-Muslim names, follow Hindu as well as Muslim traditions, celebrate all festivals, and even have weddings with both Nikah (Muslim wedding ceremony) and Pheras (Hindu wedding ceremony) as rituals.

A majority of the community is dedicated to maintain the syncretic Hindu-Muslim traditions, citing the promise that their ancestor, Pir Har Raj, is said to have made to a ‘Muslim Sultan’. To abandon the Islamic customs that their ancestor had adopted, they believed, would be to go against his wishes. However, things began to change from the mid-1980s, when both Hindu and Muslim revivalist organizations entered the Cheeta-Merat belt in order to win the community to their respective folds.

In an eye opening documentary shared by PSBT India, the confusion and dilemmacreated by Hindu and Muslim organizations is as clear as it is disturbing. As Radhika Saraf, a young photographer from Mumbai who spent time with this community, puts it, “It seemed as if the Kathat community were elastic, being stretched on both sides until it would finally break. This community is on the edge, under attack and soft target to accomplish what Hindu and Muslim sectarian groups seek- power and mass.”

So, on one side, as children are educated about the Quran in Madrasas, slogans of “Dharamaantaran band karo (stop religious conversion)” erupt from the schools funded by Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The children of the community have been reduced to pawn pieces in this decades-long chess game of religious divide.

The core Kathat community is adamant to hold on to their syncretic and harmonious ways. “We say Ram-Ram to Hindus and salam to Muslims. We hold a laddu in each of our hands”, says resident Salim Khan commenting on the contradictory appeals of Hindu and Muslim revivalist groups competing with each other.

For some Cheeta-Merats a new, more distinct Hindu, particularly Rajput, identity is also a means for asserting a claim to upward social mobility and a quest to be more accepted by the surrounding Hindu community. The pressure exerted from VHP and the Muslim Jamaat organizations is tremendous- with bribery, coercion, social banishment, all in play.

What is happening to the Kathat community can almost be used as a small-scale primer to understand the overall communal tension in India. In fear of losing their identity, most factions cling even closer to the radical and aggressive beliefs of their respective religions because any ambiguity hurts them. Religion becomes more than their personal choice as it determines social standing and ties to their community, also enabling them to feel accepted and secure in their immediate society. Religion brings people together in a unit which can defend them against external attack. With the possibility of literal or figurative attacks rising, everyone feels the need to belong to a team to feel safe. If they were all to follow the example of the Kathat community and practice traditions from two religions, they would end up being a battleground too. So what results is overcompensation and a sense of competition from religious groups borne out of fear, to ‘preserve’ their numbers.

In the Cheeta-Merat community, while the VHP conducts “Shuddhi (purification rituals)” and “Ghar waapsi (returning home)”, while reciting ‘Dharamaantaran band karo’ in the same breath, logic and irony take a blow. The Madrassas meanwhile influence the children to accept Islam exclusively and cut ties with families who have aligned themselves to Hinduism by not getting their children circumcised. Confusions come to a head when the offspring reach marriageable age and they realize no family is willing to wed their daughter to them unless they are circumcised and then last-minute circumcisions are carried out before the wedding.

It is not easy to polarize a tightly knit community but the fundamentalism from both sides has made a dent over the last 30 years. As the Kathat people struggle to retain their simple and harmonious lives, the tug of war rages on. Resident Buland Khan states simply, “Some of us are Muslims and others are Hindus, like me and my nephew here. But still we live together in harmony. We interdine and we intermarry. Religion is a personal issue and does not affect our relations.” If only this could become every Indian’s mantra!

Related:

Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
“Allah and Ram are one”: Muslim youth who cleans mosques and temples
Maulvi inaugurates temple that Muslims helped restore after demolition
In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observe ‘Allah Festival’ on eve of Muharram

Half and Half: A community that is both Hindu and Muslim

The Cheeta-Merat(Kathat)community of Ajmer, Rajasthan practice a unique syncretic religion combining Hinduism and Islam

RajasthanImage Courtesy: theindianfeed.in

With a population of almost 400,000, the Cheeta-Merat a.k.a. Kathat community is spread across 160 villages in Ajmer and Bewar towns of Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. The Cheeta and the Merat are two separate clans who intermarry with each other. Most of them are small peasants and landless labourers. They call themselves Chauhan Rajputs, and identify their religion as ‘Hindu-Muslim’, or either ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ or simply ‘Cheeta-Merat’. The community supposedly descended from Prithviraj Chauhan. The popular theory about the Cheeta-Merat is that their ancestor Har Raj voluntarily converted to Islam at the hands of the renowned Sufi, Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. This is why, it is argued, he is also known as Pir Har Raj, having received the honorific title of Pir, which is used for a Muslim saint.

The Kathat community is said to follow the footsteps of Pir Har Raj who accepted three rules of Islam- khatna (male circumcision), dafan (burial after death), and eating Halal meat. The Kathat people have mixed Hindu-Muslim names, follow Hindu as well as Muslim traditions, celebrate all festivals, and even have weddings with both Nikah (Muslim wedding ceremony) and Pheras (Hindu wedding ceremony) as rituals.

A majority of the community is dedicated to maintain the syncretic Hindu-Muslim traditions, citing the promise that their ancestor, Pir Har Raj, is said to have made to a ‘Muslim Sultan’. To abandon the Islamic customs that their ancestor had adopted, they believed, would be to go against his wishes. However, things began to change from the mid-1980s, when both Hindu and Muslim revivalist organizations entered the Cheeta-Merat belt in order to win the community to their respective folds.

In an eye opening documentary shared by PSBT India, the confusion and dilemmacreated by Hindu and Muslim organizations is as clear as it is disturbing. As Radhika Saraf, a young photographer from Mumbai who spent time with this community, puts it, “It seemed as if the Kathat community were elastic, being stretched on both sides until it would finally break. This community is on the edge, under attack and soft target to accomplish what Hindu and Muslim sectarian groups seek- power and mass.”

So, on one side, as children are educated about the Quran in Madrasas, slogans of “Dharamaantaran band karo (stop religious conversion)” erupt from the schools funded by Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The children of the community have been reduced to pawn pieces in this decades-long chess game of religious divide.

The core Kathat community is adamant to hold on to their syncretic and harmonious ways. “We say Ram-Ram to Hindus and salam to Muslims. We hold a laddu in each of our hands”, says resident Salim Khan commenting on the contradictory appeals of Hindu and Muslim revivalist groups competing with each other.

For some Cheeta-Merats a new, more distinct Hindu, particularly Rajput, identity is also a means for asserting a claim to upward social mobility and a quest to be more accepted by the surrounding Hindu community. The pressure exerted from VHP and the Muslim Jamaat organizations is tremendous- with bribery, coercion, social banishment, all in play.

What is happening to the Kathat community can almost be used as a small-scale primer to understand the overall communal tension in India. In fear of losing their identity, most factions cling even closer to the radical and aggressive beliefs of their respective religions because any ambiguity hurts them. Religion becomes more than their personal choice as it determines social standing and ties to their community, also enabling them to feel accepted and secure in their immediate society. Religion brings people together in a unit which can defend them against external attack. With the possibility of literal or figurative attacks rising, everyone feels the need to belong to a team to feel safe. If they were all to follow the example of the Kathat community and practice traditions from two religions, they would end up being a battleground too. So what results is overcompensation and a sense of competition from religious groups borne out of fear, to ‘preserve’ their numbers.

In the Cheeta-Merat community, while the VHP conducts “Shuddhi (purification rituals)” and “Ghar waapsi (returning home)”, while reciting ‘Dharamaantaran band karo’ in the same breath, logic and irony take a blow. The Madrassas meanwhile influence the children to accept Islam exclusively and cut ties with families who have aligned themselves to Hinduism by not getting their children circumcised. Confusions come to a head when the offspring reach marriageable age and they realize no family is willing to wed their daughter to them unless they are circumcised and then last-minute circumcisions are carried out before the wedding.

It is not easy to polarize a tightly knit community but the fundamentalism from both sides has made a dent over the last 30 years. As the Kathat people struggle to retain their simple and harmonious lives, the tug of war rages on. Resident Buland Khan states simply, “Some of us are Muslims and others are Hindus, like me and my nephew here. But still we live together in harmony. We interdine and we intermarry. Religion is a personal issue and does not affect our relations.” If only this could become every Indian’s mantra!

Related:

Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
“Allah and Ram are one”: Muslim youth who cleans mosques and temples
Maulvi inaugurates temple that Muslims helped restore after demolition
In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observe ‘Allah Festival’ on eve of Muharram

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EXCLUSIVE: BJP Govt plans to evict 70 lakh Muslims, 60 lakh Bengali Hindus through its Land Policy (2019) in Assam

Cong protests push back sinister plan through vociferous protests in the Assam assembly yesterday. Now the policy will be discussed in January or February 2020

05 Dec 2019

Assam

Guwahati, December 4, 2019: Assam’s Land Policy, 2019, framed by BJP-led government in Assam and tabled in the state assembly on November 28 (it was cleared by the Assam state cabinet on November 13) tribal belt and grazing lands and thereafter evict 13 million (130 lakhs) Indian citizens. Among these are 7 million (70 lakhs) Assamese Muslims and 6 million (60 lakhs) Bengali-speaking Hindu populations from the riverine, grazing and forest areas of the state. In furtherance of its overall ideological game plan to disenfranchise and invisibilise India’s minorities, the plot can be spotted in points 1.11 and 1.12 of the Land Policy 2019, exclusively sourced by Sabrangindia.

Plans were afoot to debate and pass the policy were stalled on December 4 until vociferous protests from the Congress members in the state assembly on Thursday (December4) thwarted the objectives of the treasury benches. These consistent protests compelled the treasury benches to retreat from their intent, for the time being. Two documents spearheaded under the present BJP run dispensation in the state, the Brahma committee report, 2017 and the tabled Land Policy-2019 provides for this land transfer. Without defining who the indigenous peoples of Assam are, deliberately excluding sections who have toiled in the state from the turn of the 20th century, both the Brahma Committee report followed by the Land Policy 2019 provide for a change of user of these lands. Lands in the tribal belt blocks and other government land (char riverine land) are proposed to be vacated and “re-distributed” among the other indigenous people of the state. Hence, about 70 lakh Assamese Muslims and 60 lakh Bengali-speaking Hindus face mass evictions and homelessness if the policy is allowed to be passed in the Assembly.

At present there are at least 35 lakhs of people living in char (riverine) area, out of them 95% are Muslim. They have no land pattas as once the river is washed away (and this is a regular phenomenon) their lands and their pattas (legal documents over the land) stand rejected. There is another 35 lakh strong Muslim population living in areas outside the riverine area but on government lands, periodic patta land or grazier (grazing) and forest lands. The population is marginal farming and fishing and lives a hand to mouth existence. Not only Assam’s Muslims but Bengali Hindus, who have been exclusively kept out of the preview of definition of ‘indigenous peoples’ in Assam will become vulnerable. Almost 60 lakhs Bengali Hindus, living in various refuge colonies established on grazing land, the tribal belt and blocks of the state will now face eviction.

Already hit and traumatized by the six year long exclusivist citizenship scrutiny process, under the NRC updating scheme, the poor sections of the Assamese people, Bengali speaking Hindus and Assamese and Bengali speaking Muslims now face the threat of a state driven eviction, bordering on invisibisation.

Both documents, the Brahma Committee Report, 2017 and the Land Policy, 2019 can be accessed below.
 

The Land Policy 2019 debated yesterday states

1.11. In permanent char areas settlement of land shall be made with the deserving landless indigenous person as per Land Policy. For this purpose, cadastral survey in char areas would be made on priority basis in a phased manner before such settlement in char area.

1.12. In case of temporary or semi permanent chars, the area fit for cultivation shall be determined and it will be considered for temporary use for the indigenous cultivators for agricultural purposed only for a particular agricultural cycle. (RDM-15023/7/2018-LS-REV/20, ECF No. 77629/2018/20 Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Dispur)


What transpired in the Assam Assembly yesterday

The much debated land policy, 2019 of Government of Assam was finalised by Revenue & Disaster Management Department on November 13, 2019 and was tabled in Assam Legislative Assembly on November 28, 2019. Though the session of the Assam state legislative assembly has been on every day since November 28, the opposition benches were silent on the issue until yesterday. Faced with grievances and protests from masses of people across the state, the opposition was finally compelled to take a stand on the contentious Land Policy-2019.

Strong opposition to the proposed Land Policy was raised in the assembly just after question hour, by a member of Congress legislature party, Sherman Ali Ahmed as a point of order. Referring to the issue, Sherman Ali Ahmed said, “Land Policy- 2019, mentions land allocation only for “indigenous peoples”. The definition of indigenous people has not been, so far, finalised (excluding toiling populations of Muslim/Hindu and Bengali origin). Without this definition in place, the Land Policy- 2019 has been repeatedly made mention of the fact that the ownership of land will be exclusively reserved for the indigenous people. This is a violation of Constitution”.

When Sherman Ali Ahmed tried to raise the issue as a point of order the Speaker, Hitendra Nath Goswami barred him from delivering his speech as, in the Speaker’s view, it did not fall under the rule and procedure of Assam Legislative Assembly! The other Congress members including Debabrata Saikia, the leader of the opposition, Rokybul Hussain,  the deputy leader of the opposition, Congress Legislature, Ajanta Neog, Rupjyoti Kurmi, Kamalakhya Dey Purakayastha, Zakir Hussain Sikdar, Nurul Huda  all came forward in support of Sherman Ali Ahmed and requested the speaker to allow him to speak on the issue, given its urgency. However, the Speaker still barred him from speaking. Members of the treasury benches were also vociferous in their opposition to Sherman Ali Ahmed and the Assam Legislative Assembly faced a chaotic situation. Nothing could be heard due to slogans shouting from treasury and opposition benches. The speaker in chair, Hitendra Nath Goswami then expelled Sherman Ali Ahmed from the house for the day. An agitated Sherman Ali Ahmed refused to leave the house, the Speaker then ordered the marshal to forcibly take away Sherman Ali from the house. When the marshal forcefully took him out of the Assembly, Ali slept in the entrance of the treasury bench with placards. The Congress members requested the speaker not to take such action to stifle discussion and dissent.

When things calmed down, the issue was, once again raised by Rokybul Hussain, deputy leader of the opposition and Congress legislature party. He said, that “the present minister in the BJP government, Himanta Biswa Sarma has said on the floor of the Assam Assembly on October 17, 2010 that the people who were living in Assam before March 25, 1971 are all indigenous people of Assam along with their descendants.” Further citing records of the Assembly, Rokybul Hussain said, “Then opposition leader and AGP legislature who is Industries Minister in the present Government had said that they are respectful for the Assam Accord. As per Assam Accord all people including their descendants who were living in Assam before 1971, all are indigenous people. However, the presently tabled 2019 land policy is ambiguous on this question: without proper definition of who is indigenous, land cannot be reserved for indigenous people.”

The speaker then asked Hussain to submit all documentary records but barred him from speaking, again. The issue again led to further turmoil in the Assembly. With the heated arguments that followed between the treasury and opposition benches, the Speaker suspended discussions on the issue. He said, “the land policy (that has been) tabled in the Assam Legislative assembly cannot be discussed in this session. The matter will be discussed seriously in coming session of Assam Legislative Assembly which will meet again in January or February, 2020.” After this assurance from the speaker, tempers in the house returned to normal. 

Soon after the clearance of the Land Policy- 2019 by the state cabinet on November 13, the Revenue and Disaster Management Department has already started with a massive cadastral mapping exercise all over the state especially in the riverine areas of Assam, where large sections of indigenous Muslims, from the first decade of the 20th century have been living and tilling char lands. In several revenue circle areas, the process of receiving applications for land allotments from indigenous people has been started. The purpose seems to be to rehabilitate large sections of the indigenous population here, at the cost of lands tilled by the Muslim minority and after evicting them, through the process of first converting the land use of these entire stretches of riverine, eroded char lands to Government land under the newly changed rules. Huge numbers of the Muslim minority, living here since the first decade of the 20th century face the threat of eviction if this Land policy- 2019 comes into force.                  

Assam, already reeling under the turmoil of the citizenship crisis faces more upheavals in the months to come.

Brahma Committee Report, 2017 may be read here

Assam Land Policy, 2019 may be read here

EXCLUSIVE: BJP Govt plans to evict 70 lakh Muslims, 60 lakh Bengali Hindus through its Land Policy (2019) in Assam

Cong protests push back sinister plan through vociferous protests in the Assam assembly yesterday. Now the policy will be discussed in January or February 2020

Assam

Guwahati, December 4, 2019: Assam’s Land Policy, 2019, framed by BJP-led government in Assam and tabled in the state assembly on November 28 (it was cleared by the Assam state cabinet on November 13) tribal belt and grazing lands and thereafter evict 13 million (130 lakhs) Indian citizens. Among these are 7 million (70 lakhs) Assamese Muslims and 6 million (60 lakhs) Bengali-speaking Hindu populations from the riverine, grazing and forest areas of the state. In furtherance of its overall ideological game plan to disenfranchise and invisibilise India’s minorities, the plot can be spotted in points 1.11 and 1.12 of the Land Policy 2019, exclusively sourced by Sabrangindia.

Plans were afoot to debate and pass the policy were stalled on December 4 until vociferous protests from the Congress members in the state assembly on Thursday (December4) thwarted the objectives of the treasury benches. These consistent protests compelled the treasury benches to retreat from their intent, for the time being. Two documents spearheaded under the present BJP run dispensation in the state, the Brahma committee report, 2017 and the tabled Land Policy-2019 provides for this land transfer. Without defining who the indigenous peoples of Assam are, deliberately excluding sections who have toiled in the state from the turn of the 20th century, both the Brahma Committee report followed by the Land Policy 2019 provide for a change of user of these lands. Lands in the tribal belt blocks and other government land (char riverine land) are proposed to be vacated and “re-distributed” among the other indigenous people of the state. Hence, about 70 lakh Assamese Muslims and 60 lakh Bengali-speaking Hindus face mass evictions and homelessness if the policy is allowed to be passed in the Assembly.

At present there are at least 35 lakhs of people living in char (riverine) area, out of them 95% are Muslim. They have no land pattas as once the river is washed away (and this is a regular phenomenon) their lands and their pattas (legal documents over the land) stand rejected. There is another 35 lakh strong Muslim population living in areas outside the riverine area but on government lands, periodic patta land or grazier (grazing) and forest lands. The population is marginal farming and fishing and lives a hand to mouth existence. Not only Assam’s Muslims but Bengali Hindus, who have been exclusively kept out of the preview of definition of ‘indigenous peoples’ in Assam will become vulnerable. Almost 60 lakhs Bengali Hindus, living in various refuge colonies established on grazing land, the tribal belt and blocks of the state will now face eviction.

Already hit and traumatized by the six year long exclusivist citizenship scrutiny process, under the NRC updating scheme, the poor sections of the Assamese people, Bengali speaking Hindus and Assamese and Bengali speaking Muslims now face the threat of a state driven eviction, bordering on invisibisation.

Both documents, the Brahma Committee Report, 2017 and the Land Policy, 2019 can be accessed below.
 

The Land Policy 2019 debated yesterday states

1.11. In permanent char areas settlement of land shall be made with the deserving landless indigenous person as per Land Policy. For this purpose, cadastral survey in char areas would be made on priority basis in a phased manner before such settlement in char area.

1.12. In case of temporary or semi permanent chars, the area fit for cultivation shall be determined and it will be considered for temporary use for the indigenous cultivators for agricultural purposed only for a particular agricultural cycle. (RDM-15023/7/2018-LS-REV/20, ECF No. 77629/2018/20 Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Dispur)


What transpired in the Assam Assembly yesterday

The much debated land policy, 2019 of Government of Assam was finalised by Revenue & Disaster Management Department on November 13, 2019 and was tabled in Assam Legislative Assembly on November 28, 2019. Though the session of the Assam state legislative assembly has been on every day since November 28, the opposition benches were silent on the issue until yesterday. Faced with grievances and protests from masses of people across the state, the opposition was finally compelled to take a stand on the contentious Land Policy-2019.

Strong opposition to the proposed Land Policy was raised in the assembly just after question hour, by a member of Congress legislature party, Sherman Ali Ahmed as a point of order. Referring to the issue, Sherman Ali Ahmed said, “Land Policy- 2019, mentions land allocation only for “indigenous peoples”. The definition of indigenous people has not been, so far, finalised (excluding toiling populations of Muslim/Hindu and Bengali origin). Without this definition in place, the Land Policy- 2019 has been repeatedly made mention of the fact that the ownership of land will be exclusively reserved for the indigenous people. This is a violation of Constitution”.

When Sherman Ali Ahmed tried to raise the issue as a point of order the Speaker, Hitendra Nath Goswami barred him from delivering his speech as, in the Speaker’s view, it did not fall under the rule and procedure of Assam Legislative Assembly! The other Congress members including Debabrata Saikia, the leader of the opposition, Rokybul Hussain,  the deputy leader of the opposition, Congress Legislature, Ajanta Neog, Rupjyoti Kurmi, Kamalakhya Dey Purakayastha, Zakir Hussain Sikdar, Nurul Huda  all came forward in support of Sherman Ali Ahmed and requested the speaker to allow him to speak on the issue, given its urgency. However, the Speaker still barred him from speaking. Members of the treasury benches were also vociferous in their opposition to Sherman Ali Ahmed and the Assam Legislative Assembly faced a chaotic situation. Nothing could be heard due to slogans shouting from treasury and opposition benches. The speaker in chair, Hitendra Nath Goswami then expelled Sherman Ali Ahmed from the house for the day. An agitated Sherman Ali Ahmed refused to leave the house, the Speaker then ordered the marshal to forcibly take away Sherman Ali from the house. When the marshal forcefully took him out of the Assembly, Ali slept in the entrance of the treasury bench with placards. The Congress members requested the speaker not to take such action to stifle discussion and dissent.

When things calmed down, the issue was, once again raised by Rokybul Hussain, deputy leader of the opposition and Congress legislature party. He said, that “the present minister in the BJP government, Himanta Biswa Sarma has said on the floor of the Assam Assembly on October 17, 2010 that the people who were living in Assam before March 25, 1971 are all indigenous people of Assam along with their descendants.” Further citing records of the Assembly, Rokybul Hussain said, “Then opposition leader and AGP legislature who is Industries Minister in the present Government had said that they are respectful for the Assam Accord. As per Assam Accord all people including their descendants who were living in Assam before 1971, all are indigenous people. However, the presently tabled 2019 land policy is ambiguous on this question: without proper definition of who is indigenous, land cannot be reserved for indigenous people.”

The speaker then asked Hussain to submit all documentary records but barred him from speaking, again. The issue again led to further turmoil in the Assembly. With the heated arguments that followed between the treasury and opposition benches, the Speaker suspended discussions on the issue. He said, “the land policy (that has been) tabled in the Assam Legislative assembly cannot be discussed in this session. The matter will be discussed seriously in coming session of Assam Legislative Assembly which will meet again in January or February, 2020.” After this assurance from the speaker, tempers in the house returned to normal. 

Soon after the clearance of the Land Policy- 2019 by the state cabinet on November 13, the Revenue and Disaster Management Department has already started with a massive cadastral mapping exercise all over the state especially in the riverine areas of Assam, where large sections of indigenous Muslims, from the first decade of the 20th century have been living and tilling char lands. In several revenue circle areas, the process of receiving applications for land allotments from indigenous people has been started. The purpose seems to be to rehabilitate large sections of the indigenous population here, at the cost of lands tilled by the Muslim minority and after evicting them, through the process of first converting the land use of these entire stretches of riverine, eroded char lands to Government land under the newly changed rules. Huge numbers of the Muslim minority, living here since the first decade of the 20th century face the threat of eviction if this Land policy- 2019 comes into force.                  

Assam, already reeling under the turmoil of the citizenship crisis faces more upheavals in the months to come.

Brahma Committee Report, 2017 may be read here

Assam Land Policy, 2019 may be read here

Related Articles


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Religious Desecration: Who's responsible for destruction of early Indian, Buddhist places of learning in Odisha?

03 Dec 2019

Buudhist temples

Modern day Odisha is known to be the 'epicenter' of brahmanism as the socio-cultural-economic dominance of the brahmanical castes in Odisha is complete. One wonders what happened to it and why Odisha, once the hub of Buddhist activities and culture, completely lost it. I am sure a fair analysis of history needs to be done in the greater interest of our secular values and retaining our original heritage.

The heart of brahmanical Odisha is Puri and its famous Jagannath temple, where the temple openly propagates division among communities. Non-Hindus are not allowed, which is fine as it is their fundamental right to deny people who do not have the faith, yet there are thousands who proclaim themselves as Hindus but are not allowed inside the temple. Dalits, too, are not allowed entry inside the temple and, it is said, President Kovind, too, was unwelcome in the temple complex when he visited there.

buddha

The temple has enormous wealth. It has large tracts of land and devotees throng from all over the world. One local shopkeeper told me that it is the 'most powerful god'. I told him that every god is ‘powerful’ because of the power and politics of the ‘dominant’ behind them. Can we say that the god at the Tirupathi temple is lesser important. Can we say that Kashi Vishwanath is not important or the huge Laxmi Narayan Temple in Thiruvananthpuram does not matter? Every temple matters in this country because a common person expects 'miracles' here but the powerful get money and power from them. They have become shelter places for all kind of politicians, who influence politics and are not keen on people's welfare.

Since the politicians and power chums are never ever interested in people's welfare, so traditionally you are 'good' if you donate to a temple or build a temple. But we know that all these religious places are not merely religious in nature, they provide economic as well as political clout for the powerful. So Odisha's power flows from Lord Jagannath.

buddha

 

Now, Odisha government has put up big banners and advertisements about its Buddhist heritage. It is there at the Airport but there are not many visitors there. I had earlier visited Dhaulagiri, where Ashoka defeated his rival army in the battle of Kalinga in the year 261BC. It is assumed that over one lakh people were killed in this war, which forced Ashoka to ponder over and reject violence as he embraced Buddhism and massively propagated it the world over. As I visited the two beautiful Buddhist heritage sites of Ratnagiri and Udayagiri hills, in Jaajpur district of Odisha, many things came in my mind.

Udayagiri hills are absolutely fascinating and the architecture there looks like that of a university. The sad part is that amidst the beautiful heritage site, we have a 'Mahakal temple', which looks planted and deliberate. I do not know how the Archaeological Survey of India allows these things. The first thing should be to investigate who planted this and whether this is really a Mahakal or Buddhist statue?

The Udayagiri site is surrounded by beautiful lush green hills and must be developed fully. Nearly 30 kilometers from Udayagiri hills is Ratnagiri, across the river Birupa. The Ratnagiri site showed some stunning artefacts of the Buddhist era, as well as diverse nature of worshipping patterns among the Buddhists. Once you go to see the marvellous structure, which dates from 2nd BC to 6th to 9th century BC, then you realise how India would have been a country of great minds, both in terms of spiritualism as well as architecture. Buddhist era in India was dedicated to education and learning but we must now explore who destroyed these places learning.

I was pained to see many of these artefacts, which were targeted. The excavated artefacts and idols reveal that they must have been attacked by those who were not keen on Buddhism.

 

buddha

Had this happened in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the 'historians' would have blamed Islam and the Mughals for the assault but what about Odisha? Who were responsible for killing Buddhism and Buddhist places of learning in India? It is important to know because these are the same people who blame Muslims for every attack on India, including breaking the idols of the Hindu Gods and goddesses.

I was wondering where had the Buddhist population disappeared? Isn't it the duty of the anthropologists to look for them? Most of them have been too charitable and polite to Hinduism and no questions are asked about the Hindu Rajas and their brutality towards Buddhism. A friend informed me that many people call Lord Jagannath, an avatar of Buddha or Buddha, an avtar of Jagannath. If Jagannath and Buddha are the same, then I have my doubts about Jagannath temple which, many people suggest, was a Buddhist temple and was conquered by the brahmanical forces and converted into a highly orthodox Hindu temple.

buddha

 

It is good that Odisha government is developing these Buddhist sites, which are extraordinary, but historians owe a duty towards all to give us an unbiased picture as  to who were responsible for the destruction of the Buddhist places and Buddhists in India. The historians have their own biases as they never bothered to speak about the Buddhist past of Ayodhya. Also, the brahmanical forces would have been still controlling Bodh Gaya as a Shiva temple still exists inside the holiest shrine of Buddhists the world over. Historical wrongs cannot be corrected but it is important to give people the real picture. Historians in India discussed Buddhism in terms of an event and did not present a detailed picture of how great places of education and learning during the Buddhist period were destroyed by the Brahmanical rulers. Perhaps, if this country has such a huge number of illiterate and poor people, it is because the democratisation process during the Buddhist period became the biggest challenge to brahmanism and its exclusive privileges for particular communities. But these communities were not ready to share their privileges with others and unleashed their caste superstructure with the 'divine sanction' on the masses. India was never the same again, and the consequences of the brahmanical assault on Buddhism are being felt now, when the society is highly polarised and the racist caste system is being justified and encouraged, all in the name of tradition. It is time to embrace the India of the Buddhist period and bring equality and enlightenment in the lives of all Indians so that we do not suffocate in dirty rituals and horrible traditions and survive to a better civilisation which can make all of us proud.

buddha


RELATED ARTICLES:
CJP urges NBSA to inquire into Aaj Tak's communal programming
There stood a Mosque, and it was Demolished
1,500 Dalits embrace Buddhism for ‘equality’: Gujarat
What the Babri Judgment portends for the Future
Opinion: Victimization of Brahmins is a myth

Religious Desecration: Who's responsible for destruction of early Indian, Buddhist places of learning in Odisha?

Buudhist temples

Modern day Odisha is known to be the 'epicenter' of brahmanism as the socio-cultural-economic dominance of the brahmanical castes in Odisha is complete. One wonders what happened to it and why Odisha, once the hub of Buddhist activities and culture, completely lost it. I am sure a fair analysis of history needs to be done in the greater interest of our secular values and retaining our original heritage.

The heart of brahmanical Odisha is Puri and its famous Jagannath temple, where the temple openly propagates division among communities. Non-Hindus are not allowed, which is fine as it is their fundamental right to deny people who do not have the faith, yet there are thousands who proclaim themselves as Hindus but are not allowed inside the temple. Dalits, too, are not allowed entry inside the temple and, it is said, President Kovind, too, was unwelcome in the temple complex when he visited there.

buddha

The temple has enormous wealth. It has large tracts of land and devotees throng from all over the world. One local shopkeeper told me that it is the 'most powerful god'. I told him that every god is ‘powerful’ because of the power and politics of the ‘dominant’ behind them. Can we say that the god at the Tirupathi temple is lesser important. Can we say that Kashi Vishwanath is not important or the huge Laxmi Narayan Temple in Thiruvananthpuram does not matter? Every temple matters in this country because a common person expects 'miracles' here but the powerful get money and power from them. They have become shelter places for all kind of politicians, who influence politics and are not keen on people's welfare.

Since the politicians and power chums are never ever interested in people's welfare, so traditionally you are 'good' if you donate to a temple or build a temple. But we know that all these religious places are not merely religious in nature, they provide economic as well as political clout for the powerful. So Odisha's power flows from Lord Jagannath.

buddha

 

Now, Odisha government has put up big banners and advertisements about its Buddhist heritage. It is there at the Airport but there are not many visitors there. I had earlier visited Dhaulagiri, where Ashoka defeated his rival army in the battle of Kalinga in the year 261BC. It is assumed that over one lakh people were killed in this war, which forced Ashoka to ponder over and reject violence as he embraced Buddhism and massively propagated it the world over. As I visited the two beautiful Buddhist heritage sites of Ratnagiri and Udayagiri hills, in Jaajpur district of Odisha, many things came in my mind.

Udayagiri hills are absolutely fascinating and the architecture there looks like that of a university. The sad part is that amidst the beautiful heritage site, we have a 'Mahakal temple', which looks planted and deliberate. I do not know how the Archaeological Survey of India allows these things. The first thing should be to investigate who planted this and whether this is really a Mahakal or Buddhist statue?

The Udayagiri site is surrounded by beautiful lush green hills and must be developed fully. Nearly 30 kilometers from Udayagiri hills is Ratnagiri, across the river Birupa. The Ratnagiri site showed some stunning artefacts of the Buddhist era, as well as diverse nature of worshipping patterns among the Buddhists. Once you go to see the marvellous structure, which dates from 2nd BC to 6th to 9th century BC, then you realise how India would have been a country of great minds, both in terms of spiritualism as well as architecture. Buddhist era in India was dedicated to education and learning but we must now explore who destroyed these places learning.

I was pained to see many of these artefacts, which were targeted. The excavated artefacts and idols reveal that they must have been attacked by those who were not keen on Buddhism.

 

buddha

Had this happened in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the 'historians' would have blamed Islam and the Mughals for the assault but what about Odisha? Who were responsible for killing Buddhism and Buddhist places of learning in India? It is important to know because these are the same people who blame Muslims for every attack on India, including breaking the idols of the Hindu Gods and goddesses.

I was wondering where had the Buddhist population disappeared? Isn't it the duty of the anthropologists to look for them? Most of them have been too charitable and polite to Hinduism and no questions are asked about the Hindu Rajas and their brutality towards Buddhism. A friend informed me that many people call Lord Jagannath, an avatar of Buddha or Buddha, an avtar of Jagannath. If Jagannath and Buddha are the same, then I have my doubts about Jagannath temple which, many people suggest, was a Buddhist temple and was conquered by the brahmanical forces and converted into a highly orthodox Hindu temple.

buddha

 

It is good that Odisha government is developing these Buddhist sites, which are extraordinary, but historians owe a duty towards all to give us an unbiased picture as  to who were responsible for the destruction of the Buddhist places and Buddhists in India. The historians have their own biases as they never bothered to speak about the Buddhist past of Ayodhya. Also, the brahmanical forces would have been still controlling Bodh Gaya as a Shiva temple still exists inside the holiest shrine of Buddhists the world over. Historical wrongs cannot be corrected but it is important to give people the real picture. Historians in India discussed Buddhism in terms of an event and did not present a detailed picture of how great places of education and learning during the Buddhist period were destroyed by the Brahmanical rulers. Perhaps, if this country has such a huge number of illiterate and poor people, it is because the democratisation process during the Buddhist period became the biggest challenge to brahmanism and its exclusive privileges for particular communities. But these communities were not ready to share their privileges with others and unleashed their caste superstructure with the 'divine sanction' on the masses. India was never the same again, and the consequences of the brahmanical assault on Buddhism are being felt now, when the society is highly polarised and the racist caste system is being justified and encouraged, all in the name of tradition. It is time to embrace the India of the Buddhist period and bring equality and enlightenment in the lives of all Indians so that we do not suffocate in dirty rituals and horrible traditions and survive to a better civilisation which can make all of us proud.

buddha


RELATED ARTICLES:
CJP urges NBSA to inquire into Aaj Tak's communal programming
There stood a Mosque, and it was Demolished
1,500 Dalits embrace Buddhism for ‘equality’: Gujarat
What the Babri Judgment portends for the Future
Opinion: Victimization of Brahmins is a myth

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Sikh Kirtan by women- the history, the way forward

The Punjab Govt. has recently allowed women to offer Kirtan inside the Golden temple. Despite no religious precedent which decreed excluding them in the first place, where do women stand in Sikhism? How do cultural norms, gender inequality, caste privilege, and religion intersect?

29 Nov 2019

Kirtan

My grandparents used to volunteer at a Sikh school when I was young. They would tell me about the girls in that school who wore turbans like their male counterparts and sang the Kirtan for the prayer congregations every day. It was not uncommon to see women lead Sikh prayers in Gurudwaras and we were encouraged to participate in Langarsewa, which involved not just cooking but also serving the food to the people, and then cleaning of utensils and the Langar hall. The question of gender never even came up in the context of practicing Sikh religion.

I was then, a little surprised to learn that women had not been allowed to offer Kirtan or carry the Palanquin containing the Holy book Shri Guru Granth SahabJi, at the Golden Temple, Amritsar. Now that the Punjab Govt. has intervened to urge the Akal Takht and Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to do away with this discrimination, it comes at the tail end of petitions and requests by women over decades.

Sikhs are obligated to treat women as equals, and gender discrimination in Sikh society has no religious basis. However, gender equality has been difficult to achieve in practice due to the oppressive influence of social, cultural, and caste-related norms that prevailed for centuries even before the Sikh religion came into existence. Even now, women make up less than 20% of the SGPC members. In the 1990s a group of Sikh women requested to wash the floors of Golden Temple and were denied.

This goes against the basic tenets of Sikhism. The first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469 AD -1539 AD) was a staunch advocate for an egalitarian society in all forms. At that time, the woman was considered polluted/impure during menstruation and after she gave birth. In this context, Guru Nanak Dev Ji writes, "From the woman is our birth, in the woman's womb are we shaped; To the woman we are engaged, to the woman we are wedded; The woman is our friend and from woman is the family; Through the woman are the bonds of the world; Why call woman bad/impure who gives birth to kings? From the woman is the woman, without woman there is none".

He further writes, "If pollution attaches to birth, then pollution is everywhere (for birth is universal). Cow-dung (used for purifying the kitchen floor by Hindus) and firewood can give birth to maggots; Not one grain of corn is without life; Water itself is a living substance, imparting life to all vegetation. How can we then believe in pollution, when pollution inheres within staples? Says Nanak, pollution is not washed away by purificatory rituals; Pollution is removed by true knowledge alone".

Guru Nanak Dev Ji also introduced the concept of Sangat (holy congregation) - where both men and women could sit together and equally participate in reciting prayers irrespective of caste or social stature, to eat a common meal in the institution of Langar (common kitchen).

The Gurus spoke out against the practice of veil/purdah for women, Sati, dowry, and female infanticide. They advocated for girl child education and widow remarriage. Sikh women were also cast into the role of saints and soldiers just like Sikh men. They could organize men and lead them in the battles.The tenth and last Sikh Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- bestowed a common last name SINGH (Lion) to men, and a common last name KAUR (Princess) to women. Though this was a great effort to eliminate caste disparities, Sikhism even today has not shed off the weight of years of caste surnames and the oppression they carry.

While a lot of work remains to be done to achieve the truly egalitarian society that the Gurus envisaged, many people are hard at work to bridge the gap. It is this effort that has made it possible for heart-warming stories like that of Tasleema Langoo.

The 16-year-old Muslim girl in Kashmir sings beautiful Kirtan to immense love by the Sikh congregations. Blessings and applause greet her whenever she offers Kirtan, she has become a mini-celebrity amongst the small Sikh community in Kashmir. Tasleema is an accomplished teacher and singer of Kirtan in the Valley, and the only Muslim to do so. Members of the Sikh community are full of praise for the young woman, saying she “takes us nearer to our own religion”. She has been able to offer Kirtan in various Gurudwaras in an environment of complete harmony, facing no opposition whatsoever from members of her family or community.

Tasleema belongs to a family of musicians. Her great grandfather used to sing for Maharaja Pratap Singh, while her grandfather, Ghulam Qadir Langoo, was a court singer for Maharaja Hari Singh, the last monarch of Kashmir. Her father, Abdul Majeed Langoo, teaches music at a women's college. About her love for Kirtan, she says, “Our family is closely associated with music and I get to hear all types of music but, curiously, Shabad Kirtan would always excite me the most. I started helping the students with their instruments and they, in turn, wrote shabads in the Urdu script for me.” As she could not read the Guru Granth Sahab in Punjabi, her father bought her a copy of the Sikh holy text in Urdu from Amritsar.

Her story is a shining example of what can be achieved if we focus our worldview to a language of equality. When we believe God created us all equal, we facilitate avenues for people to come together despite differences, without the weight of the history of our ancestors. Hundreds of years ago, Sikhs fought Mughal forces, but once the burden of differences is shed off, Sikhs and Muslims come together as friends. The similar burden of gender and caste oppression is slowly being chipped away too, now we only need to look forward to greater things to truly live our lives inspired by Shri Guru Granth Sahabji.
 

Related articles:

  1. Movies that make you think: A Regular Woman &AiseHee
  2. Malerkotla: A History of Compassion
  3. Ludhiana is where the heart still beats, simple tales of humanity and brotherhood
  4. Remembering Kashmiriyat, One Month, Eight Days after a Clampdown
  5. Bengal’s Syncretism: Hindus & Muslims share worship of SatyaPir

Sikh Kirtan by women- the history, the way forward

The Punjab Govt. has recently allowed women to offer Kirtan inside the Golden temple. Despite no religious precedent which decreed excluding them in the first place, where do women stand in Sikhism? How do cultural norms, gender inequality, caste privilege, and religion intersect?

Kirtan

My grandparents used to volunteer at a Sikh school when I was young. They would tell me about the girls in that school who wore turbans like their male counterparts and sang the Kirtan for the prayer congregations every day. It was not uncommon to see women lead Sikh prayers in Gurudwaras and we were encouraged to participate in Langarsewa, which involved not just cooking but also serving the food to the people, and then cleaning of utensils and the Langar hall. The question of gender never even came up in the context of practicing Sikh religion.

I was then, a little surprised to learn that women had not been allowed to offer Kirtan or carry the Palanquin containing the Holy book Shri Guru Granth SahabJi, at the Golden Temple, Amritsar. Now that the Punjab Govt. has intervened to urge the Akal Takht and Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to do away with this discrimination, it comes at the tail end of petitions and requests by women over decades.

Sikhs are obligated to treat women as equals, and gender discrimination in Sikh society has no religious basis. However, gender equality has been difficult to achieve in practice due to the oppressive influence of social, cultural, and caste-related norms that prevailed for centuries even before the Sikh religion came into existence. Even now, women make up less than 20% of the SGPC members. In the 1990s a group of Sikh women requested to wash the floors of Golden Temple and were denied.

This goes against the basic tenets of Sikhism. The first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469 AD -1539 AD) was a staunch advocate for an egalitarian society in all forms. At that time, the woman was considered polluted/impure during menstruation and after she gave birth. In this context, Guru Nanak Dev Ji writes, "From the woman is our birth, in the woman's womb are we shaped; To the woman we are engaged, to the woman we are wedded; The woman is our friend and from woman is the family; Through the woman are the bonds of the world; Why call woman bad/impure who gives birth to kings? From the woman is the woman, without woman there is none".

He further writes, "If pollution attaches to birth, then pollution is everywhere (for birth is universal). Cow-dung (used for purifying the kitchen floor by Hindus) and firewood can give birth to maggots; Not one grain of corn is without life; Water itself is a living substance, imparting life to all vegetation. How can we then believe in pollution, when pollution inheres within staples? Says Nanak, pollution is not washed away by purificatory rituals; Pollution is removed by true knowledge alone".

Guru Nanak Dev Ji also introduced the concept of Sangat (holy congregation) - where both men and women could sit together and equally participate in reciting prayers irrespective of caste or social stature, to eat a common meal in the institution of Langar (common kitchen).

The Gurus spoke out against the practice of veil/purdah for women, Sati, dowry, and female infanticide. They advocated for girl child education and widow remarriage. Sikh women were also cast into the role of saints and soldiers just like Sikh men. They could organize men and lead them in the battles.The tenth and last Sikh Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- bestowed a common last name SINGH (Lion) to men, and a common last name KAUR (Princess) to women. Though this was a great effort to eliminate caste disparities, Sikhism even today has not shed off the weight of years of caste surnames and the oppression they carry.

While a lot of work remains to be done to achieve the truly egalitarian society that the Gurus envisaged, many people are hard at work to bridge the gap. It is this effort that has made it possible for heart-warming stories like that of Tasleema Langoo.

The 16-year-old Muslim girl in Kashmir sings beautiful Kirtan to immense love by the Sikh congregations. Blessings and applause greet her whenever she offers Kirtan, she has become a mini-celebrity amongst the small Sikh community in Kashmir. Tasleema is an accomplished teacher and singer of Kirtan in the Valley, and the only Muslim to do so. Members of the Sikh community are full of praise for the young woman, saying she “takes us nearer to our own religion”. She has been able to offer Kirtan in various Gurudwaras in an environment of complete harmony, facing no opposition whatsoever from members of her family or community.

Tasleema belongs to a family of musicians. Her great grandfather used to sing for Maharaja Pratap Singh, while her grandfather, Ghulam Qadir Langoo, was a court singer for Maharaja Hari Singh, the last monarch of Kashmir. Her father, Abdul Majeed Langoo, teaches music at a women's college. About her love for Kirtan, she says, “Our family is closely associated with music and I get to hear all types of music but, curiously, Shabad Kirtan would always excite me the most. I started helping the students with their instruments and they, in turn, wrote shabads in the Urdu script for me.” As she could not read the Guru Granth Sahab in Punjabi, her father bought her a copy of the Sikh holy text in Urdu from Amritsar.

Her story is a shining example of what can be achieved if we focus our worldview to a language of equality. When we believe God created us all equal, we facilitate avenues for people to come together despite differences, without the weight of the history of our ancestors. Hundreds of years ago, Sikhs fought Mughal forces, but once the burden of differences is shed off, Sikhs and Muslims come together as friends. The similar burden of gender and caste oppression is slowly being chipped away too, now we only need to look forward to greater things to truly live our lives inspired by Shri Guru Granth Sahabji.
 

Related articles:

  1. Movies that make you think: A Regular Woman &AiseHee
  2. Malerkotla: A History of Compassion
  3. Ludhiana is where the heart still beats, simple tales of humanity and brotherhood
  4. Remembering Kashmiriyat, One Month, Eight Days after a Clampdown
  5. Bengal’s Syncretism: Hindus & Muslims share worship of SatyaPir

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Indian Army recruits ‘religious teachers’ to help soldiers battle stress

The Institute of National Integration has trained over 7,000 religious teachers since 1985

27 Nov 2019

Religious Teacher
Image Courtesy: punekarnews.in


A batch of 30 recruit religious teachers (RRTs) were commissioned as Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) on Saturday after a passing out parade was held at the Institute of National Integration (INI), reported The Indian Express.

Brigadier Samir Salunke, Commandant of the Institute, reviewed the parade and congratulated the commissioned JCOs for the successful completion of the pre-commissioning training that incorporates subjects related to national integration, behaviour and social sciences, spiritualism, yoga, psychological counseling and stress management.

The RRTs passing out from INI were considered ready to perform their duties of ‘dharma guru’ and shoulder additional responsibilities of psychological counselors and mental health mentors in stress-related environmental dynamics across the varied, harsh terrain along the northern and eastern borders. The RRTs who are inducted as JCOs with designations like pandits, maulvis, priests, monks or granthis, play a very important role in building up morale and motivation among troops and their families, Salunke said.

A report by Amit Ahuja, Faculty UC Santa Barbara says that armies in secular states provide for the spiritual needs of their soldiers. The Indian Army, however, goes to great lengths to accommodate religion and uses it instrumentally to motivate its ranks. The army maintains places of worship (Sarva Dharma Sthal) on its bases and provides a religious teacher – a pandit, granthi, maulvi, priest, or monk – for every 1,000 soldiers (a battalion). This teacher remains with the unit during regular operations and accompanies it to forward areas of battle. Army grooming and uniform regulations allow Sikhs to wear turbans, Muslims and Sikhs to keep beards, and Hindus to wear sacred threads.

In keeping with its secular approach, the army insists on interfaith respect. Criticism of faiths or religious practices is viewed as detrimental to troop discipline and is punished. More important, the large numbers of religious teachers recruited into the army are required to undergo a year-long training program together at the Institute for National Integration, irrespective of their faith. The program is directed at making the religious teachers aware of the need for religious harmony and fostering a spirit of cooperation. These religious teachers are required to abide by army rules at all times and to adhere to the same command structure as other soldiers.

Sabrang India spoke to an Army Colonel who said that the model of recruiting religious teachers in the Indian Army was unique. He said that since the regiments held troops from different faiths, it was seen to it that each battalion have religious teachers of different faiths too. He confirmed that the role of the RTs went beyond just teaching about spiritualism and religious texts. They played the role of counsellors, talking to troops as friends and making them comfortable rather than have a formal relationship with them.

He also mentioned that they were recruited after a strict qualification check and a written test followed by an interview. The RTs were also given basic army training and if the situation demanded would have to act as a part of the troops of the army.

Institute of National Integration

The Institute of National Integration (INI) was born out of the need felt by the erstwhile Chief of Army Staff, General OP Malhotra in 1980, in a bid to further the values of secularism and national integration that already existed in the service.

 

 

With the support of then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Institute of National Integration came to fruition in 1985. The primary aim of the institute was to train in national integration, subsequently including the responsibility of training religious teachers of the army and Territorial Army (recruits and refresher training), training in Behavioural and Social Sciences for selected personnel and setting of question papers for recruitment & promotional of Religious Teachers, Punekar News reported.

The main areas that the INI concentrates on are:

(a)   Soldierly qualities, secularism: Psychological, security & health counselling.

(b)  Knowledge of other religions and working in a mixed environment.

(c) Psychological aspects and underpinnings of military behaviour and counselling.

Students make visits to various religious, social and other places of importance to gain a better and more balanced world view. These range from the Moral Rearmament Centre at Panchgani, to Aga Khan Palace and Paraplegic Home amongst others. Visits to nearby military establishment including the National Defence Academy, College of Military Engineering Museum and rowing node have also been formalized.

Duties and Educational Qualifications

When the Indian Army put out its post for the recruitment of Religious Teachers (RTs), the duties and educational qualifications for the same were listed as follows.

Duties - The duties of selected candidates in Indian Army Recruitment 2018 include attending funerals, ministering to the sick in hospitals, reading prayers with the convalescents, visiting soldiers undergoing sentence.

It also includes giving special religious instructions to the children and enlisted boys besides attending generally to the religious institutions and welfare of the Officers, Soldiers and their families.

Educational qualifications

Pandit: Hindu candidates with Acharya in Sanskrit or Shastri in Sanskrit with a one-year diploma in 'Karam Kand’

Granthi: Sikh Candidates with Gyani in Punjabi

Maulvi (Sunni and Shia): Muslims candidates with Maulvi Alim in Arabic or Adib Alim in Urdu

Padre: Christian Candidates who have been ordained priesthood by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and is still on the approved list of the local Bishop

Bodh Monk (Mahayaana): Buddhist (Mahayana) candidates have been ordained Monk/Buddhist Priest by the appropriate authority

RTs to tackle suicides

The army has now roped in RTs at the battalion level (800 to 1000 soldiers) in a bid to tackle instances of suicides among lower rank army personnel. Records reveal that as many as 326 soldiers, mainly in the level of other ranks (ORs) and JCOs, committed suicide between 2014 and 2017.

“We have introduced various military psychology-related subjects such as battle and loneliness stress management, depression and alcoholism among others in the training module. Expert doctors and specialised psychologists conduct lectures on these subjects here. Our teachers interact with soldiers undergoing treatment in the psychology ward of the Military Hospital (MH), Kirkee”, Brigadier Salunke, told The Times of India.

“These teachers will not be mere ‘men of rituals’ but also play a dominant role in boosting morale and helping in developing unit cohesion, which is the most important battle-winning factor”, he added.

Former Army Chief General VP Malik (retired) has also welcomed the move, terming it as a ‘progressive step’.

The INI trains approximately 300 personnel every year and has trained over 7,000 religious teachers till now. In a recent addition to the training at the institute, teachers are also being trained in family counselling of the soldiers, who face domestic issues.

Though the decision to include religious teachers in the Army is viewed as one in the right direction by many, one must question whether the RTs who have such an important job of counselling soldiers can only rely on their religious knowledge to help the affected personnel. Shouldn’t the Army make it mandatory for religious teachers to also possess proper educational qualifications in subjects like Psychology to enhance the effect of their teachings?

Religious teachers in armies around the world

The Gurkha brigade in Nepal employed three Hindu religious teachers in a civilian capacity, and unlike Christian or Jewish chaplains, they held no ranks in the Army. Apart from spiritual teachings, they mediated between the British Army and the Gurkhas. The British Army had Hindu religious teachers take courses on counselling and other matters like chaplains.

On July 21, 2009 President Dmitry Medvedev announced the introduction of Orthodox chaplains in the Russian armed forces, a clear victory for the Orthodox Church, which had long sought to establish an official presence in the nation's military.

In the United Kingdom, Commissioned Armed Forces Chaplains, both full-time and Reservist, are currently drawn from the main Christian denominations to which the majority of Service personnel belong. They have a responsibility to provide spiritual and pastoral care for all Service personnel and their families, both for those within their own denomination and faith and for those who profess no religious affiliation. Additionally there are civilian, part-time, Officiating Chaplains to the Military (OCM), who provide support on a local level. The Armed Forces have appointed external religious leaders from the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths, to advise on matters specific to those faith groups.

In the book, Military Chaplains in Afghanistan, Iraq and Beyond, author Eric Patterson writes that an American military chaplain, like those in other Western militaries, is a trained religious professional who is also commissioned as a military officer, with their work being in two key areas, religious-leader engagement and religious advisement.

The role of religious teachers in the army has evolved with the ages. From humble beginnings as just spiritual leaders, they are now face the task of assisting with multiple demands, right from spiritual intelligence to care-giving and counselling.


Alos Read

'Political conspiracy' to isolate Dalits amidst failure of campaign to annihilate caste
Four Muslim youths booked for their opinion on Ayodhya Verdict; one had asked for judicial review
In MP, Police Imprison Victims Of Cow-Related Attack, Attackers Free

Indian Army recruits ‘religious teachers’ to help soldiers battle stress

The Institute of National Integration has trained over 7,000 religious teachers since 1985

Religious Teacher
Image Courtesy: punekarnews.in


A batch of 30 recruit religious teachers (RRTs) were commissioned as Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) on Saturday after a passing out parade was held at the Institute of National Integration (INI), reported The Indian Express.

Brigadier Samir Salunke, Commandant of the Institute, reviewed the parade and congratulated the commissioned JCOs for the successful completion of the pre-commissioning training that incorporates subjects related to national integration, behaviour and social sciences, spiritualism, yoga, psychological counseling and stress management.

The RRTs passing out from INI were considered ready to perform their duties of ‘dharma guru’ and shoulder additional responsibilities of psychological counselors and mental health mentors in stress-related environmental dynamics across the varied, harsh terrain along the northern and eastern borders. The RRTs who are inducted as JCOs with designations like pandits, maulvis, priests, monks or granthis, play a very important role in building up morale and motivation among troops and their families, Salunke said.

A report by Amit Ahuja, Faculty UC Santa Barbara says that armies in secular states provide for the spiritual needs of their soldiers. The Indian Army, however, goes to great lengths to accommodate religion and uses it instrumentally to motivate its ranks. The army maintains places of worship (Sarva Dharma Sthal) on its bases and provides a religious teacher – a pandit, granthi, maulvi, priest, or monk – for every 1,000 soldiers (a battalion). This teacher remains with the unit during regular operations and accompanies it to forward areas of battle. Army grooming and uniform regulations allow Sikhs to wear turbans, Muslims and Sikhs to keep beards, and Hindus to wear sacred threads.

In keeping with its secular approach, the army insists on interfaith respect. Criticism of faiths or religious practices is viewed as detrimental to troop discipline and is punished. More important, the large numbers of religious teachers recruited into the army are required to undergo a year-long training program together at the Institute for National Integration, irrespective of their faith. The program is directed at making the religious teachers aware of the need for religious harmony and fostering a spirit of cooperation. These religious teachers are required to abide by army rules at all times and to adhere to the same command structure as other soldiers.

Sabrang India spoke to an Army Colonel who said that the model of recruiting religious teachers in the Indian Army was unique. He said that since the regiments held troops from different faiths, it was seen to it that each battalion have religious teachers of different faiths too. He confirmed that the role of the RTs went beyond just teaching about spiritualism and religious texts. They played the role of counsellors, talking to troops as friends and making them comfortable rather than have a formal relationship with them.

He also mentioned that they were recruited after a strict qualification check and a written test followed by an interview. The RTs were also given basic army training and if the situation demanded would have to act as a part of the troops of the army.

Institute of National Integration

The Institute of National Integration (INI) was born out of the need felt by the erstwhile Chief of Army Staff, General OP Malhotra in 1980, in a bid to further the values of secularism and national integration that already existed in the service.

 

 

With the support of then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Institute of National Integration came to fruition in 1985. The primary aim of the institute was to train in national integration, subsequently including the responsibility of training religious teachers of the army and Territorial Army (recruits and refresher training), training in Behavioural and Social Sciences for selected personnel and setting of question papers for recruitment & promotional of Religious Teachers, Punekar News reported.

The main areas that the INI concentrates on are:

(a)   Soldierly qualities, secularism: Psychological, security & health counselling.

(b)  Knowledge of other religions and working in a mixed environment.

(c) Psychological aspects and underpinnings of military behaviour and counselling.

Students make visits to various religious, social and other places of importance to gain a better and more balanced world view. These range from the Moral Rearmament Centre at Panchgani, to Aga Khan Palace and Paraplegic Home amongst others. Visits to nearby military establishment including the National Defence Academy, College of Military Engineering Museum and rowing node have also been formalized.

Duties and Educational Qualifications

When the Indian Army put out its post for the recruitment of Religious Teachers (RTs), the duties and educational qualifications for the same were listed as follows.

Duties - The duties of selected candidates in Indian Army Recruitment 2018 include attending funerals, ministering to the sick in hospitals, reading prayers with the convalescents, visiting soldiers undergoing sentence.

It also includes giving special religious instructions to the children and enlisted boys besides attending generally to the religious institutions and welfare of the Officers, Soldiers and their families.

Educational qualifications

Pandit: Hindu candidates with Acharya in Sanskrit or Shastri in Sanskrit with a one-year diploma in 'Karam Kand’

Granthi: Sikh Candidates with Gyani in Punjabi

Maulvi (Sunni and Shia): Muslims candidates with Maulvi Alim in Arabic or Adib Alim in Urdu

Padre: Christian Candidates who have been ordained priesthood by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and is still on the approved list of the local Bishop

Bodh Monk (Mahayaana): Buddhist (Mahayana) candidates have been ordained Monk/Buddhist Priest by the appropriate authority

RTs to tackle suicides

The army has now roped in RTs at the battalion level (800 to 1000 soldiers) in a bid to tackle instances of suicides among lower rank army personnel. Records reveal that as many as 326 soldiers, mainly in the level of other ranks (ORs) and JCOs, committed suicide between 2014 and 2017.

“We have introduced various military psychology-related subjects such as battle and loneliness stress management, depression and alcoholism among others in the training module. Expert doctors and specialised psychologists conduct lectures on these subjects here. Our teachers interact with soldiers undergoing treatment in the psychology ward of the Military Hospital (MH), Kirkee”, Brigadier Salunke, told The Times of India.

“These teachers will not be mere ‘men of rituals’ but also play a dominant role in boosting morale and helping in developing unit cohesion, which is the most important battle-winning factor”, he added.

Former Army Chief General VP Malik (retired) has also welcomed the move, terming it as a ‘progressive step’.

The INI trains approximately 300 personnel every year and has trained over 7,000 religious teachers till now. In a recent addition to the training at the institute, teachers are also being trained in family counselling of the soldiers, who face domestic issues.

Though the decision to include religious teachers in the Army is viewed as one in the right direction by many, one must question whether the RTs who have such an important job of counselling soldiers can only rely on their religious knowledge to help the affected personnel. Shouldn’t the Army make it mandatory for religious teachers to also possess proper educational qualifications in subjects like Psychology to enhance the effect of their teachings?

Religious teachers in armies around the world

The Gurkha brigade in Nepal employed three Hindu religious teachers in a civilian capacity, and unlike Christian or Jewish chaplains, they held no ranks in the Army. Apart from spiritual teachings, they mediated between the British Army and the Gurkhas. The British Army had Hindu religious teachers take courses on counselling and other matters like chaplains.

On July 21, 2009 President Dmitry Medvedev announced the introduction of Orthodox chaplains in the Russian armed forces, a clear victory for the Orthodox Church, which had long sought to establish an official presence in the nation's military.

In the United Kingdom, Commissioned Armed Forces Chaplains, both full-time and Reservist, are currently drawn from the main Christian denominations to which the majority of Service personnel belong. They have a responsibility to provide spiritual and pastoral care for all Service personnel and their families, both for those within their own denomination and faith and for those who profess no religious affiliation. Additionally there are civilian, part-time, Officiating Chaplains to the Military (OCM), who provide support on a local level. The Armed Forces have appointed external religious leaders from the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths, to advise on matters specific to those faith groups.

In the book, Military Chaplains in Afghanistan, Iraq and Beyond, author Eric Patterson writes that an American military chaplain, like those in other Western militaries, is a trained religious professional who is also commissioned as a military officer, with their work being in two key areas, religious-leader engagement and religious advisement.

The role of religious teachers in the army has evolved with the ages. From humble beginnings as just spiritual leaders, they are now face the task of assisting with multiple demands, right from spiritual intelligence to care-giving and counselling.


Alos Read

'Political conspiracy' to isolate Dalits amidst failure of campaign to annihilate caste
Four Muslim youths booked for their opinion on Ayodhya Verdict; one had asked for judicial review
In MP, Police Imprison Victims Of Cow-Related Attack, Attackers Free

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No radicalism: BHU VC backs Feroz Khan’s appointment as Sanskrit professor

Students and members of ABVP have protested against his appointment in the Sanskrit department

18 Nov 2019

BHU

The Benaras Hindu University may be the first university in India to shatter stereotypes and go against the popular Hindutva narrative. The Uttar Pradesh University has backed its decision of appointing a Muslim professor to its Sanskrit faculty after some students protested against the decision, Scroll.in reported. The administration of the college said that the university is committed to providing equal opportunities to everyone, irrespective of their religion, caste, community or gender.

Students of the BHU have been staging sit-in demonstrations over the last week against the appointment of a 29-year-old Muslim professor Feroz Khan as an assistant professor in the literature department of the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan.

Students from the university had said that the appointment of Khan was a conspiracy and it would hurt the sentiments of Madan Mohan Malviya, who had helped establish the university. They also said that a stone inscription installed in BHU clearly stated that no non-Hindu could either study or teach in the Sanksrit department.

PhD student Shubham Tiwari, who is also taking part in the protests, told The Print: “In this department, there are no teachers, all are our gurus. Everyone keeps a choti (tuft of hair on the head), we touch their feet and participate in havan (a ritual). If a Muslim professor is accorded a place in the department, then it will be open discrimination against the students. A Muslim can’t teach us our dharma.”

Not just the students, even the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayam sevak Sangh (RSS), has also opposed the appointment.

However, quashing all claims of the mentioned stone inscription, the BHU administration released a statement saying that the goal of the university was to contribute to nation-building by providing equal opportunities toward studying and teaching for all, without any discrimination.

Head of Department Umakant Chaturvedi and VC Rakesh Bhatnagar have informed the students that Khan’s appointment will not be rescinded as it has been made as per the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines. They have said that they would however seek legal or constitutional opinion to clear any doubts with respect to the BHU Act.

 

Bhupro

Those taking an extremist approach regarding Khan’s appointment, must first see this message by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya on the website of BHU.

Feroz Khan who is being outright targeted for his religion from fascist Hindutva followers, has been studying Sanskrit since Class 2 and has completed all of his education – BA, B.Ed, MA and PhD from Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan in Jaipur. He has done his PhD in Sanskrit literature and has been awarded the Sanskrit Yuva Pratibha Puraskar by the Rajasthan government.

As a child, Feroz remembers that his father Ramjan Khan would sing bhajans in Sanskrit just grandfather Gafur Khan would, to swaying Hindu crowds in Jaipur’s Bagru village. “We had no problems then”, said Khan.

Feroz is also a regular in the Varta vali programme telecast on Doordarshan every Saturday evening, where he sings Hindi film songs translated into Sanskrit.

The protest from the ABVP and other students is a shame and just portrays the anti-minority mindset of the Hindu radicalists and is a clear violation of the Constitution of India.

Related:

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Students protest suspension of principal, Pilibhitschool: Recital of Iqbal poem

 

No radicalism: BHU VC backs Feroz Khan’s appointment as Sanskrit professor

Students and members of ABVP have protested against his appointment in the Sanskrit department

BHU

The Benaras Hindu University may be the first university in India to shatter stereotypes and go against the popular Hindutva narrative. The Uttar Pradesh University has backed its decision of appointing a Muslim professor to its Sanskrit faculty after some students protested against the decision, Scroll.in reported. The administration of the college said that the university is committed to providing equal opportunities to everyone, irrespective of their religion, caste, community or gender.

Students of the BHU have been staging sit-in demonstrations over the last week against the appointment of a 29-year-old Muslim professor Feroz Khan as an assistant professor in the literature department of the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan.

Students from the university had said that the appointment of Khan was a conspiracy and it would hurt the sentiments of Madan Mohan Malviya, who had helped establish the university. They also said that a stone inscription installed in BHU clearly stated that no non-Hindu could either study or teach in the Sanksrit department.

PhD student Shubham Tiwari, who is also taking part in the protests, told The Print: “In this department, there are no teachers, all are our gurus. Everyone keeps a choti (tuft of hair on the head), we touch their feet and participate in havan (a ritual). If a Muslim professor is accorded a place in the department, then it will be open discrimination against the students. A Muslim can’t teach us our dharma.”

Not just the students, even the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayam sevak Sangh (RSS), has also opposed the appointment.

However, quashing all claims of the mentioned stone inscription, the BHU administration released a statement saying that the goal of the university was to contribute to nation-building by providing equal opportunities toward studying and teaching for all, without any discrimination.

Head of Department Umakant Chaturvedi and VC Rakesh Bhatnagar have informed the students that Khan’s appointment will not be rescinded as it has been made as per the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines. They have said that they would however seek legal or constitutional opinion to clear any doubts with respect to the BHU Act.

 

Bhupro

Those taking an extremist approach regarding Khan’s appointment, must first see this message by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya on the website of BHU.

Feroz Khan who is being outright targeted for his religion from fascist Hindutva followers, has been studying Sanskrit since Class 2 and has completed all of his education – BA, B.Ed, MA and PhD from Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan in Jaipur. He has done his PhD in Sanskrit literature and has been awarded the Sanskrit Yuva Pratibha Puraskar by the Rajasthan government.

As a child, Feroz remembers that his father Ramjan Khan would sing bhajans in Sanskrit just grandfather Gafur Khan would, to swaying Hindu crowds in Jaipur’s Bagru village. “We had no problems then”, said Khan.

Feroz is also a regular in the Varta vali programme telecast on Doordarshan every Saturday evening, where he sings Hindi film songs translated into Sanskrit.

The protest from the ABVP and other students is a shame and just portrays the anti-minority mindset of the Hindu radicalists and is a clear violation of the Constitution of India.

Related:

TN will reject Hindutva project to eliminate Dravidian identity
Exclusionary Policies Push Migrants To Cities’ Peripheries
Students protest suspension of principal, Pilibhitschool: Recital of Iqbal poem

 

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Sabarimala: Male devotee nurturing unholy thoughts is 'unfit' to visit Lord Ayyappa shrine

18 Nov 2019

Sabarimala

The Supreme Court last week, by 3:2 majority, decided to keep the review petitions in Sabarimala matter pending until a larger bench determines questions related to essential religious practices. The majority of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra expressed that the issue whether Court can interfere in essential practises of religion needed examination by larger bench. Justices Chandrachud and Nariman dissented.

There is no stay of the September 28, 2018 judgment which allowed entry of women of all age groups to the Sabarimala temple, but the Apex Court said, the same issue arises in respect of cases concerning entry of Muslim women in a Durgah/Mosque as also in relation to Parsi women married to a non-Parsi into the holy fire place of an Agyari. There is also a case pending regarding the legality of practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Dawoodi Bohra community.

A reversal of the Apex Court decision permitting women in Sabarimala Temple would amount to effacement of advancements made in socio-cultural evolution achieved through sacrifices of great reformists in Kerala since early years of the 20th Century.


The last year’s agitation following the September 2018 judgment was, in fact, ill-motivated and well contrived. It was spearheaded by retrogressive forces of patriarchy and de-spiritualized Hindu priestocracy dismayed progressive Keralites everywhere.The image of Kerala society that assimilated and concretized a collective mindset of modernism received an irreparable setback due to the extreme unruly behaviour of those resorting to violence, intimidation and obstruction of young women devotees, who proceeded to Sabarimala Temple following the Apex Court verdict last year.

Champions of Brahminical casteism – varna vyavastha, being disillusioned by LDF government’s decision to appoint eligible Hindus of all castes in priestly assignments in government administered temples – endeavoured to divinize all obscurant traditions and practices, contrary to the letter, spirit and ethos of the Constitution of India, enshrined in the Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties.

RB Sreekumar
This move was prejudicial to the metaphysics of Sanathana Dharma of Vedic Hinduism revealed in the Vedas, Brahmasutra, Upanishad and Bhagavad Gita. Effective counteraction, at grass-root level, by enlightening and alerting Ayyappa devotees, misled by status-quoist casteist reactionaries, impervious to the ideals of modern Indian renaissance of the 18th Century and its Kerala phase, pioneered by Ayyaswami, Ayyankali, Chattambi Swami, Sri Narayana Guru, Vaghbadhananda, so on, is necessary.

The Sangh Parivar and its base body – Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – relentlessly and steadily indoctrinating through disinformation, gullible Hindus reluctant to comprehend cardinal axioms of Hinduism, about the alleged neglect of exclusivist Hindu communal interests in the Constitution of India.

Hindu scriptures grant right to liberation and spiritual enlightenment to all living beings by following the methods of pursuit of knowledge (gnana), righteous action (karma) and selfless devotion (bhakti). Instance of a kite bird – Jathayu – getting moksha, narrated in Ramayana is illustrative.
Men of self knowledge are same-sighted on a Brahmana imbued with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste
Bhagavad Gita, the most popular scripture of Hindus, asserts in its Chapter V, Shloka 18 thus, “Men of self knowledge are same-sighted on a Brahmana imbued with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste”.

Most popular treatise on devotion authored by the father of Malayalam Literature, Thunchat Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, categorically declares, in “Harinama Kirtanam”, 20th Shloka, thus:


“Rithuvaya penninnu mirappavannum dahakannum,
Pathithannum Agni yajanam cheyytha bhoo surannum,
Har nama keerthanam ithoru nalu markku mudan,
Aruthathalla, hari narayanaya nama.”
(Salutations to Lord Narayana who is Hari,
The singing of the names of Hari, Is never banned any time,

For the lady who is in her periods, For the one who begs...) 
Rig Veda asserts, “Earth is upheld by truth, while the heaven is upheld by the Sun” (10-85-1) and “May the universe, an abode of truth” (3-30-2-6). Those opposing entry of women in Sabarimala Temple, indulged in blind denial of biological truth about female physiology.


How can the occurrence of menstruation be impure and sinful in comparison to wet dreams and night emissions that may be happening to testosterone-propelled young healthy men, during their stay in Sabarimala and anti-natural celibacy period of 41 days restriction (Vratam)?

If all phenomena of nature are expressions of God’s will, so is the menstrual cycle in women that enables her to become Mother. Holding this as a ground for not allowing young women to have the bliss of Ayyappa darshan (direct vision) is an act of gross injustice, perpetuating male dominance over divinity.

How can a deity, adhering to the concept of eternal celibacy, be tempted by the presence of young women, while Hindu virgin deities (Goddess of Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu and Vaishno Devi in Jammu & Kashmir), have no objection in half naked young men of productive age worshipping in these temples?

Apprehension is about the young women devotees becoming objects of erotic allurement to male worshippers due to their feeble will power and inadequate devotion to Lord Ayyappa. The objection cannot be from Lord Ayyappa, who is in a state of Moksha / Nirvana or self realization viz. beyond the tantalizing seduction of five senses, mind, intellect and ego.

In case any male devotee is nurturing unholy thoughts in Sabarimala, he is ineligible and unfit to visit Lord Ayyappa’s shrine. Categorically, it is not the women devotees, but those unpious men to be restrained from nurturing baser thoughts in the blessed premises of Sabarimala.
 

Are women inferior to men in the eyes of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God Almighty? History does not testify to such a contention


“Tantra Samuchayam” – a monograph and manual of worship (puja) procedure compiled by Chennas Narayanan Nambudiripad (published by Panchagam Pusthakashala, Kunnamkulam) does not stipulate that young women should not attend worship ceremony or have darshan of Lord Dharma Shastha.

Are women inferior to men in the eyes of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God Almighty? History does not testify to such a contention.

Pure and ideal Hinduism, as explained in the Vedas and Upanishads, as opposed to the condemnable lop-sided sub-scriptures of Smritis by Manu, Parasara, Yajnavalka, Shankara and so on and the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, have no incompatibility with post-European Renaissance generated modern values of democracy, liberalism, equality, fraternity, dignity and human rights.

Hinduism allows its followers to choose any God and accepts that there could be multiple paths, all equally divine, leading to God. In fact, the brigands who demolished Babri Masjid in 1992 had indulged in a sacrilegious un-Hindu crime.

The methodology of pursuit of knowledge (Gnana Yoga) paths of self–less action (Karma Yoga) and deep devotion by sacrificing ones ego (Bhakti Yoga) are tools for self-realisation. Many women have proved their merit in all these fields. Avvyar (2nd Century BCE in Tamil Nadu), Akka Mahadevi (12th Century CE, Karnataka), Meerabai (Rajasthan) Mata Amrutananda May (Kerala) etc are illustrative instances.

The perversions of present day Hinduism emanates from the exclusivist, pseudo-fundamentalist radical fringe elements, acting as foot-soldiers of the Sangh Parivar and subverting the quintessential Hindus spiritualism, through unethical and even violent means, for achieving their commercial objectives and power politics.

The human physico-mental personality, in the ascending order, is categorized by Bhagavad Gita, as (i) Body, (ii) Five Senses, (iii) Mind-centre of emotions, (iv) Intellect and (v) the Atma (Soul). Bhagavad Gita, Shloka 42 of chapter-3 says “The senses are said to be superior to the body; the mind is superior to the senses, the intellect is superior to the mind; and what is superior to the intellect is Atma.”

So the body condition of a devotee is not relevant for his/her seeking self-realisation or divine grace through visits to the temple or any of three yogas.


Ironically, no ban has been imposed on the entry of menstruating animals near the shrine of Sabarimala
 
Misplaced sensitivity displayed by sexist, misogynist Hindu orthodox groups, stressing on self-created, ill-founded unscientific menstrual taboos, for preventing women visiting Sabarimala temple is in total violation of the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita.

Ironically, no ban has been imposed on the entry of menstruating animals near the shrine of Sabarimala.

In a Mother Goddess temple in Kerala – Chenganoor/ Alleppy District – as well as in Kamakhya temple (Assam), red spots appear once a year on the robes of the Goddess to this date. So when Mother Goddess, in all her physical disposition is worshipped, by what logic and scriptural or religious authority, can women in a similar condition, be deprived of their inalienable right to worship before the Sabarimala shrine?

Significantly in “Tripura Sundari Ashtakam”, an invocation of Mother Goddess, authored by Adi Shankaracharya, the deity is portrayed as a menstruating woman. The website of Sri Kamakoti Mandali ( www.kamakotimandali.com) interpreted the 6th Shloka of this Ashtakam as follows: 
 
“The Devi is described as being habituated in a blue sari with red spots, as the first menstrual flow, shows itself when a woman is ready to bear, so on the blue welkin (sky or heaven), the Devi’s raiment (clothing), signs appear, heralding creation”. At the entrance of Sabarimala temple, the Upanishadic dictum “Tat Twam Asi” – That Art Thou – one of the four Mahavakyas of Hinduism – is prominently displayed. These words from Chandogya Upanishad (6-8-7) tells the devotee that “what you are seeking is within yourself” in the form of Atma (Soul).

This also would establish the senselessness in giving any importance to the bodily condition of a devotee, though there are no regulations in fixing the standards of physical hygiene, clothings etc. (all within individual control) as a condition for appearing before the deity.

Inexorably, the sole imperative attribute of a true devotee is the purity of the heart, as testified by Rig Veda thus, “If the heart is impure and malicious, then the God’s worship will also be unfruitful. Therefore God’s worship must be carried out with a ‘nishpap’ (sinless) heart. “VIII/61/11) Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount declares “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” (Bible, St. Mathew 5-8)
 
When Mother Goddess, in all her physical disposition is worshipped, by what scriptural or religious authority can women be deprived of their inalienable right?
 
The famous Sanskrit aphorism, “Sa vidya ya vimuktayae” (True knowledge liberates) was adopted by Mahatma Gandhi, as motto of the Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad. Kerala temple managers should opt for liberating women from ‘spiritual slavery’ imposed by male chauvinism for perpetuation of male domination.
History recorded that the advocates of traditions (Acharams) due to their incompatibility with modern ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and dignity of individuals were violently opposed to the abolition of, widow burning in the funeral pyre of their husbands (Sati), widow remarriage, un-touchability, dowry, Devadasi system and all reforms towards proper justice delivery to those outside varna vyavasta. Those agitating against the Apex Court order on Sabarimala, represent those Satanic forces.

Perhaps Bhagavad Gita is the only scripture of a major religion (Hinduism) permitting its followers to critically analyse religious wisdom and act as per one’s own choice. In Chapter 18, Shloka-63, Lord Krishna advises “Thus has wisdom more profound than all profundities been declared to you (Arjuna) by Me (Lord Krishna). Reflect upon it and act as you choose”.

So those who oppose to the entry of women for worship in Sabarimala have no valid authority in the religious perspective also to prevent women from exercising their religious rights guaranteed both by the Constitution of India and Hindu scriptures.

Even a cursory study of 11 major religions of the world confirm that both the God – centric theist religions of Vedic Hinduism, Sikhism, Abrahamite faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Zoroastrianism of Persia and Shintoism of Japan and atheistic persuasions of Jainism, Buddhism, Chinese philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism, emphatically exhort their followers to make the best of human life gifted to them by God/ Nature through empowerment of body, enlightenment of mind, creative rejuvenation of intellect and ennoblement of the spirit / self through various means. 
 
Is the self assumed ritualistic purity of ceremonies more superior to achieving honesty and integrity and purity of conscience? Amazingly, mainstream leadership of institutionalized religions of India are focusing on peripheral issues like blocking entry of women in temples (Hinduism), retaining of polygamy and halala nikah (Islam), subordination of women in eclesiastical church order (Christianity). 
 
Treating sex as a sin is an unscientific dogma of Abrahamite religions. Christianity preaches about original sin and project Jesus Christ as a redeemer. Such a perception is conspicuously absent in Vedic religion, Sikhism and also in logical faiths of Jainism and Buddhism – all originated in India. 
 
Retrogressive forces of patriarchy and de-spiritualized Hindu priestocracy are dismayed by progressive Keralites everywhere
 
The gruesome mob violence perpetuated against young women devotees from different places by criminal enthusiasts of Ayyappa cult in October 2018, will go down in history as an ugly assertion of the Hindu variety of Kerala sub-nationalism, drawing a parallel to the violence in Tamil Nadu in support of Jallikettu.
This is symptomatic of a counter-revolution against the philosophy, preachings, ground work and way of life of reformists like Sri Narayana Guru and other masters of Kerala renaissance.

The self appointed champions of Hinduism indulging in condemnable violence against women devotees should comprehend the import of concluding part of Rigveda, codified as “Sangathan Sutras”:

“Come together, all of you, speak in one voice, know with one mind, even like the Gods, who, of yore knew with one mind and together had their share of enjoyment.

“Together may they utter the mantra, may they unite together, may their mind be one and their consciousness mingle. I utter the same mantra with you all, ‘with you all equally I make the offering.

“May your yearning be one, may your heart be one, may your mind be one, so that your union may be perfect. (Rig Veda X – 191-2-4)


The Sangh Parivar and Hindu orthodoxy hold Manusmriti in high esteem. They should at least recognize, respect and actualize the words of wisdom, in Chapter III, Shloka 56 of this smriti.

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः ।
यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः ॥ ५६ ॥
yatra nāryastu pūjyante ramante tatra devatāḥ |
yatraitāstu na pūjyante sarvāstatrāphalāḥ kriyāḥ || 56 ||

(“Where women are honoured, there the gods rejoice; where, on the other hand, they are not honoured, there all rites are fruitless.”) 

Pending the final verdict, the LDF Government in Kerala should take several steps such as appointment of eligible women as priests in at least temples of female deities like those in Aatukaal in Thiruvanathapuram, Chotanikkara in Kochi and Kodungallur in Trisshur and so on; and a suitable monument to commemorate the brave lady, Nangeli, who severed and thrown her breasts before Travancore State Government officials, who intimidated her for paying breast tax (Mulakaram).
Nangeli is a pioneer in women liberation movement in Kerala. Reportedly, her husband Cheerukandan, had committed suicide in her funeral pyre, when she died due to hemorrhage. Perhaps, it is the only case of a husband committing Sati. A memorial should be made for the couple.

---
*Former DGP. Gujarat
 
First published in https://www.counterview.net/2

Sabarimala: Male devotee nurturing unholy thoughts is 'unfit' to visit Lord Ayyappa shrine

Sabarimala

The Supreme Court last week, by 3:2 majority, decided to keep the review petitions in Sabarimala matter pending until a larger bench determines questions related to essential religious practices. The majority of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra expressed that the issue whether Court can interfere in essential practises of religion needed examination by larger bench. Justices Chandrachud and Nariman dissented.

There is no stay of the September 28, 2018 judgment which allowed entry of women of all age groups to the Sabarimala temple, but the Apex Court said, the same issue arises in respect of cases concerning entry of Muslim women in a Durgah/Mosque as also in relation to Parsi women married to a non-Parsi into the holy fire place of an Agyari. There is also a case pending regarding the legality of practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Dawoodi Bohra community.

A reversal of the Apex Court decision permitting women in Sabarimala Temple would amount to effacement of advancements made in socio-cultural evolution achieved through sacrifices of great reformists in Kerala since early years of the 20th Century.


The last year’s agitation following the September 2018 judgment was, in fact, ill-motivated and well contrived. It was spearheaded by retrogressive forces of patriarchy and de-spiritualized Hindu priestocracy dismayed progressive Keralites everywhere.The image of Kerala society that assimilated and concretized a collective mindset of modernism received an irreparable setback due to the extreme unruly behaviour of those resorting to violence, intimidation and obstruction of young women devotees, who proceeded to Sabarimala Temple following the Apex Court verdict last year.

Champions of Brahminical casteism – varna vyavastha, being disillusioned by LDF government’s decision to appoint eligible Hindus of all castes in priestly assignments in government administered temples – endeavoured to divinize all obscurant traditions and practices, contrary to the letter, spirit and ethos of the Constitution of India, enshrined in the Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties.

RB Sreekumar
This move was prejudicial to the metaphysics of Sanathana Dharma of Vedic Hinduism revealed in the Vedas, Brahmasutra, Upanishad and Bhagavad Gita. Effective counteraction, at grass-root level, by enlightening and alerting Ayyappa devotees, misled by status-quoist casteist reactionaries, impervious to the ideals of modern Indian renaissance of the 18th Century and its Kerala phase, pioneered by Ayyaswami, Ayyankali, Chattambi Swami, Sri Narayana Guru, Vaghbadhananda, so on, is necessary.

The Sangh Parivar and its base body – Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – relentlessly and steadily indoctrinating through disinformation, gullible Hindus reluctant to comprehend cardinal axioms of Hinduism, about the alleged neglect of exclusivist Hindu communal interests in the Constitution of India.

Hindu scriptures grant right to liberation and spiritual enlightenment to all living beings by following the methods of pursuit of knowledge (gnana), righteous action (karma) and selfless devotion (bhakti). Instance of a kite bird – Jathayu – getting moksha, narrated in Ramayana is illustrative.
Men of self knowledge are same-sighted on a Brahmana imbued with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste
Bhagavad Gita, the most popular scripture of Hindus, asserts in its Chapter V, Shloka 18 thus, “Men of self knowledge are same-sighted on a Brahmana imbued with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste”.

Most popular treatise on devotion authored by the father of Malayalam Literature, Thunchat Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, categorically declares, in “Harinama Kirtanam”, 20th Shloka, thus:


“Rithuvaya penninnu mirappavannum dahakannum,
Pathithannum Agni yajanam cheyytha bhoo surannum,
Har nama keerthanam ithoru nalu markku mudan,
Aruthathalla, hari narayanaya nama.”
(Salutations to Lord Narayana who is Hari,
The singing of the names of Hari, Is never banned any time,

For the lady who is in her periods, For the one who begs...) 
Rig Veda asserts, “Earth is upheld by truth, while the heaven is upheld by the Sun” (10-85-1) and “May the universe, an abode of truth” (3-30-2-6). Those opposing entry of women in Sabarimala Temple, indulged in blind denial of biological truth about female physiology.


How can the occurrence of menstruation be impure and sinful in comparison to wet dreams and night emissions that may be happening to testosterone-propelled young healthy men, during their stay in Sabarimala and anti-natural celibacy period of 41 days restriction (Vratam)?

If all phenomena of nature are expressions of God’s will, so is the menstrual cycle in women that enables her to become Mother. Holding this as a ground for not allowing young women to have the bliss of Ayyappa darshan (direct vision) is an act of gross injustice, perpetuating male dominance over divinity.

How can a deity, adhering to the concept of eternal celibacy, be tempted by the presence of young women, while Hindu virgin deities (Goddess of Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu and Vaishno Devi in Jammu & Kashmir), have no objection in half naked young men of productive age worshipping in these temples?

Apprehension is about the young women devotees becoming objects of erotic allurement to male worshippers due to their feeble will power and inadequate devotion to Lord Ayyappa. The objection cannot be from Lord Ayyappa, who is in a state of Moksha / Nirvana or self realization viz. beyond the tantalizing seduction of five senses, mind, intellect and ego.

In case any male devotee is nurturing unholy thoughts in Sabarimala, he is ineligible and unfit to visit Lord Ayyappa’s shrine. Categorically, it is not the women devotees, but those unpious men to be restrained from nurturing baser thoughts in the blessed premises of Sabarimala.
 

Are women inferior to men in the eyes of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God Almighty? History does not testify to such a contention


“Tantra Samuchayam” – a monograph and manual of worship (puja) procedure compiled by Chennas Narayanan Nambudiripad (published by Panchagam Pusthakashala, Kunnamkulam) does not stipulate that young women should not attend worship ceremony or have darshan of Lord Dharma Shastha.

Are women inferior to men in the eyes of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God Almighty? History does not testify to such a contention.

Pure and ideal Hinduism, as explained in the Vedas and Upanishads, as opposed to the condemnable lop-sided sub-scriptures of Smritis by Manu, Parasara, Yajnavalka, Shankara and so on and the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, have no incompatibility with post-European Renaissance generated modern values of democracy, liberalism, equality, fraternity, dignity and human rights.

Hinduism allows its followers to choose any God and accepts that there could be multiple paths, all equally divine, leading to God. In fact, the brigands who demolished Babri Masjid in 1992 had indulged in a sacrilegious un-Hindu crime.

The methodology of pursuit of knowledge (Gnana Yoga) paths of self–less action (Karma Yoga) and deep devotion by sacrificing ones ego (Bhakti Yoga) are tools for self-realisation. Many women have proved their merit in all these fields. Avvyar (2nd Century BCE in Tamil Nadu), Akka Mahadevi (12th Century CE, Karnataka), Meerabai (Rajasthan) Mata Amrutananda May (Kerala) etc are illustrative instances.

The perversions of present day Hinduism emanates from the exclusivist, pseudo-fundamentalist radical fringe elements, acting as foot-soldiers of the Sangh Parivar and subverting the quintessential Hindus spiritualism, through unethical and even violent means, for achieving their commercial objectives and power politics.

The human physico-mental personality, in the ascending order, is categorized by Bhagavad Gita, as (i) Body, (ii) Five Senses, (iii) Mind-centre of emotions, (iv) Intellect and (v) the Atma (Soul). Bhagavad Gita, Shloka 42 of chapter-3 says “The senses are said to be superior to the body; the mind is superior to the senses, the intellect is superior to the mind; and what is superior to the intellect is Atma.”

So the body condition of a devotee is not relevant for his/her seeking self-realisation or divine grace through visits to the temple or any of three yogas.


Ironically, no ban has been imposed on the entry of menstruating animals near the shrine of Sabarimala
 
Misplaced sensitivity displayed by sexist, misogynist Hindu orthodox groups, stressing on self-created, ill-founded unscientific menstrual taboos, for preventing women visiting Sabarimala temple is in total violation of the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita.

Ironically, no ban has been imposed on the entry of menstruating animals near the shrine of Sabarimala.

In a Mother Goddess temple in Kerala – Chenganoor/ Alleppy District – as well as in Kamakhya temple (Assam), red spots appear once a year on the robes of the Goddess to this date. So when Mother Goddess, in all her physical disposition is worshipped, by what logic and scriptural or religious authority, can women in a similar condition, be deprived of their inalienable right to worship before the Sabarimala shrine?

Significantly in “Tripura Sundari Ashtakam”, an invocation of Mother Goddess, authored by Adi Shankaracharya, the deity is portrayed as a menstruating woman. The website of Sri Kamakoti Mandali ( www.kamakotimandali.com) interpreted the 6th Shloka of this Ashtakam as follows: 
 
“The Devi is described as being habituated in a blue sari with red spots, as the first menstrual flow, shows itself when a woman is ready to bear, so on the blue welkin (sky or heaven), the Devi’s raiment (clothing), signs appear, heralding creation”. At the entrance of Sabarimala temple, the Upanishadic dictum “Tat Twam Asi” – That Art Thou – one of the four Mahavakyas of Hinduism – is prominently displayed. These words from Chandogya Upanishad (6-8-7) tells the devotee that “what you are seeking is within yourself” in the form of Atma (Soul).

This also would establish the senselessness in giving any importance to the bodily condition of a devotee, though there are no regulations in fixing the standards of physical hygiene, clothings etc. (all within individual control) as a condition for appearing before the deity.

Inexorably, the sole imperative attribute of a true devotee is the purity of the heart, as testified by Rig Veda thus, “If the heart is impure and malicious, then the God’s worship will also be unfruitful. Therefore God’s worship must be carried out with a ‘nishpap’ (sinless) heart. “VIII/61/11) Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount declares “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” (Bible, St. Mathew 5-8)
 
When Mother Goddess, in all her physical disposition is worshipped, by what scriptural or religious authority can women be deprived of their inalienable right?
 
The famous Sanskrit aphorism, “Sa vidya ya vimuktayae” (True knowledge liberates) was adopted by Mahatma Gandhi, as motto of the Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad. Kerala temple managers should opt for liberating women from ‘spiritual slavery’ imposed by male chauvinism for perpetuation of male domination.
History recorded that the advocates of traditions (Acharams) due to their incompatibility with modern ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and dignity of individuals were violently opposed to the abolition of, widow burning in the funeral pyre of their husbands (Sati), widow remarriage, un-touchability, dowry, Devadasi system and all reforms towards proper justice delivery to those outside varna vyavasta. Those agitating against the Apex Court order on Sabarimala, represent those Satanic forces.

Perhaps Bhagavad Gita is the only scripture of a major religion (Hinduism) permitting its followers to critically analyse religious wisdom and act as per one’s own choice. In Chapter 18, Shloka-63, Lord Krishna advises “Thus has wisdom more profound than all profundities been declared to you (Arjuna) by Me (Lord Krishna). Reflect upon it and act as you choose”.

So those who oppose to the entry of women for worship in Sabarimala have no valid authority in the religious perspective also to prevent women from exercising their religious rights guaranteed both by the Constitution of India and Hindu scriptures.

Even a cursory study of 11 major religions of the world confirm that both the God – centric theist religions of Vedic Hinduism, Sikhism, Abrahamite faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Zoroastrianism of Persia and Shintoism of Japan and atheistic persuasions of Jainism, Buddhism, Chinese philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism, emphatically exhort their followers to make the best of human life gifted to them by God/ Nature through empowerment of body, enlightenment of mind, creative rejuvenation of intellect and ennoblement of the spirit / self through various means. 
 
Is the self assumed ritualistic purity of ceremonies more superior to achieving honesty and integrity and purity of conscience? Amazingly, mainstream leadership of institutionalized religions of India are focusing on peripheral issues like blocking entry of women in temples (Hinduism), retaining of polygamy and halala nikah (Islam), subordination of women in eclesiastical church order (Christianity). 
 
Treating sex as a sin is an unscientific dogma of Abrahamite religions. Christianity preaches about original sin and project Jesus Christ as a redeemer. Such a perception is conspicuously absent in Vedic religion, Sikhism and also in logical faiths of Jainism and Buddhism – all originated in India. 
 
Retrogressive forces of patriarchy and de-spiritualized Hindu priestocracy are dismayed by progressive Keralites everywhere
 
The gruesome mob violence perpetuated against young women devotees from different places by criminal enthusiasts of Ayyappa cult in October 2018, will go down in history as an ugly assertion of the Hindu variety of Kerala sub-nationalism, drawing a parallel to the violence in Tamil Nadu in support of Jallikettu.
This is symptomatic of a counter-revolution against the philosophy, preachings, ground work and way of life of reformists like Sri Narayana Guru and other masters of Kerala renaissance.

The self appointed champions of Hinduism indulging in condemnable violence against women devotees should comprehend the import of concluding part of Rigveda, codified as “Sangathan Sutras”:

“Come together, all of you, speak in one voice, know with one mind, even like the Gods, who, of yore knew with one mind and together had their share of enjoyment.

“Together may they utter the mantra, may they unite together, may their mind be one and their consciousness mingle. I utter the same mantra with you all, ‘with you all equally I make the offering.

“May your yearning be one, may your heart be one, may your mind be one, so that your union may be perfect. (Rig Veda X – 191-2-4)


The Sangh Parivar and Hindu orthodoxy hold Manusmriti in high esteem. They should at least recognize, respect and actualize the words of wisdom, in Chapter III, Shloka 56 of this smriti.

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः ।
यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः ॥ ५६ ॥
yatra nāryastu pūjyante ramante tatra devatāḥ |
yatraitāstu na pūjyante sarvāstatrāphalāḥ kriyāḥ || 56 ||

(“Where women are honoured, there the gods rejoice; where, on the other hand, they are not honoured, there all rites are fruitless.”) 

Pending the final verdict, the LDF Government in Kerala should take several steps such as appointment of eligible women as priests in at least temples of female deities like those in Aatukaal in Thiruvanathapuram, Chotanikkara in Kochi and Kodungallur in Trisshur and so on; and a suitable monument to commemorate the brave lady, Nangeli, who severed and thrown her breasts before Travancore State Government officials, who intimidated her for paying breast tax (Mulakaram).
Nangeli is a pioneer in women liberation movement in Kerala. Reportedly, her husband Cheerukandan, had committed suicide in her funeral pyre, when she died due to hemorrhage. Perhaps, it is the only case of a husband committing Sati. A memorial should be made for the couple.

---
*Former DGP. Gujarat
 
First published in https://www.counterview.net/2

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