Saturday, March 26, 2011


Oil on fire

March 27, 2011
9:49:17 AM


Gautam Sen

Courtesy: Daily Pioneer and Gautam Sen

West Asia and North Africa produce more than a third of the world's oil, but the turmoil in the region threatens to unsettle this arrangement. As the US, France and Britain bomb Libya and oil prices touch new heights, one wonders if the world is headed towards another energy crisis

Virtually no one predicted the dramatic political wildfires spreading across West Asia and North Africa from a solitary spark in Tunisia. Its final destination is not yet in sight and its eventual shape hard to anticipate. In the final analysis, the world at large may care little for the fate befalling its people, just as it blithely ignored the nearly six million dead in the Congo over the past decade. But the oil riches of West Asia and North Africa make developments in the region impossible to ignore. In retrospect, a thoughtful observer might have noticed powerful underlying forces of change were incubating a political tsunami. The rapid growth of population and mass youth unemployment especially were threatening a political earthquake. And it was virtually impossible for the region’s ruling oligarchs and monarchs to stem the swelling tide of discontent that inevitably ensued.

As one recent observer put it: “As demographic transition unfolds in the countries of the Maghreb and West Asia, thus creating a youth bulge (a high share of the 15 to 29 years old in the total population), we observe what can happen when those social, economic and political institutions are not in place: A potential dividend turns into a curse. Young and educated people fail to find meaningful jobs and with it the capacity to become independent. As a consequence, unemployment is increasingly perceived as tantamount to social death.” All the brute force, the secret police and vacuous ideological blandishment could not suffice to repress it. And unbelievable misgovernment despite the existence of pharaonic wealth in some of the affected countries guaranteed popular revolt.

It was the unhappy fate of much of Arabia and North Africa to emerge from Ottoman tutelage to immediately become prey to Anglo-American and French neo-colonial machination. Their geopolitical location and oil wealth were too important to permit meaningful sovereignty and autonomous socio-economic evolution. The creation of Israel added a further explosive dimension to their destiny.

From Algeria to Egypt and Iraq to Jordan, Anglo-American manipulation became the norm everywhere. Ibn Saud of the Nejd had been implanted by the British, with the British intelligence agent, Harry St John Philby, father of master spy Kim Philby, disingenuously proclaiming him the greatest Arab since Prophet Mohammed! Saddam Hussein, like the monumentally incompetent and greedy contemporary Ben Ali of Tunisia, was once a CIA employee. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was also a creature of US imperialist designs and stole from his impoverished country on a scale that shocks even hardened observers.

And now one witnesses the neo-fascist posturing of a Libyan tribal warlord unleashing fighter aircraft against the women and children of his own country. In the meantime, another potentate fabricated at Britain’s Sandhurst crouches fearfully in Amman, no doubt praying his tribal Bedouin brethren will unleash another bloody Black September to sustain him in power if the need arises.

Almost 60 per cent of the world’s known oil reserves are located in West Asia and Persian Gulf. The US, the pre-eminent political and military presence in the region, imports almost a quarter of its oil from it, mostly from Saudi Arabia, virtually a protectorate whose regime could not survive without US guarantees. It might be remembered that Osama bin Laden moved to Afghanistan to launch jihad, first and foremost against the Saudi monarchy’s alleged apostasy, after it prevented him from staging anti-US political protest within the kingdom. The US was only an ancillary target and on that poignant political episode hangs a momentous tale of global terror and mass murder.

The US remains determined to dominate West Asia politically in order to prevent control over oil supplies falling into the hands of a potentially hostile third party that might use it politically and withhold supplies. The issue is not really about the pricing of oil in the end. The loss of control over oil supplies was a critical factor in the defeat of the redoubtable Field Marshall Rommel in North Africa and the disarray of retreating German forces on the eastern front. Indeed an important reason for India’s Partition was Britain’s perception that is would need Karachi harbour to overawe its erstwhile West Asian neo-colonies since Jawaharlal Nehru seemed unlikely to oblige with requisite good grace and Indian ports.

In any case, the oil market is highly politicised whatever the prevailing price due to demand and supply. Oil producers themselves have reasons to limit supply, for example, if they lack the capacity to absorb resulting revenues, as with the Saudis, by extracting as much oil as technically feasible. Fresh discoveries of conventional oil fields have almost ceased and newer sources like shale are too expensive, only sustained by government subsidies though price levels do determine what type of sources become economically viable.

The longer historical trend in oil supply has been the decline in OECD production that had come on stream in the early 1980s and a corresponding rise in demand from industrialising Asia. China’s imports of oil are a prominent feature of the current oil market, accounting for a third of the increase in total global demand. By contrast, it used to be a net exporter in the early 1990s. India’s oil imports have also been rising because higher growth rates are stimulating increased consumption of all types of fuel. However, the US and Europe remain the major consumers and there is competition over oil extraction rights and anxiety about who controls them. Ultimately, demand is growing faster than supply, which implies prices will continue rising. It might also be noted that political crises tend to create price spikes that impact economic stability. The current sharp rise in prices owing to political events in West Asia and North Africa is threatening a fragile global economy struggling to overcome recent financial mismanagement.

India is in a peculiarly vulnerable situation and its energy import planning efforts are mostly long term and on paper. It has little political clout in the world oil market and is charged a couple dollars more per barrel than rich countries because that is how OPEC does business. India is a powerless consumer that takes prices as given and hopes that it will not face politically-motivated interdiction of supply and ingratiates itself earnestly to the Arab world to insure against such an eventuality. And, of course, India’s hapless migrant workers in the Gulf remit prodigious amounts to pay for its massive dollar denominated oil import obligations. Should they have to return home indefinitely owing to the troubles, India will face difficulties with its balance of payments. Politicians of all stripes and Indian voters themselves compound their vulnerability and unnecessarily transfer additional sums to oil exporters by refusing to pass on international price increases.

India has also embraced urban automobile transport without any heed to its fundamental irrationality today. Nor is there any systematic effort to improve the efficiency of oil dependent production and engineering units and the ONGC itself has been a rather dismal manager of India’s offshore oil assets. Long-term planning for energy and comparable issues is evidently beyond the capacity of the Indian polity. The idea that nuclear energy will eventually become a major contributor to Indian consumption is sufficiently in the distant future to embolden all and sundry to talk confidently of it, either as a panacea or certain disaster. In the aftermath of the exposure of Japan’s folly in planning and managing nuclear installations, it remains to be seen if India’s bankrupt political class will do any better!

US administrations may differ on some things, but efforts converge where international energy policy is concerned. In West Asia and adjacent North Africa, which impacts its politics, the intention is control through surrogates. After a typically Obama moment of hesitation, familiar policies and instruments swung into action. The US, with French help, sought to finesse the Tunisian revolt by trying to shepherd Ben Ali’s venal cronies into power, unconvincingly blaming one greedy family, formerly a valued ally, for all the evils that beset the country. An unfolding similar ruse has a better chance of succeeding in Egypt since its armed forces are a tainted instrument of US diktat and, in any case, Egypt is too important to be cast adrift.

Evidently, the Saudis and neighbouring monarchical satraps have been given the green light to crush revolts. And the horrifying violence instigated in Algeria by Western powers during the 1990s, resulting in 300,000 dead and conveniently blamed on FIS Islamists remains a solution of last resort. There was also a cynical Anglo American conspiracy afoot to get into the ground floor with whoever might secure power in Libya. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi wasn’t written off immediately, though it seems a decision has subsequently been taken to replace him with a weak surrogate, beholden to Europe and the US for help to gain power. Nevertheless, someone is likely to end up with a string of honorary doctorates from August Western academies, a novel instrument of modern diplomacy confirming Libya’s oil reserves are larger than hitherto recognised.

China is watching events attentively but, evidently, not prepared to take action that might be perceived as interference against vital Western economic and political interests. Its policy is palpably simple, a jackal waiting for leftovers once the big game are sated. But China acts surreptitiously as well when Western resolve weakens to offer succour and invest politically for the long run. It has adopted Pakistan wholesale and is well on the way to becoming the major patron of Iran’s clerical regime and will likely bide its time for an opportunity to assist other potential clients in the region. Yet, West Asia and North Africa threaten to become an embittered standoff that will translate into even greater terrorist violence should expectations be disappointed if self-serving collaborationist elites re-group under renewed Western patronage.

Already Islamists are moving swiftly to impose their medieval barbarism at the first opportunity, committing acts of violence against women and minorities even in supposedly liberal Egypt and Tunisia. And an intensification of the Shia-Sunni cleavage, with much of the region’s oil resources located in areas populated mainly by Shias, enlarges the scope for sectarian tensions that will be exploited by foreign interests, as they have done in Iraq. The US capture of Iraq now only requires the overthrow of the highly unpopular Iranian clergy to consolidate a historically unprecedented alliance with Shia groups who happen to have such a disproportionate presence in oil rich provinces. It will enable the US to play the Sunnis and Shias off against each other since they both accord higher priority to their own historic sectarian dispute than any other issue. The Saudi monarchs will be totally cowed and a final settling of accounts for 9/11 will have taken place.

How it will affect India’s interests is unclear, though like the best laid plans of mice and men that often come to naught, the American reverie may fail. History has surely not ended.

-- The writer taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and is the co-author of the book, Analyzing the Global Political Economy (Princeton University Press, 2009)


Friday, March 25, 2011


Human Rights and the Madness of Our Age

Column by N.S. Rajaram

Courtesy NEWSGRAM AND N. S. RAJARAM (Published with consent from the author)

(Picture of Sonia Gandhi)(not copied)

Scottish writer Charles Mackay (1814 – 89) may be unknown to the present generation but his 1841 book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and Madness of Crowds in which he gave vivid accounts of crowd hysteria from financial bubbles to major historical events like the Crusades and witch hunts has remained an enduring classic. The first two chapters of the book on the Mississippi Scheme and South Sea Bubble is required reading for students of finance at American universities. (This though didn’t stop them from creating the financial bubble in our own time. People never learn from history.)

To lovers of literature his daughter the novelist Marie Corelli may be better known, but in his 1852 edition, Mackay accurately described how fads begin: “Whole communities suddenly fix their minds on one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it… We find one nation suddenly seized …with a fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple; and neither of them recovering its senses until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears to be reaped by its posterity.”

Mackay’s main themes were the Crusades and the Witch Hunts of Europe, both of which were driven by Christian zeal. In our own time, secular ideology seems to have replaced religious zeal; but this has not prevented horrors from being inflicted on innocent people in the name of Communism, Fascism and the like by Mao, Stalin and Hitler. Frederick Nietzsche called such secular belief systems ‘barbaric brotherhoods’. Even the democratic America has had its mad period marked by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Communist witch hunts. Present day history books don’t like to mention that his anti-Communist crusade had considerable public support, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to intimidate U.S. presidents like Truman and Eisenhower to soft pedal their objections to his investigations.

Book by Charles Mackay

Today, the ‘human rights’ fad has taken the place of Christian zeal and Stalinist and McCarthy witch hunts. We have self-appointed moralists of what Narendra Modi called ‘a few fringe NGOs with an axe to grind’ pursue human rights for power and profit. It is no coincidence that these supposedly secular human rights organizations are dominated by Christian and Evangelical outfits; they have the experience, resources and the influence. Their targets are invariably mild and tolerant regimes like India, never powerful and intolerant ones like China or Saudi Arabia that are likely to hit back. So what on surface may seem like a pursuit of humanistic goals is often driven by a lust for power and wealth with little risk to themselves.

It was no different with the Crusades. The Knights Templar who began as a heroic order in defense of Christianity were experts at extortion and fund raising, and became the first international bankers. It is no different today: individuals and organizations pursuing human rights agendas are first and foremost skilled at fund raising and influence peddling with private donors and government agencies. But no one working in the name of human rights likes to talk openly about money and power so they assume a self-righteous posture.

(Picture of Leopold II King of the Belgians) (Not copied)

This is the reason that human rights activists are always speaking in high moral tones and never miss an opportunity to criticize people and organizations trying hard to maintain stability and balance in the real world. Their main goal is publicity through self-righteous posturing. American commentator Emmett Tyrrell called it moral exhibitionism. To become a human rights activist, it takes no accomplishments beyond striking moralistic poses and finding fault with others. A closer look at some of them shows them to be quite anti-humanist when it comes to their own lives and interests. A good many of them are little more than poseurs and publicity hounds. We can look at a few of them to see this truth.

The loudest ‘human rights’ person of our time, the most blatant publicity seeker is probably Arundhati Roy. Born in Shillong, Meghalaya,to a Keralite Syrian Christian mother, the women’s rights activist Mary Roy, and a Bengali tea planter, Arundhati (nee Margaret) Roy has consistently taken positions against the interests of the Indian state – all in the name of ‘human rights’. These include her support for the Kashmiri separatists and more recently the Naxalites. She raised questions even over the culprits who attacked the Parliament leading to the death of security personnel – all, yet again, in the name of human rights!

Until made financially stable by the fortuitous success of her novel The God of Small Things, she worked at various jobs, including running aerobics classes at some hotels in New Delhi. In other words, she was a struggling nonentity trying her hand at a hundred different odd jobs until she hit the jackpot with the Booker Prize. She is among those who think that receiving an award, any award from a Western, white country makes them morally superior to others. This allowed to turn herself from a struggling writer to a moral preacher to the world.

(Picture of Arundhati Roy) (Not copied)

Her record before the Booker was undistinguished. As we just saw, she was a struggling writer (and at other odd jobs) trying to make ends meet, but turned herself into a moral authority because of the accident of the Booker Prize. In reality, there is no greater hypocrisy than a Booker Prize recipient posing as a champion of human rights. Here is a little history about that award that the public needs to know. It is far from edifying.

It was originally called the Booker-McConnell Prize after the company Booker-McConnell began sponsoring the event in 1968, and became commonly known as the “Booker Prize” or simply “the Booker”. Among other interests, it operated the sugar industry in Guyana (British Guiana before independence in 1966). Booker-McConnell had a long history of exploitation of sugar workers through the indentured labor system. At its peak it controlled 75% of the sugar industry in British Guiana and was so powerful that a common joke was to refer to the country as ‘Booker’s Guiana’. In 1952 Jock Campbell took over the Chairmanship of the company. After centuries of exploitation, Jock Campbell began to treat his workers as human beings providing basic benefits for sugar workers.

Shockingly, his company was involved in slave trade in a major way. It was John Campbell (Senior), Jock’s great-great-grandfather, ship owner and merchant of Glasgow, who, towards the end of the 18th Century, first established the fortunes of the Campbell family in the West Indies, through the slave trade. By the 1780s they were supplying the two most important British exports to the West Indies, herring and coarse linen goods. Among the principal beneficiaries of this booming trade were John Campbell (Senior) and Company, which supplied merchandise to the slave plantations along the coast of Guiana, then in Dutch hands.

It was in this role of supplier that the company first began to acquire plantations along the Essequibo Coast of Guiana, from planters facing bankruptcy. Jock Campbell (Junior) had the decency to admit that his ancestors had been de facto slave-owners. (They acquired slave plantations from bankrupt owners.) The younger Campbell himself abhorred slavery, and it was in fact the urge to make good the misdeeds of his family that was the catalyst for his own reformist ideals.

Where Campbell suffered from a deep sense of guilt, Arundhati Roy is too morally obtuse to see that as the recipient of an award instituted by a slave-trading company, she shouldn’t be talking about human rights. Hypocrisy is too weak a word for such a charlatan, but without such posturing she cannot get public attention, which is her lifeblood.

Arundhati Roy is not an isolated case. Girish Karnad, another Karnataka based ‘humanist’ mouthing Leftist causes was a Rhodes Scholar. Why should one be flattered by being given a scholarship instituted by Cecil Rhodes, a pathological racist who made a fortune in diamond mining in South Africa exploiting slave labor? (Until recently non-whites were forbidden from applying for the Rhodes scholarship.)

But such mismatch between image and behavior is not limited to fringe players like Girish Karnad and Arundhati Roy. Sonia Gandhi, probably the most powerful politician in India recently defiled the name of Mahatma Gandhi by accepting of the Order of Leopold instituted by Belgian royal family. The name Leopold, King of the Belgians is synonymous with the worst excesses of European exploitation of Africa. Leopold, the king whose name the award carries was a slave merchant who rivals Hitler as a mass murderer.

When the news of the award broke, much of the controversy was focused on the violation of Indian law by a high official (Sonia Gandhi)— accepting an award that requires swearing allegiance to a foreign power. That is a legal technicality that ignores the moral dimension. Her acceptance was a sordid and ignoble act that smacks of servility and utter callousness to human suffering. (For the record, though founded by Leopold I, it was appropriated by Leopold II in 1908 by integrating it with his own order of the Congo Free State, which was the victim of his atrocities, more of which later.)

The name `Congo Free State’ is one of the great ironies of history, for Belgian Congo under King Leopold was a massive slave colony that was ruthlessly exploited for its rubber and ivory. According to a BBC report by Mark Dummet (

“Of the Europeans who scrambled for control of Africa at the end of the 19th century, Belgium’s King Leopold II left arguably the largest and the most horrid legacy of all.” Leopold claimed he was taking over the Congo Free State to civilize the natives by bringing Christianity and Western capitalism to Africa. In the process “he turned his `Congo Free State’ into a massive [slave] labor camp, made a fortune for himself from the harvest of its wild rubber, and contributed in a large way to death of perhaps 10 million innocent people.” This beats Hitler’s record, and was achieved over a less popular area.

Leopold’s plan was to harvest as much natural rubber as possible from the forests before organized cultivation of rubber could break his monopoly. He was interested also in looting the ivory gathered by African tribes. His government created a force called Force Publique to terrorize and plunder the African natives into surrendering everything they possessed and provide also slave labor for harvesting wild rubber. Dummet quotes an eyewitness report:

“One officer['s] method. was to arrive in canoes at a village; the soldiers were then landed, and commenced looting, taking all the chickens, grain etc, out of the houses; after this they attacked the natives until able to seize their women; these women were kept as hostages until the chief of the district brought in the required number of kilograms of rubber. The rubber having been brought, the women were sold back to their owners for a couple of goats apiece, and so he continued from village to village until the requisite amount of rubber had been collected.”

Companies operating in the Congo used prison stockades to keep hostages. If the men in the village resisted the demands for rubber it meant the death of their wife, child or chief. The Force Publique supplied military might under contract and each company had its own mercenaries.

Adam Hochschild in his book King Leopold’s Ghost- A story of greed, terror and heroism in colonial Africa quotes the Governor of the Equatorial district of the Congo Free State when the demand for rubber became ferocious: “As soon as it was a question of rubber, I wrote to the government, `To gather rubber in the district. One must cut off hands, noses and ears’.” The victims were often teenagers or even younger who were `punished’ in this manner for not meeting the quotas assigned to them. ( ) Now King Leopold’s ghost must be smiling at Sonia and her Gandhi name.

Hochschild also notes: “During expeditions, Force Publique soldiers were instructed to bring back a hand or head for each bullet fired, to make sure that none had been wasted or hidden for use in rebellions. A soldier with the chilling title `keeper of hands’ accompanied each expedition.” Sometimes the soldiers saved bullets for their personal use like hunting by amputating the victims to meet their quota.

So if anyone deserved to be called maut ka sudagar—or merchant of death, it was Leopold, King of the Belgians. What does it make a person who accepts an award instituted by him? This needs to be mentioned because that was the expression she used to attack Narendra Modi after Godhra. Also, she has not been shy of posing as an upholder of human rights by giving the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Communal Harmony Award’ to her favorites like the Hindu-hater Teesta Setalvad.

If Sonia Gandhi, a European of humble origins, feels honored to be admitted to an order that carries the name of this mass murderer because he was a European prince it is her prerogative. But she should do so in her own capacity as Antonia Maino and not bring the name of Gandhi into it, linking the Mahatma and Leopold.

The main premise of these human rights pretenders—there is no other word for it—is that some recognition, deserved or not, and a self-righteous attitude makes them morally superior to the rest of humanity. They have to do no work at the grassroots level, needed to improve the lot of the less fortunate but only engage in rhetoric and self-righteous publicity stunts. Of course, they always choose their targets carefully, making sure that they don’t provoke real evil-doers like the Jihadis. What the Roys and the Karnads, not to say Sonia Gandhis want is public recognition as saints, not risk of martyrdom. Human rights itself, if we go by what we are seeing in its name, is just another barbaric brotherhood.

Columnist, Dr. NS Rajaram, is a distinguished historian with several laudable works on Indic studies to his credit.


‘Traditional vs ‘Modern’ VII:

The views of a Young Man



25 Mar 2011

In the recent past I have often been reminded of a discussion I had with a young man in what is now Uttarkhand, India. Semi--literate, he was facing the apparent dichotomy between the Dharma/ its traditions and the ‘modern’ world. Though his immediate concerns were different, the basic dilemmas/ approach/issues faced/…etc., resembled some of those faced by the opponents/proponents of the HAF Report. I share it in the hope that at this juncture all those interested in the outcome find it a useful ‘meditation’.

“….. In the old days, when someone in the village decided a problem needed to be addressed – there was not enough water in the fields or with men going to work in offices women had too large a workload or…, s/he picked up a jhola if needed and shared his ideas with the elders under the peepal tree. Everyone built on the idea to decide how to tackle it and then set to work. Each one put in his/ her time as possible and appropriate and when money was required, each who could put in whatever s/he could.

Now, they [NGO /bilateral/ multilateral] come in. There is a meeting where the food, chairs, tables are central. They start a discussion around what they have decided are the people’s needs. Project proposals are written, people will verify, …… the whole process takes, or can take, years………. Lot of time and huge amounts of money are spent and by that time people have adjusted to the problem or solved it themselves. Now nothing gets done anyway because even to initiate a discussion one needs lots of money for the tea and chairs that are central to having a meeting...., people only want to talk, have chai, paani and then forget everything.”

I soon realized that this semi-literate was ‘educated’ by centuries of tradition behind him. He had indulged in "systems analysis" and was comparing the usefulness of two different systems. As he laid it out, there was an old system [borne of Dharma] wherein people have to face, think about, and overcome the challenges of life and, a new one wherein some outsiders decide what the group requires, take some pointers on detail, allot work, and then judge results using their own yardsticks. In the former case ‘authority’ derived from the interplay of need and ideas; and since the focus was on the need everyone gave what and how much s/he could – ideas, labour, money. In the latter ‘authority’ derives from money/ position so that outsiders are the directing/ controlling authority and the individuals in the group,essentially workers furthering their scheme.

I couldn’t resist pointing out that the community may not have agreed with the jholawallah’s idea. I was struck down summarily. The original idea and who made it was not important – it was the result of the discussion……. He also pointed out that the elders were ‘chaachaa, taayaa, maami,…..’ and in a convoluted way explained that their accumulated experiential learning was as important as the infusion of the new and, that traditionally the people and their needs/ potential were central to the scheme of things rather than ‘money/ position/ power/…. He revolted against the idea that an entire people were reduced to being mere beneficiaries/ ‘participants’ in the schemes of "others," that rank ‘outsiders’ were given control over the lives of people. And, went on to point out that the latter would benefit through their reports in ‘their own world.’ i. e., those in power were in fact doing whatever for their own benefit .

Since the Dharma and therefore Bhakti/ Seva/ Jnana was my basic education too we communicated well and it was a win-win situation. Though he thanked me profusely I know I benefited – as hopefully will someone here. Seva/ Bhakti/Jnana implicitly recognize among other things that, most people cannot know what ‘the other’ thinks/ knows/ feels, and therefore, needs/ prioritities; that most things/ people are not intrinsically odd/bad/useless/… it is how the mind(s) process/ or will process the information; that ‘my idea/ approach/…’ may not be the best one, that ‘the other’ also has a mind, ideas on what may be right/ wrong/ useful in arriving at a better one so one must not take advantage of any material/ social situation that s/he may be in at a given time to push one’s self forward.

Had I gone with the aim of forcing my ideas on those there or, doing Charity/ Social work/Development – the discussion may never have taken place. As it is, a number of people benefited;for, apparently he completed a Masters in Sociology, did some very good field work and took ‘new’ perspectives into the Development dialogue through an NGO.

And, I was yet again reminded that an education transmitted through millenia within an 'unorganized' polity plays a major role in the respect and kudos I have repeatedly received for my work and abilities.

(The writer is a Sr. Development Consultant).

Monday, March 21, 2011


From Comte de Gobineau to Romila Thapar to Ramdas Lamb

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

The ‘caste system’ is a construct set up by Western scholars for a variety of reasons, and this construct is repeated by some Indian historians like Romila Thapar and today by activists such as Ramdas Lamb who teaches Religion at the University of Hawaii. This construct must be interrogated and deconstructed by all Indians regardless of their religious affiliation because it has been used and is now currently used by anti-India forces to attack India and break the country into easily manipulated segments and thus control them. The professed aim of helping the Scheduled Castes is just that, a cover for another agenda altogether.

Many of these hostile forces have their own agendas. In the Evangelical component this is clearly with the aim of breaking Hinduism which it considers as being the main obstacle to its agenda of converting the entire subocontinent to Christianity. The modus operandi is to show the ‘caste system’ as a continuing source of oppression of the Scheduled Castes(formerly called Untouchables, Harijans by Gandhiji, Dalits by themselves, and Ramnamis etc.).

The basic presuppositions of these hostile attacks are two fold: 1. Untouchability and the Varna-Jati system are one and the same. The present writer has written about it and rejected this identification. So did Gandhiji who vigorously opposed Untouchability, but endorsed Varna and Jati as the source of India’s great achievements in the past, both in the area of economic productivity and India’s great contributions to the disciplines.

(See ‘Why did Gandhiji endorse Varna and Jatil?’on

(URL's for Dr. Vijaya Rajiva's articles on are given below this article.)

2. That nothing has been done by the Government of India or NGOs or the private organizations like the Sangh Parivar to remove Untouchability. This is blatantly false and has been written about lately by individuals in the Hindu diaspora (Rakesh Bahadur has replied to Ramdas Lamb on this same blog site). GOI and the Parivar organizations have produced many reports of their own.

The agenda of these hostile forces is crystal clear. In the past, as Rajiv Malhotra has pointed out in his article in Huffington Post, the Aryan basis of the caste system was propounded by individuals like Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau, French diplomat, philosopher and historian in his Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races. Adam was a white man, according to de Gobineau and a superior one created by God and the Aryan race was descended from Adam. In India, the Aryans when they came to India, created the caste system to keep the natives subjugated and in an inferior position. He approved of this. (Rajiv Malhotra, ‘European Misappropriation of Sanskrit led to the Aryan Race Theory’ Huffington Post, March 21,2011). rajiv-malhotra/how-europeans- misappropri_b_837376.html

The present writer has looked at the work of contemporary historian Romila Thapar, who has a more nuanced view of this tradition of writing about India, but clearly follows this Conservative tradition. Her latest volume 'Early India' (2002) is a repeat of the views propounded by the earlier scholars in the Aryan Invasion theory tradition, such as A.L. Basham, the author of the book 'The Wonder That Was India'
(1954) and under whom she studied at the University of London. Her book pays no attention to the work of Indic scholars of the last few decades.

Ramdas Lamb, a professor of Religion, also perpetuates this tradition in his work on behalf of the Scheduled Castes and in his participation of the HAF Report, ‘Hinduism:
not cast in Caste'. He too does not question the Western construct of the ‘caste system’ and continues to see the situation of the Scheduled Castes through this lens. And while he may be genuinely interested in the condition of the Untouchables in places like Chattisgarah where he first worked when he came to India, he does not HIGHLIGHT the very substantial changes that have taken place in the Indian subcontinent vis a vis the Untouchables.

He agrees with the HAF Report that caste is not central to Hinduism as a spiritual practice or as a religion. Neverthless, neither he nor the Report can take that crucial step towards disentangling Untouchability from Varna and Jati, without which the work remains curiously detached from historical reality. It has also provoked controversy because its excessive mea culpaing has only played into the hands of the forces hostile to India. It is with good reason that one critic has bluntly asked why Nirja Deva, a Sri Lankan at the EU repeatedly speaks of ‘caste based’ discrimination in India using the same phraseology of the HAF Report. To reply: "Because there is caste based discrimination in India," is circular reasoning!

Why does Lamb refuse to take that important step? Why does he proclaim as he does to RISA(a U.S. based academic group) that critics of the Report are "high caste" Hindus who cannot tolerate any criticism of Hinduism or that they actually wish for the oppression of Untouchables to continue? This appeared in an e-mail which was widely circulated amongst Hindus in the diaspora.

Some critics have openly come out and asked Lamb why in 1969 when there was so much oppression of American blacks did he come specifically to India to ‘save’ the Untouchables? Why even today does he not ask white men and women to go and live in the ghettoes? Why is it that no one is financed to come to the U.S. and engage in such social reforms? Why is the money flow only going in the opposite direction, namely to India, to supposedly work for social reform there? What does trade have to do with the EU’s attempt to twist Indian arms? And so on. This criticism can be viewed at

These questions are valid, not necessarily because Ramdas Lamb is involved in a network of dubious status, but because there are many others who are being so financed. And, in many cases they are also busybodies operating in the EU and in UN bodies. A good example is Nirja Deva (from Sri Lanka). Then there are the evangelicals of every hue who simply want to convert India to their religion, no matter what means are used.

Readers are by now familiar with the infamous Pathmarajah Nagalingam, of Navya Shastra fame who reportedly called for the following, in an e-mail to his associates:

1. India is guilty of human rights abuses and should be politically pressured.
2. Internationally coerced.
3. Failing all this, there should be a military intervention.

In this context it is simply not good enough for Ramdas Lamb to casually dismiss criticism as the work of high caste Hindus. At the very least, as an academic, he should begin the serious task of investigating the problem of Untouchability and not conflate it with Varna and Caste, which not only high caste Hindus but also Gandhiji have endorsed as being the engine of growth in India’s past, and which may continue to be so in contemporaray India. That possibility cannot be ruled out (See the relevant work by S.Gurumurthy, especially his article ‘Is caste an economic development vehicle?’ The Hindu, Jan 19, 2009) See the following URL

Otherwise, it leaves the impression that he is either a na├»ve humanitarian or that his intentions are merely to beat Hinduism with a traditional stick, even while claiming to do work for the SCs. Praying to Lord Rama is indeed a good thing, but if it is not accompanied by a genuine effort to understand India’s social history it may seem to some observers a bit like the devil quoting scripture. And even worse, that he is allied to some of the dubious forces at work to destroy India.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

Saturday, March 19, 2011



This will be a random collection of modern translations of the familiar Upanishadic
verses and other verses used in the daily contemplations of the Hindus (presented in a series). Those who are familiar with the vesres will be able to guess which verse the translation represents. (All rights reserved)


Om (Om stands for Brahman which is Absolute, Complete, and Infinite), that is Absolute (infinite) (Poorna – meaning complete, inclusive of all that exists, manifest and non-manifest), this is Absolute, Absolute emerges from the Absolute. If Absolute (infinite) is subtracted from the Absolute what remains is also absolute.


All this is occupied by Isha (Brahman), whatever is within this universe (that which is constantly created and instantly starts moving is termed Jagat) that which is manifest and that which is non-manifest (meaning: not yet created and that which is not moving, “Ajagat”). There is always a portion of the Universe, in its design, to be consumed by each living being that is created, therefore, only enjoy that which is set aside (for you) and do not take that (property or wealth) which belongs to the other.


A balanced view of Brahman is attained when one begins to view Brahman as a perpetual process of mega-transformations from one state to another. Using the metaphor of Yajna and Agni one sees the entire universe as one entity becoming an oblation into the Agni (the transforming agency, in this metaphor "the fire") eventually merging into Brahman, Brahman offering itself to Brahman. He who sees such Brahman in action has this perpetual vision of Brahman. Seeing Brahman in this light, he who sees this attains Brahman in his consciousness.


I become the Universal Man (“Vaishwanaro,” meaning the Universal Pranic template of the design for Man as a species) and reside in each human being (living being) and assimilate all four food groups by myself becoming the five complex pranas (Prana, Apana, Udana, Samaana, and Vyana).


Addressing to Shri Ganesha:

The one with a face adorned by a curved trunk representing OMkara, also, with a large body representing the Absolute (Poorna), whose splendor is like millions of brightest suns, (I beseech you to) remove obstacles in all my endeavors.


Om,which is the Brahman that pervades all three lokas known as Bhuh, Bhuvah, Swahah. Knowing that it is the Brahman which illuminates, we elect (to wprship) it as our Sun (Tat Savitru) and see it as even the brightest Sun (Bhargo) guiding the great intelligence of Devas. On this we contemplate and pray that same Savitru, the Brahman, to guide and direct all our intellects (Dhiyhah).


Guru is the friend, philosopher, and guide who is a special spiritual teacher that elevates our consciousness to the highest level of our own potential by guiding us in our spiritual path. Therefore, the following is a tribute to our Guru.
Guru, you are Brahma; Guru, you are Vishnu; Guru, is Maheshwara; Guru, is the manifest Great Brahman, therefore I bow to Guru.


Addressing the most adored Ishta Devata:

You are my mother, you are my father, you are my brother, you are my friend, you are the knowledge, you are the wealth, you, my Deva, are everything I have and I need.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011





The art form around the theme of Vishnu has inspired Joan Cummins, Ph.D., guest curator of First Center for the Visual Arts to organize an exceptional exhibition titled “Vishnu: The Hinduism’s Blue Skinned Savior.” This exhibition will be on display at the Center till May 29th and again it will be displayed at Brookline Museum between June 24th and October 11th 2011.

It is always interesting to see how even the most well meaning and sincere scholars of Hinduism in the West represent Hinduism and its images and how confusing it is for anyone to make sense of what is being presented. It is imperative, therefore, to revisit the concept of Vishnu on this blog, to grasp the significance of Vishnu and comprehend the concept to help one truly appreciate the “mythology” (not “mystology” as the Freudian slip of a typographic error just took place) and the art associated with the concept and worship of Vishnu. The literature included in the exhibit does not seem to do justice to these, though it is an excellent contribution and a tribute to Vishnu (with some backhand remarks that misrepresent Vishnu as well as Hinduism).


The brochure describing this exhibition starts with introduction of Hinduism, placing it chronologically as a religion beginning in or around 1000 BCE. This is the date for the “compilation of the Vedas” according to the designers and obviously being quite oblivious to the fact that Buddhism was born in 600 BCE.

That leaves only 400 years for the entire history of Hindu Bharat from Vedas to Mahabharata to Ramayana to evolve. It would have been much more enlightening to mention the Vedic and Vedantic notion of one Supreme Being, "Brahman," as the earliest discovery of the Hindus and all deities being rightfully described as manifestations of one and the same “divine power.” Instead, the brochure observes as if it is an accepted fact that “Many Hindus argue” (emphasis added) that there is a single divine power but the brochure makes it a point to say that not all agree. This type of treatment of a major religion of the world shows lack of comprehension of the basics and views it from a typical “monotheistic” lens even describing Vishnu as a “savior” which is not a typical Hindu concept but an extension of Christianity projecting Jesus Christ, who is described as the “savior,” onto Vishnu.

The description “blue skinned” is also an awkward wording as “skinned” has two connotations rarely meaning “covered” by blue skin. Vishnu is not often described as blue colored in contrast to his avatar, “Krishna.”

It is a well known fact that Vishnu is the second of the Hindu Trinity, "Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara." In Hindu cosmogony, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver, and Maheshwara is the destroyer in simplistic terms. It is, therefore, important to maintain the sacredness of the image of Vishnu and state at the outset that Vishnu is revered by most Hindus for whom he is like God to Christians. For many he is the only God. Simply describing Him as “a deity” again shows a bias towards Hinduism as a polytheistic religion.


“Plato said we are trapped inside a cave and know the world only through the shadows it casts on the wall….The skull is our cave and mental representations the shadows.” (Pinker, 1997, p84) (Pinker, S. 1997. How the Mind Works. New York: W. W. Norton)

The internal representations is what any human being relates to especially when the object with which he/she relates is absent in reality. The abstract concept of infinite (Ananta), formless (Niraakara), non-manifest (with no qualities to describe, meaning Nirguna) nature of the Brahman or Vishnu is difficult for the human mind to comprehend, and therefore, it is symbolically represented as an image. All religions do this because of the nature of the human mind but many religions refuse to admit that they have some form of notions and symbols representing the Supreme Being that are concrete.

Anthropomorphizing a deity is a necessity for the Hindu mind to be able to relate to it, and worship it. If it is to be revered and adored, it needs not only be sacred but have all the attributes of human and more so.

The word “Vishnu” is derived from two roots, “Vish” (pronounced as Wish) to pervade or to enter, and “Nu” denoting minute or cutting through everything. Thus, Vishnu pervades all space which is infinite represented by the color of space, that of the sky, “light blue.”

The Hindu concept of God is slightly different in that there can be duality during the devotional process but there is always recognition that everything emerges from the Supreme Consciousness (Brahman) which can be called by different names for different aspects of the same and Vishnu is just one of those names. Vishnu also has nearly thousand names describing the nature of Vishnu in great details.

The all powerful being operates through four principal energies, kinetic (represented by Chakra), gravitational energy represented by “Gada”, electromagnetic and vibrational energy including sound and light represented by “Shankha,” and a very special directional force of the Universe that can be seen as evolutionary force or negative entropy represented by “padma” (unfolding or blooming). Vishnu as the preserver also has an aspect directed towards the mankind and that aspect is called “Narayana” who is all loving and protective.


Description of Vishnu as Gagana sadrusham refers to the infinity of the sky. His description of Meghavarnam refers to his color as dark as cloud. But, why do the modern artists (since 8th century CE) paint Vishnu as blue? My best conjecture is that it is probably the consequence of the racial inferiority that crept into Hindu society by the invasion and occupation and consequent subjugation of HINDUS to the rule of whites and semi-whites. For instance in Mahabharata, Droupadi was described as most beautiful and ageless beauty (Krishna- meaning dark). She arose from the Homa as a tender dark bud of night lotus (sirutotpala Komalama Varni.) Arjuna (arjuna means white and also pure in action) was not the most handsome, but his younger brothers Nakula and Sahadeva were; and they were of brown complexion. When they were exiled to the forest, onlookers cried at their lovely sight. Both dusted themselves with soil to look less attractive and thus lessen their grief. When Westerners want to write about Hinduism they should have modesty to refer to some authentic Indian scholars of Hinduism.

Now about polytheism of Hindus; all religions of the world, to begin with, were polytheistic and then they evolved into monotheistic or atheistic cults, later expanding into religions. A look at Judeo-Christian bible for instance confirms this. In delivering Ten Commandments, God says, “Thou shall have no other God besides me, for I am a Jealous God,” implying that there are other Gods, albeit of lesser quality or power driven into anonymity in the politics of religions just like the Greek Gods. Vedic literature shows the desperate search to know the reality behind the phenomenal world including the search for the nature of Creator, not accepting the folklore or some priestly authority. After many centuries of struggle Vedic quest reached the conclusion regarding the Nature of One God (Brahman – Nirguna and Saguna) and some them of even No God (Shoonya) in the Buddhist tradition, an offshoot of Hindu Vedic quest: but all Hindus live harmoniously with different views. “Ekam sat vipraah bahudhaa vadanti” meaning one “Truth” is variously interpreted by the wise ones (the knowledgeable ones). The inquiry (Jignyaasaa) is still open and continues.

(The author acknowledges the kind contribution to the content - in the last two paragraphs by Dr. Seshachalam Dutta)

Please see other articles on this blog for further clarifications by reading “Demystifying Ganesha,” “Demystifying Shri Krishna,” “Demystifying Hanuman”, “Hinduness for World Peace and Harmony” to comprehend Hinduism and Hindu science and art of iconography.

(To be continued, as this article is a work in progress)

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Why did Gandhiji endorse Varna and Jati?


Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

I agree wholeheartedly with Shri Aravindan Neelakandan's view that
we should move quickly and resolutely to remove any lingering injustices
towards the Harijans (unfortunately they are called Dalits by the Christian missionaries, the Asuric Forces referred to above). It is already being done
by GoI, individuals, NGOs and the nationalist organisations. More can be done.

We, all of us Hindus, have to do it because it is our Dharma, not because
the EU or other busy bodies are trying to tell us what is ethical behaviour.

The secondary motive of trying to get the asuric forces off our backs is just
that, recognize widely they have a secondary motive (proselytization and
breaking of India)

Otherwise, we risk the danger of being apologetic all the time, and engaging in
mea culpas all the time. The asuric forces will feel encouraged
by this and may try to strengthen their attacks against Bharat.

In that context I want to emphasise that energetic moves for social justice
should also be accompanied by a careful assessment of Indian history.
This calls for distinguishing between Untouchability and Varna-Jati.

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

(Editor's Note: HAF babes were misled by Ramdas Lamb,and Navyashastra &
company to fall into the trap of the Asuric Forces. HAF report is ripe
for abuse by US, UN, EU, RISA and the radical Navyashastra anti-national
activists like Pathmaraja Nagalingam)

Mahatma Gandhi was perhaps the first Indian to oppose Untouchability,
as early as the 1900s. His fight on behalf of the Harijans as he called
them, is well known both in India and internationally. (Editor's Note:This
same setion of the Hindu society was later called "Dalits" by Christian
Missionaries and now the term Dalits is popularized in India and abroad
as the world-view depends on English News Media)

What is less well known is that Gandhiji endorsed Varna and Jati. It is
commonly assumed that because he opposed Untouchability he also opposed
Varna and Jati.

And yet this was not the case. Why was this so ? And what lessons
does this hold for present day Hindus ?

He contrasted the inhuman and degrading aspects of Bhangism (and the related
question of Untouchability) with the creative aspect of Varna and Jati as the
engine of growth and excellence in Indian society. He did not see them as related
to each other. One is an aberration and the other was the natural and spontaneous
evolution of Hindu society.Varna is the necessary division of labour in society
since multi tasking is unproductive. Those who are the intellectual and spiritual
leaders of society (the Brahmans of the Vedic period) should focus on their tasks
and should not seek to mutltiply their wealth or status other than what is accorded
to them by virtue of their position. Nor should they be constrained by the
requirements of defending the nation. This is the task of the kshatriyas. And so
it went. The Vaishayas were the producers of wealth and the Shudras were the
producers of food and as well they performed the menial tasks of society.
A modernized version of this Vedic wisdom can be seen in all societies today.
Very rarely does one see multi tasking on a large scale, although some individuals
may be so engaged. The division of labour is the order of the day even in all
modern societies.

Jati (inaccurately translated as ‘caste’) is the product of the intensification of economic development in ancient India. The Jati is an endogamous unit which performed specific economic tasks and in due time the organization of these tasks led to the establishment of shrenis, the guild like structures which managed the productive processes of society.

Gandhiji was well acquainted with these facts of ancient Indian history and
especially of the Janapadas, the many republics that preceded the rise of the
Mauryan empire in late 4th century BCE. A keen observer of social life, and well
acquainted with the glorious traditions of the craftsmen and shilpis of yore,
and well informed about the economic history of India, he was quick to seize
on the point that without Varna and Jati, Indian society would have remained
backward, rather than being one of the main contributors of the world’s GDP.
He was not insensitive to the high quality of goods produced by Indian society
and as well its great contributions in the major disciplines,which would not
have been possible without a literate and highly educated population.

He would castigate the dirt and unhygienic practices around the temples that he
visited but his eye did not fail to notice the grandeur of temple art. Likewise,
even while he castigated the villages for not maintaining the best of hygienic
principles and for some of their social practices he did not fail to understand
that village craftsmen produced high quality goods, and that the villages were
the basis of the Indian economy.

side with the Christian missionaries ("asuric forces") who were alert to every failing
of Hindu society and even invented some when there were none. He was well aware
of their designs. He did not play into their hands, even while he was self critical.

For us today, it is important to note that he did not connect Varna and Jati
with Hindu spirituality or the religion per se. His interests were in the
future village life of India.

Indeed he famously said that India lives in her villages. That was especially
true of his time and continues to be so, despite the onset of a vigorous
liberalization, modernization and urbanization of Indian economic life.

The ideal village republic would be agriculture based, with handicrafts and
small agro based industries,as the secondary but vital component of the village
economy. Those who belonged to specific Jatis would be free to leave and move
to another occupation, but when they stayed (voluntarily) this would increase
their excellence of work and pride in their work. Today, all over India the
excellence of Indian handicrafts can easily be seen, although the lack of genuine
encouragement by respective state governments is felt in that many of the
handicrafts are dying. In cases where the family is the owner and operator of the
business, the craft continues , as for example the famed mirror makers of
Arumulla (Kerala) who produce mirrors from burnished metal only, without
any glass (a special alloy is used). Or the people who make the boats for the
snake boat races in Kerala, where the knowledge of building these boats is based
on the relevant shastras.

In many ways Swami Ramdev’s work in the villages, the revival of Ayurveda and
Yoga in the Indian setting is like a Gandhian enterprise.

Shri S. Gurumurthy (economist, accountant and political commentator) has written
on the question of the small and medium industries in India being caste based:

"A UNIDO study (1997) shows that out of the 370 small scale industrial clusters
and 2,600 artisan-based clusters, which generated 70 per cent of India’s
industrial output, 66 per cent of exports, and 40 per cent of employment, only
13 were government sponsored. The rest had evolved out of the caste-community
based network.”

(S.Gurumurthy, ‘Is caste an economic development vehicle ?’ The Hindu, Jan.19,

The Scheduled Castes are on their way up. Work with the tribals is a slow process,
but the sterling work of the Sangh organizations is encouraging. Bhangism remains
and must be vigorously combated. The work of Dr. B. Pathak must be cited here. It
is the absence of technology that is the culprit here as he points out. He and his
organization have established practical methods of doing away with Bhangism.
In 1970 he launched the Sulabh Sanitation Movement which then set up a non-profit organization called Sulabh Shauchalaya Sansthan which combined sanitation and
humane ideology. They came up with a toilet popularly known as Sulabh Shanchalaya.
This is superior to the sewerage system:

“The crux of the problem was devising a system which would dispense with the
need of engaging scavengers to clean human excreta from the individual households.
After extensive research and ground work I came up with a simple and cost effective
low-cost technology of two-pit pour flush toilet popularly known as
Sulabh Shauchalaya.”

The details of this and the difficulties of the sewerage system are well
described in Dr.Pathak’s report:

‘Present Dalit (Scavengers) Situation in India’ Dr.Bindeshwar Pathak

This report is a good example of an account of a concrete project that seeks
to solve a social problem. (Editor's note: Providing sanitation engineering and
infrastructure such as adequate water supply including clean drinking water,
clean environment with adequate waste management are governmental
responsibilities including those of local Municipalities with participation
of the civic minded citizens and this is not an issue related to the societal
structure or Varna and Jati)

The canny and crooked ways of the missionaries must be noted and Hindu India
cannot afford to be complacent about it. On the other hand, any excessive
mea culpaing alone will not help. Since neither the Hindu
religion, nor Varna and Jati are responsible for the ongoing oppression of the
ex-Untouchables, the way out is to vigorously follow Gandhiji in his footsteps
and set about the business of housecleaning. Dr.Pathak is a fine contemporary
example. So are unknown and unsung individuals and NGOs and above all the
Sangh Parivar organizations whose various cadres are always in the forefront
not only in eradicating social evils but also in helping out during natural
disasters like floods and tsunamis.

It is also important for Hindus to be mindful of not producing reports such as
the HAF report (however well intentioned) that because of excessive
mea culpaing and an attempt to please some imaginary audience
or even a real one composed of those that would like to break India, end up
handing everything over to those same asuric forces. It is hard to tread that
fine line, and yet it must be done.

(the writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011



How come this buzz word 'caste-based discrimination' has become the favorite pastime for some in European Parliament and also in HAF, the outfit which has lost its credentials to speak for Hindu Americans?

The buzz word is the favorite also of Dominus Jesus operatives who want to save souls.

Aha, do these bleeding hearts, including some moneybags, really want to save Hindu souls?


Joint Hearing
Subcommittee on Human Rights
Committee on Development
Delegation for relations with India
Delegation for relations with South Asia
Caste-based discrimination in South Asia
28 February 2011
EU hearing highlights caste discrimination in South Asia

Brussels, 28th February 2011

A hearing in the European Parliament this evening co-chaired by Nirj Deva MEP, vice-President of the development committee, has heard about the still prolific level of caste-based discrimination that occurs in South Asia - affecting approximately 260 million people worldwide.

In India alone, 165 million people remain vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and violence because of the caste. In South Asia, caste discrimination is rooted in tradition. Supported by philosophical elements, the caste system constructs the moral, social and legal foundations of the society. Dalits are ‘outcastes’ or people who fall outside the four-fold caste system consisting of the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vysya and Sudra.

As in India, it is often outlawed by the Constitutions of the countries affected by it, but a lack of implementation of legislation and caste-bias within the social systems largely leave Dalits without protection .

Following the hearing Mr Deva, from the European Conservatives and Reformists group, condemned:

- the inclusion of caste assignment on birth certificates of newborn children;
- the practice of manual scavenging (affecting 1.3 million Dalits in India) which is often the sole economic opportunity for Dalit women who earn less than a dollar a day collecting and transporting untreated waste to dumping sites - a huge public health risk;
- the failure of authorities to implement legislation to protect the rights the rights of Dalits;
- the persistent abuse against Dalit men and women, and particularly increasing levels of rape.

Mr Deva, whose wife Indra is Chairman of Hope for Children Belgium - which works to fight diarrhoeal diseases in the developing world - called on the Indian government and other governments in the region to remove the caste designation from birth certificates and to properly implement and strengthen legislation regarding caste-based discrimination. They also called on the authorities to provide adequate infrastructure for removing waste so that the children no longer face this major public health threat. They also called on the EU and UN to put in place a coherent and comprehensive action plan to ensure that the above is delivered, and for any Free Trade Agreement between the EU and India to include clear provisions for robust and strongly enforced legislation to end all caste discrimination, starting with birth certificate identification.

Mr Deva said:

"I have witnessed myself a senior representative of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka washing the pavement in front of his house every time a Dalit walked by. We have to understand that this issue is deeply rooted in their mentality and religious structure.

"The designation of the inherited caste on the birth certificate is the starting point of all subsequent segregation, abuse and violence against them. This form of contemporary slavery is unacceptable in the world we live in."

What a bizarre coincidence that HAF should be using a similar title for its HAF-baked report? Maybe, HAF guys should get a lesson from the pundit, Nirj Deva and even include a ringing endorsement from him for the bogus report.


Caste hearings in EU - exactly as examined in "Breaking India"Wednesday, March 9, 2011 6:33 AM

My friend, Chandramouli in Belgium, sends me the above. data relating to the discussionn in Breaking India. Right now, in and around the European parliament, the "caste warriors" are in full battle cry. It is not just a coincidence that the EU-India Free Trade Agreement is on the cusp of being realized with the EU trying to secure as much leg room as possible. Above is a brief article followed by a poster being spread widely for this campaign.(Poster cannot be copied entirely for this blog)

Rajiv Malhotra


Sunday, March 6, 2011


Gandhiji was right and Dr. Ramdas Lamb is mistaken


Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

In a recent article "Is Ramdas Lamb wiser than Mahatma Gandhi?" the present writer had pointed out that Dr. Lamb had rejected Gandhiji’s view on Varna and Jati. Gandhiji saw Varna and Jati as being promoters of professional excellence, pride in one’s occupation and so on. Dr. Lamb had expressed his view in a private e-mail to this writer (permission was obtained from him to cite him).

Dr. Lamb came to India in the 60s and followed the traditional trajectory of the young American of those times, disillusioned with his own society (no doubt the Viet Nam war and the lack of civil rights for American blacks) and reportedly found a guru. In his recent public e-mail to the writer he has confirmed that he did find a Guru and is a member of the Ramananda Sampradaya.

Ramdas Lamb also encountered the Untouchables (a they were then called) and was moved by their lot in Hindu society, as he saw it. He worked SINCERELY with that population in Chhattisgarh and established and became the Director of the Sahayog Foundation, which is reportedly doing good work in the rural areas. The HAF (Hindu American Foundation) in its controversial report ‘Hinduism : not cast in caste’ December, 2010) was advised by him and in one of their citations which the present writer followed up, there is a description of the work done in rural areas, especially among the female population, by the Sahayog Foundation.

Illiteracy in these areas was the prime cause of young girls being married off as early as 12 years of age and bearing children by the age of 14.

What should be pointed out is that while the visuals are those of cheerful young girls along with American women, one should ask what the story is behind these optimistic pictures. Is there a follow up of Conversion activity? What is the data behind this activity? Are the American workers (and that includes Dr. Lamb) being used by the U.S. based Sahayog Foundation which has branches in other parts of India?

These are questions the Hindus in the Diaspora, familiar with missionary agenda, and their usual exaggerations of the negatives in the society targeted for conversions, etc., and Hindus who have had a bitter experience of their agenda in the past, must surely ask. A colonized country must ask these questions and it would be remiss of Indians not to ask these questions. Once bit twice shy.

However, in this article the present writer is concerned with the question of why Ramdas Lamb is mistaken and why Gandhiji is right. We can take Ramdas at his word that he is a sincere worker on behalf of the Untouchables. That is not at all the issue. The issue is: why did Gandhiji endorse Varna and Jati? And why doesn’t Ramdas Lamb?

Gandhiji’s writings on the ideal Village Republic are in a collection of essays brought out in 1954 by Navajivan Trust. It is called Sarvodaya: The Welfare of All. It includes his writings from the early 1920's on. Gandhiji makes it clear that he was familiar with the ancient village republics of ancient India. We too know that these post Vedic political formations and the subsequent establishment of empires(the Mauryas in late 4th century B.C.E.) had established certain socio-economic formations. The social formations which were essentially clusters of tribes and a host of communities received organizational structure with the rise of the economic structure, the shreni (guild).

The present writer has strong reasons to believe that this is the origin of Jati. Various economic activities became consolidated with the efficient organization of shreni activity. Each shreni had its specialized craftsmen and artisans, drawn from various families which now had become the Jati base of that particular economic activity. These shreni based Jatis became the backbone of India’s economic prosperity and its world-wide fame in the production and trade of goods. They were also the source from which the shilpis who built the magnificent Hindu temples came. Every shreni had its rules and regulations and the membership was drawn from those particular practitioners of trade.

The relevant Jati could also cut across the Jati boundary; it was not uncommon to find a Brahmin in the shreni membership. And the shilpis who built the magnificent Hindu temples often were of Brahmanic origin. So were some other stone masons. In the latter case they had knowledge of Vastu Shastra.

Varna, as previously stated by this writer and as is well known, is the Vedic general classification of the population into the 4 groups of
1)priests/intellectuals, 2) warriors/politicians, 3) merchant/economic drivers, and 4)agriculturists/the service class. The Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras, respectively.

While the interaction between shreni and the Jatis was a straightforward one, the social cluster of the Jatis had its own cultural, religious and social life. Neither of these two entities had ever a direct relationship with Untouchability, whose origins can be traced back to 300 or 400 years before the Christian era (according to scholars). Dr. Ambedkar has theorized that the Shudras were originally part of the upper 3 varnas and fell into disfavor with them and were thus pushed down into a fourth Varna, the Shudras. Those doing the “lowest” menial work in this Varna then became the Untouchables. Later there was an additional influx of various tribals and incoming populations who also were pushed into this category.

Gandhiji fought against such labeling of people leading to Untouchability. The Indian Constitution has outlawed it since Independence. The government has affirmative action programs for the uplift of the ex-Untouchables. Individuals, NGOs and the Sangh Parivar organizations are doing sterling work toward the goal of eradicating Untouchability for the last six decades or more. No serious Hindu could/should condone the continued existence of Untouchability, which in many parts of India, has disappeared, owing largely to urbanization. But some of it still persists in some places. Our Acharyas have in the past condemned Untouchability as a social evil and they continue to do so.

However, the related questions of Varna and Jati are yet to be fully understood in contemporary India. The Jati system continues to be an engine of commercial and economic activity. The writings of S. Gurumurthy (political commentator, economist and accountant by profession) are a source of authentic material. His work is spread across his blog with a web-site ( He has an easily accessible article therein: “Is caste an economic development vehicle?” To quote:

“A UNIDO study (1997) shows that out of the 370 small scale industrial clusters
and 2600 artisan-based clusters, which generated 70 per cent of India’s industrial
output, 66 per cent of exports, and 40 per cent of employment, only 13 were
government sponsored. The rest had evolved out of the caste-community based

(S. Gurumurthy, “Is caste an economic development vehicle?” The Hindu, Jan.19.2009).

In this context, it is important that the question of alleged human rights abuses of the caste system raised by anti-national individuals such as Pathmarajah Nagalingam (associate of the reformist group Navya Shaastra) should be vigorously contested by the Hindus of the Diaspora and in India. The concocted accusations by people like him are clearly a fig leaf for the hostile agenda of various groups in India, of which the missionaries constitute a significant segment. Other writers such as Rajiv Malhotra and Aravind Neelakandam in their latest book Breaking India, Dec. 2010, have listed the three main dangers that India faces today:

1. Islamic Fundamentalism/Terrorism
2. Maoism
3. The Dravidian-Christian nexus.

Readers need to be reminded that Pathmarajah Nagalingam has advocated even military invasion of India, in case international pressure and coercion fail to change alleged human rights abuses. His agenda is obviously clear. The HAF has hopefully publicly distanced itself from such a project. It is not clear whether Dr. Lamb has PUBLICLY distanced himself from it. Dr. Lamb’s most recent e-mail to me (which is now being widely circulated) makes it clear that his interests in the Untouchability problem are religious-humanitarian, not political. Though he has impetuously turned to RISA membership to invite them to discuss currently withdrawn HAF report with or without the knowledge and permission of HAF, it needs to be presumed that Ramdas Lamb is not connected in any fashion with the Christian missionary agenda, giving him the benefit of the doubt. We can take him at his word. Only time will tell whether his activism is genuine or whether he too will go the way of all flesh, meaning that he will, like all missionaries, attack the Indian system in the end or will he turn to the UN for its so called “Human Rights” activism within India.

The present writer has said in the above mentioned article that Dr. Lamb’s linking of
Untouchability with Varna and Jati are the result of his inability to relate to the Indian/Hindu ethos. It is hoped that his engagement with rural India does not entail either missionary activity or the endorsement of Naglingam’s agenda. His theoretical failure to understand Varna and Jati as distinct from the problem of Untouchability can easily be changed, with some background reading and reflection on the Hindu ethos. It will, in the opinion of the present writer, actually strengthen his ability to deal with the Untouchability question in Hindu India. It is surprising that he has not, in these 31 years of his close association with Hindus and India, attempted study of the system.

The HAF Report rightly argues that there is no linkage between Hinduism and Untouchability. The present writer is on a parallel track: there is no linkage between Varna- Jati aspect of Hinduism and Untouchability either. If Dr. Lamb accepts HAF’s premise, there is no reason why he should not give credence to the second premise, especially since it has the backing of Mahatma Gandhi whom no one can accuse of ill treatment of the Untouchables, or of being not interested in their plight.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).


Ramdas Lamb sees no need for Mother Theresa in the Ghettos of the US.

(Editor's comments: There are 99,972 discrimination charges against Private Sector Work Place filed with the federal agency which hit an unprecedented nationwide level
and this does not count those unreported instances. This is for the fiscal
year 2010 according to the federal Equal Opportunity Employer.

Will Ramdas challenge a white man or woman to go live in the "black" ghetto for one month, or else, keep his mouth shut, if there is a remote possibility that there is another side to this picture, if at all? Why is Ramdas Lamb turning to RISA to solve
the internal problems of India and not turn to equivalent socially responsible
white religious group to eliminate the widespread discrimination in the US? Is there no money in it or is it becasue those souls in the US are already harvested, so they can continue to suffer the discrimination and atrocities? Was he motivated to go to India as a missionary Christian or was he inclined to be a Hindu to begin with? Who financed his initial years in India?

Note: Lamb re-enters the debate after excusing himself from it for some time, not wanting to have dialogue with his Hindu colleagues and scholars whom he accuses to be
the cause of the social evils in India and "part of the problem" challenging them to do "something" but he is eager to start dialogue with his RISA colleagues. He does not reveal whether RISA has produced one "Mother Theresa" for uplift and care of the downtrodden (oppressed) African American and Native American or other similar populations in the US which deserve and need to be called the "Dalit Americans" who have suffered genocide and untold atrocities which should have moved the bleeding hearts of Lamb like people in the US to look for their saviors and demonstrate what they have done to welcome the Dalit Americans in their fold. When people like Lamb point a finger at others their three fingers are pointing at themselves. Indians have witnessed such "holier than thou" attitude in thousands of busy-bodies that are not shy to start even the very first conversations with stranger Hindus (like: equivalent of: Do you still lynch people in the streets in America?-- Do you still have a caste in India and take dowry and have sattee (sic)? Not at all a pleasant way to get to know a stranger!!) and Ramdas is not the first or the last one that feels being originally a white Christian entitles him with the birthright to criticise, from a high pedestal, other societies and other religions, while there is some stink stuck to his shoes that others can smell from far away. Ramdas' Guru in India has surely exhorted him to "know thyself" first. The anger and hostility towards people from India for "still social evils being present in India" is a remarkable phenomenon demonstrated by Guru Ramdas Lamb!! Ruby was a 5 year old girl in the sixtees when she was to attend an elementary school and on both sides of the street people were shouting death threats at her while US Marshals protected her, when Ramdas was still in this country. What did he do? She prayed every day with her eyes closed and said "they do not know what they are doing." Instead of helping such innocent victims of this society, Ramdas saw it fit to leave US and go to India in 1969. What does that tell you about Ramdas and people like him? Have any foreigners come to US to convert these Dalit Americans to other religions because they are being oppressed or to even relieve their suffering, and made a career for themselves in such activity by setting up tax-deductible non-profit organizations specifically for that purpose? May be Ramdas can do some research on it in his free time to enlighten the world. Let us not be fooled that there is money in this business when you do this in India or Africa but no such money comes easy to do this same thing in the ghettos of US. Why?)

Dr. Ramdas Lamb's post on RISA-L List

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ramdas Lamb
Date: Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 4:36 PM
Subject: [RISA-L LIST] HAF caste report controversy

In December, the Hindu American Foundation published an online report on
caste in India (I had sent a link to RISA at the time). It was meant to
shed light on the problems of caste prejudice that continues to exist in the
minds of many orthodox Hindus, especially in villages. Although neither a
strictly academic nor a perfect document (a few alterations have already
been made), the HAF report has some important things to say, addresses an
issue about which many of us are interested, and therefore has taken a
courageous step in a positive direction. Predictably, there has been a
concerted effort, online and in a few Indian publications, by a small but
very vocal high caste group to discredit the report by attacking the
messenger and thereby avoid addressing the actual issue being addressed.
Those who are a part of this effort, both in Indian and the west, seem
unable to stomach any sort of criticism and will attack anyone, especially
Hindus, who are willing to say "it is a problem we are a part of and needs
to be addressed." The attacks against HAF and its report have been amazing
in their refusal to see the caste system as anything but a great social form
that has done nothing but benefit India. I mention this in case anyone is
interested in the issue and the controversy from an academic perspective.
Before I unsubscribed myself, I received many of the back and forth emails
on the issue and am happy to share some of what has been sent me, at least
those from the open forum mailing lists. If interested, please contact me
off list.

Ramdas Lamb
Department of Religion
University of Hawai'i

Background note on the article of Dr. Vijaya Rajiva and comments at the website:

Is Ramdas Lamb wiser than Mahatma Gandhi ?


Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

Dr. Ramdas Lamb is President of the Sahayog Foundation at Chattisgarh, is an academic and one closely associated with the HAF (Hindu American Foundation) and the production of their report ‘Hinduism : Not cast in caste’ (Dec.2010). He is an American, and came to India several years ago in search of spiritual guidance and has reportedly found a Hindu guru. His Foundation works for the uplift of the former Untouchables and he himself has done sincere work on their behalf. It seems to be a subsidiary of its head branch in the U.S.

This article then, is not a personal attack on Dr.Lamb, but is an attempt to understand why he thinks that Varna and Jati need to be eradicated if there is to be justice for the former Untouchables. Mahatma Gandhi endorsed both Varna and Jati because he saw them as both natural and useful for a productive society (as is well known, he opposed Untouchabilty and worked tirelessly for its eradications, as do many of the government organizations, NGOs, and the Sangh organizations). In agreement with the ancient sages of the Vedic period he saw that Varna which divides society into 4 general segments, the intellectual, the political, the producers of wealth and the agriculturists, reflected the needful structure of any developing human society. Jati, loosely and mistakenly translated into English as ‘caste’ allows individuals to achieve excellence and pride in their work. There are innumerable examples of this but one that comes to mind is that of the jati in Kerala which produces high quality mirrors from burnished metal. Down the ages the craftsmen of various jatis produced goods that were famed throughout the ancient world (and even today). One should mention the outstanding shilpis who built the great Hindu temples. The list of the achievements of the jatis is endless.

Gandhiji did advocate flexibility in this system in that the individual, if he/she chooses, can move into another caste. This was, of course, true of ancient and medieval Indian society before the two Occupations, the Islamic and the British. The guild like structure of the jatis was flexible, even while it provided support to the individual. It was primarily a socio-economic entity. Varna and Jati were what made for the celebrated prosperity of ancient and medieval India and as well for the great Hindu classics in every department.

The system was flexible and fell back into itself in a rigid way with the invasions and the two Occupations. Even an historian such as Romila Thapar (not known for her sympathies towards Hindu India) points this out.

Ramdas Lamb’s preoccupation with Varna and Jati arises from his mistaken view that they are responsible for the existence of Untouchability. It must be pointed out that even Manusmriti does not mention the word, though it does go into great detail as to how the 4 Varnas should conduct themselves. The 4 Varnas were: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.

Scholars are not entirely in agreement as to when Untouchability started in India. The date is roughly assigned to the three or four hundred years before the Christian era. Dr.Ambedkar believes that they were composed both of fallen Brahmins and Shudras.

Some scholars believe that they fell from the Varna-Jati system because they did not conform to social expectations. They became outcastes who then performed the most menial tasks of society, such as removing refuse and night soil, engaging in the disposal of dead animals, removing their hides, etc. Still others believe that they were captured in war, much like the helots in ancient Sparta.

Whatever the origin of the ex Untouchables, they performed a service job and were not
part of the main productive activity of society. And technological improvements did not exist as they do in contemporary India which eliminates by and large in most of the subcontinent the need for a special class of people to do these menial jobs.

Dr. Lamb does not see Untouchability as an historical emergent and one that would pass away in due time, with modernization and urbanization. He seems to think of Varna-Jati as intextricably linked with the oppression of the Untouchables (Dalits) becaue of its inherent built-in oppressive nature.

He has not advanced any systematic view of this subject, as far as the present writer is aware. That he does hold to the above view is evidenced in one or two e-mails that he exchanged with the present writer (Mention of this fact is after obtaining permission from him to cite him and even quote his views).

The present writer wishes to advance an interpretaion of his anomalous position. He is a former Christian and therefore brings to his work and activity a lack of genuine understanding of the basic ethos of Hindu India. Hindu acharyas have pointed out that Untouchability is a social injustice and is not part of Hinduism. Ramdas Lamb only reacts to the social reality he has witnessed (and no one can deny that it continues to exist in various parts of India) and mistakenly projects it onto the Varna-Jati system.

‘Higher’ and ‘lower’ are categories that exist in every human society, but interestingly the Varna-Jati system does not condone that. Dr. Lamb is unable to see this, precisely because he brings to bear a mythical ‘egalitarian’ ethos which he inherits, whether he likes it or not, from his early Christian upbringing. The fact that this ‘egalitarianism’ has never existed historically is beside the point. This is his mind set. In addition he has seen at first hand the social injustices of inequality in Chattisgarh.

The question then that needs to be asked is whether he or the HAF Report that he advised should not change their focus. Of course, Varna and Jati are central to Hindu India’s historical development, but the development and continued existence of Untouchabilty is not linked to Hinduism.

This latter point is submerged in the HAF Report precisely because the authors of the Report (as advised by Dr. Lamb) have conflated Varna, Jati and Caste. The complex system of Varna-Jati has been assimilated to Untouchablity (of a variety of forms). This leads to an unintended linkage with the Hindu religion per se, even when the Report denies it.

The unintended consequences of Dr. Lamb’s and the Report’s theoretical failures are:

1. An excessive mea culpaing.

2. Opening the door to the excesses of Navya Shastra whose director has also been
involved in the production of the Report.

3. The Report’s vulnerability to be used by outright opponents of India such as
Pathmarajah Nagalingam.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)
nokidding--- said...
What other entities is Ramdas Lamb an advisor to? Is he an advisor to RISA? Is he an advisor to US congress or Congressional Commission on Human Rights? Is he an advisor to UN? Is he an advisor to Navya Shastra? How did he do his root-cause analysis of the injustice suffered by the Harijans to come with his answer? He started his career studying Indian society in 1969. Did it take him 31 years to make this unique discovery to sell it to HAF and Navya Shastra or may be five years earlier when the secret deliberations on writing the HAF report started? Is he also a politician? Who is financing his trips to India for thirty one years? Is he going to discuss now withdrawn HAF report with members of RISA? For what purpose? Why is RISA not inviting Indian and Hindu American scholars of Hinduism if Ramdas Lamb is to discuss HAF report in RISA?

FEBRUARY 28, 2011 10:16 PM
Chitra said...

Dear Friends,

The critiques have been published, the dueling emails have coursed the web like live magnesium wires, and the readers of the readers of the report have weighed in.

We are in agreement that the report in its original form was unacceptable; that it harbored serious contradictions in its content – in that on the one hand it emphatically denied that Hinduism condoned caste and on the other, called for "rejection" of certain texts; that it presented a catalogue of horrors perpetrated on "lower" castes while failing to correspondingly highlight equally specific instances of actual progress in India’s social uplift that the west is clueless about; and that overall, it communicated more as work of self-flagellating expiation than as a blueprint for positive change.

I share my perspectives here as someone who has both criticized the report AND acknowledged in all fairness portions of it that are laudable in their clarity and substance.

Among its positive qualities: The report lucidly describes caste dynamics as a political rather than a religious phenomenon. It also addresses and dismisses another popular perception in the west -- namely, that the oppressor class is exclusively "brahmin." It incorporates well-chosen quotations from Hindu texts that promote a mindset of insight-based mutual tolerance equal to, if not unparalleled by any other faith tradition.

To prevent a forest fire from advancing, firefighters set off small controlled fires to clear swathes of vegetation that might feed the blaze's carnivorous advance. When the fire is in your own home however, you would not expect firefighters to respond by setting off fires in different corners of your house. Nor would you expect them to call a wrecking crew to demolish the home in order to contain the fire. No, you would expect them in that situation to PRESERVE lives and CONTAIN the damage.

HAF has made a gesture towards CONTAINING the damage by taking their report offline. We, the critics of the report, should contribute to the PRESERVATION angle by not engaging in personality-assassination.

Why not just wait for the revised version? It is not just an imperfect report that can hurt the Hindu image and cause, you know. The relentless public skewering of those involved in the report, the insulting presumptions of an ulterior agenda, the reckless disregard for the feelings of HAF office-bearers who have a history of shared activism that predates this report – what does this achieve, other than to exacerbate an already polarized climate?

( to be continued)

MARCH 2, 2011 7:58 AM
Chitra said...
PART TWO ( continued from Part one )

I am aware that NavyaShastra’s worldview has permeated this report and their members are acknowledged as partners and contributors to it. But let me remind all that it is the SUBSTANCE of the report that is being debated. And that substance has been thoroughly examined and critiqued. So now, unless HAF officially announces a merger with NavyaShastra, why should NavyaShastra’s baggage be used to punish HAF?

NavyaShastra is a sovereign group with a clearly articulated mission and agenda distinct from HAF. When HAF makes it clear that they had no knowledge of inflammatory statements made by a member of NS, there the matter should end. If the NS member in question is absorbed by HAF in some capacity, then we should worry. Otherwise, it is a non-issue.

It is one thing to warn of the consequences of certain actions and judgment calls. It is quite another to work up a frenzy of conjecture as to what caused those actions, generating a tsunami of reactive speculation that subsumes reality.

I appeal to all concerned to strive for more objectivity and graciousness. In construing HAF's current silence on the matter as hostility, some of HAF's detractors come across as both vocally and destructively hostile. You cannot challenge HAF to heal the original schism while opening up fresh rifts!

HAF also was criticized for its “hubris” in not consulting with older and more experienced members of the community before going public with the report. What about HAF’s critics? Have some of them not displayed a Rambo-esque lack of anger management and proportionality? Who among us can honestly say that our egos have no bearing on our actions?

I appreciate Dr. Vijaya for signing her name to her personal views on Dr. Ramdas Lamb. I would respectfully urge "nokidding" to shed the anonymity, pick up the phone and have a direct, civil conversation with Dr. Lamb. That is what I would do if I were genuinely interested in answers, rather than fuelling the feeding frenzy.

Chitra Raman

MARCH 2, 2011 8:04 AM
nokidding--- said...
Dear Chitra Raman:

Your comments on both the negative and the positive aspects of the HAF Report were useful.

In my opinion, the achilles heel of the Report is the absence of a clearly worked out statement on Varna and Jati which would explain the historical success of India's prosperity and fame in the ancient and medieval worlds, until the two Occupations (Islamic and British).

Secondly, both Varna and Jati have no connection with Untouchability. It used to be that Western scholars (and following them Indian scholars also) thought of Varna as the beginning of rigid stratification. That
approach no longer exists except among some fundamentalist thinkers who want to use that stick with which to beat Hinduism.

Jati has not yet been fully explored. As I say in my article Jati was the basis of ancient and medieval India's enormous success. It was the framework to structure the society. And there was mobility within the system. Neither Varna nor Jati have anything to do with the oppression of the Untouchables.

The Report by not addressing these questions has weakened their (HAF's) defence of Hindu India. My guess is that they (HAF) were influenced in this direction both by Dr.Lamb's lack of understanding of the Hindu ethos and by Navya Shastra's extremism; also HAF Report was not based on a proper understanding of Indian history.

It is still a mystery why a supposedly Reform group like Navya Shastra would have an anti- Indian associate like Pathmarajah
Nagalingam. In his case his malafide intentions are crystal clear.

HAF has probably publicly distanced itself from such undesirable elements as surmised by you but it has not been that widely publicised. Most critics do not think that HAF has done that. Yet, I do hope that in their revised version of the HAF Report they will make an effort to refocus their work on the importance of Varna and Jati to Hindu society in its economic functioning. The work on the CONTEMPORARY significance of Jati in the Indian economy has been amply elucidated by people like S.Gurumurthy.

I can cite one easily accessible article by him which was published in The Hindu:

"Is caste an economic development vehicle?" S.Gurumurthy, The Hindu, Jan.19,2009.

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

MARCH 3, 2011 10:35 PM
Ramdas Lamb wrote Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 11:53 AM

The letter below is my response to Dr. Vijay Rajiva's recent article about me and my thoughts on caste. I am sending it to you as well because I know you have or will likely spread his article around to your friends. Let's see how willing your are to pass my response around as well.

Ramdas Lamb

Dr. Rajiva,

When you first wrote to me, I naively trusted your sincerity. My gurus have encouraged trust. It is sad that you felt comfortable in belittling me, my thoughts, and my experience to support your own narrowmindedness. First, I am NOT president of Sahayog Foundation at Chattisgarh, but then truth does not seem to be something you find of deep interest. I am president and founder of Sahayog Foundation, a U.S. based organization. We are affiliated the with Chhattisgarh organization, but they are two separate entities and I have NO official position with that organization. Second, it appears you found it necessary to belittle my experience as a Hindu as well. You write that I went to India in “search of spiritual guidance and has reportedly found a Hindu guru.” You know that I took diksha in the Ramananda Sampraday as a sadhu and lived that life for nearly ten years and am still a member of the order, but you chose to ignore that and instead emphasize my previous Christian background, repeatedly. I guess anyone who disagrees with you cannot be a “legitimate” Hindu in your eyes.

You claim I “have preoccupation with Varna and Jati.” Again, you distort. As a committed Hindu, I have a preoccupation with helping our Hindu brothers and sisters who have been and continue to be oppressed because they have been marginalized by caste Hindu society and people like you. I would like to see the degraded system that exists today dissolve. You, on the other hand, seem to have a preoccupation with Varna and Jati and with the present system the way it is, and pretend that it is not the cause of oppression. I dare you to start telling people, both your friends and people you just meet, that you are really from a Harijan family and do so for an entire month and see how you are treated. Then, you can talk to me about the glories of Varna and Jati and the present system. If you are unwilling, then any denial that caste and oppression are connected is hypocrisy on your part.

You write “Gandhiji did advocate flexibility in this system in that the individual, if he/she chooses, can move into another caste.” The system Gandhiji advocated does NOT exist in India today. If it did, the problems the system has caused and that I am working to alleviate would not be there. Another challenge to you: would you be willing to allow you son or daughter to marry someone who was born in a Harijan or Dalit family but decided to “move into” a high caste? If not, then it is but another sign of the double speak and disingenuousness that you put forth.

Again, you write that I have a “mistaken view that they [Varna and Jati] are responsible for the existence of Untouchability.” Actually, I believe that arrogance and narrowmindedness are responsible, but those who promote Untouchability use Varna and Jati to justify their attitudes and actions.

You say Untouchability will eventually pass away. When do you think it will happen, and what are YOU doing to help? Also, what about the millions of Hindus who continue to suffer under that stigma until it does pass away, or is their suffering irrelevant to you? Again, are your words simply empty or are you doing something to improve their lives?

Finally, you suggest that HAF’s caste report will “be used by outright opponents of India.” Actually, the best ammunition to be used against India AND Hinduism are the writings of people like you who continue to justify social oppression of Dalits and Hindu Harijans. You and those who think like you are the real ones who are supply fuel to attack India.

Now, let’s see if you have the decency to have this letter spread around the Internet as you have done your attack on me. You claim that you wrote your piece as “an attempt to understand” my views on Varna and Jati. Well, I have just given you a few answers. Let’s see if you are willing to share them with the same people you shared your attacks with. Let’s see how interested you are in fairness and truth.

May Ram Ji open your eyes and heart,
Ramdas Lamb

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Vijay Rajiva To: ramdas
Sent: Sun, March 6, 2011 6:16:19 AM Subject: Your public response

Dear Dr.Lamb,

Thankyou for your response. I will try to keep this short. I can understand your feelings of hurt at what you consider my insensitivity to both your efforts and the condition of the Untouchables.

I did begin my article by saying that it was not a personal attack on you. Please note that.

Then I went into an attempt to explain briefly that Untouchability is not intrinsic to Varna and Jati. In that sense my effort is parallel to that of the Report which
states that Untouchability is not intrinsic to Hinduism.

My criticism of the Report is that it seems to tacitly denigrade Varna and Jati,
and thereby deprive itself of an important tool for understanding India's historical
development and yes its past achievements.

In your case you connect Untouchability directly to Varna and Jati.

This is a mistake. Both you and HAF are throwing the baby out with the bath.
Gandhiji does not do that. Even while working tirelessly to eradicate Untouchability he endorsed Varna and Jati because his models of economic development were the old Janapadas and the sreni of ancient India.

Yes, his system DOES partially exist in India today, because the medium and
small industries are fuelled by Jati. S.Gurumurthy has done some work on the subject. I mention that in my article. His article 'Is Caste an economic development vehicle?' (The Hindu, Monday, Jan.19,2009).

Economically then, there is a dual movement, one of urbanisation, modernisation and the fuelling of the economy by big business and that of the small and medium industries. Gandhiji would have preferred the latter.

I am deeply sorry if my article offended you, but there is nothing personal against you. I am concerned both as a Hindu and as an Indian that extremist elements such as Pathmarajah Nagalingam will carry the day with Reform groups like Navya Shastra. The latter has input into the Report.

Nagalingam proposes a military invasion of India, in case international persuasion/coercion fail, to address human rights abuses. This is in his e-mail, reportedly sent to Navya Shastra. I shall forward it to you if you have not
already seen it.


Vijaya Rajiva
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: rakesh bahadur
Date: Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 9:50 PM
Subject: Fwd: Exchanges on HAF-baked caste report: Dr. Vijay Rajiva and Dr. Ramdas Lamb
To: ramdas

Dear Dr. Lamb

I read your email with fascination. I applaud your dedication to Hinduism. But at the same time I am surprised at your statement “I have a preoccupation with helping our Hindu brothers and sisters who have been and continue to be oppressed because they have been marginalized by caste Hindu society …”. Statements like “caste Hindu society” are by-product of ignorance. Ignorance never helps or heal.

It is always prudent to do a thorough research before using terms like “continue to be oppressed”. Mr. Veerappa Moily, the Law and Justice Minister of Government of India made the following statement on August 4, 2009 in the Indian Parliament “Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have made considerable progress in the last 60 years”[1]. Maybe you know something that the Law and Justice minister of Government of India does not know. Prerequisite for progress is proper conditions and positive environment. Exponential progress never happens where a group is being oppressed.

A critical analysis of the following parameters that define a society – literacy rate, crime rate, human right violations, poverty rate, and health indicators will give a true picture about the status of “oppressed classes”. Let me share literacy rate progress for scheduled castes in India. I was able to get data from US Library of Congress, British Archives, and Government of India websites.

The attached graph shows change in literacy rate for scheduled caste and general population over last 60 years[2]. Exponential progress cannot happen in a society where discrimination is wide spread and human right violations are rampant against a group. Social change is a slow incremental process and is moving in the positive direction at an exponential rate for scheduled castes in India.

The best fit Scheduled Caste data is with Exponential fit (R2 = 0.9913) and the best fit for General Public (R2 = 0.9932) is from Linear fit. A trendline is most accurate when its R-squared (a number from 0 to 1 that reveals how closely the estimated values for the trendline correspond to the actual data) value (R-squared value: A number from 0 to 1 that reveals how closely the estimated values for the trendline correspond to your actual data. A trendline is most reliable when its R-squared value is at or near 1. Also known as the coefficient of determination.) is at or near 1.

While the Constitution has prescribed certain protective measures and safeguards for these classes, successive Five Year Plans have regarded their progress as a major objective of national policy.

Since 80‘s GoI started putting special funding for SC in the Five year plans. The attached table illustrates that during “Fifth Plan (1974-78) and Sixth Plan (1980-85) no allocation was made under SCSP for the Central Sector. However, allocation of Rs. 751.33 (4.25%) and Rs 3614.66 crore (7.67%) had been allocated under State Sector. Allocation under Central Sector had been made only during Seventh Plan onwards[3]”.

Rakesh Bahadur

Figure and Table

Ramdas Lamb: Reply (see below)



[2] ,


From: Ramdas Lamb
Date: Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Subject: Re: Exchanges on HAF-baked caste report: Dr. Vijay Rajiva and Dr. Ramdas Lamb
To: rakesh bahadur

Dear Shri Bahadur,

In the 1960s, the U.S. passed a series of laws to ban racial discrimination, and since that time many Blacks have been able to gain quality education, get good jobs, etc. Yet, anyone who would say that racial discrimination has ended here is not seeing reality. Much the same is the case in India with untouchability. Sure, many have benefited from government and other attempts to eradicate the problem, and I applaud these. I also believe most Hindus do not support untouchability, but the system that puts SC at the bottom does.

Simply saying the problem does not exist does not make it go away. Please tell me, what are you doing personally to help alleviate the problem? What is Dr. Rajiva doing as an individual to help? It is easy to criticize me and HAF, but what are you doing? I continue to applaud and strongly support HAF for wanting ALL Hindus to be treated with respect. Do you know want that? If you do, then what are you doing to make it happen? Until you can explain what you and others are doing to help our Hindu brothers and sisters, the words remain empty. Please dedicate your efforts and energy to help suffering Hindus rather than sweeping their problems under the rug.

May Ram Ji bless us all with compassion and inspire us to do something to help,

Ramdas Lamb

Dear Dr. Lamb --

Your responses to Dr. Vijaya and Shri Bahadur were forwarded around by R S. I thought hard about whether I really wanted to insert myself into the crossfire. But since the conversation has stopped being about the report and has gotten increasingly personal, I hope to reintroduce some measure of objectivity and return the focus to the issues rather than our personalities.

Let me state at the outset that I do greatly and sincerely respect your personal involvement and commitment to alleviating harsh ground realities.

I couldn't help noticing that in being deeply hurt by what you saw as Dr. Vijaya's misrepresentation and diminishing of your experience and record, you have made some leaps to judgment of your own.

You presume, for instance that because Dr. Vijaya tries to explain Varna and Jaati as distinct from the practice of Untouchability, that she justifies the status quo and wants it to persist. You state that the purpose of her writings is to " justify social oppression of Dalits and Hindu Harijans."

But does she do that, really? It may be that discussions of Varna and Jaati are viewed as academic and bearing little to no relation to what is actually happening on a day to day basis. But I don't see that it was brought up in order to suggest that things are fine exactly as they are!

My perception is that it was brought up in the context of the way in which the HAF report portrays caste and its basis in Hindu scripture. At issue was the question of whether or not there is a scriptural basis for caste discrimination in Hinduism.

Manu Dharmasastra is not scripture, as we know. The BhagavadGita is. The Gita has passages on Varna and Jaati that are routinely misunderstood and misrepresented.

HAF made a clear claim in the report that caste discrimination has no basis in Hinduism. But that message was diluted by other elements of the report that seemed to contradict this assertion.

Some people feel strongly that if the intent is to NOT indict Hinduism as being defined by an ingrained hierarchical mindset ( any more than is the case in the Semitic religious texts ) it is necessary to explain Jaati and Varna ( which do appear in the scriptures) as distinct from what we currently know as Caste ( which does not).

That is a particular point of view and you might disagree and still see it as irrelevant hairsplitting. But I just want to say that it would be wrong for you to see anyone who attempts to explain Varna and Jaati as being an apologist for caste discrimination. My father frequently launches into explanations of such customs and traditions. And he was progressive long before that word was coined, starting from the earliest days of his career in the IAS in Orissa.

In fact my father's "Mylapore brahmin" family could serve as a case study of how amazingly the norms of intermarriage could change in the space of a couple of generations.

You question whether anyone of a "higher" caste would allow their son or daughter to marry a Harijan seeking upward mobility. Well -- I dont know if you are familiar with the phenomenal Narendra Yadav, the multilingual IAS officer and public speaker who started his life as the son of a sweeper. He has chronicled his tenacious and inspiring rise in a profoundly compelling book titled "Untouchable." I am told both his daughters have married Brahmins. Interesting, is it not.

One of the most intellectually stimulating Indian philosophers of the 20th century, Nisargadatta Maharaj, whose insights reveal a capacity for abstract thinking amazing in an unschooled mind, was from the sweeper caste. His book is a relatively recent addition to my collection. The people who flocked to him, including the remarkably erudite and articulate Ramesh Balsekhar who translated his works from Marathi into English, came from all walks of life. Time and time again we see that the enlightened Hindu, or at least one who is in search of enlightenment doesn't need to be persuaded to shed caste consciousness.

There are many in my family who are deeply invested in social work. I am particularly proud of my cousin Usha Ramanathan, Law Researcher in Delhi and fierce defender of the downtrodden. I'd like to introduce her to you with this You tube clip:

She has most recently taken on Nandan Nilekani's IUD program for its potential to seriously infringe upon the rights and privacy of the weaker sections of society.

Secondly let me introduce you to another remarkable individual I am truly proud to know, Dr. Ray Umashanker who put his mind and soul into supporting his daughter Nita's vision, transforming himself into a fundraising force of nature in order to realize her vision to facilitate the upward social mobility of the children of sex workers in India.

Here is the website of the nonprofit they founded together that has grown exponentially in its reach since its inception.

Dr. Lamb, you are right in pointing out that those who talk are not the same of those that do. But many more of us talkers support the doers in more ways than is widely recognized and reported.

The idea that altruism flows exclusively and perennially from the Church and Hindus practice it only as much as necessary to keep the Church at bay is an inextinguishable and mendacious meme whose self-replication is fed by the media and powerful vested interests.

In many instances Hindus do what they do without much fanfare. My maternal uncle and his wife who live in rural Tanjore have done more than their share for people but the full extent of their work is not known even to extended members of our family. They supported a farm laborer's son through school and engineering college. They conduct eye camps for the Lion's club, they have fed a whole village in the wake of the devastating 2005 tsunami. No prospect of publicity or awards for people like them. But that doesn't stop them from doing what they do. It leads me to wonder how many more might be inspired to act if the stories and examples of people like my uncle and aunt were more widely disseminated.

Enlightenment cannot be taught -- if it is not first sought. If the intention is to attract more constructive involvement by all Hindus, then the best way for HAF to facilitate that in my opinion would be by validating the central philosophical underpinnings of Hinduism, by affirming and appealing to the the best in human nature. Not by blaming and shaming, or by apologizing, or by appending lists of atrocities.

Finally Dr. Lamb, I urge you not to see all criticism as inimical. I put it to you that none of us would be where we are today if all we had gotten from our elders and mentors was unconditional acceptance. To resent criticism is human; to reflect upon it is divine.

Thank you for indulging my comments.

Sincerely, Chitra Raman