Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Swami Vivekananda's Chicago Address in English

The World Parliament of Religions, Chicago

WELCOME ADDRESS - Chicago, Sept 11, 1893

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me." Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

Monday, July 28, 2014


‘Hindu Rashtra’ Reflects Inclusion, Not Theocracy

Published: 27th July 2014 06:00 AM
Last Updated: 27th July 2014 12:13 AM
The comment by a Goa minister that India is a Hindu Rashtra is not something which goes against the spirit of the Indian Constitution or annihilation of secularism. The connotation Hindu is inclusive  in its origin and evolution. Any effort to draw a parallel between Hindu nation and theocratic states needs to be contested. India is the only nation in the world which is co-terminus with a civilisation. In other words, India is an organic example of continuity of age-old civilisation. Therefore, Hindu Rashtra  is an adjective of the nation, not a political objective. The origin of the connotation, Hindu, has neither religious origin nor identification with particularism. Its parallel connotation which is suggested is Bharatiya Rashtra. The nation has been named after the Hindu legendary Bharat, the son of Shakuntala and Dushyant, and he was groomed in the ashram of Kanwa, a Hindu saint. Going by epistemology, the term Bharat is more religious than Hindu.
Such controversy on the usage of Hindu is due to relentless deconstruction of our tradition of secularism since colonial period. The colonial India witnessed development of two parallel streams: one, people with perspective on the time-tested Hindu culture and world view. There are umpteen examples of such people—Raj Narayan Bose, Maharishi Aurobindo, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Mahatma Gandhi, M S Golwalkar and Radhakrishnan. They used historiography and socio-cultural genealogy to understand India. By their logical and argumentative writings, they heralded a semi-renaissance in the country. No nation becomes civilisational antiquity when it fails to trace its roots and its people feel guilty while answering, who am I? Pal’s The Soul of India is a classic quest for defining India as a civilisational nation.
But there was another strand which included people who understood India through the writings of Western scholars and submitted themselves to Western political philosophy, assuming it to be superior, more rational and of greater universal application than what India could offer. People like Keshab Chandra Sen, Jawaharlal Nehru, R P Dutt and Amartya Sen are representatives of this dimension. The classic test has been the definition of secularism. The former understood secularism as a way of life and felt proud of India’s tradition of diversities. It can be understood by the example of  Cheraman Mosque in Kerala built by a Hindu king to facilitate Muslim traders and immigrants. This is the world’s second oldest mosque (after Mecca). It denotes culture of coexistence and progressive assimilation.
Unfortunately, the latter stream borrowed definitions and interpretations from the West and interpreted secularism as a political duel between competing communities  based on their numerical strength. It is they who made use of the colonial concepts of majority and minority. This led to mitosis of secularism into the process of ‘otherings’.
This was visualised during the debate in the Constituent Assembly. Fathers of the Constitution wanted to deter any further damage to our civilisational progress. Tajammul Hussain categorically stated that the majority-minority dichotomy was the British creation and argued that because he worshipped the same God in a different way, it didn’t turn him as a minority. He appealed to the makers of free India to “throw this term (minority-majority) from your dictionary”. But it could not happen. Contrary to it, the concept got institutionalised. H C Mukherjee, the Vice-Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, who was by faith Christian, warned that “if our idea is to have a secular state, it follows inevitably that we cannot afford to recognise minorities based upon religion”. Any concept whose practice breeds ‘otherings’ can’t be secular. And here the concept of Hindu Rashtra reflects geo-cultural inclusiveness which abhors uniformity.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Samskritam and History : A Conspectus
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
Ever since the controversy broke regarding Prof. Y. S.Rao's appointment as head of ICHR the main line of criticism has come from the Left/ Marxist/Liberal contingent (along with foreign critics) that since Prof.Rao argued for the historicity of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, this is an ideological, not a scholarly appointment.
He has not followed the principles of historical writing, so the criticism goes, and has engaged in dogma and ideology.
Prof. Rao continues to argue for the validity of his arguments and so have Indic scholars. The leading critic (as is to be expected) from the Left/Marxist/Liberal camp is historian Romila Thapar. She presents the familiar arguments (whether accurate or not) that Prof. Rao has not published work recognised by peer scholarly groups and that his methodology is skewed since it follows basic 'Hindutva' ideology etc. ( "History repeats itself", 11 July, 2014, India Today, Romila Thapar).

However, she says something very interesting also : 

"Rumour has it that since he is working simultaneously on various projects, a recognised monograph has still to emerge. The projects are linked to spiritualism, yoga, the spiritual contacts between India and Southeast Asia, and such like. Whatever connections there may be between these themes and basic historical research, they are at best tenuous, and it would require a mind of extraordinary insight and rigour to interweave such ideas." (History repeats itself).

This is a surprising admission by Thapar that such a project is possible, if only that it requires a mind of extraordinary insight and rigour to interweave such ideas.

There is nothing offhand to say that Professor Rao does not have such a mind. But more pertinently, it can be pointed out that Rao is working on the collective work of Indic scholars of the last three to four decades, who have departed from the traditional Western interpretations of Indian history.

These scholars have investigated such topics as :

1. The so called Aryan invasion theory (and rejected it)

2. The discovery of the Sarasvati river.

3. The antiquity of the Sarasvati Sindhu civilisation (formerly known as the Indus Valley civilisation).

4. The prior status of Vedic civilisation, i.e. that it antedates the Sarasvati Sindhu civilisation.

5. The antiquity of Hindu astronomy, prior to that of even the Babylonian, certainly that of the Greeks.

6. The antiquity of Hindu mathematics and its influence on Babylonian and subsequently Greek.

7. The creation of Sanskrit by the end of the Ice Age, i.e. circa 10, 000 BCE.

The names of these scholars are by now familiar to many Indian readers : B.Lal, Valdiya , Kalyanraman, Rajaram, Subash Kak, Shivaji Singh, David Frawley, Narahari, to name some from among the many distinguished names.

These scholars have used impeccable standards of historical scholarship and Prof. Rao has no doubt called upon this resource, in addition to his own research and that of many other junior scholars. To assume that only the Left/Marxist/Liberal scholars have followed normative standards of historical scholarship and historiography, is to display a narrow intolerance and as well an ignorance of the work done by these Indic scholars. Indeed some of their own claims themselves are of dubious quality (reference is to the Left/Marxist/Liberal contingent).

What is of further interest (to the present writer ) is the work done by two contemporary Vedic and Sanskritic scholars in the field of Hindu Astronomy and Paninian grammar.

Dr. David Frawley (aka Vamadeva Shastri) has published more than 20 books, which connect the many themes that Romila Thapar talks about and which require an extraordinary mind and insight. These are his works in Hindu Astronomy, Yoga, Ayurveda etc.

In his chapter on Hindu Astronomy in the book Gods, Sages, Kings (1991) he points out that the Vedic seers acquired their knowledge of the heavens through keen observation of the skies ( a prerequisite of any so called scientific method ). These observations add up to their knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes some 6,000 years BCE. Western scholars have traditionally attributed the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes to  Greek astronomer Hipparchus (190-120 BCE).

In this carefully argued work Dr. Frawley who has done his own translations from the Veda says :

"When ancient people observed the stars, they saw a different orientation than we do today. The seasonal points of the solstices and equinoxes fell among different stars than they do now. This is because of slow changes in the Earth's orientation to the constellations according to the precession of the equinoxes.

The Vedas present such ancient astronomical positions in many places. These have been largely ignored because they give dates much earlier than those conventionally ascribed to Vedic culture. . . . (Gods, Sages and Kings, page  147 Google Books)."

Many of the earlier Western scholars writing about India were not well informed about such topics as Hindu Astronomy in the ancient period. They became acquainted with the topic only in the works of Hindu astronomers and thinkers in the Christian era, such as Aryabhatta, the author of Surya Siddhanta and so on.

It was not only in these fields but even in linguistics and language study that the distortions took place. Contemporary Sanskritist and scholar Dr. B.V. K. Shastry has pointed out that these linguistic distortions affected the study of Samskritam and its culture, and the word itihasa (history). This happened mainly because of lack of understanding of the Panini-Patanajali-Yaska tradition of language and linguistics :

"It is well known that the history of India . . . . has been misinterpreted using several layers of distortion :

Source Book distortion (Vedas badly translated and constructed in alien ways).

Source Native Language distortion (Sanskrit distortion by giving up Panini-Patanajli-Yaska tradition and substituting it with Max Mueller-MacDonnell-Michael Witzel).

Sidelining the hard evidence of archaeology . . . . "

(Email communication to colleagues).

It must be pointed out that most of the Left/Marxist/Liberal critics of Hindu scholarship are not acquainted with Sanskrit and rely on those self same distorted secondary sources. Ms Thapar herself is not versed in Sanskrit and therefore her history of ancient India suffers from this limitation.

Hence, Prof. Rao's project of revising Indian history is to be seen in the context of these distortions of Indian history. One can only wish him and the project all the best in that endeavour.

(Dr. Rajiva taught Political Philosophy at a Canadian university).

Thursday, July 24, 2014


UN says Iraq jihadists order female genital mutilation, experts doubtful

Iraqi displaced women get water at a temporary camp set up to shelter people fleeing violence in northern Iraq on June 27, 2014 in Aski kalak
View photo
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Geneva (AFP) - The United Nations said on Thursday that jihadists in Iraq have ordered all women between the ages of 11 and 46 to undergo female genital mutilation, but experts quickly cast doubt on the claim.
The UN's second most senior official in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, told reporters in Geneva via videoconference: "It is a fatwa (or religious edict) from ISIS, we learnt about it this morning. We have no precise numbers."
The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), took over large swathes of the country last month and has begun imposing its extreme Salafist interpretation of Islam.
But several experts have speculated that the fatwa may have been a hoax, and a number of journalists said on Twitter that their contacts in Iraq had not heard of it being issued.
Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and expert on Iraqi and Syrian extremist groups, said the UN claim appeared to be based on a "quite clearly faked statement" that began circulating online on Wednesday.
"It would certainly be a very big coincidence if the UN source was separate but happened to arise at the same time as this fake statement online," he said.
"FGM just doesn't fit with the Islamic State's image, notwithstanding how brutal an organisation it has proven itself to be," he added.
A spokesman for the UN in Geneva told AFP that "checks" were underway in Iraq, and that until then "nothing had changed."
Badcock earlier said that if you took UN population figures as a guide, around "four million girls and women could be affected" by the alleged fatwa.
Female genital mutilation is unusual in Iraq and is only practised in "certain isolated pockets of the country", she added.
She said only 20 families from the ancient Christian minority now remain in Mosul, the northern Iraq city which ISIS has taken as the capital of its Islamic state. Most have reportedly fled north into Kurdish-controlled territory.
Badcock said some Christians have converted to Islam, while others have opted to stay and pay the jiyza, the tax on non-Muslims the Islamic State has imposed.



Narendra Modi
Mr. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, you are poised at a very critical juncture in world politics from where you can seize the moment to drive home a hard-hitting, long overdue political message to America: that America must reinstate the cardinal principle of national sovereignty as the basis for bilateral relations with India. Which means no interference under any pretext in internal matters. Or you can choose the path of least resistance and travel to America in September. But this latter path will involve ignoring public opinion which presents very sound reasons for why you should not attend the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and why you should not go to Washington.
The UNSC, despite the power vested with it collectively and with each of the five permanent members, did not stand up to America and chose instead to stain its hands with the blood of Iraqi children, and must close shop.
The United Nations must comprise only the General Assembly so that all member countries of the world get to vote on policies and decisions. There is no better time than now. Mr. Prime Minister you can additionally call for relocating the United Nations to Tokyo or Mumbai because as things stand, the world does not know where America ends and the UN begins.
If America insists it has the inalienable right to interfere in our internal matters and arrogates to itself retributive powers to bring us down to our knees, and thinks India’s national sovereignty is dispensable, then this is the time to turn the tables on America.
Mr. Modi, as Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, you must now take the lead in world affairs and make America accountable for Iraq. India is willing to overlook American depredations in other parts of the world including the shenanigans of the CIA Dirty Tricks Department, if you will seek explanations from America for Iraq before any smile-it-all-away pictures in front of the White House.

Washing the memory clean

As of May 15, 2014, Mr. Prime Minister you were a political untouchable for the American government. But in the afternoon of May 16, 2014, as the winds of change that were shaking India began to blow into America, everyone in the American establishment, from the President to the janitor, simply washed the past clean with no memory of the 2002 Gujarat riots or the 12 persistent years of calumny and scurrilous propaganda that they had unleashed against you.America had wiped its memory clean and was prepared to do business with you because this amnesia is in America’s economic interests.
But Indians have an elephantine memory Mr. Prime Minister and they do not forget. Since there is still some haziness about whether you will travel to the US or not, I propose to juxtapose the Gujarat riots and the attendant Goebelssian propaganda, to what happened to Iraq from 1990 onwards and what is happening to Iraqis today because of America’s desire to control the world politically and wield economic control over world resources.
The world has not forgotten America’s war against the people of Iraq since 1990 even if it has collectively has shown remarkable disinclination to speak the truth about the UNSC-authorised total economic and financial embargo against Iraq for thirteen years and America’s unjustified invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.
Nor has the world demonstrated collective international will to reprimand the then UN Secretary-General and American Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr. The American President and his then Secretary of State must also be tried for lying to the American people and to the world about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and his personal connection with Al Qaeda.
But you are made of sterner stuff Mr. Prime Minister Modi, and we sincerely hope that you will not fight shy of confronting the truth about how America and America alone is responsible for killing not one thousand or five thousand but more than 500,000 Iraqi children alone besides another 120,000 adult Iraqis between 1990 and 2003 and for having laid to waste a once proud and prosperous country.
There is no saying that America will not try the same trick with India, if God forbid, India at any time has a weak and/or willing leadership which will allow it to happen. China and Russia, despite being members of the UN Security Council with veto powers, could not and did not try and stop the economic and financial embargo, and could not or did not save Iraq from utter ruin.

America’s lies against Narendra Modi

Let’s examine America’s case against you, Mr. Prime Minister Modi:
  1. You were responsible for the 2500 Muslims killed and 100,000 displaced during the Gujarat riots
  2. That you played Nero when Gujarat burned
  3. That you failed to deploy the army on time
  4. That your government remained mute spectator and
  5. That the police chose not to act to quell the riots.
“Hindus killed as many as 2500 mostly Muslims, forced 100,000 to flee and destroyed homes. Christians were also killed and churches demolished. India’s National Human Rights Commission cited premeditated violence by Hindu nationalists, complicity by state government officials and police inaction”.http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/12/the-two-faces-of-india/
This, Mr. Prime Minister, is classic American ploy – diminish the numbers of victims when America is perpetrator of genocide and violence but exaggerate the numbers when it wants to pin the blame on its enemy. This so-called report was penned by Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chairwoman of the USCIRF and Mary Ann Glendon, USCIRF Commissioner as recently as November 12, 2013, immediately after the BJP declared you as their Prime Ministerial candidate.
The segment quoted above is emblematic not just of the USCIRF fable but the calumny unleashed against you Mr. Prime Minister and India’s Hindus. The USCIRF report and the 12 years of libel about the Gujarat riots were relentlessly anti-Hindu in their slant and leaned unashamedly towards making victims only of Muslims in the Gujarat riots. It deliberately ignored the premeditated killing of 57 Hindu pilgrims in Godhra station, also ignored the Hindus killed in retaliatory Muslim violence and ignored the number of Hindus killed in police firing. The USCIRF, not wanting to let go of an excellent opportunity to push in Christians as victims, also says churches were demolished and Christians were also killed in the riots, something which even the virulently anti-Modi Indian media has not mentioned so far!
Choosing to ride their favourite hobby horse, freedom of religion and conscience, the USCIRF report states as if the Christian “right” to evangelise and convert Hindus is an unassailable right. The USCIRF is an American bipartisan creature which was crafted as a response after Russia refused to allow the Catholic and Protestant churches from America and Europe to open shop on Russian soil after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
The Russian Orthodox Church did not want the Vatican or the World Council of Churches to prey upon its flock and correctly so. Since the Pope played a very large role in bringing down the Soviet Union, America supported the Vatican’s demand that Russia allow freedom of religion and conscience for her people and thus was born the USCIRF. America has never pretended to be fair, neutral or objective Mr. Prime Minister in its dealings with other countries. With America what you see is what you get – a global bully with military might and with self-aggrandising power to enforce its will.
America’s underlying principle in foreign affairs and strategic affairs is that whatever happens anywhere in the world impacts American interests even if the path taken by this presumption to arrive at this conclusion is convoluted and tortuous. And when there are murmurs of American hand here or there America and American think tanks have dismissed them as “conspiracy theories”. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2007389/Five-Russian-scientists-helped-Iran-nuclear-secrets-killed-tragic-plane-crash.html
Let us however look at the facts which present a different picture of the Gujarat riots, facts as presented by the Justice Tewatia Commission Report. http://www.gujaratriots.com/index.php/2010/04/justice-tewatia-committee-report/

Lies exposed about Gujarat riots

  1. Riots began on 27th February
  2. On the same day, the Gujarat government asks the Central Government to send armed forces to be deployed in Gujarat
  3. By 11 AM on the 1st March, in less than 72 hours, the army is deployed in sensitive locations
  4. Spontaneous riots which erupted on 27th February are controlled within four days, followed later by planned retaliatory violence and rioting by Muslim mobs against police and army personnel for nearly a month until the beginning of April. No, the Indian media never mentioned this little detail and neither did the USCIRF or the US State Department.
  5. Total number of people killed in the first five days – 741 of which 257 were Hindus including 57 Hindus killed in the Sabarmati Express
  6. Total number of people arrested was 54,177 of which only 12,341 were Muslims. The police killed 204 persons in the drive to quell the riots and here again, more Hindus were killed in police firing than Muslims. This exposes the persistent and self-serving American falsehood that you Mr. Prime Minister, as Gujarat Chief Minister and your police stood by and allowed the riots to continue merrily in a manner where only Muslims and Christians were killed
  7. Total number of people displaced during the riots, both Hindus and Muslims, precisely and not vaguely, was 113,697 of which 68,100 alone were in Ahmedabad. All displaced people were housed in 103 relief camps across the state. By August 2003, only around 9000 persons living in four camps had not returned to their homes.

How America and the UN killed half a million Iraqi children

Now contrast the number of people killed in the Gujarat riots in one month, which is under one thousand, to the number of children and ordinary Iraqis killed over a period of thirteen long years of sanctions: 1.8 million Iraqis (and these are UNICEF numbers) of which half a million were children under the age of five! It is not for America to point fingers at you Mr. Prime Minister.
No country Mr. Prime Minister, not the western world, no Islamic country, not India or G7, APEC or ASEAN, SAARC or BRICS, no country in any continent has summoned the courage to officially and publicly express grief for the dead children of Iraq, nor one word of condemnation against America and the UNSC for their economic and financial embargo which may have isolated Saddam Hussein but also knowingly and cynically allowed Iraq’s children to die of pandemic diseases and acute malnutrition.
This is the abject state of weakness to which America has reduced all countries including India Mr. Prime Minister. India must make reparations for its cowardly and shameful silence and make America accountable now. Prime Minister Modi, weigh this silence with the great noise that is now being made over the shooting down of MH 17. Tragic as the deaths are of the passengers killed in this ill-fated flight, where was this shouting brigade when America and the United Nations were wreaking death and devastation in Iraq?
Speaking of MH17, we may never know the truth of why this plane had to fly over Ukranian skies knowing well enough that Ukraine was in the grip of a civil war.
Remember the Korean Air flight 007 which a Soviet SU-5 interceptor was forced to shoot down because the Korean airplane “had strayed” into Russian air space on its way from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul? The Korean plane was not shot down by the Soviet air force interceptor soon after being sighted in Russian air space. The Korean airplane was tracked by the interceptor for several hours before being shot down.
Mr. Prime Minister, it is pertinent here to pay heed to what the then American President said in his address to the nation soon after Korean Air Flight 007 was shot down killing all 269 persons on board. Even a child raised on modern spy fiction will tell you that it is well within the realms of Cold War politics to have used a commercial airplane for espionage purposes. President Reagan had no explanations to why and how a commercial airplane making routine flights in and out of the Soviet Union should “stray” into Soviet air space and remain in that condition without seeking to end it.
Provoking the target country to take an extreme step which then provides the Americans with the opportunity and the context to mount a vilifying campaign against the political leadership is classic CIA Dirty Tricks Department modus operandi. Indeed, MH17 was collateral damage in America’s covert war against Putin. Putin is the target and Stratfor’s analytical article “Can Putin survive?” dated July 21, 2014 is a dead giveaway of the direction in which America is blowing the Ukanian wind. http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/can-putin-survive?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20140721&utm_term=Gweekly&utm_content=readmore#axzz38Cp8WX5n
Back then, this is how President Reagan described the Soviet action in downing the Korean aircraft in 1983:
And make no mistake about it, this attack was not just against ourselves or the Republic of Korea. This was the Soviet Union against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere. It was an act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations.”https://patriotpost.us/articles/27576
And Reagan’s words describe perfectly the American action in 1988 when US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian commercial flight IR 655 carrying 290 passengers aboard, over the Strait of Hormuz. The airplane was flying the Bandar Abbas-Dubai route over the strait but what were US destroyers doing in those waters? And why did they shoot down the civilian plane?http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/shootingdown_iranair_flight655.php
Mr. Prime Minister, during your election campaign, you promised not only change but also promised to make India strong. It is a sign of strength when under your leadership this nation will stand on the side of a strong India and will begin to ask questions of America and the UN that have not been asked so far.
Let the UN first be compelled by you, Mr. Prime Minister, to accept that the thirteen year long economic and financial embargo against Iraq was a terrible mistake, and a violation of the UN Charter and everything else that the UN says it stands for.
It is only after such a public acceptance of guilt has been made Mr. Prime Minister can a semblance of respectability return to the UN, that you may consider addressing the UNGA.
Given all this Mr. Prime Minister, not only should you not go to New York to address the UNGA and then to Washington to shake President Obama’s hand, you must call for dismantling the UNSC and make a call to the international community to make America accountable for Iraq and other similar misadventures that have caused untold death and destruction across the world.
Article Summary
Article Title
Narendra Modi at a historical juncture in world politics
An indepth analysis of how Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at a historical juncture in international politics in the backdrop of India's relations with USA.


A Marxist critique of the Modi government’s ICHR nomination – Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad Elst“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known for having a low opinion of diplomas and having more respect for achievement. That is why he nominated Smriti Irani, underqualified but a proven hard worker, to the Human Resources Development ministry, who in her turn thought of Prof. Rao as the right choice for the ICHR. Let us hope that she knows of qualities of his that we have yet to appreciate.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

Prof Romila ThaparRetired historian Romila Thapar has written an opinion piece(“History repeats itself”, 11 July 2014, India Today) giving the standard secular reaction to the appointment of equally retired historian Y. Sudershan Rao as chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research. It gives the predictable (indeed, predicted, see K. Elst: “A Hindutva historian in office”, 11 July 2014) show of indignation hiding an inside reaction of satisfaction at the BJP’s renewed display of incompetence in reforming the field of history.

Yellapragada Sudershan RaoStatus

“The appointment of a historian whose work is unfamiliar to most historians shows scant regard for the impressive scholarship that now characterises the study of Indian History and this disregard may stultify future academic research. Given that the writing of history in India over the last half-century has produced some of the finest historians, recognised both nationally and internationally, one is surprised at the appointment of Professor Y. Sudershan Raoas chairperson of the Indian Council for Historical Research(ICHR). Professor Rao’s work is unfamiliar to most historians, with little visibility of research that he might have carried out. He has published popular articles on the historicity of the Indian epics but not in any peer-reviewed journal, and the latter is now a primary requisite for articles to be taken seriously at the academic level.”
Here we have, at some length, the usual status-mongering. It says, in short, that Prof Rao is not “eminent”. It is a rather sophomoric argument: outsiders (such as politicians) and beginners imagine that academic status has a whole lot of meaning, and that you can’t be a serious scientist unless you have this kind of status. Insiders, however, have a far lower opinion of this academic status. Sometimes, indeed, it is only given to people of exceptional merit. From these highly visible cases, outsiders extrapolate to all others. But in many more cases, it is the mediocre minds and the faithful followers who get promoted, while the really talented people are blocked or are encouraged to seek more lucrative employment outside academe.
The mechanics of the presence or absence of status is as follows: the Indian Left jealously guards its power position in academe and decides who gets status within the Humanities, or who is blacklisted and kept out. Then the politicians select their sources of authority or their interlocutors by the status they “have” (i.e. which the Left has conferred on them), which is turn enhances their status. And then the India-watching circles abroad go by the status which individuals turn out to have acquired in India, and further increase their “eminence”. Thus, Romila Thapar’s own nomination to American chairs after her retirement in India crowned her career of being an ever more eminent historian in India.
The focus on status is a long-standing practice of the Indian Left, and for a good reason. As Sita Ram Goel already remarked in his anti-Communist days, the Indian Communists made sure to create status for those loyal to them. If you were a writer, they would arrange for you to be invited to a writers’ conference in Moscow and get an award there, and then you would be introduced in India as an “internationally acclaimed writer”. This was all the more important because people in general base their judgment on status, but no one more so than the Hindus. Indeed, the fabled Hindu money-bag will rather sponsor an enemy with status than a friend without it. The BJP will rather nominate a “secularist” with status than a proven Hindu loyalist without it. So, in the case of our Communist writer, they will honour him for his status, not realizing that this status has purposely been created for him by their declared enemies. And they will shun a pro-Hindu writer because he has no status, ignoring or disregarding the fact that he has been denied any avenue that might have led to status. The last thing they think of is to make an effort and create status for people who are perceived as belonging to the Hindu camp.

Smriti IraniThe BJP role in education

To be sure, there are provincial universities where the Leftist lobby’s power in limited. Education is largely a matter for the States, so BJP State Governments control a fair number of second-rank but nonetheless real nominations. Indeed, if they had meant business, they could have created a centre of excellence developing a more objective counter-narrative to the dominant Leftist version of history. Still, they do get to fill vacancies for history professors once in a while. These do not confer the kind of status that Jawaharlal Nehru University can offer, but they should at least be sufficient to groom a set of historians outside the Left’s sphere of influence. And indeed, even as an outsider, I can off-hand enumerate a handful of credible and competent non-Left historians, among whom a new ICHR chairman might have been picked. India is a big country, and non-Left historians may be seriously underrepresented, but in absolute figures they are still a force to be reckoned with. Prof. Rao himself is a veteran ofone such little-known university in Warangal, Telangana.
As for the process of peer review, upheld by Romila Thapar as a key to academic status, it has come under criticism for being highly susceptible to corruption. Thus, Indians might think of Northwestern Europe as much cleaner than awfully corrupt India, but right on my doorstep, Tilburg University in the Netherlands has been through a sensational fraud scandal in 2011-12. Social psychologist Prof.Diederik Stapel had built a whole career on much-applauded papers, nicely peer-reviewed, and in their conclusions very welcome among the “progressive” crowd. But then it transpired that he had a long-standing practice of making his research data up, so as to suit his preconceived “conclusions”. The investigative commission appointed for the case not only discovered large-scale fraud affecting the work of other researchers as well, but specifically reprimanded the reviewers who had okayed Stapel’s work so often. This was but an extreme case of a general phenomenon: papers get easy acceptance from peers if they support the dominant view, but are held to far more demanding standards if they are at odds with it. In India, just imagine what it would take for a history paper with “communal” conclusions to be accepted by a Leftist-controlled review panel. So, of course Prof. Rao cannot boast of many peer-reviewed publications, but that says little about the quality of his work.
A serious look into his output, however, reveals that he is indeed not the man from whom we can expect an overhaul of the Indian history sector with respect for the normative methods of history scholarship. Here we have to concur with Romila Thapar: “Rumour has it that since he is working simultaneously on various projects, a recognised monograph has still to emerge. The projects are linked to spiritualism, yoga, the spiritual contacts between India and Southeast Asia, and such like. Whatever connections there may be between these themes and basic historical research, they are at best tenuous, and it would require a mind of extraordinary insight and rigour to interweave such ideas.”
For a professor teaching lessons about historical method, it is rather poor to base herself on “rumours”. I have remarked before that the dominant scholars are often “fishwives”, who believe and then propagate mere gossip. Nevertheless, an internet search and our limited findings there give a first confirmation of her impression.

MahabharataHistoricity of the Epics

According to the eminent historian: “The two issues that he has highlighted in his statement to the press as the agenda for his chairmanship are also prominent in the Hindutva view of Indian history. One is that of proving the historicity of texts such the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and establishing the dates of the texts and their central event.” At least in the case of the Mahabharata battle, we are on fairly solid ground in assuming that it was a historical event. The same is true of the Trojan war, although Iliad enthusiasts also have had to struggle against skepticism before this was generally accepted. On the other hand, many embellishments as well as unrelated stories and discourses are of other dates.
She observes: “This is a subject on which there has been endless research for the last two centuries. Indologists and historians have covered the range of possible investigation discussing philology, linguistics, archaeology, anthropology and even astronomy to try and ascertain a definitive chronology for these texts. But to no avail, as a precise date eludes them. To go over the ground again in the absence of new hard evidence would merely be repeating familiar scholarship—but it may not be familiar to Professor Rao.”
The available investigations have brought us much closer to a serious chronological assessment than she seems to assume. Only, it does not favour the historicity of “the” Epics. They confirm that traditions were collected and expanded over centuries, and additions made even after a redaction meant as “final”. Only believers treat the Epics as a divinely revealed text that has to be dated as a single whole. From the wording in the newspaper’s rendering of the interview, it seems that Prof Rao belongs to the believers rather than to the historians, but then again, most Indian papers are not above manipulations.
After her defeat in the Ayodhya controversy, she still uses the present ICHR discussion to fool the world once more with her negationist thesis: “Professor Rao’s other statement to the press of there being archaeological evidence to support the theory that there was once a temple where the Babri Masjid later stood, is largely a political statement as the report of the excavation at the site in Ayodhya is not publicly available. Those few who have had the chance to read the report may not agree with the statement.” Are we to suppose that her own interventions in this debate were not political? The negationist stand against the pre-existence of the Ayodhya temple was an extreme example of how the Humanities often serve to provide a scholarly veneer to theses that arise purely from political motives.

Marxist Historian Prof. R.S. SharmaThe ICHR’s chairmanship

An interesting point is this: “Again, according to what was published in the newspapers, Professor Rao’s second comment was regarding his objection to the introduction of Marxist tools of research by the ICHR during the chairmanship of Professors R.S. Sharma and Irfan Habib. Professor Rao should be more familiar with the ICHR since he was appointed to the Council by the first BJP government of 1999-2004. He should know that for the most part of its existence, the ICHR has been under the chairmanship of non-Marxists such as Lokesh ChandraS. SetterM.G.S. Narayanan and so on. So if they had wanted to remove the so-called ‘Marxist tools of research’, there was nothing to stop them from doing so.”
The ICHR chairmanship is largely a ceremonial and administrative post. If the holder of the title is not particularly dynamic, not much power inheres in it. That is why the Left didn’t mind giving it to non-Leftists once in a while. They themselves are interested in real power, i.e. the power to change things according to one’s own designs, whereas most Hindus are only interested in office. (I thank Arun Shouriefor correcting me when I once parroted the usual complaint that most politicians “only want power”. The right expression was: “they only want office”.) Office means you get all these photo opportunities and TV appearances, a fat salary and glittering perks to show off. A child’s hand is easy to fill.
I doubt that the enumerated ICHR chairmen ever had the instruments to remove the Marxist influence from their institution. But at any rate, there is little signs that they ever tried. The Marxists, by contrast, only desire office to the extent that it is an avenue to real power. Indeed, the history of their acquisition of cultural and educational power is one of a division of labour: Congress politicians, originally around Indira Gandhi, would get the glamorous offices, whereas their Communist allies would do their long-term moles’ work in the less conspicuous cultural-educational sector.
The good element in this sobering assessment of the ICHR chairmanship is that Prof. Rao may perhaps not be the best historian, but he can still do a fine job is what the post in meant for: put the right people in the right places and inspire them to do the research needed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known for having a low opinion of diplomas and having more respect for achievement. That is why he nominated Smriti Irani, underqualified but a proven hard worker, to the Human Resources Development ministry, who in her turn thought of Prof. Rao as the right choice for the ICHR. Let us hope that she knows of qualities of his that we have yet to appreciate.

Marx & EngelsReal Marxism

The eminent historian, who is not known to have protested when Tom Bottomore’s Dictionary of Marxist Thoughtdescribes herself as a Marxist, takes issue with the loose use by Prof. Rao and many others of the term Marxism: “It is perhaps worth pointing out that the kind of history that is often dismissed by Hindutva ideologues as Marxist is not actually Marxist but bears the stamp of the social sciences. The distinction between the two, despite its importance to the interpretation of history, is generally glossed over by the proponents of Hindutva. This is largely because they have scant understanding of what is meant by a Marxist interpretation of history and therefore fail to recognise it. For them, a Marxist is simply someone who opposes the Hindutva ideology. Consequently, a range of historians unexpectedly find themselves dubbed as Marxists.”
It is not just Hindutva ideologues who point to the preponderant influence of Marxism on India (which is simply a fact), and neither is it only them who use the term Marxism a bit inaccurately. And here, she does have a point. What she calls “the social sciences” is her name for the scholarly veneer that the Leftists in academe give to their own ideology, but that ideology is indeed not always Marxist, and these days less and less so. Marxism was one specific school of thought in the Leftist spectrum, and after it has been abandoned in the Soviet Union and more gradually in China, it has had to give way in India too. Nothing ever dies in India (as Girilal Jain observed), and Indian Marxism will take a long time to wither away, but it is a fact that postmodernism, postcolonialism and other forms of egalitarianism are taking over where Marxism once flourished. To the average Hindutva observer, whose understanding of these ideological distinctions is blurred at best, these remain all the same.
Let me give a single example of the difference between Marxism and the more current forms of Leftism, one that Prof. Thapar will certainly recognize. The Marxist historian Shereen Ratnagar asserts: “if, as in the case of the early Vedic society, land was neither privately owned nor inherited by successive generations, then land rights would have been irrelevant to the formation of kin groups, and there would be nothing preventing younger generations from leaving the parental fold. In such societies the constituent patrilineages or tribal sections were not strongly corporate. So together with geographic expansion there would be social flexibility.” (in Romila Tapar, ed.: India: Historical Beginnings and the Concepts of the Aryan, National Book Trust, Delhi 2006, p.166)
Nowadays it has become fashionable to moralize about the caste system, with evil Brahmins inventing caste out of thin air and then imposing it on others; Neo-Ambedkarites give a lead in spreading this view. But hard-headed Marxists don’t fall for this conspiracy theory and see the need for socio-economic conditions to explain the reigning system of hierarchy or equality. In particular, it is pointless to lament the inequality of “feudal”, pre-modern societies, as the socio-economic conditions for equality didn’t prevail yet. Socialism (or, to name a fashionable instance of egalitarianism: feminism) simply couldn’t exist or emerge in a feudal society. However, the pastoral early-Vedic society did have the conditions for a far more equal relation between individuals. In the later Vedic period, the caste system emerged, first with mixing of castes (caste was passed on in the male line, but the father was free to marry a woman of another caste, see the Chandogya Upanishad or still the Buddha), then with endogamy. So, the Marxist, materialist and “scientific” analysis is quite distinct from the “petty bourgeois” idealistic view.

M. M. Joshi is the former BJP Minister of Science and TechnologyReal history

Prof. Thapar feigns bad memories of the A.B. Vajpayee government, when the established historians laughed without end at the sight of the Hindutva crowd’s incompetence: “During the BJP/NDA government of 1999-2004, there was a frontal attack on historians by the then HRD minister M.M. Joshi. (…) The present HRD minister, who unfortunately is unfamiliar with academia beyond school level, gives the impression that in this case she may be doing what she perhaps was appointed for: Carrying out the programme of the old history-baiters of the BJP who now have a fresh innings.”
It should not surprise us that the august professor, in spite of her Marxism, so openly disdains the proletarian HRD minister. It is the old glorification of status all over again. While her Marxist school has waged a very long attack on real history, so that a lot is to be cleaned up now, she is right to have a low opinion of M.M. Joshi’s tenure and initiatives. Marxists were at least sophisticated in their distortions, and hence could win over most of the India-watchers abroad, but the Hindutva history-rewriters were clumsy and disdainful of quality control. It is as yet too early to know whether Mrs. Irani or Prof. Rao are willing and able to do better.
Her final point sums up her judgment of the new situation, and I need not comment on it: “Again, rumour has it that the ICHR did send a shortlist of its recommendations for chairmanship to the HRD ministry. The list had the names of historians who had helped construct the ICHR into a viable research body. But that list seems to have conveniently got lost in the ministry. Therefore, a different name was pulled out of another hat and the person appointed. If this is so, then the prognosis is both predictable and drear.”
» Koenraad Elst distinguished himself early on as eager to learn and to dissent. He studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy. He blogs at http://koenraadelst.blogspot.in/
See also