An Open Letter to Ashok Malik and ‘Resident Non Indians’

via Dr Vijaya Rajiva published on March 8, 2010

Dear Mr. Malik,

I  read your article ‘When the fringe benefits‘ in Hindustan Times, March 08,2010.

There are some errors in it,which I would like to point out,if I may. Before that let me first congratulate the editor of Hindustan Times, Mr.Vir Singhvi for being one of the few liberals in the Indian media who openly criticised MF Husain for deserting democratic India for the fundamentalist monarchy of Qatar. Many liberal commentators took refuge in blaming
the Sangh Parivar for Husain’s desertion and trotted out the old tired arguments for freedom of art and so on. Some like Mr.N.Ram, editor of The Hindu, repeated popular misconceptions about Khajuraho(failing to understand that the concept of Maithuna is applicable to mortals not gods and goddesses,and indeed the figures at Khajuraho are mortals).

For a South Indian, he seems remarkably ill informed about the great South Indian temples like Brihadisvara near Tanjore (1035 A.D.Tamil Nadu) where the sculpture of Sarasvati in seated dhyanic pose, is clothed lightly, with a light girdle at the waist and a light,covering over the upper body.

She is extraordinarily composed and is represented as wisdom, knowledge and serenity. Quite a contrast to the grotesque nude and suggestive figure by MF Husain. Sarasvati has never been represented as nude in Hindu art, whether ancient or modern.

Since I have already written about all this in my articles in Haindava Keralam, let me move on to your own article in HT.

You begin with  Husain’s  betrayal of Indian liberals for crass commercial advantage in taking up Qatari citizenship (ofcourse, you are an apologist for the painter and don’t see it that way). Dr.Chandan Mitra, editor of The Pioneer, looks into this aspect of Husain’s perfidy(See his article Stay Back Husain, not all is forgiven The Pioneer). He also mentions in passing
some tax problems. Husain himself in his March 3,2010 interview with Barkha
Dutt, hints at them.

Then you quickly move on to Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History. Here again you are an apologist for this self proclaimed scholar. Permit me to point out that her own peers have questioned her competence in Sanskrit translation and her knowledge of Hindu texts. The famous(infamous!) Michael Witzel of Harvard University, himself a
Sanskritist, has criticised Doniger’s translations.He is no friend of Hindutva.Others, also scholars of Hinduism in their own right, simply avoid her !

May I recommend Aditi Bannerji’s article in Outlookindia, which appeared a couple of months ago ? Unfortunately, I do not have the link, but you should be able to track it down in Outlook. Here, Dr.Bannerji, takes Doniger’s mistranslations from the Sanskrit and shows their errors. It stand to reason that Doniger’s rather scurrilous references to Hinduism are based on these erroneous translations. The fact that Donniger might also have an agenda, is not to be discounted.

The same situation obtains with Jeffrey Kripal’s book Kali’s Child, where his open attack on Bhagavan Ramakrishna as a pedophile is based on his lack of knowledge of Bengali. Fortunately, for those of us who call ourselves Hindus, this gentleman has been replied to by some of the learned Swamis of the Ramakrishna Ashram. Here again, there is a step by step refutation of each of Kripal’s mistaken translations out of which he manufactures his
phantasmagoria concerning Bhagavan Ramakrishna.

Let me also quote Mahatma Gandhi’s comment on Bhagavan Ramakrishna:

” The story of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s life is a story of religion in   practice. His life enables us to see God face to face. . . Ramakrishna was   a living embodiment of godliness. . . “
(Quoted in Romain Rolland’s Life of Ramakrishna,1930, p.333).

Mr. Malik, we Hindus are quite happy with Gandhiji’s assessment. Dr.Vishal Agarwal, has written a critique of the Kripal book. Likewise, a chapter by chapter critique of the Doniger book. Your rather meagre  citations of one or two examples of technical errors in the Doniger book, gleaned from comments on the internet, only shows up the haste with which Indian liberal journalists jump to conclusions.

Which brings me to your adaptation of Sagarika Ghosh’s phrase ‘internet Hindus’. Frankly, I don’t have the faintest idea of who this woman is, except that she works for CNN IBN. It used to be that people like her were referred to as the last of the Englishmen(women!). Since
she works for CNN IBN we can probably change that to the more inclusive last of the Americans or last of the European West or something like that.Someone has described her as a RNI (Resident Non Indian)!

Be that as it may, people like her are characterised by an irrational dislike of their own heritage and try to distance themselves from it in many different ways. One is to sneer at those Hindus who do actively identify with their Hindu ancestry.

I sincerely hope you don’t fall into that category. But your descriptions of internet Hindus are wide off the mark. Most of those hindus are brilliant in their own fields, whether religion, philsophy, or humanities and the liberal arts, or mathematics or the scientific disciplines. Many are practising medical doctors, engineers, and so on.To write them off in the contemptuous way you have, would indicate that you do not really know them or that you have jumped on to
the Sagarika Ghosh bandwagon.

But it seems to me, that the real underlying anxiety of your article is that you are concerned with the fortunes of the BJP. This is a good sign, because it indicates that you are not wholly unredeemable !

You seem to mistakenly think that the BJP will do better without its allegiance to Hindutva. This is a controversial topic. I won’t go there now, except to say that the BJP’s link with Hindu groups is not an accidental thing which can be wished away. The alternative opposition party that you dream about as an imitation of the opposition parties in the Western countries, is not applicable to India.

In India, the prevailing ethos is Hindu. Hence, the ideals of a Hindu Rashtra are derived from the Vedic conception of sarve sukhinah bhavantu (May all beings be happy). And while commercial success and wordly attainments are also part of the Hindu ethos, it is not identical with the exploitative and greedy ethos of Western commerce.

And it is the everyday Indian that carries the ball in India. Liberal Indians may entertain the conceit that they are the movers and shakers. And the majority of the every day Indians are Hindus. If you take time off to study the activities of the Sangh Parivar, they are directed towards the everyday Hindu. It is these Hindus who are the guarantee of the survival of India both as a nation and as a civilisational entity, not the Sagarika Ghoshes of CNN IBN.

And most of us overseas Hindus understand this. Our allegiance to Hindu India cuts across barriers of caste. Some of us come from the upper castes/classes, some from the middle castes/classes and some from the peasantry and the Scheduled castes/classes.

All, however, realise that the Liberal Indian and his/her allegiance is usually influenced by non national considerations, whether it is that of money,power, influence and so on. At best their nationalism is skin deep, and is not based on realities on the ground. They are in denial about the Hindu ethos of the nation.

My point is that the BJP is inextricably linked to the Hindus of India. You can substitute the word ‘Hindutva’ with some other word, but the content is the same. And owing to the nature of Hinduism this link is both a binding, unifying element as in ancient times, prior to the Muslim invasions and the subsequent arrival of the colonial power, and now is varied and flexible enough to create a modern polity. It was Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya who said in his
Integral Humanism that there is no harm in intelligent borrowing from the West.Indeed the phrase ‘integral humanism’ is borrowed from French philsopher Jacques Maritain. But Deen Dayalji gives it a Hindu content.

I personally see great days ahead for Bharat, with a reinvigorated BJP, that is neither a Congress BTeam nor a pale(olive skinned !) imitation of the Western democracies.


Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

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