Nandita Rao’s Agenda : Setting up a straw man

via Dr. Vijaya Rajiva published on June 30, 2011

Nandita Rao is described as a lawyer and activist (see Wikipedia) and she appeared on a CNN IBN program on  ‘Satya Sai Trust under scanner:Is spirituality an industry ?’ (June 29,2011). It was anchored by Sagarika Ghosh and the participants were : Nandita Rao, Harish Das, Jyotirmaya Sharma and Rahul Ishwaran. The topic under consideration was whether big money was impacting on spirituality and should religious organizations be above the law. Harish Das a Sai Baba devotee replied that the law must take its course.The Sai Baba Trust has declared its finances and is perfectly willing to let the investigative agencies look into the matter.     

The debate got under way with Nandita Rao pointing out that all organizations must come under the scanner. Jyotirmaya Sharma, a university professor ,dittoed this and added that these current organizations were run by sects, not strictly religious bodies. He was of the view that all religious organizations,whatever their denominations, should be brought under scrutiny. Needless to say, he did not specifically mention the flow of funds from abroad for Christian evangelical organisations.Rahul Ishwaran pointed this out. As the debate progressed speakers such as Rahul Ishwar  of the Sabarimala Temple talked about the nature of Hindu spirituality and so on.                  

There was something quaint about Nandita Rao accusing her debaters on the opposite side of shouting (Rahul Ishwar, while defending the Hindu tradition spoke forcefully) when she herself  talked long and loudly. In fact in the early part of the show she was patiently listened to by both Harishdas  and Rahul Ishwaran  In a sense, she reminded the present writer of Teesta Setalwad who was in the habit of talking loudly and shouting down her opponents.  

But it was not merely Nandita Rao’s manner that roused the viewer’s suspicions about her good faith. After some pontification about the rule of law and how the godmen should be accountable and transparent about their financial affairs, she suddenly started to talk about  the prevalence of paedophilia and murder in the Hindu spiritual organizations such as those of Satya Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Baba Ramdev etc. Harishdas , the Sai Baba devotee, explained patiently that yes the law must take its course, and the Sai Baba Trust is accountable to the investigative agencies as any other Trust and so on. That they have declared their financial assets etc. He made no attempt to defend against Rao’s  unsubstantiated allegations about other matters. It should also be pointed out to the reader that Hindus seldom refer to spiritual gurus, acharyas, sants and sadhus as ‘godmen’. This word is a liberalism, and one borrowed from the anti Hindu elements.

Since the declaration of financial assets was being done by all the above mentioned religious trusts the conversation was going nowhere and so the anchor turned it over to the question of the day :whether spirituality and money making ventures should go hand in hand. Nandita Rao then suddenly veered into the above mentioned unsubstantiated attack. No evidence of wrong doing on the part of the organizations was produced ; it was simply an ad hominem attack.

And Jyotirmaya Sharma, also at a loss for any further cogent arguments(since neither he nor his partner in the attack on Hindu organizations could seriously claim to talk either about Hindu spirituality or for that matter any spirituality) suddenly held forth on the irrelevance of the Hindu argument put forward by Rahul Ishwaran that Hindus do not believe in conversion. Sharma’s point ( a false one) was that all this talk was nonsense since Hindus do not engage in conversion simply because they cannot put the convertee into any slot in the caste system. This is the reason he says, for lack of conversion from the Hindu side. It was an ingenious argument, but not to be taken seriously. One wonders whether he himself believed in his own rhetoric.

Here, ofcourse, he is doing great disservice to the great traditions of Hinduism which have not engaged in conversion owing to the pluralistic nature of Hinduism (which surely the educated and literate Sharma is familiar with). Only the monotheistic faiths, Dr. Sharma should know, are dogmatic because of their belief in the existence of one god (their god) to which all of humanity must adhere and only they practise conversion.

Secondly, one reads of the various times that poor Hindus who have been bribed, deceived or allured into Christian conversion have returned to their ancestral faith and there has been no talk of fitting them into any slot in any caste system. Sharma is therefore either guilty of crass ignorance of what is going on or of bad faith. This very site (Haindava Keralam)reports frequently on the return of converted Hindus to their ancestral religion, without any strings attached. These wounded individuals are welcomed back to their ancestral faith. The reader is requested to read the account even today of this process in Haindava Keralam.

What then is the agenda of both Nandita Rao and Jyotirmaya Sharma ? What is the reason for their sleight of hand approach, as if they knew nothing of the processes of the return of Christian converts to their ancestral faith or of the considerable work done by Hindu organisations both for social welfare and the upholding of Hinduism.  Without doubt their target is Hinduism, as Rahul Ishwaran conrrectly pointed out. Ms Rao, has been frequently accused of working on behalf of the Congress (although she denies it) and one knows the allegiance of Sonia Gandhi to her monotheistic faith and the grand plan of conversion of Hindu India to Christianity. Jyotirmaya Sharma cannot always be accused of a direct intent to downgrade Hinduism; however, he (and other liberal movers and shakers) do not seem to be averse to indirect attempts.

Ms. Rao’s  indignation on national television was simple histrionics. Her shrill accusation against Ishwaran that he need not question her allegiance to Hinduism is  a subterfuge. As the present writer has pointed out in speaking about another shady character, Digvijay Singh, no self respecting Hindu would even indirectly cast aspersions about Hindu spirtitual/religious leaders of whom they know virtually nothing except the false accounts by anti Hindu forces. Shri Satya Sai Baba spoke only in the vernacular. Baba Ramdev only knows Hindi, not English. Sri Sri Ravishankar speaks persuasively in English and Hindi. His most recent conversation with Shekar Gupta in NDTV’s Walk the Talk is perhaps one of the best accounts of Baba Ramdev and Hindu spirituality in the context of the recent infamous attack on a peaceful non violent crowd by the police (under the orders , so it is alleged ,of the infamous duo,  of Sonia Gandhi and Digvijay Singh)on the night of June 4,2011.

Both Rao and Sharma either know very little of the activities of Hindu organizations or both are guilty of acting and speaking in bad faith. It is high time that they set the record straight and prove to Hindu India that they have no intentions of attacking Hindu organizations, under the guise that they are only attacking Hindu nationalism, their straw man. The hair splitting that they engage in and the false propaganda they disseminate about Hindu organizations, under the guise that they are only talking about organisations and legalities and such like, is not taken seriously by those who can see through their agenda.

Let us hope that they will have the honesty to declare their intentions rather than hide behind subterfuge. That would be the beginning of wisdom. Let us also look forward to CNNIBN presenting a program on the flow of illegal funds to India from Christian evangelical organizations.

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

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