November 26, 2001


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Dear Readers, VI

Varsha Bhosle

Birds of a feather fight each other

Question: Who wrote in a Times of India op-ed of December 17, 1998: 'The media has stood up in one voice for the right to freedom of statement and against the Shiv Sena's cultural dictatorship. The question is not whether Fire is a good film or a bad film. The question is who will decide this. The people or the Shiv Sena?'

No prizes for the correct answer: Shabana Azmi.

Question: Who highlighted -- in news reports and editorials -- the Sangh Parivar's protest against the portrayal of the city of Kashi in Water and the UP government's denial of permission to shoot the film in Varanasi?

Right: Every national newspaper of India.

Question: Except in local editions, who's mum about the last-minute withdrawal of Russian director Alexander Sokurov's Taurus from public screening in the Kolkata Film Festival on November 16?

Answer: All the national newspapers and their common gang of contributing 'secularists' and pinkos.

One British review says Taurus is 'a study of the dying Lenin... this is the revolutionary as you have never seen him before. Semi-paralysed, by turns incoherent and chillingly lucid, naked as his orderlies hose him down, the founder of the first communist state is here stripped of all the trappings of authority... Mr Solzhenitsyn says... "We can see, in living flesh, the impotent end of the fanatical leader's ebullent and inventive activity, pitiless and wasteful." Such is the appraisal of the country's greatest living writer.'

However, the Leftists -- who are supreme authorities on everything, whether history, archaeology, arts, science or tailoring -- deemed the film an utter falsification of history. Jyoti Basu ruled: 'Such a film should not have been selected.' Biman Bose asked: 'From where has Sokurov found that Lenin was anti-Semitic?' The cabal described Taurus as a 'perversion' and demanded a ban.

Promptly, the Bhasha O Chetana Samiti, a cultural front of 'intellectuals', began demonstrating outside the theatre, and the annoyed audience was shown another film altogether. Although the festival director claimed that the print of Taurus had urgently been sent to London, festival committee members let out that the film had been withdrawn -- at the CM's orders. No matter that the chairman of the committee had affirmed that Lenin's portrayal was close to the accounts given by his biographers.

Plainly, Taurus, which portrays Lenin as an anti-Semitic, anti-Stalin man who visited prostitutes, didn't agree with the pinkos' notion of Lenin and their mythography about the Red revolution. So, swiftly thrown to the dogs was the mantra that censorship is the enemy of culture. Even so, it's inconceivable that a Leftist ban can reek of Fascism.

Sokurov said, 'The problem isn't that a man can lose his mind, but that millions of people can accept this madness as a truth.' Thing is, accepting madness as truth is an insanity itself. And concealing that insanity, an evil.


Some days ago, I received from reader Rajesh one of the most idiotic and infuriating mail ever written. To wit: 'My objection is very simple -- if you are a true and dedicated carnivore why don't you eat human flesh? ...somewhere in the back of your mind you have decided it's ok to eat beef/pork/chicken/lamb/what-not but I will never eat human-flesh/crow flesh/snakes/pig-intestines. Different reasons for each of them. How come all those reasons make sense to you and others that I have for not eating any meat don't? Above all why am I a veggie-nazi and how come you are not a cannibal??'

Too bored to trot out basics -- that a veggie-nazi is not a mere vegetarian, but one who attempts to coerce non-vegetarians into rejecting meat -- I replied that if the law ever sanctions humans to be bred for slaughter, I'd eat one. As for pig intestines, I relish sausages. But yes, though I've partaken of snake, alligator, frog, pigeon and what-not, the crow has somehow eluded me. However, none of it makes me a cannibal, just an adventurous glutton.

But that wasn't the infuriating part; this was: 'Journalism should be responsible and above all, and with all due respects, madam, please keep in mind your support base. Your reader base has a huge number of vegetarians. Please refrain from making sensational/impressionistic comments. Above all keep writing the excellent stuff you write 99.99% of the time.'

Like, I must cater to the whims of my 'support-base'. Like, I'm about to shiver in my booties like politicians do in their dhotis when blackmailed by their vote-banks. Like hell I will.

But what really got my goat was that .01% of the time I'm off the mark. Not because I think I'm infallible, but because of the lack of integrity in my Hindu readership: As long as I'm ranting against Islamism or Christian proselytism or Marxists or 'secularists', I'm Ok. But the minute I attack Hindu pet themes, I become a monger of sensationalism. Tell you what, I'm loathe to have such intellectually corrupt readers. Begone and away!

I hadn't planned to bring up that irksome mail, but this triggered it off: The HRD ministry, under Murli Manohar Joshi, has issued a directive to all schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education to delete 10 portions, mostly pertaining to the prevalence of beef eating and the sacrifices of cows and bullocks among Vedic Aryans, from four history textbooks.

The beef-consumption portions are like the ones I quoted over three years ago and I ain't gonna repeat my immovable objections to this rankly pseudo-Hindu view of Indian gastronomy. Suffice to say that the BJP is a mirror image of the Left: Just as the Communists condemn all and any work authored by Hindutva-inclined scholars, the textbooks are suspect since they are written by pinko historians. In either case, the loss is to India's intellectual advance: Jawaharlal Nehru's left-leaning indoctrination spawned generations of self-loathing, boneless Hindus; if the BJP has its way, we'll land up with generations of equally contemptible Hindu Talibs.

I say this with certainty because the CBSE circular unambiguously directs that 'these portions and statements are not to be taught in the respective classes or discussed in the classrooms... no questions will be set in any examination or test to evaluate the students' understanding of the content of the portion.'

Not discussed in the classrooms...? I am what I am only because my schoolteachers discussed whatever caught their fancy. Dear Mrs Saldanha talked on architecture during Eng Lang; Mr Ahmed lapsed into astronomy from mathematics; and Miss Pinto, you could never guess where we'd be sailing during Geography. Textbooks are only for board examinations; the primary job of teachers is to stir up curiosity in the fledgling mind and make it soar. Everything else is just rote -- like that which is taught in the factories producing the supporters of the Taleban.

In August, there was a row over Professor D N Jha's book Holy Cow: Beef in Indian Dietary Tradition, when Kashi pundits dared the author to debate them to prove his views on beef eating in ancient India. So far, so good. But then they claimed the book was an attack on the 'religious sentiment of Indians' and demanded an immediate ban, along with the demand that a check be imposed on all research projects that could 'hurt the religious and cultural identity of the society'. Er... which "society" would that be?

The keepers of Hinduism fumed because the book asserts that long before the advent of Islam, Indian meals included beef. Acharya Giriraj Kishore quoth, 'There have been many recent additions [to the scriptures] and he has probably seen those as none of the original texts would have included the instances he is citing. People don't understand the Vedic language and therefore make their own interpretations, which are usually false. These are just Western influences, attempting at spreading the non-vegetarian culture.' Then, an envoy of the Shankaracharya of Sringeri said that Jha had no knowledge of ancient texts and he 'misinterpreted the meaning of the Vedic texts'.

Hmm... now where have I heard these arguments before... was it in the op-eds of Rafiq Zakaria & Friends... or in the hundreds of e-messages about jihad and kafir in the Quran...?

Promptly, M M Joshi asked the NCERT and CBSE to delete from history books all references, which may 'hurt the religious sentiments of people with immediate effect'. Along with Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Jats were also assuaged. Among others, the deletions include:

  • 'The Jats, after establishing a state in Bharatpur, conducted plundering raids in the region around Delhi. They also participated in the court intrigues.' (However, that the Marathas looted was let stand.)
  • Archaeological evidence 'did not show any settlement around Ayodhya'; 'earliest inscriptions and sculptural pieces found in Mathura between BC 200 and AD 300 did not attest [to Krishna's] presence'; 'Because of such difficulties, the ideas of an epic age based on the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have to be discarded.'
  • 'The mythology of the Tirthankaras... seems to have been created to give antiquity to Jainism.'
  • Guru Tegh Bahadur 'in association with one Hafiz Adam... had resorted to plunder and raping, laying waste the whole province of the Punjab'.
These pieces make obvious that the identity-rejection that Communists try to instil in diverse groups -- so that the result is one big faceless mass with loyalties to Marx alone -- is at play here. For instance, were we taught that any Mughal king 'resorted to raping'...? Which country tutors kids on rape in history?? And, if no archaeological evidence exists about Krishna, can children be told that Hinduism is based on a myth...? When there's no evidence of an alternate civilisation from that period either, such a conclusion is a mere judgement based on half facts -- there can be no absolutes till evidence emerges, which refutes the existence of Ram. Just because archaeological finds are from an age later than a particular civilisation's, one can't deduce it never existed -- especially since Hindu scholars dispute it. Hinduism ain't a religion as young as Islam and Communism.

Nevertheless, NONE of this is an excuse for the government censoring the texts arbitrarily, NOR does it invalidate the professors' research and the archaeological evidence. Any person with a functioning brain would readily accept that artifacts from the Mahabharat era aren't extant, that rulers indulged in intrigues and plunder, etc. So Shivaji looted -- does that lower him in my esteem? Hell, no! My teachers goaded me to read all I could, and Marathi historians have produced reams that reveal Shivaji's reasons. Point is, sure, pinko historians must tell children that empirical evidence of the Epic Age doesn't exist, but at the same time, they need to lay down the contrary views. In the tricky field of faith, anything less is a conspiracy against the religion that keeps the Red flag off the Red Fort.

The integrity of the scholars who relay history to unformed minds depends not just on unearthed evidence but HOW the truth is relayed, too. It's all in the wording, and propaganda -- of whichever ideology -- must not be permitted. A wise government would have discussed this issue with the pinkos and pressurised them to reframe their statements in a manner acceptable to all. Failing which, it would have called upon unbiased scholars to do the needful. Simply cloaking history don't build national character.

Giving in to violent protests, yielding to perverse demands, mollifying the ill-educated -- that's no way to run a country. No matter what the price principles extract, they must not be diluted. No matter how traumatic the truth, it must be upheld. For if the followers of Imam Bukhari or John Dayal or Giriraj Kishore develop an allergy to Darwin's theory of evolution, are we going to delete all references to it? What's next?!

Varsha Bhosle

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