June 4, 2002


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Rajeev Srinivasan

Tools of the 'secularist' arsenal

I wrote the following column a couple of months ago, but did not publish it because I felt sorry for Dilip D'Souza; now the story of the reading of Shashi Tharoor's book Riot in New York, and the egregious grandstanding that accompanied it, compels me to publish. I know Shashi Tharoor, and he is capable of surpassingly beautiful prose; and Tunku Varadarajan's columns in the Wall Street Journal are often a pleasure to read. I shall not say anything about either of these gentlemen. Then there is Shabana Azmi, my personal bete noire.

Here is a prodigiously talented actress, beautiful and intelligent. Why, then, does she insist on being such a consistent Hindu-hater? Whatever did Hindus do to her other than admire her acting skills? I am not sure whether she is a Marxist fundamentalist or a Muslim fundamentalist; in any case, she is dependable: if there is any cause that is anti-Hindu, she is there in the forefront.

As far as I know, she has never once condemned violence against Hindus, but she is the patron saint of Muslims, and Muslims alone, which is standard Marxist posturing too. It was poetic justice, then, that the arch Muslim fundamentalist, Imam Bukhari, recently called her a singing, dancing lady of the evening [ganewali, nachnewali tawaif].

Azmi is but the epitome of a whole class of Indians, the 'secular' 'progressives' who are thoroughly addled by a Macaulayite education and who live surrounded by a Marxist miasma of smug complacency, certain that they have seen the truth, and that only they have been thus privileged. This is the textbook definition of a fundamentalist. Bertrand Russell put it well: 'The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.'

As an example of their self-righteous Talibanism, here is an excerpt from a tirade I received from a very mediocre hack. This is after a litany of caste-based insults [yes, from a 'progressive']. 'It is amazing that a half-literate like you have the temerity to talk lowly of the educated, the literate and the enlightened... You are nothing but a half-baked Hindu, a barbarian with weird ideas that need to be consigned to the dustbin...' God alone can save us from the 'enlightened', 'literate', 'educated' ones, namely she and those of her ilk. And the venom with which she spits out the word 'Hindu'! Clearly it is, a priori, a crime to be a Hindu.

And these are the vipers who shout loudest about 'freedom of speech'! In the case of the Riot reading, someone named Narain Kataria, handicapped because he lacks the urbane veneer and marketing skills of the Leftists, tried peaceful democratic dissent, which he is constitutionally entitled to. The 'secular' 'progressives' condemn and demean him for that. But as you see below, when they themselves wish to disrupt something, they do so without any qualms. Where is the symmetry, I ask? But then, 'hypocrisy' is their middle name.

Indulge me for a minute while I paint a scenario for you:

How do you think Christians in America would respond to such provocation? In particular, given that they consider Marxists to be -- and generally with good reason -- agents of a hostile foreign power, I suspect the uproar would be so great that the museum authorities, the film-maker, and everybody else associated with this travesty would be tarred and feathered.

But this is exactly what happened in the case of Hindus. An exhibition about the elements of Hindu devotion was hijacked by a controversy about a series of films by a known Hindu-baiter, an agit-prop, a propaganda artist whose entire oeuvre has been a continuing orgy of misrepresentation and defamation of Hinduism. Faith and politics were deliberately mixed up, although there was absolutely no reason to confuse Hindu devotion with politics. In particular, Hinduism is the most apolitical of religions, with an extremely clear separation of church and state. This has always been the case historically.

To provide another analogy, what would happen if the same thing were to happen in the case of Muslims? An exhibition on, let's say, elements of faith in Islam, is proposed: in fact there is one going on right now, on Islam in America. Let us say that a film on the depradations of political Islam, by an apostate Muslim who has converted to Marxism, is added to the show. Let's consider what this film might include:

  • The attack on the World Trade Centre,
  • The acts of the Taliban in Afghanistan, including violence against women, imposition of harsh Islamic laws,
  • The burning of 59 people, including 14 children, in a train in Godhra, India,
  • The massacres of 100,000 people in Algeria,
  • The effect of notorious rape laws in Pakistan where a woman who reports a rape has to produce four male eyewitnesses who testify on her behalf; otherwise, she is sentenced for fornication and in effect treated as a prostitute,
  • The decapitation of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan,
  • The attack on a church frequented by Americans in Pakistan,
  • The suicide bombing of a bus containing French engineers in Karachi, Pakistan.
How would Muslims react to this? With grave concern, naturally. They would milk multi-culturalism to the hilt, and shout from the rooftops about minority rights and the demonisation of a vulnerable minority group. Every Muslim in America will support this agitation, and the museum authorities will be forced to cancel the offending film show. That would only be fair: Muslims, and all religious minorities, face enough ignorance, discrimination and ill-will in the US already without some rabble-rouser adding to it. Just ask the Sikhs who were attacked after the WTC bombings.

But that is not what happened with the Hindus. A group of people of Indian origin, some with Hindu names, pushed this blatantly anti-Hindu agenda forward.

The museum authorities are not entirely blameless in this shameful episode. The original exhibit, Elements of Hindu Devotion by anthropologist and ethnographer Stephen Huyler, is, I am told, extremely sympathetic towards Hinduism. I didn't see the exhibit, not having been in New York City for some time, but I can well believe this based on Huyler's book of the same name, which my good friend Amrita H once showed me.

But the authorities allowed themselves to be hijacked into showing the Anand Patwardhan films. If they were keen on showing a related film, here is something that would have been much more appropriate: the animated film Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama, directed by Yugo Sako and available from [I noticed that one of the licence holders was Tamil star Kamalahaasan: good for him!] I bought this in India for Rs 450, and this is a steal. For, this 'Ramayana', made mostly by Japanese animators with a little help from Indonesians, is wonderful. The script is terrific, and the animation, in typical Japanese 'anime' fashion, is very appealing. This is a film that would appeal to everyone, for it works as a mythic tale of great heroes and valiant deeds. The animation makes the extraordinary tales, especially the battle scenes, come true vividly, just as we might have imagined them when, wide-eyed, we sat at our grandparents' feet to listen.

It is an incredible shame that even though it was made in 1991 or so, The Legend of Prince Rama has never been released widely in the US market. This is much better than most Disney animations, for instance Mulan that they clearly made to appease the Chinese government. If there are any influential Indians in the studio or film distribution setups in the US, I would request that you, gentle reader, pass on to them the idea of releasing this film widely. At a time when the movie-going public needs real heroes, and tales like The Lord of the Rings are very popular, what better than to show the story of the Righteous Man, Rama?

But to go back to the museum authorities, I did not personally contact them, but people I know did; for instance, someone who was quite worried about the allegation about 'violent acts' threatened apparently by Hindus. He spoke to Dr Laurel Kendall, curator, Asian Ethnographic Collections, who, in the interest of fairness, I salute for having curated the exhibition.

I quote my acquaintance verbatim: 'When I expressed my concern over the threat of violence, Dr Kendall said, in saying that, I overspoke. I am not at liberty to give any details, the news of this threat came down through unofficial channels. We take the safety of our public very seriously. This was not the threat of a demonstration, or of bringing a weapon into the Museum, which our security can handle, this was much more than that. Yes, we are looking to screen the films at another occasion or venue. When I said that we would want any miscreants among Hindus to be identified so that we can take action against them, she said that she was not able to give any details.'

What does this accomplish? I would call it a successful smear, possibly unintentional. There is an unspecified threat of violence that may or may not have been made by an unidentified person or persons. In today's climate of vigilance in the US, the FBI and the NYPD take a very dim view of any threats of violence by some ethnic group. If they didn't, or if details of a threat cannot be made public, how can one take it seriously? But it certainly did succeed in portraying the Hindus as some kind of wild-eyed, medieval yahoos. This, as Israelis might say, is blood-libel.

I most certainly take exception to the museum authorities' act. For they, sitting comfortably in their ivory towers, do not know what it means to have your nation partitioned, your people massacred and ethnically cleansed regularly, your heritage ridiculed, your faith insulted daily. This is what the Hindus of India face: we who have been drained of our wealth; we whose history has been derided as myth; we whose very self-image is under siege by malign foes. Some of us are standing up and saying, 'Never again!' We refuse to be made vaastuhara as in the brilliant G Aravindan film: bereft of self-hood. No more columns of wretched Hindu refugees, fleeing Pakistan or Bangladesh or Muslim-dominated areas of Jammu & Kashmir!

The story of the vague and unsubstantiated threat was picked up by the 'secular' 'progressive' mafia, including those who circulated the counter-petition. I contend that there was no threat of violence, and I challenge them to produce proof instead of insinuations. But then innuendo is their strongest suit.

They further made the mischievous equation of 'political Hinduism' with 'devotional Hinduism'. The exhibition was clearly about 'devotional Hinduism'. Despite the traditional secularism of Hinduism, and the clear separation between church and state, there is undoubtedly a political Hinduism -- this is what the BJP rode to power by orchestrating a Hindu vote-bank, much as others have utilised Muslim vote-banks. But all this has nothing to do with the faith of the average Hindu, which is what the exhibition was all about. Remember, it was 'Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion' and not 'Hindu Politics'. This is why the Anand Patwardhan films had no business being shown there.

Finally, the 'secular' 'progressive' mafia has been bleating about 'freedom of speech'. This is a total red herring. For one, the petition did not seek to ban the showing of the Patwardhan films. As seen in the earlier quote from the petition [just replace 'Christian' with 'Hindu'], it merely suggested, gently, that the films be shown in context.

For another, 'free speech' doesn't mean 'irresponsible speech'. I said this in my previous column The Problem with Fire -- responsibility comes with freedom. There is a responsibility to not indulge in 'hate speech'. You do not walk up to a black man and call him 'nigger': Yes, you do have the right to abuse any religion, but you choose not to do it because it is hurtful to those who believe.

Unfortunately, in the 'secular' 'progressive' manifesto, free speech means hate speech against Hinduism, but not other religions. Hinduism is fair game for the most vile hate speech, innuendo, insinuations, and just plain invective. This is blatant discrimination. The Leftists have made Hindus second-class citizens in India, less equal than others. This, in fact, is the root cause behind the Ayodhya problem: a persistent feeling, with good reason, of oppression not only in the distant past, but right now, today.

There is an entire cottage industry in India that consists of this egregious and endemic Hindu-bashing. Any harm that befalls a Hindu is not of any interest to practitioners of this art. But let the exact same thing happen to any non-Hindu, and they are all up in arms. They are adept at minority appeasement. They have constructed an entire fantasy about 'South Asia' and about a commonality of interests and attitudes between all residents of the Indian subcontinent, despite much evidence to the contrary.

They applaud discriminatory treatment of Hindus, for instance in laws pertaining to the management of religious institutions: for instance, Hindu temples are managed by, and their funds looted by, the government; whereas other religions' shrines freely bring in large amounts of foreign funds with no oversight or audits. In Kerala, Christians, Marxists and atheists have been allowed to sit on the Devaswom Board that oversees Hindu temples! The government has no business whatsoever interfering in the affairs of any religion, but of course Jawaharlal Nehru in his infinite wisdom embarked on a 'destroy Hinduism' campaign, which continues apace.

A lot of this cottage industry's proponents retain Hindu names -- even though they are largely converts to Marxism -- and therefore they claim their perspective is the prevailing Hindu perspective. They are, on the contrary, practitioners of apartheid against Hindus. These are no Hindus, they are rabid Semitic fundamentalists, with a generous dose of imperious fascism thrown in: if you disagree with them, you are ipso facto scum. They are also generally anti-national, apologists for Pakistan or China. They are starry-eyed about every Pakistani general [Musharraf is a particular favourite], and about every Chinese apparatchik.

One particular such 'progressive' has gone to the trouble of devoting an entire column to attacking me. I suppose I should be flattered when columnists do this -- a couple of them have done so before. But I do find Dilip D'Souza's attack on me particularly entertaining because he has elevated professional whining to such a class act.

On doing a little poking around, I also find D'Souza to be quite economical with the truth. He lies, period. Perhaps he has learned this from the 'denotified tribes' he is so fond of, who, we note in passing, were condemned by the British [yes, the 'egalitarian' Brits who were so horrified by 'casteist' Indians] as no-good layabouts to the last, woman and child, adept at theft and petty crime. Or maybe he is copying the Islamic doctrine of al-taqiyah that holds that lying for the greater good of Islam is an acceptable tactic. Or maybe the Marxist habit of manufacturing facts on a daily basis. In any case, D'Souza certainly is good at half-truths, cover-ups, etc.

I have observed D'Souza's 'progress', if you could call it that, over some years. I first noticed him on the newsgroups net.nlang.India or soc.culture.Indian where he'd post what he claimed were actual letters to the Indian government from individuals written in archaic, overly formal, and somewhat erroneous English. These were mildly amusing, but it was really not fair for this person, born into privilege as the son of a senior bureaucrat, to make fun of those less fortunate.

Over time I observed his transition from irreverent gadfly into single-issue fanatic. In this he reminded me of another blinkered person, a Tamil (Sri Lankan, I think) named Meenaradchagan Vishnu, a remarkable name for a virulent Hindu-basher. Vishnu's favourite topic was the Ashwamedha Yagna and how it showed that Hinduism was a terrible religion. He seemed to not comprehend that the last Ashwamedha Yagna was performed by Pushyamitra Sunga 2,000 years ago! D'Souza similarly appears to lack a sense of proportion.

D'Souza's favourite topics in addition to Hindu-bashing are public toilets and the Srikrishna commission. About the Srikrishna commission, it turns out that D'Souza has been very coy about a few little facts. One is that his father, one J B D'Souza, a former chief secretary in Maharashtra [see the byline at] filed a Public Interest Litigation asking for immediate implementation of the Srikrishna Commission report and has been in the forefront of those making noise about it.

Now Dilip D'Souza has written innumerable columns on supporting the Srikrishna Commission's report, without ever once mentioning his father's vested interest. Why this bashfulness? Isn't it a blatant violation of journalistic ethics to avoid full disclosure of one's biases? What is the difference between D'Souza, Jr, and a business journalist who takes money to write stories trashing a particular stock? Shouldn't D'Souza, Jr, be investigated by the Press Council for deliberately withholding relevant information? Did he just 'forget' all 47 times he wrote about the Srikrishna Commission?

Further, Asghar Ali Engineer wrote in an article that J B D'Souza 'filed a public interest writ petition in the Bombay high court to punish the editor [of the Shiv Sena's Samna newspaper] under (sic) Criminal Procedure Act'. Does this perhaps explain why D'Souza, Jr, also takes a pretty dim view of the Shiv Sena and its arms?

It is quite touching that a son follows in his father's footsteps, and even more touching when he takes up cudgels for his dad, and I am all for it, being a believer in the sanctity of the family and all that. But I do believe that enquiring minds would like to know when the son is providing free propaganda for the father, all the while pretending to be an impartial observer.

Speaking of money, it appears D'Souza, Jr, is not employed full-time, even though he is trained as a software engineer. So what is his source of support? Could it be some foreign-funded NGO, with a missionary connection, funding him to help their anti-Hindu agenda? That would explain a lot, wouldn't it? Note here how I am using the tactics of the 'secular' 'progressive': innuendo without proof. If the smear campaign sticks, well and good. If it doesn't, well, I have merely speculated. It's not implausible, considering how much Christian fundamentalist money does end up in India for conversion jamborees and how much D'Souza rails against Hindus.

D'Souza further asserts that I haven't seen Patwardhan's films. How does he know this? Did he read my mind? I certainly don't confide in him. Patwardhan's films have been getting screened at a lot of US campuses thanks to a zealous group afflicted by 'South Asian'itis. So why couldn't I have seen them there? Or on late-night television in India, when there was a court-ordered showing of these films? No, D'Souza, in the absence of facts, simply makes up convenient ones. They become truths, in the usual Goebbelsian way, by the simple expedient of repeated assertion.

In terms of making up facts, I was entertained by D'Souza's about-turns in the controversy a while ago about the film Fire. Shabana Azmi claimed in an article that the lesbian lovers were named Radha and Nita in the film, and that they had been, and would continue to be. Now this was a bald-faced lie by Azmi, as I knew because I had seen the released US version of the film wherein the names were, in fact, Radha and Sita, chosen deliberately to offend Hindus. D'Souza, without having seen the film, jumped to accept this assertion at face value.

This is a general problem many in India suffer from: the willingness to accept things at face value without any attempt to question or verify. It has to be a byproduct of the general Marxist way of blind acceptance of dogma, of some nonsense written in a book. 'Theirs not to question why, theirs but to do and die.' On the contrary. Question authority! Verify sources! Argue vigorously! Poke holes in the logic! Think!

D'Souza really doesn't know what he is talking about. He regularly lights candles at Wagah and attends all these people-to-people meetings, and he'll probably be the first person garlanding the Chinese if they ever invade India. And what has all this got India? Kargil. The Agra Summit. Ethnic cleansing in J&K. Godhra. Kaluchak. Attempts to foment religious tension. 'Containment'. Fat lot of good woolly 'liberalism' has done.

This is the kind of prior track record that Dilip D'Souza has. He is a perfect example of the kind of person who becomes a 'secular' 'progressive' 'intellectual' in India. Someone with touching but half-baked ideas of being a do-gooder, who is brainwashed first by the Macaulayite/JNU-ite education system, and then by some handler who recognises him as a perfect recruit: an innocent whose head can be filled with dubious ideas and who fails to realize that he's being turned into an anti-national.

Samuel Johnson said it best: 'Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.' I leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide which of these applies to India's famous 'secular progressives'. In fact it may be even worse, them possessing neither integrity nor knowledge. I wonder what Johnson would have said to that.

Rajeev Srinivasan

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