July 15, 2002


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Varsha Bhosle

What's Hinduism got to do with it?!

The week before last, I got all of two messages from readers correcting me for using "virii" as the plural form of "virus." That in itself alerted me to the reigning confusion over the terms. For you can be sure that when moi makes even a spelling mistake, or the editors miss a typo, every "secularist" who has it in for me bases his abusive rejection of my beliefs on that error in copy. It's gratifying to see how starved they are of openings for logical rebuttals, hehehehehe...

Why "virii" was stuck firm in my head, I do not know; probably a hangover from radius-radii. My Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary does not clarify, and I don't bother with American lexicon. While writing, I did make a half-hearted effort by googling "virii," but when thousands of references popped up, I assumed it to be legit and didn't dig further. But since the writer of one of the two messages had promised to pamper me with a massage, I felt honour-bound to get to the er... root of the problem.

Turns out, "viruses" is correct English -- there is no such thing as "virii." Even in Latin, the plural viri is rarely used (restricted to nominative and accusative singular; "generally singular in Lucretius, ablative singular in Lucretius," according to The Oxford Latin Dictionary), with the singular form being used in almost every instance. That's because viri is also the plural form of vir, for "man." Viri... men... viruses...


Good, good, gooood... it felt good to read that the J&K government has decided to stop taxing Hindu pilgrims visiting the shrine of Vaishno Devi. Still, two lines in Basharat Peer's report tickled me pink: "[Jammu's Regional Transport Officer] did not give any reasons for the move... And given the religious nature of the journey, it could have also provided right-wing parties a chance to criticise the National Conference government."

To the best of my knowledge, no "right-wing parties" -- by which they mean the BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal -- had taken note of the indirect tax on Hindus. Unless, of course, you want to call your favourite psycho, and the Shiva Public Grievance Forum, a non-Parivar social organisation of Rajasthan, that. But then again, elections can sometimes make politicians see the divine light radiating from these pages, hehehehehe...


Speaking of Vaishno Devi, The Pioneer carried a horrifying story on July 9 about a newly-wedded woman forced to undergo an ordeal by fire for tripping off to the Himalayan shrine without informing her husband and in-laws. On her return, Sangeeta Sode was subjected to agnipariksha by having a red-hot iron bar -- heated for a precise 90 minutes -- placed on the palms of her hands to prove her fidelity. As per the ritual, Sangeeta walked five steps with the hot iron bar in her hands and then threw it on a heap of dry grass, which instantly caught fire.

Remember my saying -- about the Muslim women who were party to the passing of the AIMPLB's resolution rejecting the Child Marriage Restraint Act -- "Victims begging for their daughters to be victimised?" Well, Sangeeta was made to undergo agnipariksha not only by her mother-in-law, but also her own mother...

To top that, in an affidavit before a court in Indore, Sangeeta defended her in-laws against police action with: "If you want to prosecute them, you should prosecute me, as well as my mother, because we are directly involved in it." Not only that, she also endorsed the fire ritual on the basis of "traditions in our community," ie, the Kanjar Samaj.

Frankly, I wish Sangeeta and her mother had self-combusted, I detest victims that much. These are the women who perpetuate barbarity down the line: by teaching their sons to be chauvinistic and domineering, and daughters to be docile and all-suffering. The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world, and with a hand like Sangeeta's, the future sure looks dim.

Nevertheless, there is something that has totally stumped me: The report featured an Associated Press photograph of Sangeeta displaying the palms of her hands after holding the hot iron -- they were unscathed, without even a red mark. People who sear steaks and chops on the backyard barbie (which isn't preheated for one-and-a-half hours), know how quickly the iron grid scores the flesh, how the meat sizzles the moment it touches the iron. So... how... what...?


While on chauvinistic communities, how can one avoid the public gang-rape of an 18-year-old girl in Pakistan? The New York Times wrote, "three higher-caste tribesmen sodomised her 11-year-old brother, then tried to cover up what they had done... a tribal council in the village of Meerwala ordered the rape of Mukhtaran Bibi of the low-caste Gujar tribe as punishment for allegations that her younger brother, Abdul Shaqoor, 11, had 'illicit relations' with a 30-year-old woman of the higher caste Mastoi tribe."

"Caste"?? Thrice...? Don't tell me that the vile traditions of Evil Hinduism still exert so much influence on Pakis! According to the last published head-count, in 1991, Pakistan had 1.6% Hindus, while the statistics for 1941 and 1948 are 25% and 17%, respectively. It won't take a genius to surmise that in the last decade, the numbers must have dwindled further. So what's with the "Hindu concept" of caste in that Islamic nation??

I'll tell you what: the caste system never was restricted to Hinduism. Where there is Man, there are social divisions -- some institutionalised, some not, some seething under the surface, some not, but all enforced in actual social interaction. That's why you have the Boston Brahmins in the US, the Zaibutsu in Japan, Parisian aristocracy, the Communist Party of China, and what have you. There's no truer book written than Animal Farm.

Today, Christian and Muslim groups in India -- with the backing of the "secular" leadership -- demand reservations for the "Dalits" of those communities on the basis of Hindu caste. Dr Ejaz Ali, national convener of the All-India Backward Muslim Morcha, said in June 20's issue of Outlook that Dalits "converted to Islam en masse to escape from caste oppression under the Brahminical order. They were visibly impressed by the simplicity and brotherhood of the early Muslims, especially the Sufis. They saw them eating together from the same vessel, praying together shoulder-to-shoulder in the same mosque... All this visibly impressed them and they converted in large numbers to Islam in search of equality and self-respect... The other Muslims in India are descendants either of Muslims who came to the country over the centuries from Iran, Central Arabia or Iraq, or of local converts from 'high' caste Hindu families... They form only a small minority of the Indian Muslim community."

So what went wrong in this Utopian scenario that had so "visibly" impressed the downtrodden amongst Hindus...? Why and when did Muslim turn against "lower caste" Muslim?

I'll tell you why: it's a fat load of cock and bull -- there never was any such equality to begin with, and there never will be. In ancient India, the weaker amongst the Hindu populace converted to Islam, not to escape Brahminical oppression, but to avoid the three Ts enforced by Muslim invaders -- torture, taxation and tyranny. In fact, those who chose to remain Hindu tightened the till-then-fluid Varna into an ultra-rigid system, the likes of which hadn't existed before the advent of Islamic invaders: Maharshi Valmiki was a fisherman, as was Maharshi Ved Vyas; Chandragupta Maurya was from the Muria tribe, which used to collect peacock (mor) feathers; Samrat Ashok was the son of a daasi, and so on. This strength of purpose -- ie, halting the depletion of Hindu numbers and the dilution of Hinduism, by any means fair or foul -- made Hindus survive the waves of foreign attacks and foreign rule. The wall that Hindu society built around itself in that era cannot be breached by offensive attacks from the outside -- as even Bengal's pinkos, of the Durga Puja U-turn fame, finally discovered, hehehehe... That wall can be brought down only from within.

Islam is divided into, if not more, then as many sects as is Hinduism. Schisms, focusing first on disagreements over who should lead the new faith, and later, on matters of doctrine, began developing immediately after Muhammad's death in the year 632: Islam splintered into the Sunni and Shia sects, which always were at each other's throats; Kharijis, who provided the first major schism within Islam; Alawis, who broke away from the Shiites in the 9th century; Ahmadiyyahs, who believe their founder was a renovator of Islam, a position other Muslims consider to be heretical; the Wahhabis, who flay the rest of the Sunnis; the Ismailis, earlier known as the Hashishi or the Malahida ("impious heretics"); Druzes, whom most Muslims consider blasphemous since they declared that God was manifested in human form as the Egyptian caliph al Hakim Bi-amr Allah 1,000 years ago, and who do not accept new members and often pose as members of the dominant religion where they live; Salafis, Nusayris, Fatimids, Musta'lians, Qarmatians... and so on and so forth -- none of whom will be ready to give their daughters to men of the other sects.

So where does the question of "simplicity and brotherhood" enter the picture??? All these divided folks brought their own intra-religious prejudices and doctrines -- which existed amongst them for centuries before they began travelling eastwards -- into Hindu India!

The hypocrisy of it all amazes me! After Osama bin Laden and his buddies forever yoked "terrorist" to "Islam" through their own bloody deeds and by calling upon the Quran to jihad, the Indian Muslim "leadership" and the pinkos rushed to declare that Islam never was and is not a monolithic religion. Fine, agreed! But then, what's this crap about a monolithic "simplicity and brotherhood" -- one tainted in India by the proximity of the vile Hindus and their evil practices...? What's Hinduism got to do with it??? If some Muslims do not afford other Muslims the self-respect they seek, what's it got to do with us Hindus and our castes?! In fact, unlike Hindus, Muslims are making new societal formations to discriminate against -- in Pakistan, what is "Mohajir" if not a lower caste...?

No, I am not saying that the Hindu caste system is a beneficial and desirable thing. However, it would be stupid and a denial of history (which, in any case, is exactly what the "eminent" historians want), to not recognise that caste served a purpose at a particular time. Unfortunately, it has far outlived its usefulness and thus must be eradicated forthwith. Nevertheless, these attempts to sully Hinduism on the basis of caste are exceedingly dangerous: It is a loaded gun that will only backfire.

By now you're wondering: but what about the juicy bits, the sodomy and the gang-rape of a male child? Gimme a break! And wait for next week :-)

Varsha Bhosle

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