Brahminical Intolerance in Early India

 

The construct of tolerant Hinduism seems to have been of a relatively recent origin and seems to have first acquired visibility in the Western writings on India. In the seventeenth century, Francois Bernier (1620-1688), the French doctor who travelled widely in India, was one of the early Europeans to speak of Hindus as a tolerant people. In the eighteenth century the German philosopher Johann Gotfried Von Herder (1744-1803), the forerunner of the Romantic glorification of India, referred to the Hindus as “mild” and “tolerant” and as “the gentlest branch of humanity”; and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) said that they “do not hate the other religions but they believe they are also right.” Such views find a more prominent place in the writings of Orientalists like William Jones, according to whom “the Hindus…would readily admit the truth of the Gospel but they contend that it is perfectly consistent with their Sastras.”

It was in the nineteenth century that some Indians also began to speak of tolerance of Hindus but they clearly privileged Hinduism over other religions. Dayananda Saraswati (1824-1883), who founded the Arya Samaj in 1875, claimed to believe “in a religion based on universal values…above the hostility of all creeds…” but as a champion of the Vedic religion, he sharply opposed all other religions: to him Prophet Mohammad was an “impostor” and Jesus “a very ordinary ignorant man, neither learned nor a yogi”.1 His contemporary Ramakrishna (1836-1886) spoke of the equality of religions but in his view “the Hindu religion alone is the Sanatana Dharma.2 Ramakrishna’s disciple, Vivekananda (1863-1904) also laid emphasis on toleration and picked up the famous Rigvedic passage ekamsad vipra vahudha vadanti [The wise speak of what is One in many ways] in support of his vision that “India alone [was] to be…the land of toleration”. But this was incompatible with his view that “ from Pacific to the Atlantic for five hundred years blood ran all over the world” and “ that is Mohammadanism”,3 even though his Rigvedic quote has become a cliché through its endless political milking by politicians. Similar views continued to be held by some leaders in the early twentieth century. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920), for example, couched his views in the vocabulary of tolerance and quite often cited the above Rigvedic passage but, in reality, espoused militant Hinduism. Even the Muslim hater M S Golwalkar (1906-1973), spoke of the Hindus as the most tolerant people of the world, though this sounded like devil quoting scriptures; for, he identified Muslims, Christians and Communists as internal threats to the country.4 It would appear that these leaders, from Dayananda to Golwalkar, used tolerance as a camouflage for Hindu belligerence, privileged Hinduism over other religions and did not provide enough space to them. Unlike them Mahatma Gandhi, who lived and died for communal harmony, genuinely found Hinduism to be the most tolerant of all religions even if his excessive pride in its inclusivism may have tended to make it exclusive.

The perception of Hinduism as a tolerant religion has predictably elicited conflicting responses from the scholarly community. On the one hand are scholars like the late Nirad C. Chaudhuri, who almost ruled out the idea of religious tolerance and asserted that “if the familiar words about the tolerance and capacity for synthesis were true, one would be hard put to explain why there are such deep suspicions and enmities among the human groups in India…”5 On the other hand, there are historians and social scientists, notably Amartya Sen,6 who have glorified religious tolerance and inclusiveness in early India.

Scholars have cited several instances to illustrate the process of mutual accommodation among the various Indian religious sects. It is held, for example, that the Buddha, the founder of a heretic religion, emerged as an avatara of Vishnu around the middle of the sixth century AD7 and figured as such in several Puranas and other texts including the Dashavataracarita of Kshemendra (eleventh century) and Gitagovinda of Jayadeva8 (twelfth century) as well as inscriptions9. Even Alberuni (eleventh century) refers to the Buddha as avatara of Vishnu.10 But, interestingly, the Buddha was also reviled as a thief and atheist11 and Shiva is believed to have appeared on earth in the form of Shankara to combat the Buddha avatara, even though Shankara himself is described as an illegitimate child in a fourteenth century Vaishnava text.12 Further, Adinatha (Risabha), the first tirthankara of Jainism, was accepted as an incarnation of Vishnu in the Bhagavatapurana,13 Christ was sometimes included in the incarnations of Vishnu14 and the Muslim sect of Imam Shahis believed that the Imam was himself the tenth avatara of Vishnu and that the Quran was a part of the Atharvaveda.15 Akbar was some times thought of as the tenth avatara of Vishnu16 and Queen Victoria was accepted as a Hindu goddess when a plague broke out in Mumbai following an insult to her statue by some miscreants.17 It is, however, missed in all this, that neither the Imam, nor Christ, nor Akbar and nor Victoria occupied an important place in the brahminical scheme of things. An oft repeated example of giving space to opposing points of view is that of Madhava Acharya (fourteenth century), who begins his Sarvadarshanasamgraha (Collection of All Systems), by first presenting the school of Charvakas, and then criticises it. But it should be realised that this was in keeping with the traditional Indian practice of presenting the opponent’s view (purvapaksha) before refuting it.

Even if we accept these instances as indicating that Brahminism gave space to other sects, there is considerable historical evidence to question the stereotype of India as a land of religious tolerance. Not only did the different bahminical sects fight among themselves of which we have plenty of evidence18, they also bore huge animosity towards the two heterodox religions, Buddhism and Jainism, in early India. An early evidence of this comes from the Jain canonical text, the Acharangasuttam, according to which monks hid themselves in the day and travelled by night lest they be suspected of being spies.19 Similarly, the Arthashastra of Kautilya contemptuously des­cribes the followers of non-Vedic sects as vrishala or pashanda (e.g., Shakyas, Ajivikas), assigns them residence at the end of or near the cremation ground and prescribes a heavy fine for inviting them to dinners in honour of the gods and the Manes.20 By the post Mauryan period the brahminical intolerance of the Shramanic religions seems to have struck deeper roots so that the Mahabhashya of Patanjali states that Shramanas and Brahmanas are “eternal enemies” (virodhah shashvatikah) like the snake and mongoose21 and the Buddhist monk  Divyavadana (third century) describes Pushyamitra Shunga as a great persecutor of Buddhists who announced a prize of one hundred dinar for every head of a Shramana.22 Brahaminical animosity towards the Shramanic religions became intense over time, especially in the early medieval period, and found its way in the philosophical discourses of the time. Uddyo­takara (seventh century) is said to have refuted the arguments of the Buddhist logicians Nagarjuna and Dignag, and his views were later reinforced by Vachaspati Mishra (ninth century). Udayana, the founder of the Navya Nyaya school, also launched a sharp attack on the atheistic thesis of Buddhism in his Atmatattvaviveka, Outside the school of Nyaya, brahminical thinkers like Kumarila Bhatta and Shankara attacked Buddhism and Jainism; according to the latter the Buddha indulged in “incoherent prattling … deliberate­ly and hatefully leading mankind into confusion….”23 Similarly, Madhusudana Sarasvati, the sixteenth-century Bengali commentator on the Bhagvadgita, held that the teachings of materialists, Buddhists and others are like those of the mlecchas.24 The attitude of the orthodox philosophers found an echo in the Puranas like the Saurapurana 25 as well as the literary texts like the Mattavilasa Prahasana of Mahendravarman (seventh century) and the Prabodhachandrodaya of Krishna Mishra (tenth-eleventh century) which provide vulgar portrayals of the Buddhists and the Jains.26

The invectives against Buddhists and Jains often found expression in violence, especially from around the middle of the first millennium. According to Hsüan Tsang (seventh century) the Gauda king Shashanka, a contemporary of Harshavardhana, cut down the Bodhi tree at Gaya and removed the statue of the Buddha from the local temple, and the Huna ruler Mihirakula, a devotee of Shiva, destroyed 1,600 Buddhist stupas and monasteries and killed thousands of Buddhist monks and laity.27 Kalhana (eleventh century) refers to the destruction of a Buddhist monastery by the Shaivite king Jalauka, who ruled over Kashmir after the death of his father Ashoka. 28 An important evidence of the persecution of Buddhists in Kashmir, however, dates from the reign of the king Kshemagupta (950–58), who des­troyed the Buddhist monastery Jayendravihara at Shrinagara and used the materials from it in constructing a temple called Kshemagaurishvara.29 A Tibetan tradition has it that the Kalachuri king Karna (eleventh century) destroyed many Buddhist temples and monasteries in Magadha; and Taranatha (seventeenth century) refers to the destruction of eighty four temples in the region including Nalanda.30 The situation in southern India seems to have been no different. A thirteenth century Alvar text, for example, tells us that the Vaishnava poet-saint Tirumankai stole a large gold image of the Buddha from a stupa at Nagapattinam and had it melted down for reuse in the temple which he was commissioned by the god Vishnu himself to build.31

While the brahminical hostility towards Buddhists has been adequately documented by scholars in recent years32, there is also substantial evidence of antipathy towards and persecution of Jains, especially from south India, where proponents of devotional Shaivism (Nayanars) and Vaishnavism (alvars) consistently por­trayed them as the hated “others”. The two Shaiva saints, Appar (seventh century) and Sambandar (seventh century), denigrated the Jains in abusive language 33 and the twelfth-century hagiographical work, Periyapuranam, relates the legendary account of how the latter defeated the Jains in all contests and succeeded in converting the Pandyan king of Madura from Jainism to Shaivism, leading eventually to the impalement of eight thousand Jain monks. The authenticity of the impalement story is questionable,34 but the Shaiva intolerance of Jains is corroborated by several legends found in the Sthalapurana of Madura35 as well as the actual instances of brahminical violence against the Jains. Thus the conversion of the earliest known Jain cave temple in Tirunelveli district (Tamilnadu) into a Shaiva shrine in the seventh century36 and the depiction of scenes of violence on the walls of the Kailashnath temple of Kanchipuram37 and on the mandapam of the Golden Lily tank of the Minaksi temple at Madura bear testimony to the persecution suffered by Jains in Tamilnadu.

Evidence of the persecution of Jains also comes from other parts of India, especially Karnataka where they were a perpetual bête noire of the militant Shaivite Lingayat/Virashaiva sect, which started in the twelfth century. The hagiographies of its leader Basava furnish evidence of the slaughter of Jains,38 and of the appropriation of their temples at many places by his followers like Devara Dasimayya39 and Ekantada Ramayya40 who are said to have destroyed 700 and 800 basadis respectively. According to one estimate about half of the total number of basadis were destroyed, and anything between 1800 and 2000 out of 8000 temples were ruined.41 The victim­isation of the Jains became so severe that they had to seek the intervention of the Vijayanagara ruling family; but the Virashaivas continued to persecute them, as is clear from several sixteenth-century inscriptions from the Srisailam area of Andhra Pradesh42 . There is thus copious evidence of the Jains remaining a hated lot in early India.

But all this does not mean that the adherents of Buddism and Jainism did not retaliate. They did in fact, denounce the brahminical beliefs and practices. The Jain logician Akalanka (eighth century) and the famous scholar Hemachandra (twelfth century) were full of scorn for the Vedic practice of animal sacrifice; the latter dubbed Manu’s verses supporting ritual violence as himsashastra.43 The Jain contempt for the brahminical gods is evident from the statement of the seventh century commentator Jinadasa who described Maheshvara (Shiva) as “the son of a nun who had been magically impregnated by a wizard seeking a suitable repository for his powers”44 and from the negative portrayal of Vishnu and Krishna in the sixteenth century Pandavapuranas, which are the Jainised version of the Mahabharata.45

Like the Jains, the Buddhists were also hostile to Brahminism. The Buddha himself described the three Vedas as a “foolish talk” and “a waterless desert”, and their wisdom as “a pathless jungle” and “a perdition”.46 In course of time the contempt of the Buddhists for brahminical religious practices seems to have become pronounced when they criticised the brahminical practice of bathing at tirthas and in the Ganga, and described the brahmins disparagingly as tirthikas. They displayed a disdainful attitude toward brahminical deities and treated them as menials and subordinate to Buddhist gods and goddesses, 47 and often portrayed them in some early medieval sculptures as being trampled upon by Buddhist gods.48 Dharma­svamin, the Tibetan scholar who visited Bihar in the thirteenth century, tells us that the Buddhists had put an image of Shiva in front of Buddha’s image so as to protect it from the wrath of non-Buddhists. 49

Although there is evidence that the adherents of the Shramainc religions retaliated against Brahminism, it remains certain that the brahminical sects did not, as they are said to have done, practise tolerance towards non-brahminical faiths; on the contrary, they seem to have played a leading role in fomenting religious conflicts and perpetrating sectarian violence during the early medieval period and later. It is therefore not surprising that in the eleventh century Alberuni tells us that the Hindus are “haughty, foolishly vain and self conceited” and “believe that there is no religion like theirs.”50

Several factors like the conflict over the capture of temple wealth, and the competition for the material patronage of the ruling class etc possibly led to the animosity of the brahmins towards the Shramanas and need to be studied in detail. But there is little doubt that their belligerence owed not the least to their own martialisation of which ample evidence is available from the Sankrit texts which refer to the arms bearing brahmins and ascetics.51 That they received formal training in martial arts is clear from the Jain Prakrit text Kuvalayamala of Udyotanasuri (eighth century), which describes a matha at Vijaya, where students from different parts of India received instruction in such diverse subjects as archery, manoeuvring with a shield, use of the sword and the bow, fighting with a spear, fighting with clubs and fighting with arms.52 Their association with martial activities is also borne out by the manipravala texts especially the Chandrotsavam (fifteenth century) and the Keralolapatti (seventeenth century).53  Literary references receive corroboration from inscriptions which clearly indicate that the brahmin students who studied Vedic lore at the religious establishments were also required to receive military training. Epigraphic references testify to the imparting of military training in temple-supported establishments, especially in Kerala, where the Kantalurshalai became famous for its role in the Chola-Chera conflict.54 There is thus little doubt that the militarisation of brahminical sects55 and the growth of temple militias created conditions for violent conflicts between arms-bearing brahmins and the votaries of non-brahminical sects. All this makes it difficult to swallow the claim that “Hinduism” has “a propensity to assimilate rather than to exclude” or that toler­ance is the very essence of “Hinduism qua Hinduism.”56

 

References

1  For an outright denunciation of Islam and Christianity by Dayananda see his Satyarth Prakash, Delhi, Reprint 1977, chapters XIII and XIV.
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna ( Sri Sri Kathamrita), tr. Swami Nikhilanand, New York, 2007, p.642 cited in Jyotirmaya Sharma, Cosmic Love and Human Apathy: Swami Vivekananda’s Restatement of Religion, New Delhi,2013, p.91.uH
3  Lecture delivered at the Shakespeare club of Pasadena, California, USA, on February 3, 1900. See The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Mayavati Memorial Edition, Advaita Ashram, Calcutta, vol. 4, 1978, p.126.
4  M S Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Bangalore, Reprint 1996, Chapter XVI, pp.177-201
5  Nirad C Chaudhuri, The Continent of Circe, Chatto and Windus, London,1965, p.39.
The Argumentative Indian, Allen Lane, London, 2005, pp.3-33.
7  R C Hazra, Studies in the Puranic Records on the Hindu Rites and Customs, Delhi,1975,pp.41-42;Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, The Origin of Evil in Hindu Mythology, Delhi, 1988, pp.204-211.
8  Hazra, op.cit., p.41
9  H. Krishna Sastri, Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India, vol.26, reprinted Delhi, 1991, pp.5ff.
10  Edward Sachau, Alberuni’s India, London,1910,p.380
11  Ramayana, II.109.34 cited in P V Kane, History of Dharmashastra, Vol.II, Pt.2, Poona, 1974, p. 721
12  Wendy O’Flaherty, op.cit, pp. 208-9; Phyllis Granoff, “Holy Warriors: A Preliminary Study of Some Biographies of Saints and Kings in Classical Indian Tradition,” Journal of Indian Philosophy, vol.12 (1984), p.296.
13  Padmanabh S Jaini, Collected Papers on Jaina Studies, Delhi, 2000, pp.343-344; Ravi Gupta and Kenneth Valpey, The Bhagavata Purana, Columbia University Press, 2013, pp. 157-159
14  A Danielou, Hindu Polytheism, New York, 1964, p.12
15  W Ivanow, “The Sect of Imam Shah in Gujrat”, Journal of the Bombay Branch of Royal Asiatic Society, vol.12 (1936), pp.19-70.
16  J Talboys Wheeler, ed., Early Travels in India (16th and 17th centuries), reprint, Delhi, 1974, p.78
17  E W Hopkins, “The Divinity of Kings”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol.51 (1931), p.314
18  D N Jha, “Of Conflict, Conversion and Cow”,in D N Jha,ed., Contesting Symbols and Stereotypes: Essays on Indian History and Culture, Delhi, 2013, pp. 53-56
19  Acharangasutta, tr. H. Jacobi, Sacred Books of the East,, XXII, II.3.1.10.
20  Arthashastra, II.4.23; III.20.16.
21  The Vyakarana Mahabhashya of Patanjali, 2.4.9, third edition, Poona, 1962, vol.I, p.476.
22  Divyavadana, ed. E.B. Cowell and R.A. Neil, Cambridge, 1886, pp.433–34.
23  Wilhelm Halbfass, Tradition and Reflection: Exploration in Indian Thought, Albany, 1991, p.57. For Shankara’s refutation of Buddhist philosophical positions see D H H Ingalls, “Samkara’s Arguments Against the Buddhists”, Philosophy East and West, vol.3,no.4 (January 1954), pp.291-306.
24  Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding, Delhi,1990, p.361.
25  Saurapurana, 64.44;38.54
26  Mattavilasa Prahasana of Mahendravikramavarman, ed. and tr. N.P. Uni, Trivandrum, 1973, p.49;Prabodhachandrodaya of Kishna Mishra, ed. and tr. Sita Nambiar, Delhi, 1998, Act III, verse 9.
27  Samuel Beal, Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World, Delhi, 1969, pp.171–172.
28  Rajatarangini of Kalhana, I.140–144.
29  Ibid., VI.171–173.
30  Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, ed., Taranatha’s History of Buddhism in India, Delhi, 1970 (reprinted 1990), pp.141-42
31  Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images, first Indian edition, Delhi, 1999, p.83.
32  Johannes Bronkhorst, Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism, Leiden, 2011; Giovanni Verardi, Hardships and Downfall of Buddhism in India, Delhi, 2011; Tiziana Lorenzetti, “Political and Social Dimensions as Reflected in Medieval Indian Sculpture”, Proceedings of International Conference In the Shadow of the Golden Age: Art and Identity in South Asia from Gandhara to the Modern Age, University of Bonn, 2011.
33  Indira Viswanathan Peterson, “Sramanas Against the Tamil Way”, in John Cort, ed., Open Boundaries:Jain Communities and Culture in Indian History,New York, 1998, p.171.
34  For an insightful discussion of the impalement legend, see Paul Dundas, The Jains, London, 1992, pp.109–10; Richard H. Davis, “The Story of the Disap­pearing Jains”, in John Cort, op. cit., pp.213–24.
35  P.B. Desai, Jainism in South India and Some Jaina Epigraphs, Sholapur, 1957, p.82.
36  Romila Thapar, Cultural Transaction and Early India, Delhi, 1987, p.17; K.R. Srinivasan, “South India”, in A. Ghosh, ed., Jaina Art and Architecture, vol. 2, Delhi, 1975; John Cort, op. cit., pp.107–8.
37  R.N. Nandi, Social Roots of Religion in Ancient India, Calcutta, 1986, p.97.
38  Velcheru Narayana Rao, Siva’s Warriors: the Basava Purana of Palkuriki Somanatha, Princeton, 1990, pp.200–213,
39  Shantinath Dibbad, “The Construction, Destruction and Renovation of Jaina Basadis: A Historical Perspective”, in Julia B Hegewald, ed., The Jain Heritage: Distinction, Decline and Resilience, New Delhi, 2011,p.71
40  Ibid., pp.69-70.
41  Ibid., pp.63-76.
42  P.B. Desai, op. cit., p.23.
43  Yogashastra of Hemachandra,ed., Muni Jambuvijaya, 3 vols, Bombay, 177-86,II.33-40.
44  For similar anti-brahminical statements in Jain literature see Dundas, op.cit., pp.200-2006.
45  Pamanabha S Jaini, op.cit., p.353.Cf. Dundas, op.cit., pp.200-206.
46  Tevijjasutta, Dighanikaya, ed. Bhikhu Jagdish Kassapa, Nalanda-Devanagari- Pali Series, Government of Bihar, Patna, 1958.
47  Sadhanamala, XLI.II, nos.260, 263-4, etc., cited in B.N. Sharma, “Religious Tolerance and Intolerance as Reflected in Indian Sculptures”, Journal of the Ganganath Jha Research Institute, Umesh Mishra Com­memoration Volume , 1970, p.665.
48  B N Sharma, op.cit., pp.65-66.
49  G. Roerich, Biography of Dharmasvamin, Patna, 1959, p.64.
50  Edward Sachau, op.cit., p.22
51  G.S. Ghurye, Indian Sadhus, Bombay, 1964, chapter VI.
52  Kuvalayamala of Udyotansuri, Pt I, ed., A N Upadhye, Bombay,1959, pp.150-51. Also see Shanta Rani Sharma, Society and Culture in Rajasthan AD 700-900, Delhi, 1996, p.231
53  Kesavan Veluthat, Brahmana Settlements in Kerala, Calicut, 1978, Appendix II, pp.102–115.
54  Ibid.; M.G.S. Narayanan, “Kantalur Shalai: New Light on the Nature of Aryan Expansion to South India,” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Jabalpur, 1970, pp.125–136.
55  G.S. Ghurye, op. cit., chapter VI.
56  Arvind Sharma, “Some Misunderstandings of the Hindu Approach to Religious Plurality”, Religion, vol. 8 (Autumn 1978), p.145.

Written by, D N Jha

 

Exclusive: RSS chief Golwalkar threatened to kill Gandhi – 1947 CID report

BHARAT BHUSHAN @Bharatitis | First published: 26 July 2016, 18:07 IST

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The Supreme Court, in its oral observations, has upbraided Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his statement that “RSS people” killed Mahatma Gandhi. In the apex court’s wisdom, young Rahul Gandhi could not make a “collective denunciation” of the RSS or the Rashtirya Swayamsewak Sangh.

It is a moot point whether it is for a court of law to give a clean bill of health to the RSS, 68 years after the assassination of the Mahatma.

Two important questions, however, remain unanswered: Did the RSS threaten to kill Mahatma Gandhi? And, did the RSS have the capability or the means to do so?

Reports available in the public domain in the Delhi Police Archives say that the RSS did threaten Gandhi and claimed that it had the means to silence him. These are the secret source reports of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Delhi Police for the months preceding Gandhi’s assassination.

Here are some extracts from the verbatim copy of a police report of a crucial RSS meeting where The threat was made.

The CID source is identified only as “Sewak” (perhaps an impish play on ‘sewaks’, the term for RSS volunteers) and filed by Inspector Kartar Singh of the department:

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“SEWAK REPORTS:

“On 8.12.47 about 2500 volunteers of the Sangh collected in their camp on Rohtak Road. After some drill, MS Golwalkar, the Guru of the Sangh addressed the volunteers. He explained the principles of the Sangh and said that it was the duty of every individual to be prepared for facing the coming crisis with full force. Very soon, they would be placing a complete scheme before them. The time for playing had gone. …”

“Referring to the Government, he said that law could not meet force. We should be prepared for guerrilla warfare on the lines of the tactics of Shivaji. The Sangh will not rest content until it had finished Pakistan. If anyone stood in our way we will have to finish him too, whether it was the Nehru Government or any other Government. The Sangh could not be won over. They should carry on their work.”

“Referring to Muslims, he said that no power on earth could keep them in Hindustan. They shall have to quit this country. Mahatma Gandhi wanted to keep the Muslims in India so that the Congress may profit by their votes at the time of election. But by that time not a single Muslim will be left in India. If they were made to stay here, the responsibility would be the Government’s, and the Hindu community will not be responsible.”

“Mahatma Gandhi could not mislead them any longer. We have the means whereby such men can be immediately silenced, but it is our tradition not to be inimical to Hindus. If we are compelled, we will have to resort to that course also.”

LETTERS FROM THE LUCKNOW CID CHIEF

That the government of the day understood the importance of the secret meeting is evident from letters to his counterpart in Delhi by GB Wiggins, the Superintendent of Police, CID, Special Branch, Lucknow, repeatedly asking what had taken place at the meeting scheduled for 8 December, 1947. Wiggins had first alerted the Delhi police about the impending meeting based on a report he had received from Mathura. After two reminders, the Officiating SP of CID Delhi, wrote back, sending him the report of the Delhi meeting.

The CID report from Mathura that got Wiggins so deeply worried was about a secret meeting of the RSS at Gobardhan in Mathura on 1 December, 1947 at the residence of one Antu Lal Vaish. It was attended by about 50 RSS men from Etah, Aligarh, Delhi and Mathura. Those present were informed that “a meeting of the delegates from all over India is to be held in Delhi on or about 8 December 1947 and the future programme would be chalked out” there.

This source report also claimed that one of the issues to be discussed at the 8 December meeting “would be to assassinate leading persons of the Congress in order to terrorise the public and to get their [RSS’] hold over them”

Might one say that these two reports from Mathura and Delhi in December 1947 constitute a smoking gun? Not until it can be shown that the RSS had the weapons to carry out the assassination of Congress leaders.

DID RSS HAVE GUNS?

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CID reports indicate that the police suspected that the RSS was making efforts to procure weapons. A report classified as “Strictly Secret” dated 13 November 1947 emanating from the Office of Superintendent of Police, CID Delhi, noted attempts by the RSS workers to suborn policemen on duty at Mori Gate and at several other places in Delhi regarding a proposed attack on local Muslims.

The RSS workers boasted to the police “that they had arms of all kinds” and that when riots broke out the police should not fire on them because they were Hindus!

The reports notes, “The Policemen did not agree with them, lest action might be taken by the Government against them.” Their argument was that they would be in trouble if they did not open fire in a riot situation and if they did then some Hindus were bound to be shot.

Interestingly the CID report notes that the RSS men planning communal violence against Muslims had “decided that the Sangh workers, in case the riots broke out, would tie white handkerchiefs on their wrists as a mark of identification”!

This indicates that RSS workers had access to arms; they were planning violence against Muslims and were even joining hands with Akali Sikhs to perpetrate it.

Another report by CID Inspector Kartar Singh of Special Branch notes that two life-members of the RSS – Pyare Lal and Harbans Lal had come to Delhi from Sialkot and then proceeded to Hardwar and Mussoorie ostensibly to organise the West Punjab refugees. He wrote to his superiors that he suspected that they had gone to procure arms but could not confirm it.

Another CID report indicating procurement of arms is dated 24 November 1947. It notes:

“According to an unconfirmed news, a couple of volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh visited Alwar State … few days back and purchased about 150 guns in order to train their volunteers in the use of firearms and at the same time prepare them for any emergency.”

So the RSS either had weapons or was trying to source weapons for use against Muslims and could use them against anyone opposed to their ideology.

According to an Indian Express news report dated 6 February, 1948, the revolver that Nathuram Godse used to kill Mahatma Gandhi was presented to him by an RSS leader in Nagpur.

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The CID reports suggest that there was some truth in what Jawaharlal Nehru said in his letter of 28 February 1948 to Sardar Patel:

“More and more I have come to the conlusion that Bapu’s murder was not an isolated business but a part of a much wider campaign organised chiefly by the RSS.”

He even suggested that “the Delhi Police has a goodly number of sympathisers with the RSS. It may not be easy to deal with all of them.”

Sardar Patel, however, gave a clean chit to the RSS in his reply to Nehru, saying, “It also clearly emerges.. that the RSS was not involved in it [Gandhi’s assassination] at all. It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under [Vinayak Damodar] Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through.”

Sardar Patel also noted: “Of course, his assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way thinking and his policy.”

However he put a caveat, “In the case of a secret organisation like the RSS which has no records of membership; no registers; etc. securing of authentic information whether a particular individual is an active worker or not is rendered a difficult task.”

If the above CID reports are true, then it’s clear that there was an RSS threat to Mahatma Gandhi’s life, coming from an authority as high as RSS chief MS Golwalkar. The RSS had the means to carry out the assassination and this was allegedly discussed at the 8 December meeting at Mathura. What cannot be conclusively established is whether Nathuram Godse’s act was related to these incidents or that he acted on his own.

Edited by Aditya Menon, From: Catch News

Did Ashoka’s embracing Buddhism: promoting Ahimsa Weaken India?

Past is used by communal politics for their present political agenda. In India on one hand we have the use of medieval history where the Muslim Kings are presented as ‘aggressors due to whom Hindu society had to suffer’, on the other now we are witnessing the distortion of ancient history being marshaled to undermine Buddhism vis a vis Brahmanism.

The figure chosen to make this point by communal forces is that of Emperor Ashoka. Incidentally Noble Laureate Amrtya Sen regards Ashoka and Akbar as the two greatest Emperors to have ruled India. A publication from RSS progeny, Rajasthan Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad claims that it was due to Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism and his promotion of ahimsa that India’s borders opened up to foreign invaders. It also goes on to say those followers of Buddhism under Ashoka played a seditious role, they assisted Greek invaders with the goal that they would destroy “Vedic religion” and restore Buddhism. Here, what is being referred to as Vedic religion is Brahmanism as such.

Interestingly the article regards Ashoka to be a great ruler till he embraced Buddhism, while most of the thinkers show that his humane policies, making him a great emperor, were brought in after he embraced Buddhism. There are many components of this formulation which are concocted as per the political requirement of Brahmanical Hinduism. One of these concoctions is the very notion of India being the state from times immemorial. One understands that India as a nation state emerged during freedom struggle. The earlier formations were kingdoms, Empires. The boundaries of these kingdoms were not fixed and depending on the bravery and other associated factors kings were expanding their area of rule or had to retreat into smaller areas or even getting decimated at times. Even before Ashoka came to power Alexander had attacked India. Such forays of kings into other territories are not unknown. Mauryan Empire was a major Empire the sub continent has seen.

So many dynasties have ruled large parts of the subcontinent, no single ruler has ruled whole of what is India today. So why is Ashoka being targeted today? Ashoka was successor to Bindusar, from Maurya lineage. Chandragupta Maurya had built the Empire and Ashok’s annexed Kalinga (modern Orissa) into his kingdom. This battle was very bloody and as is famously known the bloodshed shook Ashoka and he decided to embrace Buddhism. From this point on the transformation of an aggressive insensitive king to a very humane person began with the embracing of Buddhism. He undertook the measures for welfare of the people, opposed the Brahmanical rituals and opened the gates of his palace for listening to woes the people of his empire. Inspired by the teachings of Buddhism he took steps towards building a compassionate state, the guardian state.

His ideas and polices are deciphered from the number of edicts carved on pillars and stones which are vast in number. What emerge from these edicts are very compassionate and impressive norms being propagated as back as in the period of third Century BC. What is remarkable is that though he embraced Buddhism he accepted the diversity as the norm of society. One of his edicts says that a ruler must accept the diversity of his subjects’ belief. He did transform Buddhism in to a World religion. The spread of his ideas was not through force but through moral appeal and persuasion. His message was to reduce suffering and to pursue peace, openness and tolerance. This is why he is regarded as Great contrary to the said articles’ claim that he was great till he embraced Buddhism.

Ashoka’s was the largest Empire in the history of the sub continent. His Dhamma was a moral code for the ruler as well as for the subjects who were exhorted to follow the moral path. His Rock Edict XII is something which we need to remember in current times as well as it has great relevance even today. It is a call for religious tolerance and civility in public life or as he puts it, ‘restraint in speech’,  “not praising one’s own religion or condemning the religion of the others without good cause…Contact between religions is good.” (Sunil Khilanani, Incarnations, ‘India in 50 Lives’ page 52). ‘He did not foist his faith, Buddhism on his subjects…He is important in history for his policy of peace, non aggression and cultural conquest’. (R.S. Sharma, Ancient India, NCERT, 1995, 104) Ashoka inspired the leaders of freedom movement for his principles of justice and non-violence. He did represent the agenda which symbolized cultural and religious pluralism which were central to the ideology of Gandhi and Nehru in particular. His symbols of four lions adorn Indian currency and the wheel has become part of Indian flag.2000px-Ashoka_Chakra.svg

The problem with Ashoka’s rule was not the military one. His Empire continued till 50 more years. In 205 BC Greek Emperor Antiocus attacked from North West and established his rule in some part (North-West: Punjab, Afghanistan). The bigger problem was from within the empire. This is related to Brahminical counter reaction to the spread of Buddhism. Ashoka had put a ban on the slaughter for rituals. This led to reduction in the income of Brahmans. The spread of Buddhism led to the erosion of Varna-caste system. What the communal forces are calling as Vedic religion is as such the dominant stream which was prevalent then, Brahmanism.

These factors led to the counter revolution. Pushyamitra Shung, a Brahman, the Chief Commander of Brihadrath, who was Ashok’s grandson, led the counter revolution. He killed the Emperor and founded the Shunga dynasty in Sindh part of Ashoka’s empire. The counter revolution launched in the society led to the disappearance of Buddhism from this land. Ambedkar writes, “Emperor Ashoka proclaimed complete ban on killing animals. So nobody engaged Brahmans to perform rites and rituals. The Brahman priests were rendered jobless. They also lost their former importance and glory. So the Brahmans revolted against the Maurayan Emperor Brihadrath under the leadership of Pushyamitra Shung, a samvedi Brahmin and the army Chief of Brihadrath.” (Writings and Speeches, Vol 3 P 167)  Eighth Century onwards Shankara led the ideological battle against the philosophy of Buddhism. Buddhism urged the people to focus on the life in this World. The Shankara’s philosophy called this World as illusion and restored Brahmanism here in full glory. Due to ideological and social counter revolution Buddhism disappeared from this land around 1200 AD.

So why is Ashoka’s reign coming under criticism now? Ashoka embraced Buddhism and this was a setback to the Brahmanical system. Brahmanism is the dominant part of Hindu religion as understood today. Ashoka talked of non-violence and promoted pluralism. All these stand totally against the Hindu nationalist agenda ofsectarian nationalism where violence is part of the politics. This wants to promote neo Brahmanical values. So on one hand there is the attempt to co-opt Dalits and other hand the aim is to keep the ideological message of social hierarchy loud and clear and so Buddhism is attacked. The symbols of casteless ideology of Buddhism and accompanying respect for pluralism and peace are being attacked as a part of Hindu nationalist agenda, the garb in which it is presented is ‘weakening of India’ due to non-violence. As such Maurayan was an Empire, not a nation state, empires rise and fall due to social political factors of the time. Despite adopting non-violence the Empire continued well till 50 more years. The weakness starts coming in due to Brahmanical counter-revolution. The forays of communalists in the ancient Indian history are an attempt more to denigrate the Buddhist values under the garb of attacking Ashoka.

Ram Puniyani

Syama Prasad Mukherjee: 6 Facts, #Must Know

DR SYAMA PRASAD MOOKERJEE: SIX FACTS WE MUST KNOW ABOUT HIM

Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee (1901-1953) is the second most prominent Hindutva icon after ‘Veer’ Savarkar for the RSS/BJP brigade. He was second-in-command of Hindu Mahasabha after ‘Veer’ Savarkar. He was president of the Hindu Mahasabha in the year 1944. He served as Minister for Industry and Supply in the interim government of Jawaharlal Nehru and resigned in April 1950 over differences with Congress about the 1950 Delhi Pact with Pakistan. He joined RSS and on the advice of M.S. Golwalkar, the second chief of RSS and its most prominent ideologue, founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), precursor of present BJP, in 1951 and became the first president of the political arm of the RSS. He died in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on 23 June 1953, when he was under arrest. Till 2015 his death was mourned by RSS as a leader who fought for integration of Jammu & Kashmir and died for it; his death anniversary observed as ‘End Article 370 Day’ and ‘Save Kashmir Day’.

But this year (2016) Dr. Mookerjee’s status has been elevated to the national level and declared to be ‘A Selfless Patriot’ of India. The Hindutva rhetoric about patriotism of Dr. Mookerjee needs to be compared with these SIX FACTS:

(1) THERE IS NO RECORD OF HIS PARTICIPATION IN THE FREEDOM MOVEMENT
If patriotism meant being part of the anti-colonial freedom struggle and making sacrifices, Dr Mookerjee never-never participated in any capacity in the Indian freedom struggle. Nowhere in the writings of Dr. Mookerji, contemporary narratives of the freedom struggle both official and un-official and contemporary Hindutva archives, his participation in the freedom struggle is acknowledged. In fact, his subservience to the British masters is thoroughly recorded. He openly collaborated with the British rulers and the Muslim League in order to crush and communally polarize the anti-British liberation movement.

(2) HE WAS DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER IN THE BENGAL COALITION GOVERNMENT OF MUSLIM LEAGUE & HINDU MAHASABHA IN 1942
When in 1942 Congress gave a call to the British rulers to leave India immediately by launching Quit India Movement, the rulers responded to this mass movement by unleashing a reign of terror. Congress was banned, its provincial governments were dismissed, whole India was turned into a jail and thousands died in the repression unleashed by armed forces of the British and native rulers. The crime of many of those who were killed was that they were carrying a Tricolour. Hindu nationalist organizations namely, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS with Muslim nationalist organization, Muslim League not only boycotted Quit India Movement but also decided to support the British government in its repressive campaign. The Hindu Mahasabha president ‘Veer’ Savarkar chronicled this ganging up of Hindu Mahasabha with the Muslim League in his presidential speech to the 24th session of the Hindu Mahasabha at Kanpur in 1942 in the following words:

“Witness the fact that only recently in Sind, the Sind-Hindu-Sabha on invitation had taken the responsibility of joining hands with the League itself in running coalition Government. The case of Bengal is well known. Wild Leaguers whom even the Congress with all its submissiveness could not placate grew quite reasonably compromising and sociable as soon as they came in contact with the Hindu Mahasabha and the Coalition Government, under the premiership of Mr. Fazlul Huq and the able lead of our esteemed Mahasabha leader Dr Syama Prasad Mookerji, functioned successfully for a year or so to the benefit of both the communities.”

(3) HE OFFERED FULL SUPPORT TO THE BRITISH IN SUPPRESSING ANY ANTI-BRITISH MOVEMENT

Dr. Mookerjee assured the British masters through a letter dated July 26, 1942. Shockingly, it read:
“Let me now refer to the situation that may be created in the province as a result of any widespread movement launched by the Congress. Anybody, who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government that may function for the time being”

(4) HE JUSTIFIED CRUSHING OF QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT AND DECLARED BRITISH RULERS AS SAVIOURS OF INDIA
His letter to Bengal governor on behalf of Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League made it clear that both these parties looked at the British rulers as saviours of Bengal against Quit India Movement launched by Congress. In this letter he mentioned item wise the steps to be taken for dealing with the situation. It read:
“The question is how to combat this movement (Quit India) in Bengal? The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts of the Congress, this movement will fail to take root in the province. It should be possible for us, especially responsible Ministers, to be able to tell the public that the freedom for which the Congress has started the movement, already belongs to the representatives of the people. In some spheres it might be limited during the emergency. Indian have to trust the British, not for the sake for Britain, not for any advantage that the British might gain, but for the maintenance of the defense and freedom of the province itself.

(5) AS A PROMINENT HINDU MAHASABHA LEADER HE ORGANIZED RECRUITMENT CAMPS FOR THE BRITISH ARMY WHEN NETAJI WAS TRYING TO LIBERATE INDIA MILITARILY.
In a more shocking development, the Hindu Mahasabha of Dr Mookerjee decided to help the British rulers in World War II. It was the time when Subhash Chandra Bose, known as Netaji, was organizing the INA (Azad Hind Fauj) in a military campaign to force the British out. The extent to which the Hindu Mahasabha was willing to help the British masters is clear from the following directive issued by Savarkar as President of the Mahasabha:

“So far as India’s defence is concerned, Hindudom must ally unhesitatingly, in a spirit of responsive co-operation, with the war effort of the Indian government in so far as it is consistent with the Hindu interests, by joining the Army, Navy and the Aerial forces in as large a number as possible and by securing an entry into all ordnance, ammunition and war craft factories… whether we like it or not, we shall have to defend our own hearth and home against the ravages of the war and this can only be done by intensifying the government’s war effort to defend India. Hindu Mahasabhaites must, therefore, rouse Hindus especially in the provinces of Bengal and Assam as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute.”

(6) He supported grant of special status to Jammu & Kashmir
On Jammu & Kashmir he was in prolonged correspondence with Prime Minister Nehru. In a letter to Nehru on February 17, 1953, he suggested: “Both parties reiterate that the unity of the State will be maintained and that the principle of autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu and also to Ladakh and Kashmir Valley.”

(Authored by Shamsul Islam)

The Bengal Famine (1942/3) and Hindu Mahasabha’s Shyamaprosad Mukherjee’s role: By Chittaprasad

The Bengal Famine in 1942-3 was amongst the worst famines of India, ever. Of about the total of 60 million people in Bengal, estimates say as many as 3 million people died. Hunger, malnutrition and disease debilitated thousands more. It was a tragedy of horrific proportions as desperate rural Bengal poured into Calcutta to somehow get access to morsels of food and water.  

In the 1940s in India, the camera was not so much a part of documenting life then, but artists like Chittaprasad, through their paintings and sketches have recorded lives of ordinary people and the misery visited upon them. Chittaprasad lived amongst the ordinary people facing immense hardships. His sketches, and accounts, the first being ‘Hungry Bengal’ was suppressed by the British shortly after it came out and copies of it burnt and kept out of the public eye.

 Today, his accounts, bear witness to one of the darkest hours of Bengal, and India

 It has been revealed by a history student’s careful perusal of People’s War, where he wrote extensively, how Chittaprasad saw the role of the Hindu Mahasabha and Shyamaprosad Mukherjee at the time. Chittaprasad’s writings on Mukherjee are excerpted and given below.

 (This becomes even more relevant now, as the president of the ruling party, BJP Amit Shah and other friendly historians are speaking of what a ‘nationalist’ Shyamaprosad Mukherjee was!)

The Riches Piled Here: an insult to hungry thousands around – Painful sights in Shyamaprosad’s Hooghly-Home Village 

By Chittaprosad

If there is any Bengali who has shot up to become a national figure in the last two years it is Dr Shyamaprosad Mukheriee. And why not? He is the son of Ashutosh Mukherjee, one of the builders of modern Bengal-who fought the Governor to make the Calcutta University an international centre of culture and learning. Shyamaprosad become a national figure overnight when he resigned in protest against Amery’s rule in Bengal in 1943. His was the strongest voice against the Bengal Governor in the worst days of Bengal famine. Lacs of rupees poured into his Bengal Relief Committee from the four corners of India. Has this man who was given Lacs to save Bengal kept the light burning in his own village?—this is what most people would like to know.

That is why I, a humble Bengali artist went, on a pilgrimage to Jirat in Hooghly district—the home of Ashutosh and Shyamaprosad. One day, early in June, I took a train to Kharnargachi (only 40 miles from Calcutta) and walked the last few miles to Jirat. On the way, I cut across six or seven villages in Balagor area and what I saw was terrible. It is one whole year since the terrible river–the Behula—which cuts this area into two, flooded its banks and left almost all the villages caked in fertile mud from the river-bed. Huts were swamped and bodily blown off in the storm. Dhan-golas (paddy-stacks) were ruined in every village. Six villages were under water for 12 days and 7,000 villagers had become destitute. That was last year. Had last year’s curse become this year’s blessing? Had this rich, fertile soil from the river’s bed been dug up this year to make the area into a garden filled with tall paddy-stacks? Not at all! The peasants didn’t get a chance to dig up the soil. Soon after the flood-havoc, famine gripped all Bengal, and Balagor had to import rice at fantastic rates because the floods had destroyed her own rice. So the peasant used up the Rs. 10 Government loan he got for rebuilding his hut to buy a handful of rice. When the Rs. 10 went, there was nothing left even to buy rice with, let alone seeds and ploughs for the new crop.

The Poor Have To Live On Mangoes

So I did not see smiling paddy-fields, but barren earth, scorched in the sun, cracking up—dotted with tufts of grass and weeds. Same better-off peasants had planted jute here and there—but the monsoon came late this year, so the jute got scorched in the sun. They told me, too, how the late rains finished off the rabi crops of potatoes, onions and the like, grown for the Calcutta market. Mango trees are tall and ancient: the floods could not uproot them. That is why, 25% of the Balagor families are living on mangoes and mango stones only. A mango is eatable, but by itself it is not human food. That is why, wherever I went, I saw cholera, malaria, smallpox and skin- diseases playing havoc. In Rajapur village, for instance, only 6 out of 52 families are left and they too are suffering from malaria and food and cloth shortage. It was the same in every village to which I went. How much had Dr. Shyamaprosad done to help these villages next door to his own?–I asked people right and left. But the plain fact is that I never heard a good word said about him in these villages. They told me how the Government had opened gruel kitchens in one village, where 400 people were fed daily for two months. How the Government had given 15 annas to each family and a handful of chura per head in the same village. After this the Union Board also gave 14 pice to every man, 10 pice to every woman and 5 pice to every child. They spoke well of the Students’ Federation and the Muslim Students’ League, which gave cloth, 12 maunds of seeds, plenty of vegetables and a donation of Rs. 5 per family in some villages, just after the flood. The Communist Party, too, had twice given out a pao
(14 seer) of rice and a pao of flour per head. The Dumurdaha Uttam Ashram distributed Rs. 2 per household and 8 seers of atta at controlled rates for three months. In short, every one had tried to help, except the biggest man and the strongest organisation in the district — Dr. Mukherjee and his Hindu Mahasabha. I put the question point-blank to a prominent villager in Srikanti village: what did the Bengal Relief Committee do for them? He had not heard of the Bengal Relief Committee or of Shyamaprosad…. but he understood at once when I mentioned Ashutosh. ‘No we got nothing from them’ was his answer. After that, I stopped talking about. Shyamaprosad till I got to Jirat But the closer I got to Jirat, the more I realised the plight of these villages next door to Jirat. In one word, I saw what happened to a village when its natural leader leaves it in the lurch. Shymaprosad does not help them and no one else is big enough in these parts to help them. So scoundrels and thieves steal whatever help, in the shape of food, cloth, medicine, trickles in from outside. For instance, everyone in Srikanti village was bitter about one such man (I refrain from giving his name), a real cut-throat who was in charge of the Union Board’s relief activity now. He doled out rice to his own favourites at the rate of 112 seers a week. But when the kisans of Kadamdanga went to him for aid, he made a neat offer to them: you can’t get rice from me for nothing, you know! Work without pay in my fields, will sell you rice at controlled rates. The whole village raised a howl over this, but even then he was given 15 pieces of cloth by the Union Board, to be given to 83 families in three instalments. He went back to his old game: he sent the village folk back empty-handed, and made a present of the entire stock to his favourites.

One Family Becomes Boss of Them All

With these stories ringing in my ears. I stepped into Shyamaprosad’s own village at last and went straight to Ashutosh’s ancient mansion. A distant relative of Ashutosh’s —a certain Goswami—had named the old house ‘Ashutosh Memorial’. But I found a sad, decayed, broken-down memorial to the Royal Bengal Tiger,’ (the popular name by which Ashutosh was known), the proud builder of modern Bengal—who was a giant of a man and planned and built in a big way. I have made a sketch and you can see for yourself that the stately mansion with its strong columns of classic design is falling to pieces. Half of the wide terrace has collapsed—the bricks are coming loose in the other half and dropping off. Moss and wild weeds choke the windows-sils and have grown into the cracks which have split the columns from top to bottom.

In these ruins, Ashutosh’s sons have given a sop to those who hold their father’s memory sacred by putting up a ‘Ashutosh Sntriti Mandir (Ashutosh Charitable Dispensary). The sour-faced doctor in charge told me that he keeps the dispensary open three hours every morning and 30 to 40 patients come daily. But I went two mornings running and never found it open for longer than one hour. I looked for 30 to 40 patients, but found only 10 or 12—when hundreds are down with malaria all round. There was something unspeakably sad and uncanny about the whole place and it have me the creeps. So I went round the village -trying to dig out the story of Ashutosh’s sons. The story I pieced together from gossip reads some-thing like this. Jirat is in the grip of a number of orthodox Brahmin families – who hate and are hated by the `low-caste’ folk in the village. For generations the non-Brahmins have looked on with contempt at the intrigues between the Brahmin families themselves. Today, even the poor Brahmins have been pushed under, and the Mukherjee Babus and their supporters have become top-clogs in the village. An old Brahmin told me a hair- raising story of how the Mukherjees got Jirat in their hands and are such a terror now that no one dare whisper a word against them in the village. In the old days, he said the Kulin Brahmins of Jirat (the aristocracy among the Brahmins) were too proud to let their daughters leave the village. So they gave land in Jirat to their daughters and settled their sons-in-law in the village. But these outsiders who married into the village often got the property written out in their own name when wills were made. In this way, outsiders cheated our Kulins, and grabbed more and more land in the village. Ashutosh’s father married into this village in the same way. But Ashutosh’s sons have no respect for the ancient Goswamis who brought the Mukherjees into the village. One of the Mukheriee brothers is a sworn enemy of the Goswamis and the Goswamis have been broken and the Mukherjees are the bosses of the village.

Paternal Legacy Not Enough

Just, when the floods were knocking down every house in Balagor – the sons of Ashutosh took it into their heads to build a brand new mansion. Old Ashutosh’s house was apparently not good enough for them. I could not get over Shyamaprosad building a brand new mansion in the middle of the famine while his father’s house fell to pieces like every other house or hut for miles around. I went to see the hateful, vulgar, new garden-house. The house is known all over Balagor as the only new house built in the last year and as the the only house with two dhan-golas stacked with paddy. Only the out-houses have been put up as yet. There are expensively-furnished sitting-rooms and guest-houses on either side of the gateway. There are strong iron gates and iron gratings on the windows to protect the richest spot in Balagor. There is a well-laid-out garden with a green-house.

The whole place looks like an oasis in a desert. Picknickers from the Mukherjee family motor down from Calcutta on holidays to bathe in the Ganges and drive away again. This vulgar new house of the sons is an insult to the stately old mansion of the father which is falling to pieces. The riches heaped here are an insult to the hungry thousands around! I fled from the house in disgust, but even then I did not hear the end of the story. The talk of the Balagor villages is of a new haat (market) in Jirat—opened by Shyamaprosad with pomp and ceremony in one of his two visits home in the year of famine. All honest folk swear at this haat. Why? Because Balagor already had a haat of long-standing in Sijey village, not far from Jirat. One haat was enough.—the point was to clean up profiteering in it and the village-folk a square deal. Instead of doing this Shyarmaprosad set up another haat at Jirat to meet on the Wednesday traditionally fixed for the Sijey haat. This was a clear move to break the Sijey haat—so almost every villager thought. I did not go into the quarrel between the old and the new haat but went along to see what Jirat haat was like. Maybe, I thought, the village does not like the new haat, but it may be a good one all the same. But when I went there, I did not find a haat of the ordinary sort. It was only two months’ old, but there was a good supply of mangoes, and some potatoes and onions too, Some paddy had come from Burdwan. They told me that 30 or 40 cart-loads of paddy came twice a week from Burdwan district, next door to Hooghly. The police who keep watch at the outposts of Burdwan let the carts through in return for a bribe of Rs 5 per bag. Where does the Burdwan rice go? Some of the better-off peasants in Balagor did buy some of it. But how could they hope to win, in a cut-throat competition with the big traders from Nadia and the rice mills of the 24 Parganas? Balagor villagers get a few bags but the lion’s share is drained out of Hooghly district by rich outsiders who bid up the price of rice from Rs. 8-14 per maund to Rs: 9-8 per maund while I was there!

There is a scandal over sugar, too, in Jirat haat. You get it only at the cut–throat rates of Rs. 2 to Rs. 214 per seer. Why? A shop-keeper whispered the inside story into my ears. ‘How can we sell cheaper’ he asked. ‘You can’t get sugar easily in Jirat. You can only get it by kow-towing to the maid-servants or the housewives of the bhadralok (middle-class) families. They won’t give it for less than Rs. 112 per seer.’ Why did they have to get round the wives and servants of the village rich? Because the babus get sugar from Calcutta and store it up. It is beneath their dignity to trade —so they make their wives pull off a bargain on the sly. They get the cash and there is no blot on their reputation neat trick, isn’t it”

The Reality of Mahasabha Relief Work

With this kind of profiteering going on in broad daylight in the haat opened by Shyamaprosad I didn’t expect to be impressed by the relief activity of the Hindu Mahaasabha in Jirat village. But I went along all the same, because Jirat is the only village where people seem to have heard of relief work by Shyamaprosad. I found this relief work to be as much a racket as the haat and the ‘charitable dispensary’. Once a week, it seems, 28 seers of atta and 28 seers of rice used to be distributed by the Hindu Mahasabha through 4 relief centres. Apart from this Shyamaprosad’s two brothers set up a shop and sold rice at half the market-price. But this did not help anyone because the market rate at that time was – Rs. 40 per maund! That is why the poor peasants and fishermen of the village told me, ‘all charity was for the babus. Charity bought at Rs. 20 per maund was too expensive for all except a handful.’

This is roughly what I found out in Jirat, Shyamaprosad’s home village. I have been to many villages in Bengal which were homes of our great men—nowhere have I seen so much hatred and bitterness against the rich and specially against the biggest man of the village.

But on my way back, I found out something more for which I was not prepared, lt seems a whole generation of middle class youth have taken to brazen-faced lying to glorify their leader’—-Dr. Shyamaposad Mukherjee! Everyone in Balagor and Jirat itself had told me that Shyamaprosad had not come to Balagor more than twice in the last two years—once during the famine, and again – to open Jirat haat. And yet, a doctor I met in the neighbouring village of Kasalpur told me that Shyamaprosad was coming and going from Calcutta all the time—four times in the last two months—there is a man who loves his village! Birnalendu Goswami, who controlled rice and flour distribution at the Jirat relief centres, told me that he gave out relief only on Sundays. But a young High School student who was proud of the Hindu Mahasabha told me that 24 students worked daily at the relief centres to feed 100 to 150 mouths daily!

The rich have thus made themselves hateful in Jirat—and Shyamaprosad is hated and feared more than anybody else. But at the end of my visit, I heard a few words which showed that the ancient civilization of Bengal and the spirit of Ashutosh still lives, in spite Shyamaprosad and all his doings. It was evening and the boys and girls had gathered in noisy groups under the trees in front of the school-house which has been locky ed up. Somebody started cursing. At once, an old man barked: “Who is using bad language? Have you all become animals or what?” ‘How can they be human when even the school has closed down?’ aswered somebody. Then they approached my guide, a kisan worker and said: ‘Give us a school-master, please! We shall starve and give him our own food. Kerosene costs ten annas a pint, but we shall pay for it somehow, For God’s sake! Let the school start again, if we don’t get our Minn’ open. civilisation will go out of Ashu’s village and  our children will grow up hooligans.’ What an iron will to live and labour! They will live and fight as the Royal Bengal Tiger fought– in spite of Shyamaprosad!

Mahasabha Not For Us,
But…Those With Riches

Song of the Jirat villagers

I was talking in a poor mudi’s (grocer’s) shop in Jirat to a group of poor Hindus. ‘The Mahasabha is not for us low caste folk’ they said ‘The Mahasabha is only for high-caste, rich people’. A young man got up and wanted to sing a comic song written by some village poet. It was a Baul song. It goes something like this:

Tell me mother, how shall we live

Will you remain, our proud mother if all yours sons die?

Floods and storms have destroyed our homes, villagers have left the country,

Our leader is still with us, but the country has gone into the hands of dacoits. Mother, that son of yours, Shyamaprosad, heaps gifts-On your altar.

But we your poor children die on the roadside. Take a look at us, Shyamaprosad, and put an end to your country’s miseries,

You are respected everywhere, we call on you in hope.

We, your fellow-villagers are starving,

Hunger, like lead drags back our footsteps, we who stay in your Balagor

How many kulin Brahmin families have been destroyed by starvation

Who counts the ‘number of “bagdi* dules” dead ?

In the country, everywhere, money was raised and given to you

So that the poor starving could eat and live—so I-heard in Calcutta.

We are all sons of the same mother

Don’t look the other way and despise us for being poor

You are a great leader, we tell you our sufferings

Look at us now and save our sons and families

Says the mad “Dube pagla” weeping:

Men have become but goats and cattle

Eating wild creepers and leaves

Wandering through the fields and hats.

I did not think the song comic. It came straight from a simple peasant’s heart, who is so warm-hearted that he will not curse the leader of his village, even if he has failed to serve them and sneered at his own people. (Bagdis are untouchable cultivators)

From
People’s War, August 6, 1944

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The others who left Kairana gharana, many decades ago!

Kairana 759Sawai Gandharva, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi are only a few of the names to have come out the Kirana gharana of Indian classical music. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Weeks after a lawmaker alleged that there had been an exodus from this small Uttar Pradesh town in Shamli district, Kairana is still in news. While time will tell if it was actually an “exodus” due to any threat or a gradual migration by people in pursuit of a better life, desertion by its people is not new to Kairana. The town had seen a major migration of a different kind almost over a century ago. It was then that Kairana’s music, with a hope to expand and prosper, had left the small town. Prosper it did, and how.

Kairana — or Kirana — was the birthplace of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan (1872- 1937), one of the greatest musical minds Hindustani classical music has ever seen. Together with nephew and another legend Abdul Wahid Khan, Abdul Karim Khan gave India the famous Kirana Gharana gayaki. Among all the gharanas in India, Kirana is one of the most popular and it unarguably boasts of the most number of singers at present.

Kirana was the town where, it is said, emperor Jehangir resettled many families of musicians after a devastating flood destroyed their homes. Many sarangi and sitar players too find their roots in this town. Later, most musicians moved out one by one and enriched the world with their legacies.

It was Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan of Kairana who is credited with introducing Ati Vilambit Laya or slow-tempo method to the Khayal form of gayaki (singing), without which one cannot now imagine a complete recital ever existed.

“Earlier, singers would mainly sing different drut (fast) or medium-paced items during a recital. Abdul Wahid Khan showed how one raga could be sung over one and a half hours at a stretch — complete with aalap, bandish, swartan and boltaan,” says singer Amjad Ali Khan, a descendent of the great uncle-nephew duo. Amjad Ali lives and teaches music in Delhi and performs world over.

“Note-by-note unfolding of the raga is what defines Kirana Gharana the best,” says celebrated singer Shrinivas Joshi, son of legendary Kirana vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.

According to Joshi, after moving out of Kirana, Abdul Karim Khan lived in Jaipur for some time and later settled down in Miraj, a Maharashtra town bordering Karnataka — the reason Kirana has a huge presence in the two states. Khan’s most famous disciple was Ramachandra Kundgolkar Saunshi, better known as Pandit Sawai Gandharva who immensely popularised the gharana later.

Also read: Centre plans cultural signposts for Kairana

Legend has it that an ailing Khan came to Miraj town in 1889 and visited the shrine of Khwaja Samsuddin Mira Saheb of Kasgar. He sat on the ground under a tree and sang a prayer. Apparently, his disease was miraculously cured. Since his death after four decades in 1937, the same spot under the tree has been hosting a concert every year in his memory during the annual Urs, says Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, another descendent of Abdul Karim. The 82nd edition, a three-day event, got over last month.

Not too far away, another event celebrates Kirana singing on a much bigger scale. The Sawai Gandharva Festival is one of the most-awaited annual events in Pune. Sawai Gandharva’s accomplished disciples late Bhimsen Joshi and Dr Gangubai Hangal regularly performed here.

Kirana-Gharana artistes_759 (from left) Abdul Karim Khan, Abdul Wahid Khan, Bande Ali and Shakoor Ali Khan.

Abdul Karim Khan also frequented the court of Mysore, and was influenced by Carnatic music. As a result, a Carnatic touch can be found in the application of swaras (notes) by many Kirana singers.

“Notes and tones that influence your heart and mind simultaneously,” Joshi says to describe Kirana style of singing. Joshi believes even though singers over the years have tried to incorporate other styles into Kirana gayaki, they have adhered to the core principals, retaining purity of the notes and the “meditative mode” that defines the gharana.

In her book ‘Along the path of Music’, another celebrated artist Dr Prabha Atre has spoken at length on the gharana, “Kirana’s sweetness of tone creates a general soothing effect on mind and evokes emotions that are not mundane. The voice straightway touches the heart…Each note is dipped in emotion and as such, involves even a common listener in music making. The essence is ‘serenity with sweetness’. In a way, Kirana is a withdrawn, introverted style. There is nothing showy, sensational…”

Mashkoor Ali calls Kirana as the “most original of all”. He, however, says it will be wrong to entirely credit Abdul Karim and Abdul Wahid for this. Though the two were instrumental in popularising the gharana, the style originated long before them with Nayak Gopal, a South Indian Brahmin from the court of Alauddin Khilji in the 13th century and later taken forward by Nayak Dhondu, Nayak Vannu, Bande Ali Khan and many others.

“The Kirana ‘family tree’ is huge and each one of them has contributed,” says Mashkoor Ali, who learnt music from his father Ustad Shakoor Ali Khan, a celebrated sarangi player and vocalist who had been a recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Padma Shri.

Mashkoor Ali, his brother Mubarak Ali Khan, daughter Shahnaz Ali Jahan and nephews Amjad Ali Khan and Arshad Ali Khan, among others, are taking the family legacy forward. Mashkoor Ali, who is based in Kolkata, goes to his birthplace Kairana once every year to spend a few days at their ancestral house. He rues the “lack of music in UP”.

The news of “Kairana exodus” perturbs him. While he says music has nothing to do with the “political issue”, Mashkoor Ali can’t help recall the days he spent there “35-40 years ago”. “There was so much of peace and harmony. We never saw any unrest,” he says.

familytree Click on the image to see a bigger and full version of the family tree

Interestingly, Kirana is not the only gharana that has originated from Uttar Pradesh. Gwalior, Agra and Atrauli gharanas too trace their origin to Western Uttar Pradesh. Going into the history of Hindustani classical music, Shrinivas Joshi says all court musicians left Delhi after 1857 and settled in nearby areas scattered all over Western Uttar Pradesh. And as they established themselves and trained their disciples, many of the gharanas we see now were born, each personifying the various musicians’ personal style of singing.

And as they moved out and spread all over the country along with their rich music, the entire world saw the light of music. Unfortunately, the places they deserted, like Kairana, were only left to guard the ruins of the maestros’ ancestral homes — and deal with “threats” of various kinds.

The Central government is now learnt to be planning “cultural signposts” for Kairana. As part of a nation-wide project of the culture ministry to identify neglected or forgotten sites of importance in terms of classical, popular or contemporary culture, signposts will be put up at such sites narrating their past and resurrecting their history for the current generation.

According to reports, Kairana will have “cultural milestones” across the town, telling people about the lives of the past masters and their work. The ministry hopes this will change the identity of the town and its residents.

Written by, Sanghamitra Mazumdar

Taken from: http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/art-and-culture/kairana-kirana-gharana-2879004/

Minister Katheria and Chingiz Khan

Ram Shankar Katheria, the junior minister in Smriti Irani’s education said, “If students do not read about Maharana Pratap or Shivaji, will they then read about Ghengis Khan?”

Perhaps he thinks Chingiz Khan was a Muslim; and is not aware that his grandson Hulegu (Halaku) was responsible for the destruction of Baghdad, which formally put an end to the Abbasid caliphate. The Mongols brought most of the Turkish ruled states of central and west Asia under their control.

It is worth finding out how many school textbooks deal with the history of the Mongols. On the other hand most have something on Shivaji and Maharana Pratap. What then is the point of this statement? Obviously the idea is to show that the history taught so far is distorted.

Shivaji and Chingiz Khan are separated by nearly 400 years; discussing the history of one does not necessarily mean doing away with the history of the latter.

The junior minister might be interested to know that Chingiz Khan is the main national icon of post-socialist Mongolia, and the international airport of its capital Ulan Bator is today named after ‘Chinggis Khaan’. This should make him acceptable to anti-communists, so why is he worried? The present ICCR chief, a great admirer of the PM (‘woh bhagavan ke avatar hain’, IE, 1.11.14), Lokesh Chandra was conferred, in April this year, the highest civilian honour of Mongolia (North Star), at which Rijiju was present.

In this context it is pertinent that an official conference is to be organized to discuss the contribution of Chingiz Khan to Indian culture. According to PTI (April 28, 2016): ‘To reassess the contribution of Genghis Khan, ICCR is going to organize an International conference in Mongolia on “Genghis Khan, his legacy and Indian culture” concurrently with “International Mongolian Congress” in Ulaanbaatar in August.’

On Chingiz Khan-

The view that the history of the era of Chingiz Khan is irrelevant for students of Indian history does not make sense since it would be difficult to understand developments of the thirteenth century in Asia without any reference to Chingiz Khan and the Mongols. From 1219 onwards Chingiz Khan embarked upon his military campaigns in central Asia, overturning the political formations of the region. This process continued under his successors (Chingiz died in 1227). While in the west his grandson (son of his youngest son Tolui) put an end to the Abbasid state (sack of Baghdad, 1258), in the east Hulegu’s elder brother Khubilai conquered China. The successors of Hulegu, the Ilkhan dynasty, ruled till the mid-fourteenth over a vast empire extending from Turkey to northwest India and included many of the regions that were part of the Soviet central Asia. Its core territories were in Iran.

In China, Khubilai became the founder of the Yuan dynasty which ruled till the mid-fourtheenth century. The era of Chingiz Khan and his successors in Iran and China coincided with the establishment and expansion of the Delhi Sultanate. India contributed significantly to, and was profoundly influenced by, the pan-Asian cultural traditions developed under Mongol rule. [Linda Komaroff and Stefano Carboni, The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002, with excellent illustrations, is a very useful introduction to the subject]. This was the era of Sadi (c.1213-1292) and Rumi (1207-73). The conversion of a section of the Mongols in the west to Islam was a later development. In China the Yuan dynasty imposed severe restrictions on several Islamic religious practices.

Surely in the name of ‘saffronization’ we do not want Indian students studying history to have a major gap in their knowledge by excluding these historical developments (which also have a direct bearing on Indian history of the period) from courses. As it is these developments hardly figure in standard school and undergraduate textbooks. What is more, most history courses omit any discussion on nomadic societies or polities based upon specialized pastoralism of the kind that provided the basis for the massive military mobilization that occurred under Chingiz Khan. Finally, during the past few decades serious historical scholarship has moved away from focusing on individuals, and is more interested in looking at historical processes. Besides confining the study of the history of a period to a small area and viewing it in isolation without paying attention to developments in other parts of the world prevents us from figuring out interconnections—a very outdated way of doing history.

Amar Farooqui

Ashoka and Dhamma

The rock edicts at Dhauli are imperial decrees by Ashoka. They extol the virtues of dhamma, according to the Buddhist law, and exhort his subjects and officials to behave in accordance with its precepts. These edicts stand out for Ashoka’s dedication to compassionate governance, including, most significantly, his public and written apology for past misdeeds.

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Dhauli, eight kilometres outside Bhubaneshwar, is the site of Ashoka’s famous battle of Kalinga. By the side of the road leading to the Dhauli hilltop are the major edicts of Ashoka engraved on a mass of rock. Dating back to 230 BC, the rock-cut elephant above the edicts in well-kept lawns is the earliest Buddhist sculpture of Odisha and perhaps one of the oldest sculptures in India.

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Elephants are royal animals as well as symbols of Buddhism. Buddha’s conception was depicted in art by a dream of his mother, Maya, in which a white elephant entered her womb.  Both the royal and religious meanings are evident here.

Martyrdom and Right wing Nationalism

In the recent debates on nationalism, almost all ‘nationalists’ used a particular symbol as an authenticating device for their patriotism – the symbol of a soldier and his patriotism (he is always a he). Does a doctor not contribute to the nation? the teachers , the students? Yet it is the soldier who is the patriot par excellence. Soldier who dies for the nation (he always has to die). The typical statement by ‘nationalists’ was- soldiers give their lives but JNU students are saying…).  The death of the soldier, then, is a very important component of these statements. A soldier enter these narratives only in his death. Still, the question is why the soldier? Is it just because his service conditions involve life risks and they do die? Why exactly is soldier such a potent symbol of patriotism? The answer must lie somewhere in the strategies of nation making and the imagination of the nation by the regime in power.

 Savarkar, one of the progenitors of the current right wing regime imagined Indian nation as a space which historically had one culture (Hindutva) and one race (Hindu). Within this framework, nation as a historic space is very important. Nation is not just people but it is a historically fixed geographical entity having a common culture. Except Hindutva, all other cultures and religions are excluded from Savarkar’s idea of Indian nation (Savarkar, Essentials of Hindutva). This geographical space must have a sovereignty. This space must also have a state. Within this idea the state and the nation both belong only to Hindutva. Hence, the idea is about a historically fixed geographical space which is politically sovereign and culturally monolithic. Since, the idea is to preserve this politico-cultural monolith, the border of this space becomes very important. This border needs protection against any sort of outside attack. It is only in protecting the borders, making them impenetrable, that the imagination of such a nation can be realised.


No wonder why then, the soldier and his martyrdom becomes important in such a scheme. Soldier emerge as the most important symbol in this nation because it is the soldier who is the symbol of this nation state saving its sovereignty, protecting its border.  The soldier is an integral part of this nation state whose job is to save the nation state’s sovereignty. A lot of this is true to any nation state irrespective of the fact, whether it is ruled by fascists or Marxists. This is the reason why every primary school texts, even before the current regime always had a chapter on the soldier where words like ‘shaheed’ and ‘balidan’ are always used.


The soldier even if he is 50 years old is a jawan. He has to be a jawan to symbolise the youthful virility of the nation in protecting its sovereignty. In these ideologies the soldiers become the best sons of the nation. Every son of the nation, in the right wing propaganda aspires to be a soldier and die for the nation as soon as he is born. Within the right wing ideology, the only one who can be greater than a Jawan is a dead Jawan. The grief caused by the death of the person is not important anymore. The only grief that such ‘nationalism’ allows to be narrativised is the martyrdom of the soldier. That the soldier is also an ordinary person, whose death can cause serious pain and suffering is not allowed to be expressed. Death is the ultimate sacrifice the soldier can make. It is actually this sacrifice, which is important. This explains a lot, why an unknown Hanumanthappa turned into a national hero overnight, recently. This also explains why streets are named after shahid jawans e.g. Shaheed Pankaj Juyal Marg. These are the narratives within which a soldier locates and identifies himself. A soldier indeed internalizes all this. So do the masses. This is the way, in which we are schooled by the nation. Our school text books, our films, songs, right wing propaganda- all these makes it impossible for us to think otherwise. They do not let us understand, that every single profession serves the nation. Teachers, scholars, students, doctors even butchers and cobblers. All of them are equally important. Patriotism is beyond certifications and comparisons.

 Shourjendra N. Mukherjee

Canard in the name of Mohanjo Daro!

Way back in 2004-05 when Jodha Akbar was still being made some of us from Aligarh (more particularly Professor Shireen Moosvi amongst others) interacted with Ashutosh Gowariker to persuade him not to play with history. The bone of contention was not only “Jodhabai” who was not Akbar’s wife, but a large number of other things more material and technical which were being shown, and were historical blunders! Gowariker came over to Aligarh and stayed for a few days. And then after a few months Prof. Moosvi and I went to Mumbai for a seminar, also attended by a number of film industry fraternity including Shyam Benegal, Anjum Rajabali and Ashutosh Gowariker. Great and intense arguments ensued, inside and outside the seminar. But the reply which I got from Mr Benegal for all our endeavours was: “we sell stories, history never sells. You Historians do your job; we will do ours”. His message was clear: they are dream merchants; facts do not concern them. Still Gowariker was gracious enough to insert a banner at the start of the movie that what was being shown was fictional.
I must also confess that his Jodha Akbar did have some tit-bits based on historical facts, as compared to the magnum opus of K. Asif! But then if the trailers of ‘Mohanjo Daro’, the new biopic being directed by Gowariker is concerned, distorts history to the hilt and in fact appears to be a propaganda tool for the Hindutva forces who would use it to further their agenda!
As per the trailers the Harappans were more Aryan than the Aryan themselves. They rode horses, had amphitheatres and had a material culture which was far far superior! In the trailer they are shown speaking thick Sanskritised Hindi, thus trying to identify them with the Horse-riding Sanskrit speaking Aryans!
My question to Gowariker: Be a dream merchant, sell pipedreams, but why push forward canards and falsehood?
Professor Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi
CAS in History, AMU, Aligarh