Wednesday, December 2, 2020

What Vinay Sitapati Has Missed Out –The BJP-RSS’ View of India As seen in Fictional Writings by Deendayal Upadhyaya


There has been a lot of discussion about Vinay Sitapati’s book on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the pre-Modi era, especially the Jugalbandi of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. From the excerpts available online, one is wont to feel intrigued by the manner in which there has been a fresh take on the party and its activities, unlike the lazy trope of communalism, Hindu nationalism, cultural fascism that gets thrown around rather casually. The problems with these narratives, and where Sitapati differs distinctly from the face of it is the fact that there is an attempt to look at the moorings of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from their paradigm, giving space for a change for an emic viewpoint. Moreover, he has been prescient in pointing out, in not so many words, that the BJP and RSS can’t be called right-wing in the traditional European sense; rather, they would qualify better with a term ‘non-left’ for a variety of reasons.

However, the excerpts of Sitapati’s book and his explanation of the logic behind the BJP’s winning streak show a limitation surrounding the attempt of understanding the RSS and BJP’s view about what the nation’s foundations are, and what are the epochs of Indian history as seen by them that define the nationhood of India. In this regard, while the duopolistic leadership approach is an interesting take, the over emphasis on lessons from the Maratha history and especially the defeat at Panipat seems to be a rather narrow take. To understand the RSS and the BJP’s ideological outlook, it would be prescient to take a look at two fictional novels written by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, the philosophical guide and co-founder of the previous avatar of the BJP, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), and himself a member of the RSS. A man of many talents, Panditji as he was called was instrumental in underpinning through two fictional novels the moorings of the movement of this non-left in India.

As a member of the RSS and BJS, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya had responded to the urgency of Bhaurau Deoras, the erstwhile sarsanghchalak of RSS, in creating literature for the young members of the Sangh, particularly school going children that would instil in them national pride, bring historical context to the civilizational state that is India and a sense of duty towards the needy.,  It was a response to this that led Panditji to write two Hindi novels – Samrat Chandragupta and Jagatguru Sri Shankaracharya. This incident was recalled by Dr. Mahesh Chand Sharma, former BJP leader from Rajasthan and head of the Deendayal Research Institute in his foreword in a recent edition of the latter novel.

Understanding Nation Building from Chandragupta Maurya

The choice of the two characters to write fictional novels on is very interesting, for it demonstrates a deep understanding of Indian history, philosophy and culture is interesting and reflect the way the RSS ecosystem interprets it. In the novel Samrat Chandragupta, Chandragupta Maurya is shown as a man of a kshatriya lineage unlike the popular narrative of him being of lower stature, something that historical references strongly seem to suggest. However, the interaction between him and Chanakya is not so much about him being tutored as it is about the two collaborating with each other to find ways to fight the infiltrator Macedonian military campaigner Alexander.

Thus, a duopolistic arrangement can be clearly seen in this book, and that has had as much influence on the RSS thought as the lessons from the Maratha empire’s decline that Sitapati alludes to. Also, even as the narrative is kept simple in language and attempts at inspirational quotes and dialogues have been made, distinct feature of the book is in the stress it creates on ensuring unity against foes that seek to break. Alexander’s India campaign is considered to be a blot because it was enabled by Indian collaborators. History does show us that the rise of the Maurya dynasty in the form of a feudatory empire somewhat similar to today’s federal structure is considered by the Hindu right as the first glorious epoch of history, a sentiment shared by none less than historian and revolutionary Veer Savarkar. 

Further, the crafty manner in which the monarch of Magadha changes overnight is considered just because the nation comes first above anyone else. This is an ideal character trait desired from the Swayamsevak – to put the larger interest ahead of personal motivations and interests. Even if something that could potentially be deemed unethical is being attempted, the situation demands complete cooperation of the individual rather than dissent. This is reiterated in the novel towards the end, when Seleucus Nicetor’s attempts to reinstating Greek power is thwarted. At that time, the people who opposed Chandragupta’s ascension join forces with him to fight off the Greeks.


Understanding Character Building from Adi Shankaracharya

The choice of character for his other novel is just as interesting. Adi Shankaracharya was the proponent of Vedanta philosophy, and is credited to have led the revival of Hindu dharma in Bharatavarsha. The book interestingly castigates the Buddhist community, albeit briefly, for legitimizing the claims of foreign powers like the Huns, Kushanas and Scythians. However, what is interesting is the sense of intellect and the emphasis on the seva bhavana demonstrated in the personality of Adi Shankaracharya that sets the path for the ideal Swayamsevak of the RSS. The incident of Adi Shankara compelling his mother through divine intervention to permit him sannyasa after a crocodile attacks him is quite instrumental in itself. Adi Shankara, as per the novel and the tradition, had been earnestly trying to convince his mother to permit him to take sannyasa as required in the monastic traditions of India.

At the time, only Buddhists and Jains were taking to monism, and they have been noted as less than ideal benchmarks for monastic life. Pali-Sanskrit scholar and renowned Hindi author Acharya Chatursena interestingly in his novel of a similar time frame titled Devangana had highlighted in his foreword the decline in moral authority of the Buddhists. Historical texts of the time show them engaging in debauchery of the highest order, having departed significantly from the ideals set by the Buddha Tathagata. Moreover, the prevalence of nastika orders or of those not upholding the sanctity of the Vedas was deemed a problem. By choosing to be a monk to restore the belief in Vedas, Adi Shankara becomes the selfless worker’s example who puts the nation before self, and his digvijaya yatra across India serves as the limits of working as per a certain code of conduct.

What is equally important about Adi Shankaracharya for the Hindu ecosystem is another feat attributed to him – the definition of the civilizational boundaries of Bharatavarsha as is identified within the Hindu canon. Consecration of the four Dhams, the fifty-two Shaktipithas, the twelve Jyotirlingas and the establishment of the four Pithas literally define in many ways the cultural outline of Hindu India for the ecosystem. The travel from Kanyakumari in the South to Kashmir in the north is a starting point for the ecosystem to explain why India is a civilizational nation, and hence different from the European conception of what constitutes a nation state. This essentially is a justification put out for calling India a Hindu nation, something reiterated by the likes of Vaidya Guru Gutt and Balraj Madhok, who was one of the initial founders of the BJS.

 To conclude the essay, Vinay Sitapati’s observations about the nature of relationship and the manner of consensus-based operation with full support of even disgruntled elements ‘to win at all costs’ does have a rationale. However, linking it simply to episodes of the Maratha history is at best a partial understanding of the reason why BJP wins is not because it wants to prevent defeat at any cost. Rather, these two novels of Panditji perhaps aptly symbolize the RSS ecosystem’s attempts at establishing a victor’s mindset both intellectually and militarily and show the immense possibilities enabled by pride in the cultural and historical roots of India. It remains to be seen if Sitapati will attempt to capture this at a later stage; for now though, his otherwise fascinating narrative seems to be partial in its outlook at best.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

मिट्टी के दीए

सरजू निराशा के बादलों से घिरा बैठा था। दीवाली की दोपहर हो गयी थी, और अभी भी सरजू के ठेले से सामान ज्यों का त्यों पड़ा हुआ था।  बड़ी आस से उसने इस साल सोचा था के मैं कुछ काम करूँगा, अपने पैरों पर खड़ा होकर दिखाऊंगा अपने माँ बाबा को। पर अब वो किस मूँह से वापिस घर जाता ये सब सामान लेकर? सुना था, दीवाली सबके घर सुख, रोशनी और समृद्धि लेकर आती है, लेकिन इस वर्ष उसके घर में तो बस अंधकार और दुःख छाने वाला था।

मंदी के दौर में घर में रोटी के लिए कुछ पैसे भी नहीं बचे थे। सरजू नाकारा था, अपने आप को इस तरह घर पर बैठा देख के बारी उसे खुद से घृणा होने लगती थी। हठ के चलते पहले विद्यालय में कुछ मेहनत न करी, और फिर एक दिन बस घर बैठ गया यह कहकर के अब मेरा मन न लगता। माँ बाप दो जून की रोटी कमाने में इतने व्यस्त थे के उन्हें उसे समझाने का भी वक़्त न था। बस एक बार डाँट कर, एक बार फुसला कर हार मान लिए। और वैसे भी तो छोटी बहनें थी, जिनको पालने से उतरे अभी दिन ही कितने हुए थे - कमसकम वो घर पर उन्हीं का ध्यान रख लेगा। लेकिन मंदी ने उन्हें भी नाकारा बना दिया।

अति तो तब हो गयी जब उस दिन घर में आटा भी ख़त्म हो गया। राशन की दुकान कैसे जाए, प्रवासी मजदूर जो ठहरे? वो जो इस महानगर की ऊंची ऊंची इमारतें बनाने के लिए अपना सब कुछ लुटा आए, अपना घर बार छोड़ आए थे, उनको इस महानगर ने एक पहचान भी नहीं दी थी। बस, एक आँकड़ा बना छोड़ दिया था इस शहर ने एक और गरीब प्रवासी के नाम का। पड़ोस की विमला मौसी से उसकी माँ आटा मांग तो लायी, लेकिन कब तक ऐसे चल सकता था? भूख से रोते बच्चों की चीखें और पिता के लाज को छिपात्र गुस्से के बीच सरजू की माँ चुप चाप पिसती रही। और सरजू को उनकी परिस्थितियों के काँटे बिच्छु से बार बार दंशते रहे। मोहल्ले के एक पनवाड़ी से उसने जब उधार माँगा, तो पहले तो पनवाड़ी ने उसे झट से मना करा। कहता - सरजू तू नाकारा है, तू कैसे लौटाएगा? तेरे माँ या पिता माँगते तो समझ भी आता, पर तू? बड़ी मिन्नतें करने पर पनवाड़ी मान तो गया, लेकिन उसने ब्याज दोगुना कर दिया। आखिरकार दे भी तो एक नाकारा को रहा था, उम्मीद ही क्या थी के वो लौटायेगा?

दीवाली भी आ गयी, और पनवाड़ी की शंका सच होती दिखाई दे रही थी। ये दीए, ये तेल, ये बाती - कुछ भी नहीं बिक रहा था। आस पास के रेहड़ियों और ठेलों से लोग वो मोम वाले दीए लेने में जुटे थे, वो रंगीन दीए खरीदने में व्यस्त थे, और उसके सादे दीयों के लिए उनके पास समय, इच्छा व रुचि भी न थी। दोपहर के सारे पहर समाप्ति की ओर चल पड़े थे, लेकिन दीये उसका साथ छोड़ने को तैयार न हुए। सरजू के मन में उदासी और पीड़ा जाग उठी। अब अंधेर की ओर रात चल पड़ी थी, लेकिन कोई पूछने वाला भी न था। रेहड़ी पर सब सामान ज्यों का त्यों पड़ा था, और सरजू की आंखों में अब गुस्सा और उदासी दोनों ने जगह घेर ली थी। 

सुना था उसने माँ से के दीवाली के दिन अपने घर वापिस आए थे प्रभु राम। उस दिन अमावस का अंधेरा मिटाने के लिए अयोध्या के लोगों ने दीये प्रज्वलित किये थे। लोग तो उन्हीं के लौटने की इसी स्मृति को जीवंत रखने के लिए आज भी वो रीति निभाते हैं। प्रभु तो हर किसी की इच्छा पूरी करते हैं, वे तो सभी के तारन हार हैं, कमज़ोर का साथ देने वाले हैं, पर आज उन्हें कोई प्रभु का साथ मिलने की आस नहीं थी। सरजू को दुःख हो रहा था, और रेहड़ी लेकर वो चल पड़ा था अपने घर। पता नहीं किस मूँह से वापिस जाऊँ, यही सोच कर सरजू चला जा रहा था अपनी रेहड़ी लेकर। 

एकदम से एक परिवार सामने से आते देखा सरजू ने। हैरानी की बात ये थी के वो आपस में खूब खुश और हँसी ठिठोली करते हुए दीवाली का आनंद उठा रहे थे। उनके साथ के बच्चे ने एकदम से सरजू की ओर देखा और अपने माँ बाप से कुछ बात करने लगा। माँ बाप , साधारण से लगने वाले लोग लग रहे थे, पर कुछ था उनमें जो सरजू का ध्यान उनकी ओर आकर्षित हो रहा था। इससे पहले के वो कुछ समझ सकता, वो सारे लोग - चार के करीब लोग थे वो - पास आकर उससे बात करने लगे। 

"भैय्या, ये बेटा हमारा हठ कर रहा है के आप ये दीये उसे दे दें।"

सरजू को थोड़ा अचम्भा हुआ। दीए दे दो? ये कैसे हो सकता है? "अर्रे साहब, अब समय हो चुका है। घर जाकर हमको भी दीवाली मनानी है! आप कुछ देर पहले आते तो..."

"अरे भैय्या, आप आती लक्ष्मी को ठुकरा रहे हो?" एकाएक उस गुट में एक महिला सदस्या मुस्कुराते हुए बोल पड़ी। "आज दीवाली है, आपको कुछ लक्ष्मी वक्ष्मी की आवश्यकता है के नहीं?"

सरजू को चुप्पी ने घेर लिया। बहनजी कह तो सही रही हैं, लेकिन दस एक रुपया से अब क्या होगा उसका? इतने बड़े कर्ज़े के सामने ये दस रुपए क्या हैं? 

"भैय्या, मान जाइए न!"

एकदम से सरजू ने बच्चे की ओर देखा। उसकी आँखों में एक प्रार्थना भाव था जो दिल को पिघला दे, और ऐसे मासूम चेहरे को मना कर पाना कठिन होता। सरजू को अपने छोटे भाई की याद आ गयी, उसके चेहरे की मुस्कान याद आ गयी। और फिर होना क्या था - मन पिघल गया।

"चलिए, ठीक है, बताइए कितने दीए चाहिए आपको?" सरजू ने छह दीये उठा कर कागज़ में लपेटना शुरू किया। 

"भैय्या, सारे दीए चाहिए," बच्चा बोल पड़ा। 

"सारे दीये?" सरजू चौंक पर पूछ पड़ा। ये क्या हो रहा था? कोई मज़ाक कर रहे होंगे ये लोग। इन दो सौ दीयों को कोई एक साथ कहाँ खरीदता है! 

"बेटा, सही सही बताओ, देर हो रही है, और मज़ाक का समय न है मेरे पास," सरजू ने कुछ खीज कर कहा।

"भैय्या," गुट में स्थित उस दूसरे आदमी ने कहा, "जो बोल रहा है वो करिए, मज़ाक नहीं कर रहे।"

सरजू को विश्वास नहीं हो पा रहा था। आज दीवाली के दिन उसको सही में भगवान ने आशीर्वाद सा दे दिया। आज उसने अपने परिवार को दो वक़्त की रोटी मुहैय्या करवा दी! सच में ये लोग भगवान से कम न थे। सरजू ने खुशी खुशी कहा , "हाँ हाँ, ले लीजिए! सारे ले।लीजिए! बताइये साहेब, कहाँ पहुंचवाने हैं? मैं खुद ही पहुँचाये देता हूँ!"

बच्चे ने उन तीन वयस्कों को देखा, और बाजू वाले मंदिर की ओर इशारा कर दिया। "पर एक शर्त है भैय्या। दीए आप जलाने में सहायता करोगे, और तेल भी आप ही दोगे!"

तेल! तेल तो सरजू के पास पर्याप्त मात्रा में नहीं था। एकाएक सरजू के चेहरे पर उदासी ने बादल कर लिया। ये कैसी मजबूरी है प्रभू? तेरे ही दरबार में भूखे के साथ ऐसा खिलवाड़, ऐसी परीक्षा? मंदिर के सामने हो रहे इस वार्तालाप ने सरजू के मन में आँसू निकाल दिए। ऐसा संभव ही नहीं था। वो हामी कैसे भरता?

"हाँ कहो आप भैय्या, हम अभी खरीद लेते हैं," पहले सज्जन व्यक्ति ने बड़े प्रेम भाव से कहा। 

"पर बाऊजी, तेल की तो दो ही बोतल थी मेरे पास," सरजू ने आँख चुराते हुए कहा। आँसू किसी को भी क्यों दिखाए जाएं, खास तौर पर किसी अपरिचित को?

"भैय्या, हाँ कर दो, ये तेल पर्याप्त पड़ेगा। हाँ तो कहिए!" वो दूसरे व्यक्ति ने उसे इशारा किया। 

अब सरजू असमंजस में चला गया। क्या करें? आज कमाई का जो एक माध्यम आया वो भी ऐसी बात बोल पड़ा के सब संभावनाएं समाप्त हो गई। लेकिन करें भी तो क्या? सामान वापिस लौटा कर रुपया भी तो वापिस नहीं लिया जा सकता था! और आज दीवाली की रात हो रही थी, उसे कुछ अवसर भी नहीं थे मनाने के, न ही कारण थे। करें तो क्या करें?

न जाने क्यों सरजू को एकदम से इच्छा हुई ये बात मानने की। "ठीक है बाऊजी, ठीक हसि बेटा, चलो मंदिर के अंदर," सरजू ने स्वीकारा। "आगे राम जी बेड़ा पार कराएंगे। आज मेरा सब कुछ उन्हीं को अर्पण।"

इतना कह डाब मंदिर में घुसे। प्रांगण में रोशनी की लड़ियाँ थीं, पर आंगन और मंदिर का गर्भ बिन दीयों के कुछ खाली से लग रहे थे। सरजू को यह देख दुःख हुआ - यह संस्कार और परंपरा कहां जा रही थी के एक दीए को जलाने को भी कोई न था? मंदिर खाली पड़ा था, पुजारी भी कहीं दिखाई नहीं दिख रहा था। 

सरजू ने एक दीए को हाथ में उठा कर मन से प्रार्थना करी। भगवान, अगर आप साथ दो, तो ये सारे दीए कैसे कर जल जाएँ।

"जय श्री राम," सरजू ने हल्के से बोल तेल बाती लगा दीए को जला कर तुल्सी महारानी की ओढ़ में रखा। 

"जय जय श्री राम!" वो छोटे बालक ने जोर से नारा लगाया, और चारों ने मिलकर दीए तेल और बाती से सजाकर जलाने आरम्भ किए। 

सरजू को विश्वास नहीं हो रहा था, पर एक ही बोतल तेल से सारे दीये भर गए। नहीं, कुछ तो गड़बड़ है, सरजू सोचता रहा। यह सम्भव नहीं!  पर दीये उसके सामान उस असम्भव का प्रत्यक्ष प्रमाण बन उसको प्रश्न पूछ रहे थे। चारों ओर दीये ओजस और एज की लौ प्रकाशमान कर रात्रि के अंधकार को मानो चीर रहे थे, उससे वार्ता कर, उसे समझा कर परे कर रहे थे। मात्र चार दीये शेष रह गए थे, के एकाएक वे चारों वापिस ठेले पर आए। सबसे बड़े लगने वाले वयस्क सज्जन ने अपनी जेब से कुछ रुपए निकाले, और अपनक श्रीमती को दिए। "जाइये, आप दीजिए," ये कहकर सब उनकी ओर चले। 

सरजू को एकाएक लगा के ये लोग कोई साधारण मनुष्य नहीं हो सकते। एक चमत्कार उसकी आँखों के सामने आज हुआ था। वह स्वयं एक पुण्यकारी कार्य का भागी बना था, और वह भी तब जब उसने अपनी दरिद्रता से पनपे लालच को परे रखा। आज जब उसने मेहनत कर दो जून की रोटी कमाने की ठानी तो भगवान ने यह दूत भेज उसकी इच्छा का मान रखा, उसके विश्वास का मान रखा। अब यह रुपए लेते हुए उसे लाज आने लगी। 

"नहीं नहीं मेमसाहब! हम ये कैसे स्वीकार लें? हमसे न हो पाएगा!"

"सरजू, यह तुम्हारा मेहनताना है, और इन दीयों का मूल्य। बस शेष कुछ नहीं। आती लक्ष्मी कभी नहीं ठुकराते," इतना कहकर उस महिला ने उसके हाथ में बिन देखे कुछ रुपयों को उसके फटे कुर्ते की जेब में रखा। "अब बस यह चार दीए हैं, इन्हें गर्भ में लगवा दो। हम भी आशीर्वाद के भागी बन सकें।"

सरजू ने जैसे ही दीये जलाए, बिजली गुल हो गयी। दीवाली की रात को ऐसा काम ही होता था, लेकिन दीयों की रोशनी ने मंदिर को एक पवित्र आभा से घेर लिया था। ज्योति के एक महापुंज मे मानो मंदिर की पवित्रता को और भी शोभायमान कर दिया था, और अयोध्या में अमावस्या को भगा देने वाले उस पावन रात्रि की आभा का भाव प्रतीत करवा दिया। तभी पुजारी जी आए, तो सरजू ने उन्हें बताया के उनके साथ क्या हुआ। 

पुजारी जी के आंखों से अश्रु बहने लगे। भगवन के घर देर है, पर अंधेर नहीं, आज उन्होंने ने भी उसका साक्ष्य देख लिया। आनन्द से ओत प्रोत पुजारी ने झट से वह दीए लिए और सरजू को साथ ले गर्भगृह में प्रवेश किया। एक एक कार वे दीए उन्होंने वहाँ स्थित श्रीराम, माता जानकी, लक्ष्मण जी और हनुमान जी को समर्पित किया।

दीयों के प्रकाश में सरजू ने जब श्रीराम और माता जानकी की मूर्तियों के मुस्कराते चेहरों को देखा, तो स्तब्ध रह गया। 

उनके चेहरे तो वो सज्जन और महिला जैसे ही जान पड़ रहे थे।

उसने लक्ष्मण जी और हनुमान जी की ओर जब देखा, तो वो अवाक रह गया। सब वही चेहरे थे। हड़बड़ाते हुए उसने अपनी जेब में हाथ डालकर जब रुपए देखे, तो पाया के इतने रुपए तो उसने तो अपने जीवन में कभी भी न देखे थे। 

सरजू आँखों से बहते अश्रुओं ने प्रज्वलित दीयों के ओजस को और भी तेजपूर्ण बना दिया। 

उस रात, वो मंदिर सरजू के लिए रामराज्य का एक छोटा सा भूभाग बन गया था।

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Vedantic-Advaitic Moorings of Swadeshi

A Swadeshi Poster (Courtesy: Republic of Less)

Swadeshi is a thought, an ideal that arose across several countries and not just India. However, the roots in India arose from the 1905 movement whereby the extremist division of the Congress, led by the famous Lal-Bal-Pal trio (Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal) pushed for an aggressive movement towards home rule, furthered in 1916 by the Home Rule and later in the form of Gandhi’s spiritual form of disobedience. Across the three was a common thread running - creating an economic alternative to demonstrate that India was, just like many other Commonwealth nations or even the crown state of Britain, more than capable of being self-reliant, be it machinery, trade, textile, education or any other aspect. The act was not just political, but was driven by the sentiments related to Bharat Mata that was already whipping up – this was around the same time that the fiery intellectual revolutionary Aurobindo Ghosh through his Anushilan Samiti and other revolutionaries had given the clarion call of complete independence, even rejecting the idea of being a self-governing country of the British empire in totality. When one starts to scratch the surface, the realization of the spiritual inspiration driving these various forces starts to become increasingly evident. While the Anushilan Samiti and many other revolutionaries were inspired by the Ramakrishna Mission sannyasi thought and in particular Swami Vivekananda’s ideas and following his death the inspiration from Sister Nivedita, people like Bal Gangadhar Tilak saw in their deep understanding of Sanatan Dharma and the Maratha identification with the triple helix of Deva-Desha-Dharma. 

A classic part of this was the seemingly divergent ideas of what economic independence would mean, which was presciently captured in the 1905 swadeshi movement based novel Ghare Baire written by Rabindranath Tagore, where one lead character talks boycott and seeking only Indian goods, while another lead focuses on creating products that would be able to replace the opposite. This very much aligned with the personal views of Tagore, who saw a challenge in the way in which swadeshi movement was shaping up. This saw parallels though in real life changes taking place at the time. For instance, the formation of the Swadeshi Steamer Company of V O Chidambaram Pillai, which gave the British steamer services a run for their money riding high on their good service and cost effectiveness before being run aground by British high handedness was a daring attempt at creating an alternative. Another great example, the Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals set up by Prafulla Chandra Ray, thus creating complimentary options for the swadeshi adherents to pursue wherever possible. Interestingly, in the Marathi movie on a movie about Dadasaheb Phalke’s attempts at learning the art of filmmaking, we see an incident being played out of Phalke reading Tilak’s newspaper writings and taking inspiration from his idea of swadeshi even when it came to the art of making cinema for Indians by Indians. 

The common thread binding these two seemingly divergent schools of action and thought however remained the same - the influence of the Prasthan Trayi in part or whole on the various thinkers and doers of the time, and consequently the impact of the Advaita-Vedanta and its variants can be observed across the spectrum. Tagore being a Brahmo Samaji was highly exposed to them, as it formed a critical part of the movement’s canonical literature, and its imprint can also be seen in the essay collection Nationalism where he criticizes the European motherland concept but clearly identifies with a spiritual nationalism that is inspired by the Upanishads. Tilak too can repeatedly be seen taking umbrage in the three texts, and while he emphasized subsequently on the karma yoga siddhanta in his commentary of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, the root of his nationalism too arose from the deep study and analysis of this body of canonical literature. However, it is folly to divorce the spirit of action from the spirit of oneness, for only if we can do welfare of all can be engage in the welfare of one’s self. What applied to Sri Ramanuja when he spread the great liberation mantra to all applied very much to the ideas of swadeshi that the luminaries of that era had pursued. 

This is a philosophy that even Gandhi carried over with his own vision of Swadeshi and his attempts at bringing in a spiritual revolution of sorts within the independence movement. Clearly, from his own personal experience and from the readings of texts like the Bhagavad Gita, Gandhi too was influenced enough to pursue and encourage a path where one is engaged in the karma of weaving khadi, is one not engaging in deep thought and meditation that would bring the person in question closer to the deeper understanding of the universe, the Creator and the realization of brahma jnana that is essential towards mukti of the soul. Hence, whenever people make out swadeshi to be a purely materialistic idea, they make a grave error in identifying and understanding the spiritual underpinnings of the concept for the Indian people at large. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A story about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's Impact

 A man once boarded the wrong train and ended up in Tamil Nadu near Arunachala in Tamil Nadu, a holy pilgrim site that has moved many a seer and saint. He was told by a lot of people to go visit the site and meet a man named Ramana Maharshi. 

The man, an avowed communist and atheist, had always baulked at the idea of religion. However, since he had heard so much by then, he decided to go and meet him. 

The minute he stepped into the ashram of Bhagavan, he could not control his emotions. Something took over him. Meeting Maharshi he did not know what happened to him. Bhagavan said nothing, and yet he was impacted heavily by the meet. His whole outlook to spirituality and religion changed in a minute. 

He took Bahgavan's blessing and returned home to Kerala. Took up Sannyas and started to work for society.

That man later became famous as Swami Chinmayananda, the founder of the Chinmaya Mission.

Friday, September 4, 2020

India’s Pre-emptive moves at Pangong Tso and What Should Be Our Next Steps

Indian Border troops and Chinese troops at Nathu La (Image Courtesy: Brookings)

For two days now, the news cycles have been abuzz about the happenings of the midnight of 31 Aug 2020, when unlike the pre-emptive move of two days back earlier to the chagrin of the Communist China’s People’s LIberation Army (PLA), Indian military pushed in battalions of Special Forces to take over strategic points on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso. This extremely erudite move has literally defanged the PLA’s capabilities to throw a surprise or even use their traditional swarming tactics which need an element of surprise to succeed. While this is not the first time that India has dared to stare back the PLA behemoth in its eye, there are reasons to be cautiously jubilant.

Lessons Learnt from Operation Falcon Applied Truly Well

While experts like Nitin Gokhale will certainly contribute much more to the discourse with their enriched and accurate ground reporting, it would be very important to point out that India has surprised the Chinese through this tactical move to no end. This is perhaps a fitting tribute to the sagacity of the erstwhile Indian Army Chief General Krinshnaswamy Sundarji. In 1986, a much underestimated India had once again thwarted Chinese ambitions of capturing strategic positions along the Sumdorong Chu and Namka Chu streams by airlifting forces to take up positions on Hathung La ridge overlooking Sumdorong Chu along with three other key mountain features. Communist China, bewildered by Operation Falcon, threatened the same kind of bluster as the one being delivered these days about the PLA’s supposed superiority.

The standoff even as it lasted for more than a year, compelled the Chinese to talk peace, eventually leading to the famed Rajiv Gandhi-Li Peng meet in 1988. Interestingly, it was at the same time, India had decided to convert Arunachal, which was a centrally administered territory till then, into a full-fledged state. Similarities to this can be seen in the move to change the status of the Ladakh-Gilgit-Baltistan-Kargil region as well, with it being made a Union Territory that enables the Central government to keep its military guard up. Just as then, the Communist Chinese regime had called the move illegal and even threated repercussions. Clearly, the military and the civilian establishments have learnt their lessons well from the Operation’s success.

Enter the Vikasi – a Nightmare Scenario for Chinese Communist Party

One of the smartest moves that was undertaken place as part of the special force pre-emptive deployment has been the use of Vikas Battalion or the Special Frontier Forces. Raised in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 Sino-India war, it was a covert outfit which recruits primarily Tibetans and falls under the purview of the Cabinet Secretariat. The units that comprise the SFF are known as Vikas battalions. The use of a Tibetan heavy battalion is not just a physical but also a psychological attack on the Communist regime for a host of reasons. It essentially threatens to shred the One China claim of the Communists to pieces, as the visual of Tibetans facing the Chinese embarrasses them to no end. Parsing through the statement of Hua Chunying, one of the spokespersons for the Communist regime’s Foreign Ministry, to Reuters on the question of the Tibetan origin soldier who died in the exercise, one observes the frustration and worry about it behind the words.

You were talking about whether there are Tibetans-in-exile in Indian troops. I’m not aware of that, perhaps you can ask your colleague in India to ask the Indian side….. We need to think about the Tibetan issue, and the ins and outs and role of the United States. China’s position is very clear. We oppose any country, of course that includes India, to provide any facilitation or venue to forces advocating Tibet independence. As to the relationship between Tibetans in-exile and in Indian troops, I am also very curious. If you could get more information with your report, I would appreciate that.”

What scares them is the fact that unlike the other provinces, Tibet is the one that has seen the most unrest. Coupled with the on-going agitation in Inner Mongolia on the abolition of the official education in Mongolian language and the never-ending protests in Hong Kong against the trampling of democratic values and illegal imposition of the National Security Law and the Communist regime is witnessing what it perceives a slide into anarchy under President Xi Jinping. News of the Tibetan soldiers dying has the potential to become a rallying point for ethnic Tibetans within the Tibetan Autonomous Region and Qinghai to protest and maybe even rebel, as many twitter users have also remarked. Having the Tibetan government-in-exile into the picture and the presence of the Dalai Lama will certainly come in handy when it comes to continued pressure, and may prove to be Xi’s undoing, as he faces challenges from within in a major way.

Looking Ahead – China Should Not be Given a Lifeline

Given the past precedents, it is obvious that Communist China will try to reach out eventually after a few months of more bluster to reach some kind of amicable settlement. China was globally isolated post the Tiananmen Square fiasco, and India gave it a lifeline of sorts by accepting to have some kind of peace and trade deal. However, the similarities between then and now should be seen in some context to take the next step.

At that time, it was the Narasimha Rao government that reached out to the Chinese Communist regime in 1993 and signed deals including military ones. Ironically, the Chinese themselves decided to violate it recently in Galwan valley. This was a strategic mistake, for it let other countries to come forth and start dealing with the Communist regime that had killed ten thousand of its own citizens who were demonstrating for democracy. This time around too, China stands globally isolated, thanks to its absolutely irresponsible behaviour on the COVID-19 pandemic. Using this as a pretext of feeling cornered, it is engaging in bluster to the point of firing missiles into the South China Sea and engaging with India militarily in the Himalayas.

The Communist regime would have collapsed had it not received any acceptability then. This time too, the chances of the evil regime falling remain high, given the inefficacy that people have openly started to talk of President Xi. An open letter to President Xi that called him a ‘big nothing’ and lambasted his handling of the COVID pandemic among other failures has been much popular among the Chinese people. The National Security Law application in Hong Kong also highlights the fear they have of ethnic Chinese rallying behind Hong Kong protestors, even as allegations of China enacting the law because of a bankrupt foreign currency reserve, something vehemently denied. It is therefore wise to question the need to talk at the highest levels and give any kind of legitimacy to the Communist regime from outside, especially at this juncture when the party is burning bridges with possibly every country, even if there are offers to talk. 

Given the tough position that countries like the United States, Japan, Australia, VietNam and the European Union increasingly are taking with the Communist regime of China, it would be adversarial to India’s real interests in giving any legitimacy to this thoroughly corrupt and discredited system. If there were a word of advice that could be put from this end, it would simply be this – ignore, ignore, and ignore the present Communist regime of China. Biding time till the regime change happens or at least President Xi is put out of the way by the Party is our best bet for a medium-term solution. The 1993 consensus died in Galwan valley; however, the new consensus should certainly not be allowed to come up on the shoulder-like ridges of Pangong Tso.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Fraudulence of Intellectualism - Why Liberal Shenanigans on the Padmanabhaswamy Verdict Have No Basis

Padmanabhaswamy Temple Verdict is a Starting Point (Courtest New Indian Express)

Indian Express and Pratap Bhanu Mehta always seems to be obsessed with the moot point of why Hindu community even bothers to seek control or seek reform in any way, or asks the system that be to respect and uphold traditions of the Hindus at large. A new example has turned up in the master ‘commentary’ of Pratap Bhanu Mehta on the Padmanabhaswamy temple verdict of the Supreme Court that Mr Mehta finds distasteful. Anything related to Hindus has always been distasteful for the duo, and one cannot wish that away even if given the magical wand that could grant these wishes. However, his unwieldy language and contorted arguments have once again been thrown up to somehow not only make the waters muddy, but to also defend the institutionalized discrimination and call out the ‘hatred’ of the Hindus of anything that puts savages like them into their place by granting them the privilege of civilization and rule of law that just did not exist in the books of lofty intellectuals who know so little about Indian civilization and heritage. Supplanting everything lazily as an extension of Hindutva is an insult to the legacy of the institutional capacity of Hindu community that has spanned for more than a millennium, and certainly shows how little of Savarkar’s writings have actually been read for what they are in coming to these vacuous positions. Be that as it may, it is important to understand exactly what the problem of the state is when it comes to the issue of temple management and what exactly is being sought.

Quoting Devaraj Urs is convenient, for his understanding of the role temples have played in ‘exclusion’ is a sloppy assessment. Au contraire, it is temples, pithas, mathas, ashramas and other Hindu institutions that have actually been the most inclusive of institutions in India and the ones that have voluntarily sought to reform problems that they have recognized. When temples like the Padmanabhaswamy or the Emara Mutt of Puri or even the Sringeri Saradamba Pitha have come forward during the days of famines to feed the hungry irrespective of caste, community or religion repeatedly, it raises the question of the sanctity of such arguments. With at least thirty castes that were directly linked to temple service and management, nearly all of whom are not Brahmins, one fails to understand where such shoddy research turns up from. Land holdings of temples were not exclusionary as many would baselessly point out – instead, temples raised their own revenues thanks to those lands, and these were compensation often for the people who would be dedicated solely to the service of the presiding deity. The example of their inclusive behaviour has been more than ever on display even during the ongoing COVID pandemic, when traditional sevayats or managers of the these institutions old and new have stepped out to work as much as possible to feed those who were languishing on the streets, something the so called civilizing force of the governments were unable to do so. What many of these temple workers in turn received was a big fat zero from this civilizing force that Mr Mehta is so unusually fond of only in the case of the Hindu community.

Coming to the question of resource management, and one sees arguments that try to be clever by half. Systemization of temple management has perhaps been the biggest joke of the last two centuries that has been played out at the expense of the Hindus. Telling Hindus that they are casteist and exclusionist bigots, Hindu religious were taken over and these takeovers were justified by the elites of the government, press and judiciary in tandem, saying there is a need for a remedy in the actual ground position. Their ‘incomes’ are taken over by the government and what they get in exchange are rates, and the temple sevayats salaries that have been probably not revised for more than seventy to one-twenty years. In the case of the Tamil Nadu HR&CE Board that Mr Mehta has so gleefully quoted, temple priests get salaries of 200 rupees a month, and get 12 rupees a day for doing puja as per the agama shastras that these priests are supposed to uphold. Even these expenses have been nowhere to be found during the COVID pandemic, as the state pleaded bankruptcy and empty coffers, despite taking ALL of the earnings and donations of the institutions. As if that was not enough, the rampant theft of precious temple idols with the connivance of several HR&CE administrators that has surfaced in recent times thanks to the interventions of the Madras High Court and a few motivated individuals at the Idols and Antiquities Wing of Tamil Nadu Police, signals in all senses the actual avarice of the state towards Hindu institutions.

Hindus have been fighting the state with one hand amputated, not even tied behind them. Repeated Constitutional morality thrown at the Hindus fails to highlight exactly under what right Hindus are supposed to be civilized and not the other communities. Christians, Sikhs and Muslims have a say in the way their religious establishments are being run; in contrast, the appointees for Hindu institutions can only be nominated by the State, and does not take into consideration even such underlying assumptions that only Hindus can understand the functioning of such institutions. Hindus have not been allowed to handle Waqf or Gurdwara or Church properties, and therefore it behoves the question as to why the State’s civilizational zeal bordering on evangelism is allowed to operate with such impunity with zero accountability to those whose institutions they are in the first place. Adding insult to injury is the fact that temple deities are treated as living beings who are supposed to pay taxes as well. Which other institution is bullied into paying taxes by the civilizing state? Why this evangelism is only meant for Hindus is a question not clarified upon with sincerity. Have any Hindus ever been asked their opinion on how their institutions are supposed to be run? Has the government ever presented a white paper on what happens to the funds of the temples and other religious institutions? Why is it that there is no compulsion to actually put forth an account of statements on how temple earnings have been used to the public unless someone approaches the judiciary for redress? That is because the laws across several endowment boards clearly specify limits to which money can be spent for activities that would actually allow temples to play similar roles in educating and providing charitable healthcare as say the Church or the Gurdwaras of the country. Usually pegged at a measly amount, the overwhelming share is supposed to fill up the pockets of the State, which then can be used as per their whims and fancies. This modern age jizya system is imposed by a state that virulently hates Hindus for asking for reforms.

Speaking of freeing temples, the premise of the argument started off on an absolutely infantile note. The State had stepped into Hindu establishments’ administration citing certain maladies that plagued these institutions. We are yet to find even a shred of evidence that suggests how the State’s interference has actually remedied those maladies that were purportedly identified. Corruption is at an all-time high, as idols get stolen to be sold on the antiquities market, and earnings get siphoned. Aesthetics and desecration is rampant – looking at the manner in which thousand year old temples are repaired, or that toilets are being opened within the compounds of the temples much like Pakistan converting old temples into public toilets would put anyone to shame except for the greedy officials who are hell-bent on destroying the state. Land property that Mr Mehta so happily quoted remains a subject of dispute, as several cases of the State engaging in corrupt practices to give away land and/or encourage massive property encroachment has increased manifold. Abetment of the State in what would otherwise be deemed as a criminal activity followed by accountability goes on unabated, and the people have no remedy except seeking judicial relief on the daily sledgehammer that is slammed against the beliefs and establishments of the Hindu community. The perfidy however is deep rooted - the state has always thrust upon the Hindus this patently absurd Abrahamic divide of the secular and the religious onto Hindu establishments, where the secular was driven entirely by the religious, to bulldoze itself into an institution where it should not have stepped in the first place unless the people had asked for it. To date, even modern endowment board acts and rules, as they are coming up, have no popular rationale or sentiment to support them – one wonders exactly where knowledge of the devotee interests is sought before taking steps to ‘remedy’ problems through an answer that no one had actually sought.

Coming to the question of a precedent, the judgment is certainly a precedent for it puts in place a starting point of a much needed discussion on how temple administration reform is to be sought in the first place. The so called remedy that the state was supposed to provide has failed to manifest itself, and so the next step needs to be taken forth. Options emerge and serve as models to discuss and deliberate upon, and must be taken up. Of course, there is something I always agree upon with the lawyer J Sai Deepak on the matter – since the state is so obsessed with managing temples for Hindus, it should declare India as a Hindu state. Otherwise, it is time for the state to actually become far more accountable, and give a voice to the devotees.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

India's Space Program - An Honest Analysis

GSLV MK3 (from ISRO)

Under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat reform package, one important step of the Narendra Modi government was the opening up of the Indian space sector to private participants beyond the half open door that was available till then. Several people were very happy, and rightly so – private sector participation has importance in propelling space research in several countries which have significantly developed space programs. However, what it indirectly did was also put a spotlight on the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in particular and the Indian space program in general, of which an honest, sobering analysis has been long overdue.

The Indian space program has been an evolution into itself, and has seen several important successes. However, it is also important to have a realistic assessment of where the program today stands compared to other nations in the game. The outlook of the space race is not just about the civilian aspect, but also includes military considerations today. However, this discussion will restrict itself to where the program stands vis-à-vis other nations. While some of this discussion may seem slightly jaded, it sheds light on several aspects where India truly lags behind adversaries, not to even name newly emerged players in the space.


Manned Missions – India Lags Behind China

India is planning to send its first manned mission, Gaganyaan in 2022. To that end, ISRO has also launched successfully the GSLV MK3 in 2014, a crew capsule that will be key to India’s manned mission. Vyommitra, the humanoid for this purpose, is also ready.

However, looking to our north, we see China far ahead on this, in fact having a major lead on even some other space powers like Japan. In 2003, China became the third nation after the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States to independently launch an astronaut into Earth's orbit. In 2008, China made its first spacewalk, and in 2012 it achieved its first manned space docking, an important step in the country's quest to launch a space station by around 2020[1].

Dependence on Foreign Technology for a Long Time

The Geostationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) launched successfully in 2001 was the first step toward independent capacity in the heavy launch sector. However, what is often ignored is that the GSLV used a Russian-built upper stage engine since ISRO had yet to develop its own cryogenic capability. It has taken a long time to reach to the point of independence, which happened by 2014[2].

The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), a follow-up to the GPS-assisted GAGAN system for civil aviation still does provide full global coverage, which is critical as it is also shared by the military and commercial sectors. The IRNSS is supposed to provide independent navigational support for India’s armed forces, especially in the context of expanding its maritime presence across the IOR. However, there is still distance to be tread.


Commercial Success – Devil is in the detail

Antrix is up against China’s Great Wall Industry Corporation (GWIC) in a battle for market share in the global space economy and outreach among developing nations.

Antrix has a comparative advantage over its rival in the lightweight launch services industry, but GWIC remains ahead in the heavier segment. Even as India’s low-cost launcher gives cost advantages, one should see the fine print. GWIC’s Long March 3B/E is more efficient in delivering satellites to LEO, and the launcher is primarily utilized for heavy geosynchronous orbit (GEO) launches. Until Antrix can field a more competitive heavy launcher, India’s commercial space launch industry will remain limited to catering to a less profitable segment of the market[3].


Technologically Behind China, America, Japan

Only in 2014 did India manage fully indigenous capacity on cryogenic booster technology. China, on the other hand, has utilized the Long March 3B/E, its heavy GEO launch vehicle, since the mid-1990s. Also, the GSLV MkIII is more efficient than China’s light GEO launcher, the Long March 3A, but it still can’t outcompete the Long March 3B/E. Furthermore, the upcoming Long March V could very well be cheaper than the GSLV MkIII once it becomes operational, posing a longer-term commercial threat to India’s heavy launch prospects[4].

Interestingly, India’s Mangalyaan was cheaper because its payload was minimal at 15 kg compared to the 65 kg of complex instrumentation that NASA’s Mars exploration program MAVEN carried[5]Speaking of rocket technology itself, five decades ago, Apollo 11 reached lunar orbit in just 51 hours and 49 minutes time, using a very powerful Saturn V rocket. In contrast, the Indian mission Chandrayaan took 48 days, clearly highlighting the lack of a suitable rocket.

Chandrayaan system was further found fault with, as experts have noted that it was not trained adequately to identify the fault and take corrective measures. This raised questions on the nature and quality of artificial intelligence (AI) involved in entire process of landing of the lander Vikram[6]Interestingly, Japan’s space program has seen as significant leap in recent times, with Japan’s Hayabusa becoming the first to return to Earth in 2010 after a seven-year, 6-billion kilometer journey with samples from an asteroid, and its asteroid missions are continuing with Hayabusa2[7].


Long Development Time Compared to Vietnam?

India and Vietnam both had a lot of official development assistance and foreign collaborations working with their space agencies. India’s space program had started off with U.S. and then moved to USSR/Russia for support. Similarly, Vietnam saw assistance from Japan and French agencies for its programs. Interestingly though, the Vietnamese program is now being put at par with India’s program. This considering the fact that Vietnam’s program started only in the 1980s. Till 2000, Vietnam had no space assets of its own! Rocket technology notwithstanding, that too may not remain a barrier for long, with committed programs to develop assets on this front as well[8].


Research Capabilities Leave Much to Desire

ISRO lags behind other space agencies in the patents it holds, a sign that it needs to ramp up technological prowess[9]Interestingly, of the 23 centres that come under its ambit, it was the Satellite Centres of Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram that have contributed most of the patents, which probably also reflects on the satellite building obsession of ISRO. This also begs the question in a slightly tangential direction - what are the various satellites contributing to Indian research, technology development, or even day to day navigation and communication capabilities? 

Table : Number of patents held by different agencies


DLR (Germany)

JAXA (Japan)

ISRO (India)




178 (270 as per ISRO site claims)


Was Mangalyaan a Vanity Project?

While criticism of the Mangalyaan in 2013 was shouted down on grounds of discrimination, professional jealousy and privilege issues, genuine questions on the objectives behind the program remain[10].

Mangalyaan’s orbiter was meant to beam back data that is already available. Or at best, data with a sub-standard value. Critics have argued that the Mangalyaan project was hastily put together, and instead of the rush, efforts to increase the value associated with the project should have been pursued. More payload, better instruments, collaboration with other agencies could have been pursued, instead of taking up a ‘vanity project’.


With a picture that actually looks quite underwhelming, it is important to qualify that rather than calling it a criticism, this is an analysis only because there are very high expectations from ISRO having set a certain benchmark of performance and quality. With the private sector now entering into a collaborative partnership with ISRO, the synergies otherwise absent due to excessive bureaucracy and red tapism par for the course for any government organization can be overcome. Moreover, the space which already attracts several high tech engineering minds from within India can find opportunities to pursue their aspirations and can stem to an extent the brain drain from India.

[1] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Asian Space Race Accelerates November 06, 2013 By Charles Recknagel

[2] Benjamin T Smart, Asian State Responses to China’s Space Power Strategy, Naval Postgraduate School Master’s Thesis June 2019


[3] Benjamin T Smart, Asian State Responses to China’s Space Power Strategy, Naval Postgraduate School Master’s Thesis June 2019

[4] Benjamin T Smart, Asian State Responses to China’s Space Power Strategy, Naval Postgraduate School Master’s Thesis June 2019

[5] Latha Jishnu, Indian patents make no dent in space, Down to Earth 30 October 2016


[6] Ajay Lele, Chandrayaan 2’s Moon illusion Monday, The Space Review, September 16, 2019


[8] Nandini Sarma, “Southeast Asian Space Programmes: Capabilities, Challenges and Collaborations”, ORF Special Report No. 82, March 2019, Observer Research Foundation.

[9] Latha Jishnu, Indian patents make no dent in space, Down to Earth 30 October 2016


[10] Chandru The Real Problem with India’s Mission to Mars Is Not Poverty, You Idiots. Medium 10 November 2013

What Vinay Sitapati Has Missed Out –The BJP-RSS’ View of India As seen in Fictional Writings by Deendayal Upadhyaya

  There has been a lot of discussion about Vinay Sitapati’s book on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the pre-Modi era, especially the Ju...