“Saffron Wave” a book by Thomas Hansen & its review by Koenraad Elst

By: Koenraad Elst

[This book review was written just after the book’s publication in 2002.]

Though milder in tone, the latest academic book on Hindu revivalism suffers from the same shortcomings as most others. Ever since Craig Baxter’s fairly objective and well-documented book The Jana Sangha, already thirty years old, and Walter Andersen and Shridhar Damle’s Brotherhood in Saffron, already twelve years old, all the Western Hindutva watchers have chosen to rely on partisan secondary accounts, and to watch Hindutva through the coloured glasses which the so-called secularists have put on their noses.

The book The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (Princeton) by Professor Thomas Blom Hansen from Roskilde, Denmark, is no exception. Since the book has already been praised as “brilliant” by Prof. Peter Van Der Veer, I may concentrate on its less brilliant aspects. As usual, most quotations are from secondary and generally hostile sources: Bipan Chandra, K.N. Panikkar, Partha Chatterjee, Christophe Jaffrelot, Asghar Ali Engineer (a hard-boiled Islamist whom Hansen and others naively mistake for an enlightened Muslim), Sudhir Kakar, Gyan Pandey.

In the bibliography, we find Savarkar’s Hindutva, mercifully, but none of his statements from his time as Hindu Mahasabha leader; only one title by Balraj Madhok, none by Girilal Jain or Arun Shourie; nor we do not find Ram Swarup or Sita Ram Goel mentioned there. On the Ayodhya controversy, most of the publications presenting the temple evidence (Harsh Narain, R. Nath, S.R. Goel) are left unmentioned, while the official VHP evidence bundle is mentioned but was clearly left unread.

Hansen’s entire information on the Ayodhya debate is confined to anti-Hindu sources, esp. S. Gopal’s Penguin bookletAnatomy of a Confrontation (1991), which had already succeeded in keeping all serious presentations of the temple evidence out of view. That is how he can write the following howler: “In all cases this evidence has been refuted and contested by most of the serious authorities of archaeology and medieval Indian history.” (p.262) If that is so, Prof. Hansen, I challenge you to a public debate on the Ayodhya evidence. Let’s make it an open-book exam: you may bring all the arguments provided by S. Gopal and his comrades — but you may find upon closer reading that far from refuting the pro-temple evidence, they have adroitly left most of it undiscussed. And like his sources, Hansen keeps the relevant context of the Ayodhya affair, viz. the history and underlying theology of Islamic iconoclasm, out of view.

By relying on a partisan selection of secondary sources, Hansen, whose good faith we will continue to assume, is led by the nose by one of the warring parties into relaying its own version of the facts, all while believing that he is giving a neutral observer’s account of the conflict between Hindu revivalism and the Marxist-Muslim combine. In a footnote, Hansen describes the present writer as “a Belgian Catholic of a radical anti-Muslim persuasion who tries to make himself useful as a ‘fellow traveller’ of the Hindu nationalist movement”. (p.262) I strongly deny having ever been “anti-Muslim”, for I make it a point to frequently insist that “not Muslims but Islam is the problem”. However, I do readily admit to being a “fellow-traveller” of Dharmic civilization in its struggle for survival against the ongoing aggression and subversion by well-organized hostile ideologies. Only, I must add that in Hindutva-watching publications of the past decade, I have never encountered any journalistic or academic “expert” who was not a fellow-traveller of one of the warring parties. Hansen himself makes no secret of his partisanship, as when he describes the BJP as “evil” (p.235) and as “swadeshi fascism” (p.235), though he subjectively tries to be fair by mitigating this denunciation with the rightful comment that both secularity and democracy have not been well served by the Congress establishment either. His partisan and prejudiced attitude leads him to ignore or misinterpret important trends within the Hindutva movement. Thus, he dismisses the inclusion of some Muslims in the Vajpayee cabinet as follows: “Like all other measures taken by the BJP in this regard, these were also symbolic gestures devoid of any content or seriousness.” (p.267) Would you allow such a clearly partisan sentence in a thesis about any other movement (say, Indian secularism) by your own students, Prof. Hansen? At any rate, the dismissal is mistaken. From the inclusion of a green strip in the BJP flag (1980) onwards, the BJP has always consistently courted the Muslim community, so that it now has thousands of Muslim members, who even have their own “minority cell”. Even before that, the Hindu nationalists in the Janata government were party to a number of pro-Muslim steps, including the creation of the intrinsically communal and anti-Hindu “Minorities Commission”. Dattopant Thengadi and others have told me how the shared time in jail with Jamaat-i-Islami activists during the secularist Emergency dictatorship had kindled sympathy for the Muslims. However that may be, in the 1990s, there is just no denying the RSS-BJP tendency to what they themselves used to denounce as “Muslim appeasement”. Even in the Ayodhya campaign, from which Hansen chooses to remember only the hard-line rhetoric of a Sadhvi Ritambhara, the emphasis was again and again on Rama as a “national” (as opposed to “Hindu”) hero, and on Babar as a “foreign invader” (as opposed to “Islamic iconoclast”), who had been fought “by Indian Muslims and Hindus jointly”. Anyone familiar with non-Sangh Hindu activism should have noted the criticism of the Sangh’s pro-Muslim line, e.g. in Abhas Chatterjee’s bookConcept of Hindu Nation (1995, not in Hansen’s bibliography). One of the more disturbing and sterile approaches which Hansen has borrowed from his secularist sources, is the tendency to psychologize, and to bury hard facts under a cloud of psychobabble: “construct”, “identities built around a threatening other”, “domesticating public spaces”, “myth of Hindu effeminacy”.

To Hansen, the Hindu perception of Islam is unconnected with any historical facts about Islam, it’s all self-generated psychic images whose only basis in reality is non-religious sociological phenomena such as the “inferiority complex” of the “vernacular middle class” vis-à-vis the Anglo-secularist “mandarins” (p.181). Facts about Islam are mostly kept out of view, otherwise ridiculed (Kashmiri “insurgency”, p.168; “Bangladeshi infiltration”, p.199) or dismissed as “myth”, e.g. that Muslims have “many wives and secret links to rich Arabs” (p.211), or (repeatedly) that Muslims oppose birth control.

It is a straight fact that the Muslim birth rate is much higher, that they participate much less in India’s effort at birth control, and that this is also the intention of Islamic leaders, expressed clearly in a number of pamphlets and firmly based on Islamic scripture (vide K. Elst: The Demographic Siege, 1998 [and for a far more thorough and up-to-date account: A.P. Joshi, M.D. Srinivas and J.K. Bajaj: Religious Demography of India, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai 2003]). Time and again, in order to explain a community’s assertiveness, Hansen relies on the voguish term “the other”, which carries unspoken Auschwitz connotations (it was popularized by the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas in his reflections on the Holocaust), and he makes those connotations explicit, e.g. “The community is weak, sinful and unfulfilled. The only way to remedy this is by destroying the other, whose very presence (as threat qua temptation and fascination) weakens and prevents the inherent discipline, strength and manliness in the community from blossoming.” (p.211) What an impressive string of words, only a pity that its relevance to Hindu nationalism is non-existent. There is no Hindu plan for “destroying the other”. The Islam problem in India has nothing to do with Muslims being a resident “other” who undermines the Hindu morale, a calque on the Nazi perception of the Jews as agents of immorality corrupting the German people, for unlike the well-integrated (and consequently influential) Jews of Germany, the Muslims are a highly separate community whose chief crime is not the influence they might have on Hindu society, but the direct threat which their doctrinal hatred of god-pluralism poses to Hinduism, especially through the medium of violence against both symbols and followers of the Hindu religion. “Otherness” discourse is totally unable to throw any light on the Hindu perception of Islam, for Hindus have proven during long millennia that they have no problem with “others”, as when they provided asylum to refugee Syrian Christians, Jews and Parsis. By contrast, Hindu feelings about Islam are comprehensively explained by their experience of Islam in action, as during the Partition (I may have missed something, but I don’t recall Hansen seconding the common secularist dismissal of Muslim guilt for Partition as yet another “myth”) or the East Bengal genocide of 1971. Eye-sore buildings like the Babri Masjid (until 1992) or the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi stand as permanent testimony to Islamic hatred of Hindu god-pluralism. Also, the usual implication that an “other” is set up as a bogey to concentrate a community’s attention and thereby strengthen its unity, does not apply. All the factors of the communal conflict, far from being the creation of Hindutva strategists, were in place from the day the first Islamic invader set foot in India. Contrary to the secularist claim that “Hinduism” and “the Hindu community” are recent inventions, the Islamic invaders united all non-monotheistic Indians under the new label “Hindu”, meaning any Indian unbelievers, they showed their deep awareness of their own Muslim identity, and they proved through word and deed the essential and inescapable antagonism between Islamic and Hindu identities. All the primary sources, the medieval Persian writings of Muslim conquerors and their court chroniclers, prove that Hindu-Muslim antagonism was not generated by colonial machinations or post-colonial mobilization in an effort to “domesticate public spaces”. This conflict was unilaterally imposed on the Hindus by Muslims. The immunization of Hindutva-watchers against factual discourse on Islam is so thorough that in some cases, factual statements by Hindus about Islam are not even criticized, as if their mere quotation will suffice to evoke scorn and laughter for so much evil nonsense, e.g. RSS weekly Organiser’s entirely correct view that “the supreme Islamic mission is to convert the Hindus, one and all” (p.179), or Sadhvi Ritambhara’s accurate statement that “the Quran teaches them to lie in wait for idol worshipers, to skin them alive” etc. (p.180). Well, the Quran does say that, and it does say that the war against the infidels is on until the whole world is Islamic, which implies the conversion (or death) of even the last Hindu. Likewise, no discussion is opened against the denunciation of the “secular intellectuals” as “alienated pseudo-secularists full of contempt for the true Hindu culture” (p.181), though the concept “pseudo-secular” is central to the whole controversy, and proves to be entirely valid when you consider that those “secularists” defend all kinds of religious discrimination, e.g. religion-based civil codes, against the genuinely and quintessentially secular system of equality of all citizens before the law regardless of their religion. Hansen’s book is full of interesting information about Hindutva campaigning in the 1990s, but conceptually it is quite superficial.

Some minor remarks to conclude. The book contains some of the familiar tricks known from the M.J. Akbar school of Hindutva-smearing, e.g. just as Akbar once cleverly described Veer Savarkar as “a co-accused in the Mahatma murder trial” without mentioning that Savarkar was fully acquitted and not even indicted again in the appeals trial, we find Prof. Hansen casting suspicion on L.K. Advani by describing him as “indicted in a massive corruption scandal in 1996” (p.266) without mentioning that the investigation cleared him completely of the charges (which were minor, the “massive” scandal mainly pertaining to dozens of Congress secularists, as Hansen fails to explain). There are also minor mistakes, sometimes clearly printing errors (Rajendra Singh becoming sarsanghchalak in “1944” instead of 1994, p.182), sometimes indicators of limited familiarity with Hinduism (“Ramahandi” for Ramanandi, 3x, p.262).

But many Hindu nationalists will be glad to read Prof. Hansen’s acknowledgment of the diplomatic success achieved with India’s nuclear tests, which have “forced western media and decision makers to recognize India as a major power”. (p.266) You may quote that whenever Frontline alleges that BJP rule in 1998-99 was a foreign policy disaster.e

This review is over and now let us learn the credentials of the author of this book (Saffron Wave) and, then, learn astonishingly know that a person no less than the celebrated industrialist Ambanis of India are financing this author. An industrialist before investing his money always does a “due diligence exercise” but here in this case Ambanis have done none.

(The following is taken from a newsletter for SASNET, Swedish South Asian Network, which featured two following programs. This is an example of generating ‘atrocity literature’ on India.  Of course, it was followed by a general ‘feel good’ event by the Embassy of India. SASNET Swedish South Asian Studies Network. Thomas Blom Hansen holds SASNET lecture on how communal conflicts transform Indian cities. This is the information available on the Professor through a link on SASNET’s page).


Habilitation Degree, Roskilde Univleersity 

Thomas Hansen is the Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor in South Asian Studies and Professor in Anthropology. He is also the Director of Stanford’s Center for South Asia where he is charged with building a substantial new program. He has many and broad interests spanning South Asia and Southern Africa, several cities and multiple theoretical and disciplinary interests from political theory and continental philosophy to psychoanalysis, comparative religion and contemporary urbanism.

Much of Professor Hansen’s fieldwork was done during the tumultuous and tense years in the beginning of the 1990s when conflicts between Hindu militants and Muslims defined national agendas and produced frequent violent clashes in the streets. Out of this work came two books: The Saffron Wave. Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (Princeton 1999) which explores the larger phenomenon of Hindu nationalism in the light of the dynamics of India’s democratic experience, and Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay(Princeton 2001) which explores the historical processes and contemporary conflicts that led to the rise of violent socioreligious conflict and the renaming of the city in 1995.

During the last decade, Professor Hansen has pursued a detailed study of religious revival, racial conflict and transformation of domestic and intimate life from the 1950’s to the present in a formerly Indian township in Durban, South Africa. This round of work has now resulted in a book entitled Melancholia of Freedom: Anxiety, Race and Everyday Life in a South African Township (Princeton University Press, 2012). In addition to these ethnographic engagements, Professor Hansen has pursued a number of theoretical interests in the anthropology of the state, sovereignty, violence and urban life. This has resulted in a range of co-edited volumes, and special issues of journals such as Critique of Anthropology and African Studies. He is currently working on a collection of theoretical and ethnographic essays provisionally entitled Public Passions and Modern Convictions.

Thomas Blom Hansen, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for South Asia at Stanford University in USA, holds a SASNET lecture at Lund University on Monday 27 April 2015, 13.15 – 15.00. He will talk about ”Vernacular Urbanism: Community, Capital and Urban Space in Middle India”. Venue: Lecture Hall Eden at the Department of Political Science.

In his presentation, Prof. Blom Hansen describes how, in the 1970s and 80s, the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra was a by-word for bitter and violent conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. In the late 1980s, Shiv Sena won political control over the city, a dominance the party has retained ever since. During the same period, the city almost tripled its size and became a major center for manufacturing and tourism and home to a powerful new elite. Based on fieldwork in 1991 and again in 2012, he  explores how the  violent street battles in the city along communal/religious lines over the past decades have been transformed into “infrastructural violence”: heavy handed demolition of Muslim owned properties, and markets; renaming of public spaces and re-framing the city’s history; the emergence of networks of private enterprises and public institutions sharply divided along community lines. Aurangabad share many features with other large provincial cities in India. Its combination of rapid growth and a dominant Hindu nationalist presence in politics and public life may indicate and illustrate what  “urban middle India” will look like in the near future. Read more… http://www.sasnet.lu.se/sasnet/sasnet-seminar-how-communal-conflicts-transformed-aurangabad

Aarhus seminar on Violent Conjuntures in Democratic India

The Contemporary India Study Centre Aarhus (CISCA) at Aarhus University, Denmark, organises a Guest Lecture by Amrita Basu, Paino Professor of Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies at Amherst College, USA, on Thursday 30 April 2015, at 14.00. She will talk about ”Violent Conjuntures in Democratic India”, a presentation based on her book by the same title recently published. It is a discussion of when and why Hindu nationalists have engaged in discrimination and violence against minorities in contemporary India. She asks why the incidence and severity of violence differs significantly across Indian states, within states, and through time. She calls for a broader understanding of social movements and greater appreciation of party-movement relations. All student and staff welcome. Venue: Building 1342-455 (Juridisk Auditorium), University of Aarhus. More information. http://www.sasnet.lu.se/content/aarhus-seminar-violent-conjuntures-democratic-india

How ‘Breaking India Forces’ used Nobel Winner Kailash Satyarth’s naivety!

 By: (Name withheld for privacy reasons)

I have been researching and  compiling various reports on how ‘Breaking Indian Forces’ via their lobbyists used Mr. Kailash Satyarthi over the years. A few days ago, I came across an article on Child Labor posted on Harvard Business Review (HBR.org) by Prof. Vijay Govindrajan- Coxe Distinguished Professor at Tuck School at Dartmouth and Marvin Bower Fellow at Harvard Business School. (see article link below).
I sent a personal email to Prof. Govindrajan  that included all the complied reports and their sources pointing  out the ‘not-so-noble’ side of Mr. Kailash Satyarti’s activism.
Various former and current journalists have written on this ‘other side’ of Mr. Satyarthi’s activism where he played in the lobbyists hands for a long time. Senior Journalist of the Daily Pioneer Mr. Amitabh Shukla, Contributor at Forbes, Ms. Megha Bahree,  Entrepreneur Sankrant Sanu, Former Reporter at Indian Express Mr. Syed Liaquat Ali and many others, all point out the not-so-noble side of Mr. Kailash Satyarti’s Journey to Nobel Prize.
Prof. Govindrajan did not reply to my personal email but responded to my comments I posted  on HBR website.
Link to his article and comments underneath it:
My compilation of various reports and evidences on Mr. Satyarthi that I shared with Prof. Govindrajan:

How ‘Breaking India Forces’ used Nobel Winner Kailash Satyarth’s naivety.

Child labor is a worldwide problem and specially in under-developed and developing countries like India, vicious-cycle of inter-generational family poverty pushes Children into Child labor at an early age when they should be playing with their friends and attending schools.

Mr. Kailash Satyarthi must have done some good in his life and may have helped some children stuck in child labor due to vicious cycle of poverty in family.

But which were the ‘Breaking India Forces’ that supported Mr. Satyarthi’s activism and his road to Nobel Peace Prize?

Let’s look at Mr. Kailash Satyarthi’s journey to Nobel Peace Prize:

1. Please review this article exposing Satyarthi written by Amitabh Shukla, a Senior Editor The Pioneer with input from former Indian Express reporter Syed Liaquat Ali.
Link to this article :

2. Please review this article exposing Satyarthi written on Forbes by Journalist Megha Bahari, titiled, ” My Experience With Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan Was Anything But Nobel-Worthy”.
Link to this news article:

3. Kailash Satyarthi and his connections with Christian Missionaries:
Link to this investigative report:

4. This report from Satyarthi’s own website shows how a Christian Conversion Front used and reached out to poor children in 33 villages. First as well as last Goal of World Vision is Conversion.
Link to report. See page # 14.

5. This report titled ” Records of Kailash Satyarthi’s trust missing: Court informed”. Vital records of a charitable trust, which along with one of its trustees Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi and some others is embroiled in a suit relating to alleged misappropriation of funds by Kailash Satyarthi and his wife, have gone missing, a Delhi court has been informed. Link to news:

6. Churches work in India to achieve their “Soul Harvesting Goals”. Church’s help to poor families and their children is always conditional, ‘convert of Christianity and help is available’. Mr. Kailash Satyarthi’s NGO was an active participant with Church folks of World Vision for a long time. Many empirical research are available. (see World Vision-BBA report link below).

7. Mr. Satyarthi’s journey of working with Western Governments goes way back. He has been working with Western Politicians, Christian NGOs for almost 3 decades now.

8. In 1995, Kailash Satyarthi got Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

9. A year later, in 1996, Kailash Satyarthi took his then 10 year old daughter Miss Asmita Satyarthi as a Witness and to testify against India before USA Congressional hearing on child labor. US Government uses Witness of Congressional hearing and their testimonies for economic sanctions against developing countries like India.

10. This Congressional hearing was chaired by Congressman Joeseph Kennedy.

11. Joeseph Kennedy’s sister Kerry Kennedy was the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights which awarded Kailash Satyarthi in the previous year- 1995.

12. Many Senators including the very influential Tom Harkin, and others in the US and West in general, have closely worked with not only Kailash Satyarthi but his daughter Asmita as well.

Once you read and analyze and contemplate all this info, dots will connect…….. (to make a sense!)
Twitlonger link where above sources are posted:

Ms. Wendy Doniger versus Ali Sheikh: Duel on “The Hindus – An Alternative History”

Ms. Wendy Doniger penned a book “The Hindus – An Alternative History” and there was a great uproar in India about this author’s treatment of Hindus in her alleged alternative history of these people. Provocatively suggestive title of the book gave an impression that the traditional history of Hindus was a lie and Ms. Doniger belabored herself to correct this mistake by a serious research.

Of course, the book was critical of the traditional history and it made the blood boil in India over her claims. It was but natural that the intellectual world was on her side to defend her rights. It is justified that one should support her right of opinion. But if it turns out on deeper study of the book that it is not an opinion (since she is not so naive or intellectually dumb!) but an ill motivated intentional twisting of the history of a people, then what would one make of her claim and her right of expression?

Shri Ali Sheikh has read her book and gone into the merits of its contents in depth. He has posted his review of the book (Link). Ms. Wendy Doniger has been exposed by Ali Sheikh of her claims and intentions. Here is this review:

Banned in Bangalore, the New York Times op-ed said. Why ban a book, no matter how offensive, the literati fumed. No one can truly ban a book in the Internet age, friends pointed out. Naturally, I bought a copy—and more to the point, read the book.

Before we proceed, let me say that I do not support banning any book (or even legally requiring a book to be withdrawn from circulation, as was the case with this book in India). But I do hold that every banned book isn’t necessarily a well-written, scholarly work. Indeed, a ban of any kind instantly confers an aura of hyper-legitimacy on the banned work, regardless of its intrinsic merit, and I believe that’s what happened with Ms. Doniger’s book. I contend that her book is biased and sloppy, and that’s what this review is all about.

Let’s start with the big picture. A well-written alternative history of anything, let alone Hinduism, generally has the effect of making the reader pause and think twice about what he may have held all along as the truth. From someone of Ms. Doniger’s stature, I was hoping to hear a serious insight or two that would make me go, “Gosh, I’ve known that story all my life, but why didn’t I look at things that way before?”

So, what major insights does the book offer? According to the author, the main aspects are diversity and pluralism in Hindu thought, treatment of women and lower castes, the erotic side of Hinduism, and the many tensions and conflicts within Hinduism.

That’s where my disappointment started—those are not major insights, nor do they add up to an alternative history. Let’s go item by item. Diversity and Pluralism? Caste system? Anyone with a passing interest in India knows about it. Treatment of women? I am not trying to minimize the importance of women, but what’s new here? Were the other ancient cultures any better? Conflict and tension within? Hardly surprising for a country of a billion people. Eroticism in ancient India? Oh please, who hasn’t heard of that? Yes, yes, Ms. Doniger adds a ton of detail, but my point is that things don’t become groundbreaking by adding detail. It’s as if someone wrote a very detailed book about the Mississippi river and Southern cuisine and called it “The Americans: An Alternative History.”

All the detail opens up an even bigger disappointment. It appears that Ms. Doniger frequently cherry-picked the facts to suit her views, and on occasion, even twisted them to suit her narrative. I realize these are harsh accusations and the burden of proof lies on me, so please allow me to present enough examples to make my case (within the space limitations of an opinion piece).

Let’s begin with the epic Ramayana, with the king Dasharatha and his three wives. The youngest, the beautiful Kaikeyi, assists the king in a hard-fought battle. In return, the king grants her two wishes, to be claimed at any time of her choosing. Many years later, when the king is about to retire and Rama, his son from the eldest wife, is about to be crowned, Kaikeyi claims her two wishes: that her son Bharata be named king, and Rama be exiled to the forest for fourteen years. The king is torn between his promise to Kaikeyi and his obligation to name the eldest son as the next king, as convention dictated. When Rama hears of the king’s predicament, he abdicates his claim to the throne and leaves the city. This is a defining moment for Rama—the young man respects the king’s word (i.e., the law) enough to renounce his own claim to the throne and loves his father so much that he spares him the pain of having to enact the banishment. Indeed, this point in Rama’s life even foretells the rest of the story—that the young man would, in the years to come, make even bigger personal sacrifices for the sake of his ideals.

That’s the mainstream narrative. Let’s hear Ms. Doniger’s alternative narrative, in her own words. “The youngest queen, Kaikeyi, uses sexual blackmail (among other things) to force Dasharatha to put her son, Bharata, on the throne instead and send Rama into exile.”

Now, was Kaikeyi beautiful? Yes. Was the king deeply enamored with her? Yes. Did Kaikeyi lock herself in a room and create a scene? Absolutely. Was the king called a fool and other names by his own sons? You bet. But there is far more to Rama’s exile than sexual blackmail. Ms. Doniger covers this topic in excellent detail (page 223 onwards), but it’s interesting that she doesn’t bring up the king’s longstanding promise. Before we draw conclusions, let’s move on to a different story from the same epic.

Ms. Doniger retells the story of the ogre Shurpanakha, who approaches Rama and professes her love for him. Rama tells her he is a married man and mocks her. In the end, Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana mutilates the ogre. To Ms. Doniger, this data point (to be fair, not the only data point) indicates Rama’s cruelty toward women. Ms. Doniger then contrasts this story with one from the Mahabharata, where an ogre named Hidimbi professes her love for Bheema and is accepted as his wife—again underscoring the author’s point about Rama’s cruelty. All of this might sound reasonable at first glance, but let’s look closer.

This is how the story goes in the epic. Shurpanakha approaches Rama when he is sitting next to his wife, Sita. When Rama mocks her, the ogre gets angry and charges at Sita. Rama holds the ogre back to save Sita and then orders his younger brother to mutilate the ogre. Rama even says, “That ogre almost killed Sita.” One would think these details are pertinent to the discussion, but strangely enough, Ms. Doniger doesn’t bring them up. Also, Rama was a committed monogamist, whereas Bheema was (at that point in the story) a single man. Aren’t we comparing apples to oranges here? Isn’t this just the kind of nuance one would expect a researcher to pick up?

To be fair to Ms. Doniger, there are many versions of the Ramayana (and sadly enough, some scholars have received a lot of undeserved flak for pointing this out). So, is it possible that she and I were reading different renditions of the same epic? I checked. Turns out we both got our details from the Valmiki Ramayana (also known as the original Sanskrit version). What’s going on here?

Normally, one would expect an alternative narrative to add nuance—as if to say, “There is more to the story than what you lay people know.” But Ms. Doniger manages to do the opposite—she takes a nuanced, compelling moment in the epic and reduces it to sexual blackmail or cruelty or sexual urges, whatever her current talking point is. Speaking of sexual urges, indeed there are no sex scenes in her book. But it can justifiably be called a veritable catalog of all the phalluses and vaginas that ever existed in ancient India, and there is no dearth of detail in Doniger’s book when it comes to private parts. She even cares to tell you whether any given phallus is erect or flaccid. Details, people!

But enough about men and women. Let’s move on to animals. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna burns up a large forest and many creatures die; the epic even describes the animals’ pain at some length. Somehow, Ms. Doniger finds this worthy of filing under the “Violence toward Animals” section. Was Arjuna supposed to first clear the forest of all the wild animals and only then set the forest on fire? Is that how other cultures cleared forests so they could grow crops and build cities? Has it occurred to Ms. Doniger the very fact that the narrator of the epic bothered to describe the animals’ pain (instead of just saying “Arjuna burned the forest”) indicates some sympathy toward animals in those times? Then the professor brings up—and this is a recurring talking point under the cruelty section—the line from Mahabharata that says, “fish eat fish.” Ms. Doniger calls it “Manu’s terror of piscine anarchy.” Oh, the humanity!

Yet there is no mention of what Bheeshma says in the Mahabharata (Book 13), over pages and pages of discourse, on the virtues of vegetarianism and kindness toward all animal life. Bheeshma calls “abstention from cruelty” the highest religion, highest form of self-control, highest gift, highest penance and puissance, highest friend, highest happiness and the highest form of truth. One would think this passage merits a mention when discussing cruelty towards animals in the Mahabharata, but it doesn’t get one.

Ms. Doniger uses the phrase “working with available light” when describing how she had approached her subject matter, which is very true when working with a complex topic such as Hinduism. But the problem is, she then proceeds to turn off many lights in the house and use a microscope to detail the bits she cares to see. She is of course free to do what she likes, but can someone please explain to me why the end result from such an approach qualifies as an “alternative” map of my home?

Still on the topic of animals, let’s discuss dogs, a subject Ms. Doniger covers in great detail. Even lay readers of the Mahabharata remember that in the end, Yudhishtira declined his chance to go to heaven unless the stray dog that had been loyal to him was also allowed in, and many Mahabharata enthusiasts may recall a different dog at the beginning that was unjustly beaten up. Ms. Doniger’s book mentions many other dogs as well, and for good measure, she even shares a weird story from contemporary India, 150 words long, quoted verbatim from an Indian newspaper, about a man marrying a dog.

What about Krishna’s words in the Bhagavad Gita, where he says wise people cast the same gaze on a learned Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and someone who might cook a dog? Ms. Doniger does mention those lines, but with an interesting twist. She prefaces those 24 words with “though” and reverts to her chosen narrative without even waiting for that thought to finish: “though the Gita insists that wise people cast the same gaze on a learned Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, or a dog cooker, the Mahabharata generally upholds the basic prejudice against dogs.” Has it occurred to Ms. Doniger that, while men were beating up dogs, God was professing a kinder, more egalitarian approach? The whole man vs. God angle escapes her, and in the end we are left with a world where “man marries dog” gets 150 words and God’s words of compassion are limited to 24, topped with a though.

Ms. Doniger calls her book “a history, not the history, of the Hindus,” which is, of course, fine. Further, I do not hold the mainstream narrative to be beyond reproach, nor do I expect an alternative narrative to merely confirm the status quo. Alternative histories do very frequently upset the balance, and, frankly, that’s how progress is made. But my problem here is that Ms. Doniger seems to think the mainstream narrative is ipso facto a biased one, and that her alternative narrative is more compelling, never mind the facts and the counterevidence. She draws the graph first and then looks for data points. That’s a very interesting trend you’ve spotted there, Ms. Doniger, but what about all those big, ugly blots of truth that don’t fit your graph?

So much for stories from ancient India. For the benefit of any kind souls from the Western world who have been patiently reading through all this, let me throw in an example from relatively recent times that involves America. No doubt you’ve heard what the physicist Robert Oppenheimer said while reflecting on the first nuclear blast he had helped spawn. He quoted a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Why would he quote Gita? The simplest explanation I can think of is that Oppenheimer was a well-read man, and he felt the passage was appropriate when describing the unprecedented firepower he had just witnessed. It’s not much different from Carl Sagan’s quoting Mahapurana in his book Cosmos, one would think. But no, there is more to it. Ms. Doniger’s take:

“Perhaps Oppenheimer’s inability to face his own shock and guilt directly, the full realization and acknowledgment of what he had helped create, led him to distance the experience by viewing it in terms of someone else’s myth of doomsday, as if to say: ‘This is some weird Hindu sort of doomsday, nothing we Judeo-Christian types ever imagined.’ He switched to Hinduism when he saw how awful the bomb was and that it was going to be used on the Japanese, not on the Nazis, as had been intended. Perhaps he moved subconsciously to Orientalism when he realized that it was “Orientals” (Japanese) who were going to suffer.”

There you have it. Weird Hindu doomsdays. Sex-crazed kings. Cruel gods. Men marrying dogs. Phalluses everywhere—some erect and some flaccid. Ladies and gentlemen, we finally have an alternative history of Hinduism. And yes, left uncontested, in all likelihood these are the “insights” a whole new generation of students and researchers might learn, internalize, and cite in future scholarly works.

So much for an alternative history. Now, how about some mundane, regular history stuff? Let’s go back to the Mahabharata, an epic that Ms. Doniger brings up dozens of times in her book (she even calls the Mahabharata “100 times more interesting” than the Iliad and the Odyssey). Let’s ask two questions: When did the main events of Mahabharata occur? And exactly how long is the epic?

Ms. Doniger mentions the years as: between 1000 BCE and 400 BCE, most likely 950 BCE, or around 3012 BCE, or maybe 1400 BCE. That narrows down the chronology quite a bit, doesn’t it? Really, there is more to writing history (particularly the alternative kind) than looking up the reference books and throwing in all the numbers one could find. But in Ms. Doniger’s defense, she is not a historian per se (and she clearly tells us so), so let’s let this one slide by. I’d even say she does deserve some credit here for at least bothering to look up things. On the next topic, she fails to do even that.

Ms. Doniger says the Mahabharata is about 75,000 verses long. Then she helpfully adds, “sometimes said to be a hundred thousand, perhaps just to round it off a bit.” My goodness, 25,000 verses is some rounding error, don’t you think? Most sources put it between 75,000 and 125,000. It took me all of two hours to find a very detailed account (not on the Internet though), compiled in the 11th century, putting the total at 100,500—and I’m not a researcher, not by a long shot. And yes, the exact number of verses is secondary to the big picture. What bothers me is the offhandedness with which Ms. Doniger brushes off 25,000 verses as a rounding issue. Why this half-baked research?

Oh well, maybe we expected too much from the bestselling book on Hinduism and it’s our fault. So, let’s try again, one last time. Where is India located?

Ms. Doniger states, very clearly, without any ambiguity, on page 11 (footnote): “Most of India… is in the Northern Hemisphere.”

I think I’ll stop here.

Please Prime Minister: Sack or tame TRAI’s official(s) to save internet-freedom


Hon’ble Prime Minister of India

We wish to bring to your notice the following urgent matter relating to TRAI, which is a sinister move on the part of this Authority against the interests of general public, and request you to ensure that this Authority is not allowed to go ahead with its moves.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is a worried institution today over the fact that the international telecommunication corporations like Skype, Viber, YouTube, Microsoft, DailyMotion etc. are providing to their Indian customers free (Voice-over-Internet-Protocol) services like video conferences, telephony, videos, films, e-mail, news etc. around the globe over the Internet Data Packages (IDP) purchased by these Indian customers from their Indian Internet Service Providers (ISPs). As the Indian telecommunication companies charge money for providing these Voice-over-Internet-Protocol services, Indian customers have turned their allegiance from these Indian companies to the international telecommunication corporations offering free services. TRAI is a worried institution because on account of this shifting of allegiance these Indian companies are losing heavy revenue.

TRAI has a statutory mandate to regulate the telecommunication industries to serve the interests of Indian public. The law under which TRAI is constituted does not countenance that it serve the interests of these industries as opposed to those of the public.

The question is: How to save these Indian telecommunication industries from their death in the face of the current onslaught by the giant international telecommunication corporations? Also, the question is: How to serve the interests of Indian public? Plainly, there is a conflict of interests between the Indian industries and the Indian public. Can there be a framework to resolve this conflict or some guideline to be followed by TRAI in resolving this issue?

But before attempting to answer these questions, let us first analyze the impact of the suggestions made by TRAI in its working paper to resolve this problem. These suggestions are available here (http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReaddata/ConsultationPaper/Document/OTT-CP-27032015.pdf). They are couched in a cumbersome language with factors brought in that have no relevance to the economic wisdom followed by the rising India today. Please go through them. There are 20 questions posed by TRAI to stake-holders and answers of them are sought to be sent to it by 14th of April, 2015. Internet has empowered people by giving them the power to express and bring a democratic change. It has made them free of the corporate media, print and electronic both, in the real sense. The Indian public is the greatest stake-holders in deciding the future of internet and TRAI cannot be allowed to rough-shod them.

The suggestion being put forward is that the data should be priced according to the kind of use it is put to by its consumer. Though the “internet data” is one “single kind” of electronic stream of digits 0 and 1, it can be used to send many kinds of information (video, text, images, audio etc.), depending upon the state of development of technology. It is just like the petrol can be used to propel car or scooter or plane or water pump; like a potato can be used to make uncle-chips or pakora or samosa or vegetable or finger-chips; like a bucket of water can be used to quench the thirst or to bath or to wash cloths or to wash a car or to make a glass of sharbat. The suggestion of TRAI is that the price of the petrol, potato, water etc. should be fixed according to the use a consumer puts it to. It is the highest degree of non-sense; it is protectionism of the inferior; it is killing the innovation. Our country has adopted a “Mantra” – a philosophy – to achieve its economic development: “Either perform or perish”. Here, there is no place for incompetence. Why can’t you – Indian companies – offer FREE services to consumers in video, audio, text etc. when others like Skype, Viber, Microsoft are providing the same? Perform or perish! To be honest, let you, sir the Prime Minister of India, make this loud and clear to these Indian companies and TRAI!!

India has a great pool, in fact no less than any other country in the world, of knowledge in the field of information technology. Our young people are employed by these very foreign corporations running the free services like Skype, YouTube etc. The need on the part of the government is to open financial resources of this country to these young people so that they also may offer similar or even better free services to the general public rather than TRAI’s attempt to bail out inferior Indian companies who are insistent on charging money for such services by forcing the public to “pay as per the kind of use” for data.

TRAI has asked 20 questions from the stake-holders. Indian public is the greatest stake-holders, which is going to be adversely effected by the TRAI’s move. We state here how TRAi is moving in this matter, for your immediate intervention in the matter by either sacking or taming the official(s) of TRAI.


Consultation Paper No: 2/2015

Consultation Paper On Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services

27th March, 2015

Stakeholders are requested to send their comments preferably in electronic form by 24th April, 2015 and counter comments by 8 th May 2015 on email id advqos@trai.gov.in. For any clarification / information, Shri A. Robert. J. Ravi, Advisor (TD & QoS) may be contacted at Tel. No. +91-11-23230404, Fax: +91-11-23213036.

Issues for Consultation

Question 1: Is it too early to establish a regulatory framework for OTT services, since internet penetration is still evolving, access speeds are generally low and there is limited coverage of high-speed broadband in the country? Or, should some beginning be made now with a regulatory framework that could be adapted to changes in the future? Please comment with justifications.

Question 2: Should the OTT players offering communication services (voice, messaging and video call services) through applications (resident either in the country or outside) be brought under the licensing regime? Please comment with justifications.

Question 3: Is the growth of OTT impacting the traditional revenue stream of TSPs? If so, is the increase in data revenues of the TSPs sufficient to compensate for this impact? Please comment with reasons.

Question 4: Should the OTT players pay for use of the TSPs network over and above data charges paid by consumers? If yes, what pricing options can be adopted? Could such options include prices based on bandwidth consumption? Can prices be used as a means of product/service differentiation? Please comment with justifications.

Question 5: Do you agree that imbalances exist in the regulatory environment in the operation of OTT players? If so, what should be the framework to address these issues? How can the prevailing laws and regulations be applied to OTT players (who operate in the virtual world) and compliance enforced? What could be the impact on the economy? Please comment with justifications.

Question 6: How should the security concerns be addressed with regard to OTT players providing communication services? What security conditions such as maintaining data records, logs etc. need to be mandated for such OTT players? And, how can compliance with these conditions be ensured if the applications of such OTT players reside outside the country? Please comment with justifications.

Question 7: How should the OTT players offering app services ensure security, safety and privacy of the consumer? How should they ensure protection of consumer interest? Please comment with justifications.

Question 8: In what manner can the proposals for a regulatory framework for OTTs in India draw from those of ETNO, referred to in para 4.23 or the best practices summarised in para 4.29? And, what practices should be proscribed by regulatory fiat? Please comment with justifications.

Question 9: What are your views on net-neutrality in the Indian context? How should the various principles discussed in para 5.47 be dealt with? Please comment with justifications. Question 10: What forms of discrimination or traffic management practices are reasonable and consistent with a pragmatic approach? What should or can be permitted? Please comment with justifications.

Question 11: Should the TSPs be mandated to publish various traffic management techniques used for different OTT applications? Is this a sufficient condition to ensure transparency and a fair regulatory regime?

Question 12: How should the conducive and balanced environment be created such that TSPs are able to invest in network infrastructure and CAPs are able to innovate and grow? Who should bear the network upgradation costs? Please comment with justifications.

Question 13: Should TSPs be allowed to implement non-price based discrimination of services? If so, under what circumstances are such practices acceptable? What restrictions, if any, need to be placed so that such measures are not abused? What measures should be adopted to ensure transparency to consumers? Please comment with justifications.

Question 14: Is there a justification for allowing differential pricing for data access and OTT communication services? If so, what changes need to be brought about in the present tariff and regulatory framework for telecommunication services in the country? Please comment with justifications.

Question 15: Should OTT communication service players be treated as Bulk User of Telecom Services (BuTS)? How should the framework be structured to prevent any discrimination and protect stakeholder interest? Please comment with justification.

Question 16: What framework should be adopted to encourage Indiaspecific OTT apps? Please comment with justifications.

Question 17: If the OTT communication service players are to be licensed, should they be categorised as ASP or CSP? If so, what should be the framework? Please comment with justifications.

Question 18: Is there a need to regulate subscription charges for OTT communication services? Please comment with justifications.

Question 19: What steps should be taken by the Government for regulation of non-communication OTT players? Please comment with justifications.

Question 20: Are there any other issues that have a bearing on the subject discussed?

Indian ‘Atrocity Literature’: Is the West preparing ground to attempt a ‘regime change’ in India?

 By: Shreepal Singh

Shri Rajeev Srinivasan has written a two articles-series in the online journal First Post that must make India sit-up and take note of the emerging alarming fate accompli like situation for this country. These articles go into depth of the motives that make the US-Western alliance to consistently create ‘atrocity stories’ and paint India as an evil-head. It is a prelude to the much bigger plot to prepare the ground for a compelling case of international intervention and to attempt a ‘regime change’. These articles make out that this exercise on their part is not a kind of first experiment in such things. There are many precedents of this kind of thing in a very recent past and the author names them for the whole world to examine.

Before giving the links to these two articles for your reading, let us point out certain very serious issues that this author has brought out in his articles. Also let us emphasize the need for India to identify and weed out the moles and agents of these foreign inimical forces embedded in our society in very powerful positions in the name of ‘protecting rights of women, Dalits, minorities, concerns for secularism, environment etc.’

The author very poignantly says:

” This is a dangerous pattern, as we saw in the case of Iraq. It is the old tactic of declaring a dog to be rabid and then shooting it. It has been going on in the case of Russia, and it is a work in progress in India’s case. You may think I am a Cassandra, but the logical end-point would be sanctions and economic warfare, and in the worst case scenario, an actual attempt at regime change, all in the name of democracy, freedom of expression, and other such motherhood stuff that the West is fond of mouthing. I think it’s unlikely, but stranger things have happened.”

In their design these Western forces are not working all alone in India. They have Indian collaborators present here, who have their own private interests in view while serving the interests of these foreign masters. After an initial fear of Modi and his grand designs for India, that was going to impinge on their private designs, these conscious /unconscious agents seem to have probed the lurking danger and found it baseless. They are out and emboldened.

“After an initial frisson of fear that Modi would discipline them and curtail them, the ancien regime are now feeling their oats. After all, even the most villainous traitors in the MSM (mainstream media) are strutting around; the first-class thieves in the bureaucracy and government are still not behind bars. They have concluded that Modi has succumbed to the BJP disease of seeking approval from the secular. Modi is vulnerable, they calculate, and they now see him as a one-term prime minister, with 2019 being their comeback year. Hence the idea of delivering a coup de grace, diverting attention from necessary legislation, and sending Modi on the defensive, while essentially foiling his entire agenda.”

Should India remain defensive in the face of this plain onslaught on all that is India? No, India cannot afford to remain defensive, if it wants to come out as a single piece. There a few suggestions by the author:

“What, then, might be the appropriate Indian response to the deep state’s assault? When I first wrote this, I was appalled by Leslie Udwin and the BBC. But then I realised the film-maker didn’t matter, and that she was merely a pawn. The BBC? Well, it is in the fine company of The Economist, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, and pretty much every other Western publication. Their animosity towards India, and frankly, their racism and religious bigotry, are pretty standard, and they differ only in degree. It is difficult for India to eject all these media types wholesale, but I can think of a few ways in which India can indicate its sharp displeasure. Libel and defamation laws, for instance.”

We think, India and Indian government need to discipline itself. First the disease inside, before we complain of these foreign forces, needs to be attended. As Modi has rightly said, “We have only one religion: and that is India. We have only one holy book: and that is Constitution,” India needs to be religiously fanatic to serve the interests of India. Nobody should be allowed to shame us for their concocted atrocity stories. We have many weaknesses in our society and we shall correct them and improve ourselves; but we are better than the accusers! Far, far better.

Click the link and read the article (1) titled:”US Deep State and ‘India’s Daughter’: Is India now part of a new ‘axis of evil’?”


Click the link and read the article (2) titled: “The Western Deep State’s assault on India – and what to do about it?”


US Court: Yoga has nothing to do with “Hindu Spiritualism”!!!

By: (name withheld for privacy reason)
A US court has ruled that Yoga classes in an elementary school in California do not endorse Hinduism or violate students’ right to religious freedom and are “devoid of any religious or mystical trappings”.
A three-year grant from a nonprofit group promoting Ashtanga yoga, provides twice-weekly, 30-minute classes to the district’s 5,600 students. They argued the school yoga programme was inherently spiritual and, therefore, unconstitutional. According to court documents, the court had to determine whether the school district’s institution of the Yoga programme as a component of its physical education curriculum “constitutes an impermissible establishment of religion in violation of the of the California Constitution”
What I don’t get is how yoga is not spiritual? If yoga is spiritual in core then it is also unconstitutional!.
(Yoga is an ancient discipline, which has a very precise and specific purpose to serve in the life of humans. It conditions the practitioners’ emotions, physical body and thoughts geared to achieve that goal. It is mystical to human mind and spiritual in content. By trying to divorce Yoga from the Indian kind of spiritualism (Hindu Yogis, Buddhist Shramanas and Sufi Fakirs etc.) to a secular physical exercise, the US court seems to have given a helping hand to the process of the Western Digestion of Indian Yoga.)

Hindus helping themselves getting digested globally

 By: (name withheld for privacy reasons)

We in the Caribbean have had the same kind of problem over the years. Our reps have been speaking on a hegemonic platform shaped and directed by an Abrahamic worldview. Hindus have been trying to enter this space and have had to translate themselves away in the process of trying to get the other to understand them.
I have myself gone through this as a young person and found it within myself to rise up and assert that I will not translate away my identity, diluting it in the process. I never could say all paths are equal in the sense that some Hindus do in order to make themselves liked by people of other religions.
But the point is that I had no mentors nor benefitted from any satsangh around the issues. What usually happened is we ended quarrelling with each other as Hindus because we did not accept the interpretations or actions of fellow Hindu leaders.
But I do not recall us every saying, let’s get together and debate the issue in an effort to come up with a common agenda. And so the community kept on splintering over what the educated persons or religious-cum-political leadership decided in their own silos. 
We have not had mentors who have paved the way for the emerging front line Hindu speakers on the emerging global platform. We have all been working independently across the globe wherever we live,
The need of the moment is to HELP not condemn these reps who are operating independently. The satsangh element is lacking in a global sense among these persons. We need to enjoin them in satsangh, NOT CONDEMN, IMHO.
Let us respect these other HIndu voices around globe for the efforts they are making and work at some satsangh type institution that allows for exchange of ideas on select topics and distillation of ideas and eventually common agenda and approaches.
Why not have such a satsangh with select people in each continent and then get them together, I ask myself. It is the need of the moment.
I am just airing this here for better understanding, perhaps. of why our leaders are caught up in this hegemonic web of Abrahamism in the western world. And while this has been happening at the local levels (in different continents) we should be careful of it happening globally.

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