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Open Letter To RSS Chief

Open Letter To RSS Chief

Dear Shri Mohan Bhagwat Ji,

I have had occasions to write a few open letters to you, though all of them have remained un-replied. Of course, some people close to you or pretend to be close to you, abused me in their responses to my epistles. One of them had a change of heart and ended up calling me a dear friend. He even promised to visit me when he came to India from the US where he is settled.

What compelled me to write this letter is your statement that “all those living in this country are Hindu by identity”. If that was the case, do you think there was any need for creating a national register of citizens as in Assam and enacting the Citizenship Amendment Act, by a government which draws inspiration from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of which you are the Sarsanghchalak?

In Assam, 1.9 million people were found to be “foreign nationals”, though an overwhelming majority of them were born in India. Your government thought it necessary to enact a new law so that the Hindus among them are treated as “refugees” and others as “infiltrators” worthy to be sent to “detention centres” which are coming up as fast as in Goalpara, 120 kms from Guwahati.

I expected you to tell the government either to treat all of them as Hindus and, therefore, eligible for citizenship, or to send all of them to detention centres. Instead, your RSS cadres in power in Delhi have been threatening to extend the NRC to the rest of India and “throw out” every single infiltrator. The fear psychosis they have created has forced millions of people to come out on the streets to protest against the CAA.

It is now many months since the “foreign nationals” in Assam were identified? Has the government initiated any steps to send them back to Bangladesh since your organisation has been calling them Bangladeshis. In fact, when a Bangladesh government spokesman said something about the issue, India told the Sheikh Hasina government that it was an internal matter of the country.

This means that the government has no plan to repatriate the “foreign nationals” alias Muslims to Bangladesh. So what is the alternative? To send them to detention centres like the one at Dachau in Germany and Auschwitz in Poland? Is this how your organisation and government treat people whom you call Hindu in identity?

In India, I can bet, even 50 per cent of the 1.35 billion people would not be able to prove that they are Indians if the government goes by the system of identification followed in Assam? Can you, Sir, prove that a majority of your cadres are Indian citizens by showing proof that their parents were Indian citizens before the cut-off date, as mentioned in the Assam accord?

I know that you will tell me that Hindus will never have any problem about their citizenship. In effect, does not this amount to a discrimination against the minorities when Article 14 of the Constitution assures equality even to foreigners who live in India?

Yes, I know what the RSS has been saying about the Indian Constitution, drafted by Dr B.R. Ambedkar, that it was a hotchpotch of various Western constitutions. I would send  by separate post a copy of the book my friend and legal luminary Dr M.P. Raju wrote on the Constitution.

He has beautifully argued that every concept of equality, liberty and fraternity in the Constitution is derived from sources like the Upanishads and other sacred texts. If you read the book, you will feel proud about the Constitution which cannot be rivalled by any other book for the equality that it assures to everyone from the richest to the poorest and the most educated to the countless millions of illiterates, irrespective of caste, creed and colour.

Adult suffrage became a reality in India many decades before women got the privilege to vote in countries like Bhutan and Saudi Arabia. I know that you do not believe in voting as you are not elected, but chosen to be the Sarsanghchalk with no fixed tenure. Anyway, my intention is not to tell you about the virtues of democracy.

I have noticed one thing, people tend to become more and more obscurantist as they age. A senior lawyer whom I respected asked recently why Muslims were in India, the “Hindu hell”. The fact is that Muslims consider India as their heaven where they are destined to merge in the soil, unlike those whose ashes are sprinkled in flowing waters that reach the Indian Ocean.

I visit Mewat in Haryana in connection with my work. Do you know that Niti Ayog has described Mewat, rechristened Nuh, as the most aspiring (Modi’s term for backward) district in the country. It was part of the undivided Punjab. When the Partition occurred, they could have gone to Pakistan. Muslim-majority Mewat recorded the lowest migration. Those Muslims are Indians by choice, whereas a majority, including you and me, are Indians by the accident of birth.

You claim to consider every Indian a Hindu. It was very sweet of you to think so but I have one question to ask you: how do you define a Hindu? A person from Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh, Chandrashekhar Gaur, sought to find out from the Government of India who a Hindu was. He used the Right to Information Act to elicit a reply.

This is what he said, “To my query under RTI about the meaning and definition of the word Hindu in the light of the Indian Constitution and the law, the Home Ministry in its reply on July 31, 2015, said the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) doesn’t have information regarding it.” 

The CPIO, perhaps, did not know that the government had all along been claiming that all those who were not Christians, Muslims, Parsis and Jews were Hindus. The tribals were not considered Hindus. This legal or official definition is exclusive in character. What you have done is to include everyone among Hindus.

If you are true to your word, you should treat everyone as a Hindu. Is that the case? It is many months since the people in Hong Kong have been protesting against a law under which a convicted person can be sent to the mainland. The agitation was not all that peaceful. Yet, only two or three persons were killed in police action. In UP, 19 persons were killed at the hands of the police in a few days.

A friend who is an Indian and a judge in the US sent me a newspaper clipping about a Muslim Maulvi in UP, who is of my age. He was arrested, asked to remove his clothes and stand naked in a jail room for days when I used two quilts, besides four layers of clothes, to sleep in Delhi. His crime: he took part in a protest. My friend wrote to me that he could not believe that this could ever happen in India.

The Maulvi did not even want to meet his relative because of the shameful condition in which he remained in jail. He  ran an orphanage. He was not the only victim; his children, too, were victims. Is this the way you want people whom you call Hindus to be treated?

I have great respect for Hinduism, as I have for Islam and Sikhism but I would request you not to treat me as a Hindu. I am a Christian, not just because I was born to Christian parents but because I consider Jesus as my guru and saviour. Nothing matters to me more than his teaching, which is to love my neighbour as I love myself.

On our left lives a Sikh, who was once India’s Ambassador and on our right lives a Hindu. I pray for them everyday. Whenever I need to leave the key, I leave it with either of them. They also leave their keys with us, when the need arises. My Sikh friend brings prasad from a local gurudwara and gives it to us, especially our grandchildren.

My friend, Prof Chandrasekharan Nair, who helped the Kerala Governor take his oath in Malayalam, has a great explanation for the Biblical verse, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt  love the Lord  thy God with all  thy heart, and with all  thy soul, and with all  thy mind. This is the first and great  commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt  love thy neighbour as thyself”.

Said Prof Nair, “If I love my neighbours and my neighbours love their neighbours, our whole colony will love one another”. That is the essence of the Biblical teaching which I had to learn from a devout Hindu, who visits the temple as often as he can. I would like to follow that advice.

I have, therefore, absolutely no problem in loving my countrymen, irrespective of caste, creed and colour. Jesus has also taught me to “give unto God what is unto Him and give to Nirmala Sitaraman what is unto her”. In short, I do not have to treat you as a Christian to love you. I treat you as a Brahmin, a Hindu and head of a Hindu organisation. These are not restrictive factors for my love for you.

You may have difficulty in defining a Hindu but I have no difficulty in defining a Christian or a Muslim. A person who accepts the Gospels as their scriptural guide and believes that Jesus is the incarnate God who died for their sins is a Christian.

Similarly, someone who accepts the Quran as their scriptural guide, and believes that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet is a Muslim. The Sikh is the one who is guided by the Guru Granth Sahib.

Why should you consider them as Hindus? The Tribune had an editor, Prem Bhatia, who brought people from various religions and states to man the newspaper on the ground that a garden became more beautiful when it produced flowers as different as rose, lily, sunflower and poppy.

I am sure you know that the word Hindu cannot be found in any of the Upanishads or the Vedas or the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. It was used first by the Persians and then by the Europeans for those living on both sides of the Sindhu (Indus) that originates in the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of Lake Manasarovar and reaches Pakistan through India.

You may not agree but there is archaeological evidence that Hindus were Aryans who arrived in India and settled on the banks of the Indus. The tribals and the Dravidians are the aboriginals in India. 

Over the years, the little traditions of the country have been Hinduised. The Sabarimala temple is a classic case. It was a tribal temple where only a Brahmin can now be the priest. By the way, when it caught fire in the early 20th century, it was rebuilt by a Marthomite Christian because there was no Hindu to do the job.

The Upanishads are not exactly Hindu. Nobody knows who wrote them. They contain the highest philosophical thoughts. It is a heritage of the whole humankind. Nobody has the right to claim it as theirs. As regards the Vedas, I would like you to read a book scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose, who knew Sanskrit well, had written on the Rig Veda.

The beauty of Hinduism is that it has no central authority like the Pope or the Ayatollah or a single sacred text like the Bible or the Quran. An atheist can also pass off as a Hindu. It is your organisation which has been trying to reorient the religion. 

You want your people to take up lathi and practice its use when we have the Army and paramilitary forces to guard the nation. I have seen in Germany supremacists wielding such weapons? I was advised by my guide to be wary of them. Some of them infiltrate into the police and break the skulls of those who agitate against the NRC and the CAA. 

To return to Hinduism, it was Raja Rammohan Roy who first used the word Hindu. If you look back, you will find that it was Adi Shankara who lived in the eighth century after Christ who drove out the Buddhists and set up four religious centres denoting the recapture of the space occupied by the Buddhists who continued to thrive in faraway places. Modern Hinduism took its birth then.

At least three centuries before Adi Shankara was born Prophet Mohammed. It was during the Prophet’s life time that a mosque was allowed to be set up at Kodungallur in Kerala. 

By the way, there is a temple at Kodungallur which Swami Vivekananda wanted to visit. As you know, he was a Kayastha, like Amitabh Bachchan, and as such he could have entered the temple. But the custodians of the temple did not allow him to enter, as the Swamiji refused to reveal his caste identity.

That is when Swami Vivekananda called Kerala a “lunatic asylum”. If you have time, please read the book ‘The Wonder That Was India’ by AL Basham in which the author says that some of the Hindu traditions like Krishna’s birth have their origin in the Old Testament. Is it not very similar to Moses and Jesus’ birth? 

Human civilisation is a story of give and take. Do you know that the RSS is modelled after the Catholic Church? Many of your cadres work like the missionaries of yore, while most Christians want to serve Mammon and make some money. Nonetheless, don’t forget that every organisation reaches an apogee from which it can only go down, not up.

Yours etc

( ajphilip@gmail.com)

(Published on 06th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 02)