25 April, 2009

Justice and Progress for Dalits: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Above: Mahabharata author, Maharishi Veda Vyas was born to a fisher-woman

A time to heal

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Dalits allowed inside temples in Bhilwara and Jagannath Temple in Orissa is a welcome development. Places of worship should be open to all communities and religions. Nobody has a right to bar people from entering the house of God. Unless the savarnas and the Dalits effect a reconciliation, society will suffer from cycles of revenge and counter-revenge.

Moving away from Hinduism and converting to other religions has not helped the Dalits in their war against the oppressive caste system. They have to assert their rights and move up from within the system.

Though banned by law, there have been countless incidents of violence and oppression against the Dalits, many of which have gone unreported. Laws have failed to change the attitude of people, and contemporary religious leaders have done precious little to remove the prejudices and bring about reconciliation.

In the past, Maharishi Dayanand, Sri Basavanna in Karnataka and Ramanujacharya in the South have taken up the cause of the oppressed. Ramanujacharya put tripund/tilak and gave janeu (sacred thread) to thousands of Dalits and made them Brahmins. Basavanna vigorously fought against the caste system and brought together people of all castes into the path of bhakti. Maharishi Dayanand dented the caste system through his brilliant and eloquent dialogues and speeches. He fought against prevalent superstitions. Thanks to him, thousands of Dalits could access the knowledge of the Vedas and the yagyas. He also created many purohits from among the Dalit community.

My own teacher, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, though born in an orthodox Brahmin family, remained a bachelor to care for his eight adopted Harijan boys. He taught them the Vedas, gave them the best education and enabled them to become IAS/IPS officers.

Though Maharishi Dayanand had no political backing, his movement gained considerable social and intellectual strength. On the other hand, BR Ambedkar brought about social reforms through a political movement, which over time acquired an identity of its own. Unlike other religions, Hinduism is inherently anarchic. In the absence of a single command at the top, reforms in Hinduism cannot come from the top. It has to start at the bottom, as a people's movement.

Historically, many of the revered rishis were Dalits. Dalit contribution to sanatan literature is commendable. For instance, the narrator of the Puranas, Soot Maharishi, was a Dalit. Shaabara Rishi, born into an `atishudra' family, was highly revered as a rishi. His seminal commentary on the Vedas is a highly regarded reference book for the most learned of Vedic scholars. The current generation of upper castes are not exposed to this information and that is the reason why, in the villages, people continue to indulge in inhuman practices.

Every morning, the first puja of the day in the Tirupati temple is offered by the scheduled caste Banjara community. It would be good to start this practice in other temples where there is discrimination. The oppressors need to be taught that what they claim to be their own has major contributions from the Dalits. As Maharishi Dayanand, Sri Aurobindo and many others have rightly pointed out, religious practices have drifted away from their philosophy.

It is unfortunate that people without proper knowledge of the scriptures simply quote from the Manu Smriti, which is only a code of conduct given by a king and has nothing to do with the Shrutis, Vedas or the Upanishads. It is time to honour the philosophy and discard the unscrupulous practices. Instead, people have discarded the philosophy and allowed the unscrupulous practices to continue.

The greatest of the epics - the Ramayana - was written by a Dalit. How can Dalits drop the precious lore and allow a few orthodox narrow-minded people to dominate? It's not only Dalits who are fighting for their rights; many upper caste people are working and fighting for their cause. Let us not forget that the name Ambedkar was given to Bhimrao saheb by his mentor who was a Brahmin. Not all upper caste people are oppressors and religion certainly is not.

How can a religion that says "all this is Brahman and the universe itself is Upadaana Kaarana (the divine is material cause of the universe)" sanction discrimination by birth?

The vicious cycle of hatred and revenge is being promoted for political gains. There have also been atrocities against the upper castes. In Tamil Nadu, upper castes have been forced to migrate many times. While I was in Chennai recently, miscreants came into a `Pandit Sabha' and assaulted several of the pandits over the issue of desecration of a statue of social reformer `Periyar' EV Ramasamy. Many of the pandits were seriously injured and one of the pandits had his hand mutilated.

I appreciate the Dalits who enter temples and build temples - they are really the brave ones who claim their rights, instead of giving up their heritage. I hope the new wave will continue and the Dalits will assert their social and philosophical rights rather than turn their back on them. Past wrongs cannot be undone through anger and rage.

Ambedkar tried his level best before he took to conversion as the final resort. But with the changing times and education, the strategies need to change. Both Dalit and upper caste Hindus have to change. We need to fight for our heritage in the same way we fight for rights to our property. You fight for your property because you value it. When you don't value your heritage and culture, you simply discard it.

For justice and progress, there has to be reconciliation.


12 April, 2009

The March - Against Terrorism, Against Corruption

Above: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder, Art of Living, had conceptualized this March to awaken and empower citizens in order to create a structure that will actually effect a change in societal circumstances and situations, in keeping with His vision and mission of a stress free, violence free planet where individuals contribute towards the goal of a One World Family.

On March 1, 2009 ,The Art of Living and its youth wing, the World Alliance for Youth Empowerment mobilized approximately 10,000 youth to participate in a March against terrorism and corruption in New Delhi. Thousands of youth with the motto, “My Country is My Valentine” gave their voice to this historic campaign. There were many eminent personalities who took part in the March, including Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Prahlad Kakkar among others.

Letter by L.K. Advani sent to Religious Leaders

Most Revered

Kindly accept my namaskar on behalf of my party and self.

I am writing this to seek your blessings as the Bharatiya Janata Party and the National Democratic Alliance gear up for the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha. My party and our alliance are seeking the mandate of the people of India to form the next government on the promise of Good Governance, Development and Security. Should we win the mandate, it would be our endeavour to provide an honest and corruption-free government, committed to protecting the vital interests of the nation and dedicated to promoting the welfare of the people, especially those who are underprivileged.

You are well aware of the state of the nation today. National security has been threatened by cross-border terrorism, which claimed more innocent lives in India in the past five years than the combined terrorism-related toll in the entire world, except Iraq. Unchecked infiltration from Bangladesh has, as warned by the Supreme Court itself, assumed the proportions of an “external aggression”. India’s neighbourhood is in turmoil, with anti-India forces raising their heads everywhere. The developments in Pakistan, in particular, portend ill for India. Our country’s traditional friendship with Nepal and Sri Lanka is under stress.

Mismanagement of the economy in the past five years has brought enormous misery to the common people. The unprecedented rise in the prices of essential commodities has affected all sections of society. The bubble of the stock market-oriented economic growth has burst and the country finds itself in a deep economic crisis. In addition to the existing problem of widespread unemployment, our country is now witnessing a new problem of job losses on a massive scale. Uncertainty and insecurity have gripped the lives of our young people. What has pained me the most is suicide by thousands of debt-ridden kisans, the anna-daatas who feed the nation. I have rarely seen such despair in India as I do now.

It will be my sincere endeavour, and the first priority of a future NDA government if it is elected by the people, to replace this mood of despair with hope and confidence.

India is a deeply religious country. Our people have unshakeable faith in religion, and seek the guidance of religious leaders like you in matters both worldly and other-worldly. This is because religion in India has always cared for the well-being of the nation and its people, and striven for strengthening the ethical edifice of both the state and society. I am sure that you will give the right guidance in the present circumstances.

Our promises to the people will be presented in the NDA’s Agenda of Governance. But I would like to take this opportunity to mention a few specific assurances that are relevant to religious establishments in the country.

• It will be my endeavor to seek on a regular basis the guidance of spiritual leaders of all denominations on major challenges and issues facing the nation. For this, we shall evolve a suitable consultative mechanism.
• We shall end governmental neglect of the multi-faith spiritual heritage of India. The advocacy and practice of secularism, which unfortunately has come to acquire an anti-religious or religion-neutral connotation in the past five years, will be restored to its true meaning — Sarva Panth Samaadar (equal respect for all faiths). We would like religious establishments to play an important role in inculcating spiritual and patriotic values in our people, thereby creating a society of enlightened citizens.
• We shall launch a National Mission for the beautification and development of all major pilgrimage centres of all faith-communities, providing good amenities to pilgrims on the lines of what has been achieved at Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine and Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. The National Mission will be chaired by the Prime Minister. Given a series of mishaps in recent years, ensuring safety and security of pilgrims will be accorded high priority.
• Cleaning up of the Ganga and other rivers will be a matter of high priority.
• Ram Sethu will be protected.
• Controversies like the one that arose over the allotment of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board in Jammu & Kashmir will not be repeated.
• Protection of cow and her progeny will be our solemn commitment.
• All foreign funds will be regulated as per government norms to ensure that they are used solely for the purpose for which they are received. Religious conversions using fraudulent and unethical means will be outlawed.
• I am aware that religious organizations often face a lot of difficulties in government-related matters, especially while getting their IT exemptions renewed. Hence, our government will create a special cell to facilitate the works of all religious institutions.
• All social welfare and nation-building activities of religious institutions (mid-day meal schemes, environment protection, value- based education, care of orphans, etc.) will be duly supported by the central government.
• Spiritual tourism will be promoted in a big way.
• Government will take major steps to promote India’s spiritual heritage worldwide.

As Dharam Guru, your good self has always worked for peace, harmony, unity, well-being and brotherhood without boundaries in society. These are also the values that I believe in. It has been my lifelong conviction that politics, governance and other national affairs should be guided by lofty ideals as enshrined in the concept of Ram Rajya (Ideal State), popularized by Mahatma Gandhi.

At the present crucial juncture in our nation’s life, when people are looking for a decisive change, I seek your blessings, guidance and support.

With Sashtang Namaskar,

L.K. Advani

07 April, 2009

It’s a Marxist-Islamist affair!

VR Jayaraj, The Pioneer

Investigations by the Kerala ATS and intelligence sleuths point towards Abdul Nasser Madani’s links with the Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. The man suspected of plotting the Coimbatore bombings continues to preach and practice hate. Yet, the CPM has struck an alliance with him, forging a terrifying Marxist-Islamist front.

Caught between the mind-boggling evidences, depositions and statements made by accused extremist operatives and witnesses on the horrifying trans-national terror links of PDP chairman Abdul Nasser Madani and a Marxist Government that has obviously sworn not to question him ever, let alone the possibility of arresting him, the police in Kerala are in a real fix. Even as this is being written, Abdul Sattar alias Sainuddeen aka Sattar Bhai, a Keralite arrested from Andhra Pradesh in January for manufacturing bombs for the Indian Mujahideen that went off in various Indian cities last year, is being questioned at a police facility near Thrissur in central Kerala. Last week he told investigators that he had been in close connection with Madani for the past 15 years.

It could mean that the bomb-maker and the ‘metamorphosed’ extremist were colleagues in an impious company or at least were known to each other when explosions aimed at taking BJP leader LK Advani’s life killed 58 people and wounded hundreds in Coimbatore, a crime for which Madani stayed in prison for close to a decade.

The terror-man’s deposition came within five days of Madani’s public denial of knowing or having any knowledge of any Sainuddeen or Sattar Bhai. Unfortunately, the Marxist Government in Kerala, especially its Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a junior member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau, tends to trust Madani more than his own police officials working overtime out there in the field. “Our duty is to probe. It is up to the Government and the courts to decide what to do with the results of our probe,” was how a State intelligence official commented about this.

Sainuddeen’s statement about his Madani links came on the same day a court in Aluva, off Kochi, ordered a probe against Sufiya, the PDP chairman’s wife who efficiently led the party pack and its ‘operations’ through the 111-month absence of her husband, for her alleged role in the case relating to the burning of a Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation bus at Kalamassery, off Kochi, on September 9, 2005. This order was based on a PIL, which in turn was based on the several reported evidences against Sufiya, including witness depositions, statements of accused in the case and dockets of telephonic conversations with the men behind the bus-burning.

All these were at hand, but the police was incapacitated to move against the woman in a black burqa, thanks to the secret interests and intentions of the political bosses.

Majeed Parampayi, fifth accused in the bus-burning case, told the police that the ‘operation’ was conceived, planned, funded and executed by none other than Sufiya, but Madani claimed that Majeed had not given any such statement, that the police had written it down all by themselves after getting a piece of blank paper signed by him using torture. Strangely, the Home Minister or the police did not deny this allegation of police excess, and Opposition leader and Congress heavyweight Oommen Chandy, who was the Chief Minister with the portfolio of Home Minister when the incident took place and the arrests were made, kept mum.

All these developments had occurred when the revelations about Sufiya’s links with Sainuddeen were fresh, which established that his daughter Fazeela Begum had been attending preparatory school staying at Sufiya’s Kochi residence, when Madani was in prison. Reports are that Sainuddeen himself has now told the police about this.

The CPI(M) is persisting with the argument that there are two Madanis. They say that the Madani who came out of the Coimbatore prison on August 1, 2007 following a court order and several pressure games like the unanimous resolution in the Kerala Assembly on March 16, 2006 (Congress was in power then) seeking his release on ‘humanitarian’ grounds, and the Madani whom the Marxist Government had arrested on April 8, 1998 and handed over to Tamil Nadu Police were two different personalities. The Marxists say that Madani is no more into extremism, that he has become a Sufi saint or something close to it, and that his only concerns now are democracy, upliftment of the downtrodden and dignity of Muslims. But the people of Kerala find no reason to agree with this.

There are unconfirmed reports of his clandestine appearance at religious classes where known terror elements were present. More than that the fire in his speech at the post-release reception on a Thiruvananthapuram beach, in which State Ministers and Marxist leaders shared the dais with him, and his election speech at Muslim-majority Ponnani two weeks back where CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, the architect of the Communist-PDP alliance, shared the platform with him, proved that he had changed little. These speeches resembled his pre-arrest stage shows that whipped up communal passion, asking his ‘Muslim brothers to think about the unthinkable and to do the undoabl’.

Those who remember the public programmes of Madani in his pre-Ayodhya, Islamic Sevak Sangh days would shudder even now. In those days he would come to the venue in a motorcade, escorted by helmeted black-liveried motorcycle outriders and footboard-mounted bodyguards, who called themselves ‘Black Cats’.

Speeches of the supremo would be preceded by thorough stage searches and the Caucasian chalk circle was inevitable wherever the boss went or sat. Affiliated shows included armed martial arts performances by his followers and howls of freedom and shouts of jihad. Madani says he has given up all that and even pardoned the ‘RSS goons’ who had hurled bombs at him, leaving him crippled forever. In those days his speeches were full of carefully conceived calls for ‘resistance’, which political scientists termed as nothing but calls for war against the state, but the judiciary had its sets of written laws.

When the ISS was banned in the post-Ayodhya scenario, Madani transformed his Islamic Sevak Sangh into the People’s Democratic Party, a political outfit (for public consumption), but retaining almost all the hard feelings and agenda he had been advocating and executing all along.

The furious speeches went on under the passive protective umbrellas of then heavyweight leaders K Karunakaran of the Congress and EMS Namboodirippad of the CPI(M), both of whom thought PDP’s existence and strength were key to the destruction of the Indian Union Muslim League. It was then that the blasts aimed at Mr Advani in Coimbatore took place. Soon, he was put into prison.

Later, the CPI(M)-run daily newspaper, Desabhimani, compared Madani to Bhindranwale and called him a terrorist and tried to take credit for his arrest, all for electoral purposes. Those claims have now been convenitently forgotten. Even among these dramas of complicity and feigned objections, several cases were registered against Madani, most of them in the name of inflammatory speeches, but in the course of time almost all of them have been dismissed, thanks to legal definitions and lack of evidences. Some five or six such cases are pending, and at every rally he addresses these days, Madani confidently claims that he is sure he will be acquitted in all of the cases.

All that while, during the 2001 Assembly poll, leaders of the Congress-led UDF “queued up” (in Madani’s words) in front of the Coimbatore prison, seeking the blessings of the ‘ustad’ so that his followers and sympathisers would vote in their favour. Unable to deny this fact (though Madani said it), Congress leader Oommen Chandy and State president Ramesh Chennithala admitted that UDF men had indeed gone to Coimbatore but only out of compassion for a man who was lodged for long in a prison without trial.

But there was more. Madani said he had proof that the UDF leaders had written to him seeking his electoral support. Muslim League leader PK Kunhalikkutty denied this, but the other day Madani produced letters written by Kunahalikkutty in the official letter pad of the State Industries Minister — he held this portfolio then — begging for his support.

Madani, now 44, claims that he is the second ‘Mahatma’. “I am no Mahatma Gandhi, but as a worshipper of that great soul, I have pardoned the people who made me a cripple,” he said recently. “If I am the hindrance to communal harmony and peace in Kerala, send me back into the prison. I am only happy to do that sacrifice for the peace of this State and country.”

Still people are not convinced because investigators with the Anti-Terror Squad and the Intelligence Bureau are finding some new evidence that connects Madani with people acting as agents and operatives of the Indian Mujahiddeen and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba every passing day. Oman-based terror-fundraiser Sarfaras Nawaz, a native of Perumbavoor near Kochi who had reportedly arranged the funds for the Indian Mujahiddeen’s blasts in Bangalore, told the police the other day that he had had a long discussion with Madani in person after his release from the prison.

Nawaz, held by RAW men in Muscat, told the Karnataka Police that his meeting with Madani at his orphanage at his native place in Kollam was arranged by absconding terror-man Nazeer of Neerchal, Kannur, who was said to be chief recruiter for the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in South India. But Madani denied any such meeting.

Nazeer was the person, who, according to the police, had recruited the four Malayalee militants — Fayaz, Faiz, Raheem and Yasin — who were killed in an encounter by the security forces in Kupwara, Kashmir in the first half of October last year. Investigations have also revealed that the four militants, before leaving for Kashmir in a bid to cross over to Pakistan — they had received basic terror training in LeT facilities in Hyderabad — had celebrated Eid at Sufiya Madani’s place in Kochi.

The entire terror-hunt by the Anti-Terror Squad in Kerala had started with the information about the killing of the four militants in Kashmir, and the revelations so far have established the presence of a massive network of anti-national operatives loyal to LeT and perhaps Al Qaeda in the State, as the BJP’s national and State leaderships have consistently argued all these years. The investigators are sitting startled at the magnitude of the terror presence with tentacles of the Kerala terror structure extending to Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Pakistan, Oman, etc.

The high point of all these probes is that the man figuring at one end of this long tentacle is none other than Madani, the man whose PDP is presently the most valued political ally of the CPI(M), which is seeking votes in the name of ‘national security’ in the Lok Sabha polls.


January 18, 1966: Born at Sasthamkotta, Kollam, Kerala.

August 6, 1992: Crippled in a bomb attack

December 11, 1992: Dissolves his militant Islamic Sevak Sangh (ISS) in the post-Ayodhya scenario to launch the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

February 14, 1998: Serial bombings aimed at LK Advani in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. 58 killed, close to 200 wounded. Advani escapes attack as he arrived late. Madani is believed to have masterminded the bombings.

April 8, 1998: The LDF Government in Kerala, led by CPI(M)’s (late) EK Nayanar, arrests and hands Madani over to the Tamil Nadu Police.

September 9, 2005: A Tamil Nadu State bus is burnt at Kalamassery, off Kochi, reportedly to take revenge for the torture on Madani at the Coimbatore prison. Role of Sufiya, his wife, suspected in the arson.

March 16, 2006: The Kerala Assembly, with the Congress-led UDF in power, passes a unanimous resolution seeking Madani’s release on ‘humanitarian’ grounds.

August 1, 2007: Release from prison after the court acquits him in the blasts case for lack of evidences.

October 7-11, 2008: Four Malayalee LeT operatives killed in Kashmir; Investigations into the incident raises suspicions of links of Madani and his wife with terror network.

March 21, 2009: Kerala CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan shares dais with Madani in Ponnani following the establishment of a poll alliance, raising a hornet’s nest in Kerala politics.

March 25, 2009: Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan announces decision to continue probe against Madani and his wife, but his Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan rules out any investigation.

April 1, 2009: A court in Aluva, Kochi, orders the police to probe the role of Sufiya Madani in the bus-burning incident.

04 April, 2009

Gurus in franchise operation

Hindustan Times, 4th April, 2009

This is one time when mixing God’s name with politics isn’t hurting anyone.

Iconic spiritual gurus Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who command huge followings for their unique ideals, are launching their respective campaigns urging people to vote in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Ramdev’s newly formed Bharat Swabhiman Trust is spreading his election-related preachings through volunteers in over 6 lakh villages and towns in 616 districts across India. The objective is to achieve 100 per cent voting everywhere.

“This is to strengthen democracy, kill corruption and get ourselves some honest legislators,” Ramdev told Hindustan Times.

With slogans like “Cast your vote but don’t vote your caste” and a whole list of voting-related Hindi jingles and couplets, the volunteers will be going door-to-door in villages to ensure that voter participation is the highest.

Ramdev, whose unique Yoga style has a cult following, has also communicated to political parties that they must bring back the supposedly humungous amount of Indian black money lodged in Swiss banks.

“Around Rs 72,80,000 crore of public money is illegally parked in Swiss accounts. The party that promises to bring that back will get our votes,” said SK Tijarawala, a close aide of the Baba.

Ramdev also assured that he did not have any political aspiration. “I am not a threat to anybody, neither do I have any personal ambition,” he said.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AoL) foundation, on the other hand, has tied up with groups like Youth For Equality to involve youngsters in “nation building by strengthening the democratic processes”. “Exercising your voting rights is a vital step towards empowerment. The key issues we are highlighting are Corruption and Terrorism,” said Sangeeta Anand, spokeswoman for AoL Delhi.

While AoL will be conducting its programmes through the year, Ramdev’s volunteers will launch ‘Vote Jagaran’ rallies five days prior to polling. Ramdev will kick-start the campaign in Chhattisgarh.