Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reply to John Dayal

Mr. John Dayal, President All India Christian Council asked me the following questions:
who pays you, pnb
sorry i had to ask because of your statement
this is my frst and last personal barb at you
god bless you
john dayal
ps: everyone and his uncle are invited to inspect my bank accounts, my home almirahs and my income tax

Here’s my open reply to him
Dear John
Many in Bangalore know who pays me. So does my conscience. I've been in this city's public life for the past 45 years, as a bank employee, trade union activist, Communist fellow-traveller, small-time free-lance writer, and now into (‘the business’of) promoting inter-religious dialogue, religious tolerance etc. inspired by the life and work of the late Rev. Dr. Stanley Samartha, the "Christian prophet of religious pluralism".
I have received not a single paisa from any foreign or Indian organisations. BIRD runs its work with small individual contributions from it well-wishers. I am presently working as part-time public relations manager at the Hindustan Aviation Academy, Marathahalli, Bangalore. And I live in a rented apartment and have from one apartment/house about 15 times in the last 14 years since my retirement from ANZ Grindlays Bank in 1995. My daughter looks after me and my wife at present.
I receive a paltry sum of Rs. 2800/- from the bank and Rs.10,000/- from my present employer. I spend this money for my medical expenses, telephone charges for the work of BIRD etc. I do not travel outside Bangalore. I have not yet been able to visit my bed-ridden widowed elder sister in Kerala because I cannot afford to do it with my limited income. Her husband was a senior well-respected presbyter of the Church of South India, Central Kerala Diocese. He died two years ago.
But, people like you - especially the neo-Christian saints and saviours - are past-masters in concealing their incomes and expenses, while travelling around the world to spit venom against Hindus, their Gods and goddesses, their rituals and seeking funds from the naive fundamentalist Christians in the western countries for bringing the light of Jesus into this Area of Darkness - my motherland India.
Be that as it may, don’t you remember the challenge I threw at you to join me for a peace mission to Khandamal last year? You wriggled out of it. You had no guts.
Self-styled and unscrupulous leaders of Indian Christian community like you , Sajan George and others have been using ordinary Christians as cannon fodder for their narrow and selfish ends. (Incidentally, is Sajan George a medical doctor?) You claim to be spokesmen and defenders of the Christian Faith and the Indian Christian community spread distress and division and to all appearances, enjoy the grace and favour of the Central Government. This encouragement helps the growth of powerful elements of separatism and disunity.
One last point. Many of those who were behind forming BIRD and encouraging dialogue between RSS and Christians in Bangalore were and still are some of your close friends. During the NDA regime we could intervene through the personal contacts I had built up with the RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal leaders from the days of Indira Gandhi’s infamous Emergency days (1975-77) and help IAN STILLMAN and Fr. Harry Stocks to a large extent – the former’s release from jail and the cancellation of the latter’s expulsion from India on charges of alleged conversion activities. That is another story.
May God bless you, John.

An open letter to John Dayal

AN OPEN LETTER TO JOHN DAYALFROM P.N.BENJAMIN,Coordinator, Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD)Dear Mr. Dayal,This has reference to your recent letter to the Honourable Prime Minister on the National Integration Council.I would like to as you some genuine questions on the subject. Most of them are questioning your own integrity. So, do not get perturbed or try to evade answers. You are first of all no Holy Joe, Mr. Dayal.Can one have integration without integrity? Where is your integrity? What is integrity of the people like you who talk about it, but keep quiet when everywhere the essence of integration is being deliberately destroyed by vested interests? Are you really interested in integration? And is integration only to be between Muslims, Christians and Dalits whom you have been using as cannon fodder for long for your vested interests, to occupy cushy positions as member of NCM and the like? Or should integration be widened to bring the whole of our neglected, despised India into the mainstream of the nation?s activities, its hopes and its dreams?Hindu-bashing, especially RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal bashing, seems to be your only hobby. This business has been bringing you millions of dollars and invitations to umpteen seminars and consultations in Western countries. How can such a despicable character talk of national ?integration? when your personal integrity itself is under cloud?Have you ever bothered about the hungry people with hunger pangs growing in their intestines when you enjoy your life in five-star surroundings and shed copious crocodile tears for the minority communities and Dalits? What is the use of talking about integration when the hungry cannot partake at your dinner table? Will you answer these questions, Mr. Dayal, here and now?A struggle can be likened to an onion. You take it off layer by layer and sometimes you cry. This is the situation in India, the India of the poor, which is in ferment, stirring itself to challenge the chains of bondage that have seared their very souls over the years. They are fighting the carpetbaggers and the charlatans, like you, of this country.Without integrity, without a deep and abiding commitment to the poor of the country, all talk of national integration is only a lot of bullshit.We are passing through a crisis of unprecedented dimensions, symbolized by the collapse of values. Self-styled Christian leaders like you have emerged bereft of principles. Our national life has been polluted by the venality of the discredited men like you. You have therefore no moral right to talk of ?national integration?.P.N.BENJAMINCoordinatorBangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue(BIRD)B-1, Lan Castle186 Wheeler Road ExtnBangalore 560 084INDIA31 August 2005

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The doer of good

Ambedkar and Oscar Wilde's 'The Doer of Good'
By P N Benjamin
Several thinkers have speculated on the possible reactions of the founders of great faiths, if they happened to inspect the orders that claim the rights to fly their banners. Oscar Wilde has visualised one such situation in a short piece entitled ‘The Doer of Good’. As we know, the miracles Jesus performed included curing a leper, restoring sight to a blind man and life to a dead one. One night Jesus descends on to the land of his activities. He is attracted into a festive mansion, bursting with luxury. He sees the master of the house lying on a couch of sea-purple, his lips red with wine."Why do you live like this?" asked the unexpected visitor. Startled, the young man answered: "But, I was a leper and you healed me. How else should I live?"Jesus left the mansion in silence. In the street he saw a young man, his eyes bright with lust, chasing a playful damsel. Jesus stopped him. "Why do you look at this woman and such vice?" he demanded. "But I was blind once and you gave me sight. And what else should I look?"Outside the city Jesus saw a young man seated by roadside, weeping. "Why are you weeping?" he asked. "But I was dead once and you raised me from the dead. What else should I do but weep?"The utter futility of achievements without an aspiration for a growth in consciousness had never before been stressed so briefly yet so tellingly. Perhaps, a stirring in the memory and sacrifices of the moulders of civilisation could be a faint reminder of the need for that missing quality.Now let’s imagine Ambedkar returns to India to inspect the plight of Dalits whom he wanted to emancipate. After all, he was the human catalyst of social action against injustice to the suppressed sector of the Indian people whom we, in condescending hypocrisy, call ‘Harijans’ or ‘Dalits’! He was a dynamic figure who devoted himself to the cause of justice, freedom and dignity to the lowliest, the lost and the last in the socio-economic hierarchy, and fought for human rights.Dalit groups are disorganisedIt won’t take much time for him to observe the following facts. "Almost all Dalit political leaders have showered only lip sympathy on the Dalits in order to get their votes, but with no intention of doing anything to ameliorate their conditions. Dalit political groups are totally disorganised. Education has only led to the emergence of a Dalit elite class. Dalit movements have either been absorbed within mainstream parties and splinter groups or else have degenerated into negative militancy. Reservation of seats and jobs has had only a marginal effect on the lives of some members of the vast section of Dalit humanity. It has also led to deliberate attempts to divide the Dalits into a ‘privileged’ minority and the completely ignored massive majority."In their blind craze for power, position, profit and pelf the Dalit leaders in every political party have forgotten their primary duty to mobilise and organise the masses against all forms of vested interests. Dalit politicians bereft of any ideology are unwilling to disturb the existing caste equations. These self-seeking status quoits have only aided in pushing the outcastes out of our society, out of the mainstream. Dalit politicians holding very high political posts have in practice proved to be ‘Uncle Toms’ because of the compulsions of Indian polity."What I witnesses today is the strange spectacle of these leaders ganging up with those very forces, which are the political representatives of oppressors of the Dalits. There could be no greater betrayal of the millions kept in poverty and privation."Ambedkar then observes: "Dalits are not a special species of human beings. Their emancipation from poverty and social discrimination and disabilities does not depend upon perpetual special treatment. Like the rest of the poor in India, they have to be taught, helped and made to participate in the process of bettering their lives."India will be truly free only when Indians, the last and the least are free. Dalits ask for justice and the Indian elite have to realise that democracy cannot be hypocrisy. And humanists everywhere are vicariously guilty if they do not speak up. ‘Les Miserables’, in their social millions, are a stain and a wound."Ambedkar will then invite the Dalit leaders and ask them: "What shall we do to ‘change this sorry scheme of things entire and remould it nearer to our heart’s desire?’"

DECCAN HERALD – Panorama – 14 April 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I am amused by the guidelines (Ten Commandments) issued to voters by the Catholic Bishops. Conference of India, The CBCI is harking back to the traditional ways of the Church to wean away Indians from the ‘Hindu nationalist’ party, the BJP. Do the Catholic bishops believe that they can reduce the enlightened Indian electorate to the level of the ladies in Britain, in the now distant 1940s and 1950s, who were scared of "a Red under their bed"?
This is not the first time the Church is indulging in this wishful thinking. It happened first in 1957 in Kerala. The church leaders issued a 'fatwa' to their flocks not to vote the Communists to power because they were "Godless" and violent people who would nationalise and destroy all the churches in Kerala." Some listened to them, many ignored them and the then India correspondent of the London Observer cabled back London: "Out of the ballot box comes the miracle."
The Christian leaders have not learnt not learn their lesson. They repeated the call in all the subsequent elections too. And they are back with a bang today also.
As a ‘self-proclaimed’ enlightened Indian Christian, I cannot confine my secularism to the anti-BJP-ism advocated by the Christian leaders since communal consanguinity is present in varying shades in other parties of plural labels even while choosing candidates, although they naively make secular noises.
The bishops must stop being dazzled by their own words. They must take the beams out of their own eyes before pointing out the mote in others’ eyes. Fight against social evils, for example, discrimination against Dalit Christians, must begin in the Church, otherwise they will be told: "Physician, heal thyself."
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