Monday, October 31, 2011

Khandamal violence 2008. an open letter to John Dayal

Kandhamal Violence

Mr PN Benjamin's appeal from Bangalore: Restore peace in Kandhamal
Dear All,


The democratic process can only solve any controversial problem like Kandhamal. People across the religions and communities are trying hard to bring peace in the disturbed area.

Interestingly, the Christian community is also divided on conversion and other similar issues. One section of the minority is saying that the Hindu fundamentalists like VHP is responsible for the violence in Kandhamal.

Whereas, the other section of Christian community is saying: Let us first set our house in order ; work for peace and amity. Mr PN Benjamin, head of Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD), falls in this categoy. I have received a mail from him with the title: An open letter to Mr John Dayal on Orissa inquiry. Mr Benjamin can be reached at .

Mr Benjamin's appeal to bring peace in Orissa is important.


Sai Prasan

An open letter to John Dayal October 2008

Dear Mr. John Dayal
Why bother about your security? You and I are Christians. And we have His assurance: Fear not, when I am with you. However, is your life more precious to you than the 'Christian' cause you are fighting for? Haven't nearly sixty Christians, according to you died in Orissa for fighting your cause? Haven't they been pawns in the hands of Christian jehadis like you?
Thanks for the offer to hold my hand and take care of my taxi fare from Bhuvaneswar. But, I am a retired bank employee, existing on a pittance as pension. So, please find a good Christian to take care of my medical needs, travel, board and lodge.
I need regular supply of the following medicines; Plendil-5mg , Lodoze 5 mg twice daily, Ramace 5mg, (morning –evening), Natrilik SR- one daily andClonotril,5mg in the night. These are for my BP. Then, human insulin Lille (30/70) 40 units in the morning and 15 in the night, Tab.Glucobay-50mg, morning and night, Riomet500GF, one in the morning for diabetes. These are the medicines I take every day. Hope you'll be kind enough to stock them for me, not forgetting an ice bag (small) to keep the insulin cool.
Looks like you have no faith in the good old Bible and the power of Jesus, our Defender and Saviour! There's no mention about it in your reply. That's why you're more concerned about your personal safety.
You refer only good old Gandhi and say you cannot be compared with him. No wonder. I respect your honesty because Gandhi never bore false witness against anyone, though he was not a Christian. But, the John Dayal, I know of dishes that out (falsehood) profusely especially when he goes to the US and appears before USCIRF and his Christian evangelist friends there who ostensibly bank-roll his activities both in the US and in India.

"There are no Christian assailants" in the Orissa incident"? That is quite a stretch when everyone who is familiar with the tribals in Orissa knows that many Maoists are converts to Christianity. Besides, to claim that there are no Christian assailants...that is another instance of bearing false witness when an 80 year old Hindu mendicant and his four associates were killed by assailants whose Christian identity is cleverly camouflaged under the guile of their being Maoists. There are Maoists who are not atheists, but still go to their respective places of worship.
Incidentally, I understand from my friends in the US, that whenever you go there and appear before the USCIRF, all the secular Indian Christians there hang their heads in shame for the presence of such a man in the US who does not seem to have an iota of national pride or is willing to credit India's 2000 plus years of history with Hinduism that has tolerated the fundamentalist preaching of the mis-quided Mullahs and the ilk of Benny Hinn (Bunny Henn?) types.
I need some clarifications. The inquiry Commission has invited you to Bhubaneshwar and not to Kandanmhal. Orissa State government to probe Dec 2007 appointed Justice Panigrahi Commission anti-Christian violence. You first boycotted it as he was not a sitting judge and then asked for extension of time. You had placed your demands before the commission before the killing of Swami Lakhmanand. Some disconnect somewhere?
Be that as it may, there can be a funeral in Bhubeneshwar for a Christian priest killed in the aftermath of the murder of Swami Laksmananda. And 3000 people can attend it. But John Dayal says that he cannot come to Bhubeneshwar to give evidence to the commission set up to inquire into many aspects surrounding the issues in Kandhamal, because he fears for his safety.

It is not only the Christian priests and bishops who are out to demonise Hindu organisations. Various laity leaders like you, who see an opportunity to make money, egg them on. It is unfortunate the John Dayals of India like the Taliban want to "Christianize" Asia because they still toe the line of the late John Paul II's Ecclesia in Asia
However, May God bless you abundantly to spread continuously hatred like butter on hot bread. In the meantime, I accept your invitation/offer/challenge to visit Orissa along with you to spread the message of peace and amity, provided you take care of the above mentioned requirements. Please do bring along with you the Bibles you promised. May be a hymnbook tooto help us sing the old-weird-colonial song: Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war…."

PN Benjamin
Oct. 2008

Friday, October 7, 2011


"Why should caste system go away?"

Most Hindus agree that caste must go away and say that it is slowly going away.

"What language do the African Americans speak? And what did their ancestors speak 500 years ago?" "Swahili? Hausa?" "Do the African Americans worship the animist deities of their ancestors? Do they wed and bury per their ancestral customs?" The answer, "No."

One can replace African Americans with any immigrant group: The Dutch, the Germans, the French or the Latinos. What Americans proudly advertise as the melting pot actually imposed the language, culture, religion and customs of the dominant ethnic group on all others. On the other hand, visit even a small village in India with just 300 families. The chances are that this population would be made up of 10 different castes and each of them retains its distinct religious, wedding, funerary, culinary and dialectic features. This is because, as a truly pluralistic society, the Hindu India allowed each ethnic group, regardless of how numerically small it was, to retain its identity."

So, Caste is a result of this spirit of freedom and pluralism. It is something to be proud of. by the Hindus. On the other hand, the so-called melting pot is actually a result of cultural, and often physical, extermination of diverse identities by one intolerant and powerful group.

Like every other man made institution, caste too has been misused. Then, so has been every other man made institution like democracy or secularism. It was a democratically elected Hitler who exterminated 6 million Jews, Gypsies and mentally retarded patients. It was a democratically elected Jefferson who fixed the worth of every African-American child at $ 22.50 and proposed to forcibly snatch them away from their parents and ship them back to Africa after ensuring that the adult African American population does not procreate any further. It was a democratically elected Roosevelt who declared that the extermination at the hands of the Whites was the best thing that happened to the Native Americans. Stalin and Mao were secular but they mercilessly sent millions to death camps.

"Is anyone demanding that democracy or secularism be abandoned because of a Jefferson, Roosevelt, Hitler, Stalin or Mao? Why should caste be abandoned just because it was misused? Hindus have systematically addressed caste inequities over the last 100 years or so. If we assume that we rid our society of all discriminations in the next 30 years, members of every caste, be it Brahmin, Kayastha, Maratha or Paraiyah could proudly say that they follow the millennia old religion, customs and dialects of their forefathers. Suppose the Christian West similarly resolves racial discriminations, could an African American, Dutch American or Latino make similar assertion?"

In the casteless Christian West, the minorities have been forced to abandon their identities and instead have been made to imitate the dominant group in every aspect of life such as religion, language, wedding and funeral customs. Nathan Katz points out how Hindu pluralism, of which caste is an integral part, actually preserved minority customs. Katz, while discussing how the Jewish people flourished for centuries amidst the Hindus "A crucial distinction between India and the rest of the Diaspora, however, is that in India acculturation is not paid for in the currency of assimilation. By acculturation I mean fitting comfortably into a society while retaining one's own identity, whereas by assimilation I mean that the loss of that identity is a perceived condition for acceptance.

The study of Indian Jewish communities demonstrates that in Indian culture an immigrant group gains status precisely by maintaining its own identity. Such is the experience not only of India's Jews, but also of local Christians, Zoroastrians, and recently, Tibetan Buddhists. This striking feature of Indian civilization is reflected by each of these immigrant groups.

Would this preservation have been possible without the spirit of pluralism, which was ensured by the caste system? Are the Hindus going to repeat the missionary propaganda and deny the strengths of their own civilization or are they going to understand the institution of caste dispassionately? The missionaries know that the institution of caste must be obliterated if the Hindu society were to be weakened and converted. A Hindu should critically analyze his traditions instead of uncritically absorbing propaganda.

"The genius of Hinduism, the very reason it has survived so long, is that it does not stand up and fight. It changes and adapts and modernizes and absorbs–that is the scientific and proper way of going about it. I believe that Hinduism may actually prove to be the religion of this millennium, because it can adapt itself to cha nge."

Mark Tully

Sunday, October 2, 2011

10th Samartha Memorial Lecture postponed

PRESS RELEASE 01 Oct. 2011

Rev. Dr. Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture

The 10th Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture due to be held in October 2011 stands postponed to January 2012 due to unavoidable circumstances. The date, time and name of the speaker will be announced in due course.

Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) is a low profile organization formed in 2001, by a small group of Hindus, Muslims and Christians in Bangalore, to promote inter-faith amity in line with our native wisdom of promoting inclusiveness for preserving India's religious diversity. BIRD organizes seminars, consultations, panel discussions and dialogues and an annual lecture series in memory of Rev. Dr Stanley Samartha, the first Director of the Inter-Faith Dialogue Programme of the World Council of Churches, Geneva. It is the signature event of BIRD’s inter-faith activities undertaken in the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore. It has organized nine such lectures so far.

Sir Mark Tully, former BBC’s India chief delivered the ninth Samartha Memorial lecture on 7 October 2010 while Mr. Arun Shourie, MP, and celebrated journalist and author, delivered the eighth Lecture in October 2009 . He spoke on “Rethinking Religions”.

The seventh lecture was delivered by Mr. M.J. Akbar, well known journalist and author, presently editor of India Today. The theme was: “The Power of Religion vs. the Religion of Power”.

Other speakers who delivered the lectures in the past were: Justice K.T. Thomas, former Judge of Supreme Court of India (2007), Dr. Hans Ucko, director of inter-faith dialogue division at the World Council of Churches (2006), Mar Thoma Metropolitan Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom (2005), Prof. M.V. Nadkarni, former Vice Chancellor(2004), Dr. C.T.Kurien, economist and Director Emeritus of Madras Inst. of Dev. Studies (2003) and Mr. Francois Gautier, author and former political correspondent of Le Fegura (2001). They spoke respectively on: “The Right to Convert & the Indian Constitution”, “Towards and Ethical Code of Conduct”, “Courage for Dialogue”, “Religion in the 21st Century: A Perspective of Hope”, “Communal Harmony- A Societal Perspective” and “The Need for Inter-Religious Dialogue’


Sir Mark Tully on Indian Politics

Mark Tully on Indian Politics

I was surprised when the Congress party gave me a Padma Shri – I am the only foreign journalist to ever get it. For, in my forty years of political reporting in India, I have always been a vocal critic of the Nehru dynasty. Someone even called me recently: “a vitriolic British journalist, who in his old age chose to live back in the land he never approved”.
It started with Operation Blue Star. I was one of the few western correspondents who criticized Indira. As I have said since then numerous times, the attack on the Golden Temple and the atrocities that followed the army operations, produced in all sections of the Sikhs a sense of outrage that is hard today to alleviate. I believed then that the large majority of Hindu India, even if politically hostile to Indira Gandhi, openly identified with – and exulted in – her will to overwhelmingly humble a recalcitrant minority.
As everybody knows, Indira Gandhi helped my fame grow even more, by wanting to imprison me during the Emergency she clamped and finally throwing me out of India for a short while. But the result was that the whole of India tuned in, then and thereafter, to my radio’s broadcasts, ‘The Voice of India’, to hear what they thought was ‘accurate’ coverage of events.
When Rajiv Gandhi came to power, I first believed that he was sincerely trying to change the political system, but he quickly gave-up when the old guard would not budge. I criticized him for his foolish adventure in Sri Lanka, although I felt sorry for him when he was blown to pieces by Dhanu, the Tamil Tiger. It is in Kashmir, though that I fought most viciously against his Govt and subsequent Congress ones for its human right abuses on the Kashmiri Muslims of the Valley. The Congress Governments tried indeed several times to censor me and the army even took prisoner my Kashmiri stringer, whom I had to rescue by the skin of his teeth. I am also proud that I was the first one to point out then, that the Indian Government had at that time no proof of the Pakistani involvement in the freedom movement in Kashmir. Thus I always made it a point to start my broadcasts by proclaiming that « the Indian Government accuses Pakistan of fostering terrorism», or that “elections are being held in Indian-controlled Kashmir”…
As I was so popular, all the other foreign journalists used the same parlance to cover Kashmir and they always spoke of the plight of the Muslims, never of the 400.000 Hindus, who after all were chased out of their ancestral land by sheer terror (I also kept mum about it).
As for Sonia Gandhi, I did not mind her, when she was Rajiv Gandhi’s wife, but after his death, I watched with dismay as she started stamping her authority on the Congress, which made me say in a series of broadcasts on the Nehru Dynasty: “It’s sad that the Indian National Congress should be completely dependent on one family; the total surrender of a national party to one person is deplorable. You have to ask the question: what claims does Sonia Gandhi have to justify her candidature for prime-ministership? Running a country is far more complicated than running a company. Apprenticeship is required in any profession — more so in politics”. I heard that Sonia Gandhi was unhappy about this broadcast.
Then, after President APJ Abdul Kalam called her to the Raj Bhavan and told her what some of us already knew, namely that for a long time, she had kept both her Italian and Indian passports, which disqualified her to become the Prime Minister of India, she nevertheless became the Supreme leader of India behind the scenes. It is then that I exclaimed: “the moribund and leaderless Congress party has latched onto Sonia Gandhi, who is Italian by birth and Roman Catholic by baptism”. She never forgave me for that. Yet, today I can say without the shadow of a doubt that when history will be written, the period over which she presided, both over the Congress and India, will be seen as an era of darkness, of immense corruption and of a democracy verging towards autocracy, if not disguised dictatorship, in the hands of a single person, a non Indian and a Christian like me. Truth will also come out about her being the main recipient for kickbacks from Bofors to 2G, which she uses to buy votes, as the Wikileaks have just shown.
Finally, I am sometimes flabbergasted at the fact that Indians –Hindus, sorry, as most of this country’s intelligentsia is Hindu – seem to love me so much, considering the fact that in my heydays, I considerably ran down the 850 million Hindus of this country, one billion worldwide. I have repented today: I do profoundly believe that India needs to be able to say with pride, “Yes, our civilization has a Hindu base to it.”
The genius of Hinduism, the very reason it has survived so long, is that it does not stand up and fight. It changes and adapts and modernizes and absorbs–that is the scientific and proper way of going about it. I believe that Hinduism may actually prove to be the religion of this millennium, because it can adapt itself to cha nge.