Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951

From this blog post

Did you know, out of all the varied faiths existing in the country, ONLY Hindu religious establishments have to share their earnings with the state? This because of the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Act 1951 under which a State govt. gets the right to audit temple funds, appoint archaks (priests), set up a committee to monitor temple affairs as well as appoint an Endowment Commissioner to look after the donations given to the temples.

This is an example of another damaging legacy of the British Raj which we have failed to correct in the 65+ years of our independence. This would be another thing to fix before we worry about the Ram mandir, as I said in another post.

There is a also a petition to correct the situation.

Here is a great series of articles on the history of Indian temples by MD Srinivas.

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Now is not the time for Ram Mandir because ..

The Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir episode of 1992 is one of the most significant example of Hindu-Muslim tensions in India in recent times the wounds of which have not healed yet.

That happened while was still in the confused state. My thoughts at the time were: agreed there was a temple at the site which was destroyed by Muslim invaders. So what? Don’t the political parties ought to focus on much more real and immediate issues of poverty and development first? In other words, I was against the movement for constructing a Ram Mandir after demolishing the Babri masjid. This incident greatly contributed to my disillusionment with politics and alienation from Hinduism.

But I am not confused now and my thinking on this matter has evolved. The importance of Ramayan for a Hindu is immense. It holds not just spiritual value, but, over the ages, it has seeped into popular culture of Hindus throughout the world, not just in India. Regardless of whether Ramayan is history or mythology, the evidence for Ayodhya holding a special and revered status for Hindus continuously since BCE is very strong. As such it is only befitting to have a Hindu temple at the Babri masjid site, and not a mosque.

That said, I am still against the construction of the Ram Mandir. The reason is the politics around this issue today. Those opposing the temple are driven not by facts, reason and mutual respect, but by hinduphobia as defined by RM in this lecture. And I suspect that a significant fraction of the people supporting the Ram Mandir are being politically opportunistic or naively reactionary; they are not motivated by dharma.

By the way, it is not just Indian political parties which have been opportunistic in this respect. Sheldon Pollock has dedicated a good part of his career to distorting Ramayan and has contributed to the polarization around the Babri Masjid incident. Needless to say, Pollock is not the only ‘intellectual’ in this category.

In summary, I would keep Ram Mandir on the back burner for now and focus on plenty of other non-controversial projects for strengthening Hinduism. For instance, the India Pride Project to repatriate stolen temple artifacts; a translation project of the scale of Murty Classical Library of India but run by insiders (e.g. Vande Matram library); digitization of Indian texts; massive investment into original research and dissemination of authentic information; repealing the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Act 1951; renovation and maintenance of numerous legitimate temples; fix Indian school textbooks and those in the West; etc, etc.

Even after all this has been done and India has transformed into a fully developed nation, the right time to build the temple would be when the Indian Muslims invite the Hindus to do so! This may seem ridiculous today, but I believe it is completely feasible if as a nation we adopt the Dharmic framework where the different religions view each other with a genuine sense of mutual respect.

FAQs: Is this relevant for me?

Having read the previous FAQs posts in this blog, you may be inclined to ask: alright, lets say you are right – the system is messed up, first the Brits and then the Indian Left and Congress are responsible for it. But how is all this relevant for me today? I am just an aam aadmi going about my daily life untouched by any of this. I will give two arguments for how it matters to youfirst a mundane one reflecting on the current state of Indian politics, and then a philosophical and civilizational one.

Current State of Indian politics

This blog should be relevant for any Indian who is bothered by the rise of Kejriwal, the resurgence of Laloo and the perversions of the reservation system.

[And if you are not bothered you should watch this discussion of RM with former AAP members recorded in April 2014 while Modi was running his campaign. They spill the beans on Kejriwal, Shishodia, Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhusan and many non-AAP members too. They basically provide ground evidence for the various Breaking India forces that RM has been speaking about for a while now.]

There is no way of understanding the divisions in the Indian society today and the sorry state of Indian politics without a proper understanding of the history of India, especially the colonial period. Proper understanding of the Hindu Dharma is part of it.

Some of you may be wondering that things are different now given that Modi is in power. I don’t think Modi came to power because of a mass revival of Hinduism or because his positive message of development hit home. The most significant factor contributing to Modi’s success was the mess that the previous UPA government created for 10years! There are striking parallels with the election of Obama in the US. Obama too ran an extraordinary campaign but were it not for the previous 8 years of Bush Jr or McCain’s Palin blunder, I don’t think Obama would have made it.

The point is that in both cases a good fraction of voters stepped out of their comfort zones to vote for Modi and Obama. In the case of Obama the reluctance was due to race, and for Modi it due to his perceived non-secular character. It is not that the race fault lines in the US suddenly healed or that the 80% Hindu population of India suddenly discovered their Hinduism is not anti-anyone.

What this means is that all those voters who reluctantly voted for Modi may flip back, as has already happened in Delhi and Bihar state elections. It won’t take long for the country to relapse into old habits. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to educate ourselves on the  real state of affairs, not what is reported on NDTV.

By the way, in case you haven’t closed this window yet after labeling me a right-wing Modi supporter, in spite of the title of this blog :-), let me set the record straight about my political leanings. Yes, I am an unequivocal Modi supporter. But I am not completely sold on BJP. I don’t think most BJP leaders and workers have the perspective that I outline in this blog; they are just doing good old petty vote bank politics.

The Civilization Argument

Any serious and unbiased student of Indian history would appreciate that the Indian civilization is built on some amazingly profound ideas.

Ideas that are at par, if not much grander than the modern western conception of freedom, liberty, scientific spirit, economic and social justice, and environmental conservation. I will provide supporting evidence in this blog. And ideas are timeless, just like even  thousand years from now the atomic hypothesis or general relativity would be considered a triumph of human intelligence. I believe it is in this sense of timelessness of ideas that the Hindu Dharma is called sanatan (eternal) dharma.

But, you may say, the atomic hypothesis is now more of a great idea of the past with little relevance beyond a pedantic one. There are much more sophisticated theories today. Indian philosophical ideas may be in the same boat today.

Possible.

But I don’t think so. Once again, my views are not based on a nostalgic or a romantic idea of the past.  I invite the reader to do his own research and decide for himself. It would be a travesty if the grand civilizational ideas of India die out due to apathy of Indians.

The over arching goal of this blog is to reduce the barriers to such self inquiry.

Comments on The Battle for Sanskrit

This is an excellent review of Rajiv Malhotra’s book posted on writingcave.com. Some insightful remarks from the author (emphasis mine):

Why is it so important to counter this cabal of intellectuals and scholars? What’s the big deal if the scholars like Pollock go on twisting the Indian classics unquestioned? First of all, when our traditional ideas are translated in the West, in most of the cases they are taken out of the context, totally disconnected from the source. There can be many reasons, but one of the reasons is that the scholars who are trying to study the Indian tradition, the Indian sanskriti, they use a totally different model. They use the same scholarly models they have used to study Greek and Latin cultures.

This is a small problem actually. The bigger problem is the way the entire Hindu community is being portrayed as a highly biased, repressive entity that thrives on exclusion and casteism.

:

We shouldn’t rescue Sanskrit from the clutches of American Orientalists simply because of its exotic value or because of a hollow sense of pride; it actually contains a wealth of knowledge, and this knowledge is already being mined by Western scholars to make it their own.

I will just add one comment. RM had cautioned against academics like Pollock long back in 2003 in this Rediff article titled Does South Asian Studies Undermine India? He wrote

Many eminent Indian-American donors are being led down the garden path by Indian professors who, ironically, assemble a team of scholars to undermine Indian culture. Rather than an Indian perspective on itself and the world, these scholars promote a perspective on India using worldviews which are hostile to India’s interests.

:

An academic chair is a knowledge production center of very high leverage, and has the potential to do a lot of good or a lot of harm … There is a strong case for independent external audits by the funding sources to monitor standards of rigor, objectivity and quality.

Of course, no one paid any attention in 2003 or since. But now, in 2016, this book is making waves. I think the difference is that now RM is not talking in general terms, but is illustrating the problem concretely by targeting Sheldon Pollock. One can get a very good idea of the whole kurukshetra by just studying Pollock. Kudos to RM on this tactical master stroke!  But make no mistake that there are many more Pollocks out there (some listed in my other post on red flag personalities). I suspect that quite a few of them would provide enough material for many more volumes of The Battle for Sanskrit!

  • One of the endorsement of the book that carries special significance for me is that by Bibek Debroy in this video –

  • This is a review by another scholar – Koenraad Elst – who I greatly respect.  At the JNU event of TBFS Koenraad Elst’s gave a powerful rebuttal [video] to Pollock’s claim of a divide between Hinduism and Buddhism.

For new readers ..

To get the big picture, new readers of this blog are encouraged to start with the posts labelled FAQs and in this order –

FAQs: Why this blog?
FAQs: Who is the target audience?
FAQs: Why now?
FAQs: Why this title?
FAQs: Why are you anonymous?
FAQs: Is this relevant for me?

I have tagged some posts as RedFlag to highlight people, initiatives or media outlets which I have personally found to promote the outsider view on Indian history and Sanskriti. Not everything that the RedFlag people have written or said may be problematic, but beware!

Also, I keep updating the post whenever I find new material or a different way of saying the same things. Even the title may change! So be warned if you plan to link to a post. But  check back frequently. 🙂

FAQs: Why are you anonymous?

But then, I am not! I have shared this blog with quite a few friends. They know who I am. I am anonymous for the general public as a social experiment. Because of the subject matter of this blog, I am bound to offend someone likely from the liberal caste! Anyone motivated to do so, will likely not have much difficulty in finding me. I have no illusions of privacy on the internet. I just want to see how long it takes for a holier-than-thou pseudo-secular reader to show up.