Letter 13: Indian state's continuing assault on Hindu festivals, language wars in Tamil Nadu temples, temple demolitions and secularism of Jharkhand assembly – Letters from the basement
- Letter 13: Indian state's continuing assault on Hindu festivals, language wars in Tamil Nadu temples, temple demolitions and secularism of Jharkhand assembly
- Letter 12: Partition horrors remembrance day, Periyarist government's assault on temples in Tamil Nadu, a deep-dive into Malabar Hindu Genocide
- Letter 11: August 15, is it really Independence Day for Hindus in India?
- Letter 10: Right-wing, left-wing and Hindus in India
- Letter 9: The Hindu rate of growth
Hello and Namaste. This is a letter from the basement. I am Madhavan. This podcast covers everything about being a Hindu in secular, socialist India. We publish a new letter here every other week discussing the intersection of culture and politics in India from a Hindu perspective. If that’s something you are interested in, please subscribe to this podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, Amazon Music, JioSaavn, Gaana or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.
In this letter, continuing assault of Indian state on Hindu festivals, this time it’s Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali; how the country remembered Malabar Hindu genocide; language battles in Tamil Nadu have reached temples in that state; Jharkhand assembly has established a new ideal for secularism; there is a pandemic of temple demolition; and Assam government comes face to face with illegal infiltrators.
Welcome to the basement.
Let’s start off with a prayer to Ganapati bappa. Since the last letter from the basement, we Hindus welcomed the remover of obstacles to our homes, performed seva for 10 days and bid farewell with a heavy heart with a request that he come back to bless us again next year. Ganesh Chaturthi has a special place in my heart. It brings back memories of one of the happiest periods in my life. I studied in a residential school from 5th standard to 10th; Vijnana Vihara residential school near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. And celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi was one of the high points during those years in the school. Every year we would have a collective Ganesha pooja where hundreds of us kids with our little Ganeshas would sit together and dog the pooja which would be followed by a special lunch. Then there would be a big Ganesha murthi where the main pooja would happen. For a month leading to Ganesha Chaturthi, there would be a competition between the different dormitory rooms where we used to live. Which ever dormitory got the highest points for keeping the room clean through out that month would get the opportunity to host the big Ganesha in their room till the nimajjanam day. So, this used to be a big deal for all of us those days and some of us would go to extreme lengths to ensure all the beds are properly made, cloth hangers are neatly lined up and the floors are swept without a speck. Our dormitory rooms used to have interesting names too: Vidya, Vani, Veena, Vyasa, Vinayaka, Vidyaranya, etc.; all starting with a V. I remember my days in the school with great fondness, probably my happiest days as a student and a time when I made friends who I am still in contact.
Anyway, enough with the nostalgia; lets get back to the present. And the reality of current times is that it is becoming more and more difficult for us Hindus to celebrate our festivals and follow our traditions. This year’s Ganesha Chaturthi is a very good example to prove this. Public celebration of Ganesh pooja has been a feature in our country ever since it was started by Bala Gangadhar Tilak as a way to unite Hindus during the time India was under colonial rule. Since we became independent in 1947, it has become an occasion for people to come together in celebration and foster a sense of communal unity. But in the last couple of years, the Indian state has used COVID pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on communal celebration of Hindu festivals like Ganesh pooja, Rama navami or Durga pooja. And things have gotten worse this year with more repressive clamp downs on celebrations. This despite record levels of vaccinations, severe decline in COVID cases and state governments all over the country pushing towards normalization including ending work from home, opening up of markets and forcing physical attendance in schools for unvaccinated children. Hindus in several states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra had to take out protests to demand their right to practice our religion without being harassed by the government. Just think about it. Public celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi was not prohibited even by the colonial British rulers. The current Indian state is more colonial towards Hindus than the foreign colonizers. Of course it goes without saying that there is no COVID restriction for secular festivities like election and other political rallies with thousands of participants. Nor is there any restriction on celebration of non-Hindu religious festivals. If you remember, a couple of episodes back I had highlighted how the supreme court had suo-motu intervened to ban the Kanwar Yatra in northern India citing COVID but did not bother to do anything when COVID restrictions were relaxed to allow Moharram celebrations in Kerala. Diwali and Dussehra celebrations have already been banned in Delhi by Aravind Kejriwal government citing pollution as a reason. It is interesting that the same Kejriwal has been supporting the demand of Punjab farmers to withdraw a law that seeks to control the practice of stubble burning by farmers which engulfs almost the entire northern India in a thick blanket of smoke every year around November. So it appears that in Kejriwal’s view, burning of stubble by farmers in Punjab does not cause pollution but Hindus celebrating Diwali is destroying Delhi’s air quality.
In the last letter from the basement, the deep dive was on the true history of Malabar Hindu genocide that happened a 100 year ago from August 1921 to February 1922, about 7 to 8 months. I also talked about how the leftist historians in post-1947 India have whitewashed that pogrom and passed it off as a peasant uprising against landlords. Congressi politicians on the other hand have appropriated it as part of freedom struggle against the British. Both these groups are peddling fake history. Since that episode was recorded, there have been a few developments, particularly in Kerala, in connection with the 100 year anniversary of Malabar Hindu genocide. The Central government, after a review by a committee of historians has decided to remove the names of around 387 Islamist terrorists involved in Malabar genocide from the dictionary of martyrs of India’s freedom struggle which is published by the ministry of Culture. Just imagine, religious fundamentalists who carried out targeted plunder, murder and rape of Hindus in pursuit of their agenda to establish an Islamic caliphate in India were till now being passed off as martyrs of freedom struggle. Many thanks and congratulations to PM Modi and his government for this much delayed, yet much needed correction of historical records. As you can expect, this decision is opposed by the usual suspects: the communists, self-proclaimed secularists, Muslim league in Kerala, Owaisi of Hyderabad and Congressis like Shashi Tharoor. Nothing surprising there.
Speaking of Shashi Tharoor, he was recently involved in a discussion with Supreme Court lawyer J Sai Deepak which eventually turned into a debate of sorts on two contrasting ideas of India as a nation and a civilization. The occasion was to launch Tharoor’s latest book in Chennai. During the question and answer session of the program, someone asked Tharoor about his shameful defense of Malabar Hindu genocide. And Tharoor started off on his trope about freedom struggle and agrarian uprising and how wonderful Variankunnathu Kunjahammad Haji was and all that. Sai Deepak called out Tharoor’s bluff and highlighted the facts; mostly, what I had discussed in the last letter from the basement. And Tharoor was forced to become defensive, requesting audience to limit their questions to the topic of his book and not bring up other issues, like how he was peddling fake history. There are several videos of that event on YouTube; definitely worth checking out. Not because it involves a high flying anti-Hindu politician being forced on the back foot, but because it is revealing and quite educational. It is revealing of the kind of dishonesty practised by the leftist or the so-called secular intellectuals in India, especially when it comes to issues involving Hindus, our history and our persecution. It is educational on how this dishonesty can be challenged and taken down with facts and truth. This is something every Hindu in this country has to internalize and pass on to our next generations. That truth is on our side; facts are our strength; knowledge is our ally.
In another incident related to the 100 year anniversary of Malabar Hindu genocide, someone in Kerala organized a celebration. Yes, you heard that right. A celebration. And the chief guest for the event was the speaker of Kerala assembly Comrade MB Rajesh whose wife, if you follow my YouTube channel you may already know this, his wife was given a job through the back door at Kalady Sanskrit University by the CPM Kerala government. Participating as Chief guest in this celebration of Hindu genocide, Comrade Rajesh in true communist style peddled the fake history that what happened in Malabar in 1921 was part of our freedom struggle. He went so far as to say, thinking of Variankunnathu Kunjahammad Haji reminds him of Bhagat Singh. That pause was to give you some time to digest the absurdity of that comparison. But if you heard the last letter from the basement, this won’t come to you as a surprise. Communists in India have been peddling this fake history of agrarian revolt or freedom struggle since 1947 despite reams of evidence to the contrary.
In one of the previous letters, I told you of an incident where the Madras High Court dismissed a petition requesting to prevent the Periyarist Chief Minister of Tamizh Nadu from interfering in the functioning of temples in that state. At that time, the court said such petitions cannot be entertained because India is a secular country. Fast forward a few days, and the same Madras high court dismissed another petition that requested them to stop the Periyarist Tamizh Nadu government from forcing Hindu temples to perform pooja and other offerings in Tamil instead of samskritham. This time, the court said it is the devotee’s choice in which language they want the pooja to be performed. It looks like the court has conveniently ignored the secular nature of the India constitution. I think it is useful in our country for everyone to keep remembering the meaning of secularism from time to time. Every where else in the world, that word secularism is understood to mean a separation between the state, and religion. It is meant to prevent the state from being influenced by religious affiliations of one or the other group of its citizens and to protect the religious institutions from undue meddling by the state. In India however, secularism is a tool to perpetuate unrestrained, limitless authority of the state over all matters related Hindu religious institutions. Like I said in the last letter from the basement, this is a continuation of the colonial project of civilizing the heathens. It comes from a mindset that is prejudiced to think that anything Hindu is regressive and in need of reform by the state. So secularism is invoked whenever it is suitable in the pursuit of this agenda; if invoking secularism doesn’t serve this agenda, it is conveniently forgotten.
Another thing that the very respectable judges seem to ignore is, and it’s not just in this case but many other times earlier also like in the Sabarimala case or Shani Shinganapur case, is that temples are not cinema theaters where you can ask for a deluxe class ticket or ordinary ticket, or some textile shop where you can ask for shirts in whichever color you like, or some entertainment platform like Hotstar where you can listen to sports commentary in which ever language you want. Every temple is established under a certain tradition and follows specific rituals. The deity in every temple is different and that is the beauty of Sanatana Dharma. You cannot have one shoe fits all kind of rules. One doesn’t visit a temple as a tourist but as a devotee and, if you are a devotee you should respect the traditions of that temple. If you do not respect those traditions or think they are stupid, regressive or whatever, just don’t go to pray there. There are 100s of Vishnu temples in our country and 100s of Shiva temples. What is the purpose of visiting each Vishnu temple or each Shiva temple? It is the same Bhagwan, no? Why even go to a temple to pray? Ishwara is everywhere, in every grain of sand, in every insect, in every animal, in you, in me. Then why go to temple and that too so many of them? Because each temple is different. Each one radiates a different kind of energy, evokes a different kind of emotion in a devotee. If you do not relate to that energy or feel that emotion, there is no point even going to that temple. Pray in your house or wherever you find peace. Ishwara can hear you from anywhere. Even better, establish a temple in accordance with the traditions you believe in. There you can have mantras chanted in Tamizh or Telugu or Bhojpuri or Hindi or Urdu or English. Like I said in a previous letter in the context of appointment of poojaris in Tamizh Nadu temples, just because you do not like something and just because you temporarily have power for the next 5 years, you cannot destroy a system that has been in practice for 100s and 1000s of years. There is no restriction of how many temples can be there. There is no restriction on establishing new temples. Anyway Tamil Nadu government takes away all the money collected from temples in that state. Use that money to construct your new social justice temples; appoint poojaris as per your government appointment rules with reservations and back door appointments and all; recite mantras in whatever language you want. But why meddle with an established tradition? Except for your deep seated hatred for that tradition?
A temple, or for that matter any institution, becomes popular and people want to visit that temple because it is being run in a certain way and following certain practices. If you try to destroy that, then you are trying to destroy the very reason why you want to go there. Isn’t it? Then what will remain is a hollow building, like some museum. I see this kind of attitude among fellow Indians very often, especially when it comes to schools and other educational institutions. There are government schools which run with our tax money but they are so bad that no one wants to send their kid there if there is any option. All of us, including me, want to send our kids to private schools because that is the only way they can get even a decent education. But private schools are not cheap. The kind of standards and facilities because of which we want our kids to go there, those do not come cheap. If they have to have good teachers, they have to be paid well. If they have to have other facilities, fans, clean toilets, library, computers, those have to be paid for. But every academic year, we have parents associations in every city and every state in the country demanding that government should put a cap on the fees collected in private schools and state governments are happy to oblige. So what will eventually happen if the schools can’t pay for the quality of teachers and maintenance of facilities? The very standards because of which you want your kid to go to that school will not be there any more. There is a nice moral story about this kind of thinking. It involves a wood cutter who is sitting on a branch of a tree and is cutting that same branch. I am sure most of you would have heard this story at some point. The whole purpose of such moral stories is so we do not show that kind of behavior in real life. So, if you like a temple, there is a reason why you like it. Most of these temples and their practices are 100s or even 1000s of years old. They have withstood the test of time and tyranny. They were there in this land much before the current judicial system in our country came into existence. Why, they were there much, much before even the British colonial judicial system, which our judiciary is a continuation of, came in to existence. So, in your quest for social justice and a liberal utopia, please do not destroy what you have not contributed to build or even managed to improve up on. These ideas of liberalism and social justice that so many of the elites in this country seem to hold so dear, after 74 years, have not even managed to achieve equality or justice even in secular matters of our society. Instead of fixing that, they are meddling in something that doesn’t even need fixing and, if the constitution is to be taken seriously, is clearly not their business.
Did you hear about the Namaz room in Jharkhand assembly? No? Don’t worry, that’s why I am here, to inform you about the wonders of Indian secularism. The Jharkhand assembly Speaker has decided to allocate a special hall in the assembly building for Muslims to offer Namaz. As of now there are 4 Muslim MLAs in the 81 member assembly. Mind you there is no such special arrangement for Hindus or Christians or members of any other religion to offer prayers in the assembly. Only Muslim members get that privilege. Anyway, BJP which becomes Hindutva-wadi when in opposition, took up this issue and protested violation of secularism. Just for record, government in Jharkhand is headed by Jharkhand Mukti Morcha party in coalition with Congress. This drama reminds me of another incident that happened many years ago when Vajpayee was Prime Minister and Murali Manohar Joshi was the union HRD minister. A conference of state education ministers was organized in Delhi by the central government. And, the program started with Saraswati vandana, a prayer to goddess of knowledge, Saraswati Devi. Even while the prayer was going on, the education ministers from communist ruled states like West Bengal and other non-BJP ruled states walked out of the meeting hall, protesting against “saffronization” of education in a secular country. But today, when a special place for prayer is being created inside a legislature building for only one special religious group, not a squeak from these guardians of secularism. Not even a squeak. This is the reality of so-called secularism in India. It is a stick to beat Hindus with. It is a mechanism to force us to retreat and compromise on our beliefs and practices. No other religious group in this country has to carry the burden of secularism. Only us Hindus. Next time some politician from a “secular” party or some liberal intellectual tries to guilt-trip you in the name of secularism, remember this.
Little earlier, I said BJP becomes Hindutva-wadi when in opposition. That is a peculiar feature of BJP. When they are out of power, they become ardent defenders of Hindu rights and everything Hindu. But as soon as they come to power on the back of that pro-Hindu agenda, their attitude towards Hindus becomes indistinguishable from the so-called secular parties that they had defeated. I had talked about this many times in the past, on my blog, YouTube channel and on this podcast also. There have been some new examples in the past few weeks that strengthen this impression.
In Gujarat where BJP has been in power for the last 25, 26 years, Surat municipal corporation, which also headed by BJP, demolished the Ramdev peer mandir to make way for the metro rail project. Hindus from the area who protested this were arrested by the Gujarat police. There was a video which was viral on twitter, the temple poojari was seen walking away in tears as the temple was being demolished. Of course this is nothing new in Gujarat. In 2008 alone, when our current prime minister was the chief minister of Gujarat, almost 100 temples were demolished in Gandhinagar in the name of vikaas. What’s interesting is just a couple of months back, in July this year, Modi government informed our parliament that there are over 170 illegal religious structures on railway platforms all over the country and it is difficult to remove these for fear of protests by public turning into a law and order issue. I am pretty sure most of these illegal religious structures are not temples. Otherwise they would’ve already been demolished, protests or no protests.
In another BJP ruled state, Karnataka, a famous Adishakti Mahadevamma temple near Mysuru was demolished in the middle of the night just a day before Ganesh Chaturthi. According to local MP Pratap Simha, who is also from BJP, that temple was almost 500 years old. How can a 500 year old temple be illegal? How can it encroach on to a road that was laid much, much after the temple was constructed. Does it make any sense? The local municipal authorities had in fact prepared a hit-list of over 90 temples to be demolished in and around Mysuru alone, and only temples. No other religious structures were to be demolished. This hit-list and temple demolition plans have now been shelved after protests by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Hindu outfits in the area and intervention by ruling party MP Pratap Simha. While we criticize what is wrong, we have to give credit where it is due. Pratap Simha worked with purpose on this issue, taking up the issue with local authorities and even the state Chief Minister, to ensure that there are no more temple demolitions in Mysuru. Unfortunately, the MP from Surat did not show the same kind of consideration. Hindus in Surat should keep that in mind when voting next time. Leader of opposition in Karnataka assembly, Congress leader Siddharamaiah also made a lot of noise on the issue. That also may have helped in Mysuru.
From Gujarat and Karnataka in the west coast let’s jump to Assam in the East. There was recently an incident there which ended up with police opening fire and a couple of people dead and several injured. This happened in Sipajhar in Darrang district of Assam when government authorities went there to remove people who were illegally occupying government land, and the encroachers attacked the police. Most of these people who had encroached government land were Bengali speaking Muslims and those who had complained against them where native Assamese speaking Muslims. As you may know people in eastern parts of India, especially in states like Assam and Bengal face a huge problem due to illegal infiltrations from Bangladesh. These infiltrators come into our country in thousands and just occupy hundreds of acres of land which is traditionally used by local communities for agriculture and for their cattle. As per Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the area in that state that has been illegally occupied by these infiltrators is larger than the entire state of Goa. Just imagine what’s going on there. In Sipajhar revenue circle alone, where this incident happened, there is 77000 bighas of land that has been encroached which is more than 25,000 acres. This is just mind blowing. And, this problem is not limited to just 1 district of Assam. As per the interim report of HS Brahma Committee appointed by the Assam government to look into this issue, as many as 15 of the 33 districts in the state are dominated by illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators. That is more than half the state is under illegal occupation of foreigners. As per this report, this illegal infiltration is also effecting the cultural heritage of Assam. The very identity of as many as 18 Vaishnava monasteries in the state is under threat due to this infiltration. Most of us in the rest of India aren’t even aware about this slow invasion of our land and destruction of our cultural heritage. That’s because the media that is supposed to inform us hushes things up in the name of protecting secularism and maintaining communal harmony. Even now we are hearing about this only because the state is ruled by BJP and 2 Bangladeshi infiltrators who attacked police, were killed. Leftist media outlets and left-liberal activists were quick to jump in to blame the police and Assam government with their usual trope of Muslim khatre mein hain. In their desperate scheme to show India in a bad light, they don’t even seem to realize that those whose lives are being effected, those who are losing their livelihood and losing their land because of this illegal infiltration are also Muslims, except they speak Assamese and are Indians. As per the Assam Chief Minister, the Islamist terrorist organization Popular Front of India was involved in raising funds and organizing the riots that resulted in the present tensions. With the popular front terrorists being involved, this is clearly not the end of this issue and we will certainly hear more from Assam very soon.
That’s all in this letter from the basement. Hope you like what you heard. If so, please share this with your family and friends. Please leave a review and a rating in which ever podcast app you are listening. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the podcast. Search for letters from the basement where ever you like to listen to podcasts. Till I talk to you again in 2 weeks, stay safe and be happy.