The New Fuhrer at the Helm
International Association for Religious Freedom
Dargah With a Difference
Dalit Christians up in Arms
The Power of Words
By Hasan Mansur
The “India-centric and need-specific” model of development that the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), the highest policy-making body of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was spelt out by its new Fuhrer, K. S. Sudarshan who replaced the ailing, Rajendra Singh. This change of guard is interesting for the reason that the sword-arm of the Manuvadis, the Kshatriya has given way to the repository of Manuvada, the Brahmin.
Even the charade of sharing power between the two upper castes has been discarded because none can be trusted except the fountainhead of Manuvada.
In its wake, this has brought to the forefront what the BJP had been trying hard to conceal with an element of sophistry which is so typical of outfits with a fascist streak, the real face of the RSS that passes for a “social and cultural” organisation. Sudarshan’s foremost pronouncement was on the place of Muslims and Christians; to quote him, “These non-Hindus are not foreigners but ex-Hindus, they are Indians but their faiths will have to be Indianised”. His Guruji Golwalkar spelt this out ages ago that folk of faiths other than of Hindutva are alien and anti-national, hence they need to give up these faiths. So much for the cultural and social credentials of the RSS.
The agenda of the RSS is coming into the open, specially the bid to review the Constitution which is sheer sophistry again in the face of the open call of Sudarshan to scrap the Indian Constitution alleging it is based on the British-enacted 1935 Act; there is not even a hint of the labours of the founding fathers of the Constitution like Baba Saheb Ambedkar and others. It is an open secret that the RSS has its own draft constitution steeped in Manuvada. Then there was the quibbling over government employees joining the RSS; Vajpayee and Advani certified the latter as a cultural and social outfit and saw no contradiction between loyalty to Manuvada and secularism.
Then followed orders of the Uttar Pradesh and Gujrat governments to find the rise in the population of Muslims, Christians and Dalits, lumping them together as suspect, as anti-national.
Finally has come UP Regulation of Public Religious Buildings and Places of Worship Bill which pretends that it is applicable to all faiths but pinpoints the Madrasas and mosques as centres of fundamentalism, harbouring the ISI, empowering the police to raid these.
Sudarshan’s call to return to Swadeshi is not as much a call to fight globalisation or to save from hardship small business, sections or rural and industrial workforce, but to uphold the interests of Indian capital which is playing a subaltern role to international market forces; nevertheless the RSS has to back Indian capital which is as predatory as globalising forces in exploiting the poor because this capital props up the Sangh Parivar in turn. This sham of the RSS opposition to globalisation must be exposed.
Then there is the RSS attack on secular institutions. The renowned social scientist, Neera Chandoke writing in The Hindu (7/3/2000) under the title, “ Inventing History”, states, “Today we face the aspirations of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to rule India. How do they legitimise this? By appeal to which history? For they have no history to speak of, no history of nationalism, no history of launching social revolutions, no history on involving themselves in the fate of the ordinary man and woman struggling to live a life of dignity, which can legitimise their project. All the history they have is that of formenting communal riots, of forcing the ordinary individual to live amidst an increasingly uncivil society, of breaking apart communities which have learned to live together, irrespective of their religious persuasion.
Their history is one of admiration for Hitler and Mussolini and of yoking passions to the majoritarian project.” Now Sudarshan has told the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser of “an epic war between Hindus and anti-Hindus” and declared that he favoured a new code of conduct (dharma) based on the Hindu philosophy” whatever that meant. This aggressive stance flows from what the New Indian Express in its editorial dated March 14, 2000 points out, “since the RSS membership drive is flagging — government employees cannot join up and young people seem uninterested — a not unimportant consideration is mobilising support from all those, unemployed and others, whose lives have not improved yet. “This affirms the historical experience of the role of the lumpen forces that led to the rise of fascism in Europe. This could be the Indian experience too.”
The Hindu in its editorial March 13, 2000 concludes with a timely warning thus, “The havoc caused by the Sangh Parivar’s campaign in the past — the trail of violence left behind by the Ayodhya campaign has traumatised the national psyche. The likelihood of the Sangh pursuing more openly the exclusivist agenda and pressing the BJP to go along with that has only increased.” This ugly visage of Manuvada red in tooth and claw, intent on imposing its primeval hegemony on the rest must be resisted and overcome.
The author is an eminent civil rights activist
International Association for Religious Freedom
By Prof. Mumtaz Ali Khan
The International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) is a global organisation striving to promote better understanding, peace and harmony among members of different faiths. The major objective of IARF is to promote religious freedom not only between two religious groups but also within the group. This intra- and inter group approach is the hallmark of IARF. It has been rendering this service for the last one hundred years. It is a matter of great satisfaction that IARF has just completed its glorious innings of one hundred years. The Centenary Year was celebrated at Bangalore just recently. Karnataka Governor Mrs. V S Ramadevi highlighting the strengths of Indian polity said the constitution allows every citizen to profess, practise and propagate his religion with perfect freedom subject to public morale and order.
IARF President Eimert Van Herwijnen from Holland and the Secretary General designate Andrew Clark from United Kingdom were present on this occasion. They were immensely pleased with the remarks of the Governor that they may carry the message to the western world that in India all religious groups live in perfect harmony. This is the beauty of India’s pluralistic society. Religious pluralism is recognised and safeguarded by the Indian constitution. It is amazing that a country where the Hindus account for 82% of the total population are made equal to the remaining 18% of people who belong to religious minority groups. In no way can the Hindus claim special privileges or rights even though they form the numerically dominant group. In no way can they interfere with the religious freedom of the minorities.
IARF leaders belong to all major religious groups. At the last World Congress at Vancouver, Canada, it was announced by the leaders of IARF that the composition of the International Council was made taking into consideration that as far as possible all major religious groups be accommodated. IARF that was born in 1900 has undergone many significant changes in its structure and functions. By conducting World Congress every three years in different parts of the World, it tries to ensure that different religious groups from all over the world participated in its policies and programmes. The role and status of Islam as a major religion and its contribution to world community is well recognised by the IARF. The message of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) to mankind and respect for all religions and Prophets before Him form the guiding force while executing the main vision and mission of IARF.
IARF is not a funding agency and as such members who lend their support to promote the goals of IARF do so only in the interests of mankind. All those who are true believers of their own religion have to extend their support to IARF.
It does not get financial support from any government. It rather mobilises its limited resources from several individuals and member-groups who strongly believe in genuine efforts to dispel many wrong perceptions widely prevailing among religious groups. While making liberal donations to IARF, no donor ever keeps the interest of his group in mind. In other words, no undue advantages are extracted by them. India for instance makes a small contribution through its member-groups when compared to most liberal contributions from the rich Japanese. But no special status or advantages are enjoyed by the Japanese. This ensures perfect equality between unequals.
Significantly, IARF does not question any one’s faith. How one manages oneself with the religion is a matter of self-determination. Let us take the case of the Unitarians who form a strong base for IARF. This is a group of liberal Christians who question certain fundamental issues of Christianity. There is absolutely no internal or external pressure on such people. They are all committed to human values and human rights. Though in a sense they are rebels against the orthodox Christians, the relationship between them is extremely cordial. The Unitarians do not accept Mary (Bibi Mariam) as a virgin which is a fundamental departure from the orthodox Christians who take her as a virgin. This is no doubt a matter of internal interpretation. But it is no longer a dispute straining their relationship.
IARF promotes inter-faith conferences, workshops, training programmes and improvement of life-style among the poor. Another significant contribution made by IARF is the encouragement given to the concept of young adults. It has been well recognised that young people should be roped in and encouraged to take up leadership in future. Keeping this in mind the leaders of IARF started Young Adult Programme from 1996 IARF World Congress at Seoul, South Korea. This group consists of representatives from major religious groups including Muslim youths.
So far as Muslim participation is concerned, Khwaja Gharib-Un-Nawaz Welfare Centre, Bangalore of which this writer is the Executive Director, is deeply involved in promoting inter-faith activities in recognition of which I am nominated to the International Council of IARF, then to its Executive
Committee and elected as the Chairman of South Asia Coordinating Council. KGN is planning to enlarge its base and programme. It appeals to Muslims to extend their support and cooperation.
IARF has its chapters in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Efforts are being made to start a chapter in Pakistan too.
By A Staff Writer
In recent years, the plight of the Dalit Christians is increasingly becoming known, with a new breed of Dalit Christian theologians, community leaders and writers emerging. Christianity, they say, has failed to liberate the Dalits from caste oppression, although that is why millions of Dalits all over the country had converted to that religion. What is more, they stress, caste oppression is visible and thriving within the Church itself.
The recent visit to India by Pope John Paul provided an occasion for many Christian groups to vent their anger at the growing spate of attacks on Christians in India. But, in the process, a lonely voice, representing the many million suppressed Dalit Christians, who form the majority of the Indian Christian population, was left largely un-noticed by the Church authorities. This was an open memorandum sent to the Pope by the Tamil Nadu-based Dalit Christian Liberation Movement [DCLM]. This memorandum is of great significance, pointing, as it does, to the reality of caste oppression within the Church and the growing restlessness and anger of the Dalit Christians against their plight.
In its memorandum, the DCLM informs the Pope that its members had earlier tried to meet him and make a representation, but that they were ‘prevented by the Church authorities’ from doing so. It goes on to speak about the rampant casteism within the Church, saying that in some respects, the position of Dalit Christians is ‘not different, and, in fact, worse, in some respects’ from that of their non-Christian brethren.
The memorandum is an outpouring of long bottled-up feelings of anger and revolt. It says that the Church has been consistently ‘violating’ the human rights and dignity of the Dalit Christians, subjecting them to ‘long-standing injustices, discrimination and marginalisation’. The Dalit Christians, it tells the Pope, now ‘cannot but expose the failure of the Indian Church to do justice to them’, and so they have ‘reached the point of taking up struggles for this’.
The DCLM declares that the Dalit Christians will no longer be taken in by the ‘mere theological reflections and choicest verbal gestures’ of the Church leaders. Instead, what is demanded are administrative and policy changes, along with structural transformations in the Church to rapidly and radically put an end to the oppression of the Dalit Christians. Not words, but concrete action is what is asked for. Accordingly, it tells the Pope that he should instruct the Indian Church authorities to ‘immediately ban all forms of divisions and separations or exclusion in the Church, in the funeral paths and graveyards and in the Church festivals’, which, especially in the south, have been long in force against the Dalits. It demands that all Indian Catholic priests and bishops who observe or condone such practices should be relieved of their responsibilities.
Although the Dalits form some 70% of the Indian Christian population, the number of Dalit Christian priests continues to be very nominal. In Tamil Nadu, the memorandum says, Dalits account for over 75% of the Catholic population, but only of some 6% of the priests and nuns. The situation in other parts of India is no better. Of the 150 Catholic bishops in India, only 8 are Dalit, and there has, so far, been no Dalit Cardinal. The DCLM memorandum calls for a special drive to be initiated by the Vatican to ordain more Dalit religious leaders, seeing the negligible representation of Dalits in the priesthood as ‘clear proof of caste domination’ within the Church, and a refusal of the ‘upper’ castes within the Church structures to share power with the Dalits.
Casteism within the Church, the memorandum tells the Pope, has also gravely affected the educational and economic fortunes of the Dalit Christians. It says that even in Christian educational institutions that are supposedly meant to have been established with the primary purpose of educating, first their own people and then others, Dalit Christians are ‘severely marginalised’ in admissions and appointments. It estimates that there are less than 10% Dalit Christians in the many schools and colleges that the Catholics run throughout the country. The DCLM requests the Pope to instruct the Catholic authorities in India to ‘make policies of preference and reservation’ for Dalits in these institutions. Further, it points out that the vast amounts of money that the Catholic organisations in India are receiving from abroad in the name of ‘upliftment’ of the poor have not really reached the Dalits, there being ‘no transparency and accountability’ in their functioning. The DCLM demands that these organisations be allowed to be monitored by Dalit leaders and community representatives so that the really needy can benefit. In order that the rights of the Dalit Christians are protected and that they can benefit from the enormous resources of the Church, the DCLM memorandum asks for the setting up of a special Secretariat for Dalit Christians’ Affairs at the Vatican, with adequate Dalit representation.
The DCLM calls all of these as the ‘minimum steps’ that are required to bring about any meaningful change in the situation of the Dalit Christians. If such steps are not undertaken, the DCLM tells the Pope that the Dalit Christians will take to the path of agitation and struggle. If the Church authorities continue to show ‘a lack of sincerity and sensitivity’, it warns, the Dalit Christians may be forced to re-think their present methods of peaceful agitation. Ominous portents, indeed.
By Jameelah Abdallaha
The messenger of Allah [Pbuh] clearly highlighted this power of the word when he said: Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent. The word can be a means to harmony in this life and to the everlasting happiness in the Hereafter.
Allah has created us and has created the words that we use to communicate with Him and among us. Whether we realise it or not words have power, a power that can impoverish and destroy whole societies or build and harmonise whole societies. A power that can lead to success in this life and in the Hereafter, but can also lead to failure in this life and the Hereafter. Because words possess such a tremendous power, Because we can use words to communicate with our human fellows, Because we are what we speak, Because we are perceived through what we say, Because we are answerable in this life on what we say in one way or another, Because we will be answerable on the Day of Judgment over what we say in this life Most importantly, because Allah always hears us even when we speak to our own innermost, Because of all of these we should be careful in our use of words.
The messenger of Allah [Pbuh] clearly highlighted this power of the word when he said: Nawawi  Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent. The word can be a means to harmony in this life and to the everlasting happiness in the Hereafter. Nawawi  On the authority of Abu-Amr narrated that he said: “Oh messenger of Allah, tell me something about Islam which I can ask of no one but you.” He said, “Say I believe in Allah. And thereafter be upright.”
Because the words are very powerful means that any human being possesses we are all accountable on how we use them: Nawawi  Narrated Mu’adh ibn Jabal: I said, “Oh messenger of Allah, tell me of an act which will take me into paradise and will keep me away from Hellfire.” He said, “You have asked me about a major matter, yet it is easy for whom Allah Almighty makes it easy. You should worship Allah, associating nothing with Him; you should perform pilgrimage to the House.” Then he said, “Shall I not show you the gates of goodness? Fasting is a shield; charity extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire; and the salat of a man in the depths of night.” Then he recited, “Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of that We have bestowed on them. No soul knows what is kept hidden for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do.” Then he said, “Shall I not tell you of the peak the matter, its pillar and its topmost part?” I said, “Yes, oh messenger of Allah.” He said, “The peak of the matter is Islam; the pillar is salat; and its topmost part is jihad.” Then he said, “Shall I not tell you of the controlling of all that?” I said, “Yes, oh messenger of Allah.” And he took hold of his tongue and said, “Restrain this.” I said, “Oh prophet of Allah, will what we say be held against us?” He said, “May your mother be bereaved of you, Mu’adh! Is there anything that topples people on their faces-or on their noses-into hellfire other than the harvests of their tongues?”
The power of the word can be used to spread the worst kind of mischief, such as disbelief in Allah and the Hereafter. Al-An’aam : Who can be more wicked than one who invents a lie against Allah or says, I have received inspiration, when he has received none, or one who says I can reveal the like of what Allah has revealed? If you could but see how the wicked do fare in the agonies of death! The angels stretch forth their hands, saying “yield up your souls: this day shall you receive your reward—a chastisement of disgrace, for that you used to tell lies against Allah, and scornfully reject His signs.”
The power of the word is well understood, and so critically used by Satan against weak human beings who cannot control their tongues: Israa : Say to my servants that they should only say those things that are best. For Satan does sow dissension among them. For Satan is to man an avowed enemy.
The power of the word can plant success in this life and in the hereafter, but can also lead to failure in this life and in the hereafter. Ibrahim [24-27] Do you not see how Allah sets forth a parable? A goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches reach to the heavens—it brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord; so Allah sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition. And the parable of an evil word is that of an evil tree: it is torn up by the root from the surface of the earth: it has no stability.
Often, we tend to forget that words are very powerful weapons that we not only take for granted, but also abuse without any limits. Whether the words are between two friends, Whether the words are between two enemies, Whether the words are between parents and children, Whether the words are between husband and wife, Whether the words are between rulers and the ruled, The fact of the matter is that words are assets that Allah has given us as a test. The way we use words contributes to make us what we are as individuals, as communities, as societies. Our identities are defined both by our deeds and by our words. A Muslim thus should never belittle the impact of words on his/her identity and image nor belittle the impact of words on the people with whom he/she interacts.