Tag Archives: Buddhism

Why Hindutva Loves to hate Ashoka the Great

Ashokan lions adorn Indian currency and the Dharmachakra features in the tricolour. Neither symbol has any sanctity for the ideologues of the ruling dispensation.

ashoka

Thousands of kings and emperors shone for a brief moment in history, then quickly disappeared. But in ‘The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man’, H.G. Wells writes, “Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day.” The famous British historian EH Carr also wrote, “What is history? It is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past.”

Yet, history is a continuous ‘us versus them’ for some individuals and outfits in India. Their interaction with the past typically degenerates into a vicious monologue aimed to vitiate the present and control the future. Nowhere is their vandalism of history more visible than what the Hindutva brigade is doing to the last great Mauryan ruler, Ashoka (304-232 BCE). Often compared with a medieval Mughal ruler—whom the Hindutvadis detest and distort in equal measure—they are now transforming the Ashokan period beyond recognition into a symbol of cruelty and bigotry.

Ashoka is widely known to have filled with remorse after the tremendous bloodshed in the battle of Kalinga. After that, he is known to have devoted his life to “conquest by Dhamma or right/moral life”. It is less known that Ashoka was among the earliest rulers to launch public utilities such as hospitals, encouraged tree-plantation, dug public wells and ordered the construction of rest houses along roads. His commitment to public reason is considered phenomenal, as he, two hundred years before Christ, organised the earliest open general meetings in the world.

( Read the full article here)

Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

Image result for nehru ambedkar

( Photo courtesy : The hoot)

(To be published in the special issue of ‘Janata’)

 

The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.

– Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1936), pp. 240–241.

If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.

– Ambedkar, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’, p. 358.

Introduction

India’s slow ushering into a majoritarian democracy is a matter of concern for every such individual who still believes in pluralism, democracy, equality and a clear separation of religion and politics. The way people are being hounded for raising dissenting opinions, for eating food of their choice or entering into relationships of their own liking or celebrating festivals according to their own faith is unprecedented. The situation has reached such extremes that one can even be publicly lynched for belonging to one of the minority religions or for engaging in an activity which is considered to be ‘suspicious’ by the majority community.

No doubt there is no direct harm to the basic structure of the Constitution, its formal structure remains intact, de jure India does remain a democracy as well as a republic, but de facto democracy has slowly metamorphosed into majoritarianism and the sine qua non of a republic—that its citizens are supreme—is being watered down fast. It does not need underlining that this process has received tremendous boost with the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces at the centrestage of Indian politics. Continue reading Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

“Welcome to the Land of Enlightenment”: Kaveri Gill

Guest post by KAVERI GILL

Bihar Tourism’s Neglected Treasures

Kesariya Stupa East Champaran
Kesariya Stupa East Champaran

A recent work trip took me to the north-east of Bihar, the poorest region of a state with ‘critical’ poverty incidence by any measure. For instance, within the state, on NSS 2004-05 data, West Champaran is the worst-performing district on headcount ratios (76.9) in rural India (Chaudhuri and Gupta, Economic and Political Weekly, 2009). Such destitution was on ample evidence amongst the segregated group of mahadalit and minority women members of a self-help group we spoke to, in a tola with no electricity and only candles to dispel an eerie fog settled over the village at dusk. Of 13 of them, 11 had repeat experience (up to three times per woman) of losing a child in the last trimester of pregnancy, just after giving birth or of a child under 5 years of age.  It was from Champaran that Gandhi first led landless labour and tenants or ryots, in his first satyagraha against the British, protesting the coerced cultivation of the cash crop, indigo. Almost a century later, not much has changed in tangible terms for the population of this part of the democratic Republic of India. Continue reading “Welcome to the Land of Enlightenment”: Kaveri Gill