by Sergei Badaev
(email@example.com) September, 2002
Sathya Sai Baba often instructs his devotees: "Do not see bad, see only good; do not hear bad, hear only good…" and so on.
There are many different ways to understand this instruction In the Sai movement it is interpreted too often as not criticising (that is not analysing) anything, not paying attention to negative sides of surrounding life. In regard to the criticism concerning Sai Baba himself it means turning a deaf ear to all negative witnesses (as they can destroy someone's faith) and not investigating bad facts instead simply qualifying them as rumours.
When I was a devotee of Sai Baba, I sincerely tried to follow his instructions and I really saw Prashanthi Nilayam as an Abode of Supreme Peace and was not worried at all, for example, about people being killed in 1993 in Sai Baba's rooms. I believed that everything is under God's (i.e. Sai Baba's) control, everything was going on according to the Divine plan. With hope and inner joy I read Sai Baba's words:
Countries are like carriages. The engine is God. The first carriage is India. The other carriages will follow. According to the astrology of ancient times, the change in world conditions to be brought by Swami's influence will come in about 15 years). This was predicted 5600 years ago in the Upanishads. (This conversation was in December 1968 ( J. Hislop, Conversations with Bhagavan Sathya Sai Baba. ch.XXXIV, p.111)
The result of seeing only good was, in fact, deceptive. I realised that by ignoring the bad side of reality I was betraying Truth itself. You can't see good and not see bad when you are in a dualistic state of mind. Either you see both good and bad, or you see neither good nor bad if you are in an advaitic state of mind.
My knowledge of a real situation in India was so poor that I could easily believe many of Sathya Sai Baba's words. Now I see that my concentration on Sai Baba made me blind in regard to many signs appealing to my attention. Now I can confess that my illusion was partly due to my ignorance.
Just to demonstrate a small facet of real problems in India that have practically had no response from Sai Baba and his movement, I searched for the key words 'religious violence Andhra Pradesh, India' into the "Google" search engine. Selected results are presented below. I have tried to shorten them as much as possible, so I am sorry if some of them have lost some coherence. To get complete versions, please repeat the procedure with "Google".
Caste System in Andhra Pradesh
There is no universal system of caste throughout India. The belief that the Vedic varnashrama dharma was the “caste system in embryo,” seems to be flawed, since the existence of tribes/castes in Andhra Pradesh predate the migration of Brahmins to that region. One may argue that in any society, including European or modern American society, there are four underlying varnalu (colors or divisions or groups), the four groups being, intellectuals and priests (Brahmin varnamu), rulers and warriors (Kshatriya varnamu), agriculturists and business persons (Vaishya varnamu), and all other workers without whose input the society cannot move further (Shudra varnamu). Without these four broad classes there is no society in this world. Thus if the society is the God, his/her head is the intellectuals and priests, shoulders are the warriors and military, the trunk is the business and agricultural community and finally the limbs are the workers who fulfil the basic needs of the society starting from the work in agricultural fields to the temple construction, without which society cannot go forward. Anybody can become a Brahmin varna (intellectual group), but one has to be born into Brahmin caste to be a Brahmin caste. Caste is not a Varnamu and these should not be confused with each other. Caste is a tribal identity that is ubiquitous in every human society. The caste conflict in Andhra Pradesh is nothing more than the tribalism that still exists.
The castes in Andhra Pradesh can be divided into two distinct categories. Brahmin, Komati, Reddy, Kamma, Velama, Kapu, Nayudu, Relli, Mala, Madiga, Yeraka, Yanadi etc., castes are based on their tribal, cultural and religious differences, while the castes like Chakali (washerman), Kummari (potter), Kammari (smith), Kamsali (goldsmith), Mangali (barber) etc are based on their duties. With a few exceptions like the Brahmin caste, all these castes are uniquely localized in Andhra Pradesh. Each caste has a deity and distinct social formalities. The interaction between various castes is difficult because of these religious, cultural and tribal considerations.
Today, all the castes (tribes) in Andhra Pradesh are categorized into four groups, viz., Forward Communities (FC), Backward Communities (BC), Scheduled Castes (SC), and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Preferential quotas and reservations are established for BCs, SCs, and STs. The Constitution of India endorses and enforces such preferential discrimination. This system reinforces the old caste system, while broadly categorizing them into a new form. Here again like in Vedic Varnamu, any caste can be included into FC, BC, SC, or ST group if one attains a certain social stature. Even today the tribalism prevails and the social interactions such as marriage and festivals are influenced by caste. Inter-caste/religious social intercourse is still not accepted. One can see the power of caste/tribe over the society clearly in politics. Even in the North America, the Telugu nationality is divided along the lines of caste, e.g., the Telugu Association of North America is dominated by Kamma caste where as the American Telugu Association is dominated by Reddy caste. (Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, 10/30/98)
Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA
1819 L Street, NW Suite 300 Washington, DC 20036 Telephone (202)296-6694, Fax (202)296-6695
"Coping with the Politics of Faiths and Cultures: Between Secular State and Ecumenical Traditions in India," by Ashis Nandy.
Summary: Nandy begins this paper by stating that there has been an increase in violence in India, especially in the six states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. In these states, the bulk of the violence takes place in the industrial areas of cities. The author notes that these facts do not support popular perceptions; rather they suggest that as the modernization and secularization of India has progressed, so has religious violence in that country. Nandy also notes, however, that religious passions have played a decreasing role in religious violence-money, politics and organized interests play a much more important role. …
©1999 Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA
Baptists Join Protest for Human Rights in India
by Wendy Ryan WASHINGTON, D.C. (BWA)--G. Samuel, pastor of the 4,500-member Baptist church in Hyderabad, Southern India, where the Baptist World Alliance will hold a worship conference in October, joined with other Christian leaders to protest the violence against Christians in Ongole, South India. This is part of a wave of persecution against Christians that was highlighted with the death of Australian Baptist missionary Graham Staines and his two boys who were burned to death in January 1999 in Orissa, India.
On June 8 a bomb exploded at the Jewett Memorial Baptist Church at Ongole. Simultaneously a bomb also went off at the Catholic Church in Tadipalligudem
…Samuel, who is also president of the All India Christian Council in Andhra Pradesh, told the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that the Council expected the Central and State Governments "to uphold this freedom of faith and work which is guaranteed by the Constitution."
…"We are saddened at the silence of the Government whom we look upon for support in meeting the gravest challenge our community has faced in the 53 years since Independence of India," they said.
© 2000 Baptists Today
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Clinton's South Asia Trip - Religious Intolerance and the Rise of Hindu Nationalism, March 2000
India - Religious Intolerance and the Rise of Hindu Nationalism Recommendations
The increasing domination of Hindu nationalism in India's current political landscape has dramatically undermined India's constitutional commitment to secular democracy. The policies espoused by India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its sister organizations, collectively known as the sangh parivar, have already resulted in much violence against the country's Christian, Muslim, and Dalit ("untouchable") populations.
The international community must now act swiftly to reverse this dangerous trend and join mounting domestic protest against a brand of nationalism that in rhetoric and in action promotes the creation of a Hindu nation.
The United States and other governments must pressure the Indian government to take steps to prevent further violence and to prosecute both state and private actors responsible for attacks on religious minorities.
In compliance with the Indian constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India ratified on April 10, 1979, the government of India should ensure that all citizens may equally enjoy freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, propagate, and adopt religious beliefs.
In October 1999, Human Rights Watch released a report titled 'Politics By Other Means': Attacks Against Christians in India', which focused primarily on the alarming rise in attacks against Christians in the past two years.
In addition, right-wing Hindu organizations have also engaged in violence against India's Muslim and non-Christian Dalit communities. In most cases, those responsible for the attacks have yet to be prosecuted.
Between January 1998 and February 1999, the Indian Parliament reported a total of 116 incidents of attacks on Christians across the country. Unofficial figures may be higher. Gujarat topped the list of states with ninety-four such incidents. Attacks have also been reported in Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Manipur, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and New Delhi. Attacks on Christians have ranged from violence against the leadership of the church, including the killing of priests and the raping of nuns, to the physical destruction of Christian institutions, including schools, churches, colleges, and cemeteries. Thousands of Christians have also been forced to convert to Hinduism.
Washington Post Foreign Service By Pamela Constable Monday, July 3, 2000
NEW DELHI –– A sleeping priest was beaten to death with pump handles in Uttar Pradesh state. A Christian graveyard was dug up in Andhra Pradesh and the tombstones smashed. A missionary distributing Bibles in Gujarat was seized and the books burned. On one day, bombs exploded in four churches across different states. From petty harassment to premeditated murder, Christian clergy and activists, institutions and symbols are under new assault by militant Hindus across India. With more than 30 incidents reported in the past several months, church leaders say the pattern has gained unprecedented breadth and momentum.
The attackers are rarely caught but often are suspected of belonging to a network of grass-roots Hindu groups known as the sangh parivar, or "united family." The groups, which have gained followers and stature since a Hindu-based party came to national power in 1996, promote Hinduism as a way of life and act as watchdogs against its perceived enemies.
…The Indian government, while embarrassed at the tarnishing of its secular image abroad, seems paralyzed by the attacks. Top officials of the ruling alliance, which is dominated by the Hindu-based Bharatiya Janata Party and beholden to the sangh parivar, have played down the crimes and made bland appeals for religious harmony.
In Rome last week, Pope John Paul II told Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee he was disturbed by the violence and said it had "seriously wounded" India's tradition of religious tolerance. Vajpayee said he, too, was concerned but dismissed the attacks as "isolated incidents" and suggested that the problem be viewed "in its proper perspective."
Church officials and human rights groups say the government's weak response is encouraging a climate of hatred and allowing fears of a "Christian takeover" to fester, even though India is more than 85 percent Hindu and less than 3 percent Christian.
The sense of vulnerability among Indian Christians deepened last month when their leading defender, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New Delhi, died in a car crash in Poland. Before his trip, Archbishop Alan de Lastic told journalists here that India's Christian community was facing its worst crisis since the state was founded in 1947.
"I blame the government for this," de Lastic said, noting that he had spoken to Vajpayee about the attacks, "yet nothing seems to be getting done."
…Critics say continuing mixed signals from Delhi and state governments may bolster, rather than chasten, the fanatic Hindu fringe. Some top officials, such as Home Minister L.K. Advani, are Hindu hard-liners who see no reason for alarm; others, including Vajpayee, seem more eager to avoid alienating Hindu constituents than to salvage India's reputation as a tolerant, secular democracy.
Reuters Wire | 09/24/2002 | Commandos Storm Indian Hindu Temple After 29 Killed
The attack came as nuclear-armed India and Pakistan remained locked in a nine-month-old military standoff triggered by a raid on the Indian parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based rebels fighting its rule in Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. Analysts have said another big attack could reignite tension between the neighbors that came close to war in June and still have a million troops massed along their common border.
AHMADABAD, India, Sept. 26, 2002 — Hindu nationalists held angry protest marches and mobs stabbed two Muslim men Thursday in western India as Muslims fled their homes to seek safety, fearing revenge riots after a bloody attack on a Hindu temple. Paramilitary police deployed in several towns in Gujarat state, and officials said they were confident they could prevent a repeat of the sectarian violence tha tore apart the state for three months earlier this year, leaving a1,000 dead, mostly Muslims. …
The World Hindu Council and Shiv Sena, groups allied with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, called for the general strike Thursday to protest what they called “jihadi terrorism.”
“The strike is to warn that if the government does not act in time, people will take the law into their own hands,” Mohan Salekar, the World Hindu Council’s general secretary, said.
and so on…