From the Shveta Chhatra

I found an interesting article on Offstumped’s new avatara, the Shveta Chhatra. I don’t yet know if this is also akin to Shri Aurobindo’s move to Puducherry but we shall see.

I have posted the enire article below with what I had to say in observation nee Varta:

– Namaste

Of Faith, Justice and Reconciliation

The new Big Tent would fall woefully short of its objectives if it doesnt address head-on the fundamental problem of lack of freedom to faith in India.

On several issues over the last 5 years from when to celebrate New Year to how to sport eye browswe have witnessed an unawarranted invasion by the State into matters of faith.

Today Religious Institutions across the country are governed and managed by the State.

The more serious issue however is that it is the writ of the State that determines how religious shrines are managed and who gets to enjoy the spoils and privileges from the revenues generated by these shrines.

In fact State control of religious institutions is such a high stakes game that the Office of Profit Billensured a Congress MP’s unquestioned right to be the Chairperson of Tirumal Tirupathi Devasthanam, TTD, had Constitutional Sanction.

Offstumped had in two earlier posts first on the Sabarimala Tantri issue and then on the Babri Masjid issue had called for freeing religious institutions from state control.

There is a very good rationale for doing this which is both secular and right of center.

The secular argument is it frees faith from State control and intervention. The right of center argument is it gives religious institutions freedom to be run as their stakeholders (the devotees and the local communities), deem fit.

Freeing religion from state control would also serve National Interest for the State would no longer be seen to be acting in parochial interest by speaking for individual communities but for the people of the nation as whole.

The White Umbrella must stand clearly and unambiguously for this cardinal principle that the State shall have no role to play in matters of faith beyond upholding the rule of law.

This cardinal principle will also provide the new Big Tent the degree of openness and assurance needed to reconcile the intractable issues of last century while guaranteeing that Truth and Justice shall ultimately prevail.

A possible approach for closure on the Ayodhya issue can be found with this cardinal principle of freeing Religious Institutions from Government Control  and reverting the ownership of these institutions to the local communities.

A first step towards such a reconciliation would be to agree to a democratic process by which the Local Community can make choices on how to directly reap the benefits from all the economic activity resulting from religious-tourism making it a win-win for both communities.

Such a democratic process that provides a stake to the local community would also set a precedent for how to democratically resolve similar intractable issues on public projects that are intertwined with matters of faith.

It would also spare the Courts from answering absurd questions on matters of faith as well as prevent forcing the hand of Federal/state governments into legislating absurd laws that override local sentiments.

In closing let it be said there will be no Freedom to Faith as long as there is no Freedom to the Community and the Individual. It is in this Freedom Triad lies Justice to all when it comes to matters of faith.

More on Justice and Reconciliation on acts of Adharma committed in the name of faith in the next post.


Pala S – 

Dear Shri Yossarin –

“There is a very good rationale for doing this which is both secular and right of center.”

– I don’t know if you have ever tried feeling safe with a poisonous snake as pet, but that’s what this amounts to.

Please bear with me for I might sound unduly harsh and even “hard-line” –

1. No Secular State can inherently be “Right of Center”. Any State that remains aloof from religion in whatever sense HAS TO by force of its own existential logic, become anti-religion. Thus a Secular State is also inherently Leftist; if being anti-religion is an attribute of Leftism.

2. No Multi-Cultural Secular State can inherently not remain hostile to National Societal interests.

What I mean by “National Society” is the dominant-by-numbers Society in any country. I’m not necessarily talking of political majorities. This has to be viewed more in Civilizational terms. Hindus are India’s National Society.

For a proclaimed Multi-Cultural “pluralist” Secular State to remain so, a necessary condition of progressive weakening of the National Society must be met. If this cannot be met then the proclaimed aim of preserving a “Multi-Cultural and pluralist” setting will remain in danger. For a strongly nurtured National Society cannot also allow for….

3. A Multi-Cultural Secular State that also MUST believe(s) in Sarva Dharma Sama Bhavaand complete non-discrimination and complete equality amongst religions. You will notice and appreciate lies have to be told in order to shore up each part of this grand scheme, by the other. The lie of Equality of Religions has to be told to shore up the Multi-Cultural facade. The lie of “there is no Hindu society but only castes” must be told in order to shore up and protect the Multi-Cultural facade.

The Multi-Cultural Secular State must perforce remain protective of the religiosity of its “minority” religions. (Please note the small game in recognizing religious minorities when you have already theoretically exterminated an existing dominant majority vide National Society – This I call the “sleeping pill” for the Hindus) For in protecting the religiosity of the minorities, they also protect the basis and sheer logic of maintaining a Multi-Cultural Secular State that also MUST per force believe in Equality of Religion and complete Non-Discrimination amongst religions.

How does this State then justify its anti-Hindu (National Society) attitudes and behaviors? Well, it actually is not anti-Hindu. Don’t you see? It behaves this way for the good of Hindus. It wants to save Hindus from Hinduism. Thus Hinduism is decayed and rotten. Has nothing of value in it. Has caste and all-round discrimination and displays racist tendencies against Dalits and OBCs and whoever next is in line. Hinduism is so bad for Hindus that its best they give it up.

In closing, I would like to say that you display extreme naïveté in your Ayodhya proposal. You want to push a “Secular” economic argument as basis for BUYING (a harsh but apt description) resolution. Apart from de-humanizing and not to speak of de-Hinduising the very basis of this movement, you have left yourself open to a “why not then a hospital?” counter proposal. Surely you cannot dispute the value of a public utility when you have already chosen to value economic prosperity over the felt religious need and want?

Please kindly remember the driven logic of The Secular State that is sworn to protect Multi-Culturalism because it finds the country it governs; so. Not necessarily because it creates it. It can work the other way too; vide Europe and America as we see the scene playing out today.

I’m open to holes being punched in my argument.

Thank you

Shri Kumar writes –


Very well argued points.

I think we can all agree that India is not a secular state, if we go by the clean definition of secularism.

Well, there could be an Indian version of secularism – one that encourages the ‘religiosity’ of minority religions, whilst mandating the majority religion’s institutions to be under state control.

Considering that Hinduism is not a ‘religion’ in the Western/historical sense of the term, and it is not organized in the way the semitic religions are, it is not surprising that this formulation of Indian secularism has not only gone unchallenged by Hindus, but it has also achieved a respectability that seems non-negotiable.

As per Indian secularism, any expression of Hindu religiosity can be construed as communal.

It requires a well-meaning debate, plus a Constitutional amendment to address the anomaly.And for that, one needs a consolidation (in political terms) of all the Indians who believe that India is a Hindu civilisational entity.

However, currently, poverty and lack of economic freedom are seen as the bigger evils by many well-meaning people.A good number of them feel that we need to focus on issues of economic interest first.

The number of Indians who feel that issues of economic interest, and issues of civilisational interest are not mutually exclusive, seems to be shrinking by the day.

I honestly don’t see a way out.

Pala S responds –

Dear Shri Kumar –

The basic premise of my argument is; Secularism per-se cannot be a preserver and nourisher of a National Society in a Multi-Cultural and Pluralist country. One must grasp the logic behind this assertion; it is simple – There is no place for a National Society in a Multi-Cultural country.

A “cleaner” version of Secularism is possible only in a Homogenous Society, if at all. This is why Secularism was fairly successful as long as the West was fairly Homogenous. However when the West started to encourage immigration from all corners of the globe they found themselves in the midst of a de-facto Multi-Cultural Society and now they see their “cleaner” version of Secularism getting corrupted. – Like most Hindus, their National Societies don’t realize this danger as well. This logical inter play cannot be missed or under-estimated.

To my mind and by no means an original formulation, the only way out would be a clear recognition of the concepts of National Society and Minorities. The members of a National Society are “Nationals” and Citizens in the country. The members of various Minorities are only and just Citizens in the country.

The State cannot be Secular because if the State is Secular, it cannot remain aloof from the “need to protect” Minorities while at the same time seen to be nourishing a National Society.

**Please remember the Secular State is theoretically “neutral” in non-State matters. A fairly harmless position to adopt in a Homogenous Society. However in a Multi-Cultural setting, it also feels that the Minorities’ need to be protected is greater. In order to “feel the need to protect” Minorities, it spins webs all around this basic self-created need. Brings to my mind Nehru’s premise that “Majority” communalism is more dangerous than Minority communalism because the former can turn to fascism. That’s the red-herring we, the National Society is left to deal with.**

So the State itself must assume the character of the National Society. It then behooves of the National Society to protect Minorities within its realm.

This is precisely how the Hindu States behaved with respect to the Jews, Syrian Christians and the Parsees amongst others.

In the case of the BJP, it has never had a clear conception of itself as a Hindu Party or a party of Hindu interests. It has for most part been ambivalent and defensive about its so called Hindu stance. Probably the only time it has ever got close to articulating a real Hindu position was in Palampur; and yet it spoke against a “Pseudo-Secularism” and for an imagined or rather, delusional “real/true Secularism”. Dare I say it meant a “Shveta Chhatra”?

I know the concept and philosophy of Shveta Chhatra is noble but only within a recognized Hindu National realm.

Thank you

Shri Photonman asks several questions –

I remember discussing this issue on a blog somewhere, may be with you.

I don’t intend to go through all the arguments all over again – wasting your time as well as mine . But I do find a few concepts vague in your statements, and I thought your defining them clearly would help us better understand your viewpoint:

(1) Define secularism. The reason I’m asking you this is: You claim that the secular state is “anti-religion”(point 1); yet this state is protective of “minority religions”(point 3).

(2) What is a “National Society” and what are its “interests”?

(3) How does your statement about secularism is “bad” for the “national society” follow from this?

(4) Presuming the Indian Constitution is the fountainhead of secularism, could you cite where it is said “there is no Hindu society but only castes”?

(5) The laws (incl. “secular”) in the Indian Constitution has been extensively “borrowed” from those of United States and Europe. These have had non-religious governments for well over a couple of centuries now. Do/Don’t you consider these governments “secular”?

And I respond –

Shri Photonman –

We probably have discussed the subject but I don’t remember you having posed very similar questions

Let me try and answer them to the best:

1. Secularism classically is the separation of the Temporal from the Sacral. A Secular State is supposed to administer not keeping in mind the religious affiliation of its citizenry. It also does not, in most cases, designate a State Religion. *Now we come to the dispute – The character of Society that the Secular State wishes to administer is very crucial to our discussion. The impact of such a Secular State in a Homogenous Society can be relatively benign. Whereas its impact in a Multi-Cultural Society is positively harmful to the National Society. This is so because the complexion of the Society is complicated by Multi-Cultural (and necessary to it) insistence of Equality of all Religions and Complete Non-Discrimination. However, since the Minority Religions are by definition smaller than the National Society, they need the added protection against the perceived tyranny of the greater National Society. Any assertion of and by the National Society is seen as a manifestation of fascist tendencies which might cause harm to and endanger the existence of the Minorities. Therefore, pre-emptively, the National Society must be progressively weakened to ensure the success of the Secular project in a Multi-Cultural setting.

A Secular State is anti-religion to the extent that a religion may affect it’s solely Temporal character. The only strain, as in religion or influence, that may be capable of doing this is the National Society’s religion or way of life. Thus the inbuilt conflict between the Secular State and the National Society.

I might add that Secularism is a by product of Christian historical development.

2. A National Society is simply the most numerous and largest Society or Culture or Civilization in a country. For instance, in India it would be Hindu Society. Its interests lie at the heart of the Nation’s and country’s interests. What is good for the Hindu National Society is good for India. This is so because this Society will bear the largest impact of any policy or decision.

More often than not, the National Society is also closely linked to Civilizational continuity within that realm.

3. In a Multi-Cultural society administered by a Secular State, the interests of the National Society are not necessarily prime. In fact “guilt” of having considered its interests will drive the Secular State to choose “better” and less “controversial” options. Please remember that a Secular State in a Multi-Cultural setting has to constantly prove its bonafides not to the National Society which it takes for granted but to the Minorities that it feels obligated towards.

4. Well, our Constitution is a bigger discussion. However, let’s start with where it recognizes a Hindu National Society except in a convenient legal way? Let us also remember that our Constitution did not recognize the terms Secularism and Socialism up until the 42nd amendment and lest opponents may take pride in abusing this amendment, may I also remind readers that this amendment was not ever contested by any anti-Congress party including the BJP. So there is an implicit buy-in from all political players who matter.

5. I have already commented on how Western Secularism worked better when the West was fairly Homogenous and how it is not working now when the West finds itself in a Multi-Cultural quagmire.

Thank you

Shri Kumar writes –

Shri Palahalli,

I agree with the general thrust of your argument.Especially with the following:

“So the State itself must assume the character of the National Society. It then behooves of the National Society to protect Minorities within its realm.”

I believe this is what Hindutva is also about. The governance of the country as per ‘Dharma’.And I think most of us have a fairly good idea of what ‘Dharma’ means.

The problem is: How do we transform India from its current situation into a State that assumes the character of the National Society ?

Do we need a detached moral leader to achieve this? Do we need a middle class awakening to establish a State thet assumes the character of the National Society?

The message is there.The medium and the messenger are required.

Some people say that we can just count on the civilisational strength and the Gita (Sambhavaami Yuge Yuge) and wait for that moral leader who will capture the imagination of the Nationals.

But this generation’s hopes are fast running out.The only solace is in knowing that we (people who feel this chaitanyam ) are not yet an insignificant minority in this country.

Pala S responds – (a bit emotional but I think I managed to get some sense into my response after all)

Shri Kumar –

You are correct. Hindutva cannot mean anything else.

If Dharma means doing one’s duty faithfully and fully, then a State based on Dharma must protect and preserve Hindu National interests and protect Minority citizens under its care within the realm. This without allowing Minority concerns or apprehensions to cloud National policy. Reasoning being; how can a National policy that goes against the interests of the National Society be of benefit to Minorities within the realm?

If we delve into our country’s history post independence, we will come across numerous instances where this confusion and dichotomy prevailed.

As for solving the problem..resolving the great disconnect between the National Society and State – Let us ask ourselves this question. Is the National Society aware of its role and responsibility? Does it have enough people amongst its elite that can and are willing to make this Society aware?

In both cases, the answer is NO, but not resoundingly though.

Is it true that the elite we placed our faith in, could not communicate with our masses?

Is it true that this elite, when they did manage to communicate, found that they did not speak the same language as the masses?

The Hindu mass is the National Society. During the Janmabhoomi movement a language was discovered. Then that dialogue, not the language, but the dialogue was killed by this elite. Whence it was killed the National Society lost faith and refused to communicate anymore with this elite. It started talking to different folks in different tongues.

That is why I have not lost faith in this Society. We just need to locate the elite that is willing to learn and speak the language that our masses understand and are willing to stay the course.

Let us remember that the Hindu National Society is not a monolith. There are many castes..many languages..many tribes and many regions to communicate with.

Our elite has always been telling our mass..our National Society that their castes and their tribes and languages and regions should not matter as long as they hold on to something called Hindu or Hindutva. To my mind, this is a blunder and wrong. We offer shells and no substance. If our elite and us have not learnt to respect this Hindu National diversity, then this Great Society will never listen to us.

Don’t you see? The great strength you are looking for…resides in our people. Harness it..and they will produce one amongst them or many amongst them that will take this great movement forward.

As for you and I, can we live like Hindus – preserving our caste or tribal traditions? Can we think like Hindus? Can we motivate our near and dear ones to do the same? Can we do more? Let’s start small. Think!

A delightful aside from Shri Yossarin –

Palahalli – Thanks for the detailed comment and post, you are perhaps the first critique it to this detail. Couple of points. There is no “new avatar” I have written all of these points for more than 3 yrs now also I failed to get the Aurobindo connection but you maybe on to something there more in next post. As far as the core thrust of your argument read my old post on legal responses to proselytization I have argued something similar. I think you have got caught up in semantics of strict secularism. I have always argued for a minimlaist secularism that is nontheocratic that is all. On your critque of RJM will leave it for another day to debate.

And I acknowledge –

Shri Yossarin – Thank you for your response. I must say I am very wary of Secularism however minimal. Its a monster that knows no bounds 🙂

Will await your response.

Thank you

Shri Kumar makes an interesting point –

Thanks for the response, Shri Palahalli.

“Harness it..and they will produce one amongst them or many amongst them that will take this great movement forward.”

The RSS and its affiliates have been trying to harness it and failed to a large extent because of the BJP becoming Congress-like when it tasted power.

I am happy to discover your blog. A lot of good work there.

Shri Ajay writes –

Good arguments, though I don’t agree with all of it.

France is a secular state, wherein religion of the citizen is not asked anywhere, not even in census. Neither does it have any form of national society.

US of A had no option but to seperate religion and state, thanks to the protestante-cathiolic divide that had spilled over from Europe back then,

I’m not sure about how it is in Canada.

Japan is probably the best example of governance by Dharma. Politicians and leaders of industry respect morality and ethics in addition to laws of the land. I can’t think of any other country where morality and ethics are valued as highly.

I respond to Shri Ajay with concrete examples of National Societies and States fighting hand in hand in order to maintain their Homogeneous nature –

Shri Ajay – Thank you for highlighting an important point in this discussion. If you recall or rather re-read my earlier submissions, I had said Secularism is benign and rather less harmless in a Homogenous Society.

I invite you to review various articles and debates raging in these countries mentioned by you. Wrt your latest post on the Scandinavian countries, I will need to investigate further. It would also depend on the kind of Homogeneity their (Scandinavian) societies possess and the nature of their States.

Now for the raging debates – France , Japan and Canada

Suffice to say none of these above instances would describe a Secular State within a Multi-Cultural realm. They aim for Homogeneity.

Thank you

Shri Yossarin adds an interesting point on the relationship between religious choice and public policy. This is in response to Shri Ajay’s plaint that the Shveta Chhatra lacks a cultural component in it’s outlook –

Ajay – recommend reading Arthashastra on why laws will be obeyed :)I take your point on the spiritual component but that has to be by individual choice and at best at the local community level via direct democracy without violating the Constitution. You cannot mandate or legislate spritiuality from the Federal and State governments downward. None of this means anyone must feel shy or apologetic about their faith or moral compass. From George W to Barack Obama they are pretty open about talking on their faith and spirituality in the US too. The distinction lies in public policy versus individual choice and moral compass.

A query for Shri Yossarin –

Shri Yossarin –

How would you view the State’s ban of animal sacrifice in Temples in Tamil Nadu?

Please note that this action was opposed by devotees. So morally and by choice, devotees of the Temples are against a wholesale ban on animal sacrifice.

My own view is that their right to worship must be respected.

Thank you

Shri Yossarin responds –

I agree with you the State is being oppressive in prescribing morality by legislation. If specific communities want animal sacrifice they shud have the right to do so without indulging in any criminality or a law/order problem or pose a public health hazard. If animals can be reared for consumption in a legal healthy manner I see no reason why the same can’t be for sacrifice.

And I seek clarification –

Thank you Sir.

But the Secular State has banned the practice of sacrificing animals.

Isn’t there a Secular principle that says when religion and State is in conflict, it’s the State’s decision that gets carried? This is a prime example of that principle.

My contention is that such a thing would never have happened if there was no Secular State that could overrule a religious practice with such impunity.

Please let me know what you think.

In a side discussion, Shri Yossarin is saying to Shri Ajay –

There will always be wedge issues where cultural choice collides with sensibilities and personal morality. The process and solutions will have to change with time and geography to deal with those collisions. Mature societies will find consensual ways to deal with them. Others will force the issue leading to upheavals. I don’t think you should premise an agenda for governance on such upheavals they are very expensive, the line between rule of law and crime blurs and nobody will take responsibility for collateral damage.

Ram Janmabhoomi is one such example and hence I reject Shri Palahalli euologising the movement as some kind of neo-renaissance. It was to the point that it exposed psuedo secularism. After that it was out of control, its like Satyam CEO’s analogy of riding a tiger and not knowing when and where to get off and more importantly this case forgetting there is a tiger out there roaming free amidst the populace.

Mr. Advani’s biggest mistake was to have not known how to tame it to drive a solution within the ambit of the constitution as it exists or suitably ammended with the political consensus any ammendment requires.

There in lies the lesson for this debate.

Shri Ajay proffers a conspiracy theory that I reject but he asks a pertinent question too –

Ram Janmabhoomi is a 100 year old movement. BJP leaders themselves didn’t expect the structure to be demolished on that day. In very low tones, BJP leaders leak out the fact that PVN pulled a fast one on them when he got the structure demolised, leaving them with a baby they could not disown in public.

A Urdu paper had published three weeks prior to the incident that PVN had cut a deal with Mullahs to demolish Babri, in return for government salaries to Mullah, to assuage their “feelings”. The fact that goverment salaries were started for Mullahs after the demolition validates the autheticity of the article. Will paste the link when I get my hand on it

Babri Masjid is a good example of why isolating governance from culture fails. The structure was built when the population was under the shadow of sword. It’s been atleast 100 years since the issue has gone to courts, and the court is still unable to decide on the matter,

If judgements cannot be delivered in 100 years, please explain of what use is a legal system?

Hindutva card of BJP is a failure today because they didn’t do ANYTHING for hindus when in power. Thanks to their inaction, nobody trusts them anymore.

Yoss please explain how Ram Janmabhoomi would be solved under the big tent. (The Shevta Chhatra)

And I respond with some posers to Shri Yossarin –

1. I would like to know more about your distinction between “cultural choices” and “sensibilities and personal morality”. How are they really different? I’m assuming cultural choices are made by individuals and communities.

2. Before the Janmabhoomi movement picked up momentum Hindu Society took a number of steps toward achieving consensus. My poser to you would be this – Why did the Secular State allow this process to break down? Ref: Chandra Shekhar government’s initiative towards evidence sharing and dialogue.

3. How can rule of law be assured or assumed when the Secular State takes it upon itself to take sides in a dispute? As was very openly done at the Local and Union levels.

4. What according to you was the Janmabhoomi movement? What was it before the BJP decided to milk it via Palampur? (Of course I’m speaking from hindsight here)

5. In my view Shri Advani’s greatest blunder was in not recognizing the limitations or indeed the irrelevance of a Secular polity in India. Instead he went about proclaiming something called “true Secularism” that was also against some vague “Pseudo” variety. What would be your view?

6. Although I would reject any degree of conspiracy in the demolition of this masjid, I would still like to echo Shri Ajay in trying to know from you, Shri Yossarin, your solution to this issue.

Thank you

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