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Ashok Chowgule's views

Administrative Note:

Week's Agenda: Social Conditions

  Minimum Wage
  Rules regarding Safety of Personnel at work to be made clear
  Introduction of Social Security Net
  Introduction of identity card
  Removal of Age discrimination at work
  Creating conditions so that reservations will no longer be necessary

Mr. Ashok Chowgule is a modern, dynamic and yes proud member of the 
Sangh Parivar.   His views on our ongoing debate are enclosed.  If I am 
right to predict a broad two-party system in India as our democratic 
system matures, with the Congress under Shrimati Sonia Gandhi leading 
one side, and the BJP under the Hon'ble Prime Minister leading the 
other, then it is clearly essential for both sides to have equal 
representation in a serious forum for national debate like IPI.   I 
therefore request IPI to invite Mr. Chowgule to join the discussion in 
the interests of balance.   For myself, I am not a member of any party 
nor have been ever, but I have spent a lot of resources in the interest 
of clear-headed, civil, and reasonable discourse, viz., my book 
Philosophy of Economics: On the scope of reason in economic inquiry 
(London & New York: Routledge, 1989, 1991, International Library of 

Subroto Roy.

From:  Ashok Chowgule, Mumbai
To:  Prof Subroto Roy.

7 Oct, 1998

Dear Prof Roy,

Thank you for sending the discussion so far on the debate on tolerance
and secularism.  Since I am not on the discussion group, I am sending my
comments to you and you may use it in whatever manner you think is
appropriate.  Let me still say that I am sceptical of joining the
discussion on a regular basis, since the points raised in this debate
exhibits that we are not yet ready to come to discuss on basis of common
definitions of issues.  I have tried to do this when I have been writing
to the various people on the subject.  However, it is my experience that
this view point is ignored.

Let us first take the issue of definition of tolerance and secularism.
Indraniji Dasgupta has rightly said, "As far as tolerance goes, let's
all try clapping with one hand.  Doesn't work too well, does it?
Tolerance and secularism is not the responsibility of Hindus only."  I
can give you umpteen numbers of quotes of those who call themselves
secularists where it is clear that they think that secularism in India
is the responsibility of the Hindus only.  At the same time, let us
understand what tolerance and secularism means - in layman terms, and
not in high flown academic language.  The latter is necessary, but IPI
should avoid it, otherwise we will be discussing polemics.  I have
prepared a note on tolerance which I have appended to this message.

Prof Guptara has said: "Unfortunately, some fanatics are actually in
political power in our country."  You have rightly asked him to name
them.  He has chosen not to do so.  For having a proper debate, names
have to be given, and also why these persons are considered to be
fanatics.  He talks about the destruction of the Babri structure.  (In a
forum like IPI it is not appropriate to not discuss an issue by taking
an umbrage that it is sub-judice.)  This issue is fudged in the
discussion because the history and the politics are not separated.  I
would propose that this issue be looked at from the following specific

1.  Was the Babri structure built after destroying a temple?
2.  If no, then discussion ends here, because no civil society can even
contemplate in its dream that one religious place of worship should
replace another.  Particularly if the replaced structure happens to be
that of the religion practised by the majority.  Otherwise, we will have
what happened in Spain when first the Moors captured it, and displaced
the Christians, then, after three/four hundred years the Christians
defeated the Moors and made the country Christian again.
3.  However, the vandalism of the site has been well established, based
on historical, literary, legal and archaeological basis.  Having done
this, the question now becomes why a temple should NOT be rebuilt.
4.  Accepting point nr 3, with respect to the historical basis, the next
issue is whether there was an attempt for a negotiated solution.  If not
then the destruction on Dec 6, 1992, has to be condemned.
5.  The attempt for a negotiated solution did take place - once as a
face to face basis between the two main contending parties, and twice on
a low key.  There is a need to understand why these negotiations failed.

6.  If the fault is with the Hindus, then the destruction on Dec 6,
1992, has to be condemned.  Here too it can be established that the
Hindus made sincere efforts for a negotiated solution.

The issue of Ram Janmabhoomi is not one of bricks and mortar.  It is one
that goes into the issue of the collective consciousness of the Hindus.
I think the best exposition of this position has been made by Sir
Vidiadhar Naipaul.  There are three interviews that I have come across
in the Indian press, and all the three have to be read by people like
Prof Guptara, before he comes to the conclusions that he does.  It is my
experience that the views of Sir Vidiadhar on this issue are sought to
be deliberately swept under the carpet.  The first of the three
interviews had appeared in July 1993 in The Times of India.  Three years
later I had met Shri Mark Tully, and to my surprise the said that he did
not come across this interview.

I am amazed at the position that Sanjeevji Sabhlok has taken on the
uniform civil code.  Marriage law is not based on religion.  The issues
concerned - divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc. - are all secular.  The
act of marriage may be sanctified as part of religion.  But the other
issues are of secular nature.  I wonder if Sanjeevji knows that only a
Hindu can legally adopt a child.  Member of other religions can only be
guardian, and the ward has no inheritance rights.  Here Sanjeevji
statement (I would urge that a clear statement is made about what
exactly is missing in the civil laws that is hurting your personal
interests as a citizen) shows a great deal of insensitivity.  If a
woman of whatever religion, and not even remotely related to me, is
thrown out on the street, a civil society has to be hurt.  And if this
act cannot be punished because of a law, which may well influence my
daughter in the future, then if I am not concerned when the event
happened, then I will have abjured my right to be concerned at that time
in the future.

A little digression, since I do not want to bring in issues of electoral
politics.  But here it is necessary.  One of the basis on which the BJP
is charged of being anti-minority is that it stands for having a uniform
civil code.  And this charge is repeated by persons who are of
non-Indian nationality.  If this is to be accepted, then all the western
democracies, and many besides, should also be charged with being

In this note I have tried to be brief and also set out the basis on
which discussions should take place.  There is a need look at the
position of different parties not on the basis of what someone else
(particularly an ideological opponent) has to say what that party is
saying, but straight from the horses mouth.  Here, too, the issue
should not be brushed aside because of an allegation of presumed
insincerity.  Because if the stand is good, then it should be supported,
so that even if that party shifts the position in the future, then there
are others who will keep it alive for the larger benefit of the society.



On the issue of tolerance, there is first a need to indicate
the context it is being talked about.  We cannot mix up
tolerance at the various levels.  At the religious level,
tolerance means that one accepts the method of salvation
followed by another as valid for him/her when it differs
from the method that one follows.  This is expressed in the
Hindu ethos as stated in the sholka "Ekam Sat, Viprah
Bahudda Vadanti".  In this respect the monotheist religions
become intolerant.

Within the various monotheist religions, the ones who do
not claim proselytisation as something that is commanded
of them exhibit tolerance at the social level.  A follower of
such a religion says that a non-follower will go to hell, but
he/she is really not concerned about the whole thing.

Then there is tolerance at the political level.  Here the issue
of true secularism comes into play, and a religious identity
is not used to determine the political alliances and agenda.
However, if a person tries to use it, and if he/she is not
"condemned" for it, then "condemning" another who uses
it as a reaction does not yield any results.

Unlike other religions, Hinduism operates at different
levels.  In your book "Survey of Hinduism" you have said,
"Hinduism is intended to interpret reality to Hindus, to
make life more meaningful to them, to provide them with a
theoretical and practical framework for their individual and
corporate existence, to educate them intellectually and
morally, and finally, to fulfill their longing for ultimate
freedom and salvation...... Hinduism has always been more
than mere religion in the modern Western sense, and it
aims at being a comprehensive way of life as well today, a
tradition by people can live." (Munshirma Manoharlal
Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1990, p 3.)

A Christian said to a RSS leader, "Since you believe in
Sarva Dharma Samabhava, why are you against
conversions?"  The RSS leader said, "Since you do not
believe in Sarva Dharma Samabhava", I am against
conversions."  Tolerance can work only when there is

In a democracy, it is legitimate to politicise issues.  Here I
make a distinction between electoral politics and politics.
For example, it was legitimate for Ralph Nader to politicise
the issue of automobile safety.   In a democracy, this
enables a person to put his/her point of view across in a
more forceful manner.  Of course, it is expected that he/she
will operate within the norms of democracy and the rule of

In India, Hinduism is expected to follow one set of rules,
while other religions demand that another set of rules be
applicable to them.  This is the reason for tensions that
exist.  For example, distribution of Bibles in a school to
children is considered to be legitimate activity, while
responding to it, even if sometimes force is used, is not
considered as legitimate.  Many times I feel that opposition
to a reasonable demand creates more political problems.
For example, it is the opposition to the building of the
temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi that has politicised the
issue, and not the demand to build it.

Intellectual discourse in India will improve only when the
same set of rules are applicable to all.  The Marxists have
captured the power of patronage in the past.  Now that
there is a rise of Hindutva, they are finding that they are
losing this power.  They have used this power to enrich
themselves, and have become parasites to the society.  For
example, they still hold on to the Aryan invasion theory,
even though it has been disproved quite a long time ago.
They label those who project even those who project the
migration theory as Hindutvavadis.  This does not take the
discussions beyond the street level.

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