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Re: Ashok Chowgule's views

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Week's Agenda: Economy

   Dear Mr Chowgule
     You are most welcome to the debate in IP.  I think it is important 
     that all views be expressed.  On the understanding that all views are 
     equally open to scrutiny (and sometimes hard scrutiny).  In fact, in 
     the speed at which things have to be done, one is often intemperate in 
     one's language even when trying one's best NOT to be intemperate.  
     So I assume that we are willing to cross swords, but only on 
     principles and policies, not personalities (I think this is an 
     important principle because if we were to discuss personalities we 
     would first have to give them right of reply in order to be fair; but, 
     equally important, we would be diverted from the purpose of this list, 
     which is to debate policies). 
     It is because of this important principle in IP that I purposely 
     refrain from naming who is and who is not fanatical among people in 
     power today.  However, I have also made clear my view that EVERYONE 
     who is in power today is colluding with the modern myth of Hindutva 
     and with the fanaticism it engenders, because of not condemning the 
     illegal destruction of the Babri mosque, the wanton killing of 
     thousands of innocent Sikhs after the murder of Mrs Gandhi and the 
     murder, rape and beating of christians today.   
     I welcome your view that equality and tolerance are things which have 
     to be aimed at and worked for by everybody.  
     But I do not understand by what possible definition of tolerance or 
     secularism one can justify the use of force to prevent the 
     distribution of Bibles (or Korans, or copies of the Gita or the 
     Communist Manifesto or whatever).  
     Tolerance and reciprocity, in any understanding of those words, would 
     consist in using the same freedom to distribute whatever you wanted 
     to.  They could also consist in having a debate about any issue raised 
     in such literature whether distributed by you or by anyone else.  This 
     is the kind of freedom, reciprocity and tolerance we are trying to 
     practice in IP.  Debate, discussion and persuasion are not helped by 
     the use of force, and specially not by the illegal use of force.  The 
     use of force to push anyone's beliefs and ideas down other people's 
     throats is not used by Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists or 
     most of the so-called "lower classes" in India.  It is however used by 
     people who use the Hindutva argument.  These are tactics used by the 
     Nazis, and are not the means which can be used to build an India that 
     anyone would want to live in.
     And I do not understand in what sense you mean that Muslims, 
     Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists (and of course secular people 
     such as many of us on this list) are being intolerant of Hindus.  
     I do not have any evidence that they are using force to  push their 
     beliefs and ideas down anyone's throat.  
     I do have plenty of evidence that people allied with the BJP are using 
     force (not least by your own admission below) for the purpose.
     The "historical, literary, legal and archaeological basis" of the 
     claim that the site of the Babri mosque was the site of an important 
     temple in ancient India may be sufficiently well established so far as 
     you are concerned.  But it is not sufficiently well established so far 
     as many other reasonably unbiased people are concerned (including 
     scholars and indeed writers such as Sir Vidia Naipaul - who I think 
     you misunderstand entirely).  EVEN if the basis was incontrovertibly 
     established, that does not justify pulling down the mosque by force, 
     just as the Israeli Jews would not be justified in forcibly pulling 
     down the Dome of the Mosque.  No doubt in the barbaric past whoever 
     had the power did these things.  But today we are trying to establish 
     a modern, progressive country based on the the rule of law, and not on 
     the illegal use of force by any minority which claims to speak or act 
     in the name of a supposed majority.
     So I'm afraid your justification of the BJP position on these matters 
     does not wash (at least not as far as you have gone in your message 
     below).  But if there is more to be said (and I am open to the 
     possibility that there is more to be said), then please say it.
     To say that all monotheistic religions are ipso facto intolerant is an 
     amazingly nonsensical statement.  The fact is that all religions (and 
     indeed atheism) consider other views to be wrong, just as an 
     evolutionist considers a creationist to be wrong, and a Hindu 
     considers a Jain to be wrong (and, for that matter, a Vaishnavite 
     considers a Shaivite to be wrong - or, at least, less right which 
     amounts to the same thing). 
     And if you consider someone to be wrong or less right, you may if you 
     wish (assuming that you are at all interested in them) try to use the 
     power of argument and persuasion to show them the error of their ways 
     or the better way.  
     There is a world of difference between that and proceeding to beat 
     them up or kill them or rape them or destroy their institutions: THAT 
     is intolerant.
     Professor Prabhu Guptara
     Director, Organisational and Executive Development
     Wolfsberg Executive Development Centre
     (a subsidiary of UBS AG)
     CH-8272 Ermatingen
     Tel: + 41.71.663.5605
     Fax: +41.71.663.5590
     e-mail: prabhu.guptara@ubs.com

______________________________ Reply Separator 
Subject: Ashok Chowgule's views
Author:  sroy (sroy@vgsom.iitkgp.ernet.in) at nyuxuu
Date:    08.10.98 23:13

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 Philosophy). 

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 points:

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.
This is a posting to India_Policy Discussion list:  debate@indiapolicy.org 
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This is a posting to India_Policy Discussion list:  debate@indiapolicy.org
Rules, Procedures, Archives:            http://www.indiapolicy.org/debate/