Archive for October, 2011

Ram Madhav writes- ‘REANGS – VICTIMS OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN MIZORAM’

Ram Madhav writes- ‘REANGS – VICTIMS OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN MIZORAM’

They are popularly known in the North East as Reangs. They are the non-Christian tribe, whose original name is Bru. They inhabited the southern parts of the Christian dominated state of Mizoram. Being non-Christian in a Christian state had its price.
Repeatedly subjected to persecution at the hands of the Mizo population as well as the political dispensation the Reangs – or the Bru people – were finally hounded out of the state during prolonged communal strife in 1997. It is 14 years since they had become refugees in their own land. Escaping from the marauders thousands of Reangs – men, women and children – fled into the neighbouring state of Tripura. For the last 14 years they have been living there in 7 different relief camps.

A total population of nearly 35,000 these Reang refugees today lead a pathetic life. Internally Displaced Persons – IDPs – are supposed to be the responsibility of the Union Government. However the Government at the Center is too busy placating the gun-weilding terror groups in the North East and it has no time for these hapless Reang refugees. The Tripura State Government tries to do its little but that is grossly insufficient for the thousands of Reangs. They live in most inhospitable mountainous region in the North Tripura distrct along the Mizoram border. There is no water or electricity facility. Thousands of thatched huts dot hill after the hill in the region. Obviously there are no schools or hospitals.

For living they depend mostly on the forests in the region. Able men and women venture into the forests and fetch firewood or teak and sell it in the nearby town to make some earning. But that too is not possible during mansoon months and in any case very few among the refugees can endure such physical labour under such had conditions. The ration that they get is shockingly low – Rs. 5 per day and 450 gms of rice per day for elders and half of it for the children. How on earth can anyone survive with Rs. 5 a day? A total of around 35,000 people survive on that meagre ration in these inhospitable jungles today. There are seven camps in total. Details of the refugee population in the camps are as follows: Camp Families Persons 1. Nayasinha Pada 3052 17668 2. Asha Pada 982 5000 3. Hazachera 770 3000 4. Kaisaka Pada 599 3800 5. Khakchang Pada 208 1300 6. Hansa Pada 312 1925 7. Naisau Pada 231 1500 The travails of these Reangs began the day they demanded a separate Autonomous District Council for them in Mizoram. Sometime in the middle of 1997 organisations like the Young Bru Association (YBA) and Bru Social Cultural Organisation (BSCO) started talking about this Council. No sooner had this demand reached Mizo organisations the retaliation began. Groups like Young Mizo Association (YMA) and Mizo Zyalai Powl (MZP), a local Christian Mizo group, started threatening the Bru people to withdraw the demand for autonomous council. Thereafter began the assault on the hapless minority Reangs. Their houses were attacked and ransacked, burnt down, looted, cattle were killed, elders were harassed, women folk abused and all this happened in front of the Government which chose to turn a blind eye. It is a known fact that several such autonomous councils exist in the states of the North East for various tribes. In that sense there was nothing unconstitutional about the demand of the Reangs. In fact there was a reason behind Reangs making this demand.
For a long time they had been facing acute hardships at the hands of the majority Mizos in the areas where they traditionally lived. This discrimination reached its crescendo when the lists containing the names of the Bru people as voters had been mysteriously burnt down in a fire accident. In the subsequent re-enumeration names of hundreds of Bru people were deliberately omitted. This forced the Bru leaders to go in for the demand of autonomous council in order to protect and preserve their identity. Yet they had to face the brunt of the Mizo people and run away into the neighbouring state of Tripura seeking refuge. For the last 14 years they have been living in the jungles of the Kanchanpur sub-division of Tripura North district. Tripura Government under Sri Manik Sarkar does extend a lot of support to these refugees. In June this year a devastating fire had destroyed the thatched huts of these refugees in the densely populated Nayasinh Pada refugee camp. 24 Reangs lost their lives while thousands became home and hearthless. The Tripura State Government immediately arranged for relief and rehabilitation.

District Collecter Ms. Soumya Gupta camped in the forest for ten full days to ensure that the refugees are properly rehabilitated. When I visited the camp in August this years the refugees were full of gratitude for the Government and especially the District Collecter. What struck me the most was that in the meagre rations that they receive the Reangs have saved enough money collectively to build two temple – one for Bhagwan Shiva and the other for Bhagwan Ram. They were building those temples through their own contributions and voluntary labour. The District Administration is arranging for schools, water, rough roads etc. However the central issue of their repatriation remains unanswered. The Central Government shows least interest in the plight of these refugees. Various international agencies too visit them from time to time but do little. For example representatives of the European Union visited the camps after the fire disaster. Many promises ensued. But nothing ever reached them. Their leaders understand that they shouldn’t expect anything from these international bodies as they are non-Christians and their tormentors are Mizos.

Whatever help they get is from the Tripura State administration and organisations like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram only. Even after the recent fire accident also the Kalyan Ashram has arranged for substantial relief material to help the victims. Apathy of the Central Government and reticence of the Mizoram Government make solution to the problem of the Reangs difficult. Last year the Mizoram Government succeeded in dividing the Reang leadership and buy over a section of the leaders. It came up with a oral repatriation plan according to which the people who return to Mizoram would be provided Rs. 80,000. Representatives of the Central Government force the refugees to accept the offer and return to Mizoram. However the Reang leadership is genuinely concerned about this offer. Firstly it is just an oral offer. Secondly except the meagre sum of Rs. 80,000 the Mizoram Government is not giving any other assurance to these people. For example they want to go back to the constituencies and districts where they can create enough numerical strength to ensure their own safety. But the Government refuses to allow them to change their native district or constituency. The Reangs know nothing exists in their native villages for them. They had to flee those villages precisely because they lacked any support. Now they are being forced to go back to the same places. The Government is not even assuring return of their old property. That means they have to go back and work as labour in the very fields which perhaps they owned some 20 years ago. The Reang leaders want a proper repartiation and resettlement plan. It should be properly written and documented.

Talks for drafting this plan should be held in a free and fair manner. So far the tripartite talks between the Mizoram Government, Central Government and the Reang leaders used to take place in Aizwal only. In an intimidating atmosphere in Aizwal the Reangs fear that they can’t get justice. The talks should take place in Agartala or Guwahati so that there can be free and frank discussion. The political rights of the Reangs need to be safeguarded in any such agreement failing which the entire community would loose its identity. Failure of the governments for years in finding a solution to their pathetic plight led to some Bru youngsters turning to the gun. They had a brush with terrorism through Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) which made matters worse. While those who opted for the gun had been won over by the Mizoram Government through various offers and an MoU, those who wanted a peaceful and democratic settlement faced the brunt of it by way of sidelining of the real problem that the refugees face. Reangs are another case of religious persecution after the Kashmiri Pandits. Both have been persecuted for being a religious minority in their respective states. But there is a major difference.

The world knows about the plight of the Pandits. They have some rights in their state in which the majority of them live. Although refugees for almost same period the Reangs have not been successful in selling their story to the outside world. Hence they suffer…. mostly silently in a remote corner of our country.

http://samvada.org/2011/news/ram-madhav-writes-reangs-victims-of-religious-persecution-in-mizoram/

REANGS – VICTIMS OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN MIZORAM

Ram Madhav writes- ‘REANGS – VICTIMS OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN MIZORAM’

They are popularly known in the North East as Reangs. They are the non-Christian tribe, whose original name is Bru. They inhabited the southern parts of the Christian dominated state of Mizoram. Being non-Christian in a Christian state had its price.
Repeatedly subjected to persecution at the hands of the Mizo population as well as the political dispensation the Reangs – or the Bru people – were finally hounded out of the state during prolonged communal strife in 1997. It is 14 years since they had become refugees in their own land. Escaping from the marauders thousands of Reangs – men, women and children – fled into the neighbouring state of Tripura. For the last 14 years they have been living there in 7 different relief camps.
A total population of nearly 35,000 these Reang refugees today lead a pathetic life. Internally Displaced Persons – IDPs – are supposed to be the responsibility of the Union Government. However the Government at the Center is too busy placating the gun-weilding terror groups in the North East and it has no time for these hapless Reang refugees. The Tripura State Government tries to do its little but that is grossly insufficient for the thousands of Reangs. They live in most inhospitable mountainous region in the North Tripura distrct along the Mizoram border. There is no water or electricity facility. Thousands of thatched huts dot hill after the hill in the region. Obviously there are no schools or hospitals.
For living they depend mostly on the forests in the region. Able men and women venture into the forests and fetch firewood or teak and sell it in the nearby town to make some earning. But that too is not possible during mansoon months and in any case very few among the refugees can endure such physical labour under such had conditions. The ration that they get is shockingly low – Rs. 5 per day and 450 gms of rice per day for elders and half of it for the children. How on earth can anyone survive with Rs. 5 a day? A total of around 35,000 people survive on that meagre ration in these inhospitable jungles today. There are seven camps in total. Details of the refugee population in the camps are as follows: Camp Families Persons 1. Nayasinha Pada 3052 17668 2. Asha Pada 982 5000 3. Hazachera 770 3000 4. Kaisaka Pada 599 3800 5. Khakchang Pada 208 1300 6. Hansa Pada 312 1925 7. Naisau Pada 231 1500 The travails of these Reangs began the day they demanded a separate Autonomous District Council for them in Mizoram. Sometime in the middle of 1997 organisations like the Young Bru Association (YBA) and Bru Social Cultural Organisation (BSCO) started talking about this Council. No sooner had this demand reached Mizo organisations the retaliation began. Groups like Young Mizo Association (YMA) and Mizo Zyalai Powl (MZP), a local Christian Mizo group, started threatening the Bru people to withdraw the demand for autonomous council. Thereafter began the assault on the hapless minority Reangs. Their houses were attacked and ransacked, burnt down, looted, cattle were killed, elders were harassed, women folk abused and all this happened in front of the Government which chose to turn a blind eye. It is a known fact that several such autonomous councils exist in the states of the North East for various tribes. In that sense there was nothing unconstitutional about the demand of the Reangs. In fact there was a reason behind Reangs making this demand.
For a long time they had been facing acute hardships at the hands of the majority Mizos in the areas where they traditionally lived. This discrimination reached its crescendo when the lists containing the names of the Bru people as voters had been mysteriously burnt down in a fire accident. In the subsequent re-enumeration names of hundreds of Bru people were deliberately omitted. This forced the Bru leaders to go in for the demand of autonomous council in order to protect and preserve their identity. Yet they had to face the brunt of the Mizo people and run away into the neighbouring state of Tripura seeking refuge. For the last 14 years they have been living in the jungles of the Kanchanpur sub-division of Tripura North district. Tripura Government under Sri Manik Sarkar does extend a lot of support to these refugees. In June this year a devastating fire had destroyed the thatched huts of these refugees in the densely populated Nayasinh Pada refugee camp. 24 Reangs lost their lives while thousands became home and hearthless. The Tripura State Government immediately arranged for relief and rehabilitation.
District Collecter Ms. Soumya Gupta camped in the forest for ten full days to ensure that the refugees are properly rehabilitated. When I visited the camp in August this years the refugees were full of gratitude for the Government and especially the District Collecter. What struck me the most was that in the meagre rations that they receive the Reangs have saved enough money collectively to build two temple – one for Bhagwan Shiva and the other for Bhagwan Ram. They were building those temples through their own contributions and voluntary labour. The District Administration is arranging for schools, water, rough roads etc. However the central issue of their repatriation remains unanswered. The Central Government shows least interest in the plight of these refugees. Various international agencies too visit them from time to time but do little. For example representatives of the European Union visited the camps after the fire disaster. Many promises ensued. But nothing ever reached them. Their leaders understand that they shouldn’t expect anything from these international bodies as they are non-Christians and their tormentors are Mizos.
Whatever help they get is from the Tripura State administration and organisations like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram only. Even after the recent fire accident also the Kalyan Ashram has arranged for substantial relief material to help the victims. Apathy of the Central Government and reticence of the Mizoram Government make solution to the problem of the Reangs difficult. Last year the Mizoram Government succeeded in dividing the Reang leadership and buy over a section of the leaders. It came up with a oral repatriation plan according to which the people who return to Mizoram would be provided Rs. 80,000. Representatives of the Central Government force the refugees to accept the offer and return to Mizoram. However the Reang leadership is genuinely concerned about this offer. Firstly it is just an oral offer. Secondly except the meagre sum of Rs. 80,000 the Mizoram Government is not giving any other assurance to these people. For example they want to go back to the constituencies and districts where they can create enough numerical strength to ensure their own safety. But the Government refuses to allow them to change their native district or constituency. The Reangs know nothing exists in their native villages for them. They had to flee those villages precisely because they lacked any support. Now they are being forced to go back to the same places. The Government is not even assuring return of their old property. That means they have to go back and work as labour in the very fields which perhaps they owned some 20 years ago. The Reang leaders want a proper repartiation and resettlement plan. It should be properly written and documented.
Talks for drafting this plan should be held in a free and fair manner. So far the tripartite talks between the Mizoram Government, Central Government and the Reang leaders used to take place in Aizwal only. In an intimidating atmosphere in Aizwal the Reangs fear that they can’t get justice. The talks should take place in Agartala or Guwahati so that there can be free and frank discussion. The political rights of the Reangs need to be safeguarded in any such agreement failing which the entire community would loose its identity. Failure of the governments for years in finding a solution to their pathetic plight led to some Bru youngsters turning to the gun. They had a brush with terrorism through Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) which made matters worse. While those who opted for the gun had been won over by the Mizoram Government through various offers and an MoU, those who wanted a peaceful and democratic settlement faced the brunt of it by way of sidelining of the real problem that the refugees face. Reangs are another case of religious persecution after the Kashmiri Pandits. Both have been persecuted for being a religious minority in their respective states. But there is a major difference.
The world knows about the plight of the Pandits. They have some rights in their state in which the majority of them live. Although refugees for almost same period the Reangs have not been successful in selling their story to the outside world. Hence they suffer…. mostly silently in a remote corner of our country.
http://samvada.org/2011/news/ram-madhav-writes-reangs-victims-of-religious-persecution-in-mizoram/

Why the decline of the West is best for us – and them

Source: The Economist & McKinsey

Why the decline of the West is best for us – and them

By R Vaidyanathan

R Vaidyanathan is professor of finance, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and can be contacted at vaidya@iimb.ernet.in. The views are personal and do not reflect that of his organisation.

Ten years ago, America had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now it has no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash. Or so the joke goes.
Only, it’s no joke. The line is pretty close to reality in the US. The less said about Europe the better.Both the US and Europe are in decline. I was asked by a business channel in 2008 about recovery in the US. I mentioned 40 quarters and after that I was never invited for another discussion.
Recently, another media person asked me the same question and I answered 80 quarters. He was shocked since he was told some “sprouts” of recovery had been seen in the American economy.
It is important to recognise that the dominance of the West has been there only for last 200-and-odd years. According to Angus Maddison’s pioneering OECD study, India and China had nearly 50 percent of global GDP as late as the 1820s. Hence India and China are not emerging or rising powers. They are retrieving their original position.

The dollar is having a rollercoaster ride at present. Reuters
In 1990, the share of the G-7 in world GDP (on a purchasing power parity basis) was 51 percent and that of emerging markets 36 percent. But in 2011, it is the reverse. So the dominant west is a myth.
Similarly, the crisis. It is a US-Europe crisis and not a global one. The two wars – which were essentially European wars – were made out to be world wars with one English leader commenting that ‘we will fight the Germans to the last Indian’.
In this economic scenario, countries like India are made to feel as if they are in a crisis. Since the West says there’s a crisis, we swallow it hook, line and sinker.
But it isn’t so. At no point of time in the last 20 years has foreign investment – direct and portfolio – exceeded 10 percent of our domestic investment. Our growth is due to our domestic savings which is again predominately household savings. Our housewives require awards for our growth not any western fund manager.
The crisis faced by the West is primarily because it has forgotten a six-letter word called ‘saving’ which, again, is the result of forgetting another six letter word called “family”. The West has nationalised families over the last 60 years. Old age, ill health, single motherhood – everything is the responsibility of the state.
When family is a “burden” and children an “encumbrance,” society goes for a toss. Household savings have been negative in the US for long. The total debt to GDP ratio is as high as 400 percent in many countries, including UK. Not only that, the West is facing a severe demographic crisis. The population of Europe during the First World War was nearly 25 percent and today it is around 11 percent and expected to become 3 percent in another 20 years. Europe will disappear from the world map unless migrants from Africa and Asia take it over.
The demographic crisis impacts the West in other ways. Social security goes for a toss since people are living longer and not many from below contribute to their pensions through taxes. So the nationalisation of families becomes a burden on the state.
European work culture has become worse with even our own Tata complaining about the work ethic of British managers. In France and Italy, the weekend starts on Friday morning itself. The population has become lazy and state-dependent.
In the UK, the situation is worse with drunkenness becoming a common problem. Parents do not have control over children and the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation in London said: “There are all signs of arteriosclerosis of a culture and a civilisation grown old. Me has taken precedence over We and pleasure today over viability tomorrow.” (The Times:8 September ).
Married couples make up less than half (45 percent) of all households in the US, say recent data from the Census Bureau. Also there is a huge growth in unmarried couples and single parent families (mostly poor, black women). Society has become dysfunctional or disorganised in the West. The government is trying to be organised.
In India, society is organised and government disorganised. Because of disorganised society in the West the state has to take care of families. The market crash is essentially due to the adoption of a model where there is consumption with borrowings and no savings. How long will Asian savings be able to sustain the western spending binge?
According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal (10 October 2011), nearly half of US households receive government benefits like food stamps, subsidised housing, cash welfare or Medicare or Medicaid (the federal-state health care programmes for the poor) or social security.
The US is also a stock market economy where half the households are investors and they have been hit hard by bank and corporate failures. Even now less than 5 percent of our household financial savings goes to the stock market. Same in China and Japan.
Declining empires are dangerous. They will try to peddle their failed models to us and we will swallow it since colonial genes are very much present here. You will find more Indians heading global corporations since India is a very large market and one way to capture it is to make Indian sepoys work for it.
A declining West is best for the rest and also for the West, which needs to rethink its failed models and rework its priorities. For the rest—like us—the fact that the West has failed will be accepted by us only after some western scholars tell us the same. Till then we will try to imitate them and create more dysfunctional families.
We need to recognise that Big Government and Big Business are twin dangers for average citizens. India faces both and they are two asuras we need to guard against. The Leftists in the National Advisory Council want all families to be nationalised and governed by a Big State and reform marketers of the CII variety want Big Business to flourish under crony capitalism. Beware of the twin evils since both look upon India as a charity house or as a market and not as an ancient civilisation.

How to become a Hindu

Becoming a Hindu or Devotee is Easy

By Stephen Knapp

Since Sanatana-dharma is a universal process and applicable to everyone, then naturally anyone can practice its principles. Anyone can and should be accepted to participate in the process. Furthermore, anyone who is looking for the ultimate spiritual Truth is already one who is following the path of Sanatana-dharma. So you could say that anyone who is sincerely looking for such Truth with an open mind is already on the spiritual path, at least on some level, and is thus also a Dharmist, a follower of Sanatana-dharma.

The point is that there is one and only one God and one Absolute Truth. The very first of the Vedic books named the Rig-Veda proclaims, Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti (There is only one truth, only men describe it in different ways). So a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim who is in search of the Absolute Truth is automatically on the path of Sanatana-dharma. However, if they get stuck with accepting nothing more than their own local traditions, this may hamper their growth in understanding a broader range of the many aspects of the Supreme that are described in other scriptures, such as those of the Vedic literature. So a person’s progress depends on how far he or she really wants to go in this lifetime, and how they approach various levels of knowledge to understand the Absolute Truth.

So those who may be accepted as followers of the Vedic tradition generally accept the following: A) The Vedic literature presents knowledge of the Absolute Truth and are the authority on the Vedic tradition; B) There are various ways to realize different aspects of this spiritual Truth; C) God can appear in different forms; D) We are given more than one life on this road of Self-realization; and E) That ultimately we are responsible for accepting the path we take and the progress we make.

To clarify this last statement, even if you accept the path of Christianity and believe that Jesus will save you, Jesus also said that faith alone is not enough. You must show your faith by your works, and your works will show the true state of your desires and consciousness. Otherwise, if by faith alone you go to heaven yet remain full of material or mundane desires for earthly things, do you think Jesus would force you to stay in heaven? No, he would let you go back to earth, to where you heart is, to try and satisfy all those desires because that is your true state of consciousness. So your spiritual advancement is up to you and is revealed by your own level of consciousness, which will take you to the stage of existence in which you are meant to be.

SHARING THE DHARMA

Since we are all eternal spirit souls, part of the Supreme Truth, we are always a part of Sanatana-dharma, or the eternal path to finding the ultimate spiritual Truth. We may call ourselves by whatever religious affiliation we like, but in essence we have a spiritual identity, which the path of Sanatana-dharma assists us in finding.

This spiritual identity is the essence of everyone, making us all similar in our spiritual quality and nature. Your soul is the same as the soul of everyone else. This is our similarity which we all share with every being. Therefore, sincere Hindus will share their philosophy and tradition to provide that assistance and goodwill to others who search for Truth and their higher Selves. It is a way of sharing peace and recognizing that we are all a part of a universal family. For within these bodies of ours exist our real and eternal identity, which is the same within everyone. So everyone can participate and share in the path of Sanatana-dharma.

Sanatana-dharma contains a wealth of spiritual philosophies and practices by which one can enter and experience one’s own level of spiritual perception and Self-realization. Some of these may at first seem unusual to a beginner only because other religions do not always teach these systems. They are left out. But the Dharmic path includes many traditions that other religions have forgotten. So these can be helpful for anyone of any religious background. Generally, we find that those who understand the spiritual knowledge of the Vedic system begin to have a deeper understanding of the teachings of other religions as well. This is another aspect of the universality of the spiritual wisdom in the Vedic teachings. Thus, everyone should know this information that is provided within the Vedic path. The point is that the Vedic system provides knowledge for people at whatever level of understanding in which they may be situated.

In this way, the Vedic teachings include spiritual knowledge for the needs of people at all levels. Hinduism does not seek superiority over other religions, but only provides whatever level of knowledge people need. With its library of Vedic literature, it is thus one of the most comprehensive spiritual paths in the world. It only seeks and delivers the highest Truths known to man, and the methods by which a person can realize them for him or herself. Thus, the Vedic path encourages everyone to reawaken their connection with God and realization of the Absolute Truth for themselves, and not necessarily through an institution or organization. The highest Truth is for everyone. Anyone can understand the Vedic path with a little investigation.

However, there have been times when I have heard of individuals or even groups of people, after spending much time in research and discussion, who have decided to become Hindus or devotees. Thereafter, they have come to a Hindu temple and asked to be accepted into the Hindu fold. Then the priest, depending on what kind of temple it is, might say something like one does not need to become a Hindu, but simply go on as you are and become perfect in that way, whether it may be Christian, Muslim, or something else. Thus, the people are turned away with little else to do but continue on a path that they may find to be no longer suitable for them, or that does not fulfill their inner spiritual longings or quest for deeper spiritual knowledge and realizations. If a person finds that they are ready to move forward to a deeper spiritual path, then to deny them that right is not proper, especially by one who may be considered to be a Hindu priest. He should allow them full facility to scan the depths of Vedic spiritual knowledge and to participate to the fullest that they may want in order to increase their devotion and connection with God through this means of expression. So, this confusion must be rectified.

In fact, to consider foreigners to be outside the Vedic purview by virtue of their origin or upbringing is inaccurate and against basic Vedic Shastra. As is stated in our Hari‑bhakti‑vilaasa 10.91, “na me ‘bhaktash chaturvedee mad‑bhaktah shvapachah priyah, tasmai deyam tato graahyam sa cha pujyo yathaa hyaham”, which means “A brahmin who is expert in the study of all four Vedas is not dear to Me (Bhagavan), but My devotee, even if he comes from a family of outcastes, is dear to Me. Whatever he touches becomes pure. That devotee, although born in a family of outcastes, is as worshipable as I am.”

Therefore, the goal of the Vedic system is to provide the means that anyone can use to raise their consciousness and know God. This point has been advocated by such prominent teachers as Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, and many others. In this way, for many years the Vedic path has been assimilating those who are willing to adopt the basic principles of Sanatana-dharma, even if they are foreigners. The Vedic temples and the Hindu community must open their doors to those who are seekers of higher Truths, which are abundantly found in Sanatana-dharma. The doors cannot be kept closed for such people who may be looking for the benefits of such spiritual knowledge. Thus, sharing Vedic Dharma with all others who are interested for their benefit has been encouraged by spiritual authorities and should be considered a Dharmic principle.

BECOMING A DHARMIST OR DEVOTEE IS EASY

Does one have to convert to be a Hindu, or undergo a change of names or outward identity? No. If one likes the Vedic philosophy, then one can easily adopt any portion that they find helpful for them. However, if one prefers to use the Vedic culture as a strong basis of one’s life and feels devotion toward the path, then there is also nothing wrong with undergoing the formality of a Shuddhi or purification ritual to formally become a Hindu or Sanatana-Dharmist. However, once we adopt the Vedic tradition, this does not mean that we lose our freedom or whatever other roots we had, nor do we need to disrespect whatever other religious tradition we had previously followed. It does not work like that, but this is up to one’s own preference. In this way, Sanatana-dharma is inclusive. It allows anyone to find and follow Truth wherever one finds it. Thus, one needs to merely live in a Dharmic lifestyle as outlined by the Vedic principles, which is meant to accelerate one’s spiritual advancement and purity in consciousness.

I have often heard that there is a little confusion about what a person should do when they decide to partake of the Hindu religion or become a devotee. This is especially the case if one is a westerner or born as a non-Hindu. Even when the priests at Hindu temples are approached by someone who wants to become a Hindu who is not Indian born, they often do not know what to do. Sometimes it is thought that one must first undergo some kind of formality to make their dedication to their new spiritual path official, like partaking in a ritual or name change or something. A person can do that if one wishes but to merely accept the Vedic path does not require that. To be a Hindu does not require any formality. All it takes is to understand and begin following the Vedic principles to the degree to which one can do so. Of course, one may take initiation from a spiritual master later on, which then may require a formal ritual, depending on the decisions of the guru in this regard. But that is usually a later development.

Sometimes people say that to be a Hindu one has to be born a Hindu. But this is completely wrong. Nowhere in the Vedic shastra does it say such a thing. Also, merely being born in a Hindu family does not mean that such a person will have a natural proclivity toward spiritual truth. They may or may not be interested, depending on their level of awareness. Plus, a person may be born in a Hindu family and convert to some other religion. Besides, if Sanatana-Dharma is based on Universal Truth, and what is universal includes everyone, then how can anyone not be included within Sanatana-Dharma if they choose to do so? Thus, the only requirement for being a part of the Vedic path is to accept the basic principles and codes of conduct of Vedic Dharma, as has been outlined in this book. It does not depend on the circumstances of one’s birth, such as family, ethnic group, cultural heritage or geographical location. Birth is not more important than one’s conduct and character.

The point is that if we are all spirit souls, then the bodily consideration plays no part in the importance to regain the understanding and realization of our spiritual identity. In fact, the more spiritual we become, we find that the less emphasis there will be on the body. Thus, everyone should find and participate in that path which allows one to best rise above bodily identifications. Thus, it does not take a special ceremony or conversion rite to allow anyone to become a participant of the Vedic path. We are all spiritual beings. The human body is merely a machine and covering of the soul. That is the essence of the Vedic teachings. So how does the machine determine which spiritual path we can or cannot take? And as spiritual beings, we have a right and obligation to reach the highest spiritual knowledge and attain the clearest spiritual realizations that we can. If we find that the Vedic teachings can do this and assist us in living the path that allows us to enter such a lofty understanding, then it does not take any special ritual for us to begin the path. All we need to do is to start.

In this way, Sanatana-dharma, which essentially means the eternal nature of the spiritual being or soul, is the path for us to attain that realization of our true spiritual identity and the means to awaken to our real spiritual nature. As spiritual beings, everyone has the right to engage in that process. All one needs to do is add the various Vedic principles to one’s life.

Therefore, it should be clear that as we are all spiritual beings in a material body, what difference does the body make in allowing one to participate in the Vedic spiritual process? Anyone can become a member of the Vedic community, and if one temple does not recognize him or her due to their own limited conceptions of who can be a Hindu, then there are other temples wherein a person can be welcomed and participate to a fuller extent. So any interested person should find those temples. Otherwise, all that is required for one to be a Hindu or devotee is faith and practice. And as one progresses, he or she may take up particular forms of yoga, adopt a vegetarian diet, learn to chant certain uplifting prayers or mantras at home, and rise early to do meditation or worship. One may also make an altar at home so that his or her dwelling becomes a temple or has a shrine room. And, of course, one is always encouraged to read the various spiritual texts at home to increase his or her own understanding and awareness, and to focus one’s consciousness on the higher purpose of life.

If one wants to make a significant event in which one marks his or her new dedication to the Vedic path, there are different ways in which to do that. There are simple ways, and those that are more formal. For example, a person may simply go to the temple and stand in front of the deity and say, “My dear Lord, from this day on I am Yours. Now kindly accept and guide me.” One may even do that in front of a photo or picture of the deity. Then one’s progress or entrance into the Vedic process is between you and God, which is the real case anyway. The Vedic texts say that once you surrender yourself to the Lord in this way, you now become His ward. He will give you protection and guidance to the degree to which you depend on Him and wish to serve Him and rekindle your relationship.

If, however, a person wants to increase his or her participation and join an ashrama, then of course there may be particular rules or regulations that one must follow, or adopt certain forms of dress to enhance one’s spiritual consciousness, depending on the spiritual discipline involved. But this is not the case if one simply wants to live at home, practice the Vedic principles and be part of the temple congregation. At home, especially if one has a job or career, or a family, a person may accept those practices that best fit into one’s life. But then as you progress, you can adjust your life accordingly to make it increasingly spiritual and to accommodate more of the practices that are suggested for your advancement.

There are, however, certain ceremonies one may undergo as a formality, such as the Shuddhi purification rite or the namakarana samskara in which one gets a Vedic name, or the initiation by a guru into a particular sampradaya or lineage in spiritual practice. Yet, merely adopting the Vedic customs is enough to be considered a follower of the Vedic Dharma. It is the heartfelt faith that is the most important, which is purely an individual prerogative. If someone chooses to be a follower of Vedic Dharma and acknowledges the basic tenets of the Hindu faith, then he is one. He or she does not need to first undergo the formalities to receive the higher spiritual insights in the Vedic practices, such as yoga, meditation, or the study of the Vedic teachings.

In any case, whether living at home or in a temple ashrama, if a person does later find that they would like to continue one’s involvement in the Vedic path or join a particular sampradaya, or are attracted to take initiation from a particular spiritual master or guru, then they may undergo the initiatory process. Then, depending on the standards of the guru, there may be an initiation ceremony. This is often when a person will get a spiritual name to indicate their new life or spiritual beginning. If one lives in an ashrama at the time, such an initiation ceremony may or may not include that one shave his head, or adopt a certain standard of clothes, and begin chanting a certain mantra in accordance with the process of that level of initiation.

In fact, in taking to the Vedic spiritual life, finding a proper teacher is one of the few injunctions that are presented in the Vedic texts, such as the Bhagavad-gita. Therein it relates that in order to make further progress on the path of spiritual realization, one should take instruction from a proper spiritual master. Lord Krishna says: “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Bg.4.34)

You will notice that the verse does not say that the guru should only accept a person from a certain nationality, religion or culture. The person needs only to be sincere and respectful. The disciple also needs to make sure the guru is genuine and able to deliver the spiritual message of the Lord properly. Thus, it is a reciprocal relationship between the guru and the disciple. But anyone can approach a master for understanding the higher spiritual truths. Once the relationship between the guru and disciple is firmly established, then the guru may then give the initiation ceremony to the disciple for continued spiritual progress.

THE BASICS OF A DAILY ROUTINE

It is accepted that an ideal routine to practice while on the Vedic path is to rise early before sunrise. At that time one may first offer obeisances to your favorite deity. Then take a daily bath or shower and engage in personal worship and prayers to the deity of your choice. Perform meditation, prayers, recitation of sacred texts, sing devotional songs, and engage in japa, the chanting of the holy names of God in the form of mantra meditation. This is where a family shrine or temple room becomes most beneficial, unless of course one lives near a temple that can easily be visited at this time. One may also offer food as breakfast to the household deity and then take that food as your prasada breakfast, honoring or eating what had been offered to your deity as the remnants of the Lord. Then after one has performed their morning sadhana (spiritual practice) one may then engage in the normal activities of one’s profession, such as go off to one’s career or occupation. For a housewife or mother, she may spend her day engaged in household activities and the care of the children. A career should also be of the type wherein one does not act contrary to the principles of Dharma. Of course, if one is living in an ashrama or temple, then going off to work is generally not a consideration, but one stays in continued spiritual service within the environment of the ashrama or temple.

In the evening, after returning from one’s job, it is also beneficial to spend some time in reading sacred books, offering some prayers of appreciation to the deity, or doing some additional meditation to recover from the day’s activities and put them behind you, and to again focus on the spiritual goals of life.

Additionally, one should go to the local Vedic or Hindu temple on a regular basis, like once a week or more. It is also a nice idea to engage in service at the temple or to assist in its programs. At least one should also observe the important holidays and Dharmic festivals with reverence and faith at a nearby temple. Going on pilgrimage when it is possible to some of the holy places in India is also a plus for one’s spiritual development.

THE FUTURE

As a result of this increasing search for Truth, humanity is increasingly approaching and exploring the older traditions again to view the deeper levels of spiritual understanding that they contain. As people of the world gain interest in the mystical, the spiritual, yogic and deeper sides of all religions, the movements that recognize these various teachings will grow. This is already happening with the new interest in such topics as yoga, Eastern philosophy, Buddhism, Native American traditions, Pagan practices, and other indigenous cultures. The Sanskrit jargon such as yoga, karma, mantras, chakras, and gurus are now commonplace and are utilized as the basis of new insights. This is a sign that the universality that is inherent in the Vedic traditions are especially becoming more apparent, as its name, Sanatana-dharma, the eternal tradition of Truth, makes so clear.

Sanatana-dharma remains the oldest and most dynamic of all the world’s religions and living indigenous cultures. It also remains in the forefront of those paths that emphasize experiential spirituality and shows great freedom in its approach to personal spiritual life. Thus, Vedic culture is experiencing a revival and displays a growing influence all over the world. This is only one of the reasons why it has survived for many thousands of years, in spite of the pressure it and its followers have undergone in the attempt to end its existence by those religions that are more dogmatic and belief oriented.

The more people understand the openness of Sanatana-dharma, the more likely there could be an end to religious war and misunderstandings. In fact, the more likely religion as we know it will give way for the real and personal search for God and Truth, which are principles encapsulated by the Vedic tradition. Religion must be founded on eternal Truth and not merely on humanity’s ever-changing opinion and conventions. Otherwise, it is not wholesome or progressive but is artificial and dictatorial and will lead to more religious conflicts in the battle over who is right and who is wrong, and the ways to eliminate all who believe differently than the dominating system. This does little but to preserve the chaos that we see so much of in society today. And the cure from this is what Sanatana-dharma can provide if we investigate it seriously.

[This article is available at: http://www.stephen-knapp.com]

Love jihad – real or a myth?

Love jihad – real or a myth? A detailed study by an NGO. Good work. Read at your leisure.
http://samvada.org/wp-content/Voice-for-Justice-Book.pdf

Why Godse killed Gandhi

Why Godse killed Gandhi. Interesting read.

http://www.esamskriti.com/essay-chapters/Why-was-Gandhi-killed-(full)-1.aspx

Narendra Modi on poetry, politics and Rahul Gandhi as PM

http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/narendra-modi-on-politics-poetry-and-rahul-gandhi-as-pm-134238

This interview is from Society magazine; its views do not necessarily reflect those of NDTV.

Meeting Narendra Modi was like meeting multiple personalities at one time. I have always perceived Modi as a man of steel having gone through fire. The constant picking and media barbs have not left him embittered. This could be attributed to his strong and courageous personality and being centred in spirituality.

Modi is the only CEO Chief Minister so-to-say who has corporatised political administration in his well groomed and well kept state! As I proceeded to Modi’s residence for a chat,
en route, the typical attributes associated with a politician were all missing. No hangers-on, no party flags or king size cut outs, no party men shouting slogans while lounging around and awaiting a darshan of their party honcho, and no desperate security frisking. One enters a ‘peace zone’ of sorts when you step into his home surrounded by well manicured lawns.

As I was ushered into his neatly laid out home cum office, I saw Vivekananda’s bronze figurine tucked in the corner of his work station. The freewheeling tete-a-tete that followed gave an astonishing insight into the man, the mystic and the leader, rather than the controversial politician that Modi is made out to be. My initial apprehension, going by his public image of a darting and intimidating person, was put to rest at the very outset. Modi seemed cheerful, gentle and benign. There was no attempt to overpower and manipulate my thoughts, no overtones or undercurrents. Modi exuded brilliant command over the session, was clearly defined in his approach and was never caught off guard.

“I make political statements only before elections. There is much more to talk about than my political opponents,” he quips. We agree. Here is a man who has become synonymous with dedicated hard work and administrative genius so much so that he is the only politician for whom a temple is built by his people. His state shines luminously as a model city. No doubt there are still issues to be addressed in the vast canvas, but Gujarat most certainly has filed past other states in showing an all round progress-industrialisation, infrastructure, tourism and a total turnaround.

The architect of this new and shining Gujarat, Narendra Modi, is surely someone you will either adore or despise but certainly won’t ignore. His political strategies that raised him from being a party worker to the Chief Minister for three terms in succession field him as a strong potential Prime Ministerial candidate from amongst the rest of the regional leadership. The writing on the wall is clear that if the nation chooses to vote out the Congress, Modi is the first choice of the people.

With the grim scenario that the nation faces today, the need of the hour is an able administrator who can fix the fractures within our system. Today, regional leaders like Narendra Modi, Ashok Gahlot, Sheila Dikshit and Nitish Kumar are in the public discernment as the ideal options for replacing their national counterparts at the helm.

With a proven track record of excellent governance in his kitty, Modi chooses to play the cards about his national political agenda only when the time is ripe. Among the disadvantages Modi faces is his love-hate equation with the media. And so, here was an opportunity to peel the stern communalistic facade, and peep into the man behind the iron curtain. Is he as blunt and intimidating as he seems from a distance? As ruthless as he is made out to be? As communal minded as he is perceived? What is his typical day like? Does Modi like to watch TV soaps and sob with them? When did he last take a holiday and where does he really like to unwind? Many such questions flooded my thoughts and my research furnished no insight into the man that Modi is. His political track record reveals him as an uncompromising and shrewd politician. Besides, the magnificent transformation he achieved in the eyes of his own people, from being an anti-hero to a hero, is a case study in itself. To the people of Gujarat, Modibhai, as he is fondly addressed as, is like no one else. They view him as a brilliant politician, an efficient administrator, an able strategist and ultimately, a competent leader who has staked all his might in serving his people. Indeed, all this and more is supported by the progress that Gujarat has recorded as a model state in the country with maximum NRI investment and all around growth. The accent is on ‘systematic, non-corrupt and good governance’ rather than mere tactics for political survival.

Modi is a proud man who can flaunt his report card and by quizzing him to talk about his state, you have turned him on, so to say! “In Gujarat’s model of governance, we have moved out of the traditional piecemeal actions and knee-jerk reactions. We now look at a whole new approach to the fundamental changes that would yield qualitative and quantitative leaps. My role is that of a facilitator and the real credit goes to Team Gujarat and the people of the state,” preens Modi. However, history can’t be recalled without associations of landmark events to fundamental authors. Like Gandhi and the freedom fight, Nehru and the Kashmir goof-up, Sardar Patel’s police action in the Razaka movement of the Nizam State, Indira Gandhi and the Emergency, and when it comes to Modi, you cannot finish the breath without remembering the infamous Gujarat riots.

Though the riots will continue to haunt Modi, he has made a conscious effort to heal the wounds and has worked in a sustained way to make the media take note of the immense progress made in the land of the Mahatma. His image as the ‘merchant of death’ is reversed to that of the ‘Sultan of good governance’. As shrewd and emphatic as Chanakya in his political arbitration and in the stringency of administrative competence, Modi is aligned in the league of the legendary Gujarat leader, Saradar Vallabh Bhai Patel.

However, Modi’s modesty is outraged at the comparison with the legend and he springs up in protest. “It is unfair to compare anyone with Sardar Patel. He was a great stalwart. We are lucky that his soul is there to inspire us. He was an iron man because he stood by his commitment to his ideology and thoughts. Even in the face of opposition to his stand, he never succumbed. No toothless ruler can rule the country,” he interrupts your thoughts.

Going to office is a rather academic activity for Narendra Modi. He has drawn a definite blue print for his people and his personal political agenda. His hours spent in the office are channeled towards proactive administration rather than for political sustenance, Probably, Modi feels best when he talks about his innovative governance, and his schemes are no mere eyewash. Looking closely, his schemes are universal in nature, not to be constricted by boundaries either. An offspring of a middle class family in Vadnagar in Mehsana district of north Gujarat where Modi completed his schooling, he was conferred his PG in Political Science from the Gujarat University. As a young man, he joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student wing and was involved in the anti-corruption Nav Nirman Movement. After working as a full time organiser there, he was later nominated as its representative in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The upward climb had no stopping. But, amidst all the sound and fury, wouldn’t we like to know how his growing up years impacted Modi as a person? “I am just an aam admi, a common man. I live and think like a common man despite the trappings of power. My family background was very humble. My growing up was also nothing extraordinary. There were no unusual aspects to my life to have made me blossom into someone special. Neither my mother nor my father was the sarpanch of any village. It was a bewilderment to even know what it was like to be a Panchayat member. So, whatever is attributed to an ordinary man is applicable to me. I am happy with the small mercies of life. Even if a child tells me, ‘Uncle, you have done a good job,’ I feel joyous. And, the endeavour is to not do anything wrong so that you could be centred in joy,” proffers Modi. Modi likes to believe that he is driven by the will of God when he says, “I had not shown any temperament to be in mainstream politics in my growing years. Even now, administration within the government framework is an absolutely apolitical activity for me. I hardly spare one or two hours in a month for political activities. I am totally dedicated to my job. I don’t see this office as a political one. While you are elected to work, there should be no politics at all. If there is politics, it means you are a failure. You are not a Chief Minister for those who have voted for you but for those who have not voted for you.”

Usually, the day begins early for Modi. “I have been an early riser since the beginning. My initial life demanded labour and effort for survival, so I am very hard working by nature. I would toil more than my peers. Be it sports, theatre activities or even reading a book, I would feel I should read faster and more books than the others. Lazing around is not in my nature. Even today, I don’t avail a Sunday. I remember when I was a child, during the India-China war, 50 kilometres from my village; there was a railway junction from where the army was dispersing aid to the war field. I accompanied some young men who went there to serve tea and snacks and give a pep talk to boost the soldiers’ spirits. I didn’t know what exactly this whole act was about, but I was there,” recalls Modi.

A strong national fervour was bound to be embedded with such an exposure at such a tender age, and it sure did. Modi embarked on a political pathway with the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and as a swayamsevak, he had to go underground during the Emergency declared by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. He joined the BJP in early 1987. “I helped maintain relations between the RSS and the BJP. In 1988, I was recognised as a master strategist of the party and was entrusted with the post of General Secretary of the Gujarat State BJP unit. Between 1988 and 1995, I successfully carried out two major projects of the BJP initiated by LK Advani-the Ayodhya Rath Yatra and the march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. In 1995, I became the National Secretary of the party with the charge of five major states. In1995, the BJP came to power with a two thirds majority in the Gujarat Assembly. Since then, Gujarat is under the rule of the BJP. In 1995, I was promoted to the post of General Secretary (Organisation) of the BJP. I held the office till October 2001 and then became the 14th Chief Minister of Gujarat,” writes Modi in his introduction on Facebook.

“Being in the RSS, I got a chance to work at every level of the organisation, which helped me in building my character. Basically, I am not built only for politics. I am an ardent lover of nature. My interest is mainly culture and character building. Now, political instability has becomes a part of politics. You need diligence and commitment to succeed in politics,” says Modi. An avid reader, biographies of great men catch his fancy apart from philosophical books, and he unwinds by reading and writing poetry. “Poetry which had something to say about life and its varied facets used to captivate me. Now, I just flip the pages as that phase of my life is over. But, I have published my poems and the beauteous nature has always been my muse, my inspiration. I am a big environment buff and even in my own state, a lot has been done to protect and nurture the environment,” he muses.

Recalling his growing years, Modi says, “From a very young age, I have been writing books and I also wrote columns with pseudo names. During the Emergency, I used to run a newspaper, called Satya Samachar. I was barely 20 plus then and during that time, I would unearth whatever was censored, publish them and distribute copies as an awareness campaign. The government had also issued a warrant in my name. Recently, I wrote a book on the environment, titled, Convenient Action, which was launched by Abdul Kalam. It is about various environment problems and solutions and Gujarat practices all of them.”

Modi the Mystic

Modi revealed in a television programme that he lived in the caves of the Himalayas for four years before he made his foray into public life. To retain one’s composure on the face of a storm reveals one’s inner spiritual strength. “A stress buster is needed for the one who feels stress. For the one who has authored his life with detachment, where is the question of stress? I am a totally detached person. I am here, but I don’t feel I am a Chief Minister. I am a CM only when I sign on the dotted line. Even that is because someone has to take the responsibility,” he says emphatically.

Not one of the temple going politicians who always look to the almighty for solutions to problems of their own making, Modi says, “I am not religious. I go to the temple on the Gujarat New Year day. I can’t claim to be spiritual because it’s a very profound epithet. But, I like it when I get to read or hear anything related to the spiritual world. I have been practicing yoga and meditation for many years. Detachment is something I believe in practising for my spiritual self. In fact, with great difficulty, I have torn myself away from pursuing mendicancy in totality to be a part of this world. The call of the Himalayas has been put on the back burner. When the time is right, it is like crossing from one room to the other for me. You will be surprised to know that despite having lived in this house for 10 years now, until of late, I didn’t even know how the entire house looked. I only used spaces like my office, bedroom, dining room and the study. Only when recently there was a move to relocate my library did I take a tour of the rest of the building. That is what I mean by detachment. And, what makes me angry? That’s the problem. I don’t get angry, but have to enact anger in order to get work done.” (Laughs)

So, where does spiritually and politics bifurcate? “There is a problem only when they bifurcate. They should not be cut off. Gandhi was immersed in spirituality all his life and it is this spirituality that inspired him to serve the society. This inspiration sustains because it is a power. This is where we are erring,” he pontificates.

Moments to Cherish

Modi lives his life purely with an agenda for his people with no personal strings attached. However, were there any moments he stole for personal gratification amidst the dust and din of politics and work? He recollects, “After being the CM for two consecutive terms, I had two desires. One was to unearth my childhood friends with whom I had completely lost touch. One day, I sat up and listed all the names I could remember. I remembered them all but had lost track of their whereabouts. Some 35 names popped up. I wanted to invite them to the
Chief Minister’s residence and share my childhood with them and also because I wanted to remind myself about the real Modi lest I lose sight of him. So, I spent time with my friends getting down-to-earth. They too felt that if I remembered and spent time with them after having reached where I have then I must be fine. So, that was my test. The other desire was to get together all the teachers in my lifetime and honour them. One of them was 93-years-old. I invited them here and organised a big function to honour them. It gave me immense happiness that I was able to honour and say thanks to those who have contributed their might in shaping me. So, I fulfilled both my desires and I am happy about it.”

Contributory Influences

An ardent bachelor, one hardly hears about Modi’s family. “On my birthday, I go home to visit my mother and spend a few minutes with her. That’s my only contact with my family. I left home when I was 17. And, I went back after 35 years. I left home in order to serve the society and the country. Then, I was drifting to different destinations and landed as the CM. I eat simple food-khichdi, chapatis, kadhi and stuff like that. I am a 100 per cent vegetarian,” he says.

“As a 13-year-old, I used to read Vivekananda. I don’t have a political background. I hadn’t seen the Chief Minister’s chambers before I became one. I had not seen the Assembly before I became an MLA. I didn’t know how a government functioned. I didn’t know anything. I was fortunate to physically visit more than 400 districts where I stayed overnight. That’s why I am conversant with the problems of Hindustan. Probably, amongst all the politicians, I have visited the maximum number of villages. I have visited more than 50 per cent of the state and for 35 years, I was only travelling all over. This has given me a lot of strength. This contributed to my vision for the state and has translated into the progress of the state in all sectors. The other thing is my temperament to write, and to think out of the box is my innate nature,” stakes Modi.

Pro Hindutva

Branded as the messiah and ambassador of Hindutva, Modi has had much at stake due to the image. However, he vindicates his core philosophy in his inimitable rhetoric. With a stern voice, he says, “The government’s work is to function in accordance to the constitution. I am committed to the constitution of India. Being a Chief Minister, I have to follow the word and spirit of what the constitution states. If I say violence is bad, what is wrong in it? If I believe that we must love nature, what is wrong? If I say, serve the poor, what is wrong in it? If I say, sarva pantha samabhav-no discrimination of religion-what is wrong in it? And, if this philosophy is called Hindutva then why should one feel shy?”

The Bachchan Factor

Even as Modi’s Hindutva has triggered controversy, there was a hullaballoo over the choice of the Big B as the brand ambassador of Gujarat. Unflustered, Modi simplifies the entire saga, “I was taking up the promotion of tourism in the state. Gujaratis are the best tourists but Gujarat was never a tourist destination. I wanted to change this because all the elements needed for exotic tourism are inherent here. So, someone had to do something. Around the time I picked up this campaign seriously, Amitabh Bachchan came to me as he wanted me to watch his film Paa. I liked the film. Then, we got chatting and he said I could count on him if at all there was anything he could do for me. I have no personal needs, but it occurred to me that if he could do something for Gujarat, I would be happy. He said he had only his voice and his face as his fortune. I immediately asked him if he would promote our tourism. He willingly agreed to do so and what’s more, he does not charge us a single rupee and has always given as much time as we required for the shoots without even once shifting or cancelling a schedule. This is sheer service to the state. What more can I ask for when someone gives so much love to my state? I repeatedly express my thanks to him.”

Genesis of Controversy

The ghost of the 2002 riots haunts Modi as a convenient silencer and a political weapon. To Modi, it is a dream to find a benign press that would put the past behind and pat him for his good deeds. So, being the blue eyed boy of the media is indeed on Modi’s wish list. The media, Modi feels, keeps scratching the wounds of the riots, not allowing them to heal despite the dramatic amendments he has made. “It would be good if I were liked by the media world,” he rues.

Personal and Political Philosophy

Political commentators feel that the veteran politician has all the exposure and experience it takes to shoulder the responsibility at the helm of the country with ease, if given a chance. Does he not see himself playing a bigger role in national politics? “For me, any remote villager from Hindustan, even if he is repairing shoes, is doing national work. Even if a small individual averts an impending accident, it is a service to the nation. I don’t believe that it’s only by holding certain posts that you can serve the nation. Even now, whatever, I am doing is service to the nation. It does not matter from where and how you do it. It is a media created trend that if any Chief Minister does good work, he has to be spoken about being fit to be the next PM. We have seen this happen in the case of Chandrababu Naidu, Karunanidhi, Sharad Pawar, ND Tiwari, and others. It is a very big club but I don’t want to become a member of that club. To me, as Raja Ranthidev said, ‘Neither do I desire to rule nor do I desire liberation or rebirth. If I do have any desire, it is to wipe the tears of the poor.’ That was the philosophy of our country. What better inspiration can we have than this? Whatever work is entrusted to us, the benefit must reach the last person in the periphery,” he says crystal clear in his thoughts.

National Politics

While the media is going hammer and tongs about the suitability of Rahul Gandhi to take over the leadership of the nation and Rahul himself making inroads at the grassroot levels to entrench his presence, Modi’s take on the situation is of everyone’s interest. “Well, I don’t want to discuss this. One has to first explore where the grassroot is. As for Rahul Gandhi having the makings of a national leader, analyse the ingredients needed for that first. It is not my job to analyse anyone. Everyone works in his own way. The country is watching the centre’s performance. The Prime Minister himself stated that he has problems and that he is constrained. After this, there is no need for any editorial debates about their performance. He has confessed he has his limitations,” he sums up.

Keeping Terror At Bay

One of the major achievements of the Modi government is its success at keeping terror at bay even though the state shares a boundary with Pakistan. Even as the Al Qaeda has administered a threat letter to Modi, he refuses to lend terrorism any religious association. He explains, “It is not in good taste to associate terrorism with any religion. Terrorism has no religion and you cannot associate it with humanity. Someone who is human can’t be a terrorist. Only the one who ceases to be a human being becomes a terrorist.”

Success Mantra

“Success is a relative term. By and large, success is measured in comparison with someone else’s. I feel success is something that satisfies your inner conscience and tells you that you have done the right thing. Success should not be measured on a scale. If I can please a person by some gesture then I have found success,” Modi believes.

Personal Style

Modi has authored his own style statement that is now world renowned. “Well, when I was travelling extensively, I used to take a small bag and keep all my stuff in it. I used to then wash my own clothes. So, just as a space-saving and soap economising measure, I used to chop away the long sleeves of my kurtas. That’s how the half sleeve kurta became my style statement. You can find the Modi kurta even in London and New York and also in our own Khadi Bhandar,” says he blushing.

Network

Twitter and Facebook are now public forums and no surprise that Modi is present there. How net savvy is the Gujarat Chief Minister? “The communication revolution has set in and there is nothing wrong in using these mediums. I am an avid user of Twitter, I use Facebook, I send emails, I keenly keep track of how this medium is developing. In this age, information is power and through social networking, you can get and disseminate information fast. I believe in keeping communication with people alive. There are rarely any calls I don’t return or mails I don’t respond to. I surf the net and read the newspaper early morning over a cup of beverage, listening to my morning ragas,” he says.

Leaving FootPrints

All those who have achieved prominent public presence nurture the desire to be immortalised for their deeds. Modi has made service his axiom. How would he like to be remembered in posterity? “I should be able to serve the poor even more. Why should I be remembered? Why should I have such a dream? I am not an idealist. You behold the Ajantha Ellora caves. They are immortal. Does anyone know who created them? So, my philosophy is, we have been given a mission, we need to finish it before we quit. As far as the work is remembered, it’s still acceptable, but what is the need to remember the person behind it? I don’t even have the stature to give a message to anyone. I am a very small person. I don’t have the right. But, I love this country and its people and I give them the assurance that whatever task I am entrusted with, I will never spare any effort to fulfill it. I will work as hard as I can.”

Men of steel are rare to find and here is one, self made. It’s time we saw Modi in a new light-as a catalyst of change and growth. Though he insists he doesn’t harbour great political ambitions, only time will tell if this iron man of Gujarat gets the opportunity to rule the Delhi darbar.