Thursday, March 27, 2008

** Sacrifice of Tibet
The sacrifice of Tibet: Rediff
Rajeev Srinivasan

On November 18 every year, I silently salute the brave souls of C Company, 13th Kumaon Regiment, who in 1962 died practically to the last man and the last bullet defending Ladakh against the invading Chinese Army. These brave 114 inflicted heavy casualties and prevented the Chinese from overrunning Leh, much like Spartans at Thermopylae held the line against the invading Persians many moons ago.

But have you ever wondered why these brave men had to sacrifice themselves? One answer seems to be that is because of the extraordinary delusions that affected a number of the dramatis personae on the Indian side: notably Jawaharlal Nehru, KM Panikkar and VK Krishna Menon. A deadly combination of blind faith, gross megalomania, and groupthink led to the debacle in the war in1962; but its genesis lay in the unbelievable naivete that led these worthies to simply sacrifice a defenseless sister civilisation to brutal barbarians.

Furthermore, they were far more concerned about China’s interests than about India’s! Generations to come will scarcely believe that such criminal negligence was tolerated in the foreign policy of a major nation.

In a well-researched book, timed for the one hundredth anniversary of the opening of Tibet by the British, Claude Arpi, born in France but a long-term resident of India, and one of India’s leading Tibet and China experts, argues that India’s acquiescence to the enslavement of Tibet has had disastrous consequences.

The book is Born in Sin: The Panchsheel Agreement subtitled The Sacrifice of Tibet, published by Mittal Publications, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 241, Rs. 495, ISBN 81-7099-974-X. Unless otherwise noted, all of the quotations here are from this book.

Arpi also touches upon the difficulty scholars face with piecing together what actually happened in those momentous years leading to the extinction of Tibet and the India-China war of 1962, because the majority of the source materials are held as classified documents in the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund or the Ministry of External Affairs.

The historian is forced to depend on the sanitised Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru and the restricted Official Report of the 1962 War.

If the relevant documents were made public at the very least we might learn something from them. Where is Aruna Roy, crusading champion of the people’s right to know who has now accepted a sinecure under the UPA? Why are the Nehru Papers controlled by Sonia Gandhi ?
The story really begins exactly one hundred years ago, in September 1904, when the British Colonel Francis Younghusband entered Tibet and forced the hitherto insular kingdom open at the point of a gun.

The Lhasa Convention of 1904, signed by the British and the Tibetans, put the seal of British overlordship over Tibet. The parallels with Commodore Perry of the US and his black ships opening up Japan are obvious.

However, unlike Japan, which under the Meiji Restoration took vigorously to westernisation, Tibet continued to distance itself from the outside world, much to its later disadvantage.
Perhaps we need to look further in history, as Arpi did in his earlier book, The Fate of Tibet: When Big Insects Eat Small Insects. The Tibetans were a feared, martial and warlike race that had always, in its impregnable mountain fastnesses, held the expansionist Han Chinese at bay. However, in the 7th century CE, Buddhism came to Tibet, and they became a pacifist nation.
Says Arpi: ‘Tibet’s conversion had another consequence on its political history: a nonviolent Tibet could no longer defend itself.

It had to look outside for military support to safeguard its frontiers and for the protection of its Dharma. This help came first from the Mongol Khans and later the Manchu Emperors when they became themselves followers of the Buddha’s doctrine.’

The sum and substance of China’s alleged historical claim to Tibet is this: that the Mongol Khans had conquered both China and Tibet at the same time. This is patently absurd, because by the same token India should claim Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong as its own, because India and these territories were under British rule at the same time.

In fact, since the Mongol Khans and the Manchu Emperors accepted the Dalai Lama as their spiritual preceptor, it is clear that it was China that was giving tribute to Tibet, not vice versa: so Tibet could claim Han China as its vassal.

The Lhasa Convention was followed by the Simla Convention in 1914 that laid out the McMahon Line defining both the Indo-Tibetan border, and the division of Tibet into ‘Outer Tibet’ (which lies along the border with India) and ‘Inner Tibet’ which includes Amdo Province and part of Kham Province.

It is worthwhile to note that the Chinese were not invited to discuss the McMahon line, nor was their acceptance of this line sought. Tibetans signed this treaty as an independent nation. The British government emphasised this in a note to the Chinese as late as 1943: ‘Since the Chinese Revolution of 1911,… Tibet has enjoyed de facto independence.’

When India became independent, K M Panikkar wrote: ‘A China [organised as a Communist regime annexing Mongol, Muslim and Tibetan areas] will be in an extremely powerful position to claim its historic role of authority over Tibet, Burma, Indo-China and Siam. The historic claims in regard to these are vague and hazy’ Yet soon thereafter Panikkar became the principal spokesperson for China’s interests, even though his job was Indian Ambassador to China!

As soon as the Communists came to power, in 1950, they started asserting their claims: ‘The tasks for the People’s Liberation Army for 1950 are to liberate [sic] Taiwan, Hainan and Tibet.’ A Scottish missionary in Tibet said the PLA officers told him that once Tibet was in their hands, they would go to India.

On October 7, 1950, Mao Tse-Tung’s storm troopers invaded Tibet. But under Panikkar’s influence, Nehru felt that the loss of Tibet was worth the price of liberating Asia from ‘western dominance’. Panikkar said: ‘I do not think there is anything wrong in the troops of Red China moving about in their own country.’

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the few in the Indian government who recognised the menace from China. He wrote:‘We also have to take note of a thoroughly unscrupulous, unreliable and determined power practically at our doors [It is clear that] we cannot be friendly with China and must think in terms of defense against a determined, calculating, unscrupulous, ruthless, unprincipled and prejudiced combination of powers, of which the Chinese will be the spearhead [It is obvious to me that] any friendly or appeasing approaches from us would either be mistaken for weakness or would be exploited in furtherance of their ultimate aim.’

How prophetic Patel was!

Unfortunately, he died soon after he wrote this. Interestingly, the very same words apply in their entirety to India’s dithering over Pakistan today, 54 years later. The Pakistanis are also exploiting India’s appeasement and friendliness.

But Nehru, it appears, had decided to sacrifice Tibet, partly in order to appease China, partly because of his distaste for what he considered ‘imperialist treaties’ (in this case the Lhasa Convention that gave enormous rights in Tibet to the British, and, as their successor, to the Indian government) and partly in order to act as mediator between China and the West over the Korean War.

Observers could see what was going to happen. The American ambassador Henderson noted: ‘The UK High Commission would like to be able to argue with Indian officials that if GoI bows to Communist China’s blackmail re Tibet, India will eventually be confronted with similar blackmail not only re Burma but re such areas as Assam, Bhutan, Sikkim, Kashmir, Nepal.’ Absolutely correct, for this is exactly what is happening today.

Nehru and Panikkar simply did not see the threat from China, so enamoured were they of the great Communist Revolution there. Nehru said: ‘The biggest event since the last War is the rise of Communist China’. Part of his admiration arose from his distaste for the Buddhist culture of Tibet: ‘We cannot support feudal elements in Tibet, indeed we cannot interfere in Tibet’.

Now doesn’t that sound exactly like Xinhua propaganda, which Nehru seems to have internalised?

A Canadian high commissioner had a different theory: ‘[Panikkar] had no illusions about the policies of the Chinese government and he had not been misled by it. He considered, however, that the future, at least in his lifetime, lay with the communists, and he therefore did his best to get on well with them by misleading Nehru’. That might be considered treason in certain circles.

Whatever the reason, we can see why Zhou-en Lai is rumored to have referred to the Indians in general and Nehru in particular as ‘useful idiots’.

(There is no reference to this in the Arpi book). In every discussion with Panikkar, the Chinese hosts smilingly avoided the question of settling the border, but they made sure that India acknowledged Chinese hegemony over Tibet.

The Indians were thoroughly outsmarted, partly because they were willing victims dazzled by the idea of Communism.

When confronted with the question of the undefined border, Nehru said, “All these are high mountains. Nobody lives there. It is not very necessary to define these things.” And in the context of whether the Chinese might invade India, here’s Nehru again: “What might happen is some petty trouble in the borders and unarmed infiltration. To some extent this can be stopped by checkposts.Ultimately, however, armies do not stop communist infiltration or communist ideas Any large expenditure on the army will starve the development of the country and social progress.”

The naivete leaves the neutral observer speechless.

What might be even more alarming is that there are supposedly serious Old Left analysts today, in 2004, who mouth these same inanities about not spending money on the Indian Army.

Why they do not take their cue from China, with its enormous Army, is mysterious, because in all other respects they expect India to emulate China. Except that is, no nukes, no military might for India.

By not asserting India’s treaty rights in Tibet, which would have helped Tibet remain as a neutral buffer zone, Nehru has hurt India very badly.

For, look at what is happening today. Nepal is under relentless attack by Maoists, almost certainly supported by Chinese money. Large parts of India are infested with violent Maoists. Much of West Bengal is under the iron grip of Marxists, who clearly take orders from Beijing.
It is in this context that the so-called Panchsheel Agreement was written. Given that the Indian side had a priori decided to surrender all its rights to the Chinese, in return for vague promises of brotherhood, it is perhaps the most vacuous treaty ever signed.

However, Nehru opined: “in my opinion, we have done no better thing than this since we became independent. I have no doubt about this I think it is right for our country, for Asia and for the world.”

Famous last words.

Nehru believed that the five principles which are referred to as Panchsheel were his personal, and major, contribution to world peace. Based on his impression of his stature in the world, he thought that the Panchsheel model could be used for treaties all over the world, and that it would lead to a tremendous breaking out of peace everywhere.

Nehru was sadly mistaken. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the principles themselves: they were not his invention, but were merely common-sense provisions used widely. And he had a megalomaniac idea of his own influence around the world: he did not realise that he cut a slightly comical figure. In his own mind, and in the minds of his toadies, he was the Emperor Ashoka returned, to bring about World Peace.

Here are the Five Principles:1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty2. Mutual non-aggression3. Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs4. Equality and mutual benefit5. Peaceful co-existence

The Chinese immediately violated every one of these principles, and have continued to do so happily. For instance, even while the treaty was being negotiated, the Chinese were building a road through Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir, and in perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of this whole sorry mess, India was actually supplying rice to the Chinese troops building the road through Indian territory! This is distinctly surreal!

The problem was that Nehru had no sense of history. He should have read RC Majumdar: “There is, however, one aspect of Chinese culture that is little known outside the circle of professional historians It is characteristic of China that if a region once acknowledged her nominal suzerainty even for a short period, she would regard it as a part of her empire for ever and would automatically revive her claim over it even after a thousand years whenever there was a chance of enforcing it.”

And this was the ‘ally’ Nehru found against the ‘imperialists’ of the West!

He went so far as to decline a seat at the UN Security Council because the China seat was held by Taiwan. He did not want India to be in the Security Council until China was there too!
Since many people are curious about this, here is chapter and verse: it is in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Series II, Vol. 29, Minutes of meeting with Soviet Leaders, Moscow , 22 June 1955, pp. 231.

Here is the conversation between Nehru and Soviet Premier Marshal Bulganin:

Bulganin: While we are discussing the general international situation and reducing tension, we propose suggesting at a later stage India’s inclusion as the sixth member of the Security Council.

Nehru: Perhaps Bulganin knows that some people in USA have suggested that India should replace China in the Security Council. This is to create trouble between us and China. We are, of course, wholly opposed to it. Further, we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward to occupy certain positions because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject of controversy. If India is to be admitted to the Security Council it raises the question of the revision of the Charter of the UN. We feel that this should not be done till the question of China’s admission and possibly of others is first solved. I feel that we should first concentrate on getting China admitted.”

The casual observer might wonder whether Nehru was India’s prime minister, or China’s.
Besides, the Chinese have now repaid all this support. India insisted that India should not be in the Security Council until China was in it, too. Now China insists that India should not be in the Security Council until Pakistan is in it, too. Seems fair, doesn’t it?

What is the net result of all this for India? It is a strategic disaster. Forget the fact that the Tibetan civilisation has been decimated, and it is an Indic civilisation with practically no relationship to Han Chinese civilisation. Strictly from India’s security perspective, it is an unmitigated catastrophe.

Analyst Ginsburg wrote in the fifties: ‘He who holds Tibet dominates the Himalayan piedmont; he who dominates the Himalayan piedmont, threatens the Indian subcontinent; and he who threatens the Indian subcontinent may well have all of Southeast Asia within his reach, and all of Asia.‘

Look at the situation in Tibet today.

The Chinese are planning the northward diversion of the Brahmaputra, also known as the Tsangpo. This would make North India a desert

The Chinese have on several occasions used ‘lake bombs’ to flood Indian territory: as the upper riparian state based on their occupation of Tibet, they are able to do this, for example on the Sutlej

Hu Jintao, who was the Butcher of Tibet, is now a top strongman in Beijing. Under his sponsorship, a railway line will be finished in 2007 linking Lhasa to eastern China. This would be an excellent mechanism for bringing in both largenumbers of Han immigrants to swamp the remaining Tibetan people, and also to deploy mobile nuclear missiles

The Chinese are deploying advanced nuclear missiles in Tibet, aimed at India, Russia and the US. With the railway line, they will be able to move these around and even conceal them quickly in tunnels and other locations

The Chinese dump large amounts of nuclear waste in Tibet, which will eventually make its way down to India via the rivers

The India-Tibet border is still not demarcated.

It is difficult to imagine a more disastrous foreign policy outcome than what happened between India and China. Claude Arpi is owed a debt of gratitude by all of us in India who care about the nation’s progress and even its survival.

If the rather well-thought-of founding prime minister of the country was so uncaring about India’s interests, one shudders to think what might be going on today with some of the ministers who are accused in criminal cases.

But even more than that, Arpi’s detailed analysis and painstaking research on the process through which Tibet was enslaved is an instructive case study in how barbarians are always at the gates, and how, as Will Durant said, ‘Civilisation is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying from within’.

One of the profound lessons to be taken away is that it is the lack of respect for the spiritual that has led to this cataclysm. As Ministry of External Affairs observer, Apa Pant, pointed out about Tibet and the Han Chinese colonisation: ‘With all its shortcomings and discomforts, its inefficiencies and unconquered physical dangers, here was a civilisation with at least the intention of maintaining a pattern of life in which the individual could achieve liberation. The one so apparently inefficient, so human and even timid, yet kind and compassionate and aspiring to something more gloriously satisfying in human life; the other determined and effective, ruthless, power-hungry and finally intolerant…

In the corridors of power [in official India], Tibet, Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, were all regarded as ridiculous, too funny for words; useless illusions that would logically cease to exist soon, thanks to the Chinese, and good riddance.’

In the final analysis, Tibet was lost because those in power in India were dismissive of matters spiritual. It is the Empire of the Spirit that has made India what she has been all these millennia, and once the rulers start dismissing that, it is clear that we are in the Kali Yuga, the Dark Ages. It is the end of living, and the beginning of Survival.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

** Delayed Justice is Denied Justice

Delayed Justice Denied Justice
M.V. Kamath, Weekly Organiser
March 30, 2008

What is lacking is a will to expedite justice. In an era of high technology, judges can sit in their offices, go quickly through the papers and deliver their judgments. How many judges, one would like to know, have access to computers and computer-savvy staff to study cases at their own leisure? Shri Chidambaram, no doubt, will argue that the till is empty and he has no money to spare.

If farmers commit suicide, it understandably becomes instant news. If Maoists raid police stations in Orissa and casually kill a dozen constables, the information gets front-page coverage. And quite rightly so. But if a complainant seeks justice in a court of law and has to wait not just for months but for years, all that one gets in an editorial office is a big yawn. “So, what’s next?” would be the bored comment. Cases may be pending before courts for years.

Hardly anybody cares. It took President Pratibha Patil to voice her distress the other day for the media to wake up. And it happened while she was inaugurating a national seminar on judicial reforms organised in Delhi by the Confederation of Indian Bar. “We cannot allow a situation where a common man is tempted to take the law into his own hands and subscribe to the deviant culture of the lynch mob”, she said in her inaugural speech. And how right she is! The situation is just horrendous.

The total number of pending cases in the apex court—the Supreme Court, that is—as on June 30, 2007 stood at 43, 580—according to Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, the number actually is around 60,000—and there are just 22 judges to deal with them. The government has sanctioned 26 judges but, according to one account, it is unlikely that all the 26 posts will be filled by November 10, 2008. But what is the situation in other courts? As compiled by the Supreme Court Administration, the burden of cases in the 21 High Courts in the country increased by 1.17 lakh between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2007. The total number of pending cases as on March 31, 2007 with the High Courts was recorded at 36.78 lakh as compared to 35.60 lakh in 2006. The increase was recorded despite the High Courts disposing 3.78 lakh cases between 2006 and 2007. As for the lower courts, the situation is plainly frightening. As of April 1, 2007, the lower courts had 2.49 crore cases pending, in spite of 38.97 lakh disposals.

Litigants are the ones to suffer the most. Lawyers are the ones to gain. The public isn’t even aware of what the situation is like. There are presently 142 vacant posts of High Court judgeships and over 2,700 vacancies in the lower courts. Why aren’t they filled? There are any number of law colleges in the country, not to speak of practicing lawyers. Can’t some of them at least be recruited? Are all those practicing lawyers so much in demand and making so much money that judicial appointments do not attract them? Or is it that no attempt has been made to recruit them?

In just one year, the number of registered cases showed an increase of 8.76 lakh. But it does not seem to matter to our slumbering government.

Actually, according to official figures, there are 3,031 vacancies at the level of district and subordinate judgeships. Of the sanctioned strength of 792 in the High Courts, there are reportedly as many as 206 vacancies. It should be possible to fill in all vacancies inside a week if a real effort is made and salaries are attractive.

Salaries have necessarily to be high, commensurate with the dignity of the post. This is seldom taken into accent. Today, even newly graduated M.B.A. gets better paid than a judge. We must have a better sense of values. India’s indifference to the dispensation of justice has to be pointed out in sheer terms, to feel disgusted with governance.

In India there are 13.05 judges per million people as against 58 in Australia, 75 in Canada, 100 in the United Kingdom and 130 in the United States. The Law Commission of India has recommended increasing the strength of judgeships to at least 50 per million people to match as close as possible to conditions in Australia.

What successive governments in Delhi have apparently not realised is that justice delayed is justice denied. It is claimed—though statistics are not available—that in several instances, litigants have passed away. Money, surely, cannot be the main problem.

If the Congress in its largesse can sanction Rs 60,000 crore to mitigate farmers’ woes, surely it can spend a fraction of that sum in appointment some three thousand odd judges at the district and subordinate levels? But yes, that won’t fetch votes for a beleaguered party bereft of both leadership and social commitment. Delivering justice is less important than marshalling votes.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s cynicism is inexplicable. According to The Tribune (February 22) “the Supreme Court in the past two years had witnessed a sharp increase in its pendency and it is estimated to have crossed the 60,000 mark…”. Shocking, unbelievable, but nevertheless true.

It is not that there are no experienced lawyers who can take over judgeships. Besides, there must be hundreds of retired judges at all levels whose expert services could be availed of, considering the situation prevailing. Even as matters stand, it is claimed judgements can be expedited by demanding written arguments in advance to cut down on time. Cases can be heard in the evenings at specially appointed courts; there can be travelling courts to facilitate hearings at rural levels. Panchayats can be used to settle simpler disputes.

It is reported that there are several lakh cases of bounced cheques in the High Courts which can be disposed of without elaborate argumentation. The government can put in place a structured arbitration process and facilitate out-of-court settlements. What is lacking is a will to expedite justice.

In an era of high technology, judges can sit in tie offices, go quickly through the papers and deliver their judgments. How many judges, one would like to know, have access to computers and computer-savvy staff to study cases at their own leisure? Shri Chidambaram, no doubt, will argue that the till is empty and he has no money to spare.

What he would thereby mean is that he has given plenty to the middle class citizen to buy two-wheelers, coconut water and pav bhaji for him to have money to quicken the delivery of justice. Chidambaram is a good boy. He wants mamma’s pat on the back to retain his job. Hasn’t he produced a “revolutionary budget” that has all things to all people?

We have a cynical government and a servile media. Justice? Now what is that?

It is wiser not to demand anything from the UPA government lest one is disappointed. If cases are pending for twenty years, so be it. If litigants die before justice is delivered, so be it.

For the Congress it is more important to stay in power.

And who does the poor Indian seeking justice think he is to question that? What can one expect from a party that wants to stay on in power even after being publicly slapped on the face by a recalcitrant Communist Party (Marxist)?

Friday, March 21, 2008


Secular Travesty
Times of India
March 21,08

Rabindranath Tagore's poem "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high... into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake" is taught to schoolchildren all over the country.

It's not a prescription, however, that the government intends to live up to. It kept Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen incommunicado for five months, at an 'undisclosed location' in Delhi, in the hope that she would leave the country even though she had a valid visa to stay.

It had its way at last, with Taslima packing her bags for Europe. The circumstances in which that happened don't do the government much credit.

Her harassment didn't stop at cutting her off from those she wanted to see, in the name of security. She may have been denied access to proper medical care, going by complaints coming from her and backed by International PEN, the global writers' body.

Information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi publicly asked her to "bow down" and apologise to those she had offended. He may have forgotten, for the moment, that India is a secular democracy rather than a theocracy.

Concern about her treatment came not just from international human rights groups but also from the National Human Rights Commission, which sent a notice to the home ministry and Delhi Police on her "solitary confinement".

The UPA government and its leftist supporters claim to be champions of secularism. Forcing Taslima out of the country, however, was a sad day for Indian secularism.

The tactics used replicated those adopted by West Bengal's Left Front government to get her to leave Kolkata, where she had been staying. Her security, apparently, was uppermost in the minds of both central and state governments.

What gives the game away, however, is that there is no official condemnation of those who threatened violence against her, or actually carried it out at a Hyderabad book launch in August last year.

Secularism of this variety amounts to a game of competitive fundamentalism. Someone somewhere claims to be offended on behalf of his community and issues threats. The government, in the name of security, bans the book, the film, or the writer.

It's the equivalent of handing fundamentalists a megaphone.

Someone else, encouraged by the supineness of the government, threatens or undertakes more violence for the sake of his particular peeve.

That not only undermines the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression but creates insecurity all round. Not only would Tagore have been horrified at all this, there's serious doubt about whether it works even in terms of such short-term goals as delivering vote banks.


Minoritism @

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

** Conversion: Unethical ?

Conversion: Unethical and otherwise
by Ven Dhammika
Buddhist News

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- As a Christian who has become a Buddhist I have been observing the current conversion controversy with some interest. I have read with dismay the reports of churches being burnt and of pastors being manhandled. Such behaviour is not just shameful, if probably does more harm to Buddhism than any missionary could ever do. Further, people who do such things are breaking the law and should be dealt with by the law without fear of favour.

Having said this though, there are two other aspects of these incidents which are also worth commenting on firstly, they are a new phenomena and secondly, they call for an explanation. Why is it that religious communities that have lived together in relative harmony for at least 200 years are now taking up cudgels against each other?

True, there have been periods when they engage in controversy with each other, sometimes quite vigorous controversy, but this has never led to places of worship being desecrated or people being beaten up. When the huge crowds who attended the Panadura debate dispersed they did not march down the road and throw stones at the local church. Is it simply that our society has become more violent?

Is it that Buddhists are losing their traditional tolerance? Is it all really part of some political plot? I would like to offer some thoughts on these questions.

Sinhalese are not always good at making subtle or even obvious distinctions and think that all Christians are the same. Today in Sri Lanka there are two main types of Christians.

There are 1)the traditional mainline ones (Catholics, Anglicans, Dutch Reformers, Methodists, etc) who have been in the country for over a century or more and generally have a "live and let live" attitude towards Buddhists and Hindus.

Then there are 2)the evangelical, born again and fundamentalist Christians (Assemblies of God, Mormons, Seventh day Adventists, Charismatic etc.). These Christians are relative newcomers to the country and have an agenda to convert as many people as possible.

It is this second group who are raising concern although Sinhalese Buddhists do not always distinguish between them and the first group. I will refer to this second group as evangelical Christians.

It is clear from the many letters in the papers by individual evangelicals and statements issued by evangelical organizations and churches that they are both worried about and bewildered by the growing verbal and physical attacks on them and by the prospect of legal restraints against them. But such things do not just fall randomly from the sky, they have definite cause, they take the form they do for very specific reasons.

The main reason for these things is that Buddhists and indeed Hindus, Muslims and Catholics too, are deeply offended by the behaviour of many evangelicals.

Evangelicals defend themselves against criticism of their attempts to convert others by saying that Jesus instructed them to spread the Gospel and in doing this they are doing no more than practising their religion.

But Buddhists see a problem here. Yes, Jesus did say this but he also told his disciples to sell all you have, give it to the poor and follow me (Mathew, 19, 21) although we do not hear of Christians lining up to do this.

Jesus said that if anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children, he cannot be my disciple (Luke, 14, 26) although most Christians would happily ignore such a command today.

So Buddhists detect an element of hypocrisy in the Christian insistence that they must convert others. They ask, Why are they so gung ho about practising one aspect of their faith and so unenthusiastic about practising others?

There is another problem with this imperative to convert. In my own country less than 6% of people attend church regularly and only 40% of people say they believe in some sort of God. The situation is similar in most Western countries except perhaps the US. A few years ago an Anglican bishop in the UK publicly admitted that he did not believe in the literal truth of the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection and added that many of his colleagues didn't believe it either.

With Christianity being at such a low ebb in its traditional domain Buddhists wonder why evangelists have such an interest in trying to convert Buddhists here when they could better spend their energy helping half-hearted Christians there become sincere Christians.

Another argument evangelical use to justify conversion activities is to say that Buddhist monks go to the West to spread Buddhism so why shouldn't they come here and try to convert Buddhists.

It is true that both Christianity and Buddhism are missionary religions but their concept of how to spread their respective teachings differ dramatically.

Both now and in the past the Buddhist approach has been to establish a presence and then leave anything beyond that to the individual concerned. And even then, Buddhists only establish a presence in a community or a country when they are invited to do so. Without exception, all the Western Buddhists I know converted themselves, no one came knocking on their door, no one argued them into believing, no one approached them and told them that Buddhism is the only true religion.

Buddhist conversion efforts are gentle, unobtrusive and always initiated by the person wanting to find out about the religion, not by the Buddhist missionary.

Christian conversion strategies have their origins in Jesus saying, Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house may be filled (Luke, 14, 23). In my dictionary the word compel is defined in part as to force someone against his or her will.

Of course not all Christians would interpret this saying literally but most evangelicals would and indeed do.

Within any society there will always be a certain amount of religious switching. Some people will lose interest in the faith of their birth and change to another.

In Sri Lanka until recently most religious switching took place because of marriage. If two people of different religions married one partner often change their faith to that of the other. Each religion lost roughly as many of its members to other faiths as it gained. This process caused little demographic changes.

It was a slow hardly noticeable one, it was part of the natural shifts and variations that always takes place in society and it caused little alarm. But with the advent of the evangelists the whole process of religious switching has changed. To one degree or another compulsion has become a major factor in this process. Buddhist and indeed many mainline Christians too consider any form of compulsion to be unethical.

Most evangelical churches come from the USA and in some ways they are more influenced by distinctly American values than they are by those of that gentleman of Nazareth. In America being first is everything, size matters, success means being biggest. No one cares about what you had to do to become successful - being a success is justification enough.

Evangelical churches have enthusiastically adopted the outlook of big corporations making high pressure sales techniques, blanket advertising, door to door canvassing etc. As a result of this people who would have never changed their religion are now doing so. The process of religious switching has been transformed from being a personal and individual one to being one artificially induced by external forces.

Whereas the village used to be a place of interdependence and mutual acceptance, it has now deteriorated into being a place competitiveness where one group is trying to win converts and the other is trying to stop this from happening.

It has become as one evangelical tract approvingly calls it,a battlefield for souls.

Quite understandably Buddhists leaders and others are concerned about this. They worry that just as the ethnic conflict is beginning to wind down a religious one is appearing on the horizon.

In the name of peace and harmony they are interested in preventing this from happening. But ordinary people are concerned too, including those who otherwise used to take little interest in religious issues.

Another thing that upsets Buddhists is the attempts to buy converts, i.e. offering material inducements to make Christians.

Evangelicals vehemently deny that this happens and say that no genuine Christian would do such a thing. Maybe they wouldn;t. But perhaps not all who call themselves or are considered genuine Christians actually are

The fact is that inducement is used. I recently visited a certain golf club near Kandy and during a conversation with three of the European members was told that the manager of the club ( a Sinhalese) had insinuated to his staff (all Tamils) that he expected them to attend the local chapel. Apparently he had not told them that they would lose their jobs if they did not attend but he didn't have to tell them. They got the message without the word being spoken.

This sort of thing may not happen as often as some claim but it only has to happen occasionally for it to cause disgust, resentment and anger both in those who are subjected to it and those who see it happening to their fellow religionists.

When grilled on the matter evangelicals leader have admitted that unethical conversions sometimes happen but it is due to only a few over-zealous or immature Christians. Be that as may, it is in the interests of the evangelical churches to make every effort to restrain their over-zealous and immature members from doing such things because it does Christianity's reputation irreparable harm.

But even when evangelicals do not use material inducement their efforts to convert others are often characterised by insensitivity and overstepping the line of good taste and good manners.

Just a few weeks ago it was reported in the paper and CNN that a pilot on a plane said to the passengers over the intercom. Put up your hands if you are a Christian. Then he added, If the person next to you does not have their hands up they must be fools. Understandably the non-Christian passengers felt insulted by this, complained to the authorities and the pilot was later reprimanded.

Last year the new Archbishop of Sydney caused outrage when he said from the pulpit, If what Christ taught is true all other religions must come from Satan. A few months ago I was taking an early morning walk along the beach at Wellawatta when a young man approached me and began evangelizing me. I told him that I was not interested and kept walking. He ignored my rebuff and continued walking besides me and yapping in my ear about Jesus. Finally he gave up and as a parting shot said: Remember, true peace can only come from Christ.This sort of insensitive to the feelings an wishes of others is quite typical of evangelicals. So obsessed are they with their beliefs, so ready to shout it from the roof-tops and so determined to make converts, that they often cause deep offence to others without even when realising it.

In the face of mounting criticism several evangelical organizations have recently issued statements saying that they have respect for other faiths. This is certainly true of the Catholic and mainstream protestant churches but coming from the evangelicals it is unconvincing.

One only has to read evangelical tracts and books to see what they think of other faiths. According to them, all religions other than Christianity are wrong, they come from Satan and they lead to Hell.

Of course they have a perfect right to believe such things and to proclaim their beliefs. But having the right to do something does not mean that people will like it when you do it. A right should be wrapped in fact, respect for others and a sense of propriety. If I go to an evangelical meeting and hear my religion described as wrong or satanic I have nothing to complain about. I chose to put myself in that situation.

But if someone knocks on my door, insinuates himself or herself into my house and then says such things I have every right to be offended. If I am walking along the beach and uninvited and against my expressed wishes someone insists on telling me about their religion, again I have every right to get annoyed. He has exercised his right to free speech but only at the expense of my right to walk along the beach in peace.

Evangelical Christians need to honestly consider what part they have played in creating the recent problem and what changes they must make to help ease it.

Not with foreign funds, Please! @

** Upper caste and Dalit Catholics clash

Upper caste and Dalit Catholics clash, police shoot and kill
Nirmala Carvalho - 3/10/08
Asia News

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Two Christians died and many more were wounded shot by police who intervened yesterday to stop clashes between Dalit Catholics and upper caste Catholics in the diocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore (Tamil Nadu).

Troubles started on 7 March when a group of Dalit Christians from the Villupuram district began a hunger strike to protest discrimination in a local parish by the Vanniyar.

Three months ago Dalits from St Jabamalais Annai Church in Earyur built another church dedicated to Saghaya Madha (Our Lady of perpetual Help) and sought to have it erected as a separate parish with its own priest.

They were backed in their demands by two political groups, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Vck) and Ambedkar Makkal Iyakkam (AMI). The VCK even put up posters calling for the closure of St Jabamalai and the recognition of the new parish church.

In response some 500 upper caste Christians went on a rampage on Sunday, attacking Dalits and torching over 30 huts.

Police said that when they moved in to stop the protest they were pelted with stones and were thus “forced” to open fire on the aggressors. M Periy Nayagam, 40, and A. Magimai, 24, were killed and 40 more people were wounded.

Fr G Cosmon Arokiaraj, secretary to the Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told AsiaNews that the “confrontation in the area between Dalit and Vanniyar Catholics goes back quite some time, but the Church does not want to split a parish along caste line,” but is working towards “gradually removing discrimination against the Dalits and uprooting all forms of discrimination.”

These tragic incidents show that it is urgent to ban many forms of discrimination against Dalit Christians both within the Christian community and especially society at large.

In fact “since the Christian community is perceived as a single entity,” he explained, “the government does not recognise to Dalit Christians the same rights as other Dalits.”

In the Indian caste system, states have granted specific benefits and quotas in schools and public service for Dalits to compensate for their secular low social standing.

“For years Dalits have been discriminated within the Church itself,” he said.

“They cannot sit with upper caste members in the same church; they are buried in separate cemeteries; they cannot use the same roads as upper caste people. When the mother of a Dalit priest died in the 1990s the upper caste did not allow the funeral procession to use the main road; even the bishop failed to bring about a compromise.”

“In India more than 65 per cent of all Christians are Dalit, but Christians represent only 2.3 per cent of a population of 1.1 billion people.”

Dalit Christians @

Caste of Non-Hindus @

Devadasi - Servant of God
by Jyotsna Kamat

First Online: December 01,2005
Last Updated: December 22,2007

Dr. Kamat takes a look at the historical context of the institution of Devadasis. In the course of history the so called "temple women" were both honored and exploited in the name of God.The author points out that at one time, they were regarded as honorable professionals, and are responsible for development of many of India's performing fine-arts. - Ed.

Dedicating dancing girls to temples in the service of God was not peculiar to India. Many ancient civilizations, like those of Babylonia, Cyprus, Phoenicia, Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Syria employed young girls to propitiate their deities in their respective temples.

In the temple of Corinth, we are told, hundreds of prostitutes lived in the precincts of the temple and the main income of the shrine was from the income of these courtesans.Contemporary norms found no stigma if rich clientele associated themselves with such women, who in their spare time entertained the rich and wealthy.

India was no exception.

Although ancient texts like Vedas, Upanishads do not mention Devadasis (servants of God), institutionalized worship of idols in temples during early centuries of Christian era led to the practice of dedicating women to temples as laid down in the puranas.

Thus some puranas (Agni Purana and Bhavishya Purana) specifically state that the best way for a man to obtain Suryaloka (heaven of sun god) was to dedicate a group of dancing girls to the temple of sun.

For many kings and rich merchants it was the most affordable way to earn merit! (Punya)Over a period of time all the "pampered family deities" of kings and nobles started getting pretty and talented servants for different rituals performed for the deity (befitting a great king or deity) like bathing, dressing, offering flowers, music and dance.

Their main job was to dance and sing as also playing musical instruments, while the priests of the temple offered sixteen kinds of services. But smaller temples employed them for cleaning the temple premises, fetch water, make garlands of flowers, etc.

By the time Hiuen Tsang came to India (7th century) Devadasi system was firmly established. He had noticed a large number of them in the sun temple of Multan (now in Pakistan).

In Somnath temple (which was destroyed and looted by Muhmmad Gazni) there were five hundred dancing girls and in the great Tanjore temple built by Rajaraja Chola (10th century) there were four hundred.

Temple Woman Depicted in a Hoysala SculptureJust like the kings employing women for various chores in the palace, women were employed in temples for different seva or services like fanning, holding chamar during procession, preparing ointments for the idol.

They also participated in state-plays enacted before the deity during festivals.Some of the Devadasis were highly accomplished and earned lot of wealth. Many courtesans were of charitable nature. The biggest tank in the state of Karnataka for instance, was constructed by Shantavve, a Devadasi, in the 11th century (water tank that spread ten miles and fed 7000 acres agricultural land in Chennagiri taluka of Shimoga district.)

It is called Sulekere (Prostitute's Lake) by the locals and subsequently renamed as Shantigagar. Even today (year 2005) it is as serviceable.

There were seven types of Devadasis as per Hindu tradition.

Datta -- self-dedicated, or given to deity
Vikrita -- Purchased or self-sold to God,
Bhritya -- servant for supporting family
Bhakta devotee -- Devadasi Abducted and deserted at the temple
Alankara--donated by kings or nobles to their family deity
Rudra Ganika or
Gopika--appointed by the temple for specific services

The last two find mention in inscriptions as well and hence it is seen that their job was primarily service of the deity. Since they were wedded to the deity, they could not marry a mortal.

However they had to cater to demands of the employer or the priest and as is a common curse of India, a separate caste came into existence. The sons of temple women continued as temple staff or musicians and daughters became dancers and musicians.

For centuries Devadasis continued to be custodians of fine arts. They studied classics (Sanskrit and regional languages.) Set to music lyrics and played and taught various musical instruments and kept the tradition of Bharatanatya or Indian classical dance alive.

No stigma was attached for their profession.Their presence at marriage and other festive occasion was required. some got the tali (auspicious thread of a bride) tied by a Devadasi during wedding.

But the arrival of British followed by missionaries dealt a cultural death blow to the institution of Devadasis.The Europeans could not distinguish between Devadasis, prostitutes, and street nauch girls.

It was considered vulgar and lowly to attend concerts of Devadasis or attend dance performances.English educated Indians were suddenly aware of their status and the laws were passed to ban the practice.

By then the impoverished dancing women had to take recourse to prostitution for mere survival.

The abolition of Devadasi system in 1920s did help to stop exploitation of poorer women in the name of religion. But superstitions regarding dedicating female child still continue in parts of India, such as the devotion to Yellamma.

Dalit Christians boycott @
Invading the Sacred @

Monday, March 3, 2008

** Secular Politics, Communal Agenda

Educating to Confuse and Disrupt released
Secular Politics, Communal Agenda

Congress-CPM nexus encouraged Bangla infiltration

Senior BJP leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Shri L.K. Advani has alleged that the UPA government is not extending the visa of noted Bengali writer Taslima Nasrin under pressure from the fundamentalists and Left parties.

He said it is voice of the secularism that her visa should be extended forthwith and she should be allowed to lead a normal life in West Bengal.Shri Advani was releasing two books—Secular Politics, Communal Agenda by Prof. Makkhanlal and Educating to Confuse and Disrupt jointly by Prof. Rajendra Dixit and Prof Makkhanlal—at the National Museum Auditorium in New Delhi on January 31.

Both the books have been published by India First Foundation.Shri Advani further said the UPA government is under wrong impression that it is the only well-wisher of the Muslims.

Since it is the Congress that mostly ruled the country so far, it is the Congress, which is responsible for the plight of Muslims today.

The members of the Constituent Assembly had decided not to give any reservation on the basis of religion. But now the UPA government is working totally opposite.

He said Taslima Nasrin is facing hardships in India because the present government feels that, if it supports Taslima, it would lose its Muslim vote bank and the Left parties would withdraw their support.

He said the UPA government is dishonouring India by subjecting Taslima Nasrin to ‘house arrest’ and ‘ill treatment’. “Like millions of the countrymen, I am shocked and outraged at media reports that the noted Bengli writer, Taslima Nasrin has been kept in virtual house arrest at a secret place in Delhi and, worse still, that her health is affected by poor medical care.

Both the Congress-led UPA government at the Center and the CPI (M)-led Left Front government in West Bengal are responsible for her poor plight,” he said. Shri Advani said, “It is the responsibility of the Central and State governments to ensure her personal security. Religious extremists, who might harm her, have to be dealt with according to the law of the land.

Lastly, there should be no delay in extending her visa to enable her to continue to live in India,” he said.

He alleged that the UPA government has been putting pressure on Nasrin to leave India and go away to any other part of the world of her choice.Smt. Nasrin has been pleading for permanent resident status in India.

Shri Advani further said, “It is, indeed, ironic that the Congress-Communist combine, which has actively colluded in the influx of 1,20,53,950 illegal Bangladeshi migrants (as on December 2001) in Assam, West Bengal and other parts of the country, cannot give protection to a single helpless woman who is a victim of religious persecution in her own country.

Many of these infiltrators have been given not only shelter but also ration cards and voting rights. It is due to greed for votes that the Congress and the Communists had been stoutly resisting the demand for repeal of the Illegal Migrants Determination by Tribunal (IMDT) Act.

Ultimately, on July 15, 2004, the Supreme Court had to strike it down as unconstitutional with a stinging censure of the Central Government,” Shri Advani added.

Presiding over the function, Shri K.C. Pant said we must learn from the history and the new generation should know its glorious past. He said facts must not be distorted.

The British not only divided us but also brainwashed our people. This is the reason the majority of the countrymen today do not know their roots.

Shri A. Surya Prakash said the book written by Prof. Makkhanlal is of great value.Shri Prakash spoke in detail about Pt. Nehru and Smt Indira Gandhi who repeatedly misused their powers and kept the country in dark on various issues.

He also referred to the Emergency and exposed the pseudo-secularism of the Congress and the bureaucrats and some other leaders who praised Smt. Gandhi for imposing the Emergency.

Praising Prof. Makkhanlal, Prof. Kapil Kumar said Shri Makkhanlal has challenged the modern-day historians who are distorting the history.

He said the country must be careful of the pseudo-secular and opportunist historians who are dominating today. Earlier, Prof. Makkhanlal briefly introduced both the books. —P.K.