Language, Religion and Everything Else

Couple of friends of mine and me had an argument which was kicked offby this peace of news. My reaction, just like many others, was, “wtf?” We all know how the government had done such a mediocre job is building new schools. The right to basic education is being denied to scores thousands of people in the state. Yet, the government goes out of the way to destroy the existing school. This clearly shows the sign of its irresponsibility. Yes, the schools were given to permit teaching in only Kannada as the medium of instruction and they did flout the law. All that govt. had to do was warn them and remind them about the condition on which the permit was given. It wasn’t necessary to take the extreme step. Let’s face it; English is the language in which science is best taught. International standardization for scientific terms has existed for long time. Social Studies, on the other hand, is best taught is the native language. When you learn about a society or about a culture, the native language obviously has the richest vocabulary to express the ideas. It was wrong on the part of the schools to have taken license for schools to run in Kannada medium and flout the rule. I can only say that, it’s now fair if the govt. gives permits to existing schools either as Kannada medium or as English medium provided the schools follow the necessary norms. Though many may hate to admit it, English medium is a necessity and not a luxury in Urban India. In rural India, perhaps, native language works the best.There had been a constant worry among Kannada activists that the language is losing importance. Some of them have taken extreme measures to burn English hoardings in Bangalore to encourage Kannada. This is not acceptable. Kannada Activists have every right to encourage Kannada, but they have no business to discourage English or any other language like they did. There are ways to popularize Kannada and other regional languages. For instance, a good comic book for primary kids and good novels to a high school kid goes a long way in developing interest and enthusiasm in a language. You can’t enforce a language on someone and hope that it popularizes it. You have to develope a natural inclination to a language. The fact that locals are offended by “outsiders” are encroaching Bangalore is laughable. Different kinds of people coming into Bangalore has added diversity and richness into the culture of Bangalore. And remember that the Indian culture we talk about has again evolved over 20 centuries. If we have to retain our identity, we have encouraged it, not prevent people from coming into Bangalore. IT is blamed for “infesting” Karnataka. Remember, IT contributes to 25% of GDP of Karnataka. Given 50% comes from agriculture, the share of IT is phenomenal. It’s up to the govt. (indirectly, the people) to use them.

Regionalism took its tool on our debate. points about how Tamilians never speak in other languages, and how accommodative Kanndigas are as they are “allowing” people to stay in Bangalore were all made by my friends. I did not agree to the fact that Bangalore was decaying because of presence of other people.

The topic of the debate swayed a little bit to how tolerant, in general, Indians are. My friend claimed this has lead to our downfall in some sense. We talked about how foolish India was for not trading POK for Lahore after the ’71 war and other passive attempts to counter terrorism. Speaking of recent comments by Manmohan Singh , I acknowledged the fact that a stronger stance was needed to counter terrorism, state-sponsored or otherwise. Then the debate turned to religion. And that’s what prompted me to write this post.

At this point I made it clear that I don’t find my life very different from a Christian Indian or Indian Muslim. I don’t consider myself a Hindu and that I am an atheist. I don’t want to assume a narrower Identity. I am a citizen of the world first, then India, then my state. This according to them was being too benevolent. They said, “We have to serve our people. One has to be a Village/Town’s person first, State next, country next and then the world.” They claimed, ‘Indians have this tendency of giving a lot to the world and not getting as much in return by being benevolent and tolerant to others.’ Despite the obscene portrayal of Hindu deities by MF Hussein, he was felicitated by the Indian Govt. Govt. was blamed for appeasing the minority for votes (obviously) and splitting the majority and successfully make a living out of it. They claimed that because of the India being a secular nation, political parties are able to use the mantra of “divide and rule”. That is, appease the minority, get their votes, split the majority, get half their votes and win election. However, it isn’t clear to me how the majority is split. Both of them went on to claim that India will be more peaceful nation if it officially a “Hindu state”.

I was taken aback. What sort of a country (and democracy) is it when you don’t have a freedom to choose the religion you want to follow. They went on to claim that Secularism hasn’t worked anywhere in the world. I claimed that it obviously wasn’t true. It is only in India that Secularism has worked because of Hindu Muslim conflict. The only other place where a bitter war is being fought in the name of religion (between two religion) is Israel which isn’t a secular state. Source 1, 2. The rest of the world is quite peaceful secular or not. It is easy for Hindus in India to say make India a Hindu State. What about the minority. Why should they be subjected to the torture of having to follow a religion not appealing to them. India is a free country, a secular country. For a country as diverse as ours, that’s the best.

I was baffled at this point. First, they say that my priority of considering myself citizen of the world first is screwed and second they want to make India a country which bound by laws of a rigid religion whose rules cannot be changed easily. The topic of Narendra Modi was also raised. I called him a cold blooded murderer and a terrorist. This was agreed upon. Then came the issue of conversion, Christian missionaries and of course Graham Steins. One of my friends claimed, he can justify the killings of him and his two sons.


He Explained:
It is against the Indian constitution to coax anyone into converting his religion. Graham Steins did just that. He went to tribal area, spoke to people over there. Introduced then to Christianity. Offended a lot of people. He deserved to die.

I answered back, “how the hell can you justify him being killed for that? What was the fault of his two children? Would you kill Osama’s children? The intention of the missionaries is to spread Christianity. They do a lot of social service. If they can inform people that that is what Christianity is all about. There is nothing wrong in asking them to convert as long as he doesn’t force them.”

He started, “Ok, killing his children was wrong but he still coaxed people. Its against constitution”
Me: “Coax is not a crime. It is surely not wrong. Constitution is wrong there. It should be changed. It can be changed”
Him: “Nothing is right or wrong in abstract sense. I follow what constitution says. I accept it as a norm”
—-
My opinion: Great argument in rhetoric, hardly holds any weight otherwise.

I asked him if he thinks what missionaries is doing is wrong, does he approve of what ISKON is doing? He replied, “Yes, there are spreading Krishna Conscience, not Hindu conversion.” Logically speaking, since Krishna is Hindu God, shouldn’t an ISKON follower imbibe certain (not
all) Hindu customs and traditions? Isn’t this a hypocrisy? You can’t approve what Iskon is doing and not approve what Missionaries are doing.

He went on to speak about how he insulted people over there and that there is a written proof of that. He offended a priest in the tribe who ran away from the place and that aggravated people. I asked him, “If he was insulting them at their face, how did he even hope to convert people.” He answered, “lets not get into logistics of that.” He told me that police and ministry wouldn’t help the tribe and hence they asked Dara Singh to kill him. He said, “Dara Singh, in a way, helped them.” At some point I asked him the source of this information. He said that it was in a book by Arun Shouri. Why didn’t that surprise me? He is from BJP. He is obviously going to bend facts in Hindu’s favour.

Even then, how does it justify him being KILLED? His view was that Indians have been insulted by Graham Steins’ actions. I questioned him if he believed Christianity was an Insult. He said, “no”. He also stated that such action were “necessary” for Hindus to retain their identity. At this point I was totally agitated. He had just claimed killing was a necessary and not just that. He wanted it to happen once in a while. He continued, “tribal were threatened by him, they killed him. I don’t support the killing. But, it is justifiable.” I made the usual clichéd argument about no one having a right to take a life. I also firmly said a big NO to capital punishment to Dara Singh or to Osama.

What kind of a religion supports violence? Isn’t the intolerance expressed by my friends totally against any religious beliefs? I asked him if he supported Osama Bin Laden’s Killing. There is a parallel here. He merely claimed they were different cases altogether. Seriously, Bin Laden is killing because he feels his religion is being threatened. Dara Singh did the same. Isn’t what he did a Hindu jihad? Just that in other religions there is no name for religion sponsored killing. How can anyone who supports what Dara Singh did, not support ehat Osama is doing? They are being hypocritical.

All of this happened between 1am and 5am. Raising my voice of several occasions and repeating many times, “how can anyone ever justify killing?”, I was waiting for an answer. I still am.

[PS: Ironically, this post on a heated argument had to come right after my post on lack of social interaction in IITM]

19 Replies to “Language, Religion and Everything Else”

  1. Whoever your friend is, deserves a fine drubbing. Please, on my behalf, give the same to this friend of yours. Tell him/her how disgusting he/she is.

    Thank you.

  2. Ahem.. dei thu tnr.. we dont realy know what Graham and co. did to provoke the natives, for such a reaction on their part is anythin’ but ordinary!!

  3. dear shankie,
    i agree with u. some people tend to see secularists as traitors, as people who gave up their own religion. i strongly feel that religion is only a way of making life better, some thing that directs us towards good.

    lets find that friend and give him a piece of our mind 🙂 hope he understands

  4. True Shankin, the only way to promote a culture is too allow more people to merge into it. Not “allowing” people from outside to settle down (in any way- non-cooperation /violence /harrassment /any other “patriotic” way) is sick.

    And I am really disgusted with your friend’s views and hypocrisy. His state of mind is pitiful.

  5. Seriously, no conclusion can be drawn if only one side is heard. I think your only stand point is that nothing juxtapose the killing issue. Here Graham Staines, in particular. Considering and pondering over your friends opinion, I think your friend has definately pondered over this fixed opinion which you have been holding. In my opinion, even LTTE has its cause. When law fails, arms take over. And the part about people being “informed” about Christianity is bogus. Everyone knows that the the missionary activities are more aggressive than what you project it as.
    Secondly, Your comparison of Dara sigh with osama seems too far fetched….what dara singh did was trully with DEFENSIVE religious motives… but the misdeeds of osama began with regionalism as the underlying mantra…. all he focussed was USA and specifically bush jr.(hardly any disturbance during bill’s tenure)…. the focus was USA usurping middle eastern oil fields ad refineries… NO QUESTION OF ISLAM BEING UNDER ATTACK ..!!

    What justifies killing? I think many things do, punishment for wrongdoing, defensive killing, etc. are situations where killing is required. Your idea of a world without any killing is too utopian to be true…

  6. I believe, one can make a proper choice only when he is completely informed. I feel the tribals need education and a proper life rather than religious conversion for their salvation from their state of misery. In most of the cases, these guys convert because, they are made to believe that by changing their religion, their lives will be significantly better. Why is it that most of the religious conversions take place in rural areas with improper infrastructure? I feel the reason is much more socio-economic rather than religious. By the way, why will someone change his/her religion if he/she is satisfied with the state of affairs? Killing of a human being for any reason is wrong. One can never justify what dara or osama does. Similarly one can never justify repression of people by the government ( it happens everywhere… India, Pakistan, Israel, Middle east… US does it although in other soils.) its a kind of a modern day crusade. Its a topic of endless debate.

  7. I will talk first about India being a “secular” country. I sincerely believe that that is not the case. Why? Because Muslims are given Haj subsidy, which is communal.
    Because Muslims are given reservations in some colleges, which is communal.
    Because the govt. made singing of Vande Mataram optional due to protests by Muslim leaders, which is communal.

    Hence, instead of blaming the BJP for all the sins of India, take a long hard look at the self-proclaimed “secularists”.

    Now, about the murder of Graham Staines. If u feel that missionaries really do social service only and achieve conversion of Hindus as an end result, I suggest u go and check it out for yourself. My friend in Bombay told me how a missionary attempted to convert him. This fellow approaches my friend and tells him that Hinduism is immoral since Krishna had 1000 wives.
    And anyway, poor starving uneducated tribals need food, clothing, shelter and education, not a religion.
    Swami Vivekananda said,” IT IS AN INSULT TO OFFER RELIGION TO A STARVING PERSON.”

    Now, about Modi. If Modi was indeed a cold-blooded murderer like u put it, he would be behind bars, not the Gujaratis’ choice to lead them again. Have u ever visited Gujarat even once? I have, and I fully understand why people there want him back again and again. For your information, Modi was voted the best CM twice in India Today’s best CM poll.

    Finally, about a religion that supports(glorifies) violence. I think u must be fully aware of the Pope’s recent lecture in Germany and the controversy that followed it. I will tell you this, I knew all that much before the Pope told it to the world.
    Ask ur Muslim friends about hadiths, which are the various conversations held by Mohammed with his followers. If u read it closely, u will find that at one place, he clearly exhorts his followers to
    “SPREAD THE WORD OF ISLAM TO THE IDOL WORSHIPPERS(Hindus). IF THEY DON’T CONVERT, KILL THEM BY SWORDS”.

    This is exactly what the Pope told the world, and which actually is written in the hadiths.

    In my view, it is these verses that are being taught to the jehadis by Osama.
    There u have ur answer as to what promotes violence.

  8. @Animesh

    I really dot know how provacative missonaries can be, but i do know it cannot be as provocative as killing a man and his two children. The tribals could have firmly said “no” and the matter would have ended. What could he do then??? He would have left India.

    Afghanistan was rooted out by Russia … and then by America…. Clearly, when your own home has been destroyed, extremists have every reason to get violent. Osama’s home, Afganistan, was destroyed by Russia, America went to was againsnt Iraq for oil…when the world is hostile to muslims (for whatever reason), by your arguement, Osama’s actions are quite justified. He is doing it under the name of islam is another matter. Probably to convince himself that god will be please by him (as it is a “jihad”).

    You cant kill two children and call it self-defence.

    Your idea of a world without any killing is too utopian to be true…
    that doesn’t mean we dont have to try and get closer and closer to it.

    What justifies killing? I think many things do, punishment for wrongdoing, defensive killing, etc. are situations where killing is required.
    capital punishment etc are all well debated topics… i am against it, there are a lot who are in favour of it…. no point about this arguement..it can go on for ages

    @deepak
    Yes, India is not truly secular. We don’t have uniform civil code. Law treats religions differently. BJP has no rights to force people to sing Vande Maataram. Singing vande maartam must be made optional to all, not just muslims. We need major reforms here. Congress is as much to blame as BJP.

    Hinduism need people with faith (quality), not quantity. A person with enough faith won’t convert. I agree that the extent to which missionaries go in order to acheive conversion is ugly to say the least. But, not good enough reason to kill them.

    Modi had everything in him to stop the riots, he did not. Muslims got killed. With majority hindu population blinded by religion, they voted him back. They campared him to Sardar Vallabhai Patel (Sick). He might be the best cm for hindus, not for an Indian State (even if the state has 100% hindus). Has he at least apologised for the indifference( i dont know)???

    No comments about what Hadiths say. If indeed that what it says, the “guidelines” have to be changed. Things have to change with times. That goes with Hinduism and Christianity too. A lot of muslims claim that jihad is mis-interpreted by terrorists. Untill I hear from a learnt person that violence is suggested in their holy book, I am not convinced.

  9. It is against the Indian constitution to coax anyone into converting his religion. Graham Steins did just that. He went to tribal area, spoke to people over there. Introduced then to Christianity. Offended a lot of people. He deserved to die.

    This is what I “explained” or you heard??? There is obviously a lot more to it. That is not even an arguement… How wrongly and biasedly can you dub….
    And look at this…

    I agree that the extent to which missionaries go in order to acheive conversion is ugly to say the least.

    Now you changed your mind eh??? What a change in tone, truly pulled of a chameleon.

    I am sorry to not have pointed it out before but the changing shades of your arguement are far too much to keep quiet any longer.

    I do not think Graham Staines HAD to die. The community did not have any option but to kill him or to take up voilence against him, is my only contention. And in the situation that the law failed them they took the extreme step. They did it to defend the integrity of their community. Killing his two kids(family), like I said is wrong, probably an accident. Of course I would like to add that it is justifiable or necessary only if the above facts (highly disputable) are true.

    Your contention that I am hypocritical because I support what ISCKON does and all, right? Well I do not support ISKON anyway, but I think their case is totally different though, they do not target the weak and the poor among the society. They work in US and all, and make people Krishna concious, in a free society of US where no crap is tolerated…… I may not see eye to eye with many ISKON people, but does not mean I say what they do is wrong. I do not think what they do is wrong. I feel what the missionaries do is wrong, not because they spread christianity, I feel they adopt the worst of methods to do so. In any case, what else do you have to suggest that my arguement is hypocritical??? huh??

    And Gandhe, the part about not welcoming outsiders, well I do not think outsiders should be discouraged or not allowed or not welcomed. I myself am an “outsider” in or in Bangalore. The arguement is far more complex than this to explain, shall do so in person.

  10. I don’t agree with your line of thinking that one must consider himself a citizen of the world fist then country etc etc.I think it has to be first country then everything else.Everything you have to say about this is correct but it holds true only in an ideal world and we all know that we are not living in an ideal world not even near-ideal I would say.So given this fact don’t u think u are being too naive by having such an attitude or is it that u don’t feel strongly about our country?In a war both sides kill but u have to keep in mind who is invading and who is defending.So again going to this whole kannada-schools issue as I told u the world is not esactly flat so don’t u think there is a threat of our local languages and our Indian culture(which took 20centuries to develop according to u) being destroyed.I agree that before taking such an extreme step the Govt should have thought about the future of the students a little more.There is no point doing some stray acts like this,our Govt must come up with a deeper and a more meaningful policy towards this and all it’s actions must be consistent with that policy.As far as the Dara Singh killing Steins is concerned it is wrong for any indivisual take law ito his/her hands like that.If Steins was guilty of insulting/hurting the sentiments of the natives he should be punished by the State(Law of land).I have myselves seen that in many Christian schools they ask girls not to wear a bindi and stuff like that.So christian missionaries are not all that selfless.

    Whether u agree or not I think we have to take a little more pride in what we are(I mean our country/language etc).

    S.Manohar

  11. @rahul

    i did not change my stance, all i claimed was that that the “official” purpose of missionaries have nothing wrong in them, their implementation, as i think, is ugly (buy not worthy enough to get them killed anyway). Any religion needs faith. By giving money, they are not going get any faith. That’s something they have to understand. I remember having said that there is nothing wrong in coaxing, i still stick by it. Giving money and food is charity, no doubt. But it doesn’t bring the quality to a religion.

    What do you mean when there was no option??? killing shouldn’t even be a option in a civilised society which i presume you represent.

    Well, when you said you dont approve of what missionaries do, I asked you, “what about ISKCON?” You said, “thats a different case altogether.” Don’t blame me for interpreting it as “yes, i do approve of it” I sent you the post (before it was published) hoping that you would correct these kind of mistakes i may have made. you dont and you finally accuse me quoting you wrongly.
    iskon doesn’t use the word hinduism. it only says, “pray to krishna”… isn’t that same as organised conversion. Your point about isckon not going to poor but has been associated rich doesn’t mean that they do not pounce on your weakness. Everyone (every religious organisation) does. You cant say “ok” to isckon and condemn what missionaries do. There in lies the hypocrasy.

    You called me narrow minded because i woudn’t accept violence as a route to happiness. You told me that I was ready to beleive that non-violence was the only way to happiness… Its gonna be fun. Explain how will violence bring happiness to people. IF you dont i will remain “narrow minded” for the rest of my life. i guess as a broad minded person, you wouldn’t want that.

    You go personal in your post without me having provoked you and called me narrow minded despite the fact that there were lot of unanswered question on your side … after having sent you post to be read before being published, you had two days to reply… you dont, instead you go personal. I’m sorry, that’s not a way to win an arguement.

    You ask for hindu state, i ask for a secular state and you call me narrow minded. You don’t want Valentine’s day in Indian primarily because its not Indian, and you call me narrow minded. You dont want want the age old rule of not allowing women to Shabrimala temple to change because it symbolises bachelarism, you are not ready to change a rule because of tredition even when things have changed so much over the years…and you call me narrow minded. You tell me that I shouldn’t be thinking globally first and you call me narrow minded. I am not willing to accept non-violence as an answer, that why you call me norrow minded. Wonderderful!!!!! Where does it leave Gandhi then????????

  12. @manohar

    what i mean when i say think globally is that we souldn’t develope at a cost on someone else. We are not in 18th cetuary when consequences of out actions were limited to out borders. Today, esp in environment, any action we take has a global impact. Similarly, even other countries should realise that and start taking corrective measures to repair the damage. What we do to our environment affects europe directly and probably what africa does, affect us. Thinking globally is a necessity and not being naive. That dosn’t mean we have to sacrifise our growth for someone else. India is a part of world too. A stagnant india translates to a stagnant world in some sense.

    I agree with you on local language …. we have to encourage it so that the culture doesn’t die (not that its dying now). There are means and ways to do it. A good administrator will implement them.

    Bindi or no bindi must be a personal choice. Govt. should step in and warn the convent schools. Any religious establishment today is not at all selfless, as far as i know.

    Yes, I do proud that i belong to India and Karnataka. I just speak out against what is bad in our system. Somehow, that is seen as not taking pride in oneself.

    @ rest of junta
    Remember, Bangalore is fastest developing city is asia because we were open to all the people and best brains came to Bangalore. I dont beleive it has killed our culture. If anyone thinks of bangalore as Brigade road and MG road, you are wrong. The foundation of kannadiga culture is still alive. It has gone a lil Hi tech 😉 changing times you see.

  13. All right, this has been a long time coming. A huge comment is about to come out.

    First of all, no matter what society we are living in , secular or non-secular, there are a certain rules of the states, which for most reasons can be believed to be just. I do believe that people are on the whole very just, and lets face it, “humane”. If there is anything wrong with the laws of the country it must be debated and rectified. So there is no question of anyone being above the law. Killing anyone, at least in India, is illegal. If someone has done a mistake, he must be taken to court. If you dont believe in courts of this coutry, then that is the down fall of democracy. Of course the country has a lot of flaws, there are a lot of things that are not right, it is upto us to rectify that. NO MATTER WHAT THE ISSUE IS, NO MATTER WHAT SITUATION IT IS, NO ONE SHOULD TRY TO KILL ANYONE. THIS IS BASIC RULE OF A HUMAN STATE. THERE IS NO POINT BEING A RELIGIOUS STATE, IF YOU ARENT HUMANE. The guy who told Dara Singh to kill, must be hanged in public if you ask me, of course with the courts approval. A sane person would have filed a public interest litigation against the missionary.

    There is no denying the fact that missiosnaries do shady stuff to convert people, and most often these stuff goes unnoticed. I would prefer not to go down to the same level of these missionaries, keep my head high and follow my religion the way I want it. I am proud to be a Hindu, that very pride help me understand how other people feel about their religion and makes me tolerant to their religion. Any person who is intolerant to others religion is not truly proud of his. He is jealous that other religions have better ideals.

    I do believe that as a country at people level, we are secular. Have you ever seen your parents or your grandparents telling a Muslim not to enter their house or not being polite to them because of their religion. On the contrary, there has always existed a nice community sentiment among all religions. In my road there were hindus, muslims and christians, all living happily and wishing each other on their festivals. This is true and I can prove it. That is the very essence of secualrism. It is politicians who are unneccesarily sparking off religious tensins in the society for their gain. There is a wonderful story by R.K.Laxman about how the society which on its own was tolerant split up during religious riots and ended up killing one of its own. Very touching and very well written, ill try to get its name.

    All in all, I was happy that the Hindu extremists havent gained much popularity in India ( people like VHP ). I always felt Hinduism is a tolerant religion and honestly believe all religions are. If we start to think that we have to kill to save our religion, we are just creating another Iraq or Afghanisthan.

    People who are still not convinced, see the movie, American History X……..

  14. Oh finally the comments page loaded for me. Well i am happy to see these discussion in iitm. I had a heated exchange if ideas on my blog and i don’t have enthu to get into in again. I agree with most of your points. the thing is religion is peaceful as long as the extremist don’t hijack it because once they do it, they try to insinuate their virulent motives and thus jeopardize the existence of humanity..be it muslim terrorists or hindu fanatics..india because of its secular credentials have survived the test of time and i am sure it will continue to do so in future…extremist voice though loud, can never overtake peace!!

  15. I appreciate your clear thinking. “Persons with faith will never succomb to conversions. We need Hindus with quality to teach others, and not quantity.” Well said.

    I have seen people who did nto choose to convert even in marriages to non-hindus and continue to lead a meaningful life. I have also seen Hindus who are doing their job of being an example of the religion, not seeking any publicity at all. Entharo Mahanubhavulu andhriki Vandanamulu..It is the common people who are keeping the Dharma alive!

    God bless

  16. One more thing I forgot to add, It is sickening to see the missionaries trying to take advantage of the weakness of poor people..

    But who has created this so called backward poor regions? How the people are left alone to suffer by the so called US? Is it not our shame that we let people rot and then cry foul when someone else comes forward to wipe their tears? The next logical street ahead is the options of conversions?

    The choice is there for all .. Let us all come together to eradicate the evils ,and see where will that leave the missionaries?

    Do we have it in us?

  17. But then, there is infinite proof to show that Bangalore is losing it’s culture at every level. This is something even the PM admitted in his speech. That it has otherwise led to a lot of advantages for the educated in Bangalore is a different issue altogether.

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