Narendra Dabholkar has become an icon of rationalist thought in India, but his works being mostly in Marathi are understood by few non-Maharashtrians for either endorsement or criticism. I am attempting to translate some of his speeches, so that his thoughts may reach more people and inform opinions. This is part 2 of the speech, starting around 11:30 minutes into the speech. Part 1 is here: Narendra Dabholkar's speech on tradition and superstition - English translation Part 1
The act against black magic and superstitions may not have been passed (It was passed after his murder), but nobody noticed that a law containing "Dev" (God) came into force in Maharashtra four years ago. The name of that act is Devdasi Prevention act 1934. It got amended four years ago. Now, if you marry a girl who has completed eighteen years of age to a God, then the person conducting the wedding is a criminal, the person marrying is a criminal, the parents of the person being married are criminals and those attending are criminals. You cannot say that parents and girls are willing, so what is your problem?
When I untangled the first jat (dreadlocks): We oil and comb our hair daily. Poor girls in rural areas may not. Sometimes their hair gets tangled and the tangles keep increasing and they are not able or don't untangle them. Once it starts becoming visible someone says "This is Yellama's jat." Then slowly they start offering her vermillion and turmeric, then applying banyan tree sap, then eventually she starts "channelling the goddess", then she starts taking the goddess for worship around the village and eventually becomes a devdasi and lands up into prostitution.
The jat that this whole thing begins with, the first time I untangled it, was 27 years ago. I still remember there was a beautiful eighteen year old girl called Mangala and I convinced her to untangle her old dreadlock. It was a four year old thick and long dreadlock. But before I could untangle it, the girl's mother came to meet my wife and told her "your husband doesn't know. He is putting his hand on Yellamai's jat. Yellama is a vengeful woman and if she gets enraged, she doesn't rest till she has made a guy wear a sari (emasculated him)." It is over twenty five years since I untangled the jat and I am still roaming around in these (male) clothes only.
From that one dreadlock, there were enough lice to supply the entire district of Satara. So our dispensary (Dr. Narendra Dabholkar practiced medicine till 1982) had women lining up to untangle their dreadlocks. Now the thing is, the woman who has a jat wears a cowrie necklace around her neck. Until that necklace called darshan must be put on another woman's neck, there is no permission to untangle the dreadlock.
You know what idea we did? Not we, my wife, I didn't used to be there. When the woman who wanted her hair untangled said "I have darshan on my neck, what do I do?" My wife used to say "Put it on my neck". So my wife used to wear the darshan and untangle her hair and our dispensary had darshans hung in rows. Nothing happened to us.
Why am I telling you this? Because even today the reality of our society needs to be understood and it isn't as simple and straightforward as it appears.
I had gone to Nashik. Nashik is preparing from now for the arrival of Sinhastha (Kumbh mela) in three years. Last time, a mere (sarcasm) 70 lakh people had arrived on one day to bathe in the river at one auspicious moment. 29 died crushed. Now this time around the estimates are for a crore. India has a fertile mind. So a discovery has happened in India that is found nowhere else in the world. It goes something like this.
Dev (Gods) and danav (demons) together churned the sea. 14 treasures emerged from it, the last of which was amrut. Now logically, if both did the work, they could have shared the proceeds. But Gods decided that they wanted to keep it all and started stealing it away. Both Gods and demons grabbed the vessel with amrut inside. 12 years they struggled to take it. In the process, one drop of amrut spilled on each of Allahabad, Ujjain, Haridwar and Godavari (Nashik). So we have discovered that in those twelve years if you go and at that exact moment bathe in the Godavari, your bank balance (karma) for sin for the last twelve years becomes zero. This facility can be found nowhere else in the world.
So thousands of sadhus arrive in fancy clothes and cars. They need thousands of liters of shrikhand and tens of thousands of liters of milk. When they go for the ritual bath, they fight like little children over who goes first. They smoke marijuana. All this isn't said by Narendra Dabholkar, but the one proclaimed to be equal to a sage in Maharashtra, who got a dnyanpeeth award. Kusumagraj (Marathi poet and author Mr V.V. Shirwadkar) has a poem called Sinhastha - have you read it? He has described all this in it.
[recites the poem - describes the excesses of the celebration and ostentatious "austerity"]
And for this last year, 433 crores were spent out of state coffers. At a time when half the schools in Maharashtra didn't have tin roofs or chalk and blackboard. I had gone there. I had printed copies of this poem and I had gone there to distribute it. Some Akashwani man saw and came over and interviewed me. And after the intervew, he hung his head and asked me if it would be okay if the interview played after the Sinhastha.
The budget for three years later is 1300 crores. What is the priority? Whoever wants to go and bathe can go and bathe. Why is money being spent from our pockets on religious things instead of the malnourished children?
The real problem is that we have all decided not to use intelligence. The biggest problem with traditions and orthodox practices is that we don't understand what we do. This question is not related with anyone's individual religious practices.
Vata savitri is worshipped. Shyamchi Aai (classic by Sane Guruji) describes how Shyam's mother is ill and she instructs him to go around the banyan tree on her behalf, and Shyam being male is ashamed to do it. She asks him, what is to feel ashamed in doing something good? I extrapolated this to what today's Shyam's mother would say and what today's Shyam should say. Shyam is Sane Guruji. For the last fourteen years, I'm the editor of Sadhana, established by Sane Guruji, so I have a right to ask this question.
What is the meaning of this? Firstly, after doing the vata savitri puja, the husband's life gets extended, and secondly, every birth, for seven years, she gets the same husband. This is what the vata savitri tradition tells us. So, for a doctor like me running a hospital, it is very easy. Put on a saline drip for the patient inside, plant a banyan tree outside and give a bundle of thread to the wife. Tell her "here, your husband has been started on saline, you wrap this thread around the tree seven times. By whatever reason, what matters is your husband will be saved"
The man you called Hindu Hriday Samarat, that Swatantraveer Savarkar has written that the banyan tree will shade the traveler under it, but when it is old and diseased, it will collapse on the traveler under it. Worshiping a banyan tree that doesn't even understand whether to shade or crush the traveler under it is worshiping falsehood. This isn't Narendra Dabholkar talking, it is the first Hindu Hridaysamrat Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who said it.
In Kolhapur, women were worshiping the banyan tree on the vata savitri day, going around the tree. A jeep came at full speed, one of the women was pulled into it by her arm, and it took off. It was outrageous. A woman was worshiping in the village and she got kidnapped like this, and people gave chase on motorcycles. The jeep wasn't going fast and they caught up with it. They asked "don't you understand anything? The woman was worshiping and is this appropriate?" The man who had pulled her asked the people "Do you know who I am?" "Who are you?" "I am her husband."
The people were surprised. "What's wrong with you? Your wife was worshiping for your long life and to get you as a husband for seven births, what is your problem?" The man replied "Two years since we married, she didn't even stay with me two months, I'll stay like this or what for seven births?"
I asked a woman who seemed clearly uninterested in the motions of the worship whether she was asking for the same husband for seven births, and she replied "I did ask for this same husband for seven births, only wished that this was the seventh birth."
What are we doing? What are we examining? We don't even understand that the traditional practices and rituals we do.
This is the end of part 2. Part 3 will be posted soon.
“A distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, M.M. Kalburgi, and two Maharashtrians, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, both anti-superstition activists, have all been killed by gun-toting motor-cyclists. Other dissenters have been warned they are next in line. Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhlaq, was dragged out of his home in Bisara village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home. In all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.” Nayantara Sahgal in her statement “Unmaking India”, published inwww.indianculturalforum.in.
August 30, 2015: Kannada scholar M. M. Kalburgi assassinated
September 12, 2015: Uday Prakash returned his Akademi award saying that free speech was endangered under the NDA government. He added that “the Akademi organises a tamasha of sorts, presents you an award and forgets about you. When something like this happens, there is no word of consolation and support from them. Writers are a family but they don’t seem to care.”
October 3, 2015: Kannada writers Veeranna Madiwalar, T. Satish Javare Gowda, Sangamesh Menasinakai, Hanumanth Haligeri, Shridevi V. Aloor and Chidanand Sali returned their Kannada Sahitya Parishat awards in protest over the delay in the inquiry into rationalist M.M. Kalburgi’s killing. Veeranna Madiwalar said, “I was among the eight who was given the Aralu Prashasti… We were really proud we got the award when Kalburgi was present. We’re upset at the slow pace of the CID investigation [on M.M. Kalburgi’s murder]. We fear the probe will go the way of the other social activists, Dabholkar and Pansare, who were also killed.” T. Satish Javare Gowda said “It is a simple gesture to exert pressure on the state government to nab the culprits.” Chidanand Sali said “The CID investigation is creating doubts among Kalburgi’s followers that the culprits may not be nabbed quickly.”
October 6, 2105: Nayantara Sahgal returned her Akademi award, saying The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.”
October 7, 2105: Ashok Vajpeyi returned his Akademi award, saying “This is in solidarity with writers and intellectuals being murdered in broad daylight… Sahgal was right. He is a very loquacious Prime Minister. Why doesn’t he tell the nation that the pluralism of this country will be defended at every cost?”
October 9, 2015: Rahman Abbas returned his state Akademi award, saying “This is high time… and we cannot remain voiceless. Hence, I request senior Urdu writers, poets and critics… to register protest against murder andkilling of creative writers by returning Sahitya Academy Awards.”
October 9, 2015: T.M. Krishna wrote to the Prime Minister, saying“Words, strong and emotional words come to you easily. So why do we need to shout and scream for a few sentences about a man who was lynched for allegedly consuming beef?”
October 10, 2105: Shashi Deshpande resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council,saying in such a situation “silence is an abetment”.
October 10, 2015: Sara Joseph returned her state Akademi award, saying “There is a growing fear and lack of freedom under the present government… Writers are being killed, people are being killed, ghazal singers are not being allowed to perform – this is not the free India I have lived in… The Sahitya Akademi has remained silent over all of this, when it should have been the first to speak out. I am returning my award in protest…”
October 10, 2015: K. Satchidanandan resigned from the Executive Board and all other committees of the Sahitya Akademi, saying “I am sorry to find that you think this is a “political issue”; to writers like me, this is an issue of our basic freedom to live, think and write.Annihilation should never be allowed to replace argument, the very essence of democracy.”
October 10, 2015: P.K. Parakkadavu resigned from the General Council of the Sahitya Akademi, citing its failure to uphold freedom of expression.
October 10, 2015: Keki Daruwalla wrote to the Akademi President, saying “What does it [your silence] say of the Akademi as an institution and of office bearers of this institution as upholders of our literary and cultural values?
October 10, 2015: Adil Jussawalla wrote to the Akademi President, saying “I believe this is the time for it [the Akademi] to boldly state that it unequivocally supports the rights of this nation’s writers and condemns the violence used to suppress or destroy those rights.”
October 10, 2015: Mridula Garg wrote on the Prime Minister breaking his silence, saying “If that is all he [Modi} has to say and is not ready to be held accountable for the distortion of our so called ancient culture and bashing of intellectuals in word and deed by his Ministers and M.Ps, then I prefer him silent.”
October 11, 2015: Aravind Malagatti resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council, saying “I have resigned condemning the killing of Kalburgi and silence of Akademi over the issue. It should have spoken out and expressed its condemnation against such acts.”
October 11, 2015: Kumbar Veerabhadrappa (Kumvee) returned his Akademi award, saying“I’m doing this condemning the killings of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi, and Akademi’s silence on the issue; also against Dadri lynching… These incidents are an attempt to destroy the diversity of this country and it signals the entry of fascism in to India.”
October 11, 2015: G.N. Devy returned his Akademi award, saying “Your moment of reckoning has come… I do this as an expression of my solidarity with several eminent writers who have recently returned their awards to highlight their concern and anxiety over the shrinking space for free expression and growing intolerance towards difference of opinion…
October 11, 2015: Mangalesh Dabral returned his Akademi award saying “Efforts must be made to ensure that several writers come together and take a collective decision to return their awards…”
October 11, 2015: Rajesh Joshi returned his Akademi award saying, with Dabral in a joint statement, “We clearly see a threat to our democracy, secularism and freedom. There have been attempts to curb free speech earlier also, but such trends have become more pronounced under the present government. These are visible all over…”
October 11, 2015: Four Punjabi writers – Gurbachan Singh Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Waryam Sandhu – returned their Akademi awards in a single day. Bhullar said he was perturbed by “…the attempts at disrupting the social fabric of the country, targeting particularly the area of literature and culture, under an orchestrated plan of action…” Aulakh said he was pained by the attacks on “progressive writers, leaders of the rational movement and the forcible saffronisation of education and culture… and the communal atmosphere being created in the country… The central government was not performing its duty as the representative of a secular and democratic country.” Atamjit Singh said he “is very upset over the incidents of communal hatred in the country for the last some months”.
October 11, 2015: A federation of Kashmiri scholars, Adbee Markaz Kamraz, too expressed solidarity with the eminent writers for their decision to return Sahitya Akademi awards, asking the top literary body to break its silence over the increasing “communal frenzy”.
October 11, 2015: G.N. Ranganath returned his Akademi award, saying he was disturbed by the recent curbs on freedom of expression.
October 11, 2015: D.N. Srinath announced he would return his translator’s award.
October 11, 2015: Nayantara Sahgal responded to the Akademi President’s remarks with a cheque for a lakh and added, “The fact that so many writers are returning their Awards or resigning from Akademi posts makes it clear how anguished we are that you have remained silent over the murder and intimidation of writers and the threat thathangs over dissent and debate.”
October 11, 2015: Aman Sethi returned his Yuva Puraskar, saying “The Akademi cannot draw its legitimacy by celebrating writers while shying clear of solidarity when they are targeted…”
October 12, 2015: N. Shivdas announced at a rally that he was returning his Akademi award, saying no action has been taken against the Sanatan Sanstha, whose members were allegedly involved in the killing of rationalists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.
October 12, 2015: Megh Raj Mitter returned the Shiromani Lekhak, the Punjab government’s highest award for writers.
October 12, 2015: E. V. Ramakrishnan resigned from the English Advisory Board of the Sahitya Akademi.
October 12, 2015: K. S. Ravikumar resigned from the Malayalam Advisory Board of the Akademi.
October 12, 2015: C. R. Prasad resigned from the Malayalam Advisory Board of the Akademi.
October 12, 2015: Rajendra Kishore Panda invokes the constitution of the Sahitya Akademi in his letter to the Akademi President, saying one of its [the Akademi’s] prime duties is to stand by writers and scholars expressing their thoughts…”
October 12, 2015: Salman Rushdie joined the protests against the spread of “communal poison” and “rising intolerance” in the country. “I support Nayantara Sahgal and the many other writers protesting to the Sahitya Akademi. Alarming times for free expression in India,” he tweeted.
October 12, 2015: Ghulam Nabi Khayal said he was returning his award, adding that The minorities in the country are feeling unsafe and threatened. They feel their future is bleak.”
October 12, 2005: Gopalkrishna Gandhi said, “Writers returning Sahitya Akademi awards is a landmark moment… more should do so… They have spoken not just for the power of protest but also for the power of dissent… I don’t think there has been a time when three rationalists have been murdered, and the way they were, suggests a resemblance in the crimes. If writers and dissenters don’t protest, who will?
October 12, 2015: Theatre artist Maya Krishna Rao enlarges the stage of writers’ protests by adding the voices of performing artists. Her protest, she said, was against the Dadri lynching and the “rising intolerance” in the country. October 12, 2015: Rahamat Tarikeri returned his Akademi award, protesting the recent increase in intolerance, included the Dadri lynching.
October 12, 2015: Four more writers from Punjab, Surjit Pattar, Baldev Singh Sadaknama, Jaswinder and Darshan Buttar added their voices in solidarity by announcing they were returning their awards. Pattar said “The murder of writers, scholars and thinkers in this diverse country is painful… Even more painful is that these murderers get away…”
October 12, 2015: Anil Joshi announces that he will return his Akademi award, saying “…it does not hold any importance when people like Kalburgi, (Govind) Pansare and (Narendra) Dabholkar are being killed… People who are behind these killings don’t have any respect for those holding different views and opinions. In that case, they would have killed Bhagat Singh, too, who did not believe in God, and Savarkar, who used to say that there is no need to worship cows…”
October 12, 2015: Chaman Lal returned his Akademi translation prize in solidarity with all writers of Indian languages including English.
October 13, 2015: Meena Alexander expressed solidarity with Indian writers and writes on the “Silenced Writer”.
October 13, 2015: Dalip Kaur Tiwana announced that she will return her Padma Shri, saying, “In this land of Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev, the atrocities committed on the Sikhs in 1984 and on the Muslims recurrently because of communalism are an utter disgrace to our state and society. And to kill those who stand for truth and justice put us to shame in the eyes of the world and God.”
October 13, 2015: Pradnya Pawar announced she was returning all her literary awards and the prize money to the Maharashtra state government to protest the “culture of intolerance” in the country. She added, “We are living in an era of undeclared emergency.”
October 13, 2015: Govind Nihlani spoke out in support of the writers, saying, “The situation of the days of ‘Tamas’, which saw the great divide and displacement of thousands has not changed. In fact, the fissures in society have grown and the manipulation of the vulnerable has increased.”
October 13, 2015: Bhai Baldeep Singh announced that he would return the Parman Patraconferred on him for his contributions to classical music and gurbani sangeet, to protest “the lack of appropriate response to warn off those who have been perpetrating crimes against humanity”.
October 13, 2015: Homen Borgohain announced he would return his Akademi award in protest against the Dadri incident, and attacks on minorities, liberal writers and rational thinkers. He also expressed his anguish over the growing fascist tendency in the country. A silent protest he said, had been going on inside him since the Dadri killing took place.
October 13, 2015: Nirupama Borgohain announced she would return her Akademi award to express disapproval of growing intolerance, saying “Religious intolerance has reached extreme level. But the leader of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not assured us to stop it and he is remaining silent. It is as if he is encouraging fascism to grow…”
October 13, 2015: Mandakranta Sen announced that she would return her young writers’ special award from the Akademi to protest against the Dadri lynching, and growing intolerance and communalism.
October 13, 2015: Marathi writers Harishchandra Thorat, Sanjay Bhaskar Joshi and Ganesh Visputay returned their Maharashtra state government awards, saying there was an emergency-like situation in the country.
October 14, 2015: Keki Daruwalla returned his Akademi award, saying “… in recent months it [the Akademi] has not stood up as boldly as it should for values that any literature stands for, namely freedom of expression against threat, upholding the rights of the marginalised, speaking up against superstitions and intolerance of any kind…. That Dr. M.M. Kalburgi, a Sahitya Akademi prize winner should be killed for no other reason except his rationalist views is something that cannot pass muster without some protest from brother authors.
October 14, 2015: Nayantara Sahgal issued a statement on www.indianculturalforum.in
October 14, 2015: Expressing concern over rising communal polarization and intolerance, 100 intellectuals from West Bengal intellectuals on Wednesday wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee, saying that the Modi government should take a tough stand against fundamentalists.”The composite culture is the essence (of the Indian society) but concerted efforts are on to destroy this. A dangerous game of communal polarisation is being played, the result of which are the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, leftist Govind Pansare and scholar M.M. Kalburgi,” the 100 intellectuals and authors, including eminent poets Shankha Ghosh and Nabaneeta Dev Sen, said.”Be it the lynching in Dadri or cancelling (ghazal maestro) Ghulam Ali’s concert or blackening senior journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face for hosting a book launch of (ex-Pakistani foreign minister) Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, all are an example of this dangerous game of communal polarisation,” they said.”This is not the voice of a few authors or intellectuals but of the common people of our society who are now living in fear and apprehension,” added Sahitya Akademi Award winning author Nabaneeta Dev Sen. On October 15th, another 63 intellectuals added their names to the letter.
October 14, 2015: The Goa Konkani Lekhak Sangh (GKLS) plans a series of demonstrations during the International Film Festival of India in Goa to condemn the murder of rationalists and writers in the country. Fifteen of the Konkani award winners, along with Padma Shri writer and academic Maria Couto, plan the protests to highlight their concerns before national and international delegates visiting the state for the 46th edition of the film festival. N. Shivdas, who had earlier announced that he will return his award, also plans to join the collective protest. “The trend of attacking people with creative temperament is not limited to a specific region but across nation…he (Prime Minister Modi) should give us an assurance that such incidents will not recur and the killers will be brought to justice,” said Shivdas.
October 14, 2015:Mohan Bhandari confirmed his decision to return his Akademi award in solidarity with the nationwide protest by writers against growing intolerance and killing of writers in Karnataka. He said, “It pains me to see growing intolerance and communalism against which we writers have always raised a strong voice in our writings. Returning the award is a way of bringing attention to the disturbing conditions prevailing in the country today.”
October 14, 2015: 40Punjabi writers and theatre artists staged a protest in Chandigarh against the suppression of freedom of speech, and to express solidarity with those who have returned state awards. The number of awards returned in Punjab is the highest in the country.The group of 40 people included Mohan Bhandari, Chaman Lal, Meg Raj Mitter, Hardev Chauhan, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, and Harjinder Kaur, chairperson, Punjab Arts Council. The highlight of the protest was 78-year-old Mohan Bhandari’s announcement to return his SahityaAkademi award.
October 14, 2015: Noted constitutional expert Fali S Nariman said it was high time Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke against the “plague of intolerance spreading rapidly across the country” and those using “violent methods to stymie free speech and dissent” were brought to book.
October 15, 2015: Hardev Chauhan, who has returned an NCERT (National Council for Education, Research and Training) award for children’s writing, said he would also return his Shiromani Bal Sahit Lekhak award.
October 14, 2015: Class 11 student, Muddu Thir Thahalli of Sahyadri High School returned her Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award that she received for a collection of essays in 2011. She said it was to protest the killing of M.M. Kalburgi. She added, “Curtailment of freedom of expression is bad. Literature is a medium to express one’s opinions. There should be no curbs on free speech and writing.”
October 15, 2015: Chikkappanahalli Shanmukha, Principal Correspondent with Kannada Prabha newspaper, announced in a Facebook post that he would return the Madhyama Academy award in protest against the delay in apprehending the assailants of writer MM Kalburgi.
October 15, 2015: Nand Bharadwaj announced that he will return his Akademi award. The noted Rajasthani and Hindi writer and former director of Doorsarshan said, “It is sad to witness the silence of the Akademi over the increasing number of attacks on writers.”
October 16, 2015: Sahitya Akademi award winner and Telugu writer M. Bhoopal Reddy, announced he will return his Akademi award to express solidarity with protests against the “growing intolerance in the country”. He will also return his Ugadi Puraskaram award given by the Telangana Government to register his protest against the “indifference” of the state government to the growing number of farmer suicides. “They have increased since the new Government came to power, but the Government is more interested in spending money on building temples and other insignificant things,” he said.
275 (writers, performing artists and others) have spoken up in one way or the other, and so has the Adbee Markaz Kamraz, a federation of 25 literary and cultural organizations from North Kashmir, and the Goa Konkani Lekhak Sangh.
Just look around and you will realize the state of affairs in our country. All of our villages have roads and there are plenty of vehicles that run on them carrying modern fertilizers and hybrid seeds. Tractors have reached villages and farmers in remote areas are capable of modern cultivation. Watching TV, we keep abreast of whatever happens anywhere in the world. We can contact a person anywhere on the telephone through the satellite. Science has made all this possible to the villagers. However, with all these facilities made available by science, the villagers in Maharashtra, slaughter, every year, 5 to 7 lakh goats and innumerable chicken in order to fulfill their superstitious vows. Among them are a number of educated people who do not feel what they do is not in accord with their education. It is a well-known fact that to be possessed is a psychic condition, a kind of mental illness; and yet in all Navaratri festivals, on full moon and new moon days and in village fairs, women are possessed by some deity and dance vigorously, oblivious of them. People worship these noisy humming and dancing women taking them to be the deities that possess them. They gleefully exploit the products of science but refuse to adopt the scientific outlook. We use the latest computer; and perform Satyanarayan pooja to inaugurate the computer service. Using the computer and the performing pooja are mutually inconsistent. But we do not mind it because we want to use science but not adopt scientific way of thinking.
Scientific Outlook in the Past
Some people claim that this scientific outlook is not at all new to India; it has been there for ages. What existed in our country in the ancient past is, in fact, a matter for anyone to imagine the way he likes. A reference to the Pushpak Yan in the Ramayan means that we had aeroplanes and Brahmastra means the existence of atom bombs in those days. One does not need to refute these claims because it is more important to analyze why we are in such a dire state today if we had all these technologically advanced appliances in the past? Later on we can examine whether it is sheer imagination or things really existed as is claimed by some. But one thing is clear. We did not have any philosophy in the past that can be compared with what is called scientific outlook today. What we did have was rough estimates, assumptions and lengthy studies based on careful observations and genius of our people in the past. Whatever significant contribution India did make has been recognized by the world. The zero, for example, that has removed a big mathematical obstacle, is an Indian invention. It is attributed to Bhaskaracharya. Another scientist of acclaim, in those days was a chemist, Nagarjun. He invented the process of combining silver and gold with copper. Amarsinha classified the animal and plant kingdoms. Varahamiheer knew that the sun is a star and not a planet even in those days. Copernicus known for the Copernican revolution, that changed the center of the world from the earth to the sun, had said, ‘ the sun seems to be revolving round the earth, but in reality it is just the opposite of it. The sun is the center while the earth revolves round it.’ Aryabhatta initiated this concept in the 5th century, in India. We have honored him by naming our first satellite after him. (Incidentally Aryabhatta was not a Bhatt, i.e., a Brahmin but a Kshatreeya.) People ridiculed his idea. They argued, ‘If the earth revolves, as you say, how do we who, stand on it and perform all sorts of activities not fall off as the earth moves? Again how is it that the birds that leave their nests in the morning can find them on their return in the evening, when the earth has moved ahead?’ The point here is that we did have a process of critical thinking in the 5th and 6th century AD. This wisdom we had attained through observation, experience and discussion and were important and useful. However this process of acquiring knowledge cannot be called scientific outlook. In the next ten to twelve centuries the tradition of critical thinking also almost disappeared. A few good kings, eminent philosophers and littérateurs were born during this period, but no scientists. All debate centered on trivial matters such as who should and should not dine with whom; how should one wear the sacred and mundane dhoti; how many strands should there be in the sacred thread; should one eat onions and garlic during the four sacred months of the year; how drinking cow’s urine and brushing one’s face with its tail give you merit and emancipate your soul and so on. The rest of the world was following a different path. The Portuguese brought the revolutionary art of printing into Goa in 1550. It saved huge time that was required to copy manuscripts by hand. Spreading knowledge would have become very easy, but it took nearly three hundred years for this invention to reach the rest of India.
Development of Scientific Outlook
Scientific outlook was not developed in our society. Since it is essential to have such an outlook, Indira Gandhi amended the constitution. Till then only the rights of a citizen were mentioned in the constitution. With the amendment of 1976, along with the rights, a citizen’s duties were also included in the constitution. One of these duties is, ‘Every citizen should endeavor to spread scientific outlook, critical attitude and humanism in the society.’ The core content of the ‘new education policy’ of Rajiv Gandhi included ‘inculcation of scientific attitude’. Scientific attitude is an important part of our life. Is it something very serious, quite difficult to understand and meant only for a few people? No not at all. All of us use it in our normal life. ? No not at all. All of us use it in our normal life. If I want to go to Bhandara from Satara, to attend a function, I would ask a friend as to how to go about it. He tells me, there is a train from Satara that will take me to Bhandara. When I ask him, on what basis does he say so, he tells me that he remembers having seen it in his dream six months ago. Another friend told me that I would have to go to Pune and take a train from there. When I requested him to substantiate his information, he said, he had heard someone telling his friend, two months ago, at Pune railway station, that he went to Bhandara by a train. A third friend told me that I need not go to Pune since the Maharashtra express can take me directly to Bhandara. ‘How can he ascertain this information?’ I asked him. He replied that 15 days back he had been to Satara railway station where somebody was telling this to somebody else who wanted to go to Bhandara. A fourth friend told me that one has to go to Nagpur by the Maharashtra express, then go to the bus terminus and take a bus going to Bhandara that will reach me there in about two and half hours. I asked him how can I be sure of what he told me, he said he had been to Bhandara for some work by this route only a couple of days back. Now out of these four friends whom should I rely on, the most and on whom the least? The least on the one who saw something in his dream, six months back; may be, a little on the one who heard someone telling about it to another person; I can rely on the third friend a little more who heard about it at the Satara railway station fifteen days ago and the most on the fourth friend who himself had been to Bhandara, just two days ago. We rely to the extent we have reliable evidence. The same practical criterion that we all commonly use is the basis of Scientific Outlook.
We rely to the extent we have reliable evidence. The same practical criterion that we all commonly use is the basis of Scientific Outlook.
Method of Verifying the Evidence
How does one verify evidence? The process of scientific thinking is the method that is used for doing this. The factors that constitute this method are: Observation, Logic, Inference and Verification (this is of three types, viz., direct, repeated and universal), followed by experiment. What comes out of this is the scientific outlook. All the discoveries made so far are the result of some observation. We are taught in school about steam energy discovered by James Watt. The story goes thus. James Watt was engrossed in his thought. A kettle was boiling by his side. When enough steam gathered in the kettle its lid fell off. James put the lid back on the kettle. It fell off again after a little while. A few repetitions set him thinking about the reason for the lid coming off. He did not imagine a ghost in the kettle. He reasoned that since the lid comes off again and again, there must be something inside that pushes it out. This reasoning resulted in the discovery of energy contained in the steam, which led to the industrial revolution in Europe. Another example: we celebrate 28th February as National Science Day, because C.V. Raman’s discovery of ‘Raman effect’ was published in world-renowned magazine ‘Nature’. Later he won the Nobel Prize for it. How did he discover it? He was going to England in a liner. Every day he used to go to the deck and see the deep blue sky above and the deep blue sea below. He was curious to know why. Now he could have praised God for creating the beautiful blue sky above and the beautiful sea below. But, he did not do that. He started reasoning and discovered a novel scientific truth. Thus, scientific outlook starts from observing phenomena and asking oneself the question ‘why’.
Now one cannot expect to prove everything by observation. Suppose you have lost your way in a jungle in the evening. You need to reach some small settlement before night. Since you do not know where such a cluster of hutments can be found, you would not know which way to go. Then if you see some smoke going up at a dozen places by the side of a hill, you think this may be an indication of a settlement and you take the path towards it. What is the basis of your choice? You have not seen any men or a settlement or their fireplaces. But you know that wherever firewood is used for cooking, there is smoke and in the jungle, firewood is used for cooking. Evening is the time for cooking dinner and if food is being cooked in every hutment, there would be a dozen places from where the smoke can rise. So you deduce that there must be people living there and they are preparing their dinner. On the basis of this logic you proceed in that direction and your deduction turns out to be correct. Scientific outlook consists of firstly observation, secondly reasoning (or logic) where observation is not possible and thirdly inference. Let me explain the third constituent, inference. A friend of yours, who is a late riser, suggests that you accompany him for a walk at sunrise next morning. He promises to come to your house very early next day. Since you know he is incapable of doing this, would you argue with him, ‘Oh, you want to go for a walk at sunrise, but how are you sure that the Sun will rise tomorrow?’ No you won’t. But how does one know that the Sun is going to rise tomorrow? When we give appointments several days in advance, how do we know that those days are going to break on this earth? We deduce this from our knowledge that the Sun has been rising regularly in the morning for the last 460 crore years. It has not taken any leave at all. If it does that even for a day, it can cause a permanent “leave” for all the living things on earth. Since the Sun has been rising regularly so far, you infer that it will do so even tomorrow and plan to go for a walk in the morning. This is inference.
The next factor is verification. We have already seen that it consists of three parts: verification, repeated verification and universal verification. What is verification? Adi Shankaracharya had said, even if hundred wise men tell you that fire is cool, will you believe it? No, you will not. If those hundred wise men say, ‘not only do we say it, but it is also written in the book’, you would reply, ‘I do have a lot of respect for all of you but the direct evidence, my own experience, tells me that if I put my hand in fire it will burn.’ Verification by direct experience is an important part of scientific outlook. Now we will see what is repeated experience. Someone tells you that using a certain enchanted ring will secure employment for the user within one month. You ask him to give you proof. He then says that he had used it and later his neighbor had used it and both got jobs within a month. What you should argue with him, is that if the same experience is repeated a large number of times, then we should make ten thousand such rings and distribute them among ten thousand unemployed youth. If they all get jobs within a month then we can accept that this ring does have some supernatural power of securing jobs for the unemployed. We cannot draw conclusions from just one or two examples. For drawing conclusions you need a very large number of such examples. This is the crux of the scientific outlook. Again this experience or verification has to be universal. It cannot be science without being universal. If you say that only the residents of that particular city will get jobs on using the ring, it will not be acceptable as scientific truth. If the ring really is capable of getting a job for the user, any body anywhere should get a job within a month on using it. If a medicine is developed for a particular disease, it will cure any person suffering from that disease any where in the world. When the law of gravitation was proved, it could be applied anywhere in the world to verify it. Thus scientific outlook is founded on direct verification that is repeated in very large number and is universally applicable.
Experiment is the last important constituent of scientific outlook. Anybody should be able to verify scientific truths by conducting required experiments. Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade. It means that water will boil at this temperature anywhere in the world, be it Bombay, Calcutta, London or Madras. If it boils at a lower or higher temperature at any place, you have another universal law that explains why and to what extent the boiling point of water rises or drops. It is not that water will boil at 90 degree centigrade in Mumbai and save fuel because the residents of Mumbai are very religious, while the residents of Moscow being atheist water boils there at 110degrees centigrade. One can verify it by experiment. So observation, the question ‘why so’ based on the observation, then reasoning or logic where observation is not possible, followed by inference and verification and lastly experiment are the steps that build the scientific outlook. There is a lot of value content too in the scientific outlook. It tells how a human being should look at life in general. The value content dwells in the method of scientific thinking.
Independent Movement to Eradicate Superstitions
Every body feels that with the spread of science education and modernization, superstitions will automatically disappear by and by. No special efforts are needed to do that. Say, for example from a totally dark room we cannot dig out the darkness. Just light a candle and the darkness will vanish. A petromax will make it brighter, while a tube light will make it brighter still. When the day breaks out and as the sun reaches the zenith the room is flooded with light from all sides. Darkness has no room there. Superstition means the darkness of ignorance. So it goes without saying that with the light of knowledge and science the darkness of ignorance i.e., superstition will simply melt away. Had this concept materialized, we would have been the happiest people for, in that case, such a huge movement would not have been necessary at all.
Originally published by Dr. Narendra Dabholkar on antisuperstition.org. It has been republished here to propagate rationalist thinking and as a mark of solidarity with his beliefs. Do visit the site for more thought provoking rationalist commentary.
If there is anything and anyone the Hindu fanatics in India owes allegiance to, it is a fantasy nation that Hindutva wants to build on the carcass of a diverse and vibrant India. That Hindu Rashtra, the Utopia where every human failing ceases to exist right along with diversity, which embarrasses supremacists. In the meanwhile, they will settle for attacking anything that goes against what they perceive to be "against" this Utopia - be it gender equality or the very existence of minorities. In a country that exists in perceptions, it is damage done to perception that is the cardinal sin. Flaws are to be concealed and not addressed. And then of course, many flaws are actually features and not bugs in a country bent on reducing its entire existence to a mythically uniform religious identity. In a country where masses thrive on superstition and arbitrarily defined morality as exhibition of virtue, it is rather easy to herd minds into a pen of thoughts using carrot and stick.
In the high altitude deserts in extreme North India, where barren expanses of Ladakh, Spiti, Zanskar and Changthang are interspersed with very scarce grazing, goatherds herd their flock into small stone compounds that are rather like a large room without a roof. The idea is to keep the flock warm and safe and easy to guard during the night, in a land where dissatisfaction with grazing or even getting spooked (very easy there) can have your livestock covering tens of kilometers overnight to feed or flee. And with nightfall, the flock does stay contented, warmed by the shared body heat, unable to see temptations beyond their prison given the high walls and the dark.
And every once in a while, a snow leopard gets around the guard of the ever watchful goatherds and flees taking a hapless goat by its throat and scaling the high wall easily with its burden. The wall was never impossible for the snow leopard and nor would you want it to be impossible for the snow leopard, leaving him trapped all night with the entire livestock instead of making off with one. The wall is merely to keep your goats in one place, so that they are easy for you to retain possession and control of.
And it is indeed a superior method of keeping your livestock safe. They stay warm through the night in some of the most extreme places on the planet. They do not lose weight or suffer the stress of fleeing predators. It is perfect for that place.... unless you start asking absurd questions like what the goats really want. Do the goats want to spend their nights in prison? What if they want the right to choose to life free and die at the hands of a predator as is the nature of life?
It is about utility. The goat is a possession. Livestock. Living, but property. No one is asking the goat if it wants the right to free bleat or health services. It is put in a place where its bleating doesn't matter, and health is more about not losing numbers to deaths without profit than saving the goats.
This isn't unlike the Hindutva movement being peddled by the RSS-BJP machine and its affiliates (or indeed any other con based on nationalist identity - be it the Nazis or Islamists either). The method is simple. The idea is to harness the unquestioning endorsement of a majority of the population for profit. The profit isn't intended to go to the "property" - the masses that get herded into a pen of thoughts in the dark, safe and comfortable in their make believe "protection", that is more about control. The profits will go to those who herd the goats into the pens daily.
The methods of nationalist fanatism of any hue are the same. Convince the majority population that the largest minority is a problem (too small and the profit is also too small). Also the target population must ideally have some kind of xenophobic process too, so you can show evidence of it as proof of a conspiracy and justification that the hate mongering is actually necessary to survive. Build the idea of threat, instill a strong sense of victimhood. Use every justification available however farfetched. For example, Christians in Pakistan (and sometimes India) suffer the punishment for the colonizing British atrocities in our past and the imperial America in the present. Never mind that Christians in India and Pakistan are such a small number that them being an overpowering influence on anything has to be a joke. Christian missionaries being a threat to the majority religion is also a popular theme. Never mind the utter absurdity of either country emerging from decades of British Colonization without still having any significant number of Christians. If the allegedly forceful missionary conversions didn't succeed in denting major religious populations in either country when natives had little more power than slaves, what in the world are missionaries going to do with zealot riddled majorities in power? Ironically, both the Indian and Pakistani zealots use many Christian concepts as a mark of their virtue too.
This conditioning is also the toughest phase, because this is where most of the work is needed to achieve a complete overpowering of perception over verifiable reality so that the perception seems fact and the reality invisible, or at best the exception to the reality. Naturally, it is not easy to convince people that even if they have never been threatened by a Muslim, nor anyone they know in real life has been threatened, Hindus are, in fact at the brink of extinction because of them. It helps if you can find someone who has had a grudge with a Muslim. Be it a rude rickshaw driver or a murderer to show them the "reality" of Muslims. If you cannot find such links, then you must look at a vividly reported dramatic injustice against Hindus and get other Hindus to feel a kinship with the victims on the basis of religion instead of "OMG how awful" alone. Of course, in the "post truth" world, it is more efficient to simply invent outrages triggered by Muslims with false, selected or manipulated reporting. It is fairly easy to get pliable media to make entire careers out of discussing the injustice of triple talak to Muslim women with Muslims being less than 20% of the population, women being half of that, women who are married being fewer, those who'd want a divorce being still fewer and those who find the divorce done through triple talak to be unjust to them being a further smaller fraction of the whole. Our eagerness to save Muslim women from their men is outstripped only by our willingness to excuse our proud tradition of marital rape from being threatened by law. It is easy to unleash anonymous trolls commenting on the age of Ayesha when she married Mohammed in a country where 84% Of 12 Million Married Children Under 10 Are Hindus, right now. Living. Not in some ancient past which had its own life expectancy and morals and rights.
It helps if you can promote the Hindu religion and get people doing rituals and talking about it, so any Hindu wrongly killed is easier to connect with a common factor (Muslim for Islamic countries). It helps to have polarized and seggregated environments where the majority religion rarely has meaningful interactions with minorities, so anything said about them cannot be easily verified through actual interaction before repetition turns the disinformation into a concrete perception of reality. Naturally, all this is not easy and it fails for a large many people and only a few are successfully conned. So, for any nationalist con, propagating this sense of injustice and continuously recruiting more minds to replace those that question and realize they are being gaslighted being no longer being susceptible. Which is how you will ALWAYS find a constant narrative of victimhood in public space reaching out to people, offering sympathy for all their suffering and telling them who is the real cause and how this one entity is working hard to end the problem they are facing. With skill, you can point out any sin of any symbol of your "oppressing minority" anywhere in the world to remind about the existential threat. For example, the juvenile rape accused in the Delhi Gang Rape is a .... you guessed it! MUSLIM!!! Never mind that he was accompanied by 5 ADULT Hindus. He was "most brutal". And the others were praying for her well being? But there you have it. Muslim found. Talk about it enough, and it is human nature to associate rapist with Muslim.
India completed this phase with the election of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India. We are now in maintenance mode, with daily lessons on how Muslims in particular are a problem, but it no longer is absurd to level illogical accusations based on identity. It is the Muslims who will have to fight them off and explain how they are innocent. Watch TV. I actually heard Sambit Patra (I think) say on some TV channel "Does the Quran say loudspeakers must be used?" as though the vedas have written that garba nights must have loudspeakers. It is absurd and illogical, but the masses are now convinced that everything Muslim needs to be questioned for national well being.
Once your majority population is successfully fooled into being threatened into extinction at the hands of the minority, the rest is simple. Correct the imbalance. "Survival" becomes about exterminating that dangerous oppressor. Aggression against them is necessary defense. The RSS once called for Hindus to keep weapons in their home to "defend" themselves against "jihadis". We now have school books showing a picture of a Muslim as a terrorist in schools. Any crime against them is gleeful collateral damange - if they prove that the person killed couldn't be termed guilty of anything that could cause outrage - otherwise it is just plain deserved. Sympathy for them is a sign of treachery to the innocent and oppressed victim majority. Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu supremacist organization with an agenda of turning India into a Hindu country published a press release by Hindu Jagruti Samiti, an extremist propaganda outfit and affiliate calling for the death penalty to anyone who objected to the death penalty for "terrorist" Yakub Memon. A conviction and hanging that had been highly controversial including questions raised by ex judges and former head of the R&AW, now departed, that was published after his death. So essentially, this amounts to violent lunatics making open calls for the deaths of some of the most imminent people in the country for criticizing lack of rigorous process of justice.
Once a significant part of the population is conned into believing the tale, or at least believing that the zealots are making a "genuine" effort for "good" and merely "wrong methods" or "misguided" that can be overlooked (read "not punished") in the interest of the larger problem in the larger picture of them actually being victims, you can cash that in with "correcting wrongs". Riots, massacres, demolitions, persecution through policy, discrimination in public space.... you create a permanent "second class citizen", who can be exploited at will. And twice per whim in the run up to elections.
Any questioning of religion becomes fair game for organized attacks. The brainwash is so absolute, that the vilest crime will get defended without question, with deflection, comparisons and sheer hate compensating for any argument. What the debate lacks in quality it more than compensates with quantity and sheer multi-pronged intimidation. Three rationalist murders increasingly look like they will tie in with the Sanatan Sanstha, yet the ruling government cannot bring itself to act against them in any manner, with politicians being evasive or downright supportive, while supporters come all out in support of what basically amounts to a confidence trickster with a very very violent agenda. Sanatan Sanstha gives arms training to its sadhaks. No problem. There are parents whose sons and daughters got brainwashed into joining the Sanstha and have never returned. They are adults. But the adults aren't allowed to meet own parents without Sanstha officials. It does not matter. The support is absolute. Wrongs are merely the habit of one who objects to crimes - which to the brainwashed Hindutva mind are not crimes at all and are merely undue attention given to the life and limb of undeserving people.
For that matter, most right wing outfits do. Recent days even saw children on the streets carrying swords for Ramnavmi. Apparently worship of Ram is incomplete without weapons. Which is utter nonsense, and basically amounts to saying that till this procession happened, no one worshipped Ram. Never mind that Ram carried a bow and arrow and not sword. Entire new violent traditions are manifesting out of thin air as "necessary" for religion.
Now here's the catch. The goatherd being the region's biggest livestock owner doesn't mean that the goat gets to set market prices or enforce vegetarianism, or at least ban slaughter of goats. The goat still sleeps in the pen, gets butchered for meat, sold for money, sacrificed on occasion and so on. This mythical Hindu rashtra is for the rulers, not the cannon fodder that is being exploited to make it happen. In the meanwhile, for every fanatic hothead with a thirst for violence who may or may not harm Muslims some day, there is a terrorised Hindu family who must tiptoe around him or be harmed. The last year or so has been rife with murders of right wing supporters - at the hands of fellow right wing fanatics. This is no coincidence. In a society with a majority of Hindus, while the eposodic threat of radicalized Hindus may seem higher for Muslims, the people who would have to live with these Frankenstein's monsters 24/7 will largely be Hindu. Sheer exposure guarantees that they will be a bigger threat to Hindus than Muslims. But then threats to Hindus don't really matter. They are simply propaganda fodder to madden Hindus into needing revenge. It isn't like BJP has so much as warned Bajrang Dal or various other affiliates responsible for murders of BJP workers. Of course if the murderers were Muslim, and often even before the murderers are found to be Hindu, the propaganda machinery kicks into action claiming the threat to Hindus from Muslims. This vanishes without a trace or so much as an "oops" when right wing fanatics turn out to be responsible for the murder.
"Bhakts", as the blind supporters are now called were never intended to be more than cannon fodder, and the day they become inconvenient for the ruler, they will be culled as easily as the Muslims they help cull. The government will call it acting in a responsible manner and not tolerating breaking of law even by own supporters and even get a halo out of it.
This rashtra isn't going to give ruthless, hate filled leaders a personality transplant and make them believe in universal harmony and co-existence just because of a government change. Vasudhaiva kutumbakam was never supposed to be about killing people till only those you can be harmonious with are left. These leaders coming to power is not going to mean that the relentless sense of victimhood tormenting you is going to end - EVER - if that ends, the leaders end. You're in forever till you escape. If you run out of Muslims, there will be other religions, castes, political affiliations. Someone must always be the enemy or a savior is pointless. Such an existence is not designed for security of Hindus, because threat to Hindus is what keeps it alive. Pakistan got started on this easily and with less resistance due to circumstances of identity of birth and regional politics. They have run out of paranoia on India-Hindus, East Pakistan, Jews, almost done with Ahmadis and Christians, in the middle of Shias and Balochistan and getting started on liberals. There is always an enemy within. Without it, nationalist zealots of the Hindu rashtra or any rashtra cannot survive. There is no such thing as a fundamentalist state that has reached its perfect state of existence.
Your car isn't going to give more mileage on cheaper petrol and pothole free roads just because of the beliefs of leaders. they aren't going to stop profiting from whatever drives their wealth and corruption today. The world is going to be the same, the hate is going to be the same, the persecution and targeting of people is going to be the same. The people profiting from the control over power will change, but that is completely irrelevant to you - even if you support them. A bhakt is the goat to profit from, a perverted, mutated cannibal goat eating other goats even, but never the one who sets meat prices. The day a bhakt asks for all threats to Hindus to be opposed is the day he will be a target too. Goats are kept for meat, not worship.