Friday, May 15, 2020

RSS remains a Hindu Organization Part-2
The stubborn obduracy of Christians and Muslims that those who do not belong to those faiths no longer have a place in God’s plan for humanity added to their questionable behavior regarding territorial loyalty creates an atmosphere of disunity and distrust of the most ominous quality! So expecting Muslims and Christians with their exceptionalism and exclusivity cannot be expected to join the mainstream that RSS wanted to represent! Have you noticed, a bit queer, isn’t it, two years after Partition, Muslim members of Constituent Assembly, who represented the Muslims who preferred to stay back in secular India, could raise vehement demands for a separate electorate and could successfully stall the proposal for a common civil code, think of the Muslim leadership of India then! Six decades after Partition, we want dialogue with Muslims; we want co-existence; we want to build bridges!
Islam demands a black-and-white separation of believers and non-believers, and the Prophet too wanted Muslims to separate themselves from the rest after he fled Mecca for Medina. It is little surprise that this kind of mental partitioning makes all Muslims living as minorities anywhere think they must separate themselves from the rest to retain their identity. Muslim youth avoid certain attitudes, standard language, clothes and some behaviours because they consider them part of Hindu way of life. They fear that adopting Hindu ways would be detrimental to their collective racial identity and solidarity. The behaviours and attitudes to be avoided included, for example, striving for high grades, talking properly, hanging around too many Hindu students, and participating in extracurricular activities that were populated by Hindus. And Hindu parents tended to have higher academic expectations for their kids. Some teachers and education administrators expect less of the Muslim students in terms of performance, even going so far as to de-emphasize the importance of academic achievments. Eventually there is a “learning gap” and communal politicians and civil rights leaders encourage Muslims to see themselves as victims.
What is that the Hindu majority of India expected to do under the above circumstances? No people with a self-respectful notion of national identity can carry within a disillusioned history of themselves, and therefore some embellishments, some glorification of the past etc. are essential strategy. This is the essence of a new national identity called Hindutva. Hindus, unlike Xians and Muslims don’t divide humanity into those chosen by God and those eternally damned! Hindu dharma requires regarding all as brothers and sisters. Vedas declare "Ekam sat. Vipraa: bahuda vadanti" - "Truth is One. The learned speak of That in so many ways". While it's probably impossible to avoid ever offending anyone, Hindus really don't want to gratuitously offend deeply held non-Hindu belief systems. Tolerance, a virtue seeing other peoples’ point of view has been degenerating into if not exactly self-hatred, certainly a form of cultural relativism in which the unique achievements of the Hindu civilization are devalued. We can’t accept it! We believe that the acid test of secularism Muslims/Christians have to take is this: will they be tolerant to the extent they accept other religious beliefs on an equal footing with their own? 
In a land which had extended its hospitality over millennia to people of every faith, only Muslims saw themselves as a people apart refused to become assimilated and repaid India’s welcome by tearing the country in two. What did Dr.Ambedkar, not very pleased with the Hindu religion thanks to the bitter fruits of the caste system himself, think of the situation as an architect of the Democratic Republic of India? “...I felt that it was only by partition that Hindus would not only be independent but free. If India and Pakistan had remained united in one state, Hindus, though independent, would have been at the mercy of the Muslims....”(Ambedkar- Thoughts On Linguistic States, 1955)
Were Hindus conquered, subjected to hatred proselytization and persecution because we were different human beings, lesser mortals? Or is our Hindutva a meaningless the distinction that deserves no commendation and attracts animus and violence as an inferior faith? Shouldn’t we stand together to defend ourselves, and our rights as Hindus, recalling that we were subjected to a thousand years of subjugation, disdain, exploitation, conversions, divisions because of our disunity?
Is an unpleasant divisive politics preferable to the Hindutva which tries to hold together a large number of castes and communities under its umbrella? Is promoting an identity politics predicated on historical victimization and the equality of result more important than the principle of equality before the law? History is civilizational memory. It’s a way of seeing, understanding, and rendering the world as well as other forms of knowledge. Without it, “or the stories memories are suspended in, we cannot say who we are or what we are…we cannot…even dwell in society.” But to make sense of all the purportedly dry and boring facts and dates that relate who and what we are, we need some organizational narrative, a structure within which “facts arrange themselves and thereby take on significance.” Hindus have those stories, a great tapestry of mythology, great literature! Most of Hindu mythology is full of traditional humanizing myths. If and when they are removed from our lives, nothing much is left. Remember, cultures/civilizations die when they cease to believe in themselves! Myths, whether Indian or Roman, belonging to the Hindu culture of Christian, are the collective historical conscience of the respective communities; their instructions to the future generations. Preserving the memory of historical events, codifying religious rituals, and at times dramatizing contemporary social conflicts in aesthetic forms as poems or parables, they do forge a collective identity.
Hindus have very little recorded, verifiable, factual history, but there is another one: culturally constructed and embodied in popular memory, told, retold over and over again. Hinduism places time and history as of secondary importance in the realm of the phenomenal world. Thus Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vedas, Upanishads, and all our scriptures are messages permeating across time and generations. Mahabharata and Ramayana are the foundational texts of Indian civilization. They are not mere mythologies: they are Itihāsas. An Itihāsa is a history that has overcome historicism: a history that has become critical and self-conscious. They have transformed high abstract philosophies of the Upanishads into aesthetically appealing literary work which has touched the hearts of millions of Indians and has further manifested as performing arts which have been lived and experienced by common people throughout Indian history. The people who wrote the Mahābhārata were profound intellects. India has produced some of the greatest philosophical thinkers known to humankind. It has produced works we are still grappling with. If a nation is a historical continuity bound by such inheritance and also a shared culture, India is one of the oldest nations with a continuous history of several thousand years.
In his Discovery of India Jawaharlal Nehru shows his fascination with this mysterious unity of India that is Bharat through the ages: “the same national heritage and the same set of moral and mental qualities”, “some kind of a dream of unity has occupied the mind of India since the dawn of civilization” The Indian republic generally completed the metamorphosis from the artifact of colonial unification to a nation-state. The Indian nationalism or ‘Hindu nationalism’ if you will, mobilized the frustrations, emotions, affinities, and hatreds too attending the cultural humiliation of the encounters first with Islam (the Moguls) and Western Imperialism which devalued the Indian heritage. An overarching layer of common culture composed of the richly diverse symbols of Hindu Cosmology and history would perhaps help wipe out the cleavages of caste and community; provide a common ideology and a binding passion needed to unite a civilization and inspire it for progress.
Those who refuse to share this passion forces themselves out of the civilizational State; but not the administrative state as citizens. You have to accept that Hindutva is a heterogeneous movement and that most members reject the more extreme positions.   Hindus resent the idea that all other groups may advance their rights while only we - only the Hindus - may not. The RSS believes that Indians are united not only by a common past, and common heritage, but by a common and burning support and reverence for liberty, for pluralism, our commitment to our common future, and our common values, of inquiry. Religious identities and differences are not straightforwardly objective facts. It is a prior belief in separateness that leads one to construct narratives that exaggerate points of difference. According to the RSS world view, the attitude "separation is necessary for distinctiveness" could fairly serve as the tagline of an anti-national or anti-social ideology! The RSS stands athwart the “Left-liberal” secular narrative. It vouches for representative democracy, respect for all religions in public life, a responsible ethic of nationalism, and a duty-centric form of citizenship that encourages individuals to put the nation before themselves! Citizens in a democratic republic live in three planes: personal, social, and political. Freedom of worship exists at the personal level. Social traditions have to conform to the code of dos and don’ts defined legally. And the political role of the citizen emerges out of the concept of all Indians being part of the same nationhood. A moral idea like secularism appears too weak to bond disparate peoples together in a political union. Something denser and more tangible, like cultural identity, must be the glue that holds a nation together... building a public sphere constituted by a shared — often internally contested — moral language. It does not mean RSS is consciously keeping non-Hindus out of it. There were attempts to embrace all Hindus according to the RSS’ definition of Hindus into RSS. But they cannot be yet considered as moderately successful. This is the story of RSS so far!

Why RSS is a ‘Hindu organisation’?
The idea that RSS is not inclusive in the sense it keeps Muslims and Christians out is either a misunderstanding or mere liberal “virtue signalling”! Those who have studied history will know that while Veer Savarkar’s Hindu Maha Sabha and RSS more inclusive while the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP Hindu-centric).
Savrkar’s social philosophy had identified  that the Hindu society was bound by seven shackles (bandi): 1) Restrictions on touch (sparshabandi) of certain castes.2) Restrictions on inter-dining. (rotibandi) 3) Restrictions on inter-marriages (betibandi) 4) Restrictions on pursuing certain occupations (vyavasayabandi) 5) Restrictions on crossing the sea (sindhubandi) 6) Restrictions on rites sanctioned by the Vedas (vedoktabandi) 7) Restrictions on re-conversion (shuddhibandi)!
Savarkar was more against Christianity (obviously because its association with the British who came here with “a Bible in pocket and a gun in the other”) and wanted Hindus and Muslims to join the fight against the British. The founding of the All India Muslim League in 1906 and the British India government's creation of separate Muslim electorate under the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909 was a catalyst for Hindu leaders coming together to create an organisation to protect the rights of the Hindu community members to form a political entity called the Hindu Mahasabha. Savarkar wrote that “the conception of a Hindu Nation is in no way inconsistent with the development of a common Indian Nation, a united Hindustani State in which all sects and sections, races and religions, castes and creeds, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Anglo-Indians, etc., could be harmoniously welded together into a political State on terms of perfect equality”! The Hindu Mahasabha joined hands with the Muslim League and other parties to form governments, in certain provinces after the 1937 elections. Such coalition governments were formed in Sindh, NWFP, and Bengal. He was dissuaded from trying to continue this alliance because the Muslim League started showing its fangs by then. They went closer to the British, unlike sections of the Hindu Community. Gandhiji tried to forge a Hindu-Muslim alliance against the British later, even supporting the Khilafat movement and failed! Though the Hindu Mahasabha identified India as "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu Nation), it broadly supported the Indian National Congress in its efforts to attain national independence. But HM criticised the Congress commitment to non-violence and secularism, as well as its efforts to integrate Muslims and engage in dialogue with the separatist All India Muslim League,(having tried it earlier and failed!) which the Mahasabha thought as appeasement. So, as a Hindu Mahasabha leader, Savarkar was in politics, and CPM leader, and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s father Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, a  jurist served as president of the All-India Hindu Mahasabha and was Burdwan MP of the party which Somnath won when his father expired in 1971! As in the case of RSS, Hindu Mahasabha was not a watertight compartment in India politics; many of its leaders joined Congress. Shyamaprasad Mukherjee started the Jan Sangh, which after the Janata Part experiment in 1977 became the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)!
RSS was founded on cultural nationalism and its Hindu “agenda” was about holding together a civilisational state, and give it the glory it deserved after centuries of alien rule. It is significant that name given was Rashtriya (National) Swayam Sevak (Voluntary) Sangh (Corps), not  ‘Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh’. A civilisational-state doesn’t just represent an ethnic or linguistic community or a single religious community, but a unique civilisation distinct from others. It was a very conscious decision that Sangh will not be just a Hindu outfit. But didn’t Vincent Smith (Indologist and historian) write that the “unity underlying the obvious diversity of India may be summed up in the word ‘Hindu’”? Hindutva came into existence as an anti-imperialist construct answering the challenge posed by the modern world built on the concept of a nation-state. Proponents of this worldview naturally saw India as a nation, and Hindutva provided the intellectual foundation for it. RSS Sarsangh Chalaks have repeatedly said that the Sangh defined Hindus as Savarrkar had: “Aasindhu sindhu paryantaa Yasya Bharata Bhoomika/Pitrubhu Punyabhuchaiva Tavai Hinduriti Smritah”(‘Those who regard this land of Bharat spread between river Sindhu (in the north) to the ocean Sindhu (Sindhu Sagar – Indian Ocean in the south) as their Pitrubhumi – Fatherland and Punyabhumi – Holy land are called as Hindus’.) Shri M.S. Golwalkar ‘Guruji’ told an Iranian scholar Saifuddin Jeelani in 1971 that: “According to our ways of religious belief and philosophy, a Muslim is as good as a Hindu. It is not the Hindu alone who will reach the ultimate Godhead. Everyone has the right to follow his path according to his own persuasion. That is our attitude.”Recently, the present Sarsangh Chalak, Dr.Mohan Bhagwat repeated it.
The British Home Department’s 1939-40 report on volunteer organisations shows RSS was 150000 strong then. The British government initiated a recruitment drive for the army, ARP and Civic Guards when World War II broke out. Please note, Nathuram Godse’s Hindu Rashtra Sena decided to join the British army to get military training. (24. The persistence of alleged responsibility for Gandhi murder and other tropes can be explained in part by confirmation bias, which is currency today than ever before thanks to the instant and widespread dissemination of personal opinions over social media.) The RSS refused to co-operate with the recruitment to British and had to suffer the wrath of the British rulers. In June 1939, the Home Department suggested the Central Provinces government use Section 16 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (XIV of 1908) to ban RSS in retaliation but the province’s chief secretary GM Trivedi wrote to the central government on May 22, 1940, that it was not feasible as it would lead to huge protests in the province! The Sangh’s decision to participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement erased the government’s delusion that it was a tail of the Hindu Mahasabha. CP & Berar police’s fortnightly report stated that RSS founder Hedgewar’s participation had invigorated the movement. He led thousands of sataygrahis and suffered a year’s rigorous imprisonment. The Sangh’s anti-British stance now invited suppression by an infuriated government. The Home Department report stated, “Of late, the Sangh has started taking interest in political movements of the country, as a result of which the CP government in their circular letter No 2352-2158 IV; dated 15/16 December 1932, was compelled to issue an order warning government servants of the communal and political nature of the Sangh, and forbidding their becoming members or participating in the organisation’s activities.”
There is nothing fanatical about India’s Hindu heritage Sangh Parivar swears by. To the contrary, being loyal to that heritage means not only that Indians of all walks of life, all religious creeds can feel at home in India, and all non-Hindu citizens can integrate into the mother society without having to surrender their unique cultural and religious identities. Anthropologist France Boss has written that “if we wish to take over the direction of a society we must either  guide it from within its cultural framework or else eradicate its culture and impose a new culture”. Hindutva forces prefer to operate from within the frame work of our ancient culture. Communists try to eradicate the past culture and create a new one. Did they succeed anywhere yet?
The contemporary reality is that Christianity and Islam are the world’s two major missionary religions, which between them claim half of humanity as their followers, with Christians numbering over two billion and Muslims over a billion of a global population of approximately six billion. These religions try to convert the followers of non-missionary religions to their own faith, thereby generating the phenomenon of religious conversion. Hindus are open towards other views, unlike ‘good’ Christians and Muslims who feel obligated to make everyone believe what they believe, if necessary by deceit or force. What is the logic behind conversions? It is, simply put, is “my religions is better than yours”. That is fine. But what if they say the Hindus are pagans and infidels, and need to be converted eventually so that they deserve God? Jesus said:”I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto Father but by me!” Christians, a minuscule 3 percent of India’s population, can put up with unrelenting and murderous persecution in Muslim countries but various Xian Churches in India worry about ‘hate speech’ as their focus is soul harvesting! Christian evangelists have been doing great harvest of souls for centuries and still they are no nearer now than they were in 52 AD, 190 AD or 1757 AD! A tolerant multi-religious society is the last thing supremacists of any evangelist faith want! We can see Christianity, even now, centuries after coming to India, as a new and uncertain graft upon the Indian trunk!
With respect to Islam, in India we do have a cultural baggage of alienation with it because India was under the subjugation of Islamic rulers who were passionately following the commands of Prophet Muhammed to convert Hindus, kill them or charge a tax jizya for allowing them to live as Hindus. The length and breadth of the two princely States of Malabar and Kochi are strewn with Temples vandalized by Tippu Sultan. Mughal empire, despite the whitewashing by Leftist historians, was known for its denial of basic human rights to the subjects belonging to the majority religion, denied them the right to practice their religion freely and destroyed their places of worship with continued brutality, some of the holiest of the holy ones being pulled down several times, their building material used in lavatories, or used in Mosques upside down, idols and carvings defaced and used as pavement stone and so on. Please remember, blaming RSS/BJP/and the demolition of Babari structure in Ayodhya for the Islamic terrorism in India is a hoary cliché these days!
The point of friction, not only in India but worldwide, has been the propensity of Christianity and Islam to proselytize. Remember, the Minorities subcommittee of the CAI altered the wording of Article 25 was modified to include the right to propagate!  As a wit has put it, “a seemingly equal right to peddle one’s religion becomes unequal and unfair, much like giving wolves and sheep the right to eat one another”. In India as elsewhere, the two Abrahamic faiths have been known to poach followers from each other besides targeting Hindus and indigenous tribes.

Following the India-China conflict, Nehru, who was against the RSS earlier, allowed a contingent of the RSS to participate in the 1963 Republic Day parade in New Delhi, as an acknowledgment of the work of the Swayam Sevaks helping Indian troops carrying supplies to forward areas. The RSS was also hailed by the next Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and General Khushwant Singh of the Indian Army for their contribution to relief and support worn during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. The RSS was the first organization to donate blood during the Indo-Pak war of 1971.

So we have two movements parallel and antithetical to one another to look at - text-book cases of directly opposed, contrasted, mutually incompatible ideologies! One passionate about the country which sings the song “Namaste, sadaa, valsale, Mathrubhume....” to begin the daily Shakha and, that believes that the love for one’s country is worth more than all the riches in the world! It is the grappling-iron that binds generations together; it is passion, conviction, and redemption! India is the manifestation of the Hindu conception of a nation-state. As such, India is the custodian of the Hindu Civilization, the primary objective of which is to ensure the continued existence of Dharma. The other, Communism which never had any patriotic feeling, was an idea of International political organisation with world hegemony as its goal. It rose to power in the Soviet Union, China, and several countries in East Germany, Eastern Europe, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, Cambodia, etc, but collapsed like a house of cards in its heartland, and survives in only China as an economic and military power thanks to discarding the economic ideology! Marxism has been comprehensively discredited as an economic system, but its supporters then began looking for ways the oppressor/oppressed dynamic could be put to use elsewhere. Communists are now taking great pains to paint themselves as liberal urbane contrarians, democrats and social provocateurs when they are neo-Nazis, minus the Aryan fixation!

Where does RSS and Communism conflict? As we can see, the name Communist is automatically seared into the Nationalist consciousness as an organization hostile to everything RSS stands for! On every political issue, the Left take the side of chaos and destruction, crime and disorder. RSS would consider Marxism as another delusion made up of a “fixed false belief” as Dawkins would call religion! Worse, Communists have this tendency to regard Marxism as being synonymous with wisdom!

What exactly is the reason why Communists oppose RSS? Their main allegation against the RSS is its “aggressive re-institution of oppressive 'traditional values”! They claim to be "progressive". This political correctness and junk thought are inherent in the Left ideological system. The rebranding of Communism as “progressivism” did not take away their love for totalitarianism and absolute statist control, which everywhere has lead to misery, corruption, and brutality, and never elevated humanity.

Communist intolerance is accepted as a legitimate political platform! “Political violence peaked in the period from 1966 to 1970, driven by incidents involving Communist parties”-Rohit Tikku, researcher... “While the Congress was associated with the greatest number of incidents, the Communists were associated with most deaths.””...political violence may have a non-linear relationship with political power i.e. the likelihood of violence is at its maximum when the competition for political control is in balance...”Now look at the killing fields of Kannur for validation! Violence and bullying are the left’s stock in trade, as are fake and exaggerated claims of oppression and sacrifices!

Commies quite literally regard the values that sit at the very heart of Indianness/Hindutva/Modi govt – the rule of law applied equally to all, limited government, respect for all religions, and the free and open exchange of ideas – as “oppressive.” A contempt for these values is precisely what defines the Left generally. Hence Leftism is not “liberal” – or concerned with liberty in any way at all. It is the very opposite of real liberalism. It is fascism. I think they are feeling an existential threat!

Communist propaganda is being wedged deeper and deeper into the educational system. Teaching kids to hate their culture, their religion, their nationhood, is the on-going history education! Dennis Prager’s insightful distinction between the political left and right appears to be very correct: the right, according to him, generally sees the left as wrong but not evil, whereas the left sees the right not merely as wrong but as evil! But they are rabidly illiberal, irrational, and immoral, and evil!

Now as we can observe, the RSS can confidently claim that Swayam Sevaks rule the most number of States and lead the Union Government! If political power decides all issues, Sangh Parivar has several times that of Communists and most of the political Opposition put together! But the RSS has avoided confrontation hiding its strengths and biding its time. RSS is possibly the world’s largest cultural association. What is more, it has seeded and fronted more than 140 associated bodies, which it continues to guide, if not control. Its membership runs into millions. In this context, I would like to stress that the character building and community service objectives of the Sangh with its collective conviction of patriotism have made it indeed the “second line of defense” to the country as former Supreme Court Judge K T Thomas observed recently.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was founded on Vijayadashami, 27 September 1925. (Interestingly, the officially recorded date of the founding of the Communist Party of India is 26 December 1925!) The founder of the RSS, Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgawar, was a Congressman. The objective of this organisation came from an understanding that ‘values’ always decay over time. Societies that keep their values alive do so by escaping the process of decay by a powerful process of regeneration. That was what the founder of RSS, Dr.Hedgewar wanted to do with the organisation. The perpetual rebuilding, of Hindu community, to enable each generation to discover the living elements in its own culture (the “usable past” as T H Eliot wrote) and leaders who could assist in that rediscovery in the Hindu community which while trying to create a generous cultural space for all immigrants to our ancient land, had allowed our own inheritance to be relegated to a peripheral role. It was unquestionably clear to ‘Dr’ and his band of young and educated disciples that the metaphysical invocation of India’s diversity cannot serve the purpose of this national rejuvenation. History stands testimony to the fact that Hinduness is a movement and a growing tradition truly reflecting the uninterrupted life of this nation. It is the raison d'être of Bharat. In short, Hinduness is the selfhood of Hindustan evolved and developed through centuries. It is the vital force that keeps the nation going and doing. It belongs to all the children of soil without any discrimination. It enters one's inner being as a legacy and not as a choice. It creates in every child born in this land a sense of belonging to the nation. In other words, an individual develops into a national by inheriting Hinduness. The singular becomes the collective. A fierce commitment to nation-building, loyalty to Mother India and to reviving and nurturing is civilisational values were the obsessive concerns of the RSS. For this ‘Hindu unity’. Hindu here was a term that included all faith groups with Indic roots!

Before we go to the Communist movement, let us go to the Congress Party. What was the purpose of Congress? Founder WC Bonnerjee explained - "British viceroy Dufferin felt that it would be in the interest of BRITISH rulers that Indian politicians should meet yearly to discuss how the administration could best be improved and British rule stabilized." That it evolved and became the “be-all and end-all” of the Freedom struggle was an evolution....

What was the background of the Communist movement in India? The Communist Party of India was inspired by the Russian Revolution. It had its roots in the erstwhile Soviet Union. The party was born in Tashkent in 1920 as the brainchild of M.N. Roy. Some British Communists and M.N.Roy inspired a group of young Indians, who were great admirers of Marxism and the Russian revolution to set up in India an organization to spread the Marxist ideology. This organization came formally into existence on 26 December 1925, and was named as the Communist Party of India. Shortly after, the CPI was recognized on Roy’s advice, as a branch of the COMINTERN (Communist International). Roy was the founder of Mexican Communist Party.

So Communism in India was born under the sign of internationalism. The project of the world revolution did not recognize national boundaries. (It is funny to see Indian communists today positioning themselves as great protectors of national sovereignty!) Indian communists have always had a very uncomfortable relationship with nationalism. Their behavior throughout India’s existence as an independent nation does not exactly hold up the comrades in an edifying light. From the British Communist Party’s influence they went to Soviet Communist influence and from there, most of them went to the Chinese Communist Party. “Stalin’s mustache is the mustache” & “Russia varanam, Russia varanam” (Russia has to come) to "Chiner chairman amar chairman" (“Chairman Mao is our Chairman”)!

They had supported Muslim demand for a Muslim ‘Home Land’! In 1948, within a few months of India becoming independent, the CPI under the leadership of B.T. Randive launched the line that this freedom was fake (yeh azadi jhooti hai), and argued that the situation in India was ripe for an armed revolution. They tried it in Telegana region of old Madras State, and also in Punnapra-Vayalar in the then Travancore State; and failed in both places. They supported the Sikh’s demand for Khalistan, though Khalistanis hated irreligious Communism! They tried to whitewash the Mopla Riots of 1921 in Eranad taluka of Kerala and their government gave the remaining killers of Hindus pensions as “Freedom Fighters” to win Muslim votes. As early as 1942, a Muslim member of the central committee of the Communist Party of India asked its Muslim members to join the Muslim League in Punjab. One should understand that it was not opportunism. It is more because of the intuitive understanding of the synergy between Marxism and political Islam as totalitarian movements, which while making use of democratic polity, could strangle the same when they got their hands on power.... In 2006, the same year Kerala banned the movie Da Vinci Code, Frederick Forsyth made an insightful observation on Kerala in his Al Qaeda-based thriller, The Afghan: “Once a hotbed of Communism, it has been a particularly receptive territory for Islamist terrorism".

The Communist slogan "Inquilab Zindabad" is credited to Hasrat Mohani. (It was actually a straight lift from "Viva la revolution" (long live revolution) used during French Revolution. Hasrat Mohani is often painted as an "Indian freedom fighter". A look into his history dispels such notions. Hasrat Mohani became a member of Jinnah's Muslim League and actively campaigned for Pakistan in the 1945-46 provincial elections which decided Pakistan. He was the star campaigner for Muslim League in UP. After Partition, he stayed back as a Communist leader (!) like many others and expressed no regrets.

The work of RSS during the days of partition is described in the book ‘Now It Can Be Told’ by A N Bali. Late Prof. Balraj Madhok, a Jan Sangh MP was the chief organizer of RSS in Jammu and Kashmir and he has written how RSS was left to hold the fort when Pakitan attacked the Kingdom which was yet to join India, as the Indian Army arrived only after the kingdom's accession to the Union of India was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh. Similarly, in the liberation of Dadara, Nagar and Haveli, and Goa, the RSS was at the forefront of the agitations!

In 1962, when the Sino-Indian border conflict occurred, a section of communists, among whom EMS Namboodiripad was prominent, chose to uphold the cause of China and portrayed India as the aggressor. The government threw several communist leaders in prison. V S Achuthanandan then a Central Committee member, was in Thiruvananthapuram Central Jail and mooted the idea of donating blood for the jawans and contributing money from the sale of prison rations saved by inmates to the defense kitty of the government, actually to blunt the campaign accusing the comrades of being Chinese agents. But the party opposed it, and senior party leaders scowled at Achutanandan and he dropped the idea. But in 1965 a party worker filed a formal complaint with the leadership about Achuthanandan’s ‘anti-party activities’. A probe panel was formed, which found Achuthanandan guilty, and by the end of that year, the Kerala committee ratified the findings of the panel: that Achuthanandan’s approach was anti-communist, and he should be demoted from the Central Committee to the Branch level!

Post-1989 (since the collapse of the USSR) most communist intellectuals have turned mercenary, offering their services to the highest bidder! They favor group rights, identity politics, perpetual inter-caste/interreligious grievances, the flouting of laws that don't conform to their own political preferences, a bloated government that intrudes upon every facet of individual life, a socialist economy, and raging intolerance for anyone who holds an opposing political view. The systematic debasement and criminalization of public life in Kerala and West Bengal (for 34 years continuously!) where normal politics has been replaced by crude attempts to impose single-party dominance.
Their electoral performance during the two last General elections in the country is known to all. Communists will continue to hemorrhage voters among the ‘working class’. Hence the Communists use the new argument against elected governments (when they aren’t the ones elected!) “Hitler himself came to power through the process of elections and established legal procedures!” Modi, Trump included!

So, given its track record, the Communists’ attempt to see themselves as protectors of India’s national sovereignty, Constitution, and democracy is a disgrace. Communists in India have acted, at critical periods, at the behest of the Soviet Union or China. In so doing, communists have sacrificed India’s national interests.

Right now, what is going on? Those who had, in utter disregard of the appeal of Islamism which led to the creation of Pakistan, and has fuelled the growth of separatist consciousness and fundamentalism, indulge Muslim communalism in contemporary India on the ground that this is the consequence of fear psychosis among minorities. This identity-politics mindset has been used as the raw material of public policy by Congress party and Communists in power, which has not led to increased harmony between separate demographic groups. Without exception, it has increased intergroup hostility and violence! With assistance from the mainstream media, Communists and the Left-liberal combine has been peddling a narrative of supposed widespread hate crimes against Muslims, Dalit, fuelled by the election of BJP-NDA, as part of a continuing effort to delegitimize Modi government and attack RSS. (Part-2 to follow)

Friday, February 14, 2020

In Defence of the CAA
Many have questioned the CAA over its alleged variance from the import of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Legal experts, particularly Harish Salve, defended the CAA as “a narrow-tailored law specifically meant for religiously persecuted minorities in the 3 specified countries” giving them a special status in the naturalisation process and it does not mean in any way that other communities or people will not be naturalised at all, for other communities the rules of general asylum process will be followed; and hence there was no violation of Article 14. As far as Article 15 is concerned, it is obviously applicable only for Indian citizens and not people from other countries, because one becomes an Indian citizen after naturalisation, not before. Regarding the objections on the basis of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, it may be noted that Article 21 is concerned with the right to life provided for those who live in India, not those who want to enter India!

The power of populist rabble-rousers against the CAA was felt most strongly recently in India in places like a couple of Universities, some conventions and processions of militant Muslim outfits, the congregation of Muslim women in Shaheen Bagh, standing/sitting together against the system, aggressively and maniacally dancing around, and generally feeling like they belong to some great movement or momentous part of history! Even the Delhi election results are described as a result of anti-CAA “sentiments”! The ‘sentiments’ arose from the absurd belief that BJP wants to expel Muslims from India. It could not have become so widespread without tapping into the confirmation bias of those who already believe RSS&BJP are against Muslims. What are the facts around the CAA? Is there a bit of religious bias in it, at all?

A note on the “religious” side of the CAA will be necessary in the context of the “secular” environs in which a minuscule intelligentsia constantly attempts to portray that their views spread through the media is a referendum; over-riding even the verbatim words of the law passed by Indian Parliament! Let me therefore draw your attention to CAA’s corollary in the United States which has a similar provision in the form of the Lautenberg Amendment which enables citizenship to identified persecuted religious minorities in the erstwhile former Soviet Union. Iran was also added later through the Specter Amendment. Lautenberg Amendment that gave refugee status and eventually citizenship to a set of minorities from countries in 1990 which provided refugee status in the United States for nationals from the Soviet Union and later the former Soviet Union, namely Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania who are Jews, Evangelical Christians, Ukrainian Catholics or Ukrainian Orthodox. Indian diplomats have found this Act useful to strengthen India’s argument in the US. The 2004 Specter Amendment extended the scope of Lautenberg Amendment to include ‘persecuted religious minorities’ like Jews, Christians, and Bahai fleeing Iran enabling them to “jump the queue” to gain citizenship in the US. The Indian CAA for even stronger historical and moral reasons granting fast track Indian citizenship to fthe Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis religiously persecuted in the neighbourhood theocracies who have lived in Indian refugee camps without documentation for six years (instead of the standard eligibility requirement of 12 years for naturalisation)  is a crime against humanity?

The Statement of Objects and Reasons in the CAB had mentioned an important reason for the bill which later both the Houses of Parliament passed to make it an act, the CAA. It was the Partition-related transmigration and the “hostage theory” involved in the Nehru-Liaquat Ali Agreement, a bilateral treaty between India and Pakistan, where refugees were allowed to return to dispose of their property, abducted women and looted property were to be returned, forced conversions were unrecognized, and minority rights were confirmed. It is known to all that while India kept its side of the agreement whereas Pakistan gave it no importance! What happened to Hindus and Sikhs trapped in Pakistan because of Jinnah’s promise to have a “secular country with majority population being Muslims”?

According to a Hudson Institute paper at the time of partition in 1947, almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population was comprised of non-Muslim citizens, mostly Hindus. The conservative estimate is 15% were Hindus. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to 1.6 percent. According to Census report in 1998, Christians constituted 1.59 percent and Hindus 1.60 percent of Pakistan’s population. Much of the “cleansing of the population” took place in three major events: partition, around the 1965 and 1971 wars. However, from 15% to 1.6% in 50 years is a 90% decline! Some analysts say the Hindu population had reached 16 per cent by 1947 – the Hindu population came down to just 1.3 per cent in 1951. The decimation took five years not 50.

(Going back in time, in undivided Punjab, 1881, there were 9252295 Hindus, or 43.8 per cent of the population. By 1911, the Hindu population had come down to 8773621, or 36.3 per cent. During the same period, the Muslim population had risen from 11662434 to 12275477 and the Christian population from 33699 to 199751.)

If we apportion the blame of reduction of Hindu population partly with East Pakistan which later became Bangladesh, the Hindu population there came down from 29.4% to 13.6% in1974 and 9.5% in 2011. Kidnappings of Hindu/Sikh girls have been very common, with no reinsert from the police, and a lot of sympathy for the perpetrators from the courts in both these Islamic countries! It has to be said rather brutally that any government that follows Sharia, could not be expected to guarantee basic human rights to the tiny and ever-dwindling number of non-Muslims unfortunate enough to live within its borders.

It may be remembered that Gandhiji, who perhaps had a premonition of the things to befall the minorities in Pakistan, had asked the Government of India to ensure that those who come back should be given citizenship any time in future. It was in this context that Jawaharlal Nehru also reiterated that position in parliament. It was only the massive influx prior to 1971 that vitiated the atmosphere because more than 10 million Bangladeshis arrived as refugees in the “ethnic conflict” or linguistic conflict like that in Sri Lanka. They were a mixed population of Muslims and Hindus and we had to provide refuge. Many returned; but many stayed back as economic refugees! During the Vajpayee regime Dr.Manmohan Singh was pleading in Rajya Sabha with the then Home Minister and Dy.PM, L K Advani for giving the “Hindu and Sikh refugees” in India citizenship. The video is available on YouTube!

Now, why persecuted Ahmadiyas from Pakistan are not covered by the CAA? Because the CAA is related to the transmigration during partition; and till 1974, Ahmadiyas were still legally Muslims in Pakistan. Secondly, look at their role in the Partition: it was Ahmadiyas who drafted the Lahore Resolution seeking a ‘Homeland’ for Muslims. The Ahmadiya Movement had even formed a militia to fight for Pakistan! In 1947, this militia was re-named as Furqan Force – to liberate Kashmir! The CAA has a clause which excludes people who have been hostile to India!

Let me now come to Rohingyas from Burma. I already mention that the CAA being a product of the transmigration following the Partition of India, they do not come in the picture. Moreover, the Rohingyas are not religiously persecuted in Myanmar. The Rohingyas were not recognized as citizens both by the Myanmar Constitution of 1974 and by Citizenship Act of 1982. There are 25 lakh Muslims in Myanmar; and Rohingyas constitute only 4 lakhs!

There is a view spread by vested interests that Rohingyas were Mulsims who migrated to Burma from India. That is part of the huge “iceberg of misinformation” about Rohingyas to use the expression of Aung San Suu Kyi. Muslim settlers came to Arakan State, an independent coastal kingdom in South-East Asia, now part of Myanmar starting in the 1430s, and a small Muslim population lived in Arakan State when it was conquered by the Burmese Empire in 1784. Burma in turn was conquered by Britain in 1824, and until 1948 Britain ruled Burma as part of British India. That happens to be their India-connection! So, the Rohingya have existed in Myanmar, a Buddhist majority country for centuries. But Arkanese chronicles claim that the Rakhine have inhabited Arakan since 3000 BCE! Rohingya were serving in parliament and other high offices in independent Burma and their ethnicity was included in the 1961 census. After the Military coup of 1962, thanks to their activities in Rakhine State, the military government refused to give Rohingyas national registration cards, but were only allowed to obtain foreign registration cards. The 1982 new citizenship law  prevented Rohingya from easily accessing full citizenship, rendering many of them stateless as well.  You may note, once again that Muslims from Bengal entered Burma as migrant workers, tripling the country’s Muslim population over a 40-year period; and they have no problems there! Why do only Rohingyas have a problem?

Myanmar’s problem with Rohingyas is 1) Rohingyas have been fighting for an Independent Rakhine State for themselves in the mineral rich Rakhine region they live in and 2) The Rohingyas have criminal tendencies and have formed a fighting force called Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) which fought with Myanman Armed forces, and according to the Amnesty International’s record have killed hundreds of civilians including (mostly) Hindu women and dumping the dead bodies in 4 large pits like in Pol Pot’s Cambodia! No other country wants to have Rohingyas. The Myanmar Government has designated Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) as a terrorist organisation.  It is led by Rohingyas living in Saudi Arabia. The International Crisis Group (ICG) says ARSA’s leader is Ata Ullah who was born in Pakistan & raised in Saudi Arabia. Indian intelligence inputs disclose that global Jihadi groups such as Islamic State & Al-Qaeda & also Pakistan’s ISI & its proxies are sponsoring ARSA terrorism. These inputs also suggest that Lashkar-e-Taiba is seeking to recruit Rohingyas in India for their jihadist activities within India. In November 2019 addressing a three day “Global Dialogue 2019 Conclave in Dhaka, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena stated that more than 1.1million Rohingyas of Myanmar who fled to Bangladesh in the face of persecution were a threat not only to security of Bangladesh but for the entire region. Even the former Human Rights Activist turned politician in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has justified at the UN the treatment meted out to Rohingyas!

Why should refugees from Afghanistan to be included in the CAA? During the Partition, the NFWP- the land of Frontier Gandhi Abdul Ghaffar Khan  was given the choice of joining either India or Pakistan; but ‘Badshah Khan’ wanted either an Independent Pashtunistan or to join Afghanistan. Pakistan forcefully took Balochistan and NWFP and the Hindus and Sikhs from the Pothohar Plateau bordering the western parts of PoK and the southern part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa went to Afghanistan which is also became a theocratic state and happens to be in constant turmoil. So these people also became our “civilizational responsibility”!

Lastly why not citizenship to Tamils from Sri Lanka? From 1983 to now there are one lakh plus Tamil refugees in the 103 camps in India. The Tamil problem was not “religious persecution” – it was a linguistic/ethnic issue worsened by the LTTE, classified as the “most dreaded terrorist group in the world” fighting a violent war against Sri Lanka for ‘Tamil Elam’. There is a side-story to it. I think it was in ‘J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka: A Political Biography’ by K M De Silva that the former Sri Lankan President is quoted as saying “India exported its Tamil separatism to my country.” Interestingly, Tamil separatism, Elam and all, killed in Sri Lanka, lives in Tamil Nadu as part of the Dravidian politics!

India has not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or the 1964 Refugee Protocol giving the reason that thanks to our long and porous borders, we may have a continuous inflow of illegal immigrants who cannot be taken care of because of our economic constraints. But we have signed the 2016 New York Resolution for Refugees and Migrants which binds us to send all the refugees back their countries if they are willing to go and their mother societies (native countries) willing to accept them. Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickramasinghe had in 2018 promised India that Sri Lanka is willing to take back all refugees in India. Modi-led India had built 50000 homesteads in Sri Lanka as part of this rehabilitation programme. Remember, between 1964 and 2008 India had given Indian Citizenship to around 461000 Sri Lankan Tamilians!

Many people mix the case of refugees with that of economic migrants. ‘Economic migrants” are often confused with the term refugee. Many Bangladeshi Muslims too have come to India as economic migrants leaving their regions primarily due to harsh economic conditions, not fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of any unwelcome social group. They are not “attractive political target” for Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government of India on account of their religious faith. As Tayyab Mahmud, a law professor at Seattle University School of Law who has testified in asylum proceedings for Indian migrants said in the US context, it not persecution which is driving global migration. It is the economy. The question is whether Indian economy can absorb huge population of illegal immigrants? Over-populated, and with a huge un-employment problem, India cannot take in more people than we have to for good reason such as the “civilisational responsibility” the CAA takes up.

I may add in the end that as per the citizenship act, in last six years, 2838 Pakistan nationals, 912 Afghan refugees and 172 Bangladeshi refugees were given Indian citizenship. Many of them were Muslims!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Ramucchettan (Ram Menon) remembered
On the 17th of July (2019) I was in a car heading for Kolhapur when the message reached me that Ramucchettan passed away peacefully at 10.56AM in the Aster Aadhar Hospital where he was admitted a few days earlier with breathing problems. The next 3 hours or so were the most miserable time in my life for many years. Who am I to grieve for this man? As far as family ties go, he was the son of my grandmother’s first cousin. If that is not far enough he was one of the doyens of Kolhapur industry, a very rich businessman. Figuratively speaking if I am a piece of ice, Ram Menon was the North Pole! The closest I came to him in ‘status’ was being on the Board of an export company of which he too was a director. That was in 1984.
My family was closer to his thanks to my Grandmother Parukutty Amma’s special relationship with her cousin Kunjukutty Amma. In fact we were not in the habit of visiting other relatives living in the ancestral Thottappillil house (tharavaadu) less than hundred meters away, I remember. Thereby hangs a tale, which presently I am not going into. When I was a high school student I used to go to fetch excess milk they had for us. I remember Ramucchettan’s uncles Karunakaramama and Parameswaramama, and their late mother’s sister, Narayanivalliamma; Parameswaramama I remember lived with them in his last years in the house. The house we called “Ullisseryil” for reasons I didn’t bother to verify, belonged to Chandrancchettan, Ramucchettan, their sister Vishaluchechi and her two daughters –Vijaya and Vasanthi. They had an Ashoka tree, in front (east) of the house - not too tall - but with dense foliage and full of orange-yellow and red flowers. I remember Ramucchettan’s “marriage party” coming to that house wading through water on the submerged ‘varambu’ (bund between paddy fields on either side). Edathiyamma’s father A P Menon was incidentally my Class Teacher; he wrote the details in my SSLC book in his own hand-writing. Since I scored high marks in his subject – English- he had a special liking for me which I thought must have increased with his daughter getting married into our family! Years later, it was from his obituary that I learned the before joining Panangad High School, Sri. A P Menon had retired from Jaffna College, in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) as a professor.
Chandrancheettan who used to be called Chandran by elders in my family, particularly Valliamman, my mother’s eldest brother, and Ramucchettan who used to be referred to as Ramakrishnan were later known to me as big industrialists in Kolhapur, making diesel pumps for the purpose of irrigation. One such diesel pumpset was gifted to my grand uncle, Kunhunnimootthammaman (T.Kunhunni Menon) when I was staying with him for my college education. That is when I realised that Chandranchettan and Ramucchettan also used to stay with him for higher studies (Chandranchettan for His Mechanical Engineering Diploma) when he was employed in Peirce Leslie Company Ltd, Kozhikode, just as I did, because he had no children. Several generations of youngsters from our family used to stay with Mootthammaman. Chandranchettan and Ramuccettan had high regards for him. I remember the letters Mootthammaman dicated to me to be sent to Chandranchettan used to be addressed to “T C K Menon” – that was before the brothers shortened their names to Chandran Menon and Ram Menon, I suppose
Once Chandranchettan on vacation came to see Moothammaman, and found his eyesight was poor. He immediately took him to a doctor in Ernakulam and got medicines and spectacles. Mootthammaman who couldn’t tell a decent lie all his life, or even exaggerate anything reasonably, was so impressed by Chandranchettan’s magnificent, winged Plymouth car that he went on telling people about how “Chandran’s car could carry twenty-five people” to my great embarrassment when children of his in-laws poked my ribs asking whether it wasn’t a mini-bus!
I had no interaction with the “Menons of Kolhapur” (as a business magazine described putting them on the cover page) for years till one day Ramucchettan came to my office in Nariman Point accompanied by Raghavachettan (P.Raghavamenon) husband of one of my first cousins. (I realised later that whenever he found time, Ramucchettan liked seeking out relatives and getting connected!) I was sales manager in a small private company then. He saw me sneezing and I told him about my allergic cold. He told me he had the problem too and found relief in a medicine he got from Bangalore, and promised to send it to me. It came soon with a messenger. I suspected there could be some steroid in the powder because I had done extensive reading about common cold, allergic cold and associated respiratory issues since I lost IPS selection due to inadequate chest expansion during the crucial medical examination on account of these. I didn’t dare use the medicine though its efficacy was endorsed by Ramucchettan. Later when we met he told me it was indeed a mistake: it had some steroid in it and the guy treating with it was in trouble with the law.
I went to Kolhapur and met him in person in 1983 after our wing of Thottappillil family established a trading company called ‘Menon Impex Limited’ and had an export order worth over Rs.2crores from a Soviet Government firm and found no money to execute it. My cousin Dr.Raji Menon who did his medical studies in Moscow was behind the venture. We set up an industrial unit in Kandla Free Trade Zone (KAFTZ) in Gandhidam, Gujarat where we could import components for sewing machine motors from japan, assemble and export to the Soviet Union. Roughly seventy per cent of the order’s worth was import bill. I went around meeting known and unknown managers of various banks and it struck me for the first time that the banks do not lend exactly by the rule books I had studied in the management course in the Mumbai’s (then Bombay) prestigious Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies! Export order from a foreign government and a Letter of Credit to boot was of no attraction to Public Sector bankers. They wanted you to prove to them you were rich enough not to need their help!
After a week of hunting for bank finance, we thought of our rich cousins in Kolhapur. Rajan wouldn’t go to them because over a commercial dispute with ‘Hong Kong Gopicchettan’ (Ramucchettan’s daughter’s father-in law) it was an order given to Gopitex earlier taken back by him to our new company! I spoke with Ramucchettan over the phone and was invited to Kolhapur for discussions. I went, and met Chandranchettan and Ramucchettan in their house ‘Kairali’. Obviously the brothers had discussed the matter. Chandranchettan’s words were clear and emphatic: “I am a manufacturer by profession. Trading is not my line of business. Ramu seems to have a different view. Let him decide!” I go with Ramucchettan to his “workshop” (till the last he used to call his huge factory employing some 500 people “workshop”, because that was how they started out in Kolhapur! In his well-appointed room in ‘Menon Pistons Limited’ we hold talks. His uneasiness was about how Gopicchettan would take it. I volunteered to draft an appropriate message for him to telex to Gopicchettan in Nigeria the latter would find difficult to reject! Gopicchettan must have been right there to read it and pat came his reply, quoting words from the message he received: “you have my permission and blessings. Please go ahead!” Ramucchetten becomes a Director in MIL, and finances the venture through his Janata Cooperative Bank, and City Union Bank, if I remember right.
I remember dealing with him was very easy; he knew all aspects of business, contingencies and all. RD Dixit was introduced to me. He was Technical Director of MPL. He was a soft-spoken man, meticulous and systematic to perfection. Vijayapalanchettan (now no more) was Director Administration. He was a cousin of Edathiyamma and had also married from Thottappillil. He could be adamant about cash transactions anybody in his place would be. But Ramucchettan would call him over and persuade to part with lakhs of rupees in cash legally. Ramucchettan would tell me in private in appreciation of the calibre and loyalty of the two deputies “these guys catch on to a given responsibility like our Udumbu (monitor lizard); will never let go off it till the job is accomplished! After successful completion of the first business Ramucchettan gave me a gift parcel. I declined to accept it. He said he had given similar gifts to all the key persons involved in the business. I maintained that as a director of MIL I cannot take a gift for my work. But a couple of months later he came to my Borivli residence, and persuaded me to accept it, saying “Ramucchettan is giving you this; it is a mark of my affection for you!” It was gold ornaments for my wife. An elderly lady who was like a sister and lived above our flat in Mathews Mansion told her it weighed easily 10 sovereigns.
An interesting facet of Ramucchettan was his style of functioning. He believed in complete delegation of responsibilities as well as power. Astonished by his month-long vacations, enjoying relaxed travels abroad, Rajan (Raji Menon) asked his how could he go away for so long leaving so much responsibilities behind? His answer was that he had put the right people on all the jobs. If there was some course-correction required in policies, he was  available on the phone for consultation! At the factory in the morning, after half-an-hour or so in his room, he will take a walk in the factory. So many times I had accompanied him on these rounds. He will stand next to every machines, and talk to the technicians on their duties, and ask them about the work, machine and his personal problems if any. He told me how some of them are simply brilliant. He told me about one such, one Kulkarni, if I remember right, who could design a lathe which was superior to the best from HMT. He he was eventually promoted to the position of a DGM. 
In 1986 I shifted to Chennai where we set up operations to the newly established Madras Export Processing Zone. MIL operations were independent of Racucchettan’s financial help and he resigned from our Board. But he had a bigger association with us as Dr.Raji Menon was able to procure huge orders for pistons and piston rings from the Soviet Union for Menon Pistons. I remember, after making arrangements for execution of the first order of piston rings for a couple of crores of rupees, Ramucchettan telling Rajan: “look here,Raji, don’t come after this with orders worth ten and fifteen crores! I simply cannot handle such large orders with my existing facility!” Rajan tried to be persuasive: “Ramucchetta, make this a complete export-oriented unit. Forget local business. You don’t have to worry about marketing, dealerships, etc. There is no need for inventories, no waiting for payments; not even taxes! Execute large orders, bank your profits!” Ramucchettan said firmly and still smiling, I recall: “What would happen if one day exports dry up? I can’t go back to the Indian market because there are very capable competitors in the line of business like India Pistons, Mahle, several others. What would I do with this factory, and my employees? I will never be able to do that. I can have maximum two production lines for export. The rest will have to cater to the OE market and spares which are our bread and butter. He was farsighted indeed. Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 completely without a trace. Exports to the country literally dried up!
It was in 1995 that I called him for a personal help. We were in Chennai and my son Dileep had passed out of Plus-2 and wanted to do engineering studies. We went for group ‘counselling’ in Chennai, gave the Demand Draft for admission; and I suddenly snatched it back. The Counselling Officer asked me “what happened?” and I replied simply that I had changed my mind. It was my fear of “ragging” that made me reject the admission. The previous year, Madras University Vice-Chancellor’s son was ragged leading to his death when he resisted thinking, “what the hell, my dad is the VC and these chaps are trying to do this to me!” but someone gave a karate chop on his neck in the melee, and the boy died instantly. What happened next was weird: they chopped his body into pieces and threw it in an irrigation canal. The culprits were eventually caught... My worry was about Dileep being a big and strong boy, and “quick to draw”. I thought of the mob lynching he might invite in the college hostel if he resisted ragging. I called Ramucchettan and asked him whether he could get him a seat in Kolhapur Institute of Technology of which he was Chairman. His reply was music to my ears: “If our boy can’t be given a seat, who else would get it?”
Dileep becomes a student in KIT and a regular visitor to Ramuvalliacchan’s house where he befriended both toddlers and the elderly as was his uniqueness. A couple of times Sachin dropped him in college which sent Dileep’s stocks sky-high. In KIT also there was ragging since it was not legally banned then. But the ‘Menon boy’ was unaffected. My worry later was about my boy being a leader of the ragging gang next year onwards! However, he passed B.Tech with Distinction.  
Ramucchettan’s business acumen was exemplary. He established separate factory for piston rings and bearings. After the death of his elder brother, he became the leader of his family group which is one of the largest in Kolhapur. Like Vijay Menon took charge of his father Chandran Menon’s industries, Sachin Menon took charge of Menon Pistons and Nitin Menon, of Menon Bearings while Ramucchettan remained as Chairman. My contacts with him were few and far between. But we kept in touch. After my retirement when I settled down in Thiruvanchikkuam, he came to see me driving himself along with Narayanankuttychettan (now no more) who was my grandfather’s nephew, and his companion in Kerala. He called us next day for lunch in Thottappillil House just one kilometre from where I lived. His niece Vijaya lived there with her husband Dr.Rajagopal who was Ramucchettan’s brother-in-law.
While in KIT Dileep fell in love with a Maharashtrian Jain girl. The girl, Arathi was born in the same year and on the same day he was born. For a girl in any Indian community, it was the age to get married. Her parents pressed me for an immediate marriage when Dileep completed his engineering degree course and returned to Kerala. We had an engagement ceremony done first. Ramucchettan with family, Chandranchettan’s family all joined me because I couldn’t bring my people from Kerala. Ravicchettan and edathiyamma from Pune represented them. Within six moths I had to get Dileep married breaking the record in our family which was (late) Ajit’s which was at 25! Racuccettan stood by me throughout, wearing the traditional turban as my elder brother with the entire Menon family of Kolhapur, including some other cousins of mine attending! After couple of years working in Pune Dileep wanted to go to the US to do MBA. Ramucchettan instructed Sachin to do all the help to make a student Visa available without any difficulty. But for that help, which involved in a Corporate Sponsorship letter, Dileep couldn’t have got the US Visa in the first attempt.
After 5 years Dileep came back from the US to help his father-in-law’s business. That was how Neelu also went to do her MBA in KIT, staying with him to do the course. When Neelu got first rank in three semesters, I was happy that my children were doing Ramuvalliacchan proud! Neelu passed MBA with the highest marks in the University. When my daughter was getting married to my old Mumbai friend Madhavan’s son, I talked to Ramucchettan. The marriage was in Guruvayoor Temple and the “reception” in Mumbai. Ramucchettan told me who were all to be invited from the Kolhapur families, and even gave me phone numbers to call. I remember Mini and Chandru in particular. He had himself called them and they all came for the Mumbai event to bless Neelu and her groom.
When I shifted to Pune, he came once to stay at his daughter’s Balaji Park residence in Aundh, and called me. We met him in Savita’s house. Months later once when he came, Edathiyamma called to say they were in Savita’s place, and I said I would come over, because I had heard he had by then the onset of Parkinson’s. I was told he insisted on coming to my place, I went down to receive him, thinking that he might need help to get out of the car, but, no, He sprang to his feet and came with me. Later I realised it was his speech that was getting affected. He came in person because he wanted give Neelu’s little daughter Trisha a gift! 
It could be said that Ramucchettan lived a full life. He travelled extensively in India and abroad. He attended all the ceremonies and events he was invited to. He took me one day to a power glider fest in Kolhapur. Once I went to an exhibition of printing machines with him. Another time it was a painting exhibition of a Gabriel Marketing manager whose name I don’t remember. He had drawn pencil sketches and paintings of rocks of various shapes and sizes. Both of us were flabbergasted because the exhibition varied completely from our concept of art. At the end he was supposed to write his comment as a guest. I wrote something from my training in literary/art criticism which made it easy to read meanings into quite meaningless things; and Ramucchettan signed! In Mumbai once he dragged me to watch a movie in the New Excelsior theatre. He was a movie buff and I was not. He told me he found relaxation in movies and drama - particularly Marathi plays. This particular movie was a Russian one dubbed in English. It was a horribly un-interesting movie and when I turned to Ramucchettan, he was seen fast asleep. I didn’t wake him up. After the movie Ramucchettan said with a chuckle: “Russians can’t make crime thrillers and action movies! Maybe, because their system doesn’t allow such things. They should learn from the Americans how to make thrillers!”
He was a foodie, he once told me. The occasion was when we went to a restaurant. When he asked me to order food, I requested him to do it with the explanation that if I did, I always ended up asking for familiar menu. Astonished, he commented “Ayye, what’s the fun then?”He explained in detail that part of the fun in travel was enjoying new and different food. “I I go to a new restaurant whether in India or abroad, I ask the chef what was their speciality, what was new; and taste it.” Then he described to me a hilarious situation in a Hon Kong restaurant after ordering an unfamiliar dish of fish. “After 20 minutes of waiting I saw large trolley coming towards me with something huge. I thought it can’t be for me. It was very large in size. But it stopped at my table and as the waiter was transferring the large fish onto it, I lost my cool. I asked him, why is this so large, didn’t you know I was alone, and possibly can’t eat even a quarter of it... and a lot more almost in one breath; and the boy politely went on repeating “but sir, you ordered it” even as my voice rose in anger. I called for the manager, and he came. He was an Indian who only could find a solution to my problem by sharing my meal!”
When I was only a few weeks in Chennai (1986) Ramucchettan came for some business meeting. In the evening he called and went to Taj Coromandal where he stayed. He suggested “let us go for a south Indian meal; I want to have sambar and rice!” I said for that we didn’t need to go to a restaurant; Though Sulu and children were in Kerala, I had a reasonably good cook who had made sambar because it was one curry I had every day. “No, let us go somewhere.” So we went looking for a south Indian restaurant on the Mount Road (now Anna Salai). I was not yet come across the innumerable Hotels like Palm Grove, Savera, DasaPrakash, Woodlands.. I remembered having read that a Keralite, Purushotthaman had a Hotel on the Mount Road – Madras International. We went there. Ramucchettan said, “I want sambar and rice!” The waiter said there was no sambar and rice available in the evening. “Then what do you have, perhaps Dosa and sambar?” “No sir, no Dosa either. We have chappathi, poori, bhaji...” Ramucchettan was shaken. The first response was in pure Malayalam, turning towards me: “Ithippo poannedom poannu pullukanhi ennuparanhapolay aayallo!”(Translation: it appears the millet porridge has followed me here too!) “I am running away from chappatthi and poori, do you know, I come from Kolhapur!” The waiter was a bit more helpful at this stage offering to get us dosa, but instead of chutney and sambar, we had to make do with tomato-sauce! We rushed out and went home to have rice and sambar.
The saddest were our last meetings. He had completely lost his memory. You love and respect a person for most of your lifetime and he just can’t remember you. This change has happened to several other people in our family. What makes people who lived an active, disciplined and healthy life to lose their memory? It had happened to my Valliacchan, Bhaskaran Uncle (poet), VB Chettan, Vijayapalan Chettan. At the national level George Fernandes, AB Vajpayee, Nani Palkiwala, Nissim Ezekiel – brilliant and active people in different walks of life- all were somehow affected by loss of memory. Fate took away Thottappillil patriarch Ram Menon’s memory too. But he did leave behind a lot of good memories! Tears well up in my eyes as memories of Ramucchettan flood my mind. I fervently hope I don’t lose my memory, because the most beautiful things in life are memories and moments!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Bhima Koregaon
The last battle of the Anglo-Maratha war (1818) which established the firm hold of the British Empire in India was fought at Koregaon village on the banks of Bhima river near Pune. The British erected an obelisk at the battle ground in the memory of those who died for the Empire. Of the 49 names on the monument, 22 were those of soldiers belonging to the Mahar community leading to their leaders taking great credit from it for their gallantry. The British however, stopped recruitment from Mahars to their Army in 1893, after a reassessment of “martial races” in India, said to be following the Indian uprising of 1857. Ramji Ambedkar, father of B R Ambedkar was one among the Maha leaders who requested the British to continue recruitment of Mahars to no avail.
B R Ambedkar is said to have created a socio-political myth painting the Battle of Bhima Koregaon as a battle of Mahar soldiers against their caste oppression in Peshwa rule, very much like the Communists in Kerala painted their Punnapra-Vayalar “Revolution” as a violent struggle against the Travancore State against its intention to carve a country out of the Union of India! In the fertile land for identity-politics after decades of a “soft state” created by Congress rule, the myth created by Mahar leaders solidified into a quasi-history in latter years, bringing many Dalit organisations with obvious fundamentalist Muslim and Maoist help to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Bhima Koregaon battle as a campaign to launch an attack on an imaginary Hegemon, which they paint as the new Peshwai, the rising “Brahmanic” rule of the Hindutva forces! The charade culminated in into an Elgar Parishad (conference) at the Shaniwarwada at Pune on December 31, 2017. Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of B. R. Ambedkar and President of an outfit called Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi floated by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen of Asaduddin Owaisi, has tried to give a larger dimension to Elgaar Parishad theorising that it is formed to bridge the growing divide between Marathas, OBCs and SC/STs.
Interestingly many critics of the “Hindu Nationalist party, BJP” seem to ignore that the narrative around the war memorial at Bhima Koregaon is at variance with the national history of war! It was a clash between the British and the resistance to their rule. The regiment that defeated the Peshwa army 200 years ago had members of all castes. It was the final blow to an imperial Indian resistance to the British and the solidification of their Raj. Obviously the British cunningly manipulated the inimical caste equations to bring down the indigenous Maratha empire. Besides, the entire narrate in along the lines of Brahmins and Dalits, the Maratha empire and caste discrimination is historically wrong.
Come to think of it: every year, on 1 January, lakhs of Dalits across Maharashtra gather at the war memorial of Bhima Koregaon, 40 kilometres from Pune to commemorates the victory of the British Army, over the Peshwas! The motive of the battle was not to strengthen Dalits, but to dethrone the Peshwas as perhaps the last barrier to establishing British rule in India. I fail to understand why the Mahars and now other Dalit communities too, celebrate the victory of British army which looted, raped and murdered our people, using our own people? If their purpose is to “make a statement”, I am worried about that statement because it cuts at the root of our national sentiment, the pride of having defeated the British colonial rule in a long-drawn non-violent battle of sacrifices; the unity of India amidst its diversity! A contingent of well-equipped of local mercenaries defeating their Kings army for the British who later ignored them, took them out of the recruitment policy altogether! I wonder whether the British were rejecting subjects who could easily change loyalties!