Horrifying realities from communal outbursts to human rights abuse

It is getting more than disgusting to hear those horrifying outbursts of the Hindutva elements directly or indirectly linked to the present day government. These elements ought to be banned or thrown in those hell holes. But here creeps in another of those horrifying realities – they are part and parcel of the entire set up, so are left not just untouched but well protected under layers of political patronage. 

How could Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut get away with this totally provocative utterance – that is, voting rights of the Muslims of this country be withdrawn. How dare he! Yes, he could dare to say rather write this because he knew that no case could ever be slapped on him. After all, he is a member of Parliament and also prominent member of the Hindutva brigade.

How could Hindu Mahasabha’s Sadhvi Deva Thakur get away by uttering the obnoxious provocative one liner – that is, Muslims and Christians should be forcibly sterilised because their growing numbers posed a danger to Hindus! This sadhvi sat unruffled and unapologetic and little bothered. Why? Because of State support. 

How could Sakshi Maharaja get away from the clutches of the law after openly saying that Musalmaans have 4 wives and produce 40 children! Adding that voting rights be snatched from those who do not practice family planning! Of course, not much intellectual output is expected from the likes of Sakshi; he is ignorant of some hard facts related to polygamy. Government of India’s census reports more than indicate that polygamy is highest amongst the Hindu Tribal community and not amongst Indian Muslims …I am not bothered about the intellectual or physical capabilities of the likes of Sakshi but what’s more than worrying is the fact that this man is a Member of Parliament and thriving on the tax paper’s money. Coupled with the fact that he is left untouched by the administration. Garbage utterances out there in the public, in front of the district administration and the so called government machinery, yet no countering the poison that the likes of Sakshi are unleashing! 

What are we talking about the poisonous environment and replacement of old vehicles from the highways when there are other polluting elements coming our way. Who the hell will control these brigades who are hell bent on dragging along disasters and the accompanying offshoots which will go a long way in ripping us apart! 

In fact, one of the offshoots is this latest news coming in from Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur – 800 Valmikis getting converted to Islam to save their homes and hearth! Even a decade back this notion of conversion or re-conversion or ghar wapsi would have been impossible to digest but today anything and everything seems possible in the backdrop of State terror …terrorizing tactics adopted by the State machinery.

Those in power indulging in killings…blatant killings. Encounters no longer taking place out there in the open but well inside police vehicles. After all, last week’s killing of five under – trials in Andhra Pradesh by cops was an encounter well inside the police van taking the five to Hyderabad for a court hearing. Encounters taking place even of hapless daily wagers and labourers. Those killed in the Chittoor forest belt on the Andhra Pradesh – Tamil Nadu borders were no smugglers but labourers, yet gunned down by the police. 

And latest news coming in from Kashmir’s Tral is that of an innocent young man – 19 year old Khalid Muzaffar – blatantly killed by the Army … killing him after labeling him a militant though the locals vouch for his innocence. What difference has this Mufti-Modi government brought about in terms of human misery in the Kashmir Valley? How long can these killings go on? In fact, each time I visit the Valley there are more graves staring in the face. Marked and unmarked graves are constant reminders of the dead, of those killed under all possible garbs. 

And mind you, these are the daily realities that you and I have to live with … the situation is alarming yet the political rulers of India are taking a walk around the avenues of Germany, France and Canada. Showing, rather showing off the ‘bright spots’, without realizing the bright German and French and Canadian heads are capable of seeing through.


Recently I had interviewed the Delhi based academic Sudhamahi Regumathan, in the backdrop of the latest book she has translated – 

Acharya Mahapragya’s – ‘ Rishabhayan – The Story of the First King’ (published by Harper Collins) 

It is important cum relevant to read this interview because her thoughts and comments carry depth, carrying the basic truth to life and everyday living …

My interview with Sudhamahi Regunathan 

Q1 – For years you have been writing extensively on Jainism and Jain monks. Or else translating the works of Jain scholars and monks. In fact, the recently published book of Archaya Mahapragya – Rishabhayan -The Story of the first King ( HarperCollins ) has been translated by you.The why to your fascination with Jainism.

Ans 1 – When I took over as Vice Chancellor of Jain Vishva Bharati Institute (Deemed University) I felt I should learn something about Jainism. I was also fascinated to see the monks and nuns who lived by searching for the truth. What compels them? What motivates them?. What is the Jaina faith have to say? Questions such as these prompted me to delve into the subject. Translating Acharya Mahapragya’s works laid the foundation to my intellectual excursions. 

Q 2 – Jainism is said to be a philosophy, relaying a way of life,a thought process. Comment.

Ans 2 – Indeed I feel Jainism is a comment on the need for religion to translate into good conduct. The three jewels of Jainism are Right Perspective, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. Right conduct can happen only when the philosophy is so down to earth and practical that every human being can follow it. Again the desire to believe in a force greater than you who can "look after" you and work miracles is a great temptation. But, Jainism believes that all powers are within you. You can work hard and realize your full potential. What kind of work is this? It is a thought process core of which is ahimsa or nonviolence, with restraint being the key word. 

Q3 – Today an average Indian is little aware of this philosophy and the simplicity of everyday life and living it conveys…Comment on the why to it.

Ans 3 – What you say is true, though unfortunate. Actually it works both ways. The Jainas always lived as part of the Hindus with some differences. The people following either of the religions were not held back within any ‘ism’. But recently every community has started looking for its identity and differences. That is how, I think Jainism has come to be redefined. I think the average Indian is best acquainted with rituals and some customs which is based on beliefs. Few know their own religion, whichever it is. At least in our times we used to have moral science classes in school and they definitely gave us a glimpse into the best of every religion. All our fight over religions is because we do not know our own religion but rise to defend something we do not know. So it is not surprising less is known about Jainism. I feel even the Jaina community knows less than it ought to be about the beauty in their religion.

Q4 – This particular volume is based on the life and times of king Rishabha. How the very sight of flowers withering away hit him and changed the entire course of his life and much more along the strain. Comment.

Ans 4 – That is a beautiful scene. Spring is in full form. Love and beauty is in the air. Rishabha too is enjoying it when he sees the withered flower which was in full bloom yesterday…so transient? So impermanent? Than what is life all about?

This book deals with three types of renunciations. Rishabha, as described above suddenly went deep within himself and the introspection taught him that if consumerism was to be balanced, the opposite force of renunciation, even if in small measures, has also to be taught. 

The other comes when his son Bahubali conquers his brother in war. One blow and he can kill him, but his raised arm stops where it is as he asks himself what the purpose of it all would be. To reign over a kingdom that cost his brother’s life? That moment of introspection leads him to renounce.

The third is something we all must have faced at one time or other. Emperor Bharat, another son of Rishabha was having a bath when his ring fell off. He was shocked to see his hands look so ungainly. The moment he found his ring in the bathwater and wore it, his hand looked good again. You mean to say ornaments are making him look good? He is not attractive by himself? That question triggered a moments silence and lifelong penance.

Q5 – This entire volume, over 300 pages, is in verse. How difficult it was for you to translate these verses, from Hindi to English.

Ans 5 – Very difficult. Because in addition to being a story, Acharya Mahapragya has woven a lot of philosophy in its telling. Acharya Mahapragya is a very sensitive poet and is very careful about using the right words. That put great pressure on me for I did not want to aver from his path of nonviolence in speech.

Q6 – What these verses could hold out for you and I, in the present times…What are the subtle messages relayed, through the life and times and philosophy of this king.

Ans 6 – There is a nugget almost on every page. For instance there is one verse which reads:

Then the words of comfort came

Fear not, for to fear is to die

The essence of this life is to toil

Measure the worth of your hands

The night follows the day

This is well known

Tell me, who is such a man

Who gets to see only dawn?

Truth is not just

What I believe it is

The sky is not just

What I see it as

The infinite, do not

Limit within your home

But in your home too

There is the sky, accept this truth.

The main message is that there has to be equanimity in life. In emotional, physical, material and even intellectual pursuits, there must be balance.

*(Humra Quraishi is a freelance columnist based in Delhi and is currently a visiting Professor in the Academy of Third World Studies in Jamia Milia University).