Friday, January 29, 2010

Supreme Court has become an ally of the Hindu nationalists

The Indian Supreme Court and the quest for a 'rational' Hinduism
Ronojoy Sen 
(The Times of India, New Delhi)
South Asian History and Culture, Volume 1, Issue  January 2010, pages 86 – 104 - view references (19) 

Gajendragadkar and Ramaswamy spoke a language very similar to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and his idea of 'pure' Hinduism. According to Radhakrishnan, 'At the moment, however, temples present an air of dull acquiescence and tedious routine. To attempt to abolish temples, which are so passionately loved and affectionately revered, is vain. But we must improve the tone and the atmosphere …. Worship in temples must be of the purest form.'97 Many of the court judgements echoed Radhakrishnan.

If figures like Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan made frequent appearances in Court judgements, there were also some notable absences. This is perhaps best illustrated in the marginalization of Vivekananda's teacher and guru, Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Ramakrishna, who can be located in the Bhakti tradition and was characterized by mysticism and unreason (pagalami), was a sharp contrast to his disciple Vivekananda, who established a Hindu monastic order to achieve social and religious reform. The contrast between these two figures is vividly expressed, as Sumit Sarkar has noted, in the disparities between the Dakshineswar temple (where Ramakrishna lived for over 30 years) and the Belur Math founded by Vivekananda. Sarkar writes, 'The temple [Dakshineswar], like any major Hindu sacred site, is thronged with crowds which cut across class divides, noisy, colorful, not over-sensitive to dirt …. Belur Math is much more of an upper middle class devotional-cum-tourist spot: almost aggressively hygienic, it is full of guards and notices warning visitors from bathing in the river or spoiling the lawns.'98

This study in contrast in a way admirably captures the approach of the Supreme Court and its essential practices doctrine. The essential practices doctrine can then be seen as the Court's attempt to discipline and cleanse religion or religious practices that are seen as unruly, irrational and backward by putting the state in charge of places of religious worship. But as Dhavan and Nariman point out, 'Religious faiths have to be run by their followers and not by bureaucrats. The followers have to emerge from the faith and not be appointed by the State or statute.'99 The Court has systematically appealed for legitimation to authoritative figures associated with Vedic rationalism as well as privileged canonical texts that are located within this tradition. By doing so the Court has not only narrowed the 'institutional space for personal faith'100 but also marginalized popular religion by, in Ashis Nandy's words, treating it as 'parts of an enormous structure of irrationality and self-deceit, and as sure markers of an atavistic, regressive way of life'.101 […]

The essential practices doctrine, as developed by Gajendragadkar, sought to cleanse religion of superstition and irrationalities. It was based on the premise that the state must protect only the 'essential and integral part' of religion. While it was certainly desirable that the state play a role in passing laws that abolished social practices such as untouchability and the bar on the entry of the lower castes into temples, the Supreme Court permitted the state to become deeply involved in administering religious institutions and even regulating rituals and modes of worship. Beginning with Durgah Committee, the Court gave sanction for an elaborate regulatory apparatus for religious institutions. The involvement of the state in religious institutions flew in the face of the Nehruvian assumption that the domain of religion would gradually shrink. Instead of religion disappearing from the public sphere, the state became the principal agent of Hindu reform. The court rulings have, thus, furthered the reformist agenda of the Indian state at the expense of religious freedom and neutrality. The Court has also become an ally - often inadvertently - of the Hindu nationalists in their aggressive demands for homogenization and uniformity. 4:32 PM Sarkar, Sumit (1993) An Exploration of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Tradition Indian Institute of Advanced Study , Shimla; Nandy, Ashis (2001) The Twilight of Certitudes: Secularism, Hindu Nationalism and other masks of Deculturation. Time Warps: Silent and Evasive Pasts in Indian Politics Permanent Black , Delhi

Thursday, January 28, 2010

International law should also accommodate Gandhi, Kautilya and Sri Aurobindo

The Scandal of Enlightenment and The Birth of Disciplines: Is International …
P Singh, F De Dret, O de la Globalización - Prabhakar Singh, 2010 -
Page 1.
Prabhakar Singh

This paper addresses the existential dichotomy of international law. What began as barely audible notes of dissent in TWAIL has developed into a powerful chorus of protest yoking science and pre-science, history and pre-history and legal and pre-legal together. Science, from an anti-modernist view, is corrupt and the international law is today preoccupied with, as Koskenniemi rightly points out, proving its scientificity. This makes international law all the more unwanted. Thus if international law is proven a science, will it become anti-indigenous, anti-poor, anti-subaltern or anti-tribal, like sciences? The answers are not that obvious.

Analysing J C Bose and Ramanujan, India‘s two great scientists, Nandy remarks how their life was torn between their practice of foreign science as professional scientists and indigenous beliefs that by objectifying and impersonalizing knowledge and by dehistoricizing the producers of knowledge one could argue away the imperfect realities of living persons and human history from the world of knowledge. No wonder, therefore, Indian alternative science for even the most ardent alternative seeker like Nandy is impossibly unmanageable. It not only seems a half-dissent, it also seems inefficient, chaotic, abstruse, amorphous, and unsure of itself. China does much better comparatively. The effect of science through colonisation on Asia, thus, has produced mixed emotions. An anti-modernist view of science sees its effects as an effort of the aggressor trying to … demystify the ordinary Indian as a pseudo-alternative to the Western man: hypocritically spiritual while being shrewdly materialistic, violent and self interested; neither a dedicated counterplayer of the West like Japan, trying to defeat the West at its own game, nor clearly Oriental like Confucian China, which, while manifestly hostile to the West, shares with the West some basic values like performance, organization and instrumental rationality; neither a person who meets the norm of civility in the West, nor openly noble savage.

International law, unfortunately, is not free from this attitude. In this paper, some obvious narratives of MILS via political science, psychology, sociology and anthropology have been either discussed faintly or ignored for obvious reasons. Economics, history and psychology have been chosen to read through international law because both the disciplines are two ends of the complete circle of the disciplines. Between them a complete rainbow of disciplines lies that mandates a series of efforts on the part of the observers of international law to register comments. It is hoped that the readers of this work would pick up the threads left open by this paper to weave an entire fabric of international law in the future. Though limited in its breadth of coverage, the paper, nonetheless, seeks to take a step in the right direction. Post colonial and anti-modernist voices in international law have made a strong case for a new international law. We must save international law from sweeping generalisations and interventionist universality while proving its scientificity. If proving international law a science would mean overlooking contextual milieu of its application, this science would remain undesirable.

International law today should be an exercise in restoring the symmetry of the forgone days. It should not only be a debate about Kant, Grotius, and Vitoria. It should also accommodate Gandhi, Kautilya and Sri Aurobindo. A theory of justice from Rawls and Dworkin must also be complemented with the theory of justice of Amartya Sen. Chimni's six fold perspective of international law shows the new directions to be developed further. International law in its current form cannot be sold as the medicine to world‘s problems. It has developed on its own experience as an agenda of capitalist avarice. But, its structure, howsoever, discriminatory cannot be pulled down. All we can do is to pull down individual discriminatory bricks and replace by a better one. But this is easier said than done. One should not forget that today, living in the Third world is bad breeding; becoming a Third-World social scientist is even worse. The former is like the original sin, the latter like acquired viciousness.


Sen‘s vision of justice and a perfect social order is non-parochial, inclusive and humane. It is entrenched in reason and helps remove inequities. His idea of justice is free of the tyranny of majoritarian will and one that touches lives that people actually live. In the process, it takes global concerns into account; Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (Penguin-Allen Lane, London 2009).Also, Sen, Development as Freedom (OUP, Oxford 2001). […]

Nandy observes that the universalism that had fuelled the early British reformers had given way to a second phase of tolerance of Indian culture because of obvious fears of a second mutiny. See, Nandy, supra note 1 at 6, footnote number 8. Nandy thinks that such an analysis comes from the works of Francis Hutchins, The Illusion of Permanence, British Imperialism in India (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton 1967). […]

Ashis Nandy, The Uncolonized Mind‘ in A. Nandy (ed), Exiled at Home: The Intimate Enemy, supra note 1 at 80. […] B.S. Chimni, The Sen Conception of Development and Contemporary International Law Discourse: Some Parallels (2008) 1:1 Law & Development Review, art. 2 available at  […] B.S. Chimni, Alternative Visions of Just World Order: Six Tales from India (2005) 46:2 Harvard International Law Journal 289-402.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Politics is more constrained than many people think

from Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen
Political jobs would be torture for most people.  You have no freedom.  You are underpaid and over-bugged.  You lose a lot of your privacy.  You have to stop writing emails or saying what you think.  You don't get to read many good books or go for many quiet walks.  It's hard to be a non-conformist.  And so on.
Yet it's really hard to get top political jobs.  So who gets them?  People who truly, deeply love the power.
Plus "doing what the voters want" very often feels like, or can be described as, "doing the right thing."
There's not much to say in terms of the economic issues, the real lesson is that politics is more constrained than many people think.  Berating Obama for his lack of courage or his "failure to get tough" is simply denying or postponing this fundamental realization.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

We lend ourselves to be controlled and managed by the Asura

The Task before us  from All choice by Barindranath Chaki

Some fifty thousand to more than a million years back, the early human beings started their journey on earth, definitely with hopes for Joy and Bliss, for satisfaction and fulfilment, for conquering diseases and Death, with inquisition and thirst for knowledge in their eyes and their fresh undisturbed intelligence. They marched onwards and created civilizations and cultures, created Arts and Literature and Poetry and Music, created the Society and all the social norms and rules and paraphernalia. Even they tried to solve all the problems and difficulties of life.
But in their attempts for doing so, they now find themselves in a world, which they have almost completely spoiled. Now, men and women and their world are ruled and conquered by darkness and ignorance, by sorrows and sufferings, by chaos and disorder, by battles and warfare and destructions, genocides and mass-murders, by incurable mental and physical ailments and diseases and untimely deaths, in spite of all their wisdom and knowledge, all their feasts and festivals and parties and merry-makings, all the assortments and arrangements of enjoyment and pleasure, in spite of all their prosperities and riches, in spite of all their medical and scientific researches and discoveries and preparations, in spite of all religions and worships, in spite of all their peace talks and preaching of Ahimsa or non-violence, in spite of all their civilizations and progresses. Mankind has lost all their hopes and aspirations, all their spontaneous inborn simplicity and clarity and peace.
So, we have to change the world.
 And how?   
We will change the world, never by preaching this and that religion. They are already fighting against each other for centuries. I do not mean to attack any religion; Persons who represented the Supreme Consciousness initiated them all. But we have added so much of falsehood, doubts, hatred, clashes and even bloodsheds into them, that they can seldom lead us to our Goal.   
We will bring the change never by political changes and revolutions, by change of Governments or creating League of Nations or commonwealths or UNOs, however noble and lofty may be the Ideas behind.   
We will make the change, never by changing external activities or habits of society or of life, not by keeping or shaving beards or hairs, not by changing dresses, not by changing political parties or social groups, or by changing religions.   
Never can we reach the Goal by trying to change others in a prototype, as the Communists tried and failed, or by trying to criticize others or by trying to find faults with others, NOT by declaring that we alone are the conveyors of Truth, and others are of Untruth. I will come to the issue of Truth or Untruth later.   
We are to change ourselves, first. Each of us is to change himself or herself… 
However, as we find, Man is, mainly and in majority, still far away from the Divine Possibility: Man is greatly involved in egoism, in Tamas, in vital and mental limitations and obstructions. Sometimes, even if and even when Man delves in and professes higher thinking and spirituality and a further evolution beyond humanity, he is still living and moving with a predominantly active lower nature. The human beings are more or less engrossed in limited or partial ideas, mental opinions, preferences, ignorant habits and mental constructions centered around lower vital nature, which has enslaved him with pride, arrogance, enmity, hostility, jealousy, envy, greed, cravings, passions, selfishness, egoism. Man is still living with ignorance, doubt, stupidity, falsehood, laziness, and Tamas.. 
If somewhere there is an endeavour for growing or creating something noble and great and aspiring for a higher possibility, forming a collectivity for moving forward, then it may also be found that from several corners attacks are creeping in, overtly or covertly, vehemently or stealthily, from the lower nature full of darkness and ignorance. Ego becomes the main force in Man, along with all narrowness, all crookedness, all poisonous divisions, tending to pull down all that great and noble in Man. 
The change, as some may think, is not at all easy. 
The change I am speaking of is not easy. Had it been easy, it would not have delayed by 50,000 years. All the religions, all the lofty social endeavours, including the French revolution or the Marxist revolution in Russia, have failed to change the human nature from what it is practically and what it should be. That is because the matter is very very difficult. Why difficult? Because we are insincere, egoistic, driven intolerance and hatred and animal enmity and anger, and above all we fail to know and understand Truth in its entirety.
The change needs a sincere and an undefeated ceaseless sadhana

As ordinary human beings, we are leading ourselves to the Abyss, through our lowest emotions, passions, pre-occupations and occupations, through our fears and distrust and gross indulgence. Often we close our eyes to the Light, often we shut up our inner windows when we hear the Call. We lend ourselves to be controlled and managed by the Asura… To stop remaining the grossly animal man, immersed in darkness and narrowness and hatred and violence, that is what is desired. Our pre-occupation and occupation should be The Next Step, the New Evolution.   Barin Chaki 22-01-2010 [Revised from some of my previous writings published elsewhere] Please visit ASPIRATION  The New Horizon  All choice  The New Platform  Barin Chaki Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo's Teaching & Method of Practice The Life Divine The Hidden Forces Of life The Mother - US Edition

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marxists worked on their minds, and their penetration was more enduring

Jyoti Basu's demise is not the end of an era... We should take this opportunity to highlight one important phenomenon, which was concentrated mostly in pre-Independence Bengal, viz. the shift of a large majority of revolutionaries -- particularly from the Anushilan Samiti circuit -- from Nationalism to the Communist movement.

An auxiliary reason for this development was British aid: revolutionary prisoners were given Marxist literature, because the British knew that the Communists opposed terrorist violence and aimed for a mass uprising in the long term, thus leaving British (and other oppressors') lives out of harm's way until the time of the Revolution, which moreover might never materialize. […]

After the success of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917-20, it was but natural that activists of a revolutiony temperament worldwide would feel attracted to Marxism. At least, they did so wherever an alternative was lacking. In Italy, many joined the Fascist movement and grabbed power in 1923 on a very similar wave of revolutionary enthusiasm.

India have an alternative? The freedom movement was captured by M.K. Gandhi in 1920 and left no room for revolutionaries, whom Gandhi emphatically disowned and condemned. The fledgling RSS, founded by an Anushilan Samiti disappointee, Dr. K.B. Hedgewar, renounced politics and preferred work in the sphere of culture, social self-organization and "character building". Hedgewar rejected offers to integrate his volunteer corps with the Hindu Mahasabha in political work for national independence and for the safeguarding of Hindu interests.

So, it is likely that many revolutionaires, initially motivated only by love of India and freedom, turned to Marxism not because of this ideology's intrinsic strengths, but for lack of a native ideological alternative. Revolution-minded people obviously could not reconcile with Gandhian nonsense, anymore than the moderate constitutionalists (including the young Jinnah) could. They wanted to act decisively against the British colonialists, and also against backward social forces hampering the devolution of the fruits of freedom to the masses. Naturally they had no patience with muddle-headed Gandhism and associated anachronisms. […]

Nobody in
India seemed to understand the challenge and the need for a convincing native alternative. Sri Aurobindo lamented that the mind of the Hindus had become dysfunctional, but he too failed to formulate an alternative, let alone to work for it. After his personal experience with the failure of the armed struggle, he soon retired from politics and, while giving lucid comments on political evolutions, never came out again to provide practical leadership.

All this while, Gandhi worked on people's emotions, but the Marxists worked on their minds, and their penetration was more enduring. Thus we see a long list of freedom fighters taking up Marxism and Socialism of various varieties. Not all these men and women were Marxists in the true sense, they only wanted to serve the national cause but not in the Gandhian way. Thus, the problem was a lack of native Indian/Hindu vision and an ensuing line of action.

We should not paint each and every Communist as a villain, but highlight the fact that a true native ideological narrative needs to be developed from scratch and articulated. This would address a historical lacuna in
India. Indian Marxism will die a natural death only when such a vision emerges. POSTED BY KOENRAAD ELST AT 2:03 PM

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Balance between pluralism and solidarity

  • For the religious nationalist, America is a “Christian nation” or, perhaps, a “Judeo-Christian nation.” In this vision, religious and political communities should be coterminous. 
  • For the radical secularist, America is a liberal society comprised of autonomous individuals. In this vision, religious and political communities ought to be completely distinct. 
  • For the civil religionist, finally, America is a moral community that seeks to balance solidarity and pluralism. In this vision, the religious and political communities inevitably overlap with one another. 
Using Max Weber’s notion of “value spheres,” we can put this somewhat more formally: liberal secularists believe that the religious and political spheres should be radically separated; religious nationalists believe that they should be tightly integrated; and civil religionists believe that they should be overlapping but independent. [...]

one of the fundamental challenges confronting all modern democracies, perhaps particularly the United States, is achieving and maintaining the appropriate balance between pluralism and solidarity. Excessive pluralism, whether of an individualistic or a sectarian variety, impedes the level of social cooperation that is necessary to the achievement of the common good and individual flourishing (libertarian opposition to health-care reform is merely the most topical example). Conversely, excessive solidarity, whether of a racial or national variety, squelches the cultural pluralism and individual autonomy that are the wellsprings of societal adaptation and creativity. If we accept this premise, then we must reject radical secularism and religious nationalism, at least in their extreme forms. The one leads to excessive pluralism; the other to excessive solidarity.

Now, there are plenty of people who would agree about the need to balance pluralism and solidarity, but who would disagree that civil religion is a necessary means to this end.

  • First, there are non-theistic neo-Kantian rationalists—such as RawlsHabermas, andAudi—who would be somewhat uneasy about the religious dimension of civil religion. 
  • Then, there are theistic neo-Aristotelian confessionalists—such as MacIntyreYoder, and Hauerwas—who would be somewhat uneasy about the civil dimension of civil religion.  
But each critique supplies an answer to the other. For example, the rationalists often assert that certain abstract principles and formal procedures, such as “communicative rationality” or “public reason,” are sufficient means to the ethical aims of a civic republic such as the United States. But they are also compelled to admit that civic virtue and civic friendship are necessary as well.

Virtue and friendship, however, cannot be founded on abstract principles or formal procedures. Rather, as the neo-Aristotelians have repeatedly and rightly insisted, they can only be sustained within narrative communities. But the neo-Aristotelians are also neo-confessionalists who worry that civic engagement undermines religious community. In Hauerwas’s phrase, the job of the church is to be the church. A politically engaged church, he implies, cannot be a narratively authentic church because it must compromise its first principles for the sake of political expediency. 

The fatal flaw in this position is the assumption that an agreement on principles of political justice can only be founded on an agreement on foundational principles of justice. This is not the case. As John Rawls has recently shown, and as Jacques Maritain showed long before him, divergence of first principles of justice does not preclude convergence on political principles of justice, such as human rights or social solidarity. The same might be said about civic narratives. One can embrace the American creed for different reasons, both secular and sacred: natural law, Kantian ethics, covenant theology, neo-Romanism, and so on.