Posts Tagged “haryana”

Followers of Indian religious leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh throw stones at security forces during clashes after the controversial guru was convicted of rape in Panchkula, Aug. 25, 2017. Getty photo, via CBS NewsA lot of people in the US, where I live, have a lot of preconceptions about India. Many of them view that country through the lens of some of its most famous figures … in particular, Mahatma Gandhi. There’s no doubt that Gandhi left his mark on the world; he instigated India’s independence from British rule, and in the process showed that civil disobedience and non-violent resistance could change history. A lot of Americans, therefore, tend to view India as a land of pacifists.

It’d be nice if the world’s second-largest country by population were actually a collection of pacifists, but that’s not so. I don’t say that to denigrate India. I only say that, because that’s just how humanity is: Pacifism, in the long run, is the exception rather than the rule — by far! An example of how things really are in India made itself evident, as CBS News reports, just a few days ago, with catastrophic consequences (Archive.Is cached article):

At least 30 people were killed and more than 200 injured in violence in the two Indian states of Haryana and Punjab after a court convicted a spiritual guru of rape, incensing his loyal followers to riot.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted Friday of raping two women 15 years ago, but an estimated 100,000 of his followers had already gathered in the town of Panchkula, in Haryana, ahead of the verdict.

The violence left at least 30 people dead and more than 200 others wounded, Haryana state government officials told CBS News.…

When the guilty verdict was announced, the gathered members of Singh’s sect clashed with police and paramilitary forces, set several buildings and part of a gas station on fire and attacked television news crews. Several government offices were also reportedly vandalized by followers of the so-called “godman.”

This “guru” is extremely popular, and influential, in spite of the charges against him or (now) his conviction:

In a show of strength, the guru, who heads the powerful Dera Sacha Sauda sect, arrived to court in Panchkula on Friday in a 200-car cavalcade. He has featured in a number of self-produced movies where he has played the lead character, of a messiah.

India is home to many gurus like Singh, some of whom amass followings in the millions, and who become incredibly wealthy in the process.

I suppose these “gurus” might be a rough equivalent of American megapastors or televangelists … perhaps. Maybe. At any rate, it’s sickening to see this kind of religious loyalty turn into mayhem and death. Americans’ visions of India as a paradise of deep, abiding spirituality clearly is unjustified. As I’ve said many, many, many, many times … all metaphysics is liable to lead to extremes. All of them! No matter what kind. It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. Many people erroneously think religious extremism comes only from the Abrahamic religions of Islam and Christianity. It’s true those two do lead to a lot of militancy and violence … but that doesn’t mean other religious milieus, such as the dharmic faiths that saturate India, don’t lead to extremes, either.

Photo credit: Getty photo, via CBS News.

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Hindu god brandishing a swordI blogged a couple years ago on this, and again a few times since, but it bears repeating: Religious violence is not limited to the sphere of the Abrahamic faiths. Sure, we tend to associate “religious violence” with things like the Crusades, the killings of abortion doctors, the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, and the Palestinian conflict, and so on. We sometimes assume, therefore, that religions outside of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic realm are “peaceful” by contrast. That India is home to famous pacifists like Mahatma Gandhi and the Jainist religion may fool us into thinking that country, with its Hindu majority, is not prone to religious violence.

But that’s just not true.

Several people were recently convicted for their roles in a Hinduism-motivated honor killing there, as the Washington Post reports (WebCite cached article):

No one in this village visits Chanderpati Banwala’s home, which stands at the end of a lane full of sleeping buffaloes and overturned wooden carts. The boycott began three years ago when her son eloped with his sweetheart, a neighbor from his clan.

But the marriage was short-lived. Village elders declared the relationship incestuous, a violation of ancient Hindu rules of marriage because the two were descendants of a common ancestor who lived thousands of years ago. As the couple tried to flee town, the young woman’s family chased them down and dragged them out of a bus on a busy highway. The groom, Manoj, was strangled, and his bride, Babli, was forced to drink pesticide. Their bodies were dumped in a canal. …

Despite pressure from villagers to remain quiet, Banwala took the case to court here in the northern state of Haryana. In March, five defendants were sentenced to death, the first time in India that capital punishment has been ordered in an honor killing.

This is, of course, far from anomalous:

Last year, officials in [the state of] Haryana recorded about 100 honor killings of young people caught in the war between clan, caste, culture and cupid. Banwala’s case is the first honor-killing trial to secure a verdict, although a similar trial is underway. In that case, four people are accused of beating and hacking a young man to death with sticks, sickles and scythes last year after he married a woman from a neighboring village, a relationship villagers also regarded as incest.

Unfortunately a lot of folks are unrepentant about this and consider “honor killings” of this sort a good thing and are openly advocating them:

In villages across northern India, the landmark verdict sparked an uproar, with clan councils fiercely defending prohibitions on unions within the same clan or gotra, a Sanskrit word, which each clan uses to trace its lineage. To these villagers, romantic love breaches codes passed down many generations.

“Manoj and Babli rubbed our village’s name in mud,” said Gulab Singh, a 60-year-old farmer, inhaling on a gurgling water pipe in a cattle shelter with other men in Banwala’s village. “For thousands of years, we have followed strict marriage rules. If my son transgresses these rules, I will kill him without a thought.”

The next time anyone suggests to you that it’s only the “religions of faith” (i.e. the Abrahamic religions) which are prone to religious violence, you can now explain otherwise. The truth is that all religions can cause things like this to happen.

Hat tip: Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Photo credit: ncracker.

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