Posts Tagged “india”

Dalit demonstrators shout slogans and protest in the Indian capital New Delhi, on January 3, 2018. / CNNTo a large extent, the occidental world views India through the lenses of Mahatma Gandhi, the man who used civil disobedience to lead his land to independence, and inspired many others to use that same tactic elsewhere. Also, India is home to a number of movements and sects which are famous for being pacifists; Buddhism, for example, originated there, as did Jainism, whose adherents sometimes go as far as to brush the ground as they walk so as to ensure they don’t step even on the tiniest insect.

The West has an often-idealistic view of India which, unfortunately, doesn’t coincide with reality — which is that India is more or less as violent as any other nation on earth. It’d be wonderful if it weren’t so; if India were in fact a grandly sacred land full of deeply spiritual people who’d never harm a fly; but that’s just not how it is. I don’t mean to say this as a specific condemnation of India: Human nature being what it is, it can’t really be any other way. India’s people have the same human nature as the folk of every other country.

As an example of this, as CNN reports, recently India has been rocked by protests and assorted violence, over its ancient caste system (Archive.Is cached version):

Security forces were out in full force in India’s financial capital Mumbai this week, as members of the country’s low-caste Dalit community demonstrated against alleged violence by right-wing Hindus.

The unrest was concentrated in suburban areas on the outskirts of India’s largest city, which also saw transport disruptions.

There were also sporadic protests across the state of Maharashtra, which Mumbai is located in.

These Right-wing Hindus were responding to protests by the Dalits, aka “the Untouchables”:

It all began when tens of thousands of Dalits, who rank at the bottom of India’s ancient Hindu caste hierarchy, gathered in the village of Bhima Koregaon, 170 kilometers (105 miles) outside of Mumbai, on New Year’s day to celebrate the 200th anniversary of a battle in which British colonial forces staffed with local Dalit fighters defeated a numerically superior army belonging to upper caste rulers of the region.

In the years since, many Dalits have come to regard the battle as an important historical moment when their community stood up against oppressive higher caste Hindus.

This year, Dalit activists claim that the annual commemoration was interrupted by right wing Hindu nationalists, who they say threw rocks at the gathering.

The situation deteriorated as riots broke out and two men died in the chaos, according to local media [cached].

CNN goes on to provide background for the Dalits’ protests and an oh-so-very-brief overview of the caste system itself. In the process, CNN mentions that the caste system is explicitly outlawed in India’s Constitution, but the article does not explain how deeply ingrained it is within India’s chief religion, Hinduism. In that religion, people reincarnate, via karma, into particular stations in life, i.e. their dharma, and hence into their castes. In Hindu tradition, and in the minds of some modern-day Hindus, the Dalits are “untouchables” — fit only for the lowliest jobs and the objects of societal oppression — because of this. To treat the Dalits any other way violates dharma. Thus, Right-wing Hindus view treating “the untouchables” as their equals in a democratic system as profane or even blasphemous.

It’s time for everyone to realize the very-real harm that religion inflicts on people … not just the Abrahamic faiths, which which most in the West are familiar, but the Dharmic faiths as well.

Photo credit: CNN.

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Chaurasi Devataon-wali Gai, or 'The Cow with 84 deities' by Raja Ravi Varma / Ravi Varma Press (1897, Life: 1848-1906) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsFor the second time in a few days, I came across a story of religious excess in the supposedly-highly-spiritual country of India. For the last couple years, sanctimonious Hindu nationalists have attacked beef-eating Muslims. Among many Hindus, cattle are sacred or divine or something, for some reason. It hasn’t always been this way, of course. In ancient times, Hindus had no objection to butchering and eating cows, however, this changed sometime in the middle of the first millennium CE (Archive.Is cached article). It’s usually attributed to the spread of non-violence in Indian culture, although it’s difficult to really say that India ever became non-violent; and other forms of livestock continued to be butchered and eaten. Only cattle was reserved as divine or sacred or whatever. So that doesn’t exactly fly as an explanation.

At any rate, while Hindus comprise a majority of India, there are religious minorities there, especially Muslims, who do consume cattle. (By contrast, they refuse to eat swine. Go figure.) This has aroused the ire of Hindu extremists, who don’t want anyone consuming cattle. That fervent impulse has led to the rise of “cow protection” rackets, and violence has ensued — especially after the election of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi in 2014.

Modi’s government has been accused of dragging its feet where Hindu nationalist violence is concerned. As Reuters reports, India’s Supreme Court has directed the government to intervene meaningfully (cached):

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered central and state governments to appoint police officers to stop hardline Hindu activists from attacking people to protect cows….…

Chief Justice Dipak Misra said federal and state governments must take effective steps to contain the cow-protection groups.

“Appoint police officers to stop cow protection groups from taking law into their hands,” Misra said after hearing three public interest litigation cases.

Reuters notes that Modi did speak out against “cow protection” violence in June, but the Court’s directions would suggest that hasn’t been sufficient.

As I’ve noted previously, India is not the pacifist, spiritual paradise many westerners think it is. Quite the opposite, it’s home to more than a little primitive savagery. And religious extremism isn’t limited just to the Abrahamic religions. As we see, it can be — and is — found within the dharmic faiths, as well.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

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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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SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL, OOTY, via Diocese of Ootacamund Web siteFor a while now, I’ve blogged about the Roman Catholic Church’s assertion that priestly pedophilia is a “historical phenomenon” (i.e. a relic of the past). Five years ago the American bishops commissioned a report which reached this conclusion, and used those very words. But that’s not the case. Even at that time — and now — it remains a continuing problem.

As if to underscore this, as well as to demonstrate, once again, that it doesn’t take this problem seriously, a diocese in India — at the Vatican’s urging — has reinstated a priest there who’d molested children while he was posted to a Minnesota church. CBS News reports on their reprehensible maneuver (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic church in southern India has lifted the suspension of a priest convicted last year of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the United States more than a decade ago, a spokesman said Saturday.

The suspension of the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul [cached] was lifted last month after the bishop of the Ootacamund Diocese in India’s Tamil Nadu state consulted with church authorities at the Vatican, said the Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the diocese.

Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of Ootacamund had referred Jeyapaul’s case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the suspension was lifted on the church body’s advice, Selvanathan said.

The article briefly describes the particulars of this case … but even this is enough to make one’s skin crawl:

Jeyapaul was sent to Minnesota in 2004 and served at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, near the Canadian border.

He was suspended in 2010 after being charged with sexually assaulting two girls who were both 14 at the time of the alleged abuse.

Jeyapaul fled the United States, but was arrested in India by Interpol in 2012 [cached] and extradited to the U.S. Jeyapaul pleaded guilty to molesting one of the teenagers who hasn’t been identified publicly. The charges involving sexual abuse of the second teenager, Megan Peterson, were dropped as part of a plea deal.

Peterson accused Jeyapaul of raping her in his office in a statement posted under her name on the website of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which has advocated for victims’ rights.

It’s clear the Vatican and the global hierarchy of the Church simply don’t take this seriously. As I’ve documented many times over the years, they consistently and repeatedly have blamed the worldwide priestly-pedophilia scandal on anything and everything other than themselves or the abusive priests. In some cases, they don’t even view the abuse as unacceptable or criminal in the first place. In others they view accusations of abuse by their clergy as fabrications woven by any number of bogeymen (ranging from “masonic secularists” to gays or homosexuality generally to Pope-haters to the Forces of Darkness to the Jews) intended to “bring down” God’s holy Church. In still others, they believe the victims somehow coerced clergy into abusing them.

The hierarchy staunchly and petulantly refuses to accept it’s done anything wrong by protecting and supporting abusive priests. No excuse is too ridiculous to offer, in their effort to justify this refusal.

Photo credit: Diocese of Ootacamund Web site.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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Better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth, and remove all doubt! (proverb) / PsiCop original graphicThe endless parade of expressions of “disaster theology” used by Christianists continues apace. It’s ridiculous, and childish, and a low thing to do (i.e. exploiting bad things that happen in order to make one’s own religion look good), but they just fucking love to do it! The latest is a particularly classy example (and of course, I’m being sarcastic). As Raw Story explains, well-known evangelist Ray Comfort was almost giddy to hear about a catastrophe that took place recently in India (WebCite cached article):

A creationist pastor mocked Hindus who were killed or injured when a religious idol fell on them as they worshipped.

One man was killed and three people were injured [cached] when a statue of the elephant god Ganesh collapsed during a worship service last month in India, and a video of the tragedy was circulated and widely reported last week.

Ray Comfort — who is probably best known for arguing that bananas disproved evolution, at least until he learned that they were the products of artificial selection by humans — posted a link to an article about the tragedy and urged his followers to donate to his Living Waters ministry.

“The Bible says that those who worship dumb idols, are just like them,” Comfort posted on his Facebook page [cached]. “How India needs the gospel! But we don’t have to go there to take it to them. We have the Internet.”

Comfort’s fans quickly picked up what he was laying down and praised God’s wrathful judgment.

Yeah, I guess that’s what those “dumb” Hindus deserve, eh? To be injured or killed by their own statute?

By the way, Comfort miscomprehends the words of the Bible. The only verses I could find that mentions “dumb idols,” in any English translation, are Habakkuk 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 12:2 in the King James Version:

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? (Hab 2:18)

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. (1 Cor 12:2)

But most English translations, especially the better recent ones, don’t use “dumb.” For instance, the New American Standard Version has:

What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols. (Hab 2:18)

You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. (1 Cor 12:2)

Neither verse says that worshippers of “dumb” idols (as Comfort put it) is “dumb” (and by that, I assume, he means “stupid”) are themselves “dumb.” What’s more, the original Greek of the 1 Corinthians passage, which I happen to understand, is:

οιδτε οτι οτε εθνη ητε προς τα ειδωλα τα αφωνα ως αν ηγεσθε απαγομενοι

oidate oti ethné éte pros ta eidóla ta afóna ós an égesthe apagomenoi (1 Cor 12:2)

The word quoted by Comfort, and translated by the KJV team, as “dumb” is afóna, a form of afónos, which means “silent” (the negation prefix a- followed by the Greek word for “sound,” which came into English in words such as “telephone” and “phonograph”). Granted, the word “dumb” in English did, in the King James era and also now in an older usage, mean “speechless” (for instance, in the expression “deaf and dumb”). Comfort ought to have known better … especially since — among other things — he claims to be a Bible scholar.

At any rate, one can see what Christianists like Comfort, as well as many of those who commented on his Facebook posting, really think of non-Christians. Really nice, huh?

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on proverb.

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Kashmiri protesters burn an effigy of President Barack Obama during a protest in Srinagar, India, 13 Sept. 2010. Indian forces battled protesters in the disputed territory during demonstrations fueled in part by a report of the Quran being desecrated in the United States.I’ve already blogged on the Muslim world’s immature response to the raging immaturity of Qur’an desecration that various elements of the Religious Right, including Randall Terry, have engaged in. The sanctimonious outrage has actually ramped up and spread, this time to the Kashmir province of India, as Voice of American reports (WebCite cached article):

In Indian Kashmir 14 people have been killed and 45 injured in some of the deadliest violence witnessed in the region since mass demonstrations against Indian rule erupted three months ago.

Officials say several people were killed when police fired on hundreds of Muslim protesters who set fire to a Christian missionary school and some government buildings in Tangmarg and Budgam districts in Indian Kashmir.

Officials say the protests were partly fueled by reports on an Iranian state-run channel that a Quran had been damaged in the United States during the weekend.

Obviously, 14 people needed to die for al-Lah, because the Qur’an was desecrated! It goes without saying that lives must be destroyed because of that. Al-Lah demands nothing less!

(All right, so the preceding paragraph was sarcastic. Of course lives should not be lost due to any kind of metaphysical event!)

Yes, folks, the Muslim world continues to try to prove the Religious Right when it condemns Islam as a violent religion. Trust me, this will only feed the flames of Neocrusade here in the US. And in response the militant Christians in the US will surge forward in their Neocrusade against Islam here.

Note to religious believers, especially Christians and Muslims: By all means, keep up the mayhem. Go ahead, keep going with the schoolyard objection that “It’s not our fault, they started it!” All it does is prove that the whole bunch of you are just a bunch of self-righteous crybabies, engaged in a massive worldwide pissing contest over whose god is bigger than whose. At the same time that theists like yourselves claim that your religious beliefs make you morally superior, you are — ironically — demonstrating yourselves (rather conclusively) to be, instead, morally inferior. Just grow the fuck up and get over it already!

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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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