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Goethals News Bulletin
Goethals Indian Library & Research Society, Kolkata
Vol. X I No. 4 Bulletin  October-December 2008

News Update | Articles | Researchers | New Arrivals | Mails & Emails


Secularism
Fr. J Felix Raj, SJ

Indian secularism is subverted by over zealous communalists. They dig into the Scriptures and Holy Books and concoct falsity in order to attack the minorities. It is a dangerous move, a move that could take us to the darkest period of the middle Ages.

Today we live in a global context of secularism and democracy. In the last hundred years, secularism has come to be accepted as an alternative to religious orthodoxy and fundamentalist ideology. Secularism, we know, is lived and practiced in diverse ways in different countries. There cannot be one, homogenous way of practicing it. A secular state is one that allows its citizens to profess and practice their respective faiths freely and fearlessly. Secular state does not interfere with the religious and spiritual affairs of the people. It should respect all religions equally. It should not prefer one to the other.

Secularism in India is different from the western concept of the state in confrontation with the Church. Indian secularism was born out of an experience, a painful process of national liberation struggles. The Fathers of our Constitution had reasons to introduce secularism in our country: fear of disorder arising from dangerous forces of political movements associated with militant Hindu nationalism, Muslim separatism, Hindu-Muslim communalism and so on. Nehru condemned casteism and communalism. He observed that communalism was fascism in India and favoured secularism. For him, secularism was necessarily a civilized behaviour. This was to transcend religious, cultural, caste differences and combat militant communalist forces.

Human civilization has brought into focus the significance of secular ideals, and there is a growing consciousness to support and nurture this type of societies. Today almost all the countries in the world have come to accept that secularism is sine qua non-for democratic governance. To establish a peaceful and just society, secularist principles and democratic polity are indispensable.

All true religions have an immense potential for tolerance. Each religious community claims that theirs is the most tolerant religion of our time. Their claim is true so long as they recognize other religions as different ways leading to the same goal. Tolerance is a normative value, yes, but it is not an answer to the fundamentalist danger to unity and integrity of our country. In today's context what we need is to affirm and perpetuate:

  1. Rootedness of every believer in his/her religion;

  2. Acceptance of the other and his/her religious belief and practice;

  3. On going dialogues between religions at various levels

These are the principles that will pave the way for a healthy atmosphere of respect, tolerance and acceptance of each other, of each religious tradition and enable us to live together as Indians in peace and harmony.

It is time now for all academicians, thinkers, philosophers, theologians and the like to come out openly and speak out against the dangers of fundamentalism and its offshoots of disorder, and undo, with the weapon of their wisdom, all that has gone wrong. Politicians in my opinion are not capable of doing this job. All that they normally seek after is power and for power they justify any means. If the age of Enlightenment and of Science has brought changes in the west, our intervention at this juncture will definitely put the wheels of our country on the right track.

"When Nazis put communists in the concentration camp, I did not protest because I was not a communist; when they persecuted the social democrats, I did not protest because I was not a social democrat; When they massacred the Jews, I did not protest because I was not a Jew; When they banned all political parties and trade unions, I did not protest because I was not one of them; when they came for me, there was no one to speak for me."

German Bishop Niemoler

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Diversity to Divisiveness
Sweta Ghosh

Modernity, today, is the only language of aspiration. While we are informed of themes such as de-tribalization, de-traditionalization, or even de-industrialization, the theme de-modernization has not yet entered the lexicon of contemporary discourse. Several centuries of modernity has, of course, gained tremendous consensus, yet the term modernity continues to retain enormous amount of ‘halo’.

Modernity has involved, in course of its development, transformations that has enabled its sustenance and perseverance in the face of formidable challenges. One such transformation is increasing uprooting of individuals, communities, societies from their histories and enforcing compulsive conformity to the requirements of modernity. Moreover, in the process of uprooting and denial of histories, new histories and new consciousness have been creatively invented so as to perpetuate the needs of modernity and essentialize it.

The new consciousness that has been so meticulously crafted has involved a significant suspicion of one another so that in the ambience of mutual suspicion, the agenda of modernity can be pursued at the cost of one another. Any situation of collective resistance against the interest of modernity is carefully dissipated or eliminated. Hence, suspicion, distrust, lack of faith in one another, systematically programmed and fomented against individuals and communities in connivance with political institutions, have all given rise to the phenomenon of communalism, not only in India but also in several other parts of the world. Communalism expresses itself in both violent and non-violent manner, but the whole phenomenon is founded and grounded on mutual suspicion and distrust that is capable of corroding the essence of all society.

Diversity has been the hallmark of human society from its inception. Human civilization of the past that were also modern by contemporary standards have all thrived on this essence of this diversity. However, post Enlightenment modernity has stumbled upon this diversity largely under the impact of capitalism. Hence, modernity, during this period, had to contend with and ultimately contest against diversity. In the interest of capitalism this variant of modernity had to build its artifice on standardization and uniformity. For this, all forms of diversities had to be contested, both violently as well as non-violently through cultural institutions.

In fact, diversities had to be transformed under compulsive situation of capitalist economy and polity, the diversities had to be made divisive. And divisiveness could be best fostered through politics of hate : hate for others on the basis of invented and contrived histories. Communalism is this process of transforming diversities into divisiveness. Constructing categories of ‘we’ and ‘others’ fits in to this project of modernity. Communalism is therefore the agenda of modernity by inscribing ‘otherness’ into identity thereby fostering hate. Communal violence is the expression of hate for others essentialized for the purpose of capitalist modernity.

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Communal Carnage
Saswati Chaudhuri

The communal carnage in Gujarat, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh led many to re-examine the existing explanations of the various causative factors of religious conflagrations. Pre-independence, the British organized communal violence with the sole motive of "divide and rule". Post-­independence, communal violence is organized for a complete different set of reasons, as outlined below:

  1. The Indian economy was hit by the waves of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization in the early 90s. The Indian people resisted this move and “communal violence” was an apt instrument used to weaken this so-called resistance of the Indian people.

  2. Communal violence is used as a diversion from the basic problems facing the people. It helps the ruling class to create an atmosphere of anxiety and diversion. It creates fear and cynicism and depoliticizes people, and then the ruling circle can do whatever they wish.

  3. To weaken the movement against POTO, communal violence is used to turn political and economic problem into law and order problem.

  4. Communal card is played by various sections of the ruling class to secure their vote bank and incite hatred amongst the people based on these differences to consolidate their position.

  5. This anarchy and violence also suits USA in view of its ambition to dominate Asia. In their geopolitics they also want to use Hindu India against China and Pakistan and other Islamic countries.

The only way out of these dastardly acts is empowering the people after making them conscious of their rights and duties. The Indian society has to undergo a process of thorough renewal of its democratic set-up. The above points are prescribed as it is becoming increasingly clear that the Indian State is incapable of defending its own people and also their interests. Peace in the Indian Society will cease to exist and it will continue to shift from crisis to crisis, if the political process and the relevant institution of the present Indian State are not renewed. “Well-being of all" has to be the basis of the new system of governance. Nothing less than this will suffice.

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Communal Violence - A Virus
Dr. Sanjib Kumar Basu

Humankind demands the realization of diverse values to ensure their individual and collective well being. It is also observed that certain communal forces in society engage in exploitation, oppression, persecution, and other forms of deprivation resulting in disturbing communal harmony. Based on these observations are the beginnings of what today are called "human rights" and the legal processes, national and international, associated with them.

Communal riots have become the fate of India, thanks to our politicians and their selfish interests. And ironically most of the riots are engineered by those politicians who claim to be most patriotic. Their patriotism is designed to win power by propagating hate politics against minority communities.

Assam and other north eastern states generally experience ethnic violence but not so much communal violence. Last year there were hardly any incidents of communal violence in this zone. Also, West Bengal was free of major communal incidents. Since the left front government has taken over, West Bengal has been free of communal violence. Bihar too, has not seen major riots. Thus it is clear that if governments are determined to curb communal violence it can be effectively checked.

The Question is why communal violence? The British officials clearly state the reason why they needed it: Divide and Rule. Communal violence was organised by the British because it provided them a pretext to further suppress the people and declare that it was not the colonial rule that was the cause of the problems of the Indian people, but that religion was the problem, and blamed the victims and their religions for the situation created by the colonial rule, and said that it is the policy of the British to be fair and pursue a Secular policy to " do justice to all religious communities."

Thus communal violence was institutionalized in the state structures, used to weaken the unity and resistance of the people and used as a pretext to further attack them and cause diversions. The British colonialists had already perfected this in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They had used religion as an instrument to divide the people there and establish their domination.

This communal nature of the institutions and state structure did not change with the transfer of power in 1947 and this transfer of power itself was done in the midst of a communal carnage. The ruling circles continued the same state and same policy, as it also suited them on both sides of the border. The Indian state as well as the Pakistani state continued the same institutions and policies, causing more divisions and violence amongst people on the basis of religion, language, caste, national background etc. In "Secular and Socialist India" between 1961-1970 there were 7964 incidents of communal violence, killing thousands of people. In the last three decades this number has skyrocketed. In the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" thousands of Bengalis, Sindhis, Balochis, Ahmadiyas, Shias and others have been slaughtered.

Describing communal violence as a virus that threatens the secular fabric of the country, Prime Minister, Dr. Monmohan Singh said it needed to be checked in time, "otherwise our multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-caste society could well unravel.” With the "globalization" of terror, he cautioned that the scale of terrorist incidents could only grow in the future. We must learn a lesson and leave behind communal hatred and instill true patriotism in the minds of our youth. Patriotism does not lie in loving only territory but all the people of the country as well and respecting their right to dignified existence. If we want to be proud of our past let us be proud of philosophy of Upanishads, compassion of Buddha, love from the Bible and justice and benevolence from the Koran. Let us bury the hatchet of Mandir-Masjid conflicts forever.

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Communal Demon over our shoulders
Amitava Roy

India once stood tall in the annals of postcolonial nations. This great nation managed to avoid the dictatorships that befell so many of its neighbour’s inspite of poverty, great inequality, and a vast population. India’s democracy, now encompassing a billion people, may have been maddeningly slow to reform, but at least it was resilient. Governments rose and fell, new participants swelled the ranks of the political elite, and the middle class kept expanding. Although the country's many religious, linguistic, and caste groups frequently squabbled - and sometimes exploded into violence - they also coexisted. The country epitomised “UNITY IN DIVERSITY”.

Many multiethnic countries underwent violent breakups leading to ethnically homogeneous states. On the other hand, India appeared to have pulled off that unlikely feat: maintaining a pluralist administration under a secular government. In its first fifteen years of independence alone, India created eleven new states based on linguistic and cultural identity and also implemented a broad system of affirmative action to redress traditional discrimination. The rulers proved surprisingly responsive to diverse ethnic and minority claims when compared to other developing nations, and even some developed ones. This record, combined with India’s emergence as an economic powerhouse led many in the international community - and indeed, many Indians themselves - to view the country as a force for stability in a volatile region.

The communal demon is, however, once again looking over our shoulders. India is beginning to suffer from the same kind of communal convulsion that has ravaged so many multiethnic countries in recent years. It has been officially reported that hundreds of people have been perished in the communal violence in various states. Unofficial sources point out that thousands of people may have been massacred. This is not new to India. These massacres were organised and not spontaneous and on many occasions sponsored overtly by the state.

Lord Canning had expressed the view: "… As we must rule 150 million of people by a handful (more or less small) of Englishmen, let us do it in the manner best calculated to leave them divided (as in religion and national feeling they already are) and to inspire them with the greatest possible awe of our power and with the least possible suspicion of our motives." The genesis of communal violence in India today is different. Communal violence today is being organised for the following reasons:

  1. To weaken the resistance of our people against neo-liberal globalisation.

  2. Use it as a diversion from basic problems facing the people.

  3. Sort out conflicts amongst various sections of the ruling elite themselves for the control of the state and resources.

  4. It helps in “vote bank” politics.

Today the words of Pandit Nehru seem to haunt us like prophesy, though he had made the statement on a different occasion, Gandhiji’s death - “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere”.

What is the Way Out? Democratic renewal of Indian society and empowerment of the people is the way forward. The present Indian state, the political process and all the institutions need to be renewed and renovated by people themselves and only then they can resolve this crisis in their favour. Besides this such conflicts are highly localized, and so any one wave of violence has limited potential to spread across the country. And second, India's complex polity is made up of a range of constituencies with cross-cutting interests in which linguistic or caste affinities often supersede religious loyalty. But inspite of this there is very little place for complacency. We must find a political solution to this. It is thus an opportune time to build the unity of all those who are raising their voices against the communalism of the Indian state. We must build unity in action of all those forces for democratic renewal and unite all those who are fighting against communal violence of the Indian state irrespective of their religious and political views or affiliation.

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Communal Violence
Dr. Chandrani Biswas

"Peace hath her victories, no less renowned than war", Milton had, written in a mood of meditative contemplation. Yet much of the metaphysical significance of the concept of peace seems to have been lost in a war-torn world where fear stalks in the hearts of one and all. As the world marches forth into the technological wonders of the twenty-first century, India remains enmeshed in a maze of petty political interests and fundamentalist forces. Every alternate day one is exposed to the atrocities of diverse forms of violence in the electronic or print media. There are mass scale acts of terrorist infiltration, indescribable acts of communal violence and sporadic acts of individual violence. Whatever be the nature and context of violence, the very essence of it involves an all-encompassing sense of insecurity, mistrust and uncertainty.

India has traditionally been the torch bearer of peace in many ways, reflecting its tolerance in political ideology such as the Panchsheel, secularist approach and democratic structure of peaceful co-existence of diverse communities, ethnic and linguistic groups, religious and cultural sub-groups. Yet the country has also witnessed the alarming rise of fundamentalist forces which have channelised their strength towards the annihilation of innocent people, institutions and religious groups. Instances may be cited from the communal massacre in Gujarat, the in-human Killing of Steins family in Orissa, sudden attacks on Christian missionaries in different parts of the country and the deplorable carnage inside places of worship to the extent of destroying the crucifix in certain places in Southern India. All these incidents are symbolically representative of a sense of intolerance manifested in every facet of life - religious intolerance, cultural and linguistic intolerance. It is however unarguable that this intolerance is fundamentally against the basis and rubric of Indian social fabric. It is the manifesto of a few political groups who aim to destroy the harmony of the nation at the cost of their fundamentalist aspirations.

The way to combat such evil designs is to steadily build up healthy public opinions, muster up secular forces in youth programmes, instill a sense of patriotism and faith in nationalist culture that emphasizes the concepts of communal harmony and exchange of knowledge about other cultural groups. It is not adequate to restrict one's knowledge to the culture and religious beliefs of one's community but to let the individual from his formative years be exposed to the rich diversity of other cultures and other religious faiths in order to respect the alternative view of things. Every Indian citizen has to consider the social habits, cultural and religious practices of the other person in and outside his community as an integral part of the holistic and broader structure of Indian culture. It may sound idealistic but only if we can equip ourselves with this Pan-Indian vision can we aspire towards a society free from disharmony and inequalities in every sense of the term.

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Diversity to Divisiveness
Sweta Ghosh

Modernity, today, is the only language of aspiration. While we are informed of themes such as de-tribalization, de-traditionalization, or even de-industrialization, the theme de-modernization has not yet entered the lexicon of contemporary discourse. Several centuries of modernity has, of course, gained tremendous consensus, yet the term modernity continues to retain enormous amount of ‘halo’.

Modernity has involved, in course of its development, transformations that has enabled its sustenance and perseverance in the face of formidable challenges. One such transformation is increasing uprooting of individuals, communities, societies from their histories and enforcing compulsive conformity to the requirements of modernity. Moreover, in the process of uprooting and denial of histories, new histories and new consciousness have been creatively invented so as to perpetuate the needs of modernity and essentialize it.

The new consciousness that has been so meticulously crafted has involved a significant suspicion of one another so that in the ambience of mutual suspicion, the agenda of modernity can be pursued at the cost of one another. Any situation of collective resistance against the interest of modernity is carefully dissipated or eliminated. Hence, suspicion, distrust, lack of faith in one another, systematically programmed and fomented against individuals and communities in connivance with political institutions, have all given rise to the phenomenon of communalism, not only in India but also in several other parts of the world. Communalism expresses itself in both violent and non-violent manner, but the whole phenomenon is founded and grounded on mutual suspicion and distrust that is capable of corroding the essence of all society.

Diversity has been the hallmark of human society from its inception. Human civilization of the past that were also modern by contemporary standards have all thrived on this essence of this diversity. However, post Enlightenment modernity has stumbled upon this diversity largely under the impact of capitalism. Hence, modernity, during this period, had to contend with and ultimately contest against diversity. In the interest of capitalism this variant of modernity had to build its artifice on standardization and uniformity. For this, all forms of diversities had to be contested, both violently as well as non-violently through cultural institutions.

In fact, diversities had to be transformed under compulsive situation of capitalist economy and polity, the diversities had to be made divisive. And divisiveness could be best fostered through politics of hate : hate for others on the basis of invented and contrived histories. Communalism is this process of transforming diversities into divisiveness. Constructing categories of ‘we’ and ‘others’ fits in to this project of modernity. Communalism is therefore the agenda of modernity by inscribing ‘otherness’ into identity thereby fostering hate. Communal violence is the expression of hate for others essentialized for the purpose of capitalist modernity.

Lectures by Fr. Felix Raj, SJ

  • On “Economic Development” and “Global Scenario” at Canisius College, Buffallo, October 8-28, 2008.

  • On “Fundamentalism and Violence in India’ at Fordham University, New York, October 30, 2008.

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Jesuit economic association of India (JEAI)

The first meeting of the JEAI will be held on December 20-21, 2008 at Loyola College, Chennai. The local convener is Fr. A.G. Leonard of Loyola College. It is expected to discuss the vision, objectives, structure and other modalities of the Association.

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New Arrivals

Agrarian Structure, Movements and Peasant Organisations in India by Boudhayan Chattopadhyay, V.V. Giri National Labour Institute, Delhi, 2004.

Compendium - Catechism of the Catholic Church (Bengali) by J. Englebert S.J. (tr), Khristapujan Kendra, Kolkata, 2008.

India and China 1904-2004 by B. R. Deepak, Manak Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2005.

Mother Teresa by Navin Chawla, Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2002.

Myths, Saints and Legends in Medieval India by Charlotte Vaudeville, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1999.

Poverty & Poverty Alleviation by Divya Nigam, The Associated Publishers, Delhi, 2006.

Rejoice - Selected Texts of St Paul (Bengali) by Charles Delhez, Prabhu Jisu Girja, Kolkata, 2008.

Sikkim, Darjeeling, Bhutan - A Guide and Handbook by Rajesh Verma, Narendra Bhatia and Co., New Delhi, 2006.

Society, Culture and Religion (Vol. I & II) by Vandana Sharma, Vista International Publishing House, Delhi, 2006.

The Great Andamanese and the Onges by S. K. Biswas, Abhijeet Publications, Delhi, 2008.

Thoti Tribe of Andhra Pradesh by A. M. Elizabeth and K. N. Saraswathy, Abhijeet Publications, Delhi, 2004.

Tribal Children by Manorama Mishra, Classical Publishing Co., New Delhi, 2007.

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Researchers at the Goethals

Bijoy Mardi, Nadia, on History of the Mughals.

Deepti Myriam Joseph, Kolkata, on Writings of Women and Women Missionaries in 19th century.

Indrani Dasgupta, Kolkata, on Christmas during British period

Prieti Murmu, Kolkata, on Adivasi Languages & Folklore.

Subesh Singha Roy, Kolkata, on Foreign University.

Titas Chakraborty, USA, University of Pittsburgh, on History

Vellut Sebastien, Belgium, on South Indian Architecture.

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Mails & Emails

I am very happy to learn about Heritage Churches which was quite interesting. Thank you very much for Goethals News. Bakkiyanathan A, AAI Chennai Airport.

I receive your publication regularly. I would like to congratulate you for your edited book and also for the Rotarian Award. N. Murali, Arul Anandar College, Madurai.

I am really thankful to all persons involved in bring out this Goethals News to common public. Bakkiyanathan A, Chennai.

The Goethals Library is extremely resourceful place with collections of books and journals that are not easily available. Subesh Singha Roy, Hooghly.

The library is an enormous storehouse of knowledge. It is well maintained and the books are easy to access. The staff is helpful and co-operative. Ms. Deepti Myriam Joseph, Kolkata.

I was going through the latest edition of the Goethals News and was surprised to see the picture of Rev. Fr. L. Hinque, s.j. there and to know that he is keeping well at 86. He was the first person whom I had interacted in St. Xavier's Kolkata in 1978 when I took admission in the Higher Secondary (Class XI) under WB Council of HS Education as he was the Professor in charge of the HS Unit, which was then under the college and his office was in the Small Parlour, opposite to the Reception.

I can't express how nice it was to see his picture and to know about him, because we the students of the then HS Unit of the college which existed for only few years were closely associated with him and were appreciative of him. Thank you for making this possible.
Snehasis Sur, Vice President, SXCCAA & Doordarshan News, Kolkata.

I eagerly look forward to receive the new copy of Goethals News. Under your leadership and guidance it has become a power house of information. The Millennium Development Goals of UNO is not known to general mass and you have enlightened us about it.

Your picture of Lourdes, Geneva, Debipur, Salpukur were all very impressive and good. Fr. Hincq's picture was very very touching and inspiring.
Naresh Gupta, National Secretay, JAAI.

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Goethals Indian Library & Research Society, St. Xavier’s, 30 Mother Teresa Sarani, Kolkata-700 016, India.
Tel: 0091-33-2280 1919; email: goethals@vsnl.com  Web-site: www.goethals.in 
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