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"Cat's Eye" and Hindutva (letter's to the Editor)

"Cat's Eye" and Hindutva (letter's to the Editor)

Arundhati Rajasingham Dehiwala
Island Newspaper
March 25, 2000
Title: "Cat's Eye" and Hindutva (letter's to the Editor)
Author: Arundhati Rajasingham Dehiwala
Publication: Island Newspaper
Date: March 25, 2000

I write this in response to the "Cat's Eye" feature article titled "South Asia's  Troubled Times" that appeared in The Island newspaper of March 15, 2000. Given the recent LTTE attack in Rajagiriya and the visible hardening of attitudes vis a vis the ethnic question,  it is perverse that "Cat's Eye" has chosen to selectively condemn Hindu activism while barely commenting on other forms of ethnic or religious bigotry. The recent murder of Hindu and Sikh women and children in Kashmir goes unnoticed. The omissions are crucial because they reveal a specific political agenda that attacks Hindu organisations alone.

Women's rights are non-negotiable and need to be advanced in every possible forum. This includes the protection of widows. However, anti-Hindu activists must not be allowed to hijack the feminist movement. Cat's Eye has been pursuing a dubious agenda of attacking Hindutva while soft-peddling intolerance in other religions.

It now defends Deepa Mehta, a Canadian citizen. Her film 'Water' plagiarised sections of an award-winning Bengali novel by Sunil Gangopadhyaya. Rather than promote the rights of widows, she manipulates their sorry situation to defame Hinduism. This is evident in the script and choice of setting i.e. Benares. I would suggest that Deepa Mehta produces a movie on female circumcision in Egypt or on the "honour killings" of women in Pakistan. The consequences of doing so would be devastating, to say the least. Or let her probe the condition of Moslem women in Kashmir with the onslaught of Islamic fundamentalism in recent years.

Shabani Azmi, so-called Indian feminist has earned the ire of Moslem fundamentalists for shaving her head and performing Hindu rites on screen along the banks of the Ganges river. A fatwa has been issued against her, but Cat's Eye chooses to ignore this. Shabani  Azmi is married to an Indian Moslem who is already wedded to another woman as per his rights under Islamic personal law. By consenting to a bigamous marriage, Shabana's decision is a standing indictment of the rights of Moslem women. She has lost the moral right to fight for Hindu widows in such a personal context.

Cat's Eye quotes Romila Thapar, a dubious leftist historian, whose histrionics against Hindutva are getting shrill by the day. Her "History of India" published by Penguin has numerous inaccuracies and outmoded theories. The concept of an Aryan invasion is a case in point. Her more recent publications are no different. Romila Thapar alleges that the RSS "is trying to control the empowerment of women in Indian society". Nothing can be further than  the truth. The different RSS organisations such as the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (India's foremost social service body that works among scheduled tribes), the Seva Bharati (a service institution that focuses on India's impoverished untouchables), the Vidya Bharati (which runs the  largest network of private schools for India's less privileged today), Bharatiya Mazdoor  Sangh (the largest trade union federation in India today), and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (the largest Indian student body), each have a large women's contingent. The RSS has a vibrant grass roots service orientation unlike South Asia's left wing elite. It is in the forefront in promoting women's education and health in India today. This empowers women and changes social attitudes. Cat's Eye, a Colombo-based group of women, largely affiliated with the ICES and the Social Scientists Association, lacks such a grass roots perspective.

The Cat's Eye describes the alleged "attempts of the RSS to control academic, artistic and political life in India". It was the Nehruvian left that did so, not the RSS. A Marxist dominated board had hitherto used the Indian Council of Historical Research to finance spurious publications of doubtful historical value. Some newspapers estimate that the Indian government has spent several million dollars supporting the research work of India's left wing historians in the last 25 years. The well-funded and pampered Marxist school distorted history  in their publications to meet specific ideological needs. K. N. Pannikar, for instance, exaggerated the role of the Communist Party of India in the freedom struggle. The Communists betrayed the Congress-led independence movement and obeyed Stalin's instructions to support the British war effort. Toeing the Soviet line was more important to them than India's independence. The Communists proceeded to denounce Mohandas K. Gandhi, turn in Congress activists and disrupt the freedom movement. The Marxist school of History attempted to later rewrite facts and white wash this sorry episode.

The Communists supported the partition of India on the grounds of self-determination. They congratulated China for pursuing the nuclear option in the 1960s, but condemned India for exercising the same option. India incidentally tested its thermonuclear device in the context of China's aggressive nuclear policy. The American President visited India after 22  years only on account of India's new influence. India today has the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. The recent flurry of articles by Cat's Eye condemning the BJP needs to be seen in this light. They are an attempt to discredit India as a land of censorship, unruly mobs and religious intolerance when in fact the opposite is true.

Cat's Eye mentions in passing that fanatics had attacked Asghar Ali Engineer, an  alleged Moslem "dissenter" while in the same sentence describes the "Hindu mobs" that violently protested against the film "Water". It intentionally omits the fact that it was fellow Moslems who had attacked Mr. Engineer. Why the selectivity? Mr. Engineer, furthermore, is no dissenter and is a revisionist in his own right. Cat's Eye twists facts to advance a political agenda. It is self-righteously condescending when it comes to Hinduism but remains silent on other religions. Cat's Eye, your slip is showing!

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