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December 2006 - January 2007

Political News

From Far and Near: Topics of Interest

by Bhupendra Gandhi

Is David Cameron playing politics with our lives?

David Cameron’s opportunistic attack on the government of being soft on home-grown Islamic terrorism and extremism is not only opportunist politics of the worst kind but it may come back to haunt him at the most inappropriate time.

One may ask, and rightly so, whether this is the right time to break ranks, to shatter the political consensus when the country is going through a very difficult time. The airports are in chaos, people’s holidays are ruined and travelling by air has become a nightmare.

The British people from the ethnic minorities, especially from the Indian subcontinent, are having a hard time, even members of the peace-loving and law abiding Hindu and Sikh communities.

The worst-case scenario occurred when two young men who passed all security checks were thrown off a Manchester-bound plane just because they were of Asian origin and spoke a foreign language. It was a mob rule at its worse, as the fellow passengers refused to fly with them.

There is nothing new in Mr. Cameron’s demand that the Human Rights act should be scrapped and replaced by our own Bill of Rights. Most of us will support him if he includes this in his party’s manifest at the next general election. It is not the government but the loony-left judiciary that thwarts all attempts by the government to bring sanity and security in this once peaceful and harmonious country.

So why he has said nothing, made no comments on our outdated and antiquated judiciary system whereby the government selects, nominates all judges who occupy the post for life without being accountable to any one, especially to voters who have no say in this judiciary process. Can Mr Cameron give us, the voters the right to throw out the rotten apple in the judiciary barrel? Somehow I do not think so.

Even his other suggestions, such as a Minister for Terrorism and Unified Force to tackle terrorists, as well as to expel clerics who preach hate do make sense but his words do not match his actions in Parliament.

Why did he and his party, in league with loony, left-leaning Labour backbenchers water down the Government’s bill to give our hard-working and besieged police the authority to detain terrorist suspects for ninety days. This was not a government policy but a specific request from the police who surely know better than most of us and especially the politicians how to combat and fight terrorism.

It was the Conservative Government who introduced internment in Northern Ireland where IRA suspects were detained, not for weeks or months but for years, even without bringing them to court. They made a martyr out of Bobby Sands, a terrorist suspect who starved himself to death rather than be detained indefinitely without trial.

Yet the threat poised by IRA was insignificant compared to our present situation, created by our naïve foreign policy and our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the policy supported wholeheartedly by the Conservatives who behaved like a lackey, sycophant rather than a responsible opposition.

So Mr Cameron, be a responsible politician rather than an opportunist politician and most of us will support you if you are sincere.

Conversion behind closed doors:

While the mass conversion of Hindus to Christianity and Buddhism take place in big cities like Delhi and Chennai, under intense media coverage, the real threat comes not from such show piece, stage managed conversions that could only be tolerated in a country like India but the conversion in small villages and tiny settlements throughout the length and breadth of this vast and liberal country where any thing goes, as long as it is directed against Hindus, the most docile and easy going community in India. This is the real threat that no Hindu organization would like to tackle, even admit. We live in a cuckoo land, a dream world far-fetched from reality and every day struggle.

As a secular, liberal and ccommodating person brought up in a Christian country but a staunch believer as well in my culture and religion, I always visit and pray in churches, temples, gurudwar and pagodas when I am on holidays in those countries.

I would like to share my recent experience in Kerala. While cruising the backwaters of this beautiful state, in a converted rice boat with most facilities, on the lake Vembanad, we stopped at an island in the lagoon, which was a home to some 300 families. Our attention was drawn by a small but beautiful church on the bank of the Karmana River which looked so peaceful and inviting.

We carried out our normal routine of lighting a candle, offering a prayer and making a small donation. As we live in a Christian country like Britain, we appreciate the freedom of worship, free speech and the opportunities in the field of commerce, finance and politics that we enjoy in a Christian country like ours but denied to us in practically every nation in the Middle East where Islam is the main and the only religion.

Being Sunday, the morning service was just over. So we had an opportunity to talk to Father Joseph who was so friendly.

On learning that we were from England and Hindus, he was intrigued, as he seldom gets an opportunity to talk to overseas visitors like us. He was also impressed with our Rs500 donation which may not sound much for a Westerner but is a significant amount in these settlements with subsistence living carved out of a tiny plot of land.

Our talk was frank, vivid and an eye opener to both of us. Only ten years ago, the entire population of the island, of some 300 families, was Hindus. In 1996, the Catholic hierarchy opened a church, followed by a weekly health clinic, kindergarten and a primary school.

As there was no school on the island, the parents who are conscious and eager to educate their children, had to send them to a school on the main land, some twenty miles away, taking more than an hour by boat.

Luckily the school was only a walking distance from the jetty. But not every one could afford the cost of travel, as well as the school fees.

The offer of free education to Catholic children started a slow process of conversion and today, at the time we visited the island, some seventy five families have embraced Christianity. It is only a matter of time before the whole population will embrace Christian religion, as educating their children is a priority for the people of Kerala, especially Hindus.

I must admit Christian religion and charities do know how to serve humanity, especially where it matters most. Even in such a small Christian community on the island, there were two nuns, beside Father Joseph who would visit every Christian family on the island, on a weekly basis.

The sick, the old, the poor and disabled people received special attention and more regular visits with help and assistance whenever and however needed. There was also a soup kitchen at the church for the needy and the hungry, serving the entire community.

There was a tiny, depleted temple with a vast open ground. Temple was only used on special occasion and there was no resident priest on the island, even though the vast majority of the people were Hindus.

There were no social, religious or cultural organizations among Hindus who could look after their welfare, the people could turn to in their hour of need. The Hindu community on the island was divided and devoid of any leadership that could keep them together.

This is a typical Hindus weakness, a neglect in our society, even in this country where we are for the most part well-organized on the social and cultural front but not on the humanitarian front when it comes to looking after the weaker members of the society.

No Hindu priests ever visit hospitals or the sick in their own homes. There is no such thing as faith healing among Hindus which is part and a tradition of Christianity. Faith healing may or may not work but it does comfort the sick. I could not find any one whom I could talk to about our culture and religion on the island.

When I mentioned to Father Joseph that when I go back to London, I would like to request VHP to build a small temple and open a primary school for Hindu children in a similar fashion, father Joseph was apprehensive, fearing that it might damage the excellent relations between Hindus and Christians that exist today on the island.

I could not help but to remind him that the only reason such a cordial relation exist between the two communities was that the majority of the population were Hindus. He would not be allowed such a free hand in any country in Asia other than India.

He reluctantly agreed, under my questioning, stating that he would lose his life if he tried to convert some one in a Gulf State or even in Pakistan. Moreover he had to agree that even in Bharat, he could not receive such a cordial treatment, cooperation and welcome in Kerala where the majority of the people are not Hindus.

Christian missionaries mainly target Hindus, as we are such a timid, easily-intimidated race who put materialistic benefits above moral, cultural and religious values. No wonder Bharat was enslaved for over thousand years by various races, culture and religion. It seems we have learnt nothing from our painful past.

I feel that while VHP and RSS are preoccupied with the Ayodhia issue and infighting, the minority communities are taking advantage and converting Hindus.

VHP and RSS hardly exist in Kerala and other Southern States. While Ayodhia represent the sentiments of the majority of Hindus, it is equally important to open a small temple and a social centre, with a clinic and a school in every village. It would cost just £1500 to start such a project. But again, have we got time, money and above all inclination and the will to rescue, to stop the decline of Hinduism, especially in Bharat? I doubt it.

Let us start a fund for such a project and pledge to open at least one such temple, a social centre every month, before it is too late. I am sure most of us will contribute generously if some one is willing to take a lead. I feel we, the NRI Hindus, are kind, considerate, well-educated and generous people but we lack the will and the desire to go to the aid of our beleaguered brothers and sisters in our motherland Bharat.

If we neglect our duty, then in fifty years time, there will be no Bharat to go to. We will meet the same fate as the Jewish community before the establishment of the state of Israel, in the wake of Jewish community being annihilated in many European countries by the Nazis.

It is our duty to promote Hinduism throughout the world, to unite Hindus worldwide. Hinduism is one of the few religions that can bring peace, progress and harmony in the troubled world. We can live in peace and harmony with any one, in any country. We can integrate easily with the indigenous people, as is happening in this country.

But Hindu organizations like RSS and VHP are in disarray, more interested in fighting among themselves than the invaders, and with destructive leaders like Uma Bharti and Dr Togadia, the future for Bharat and Hindus is indeed gloomy and depressing.

World class Vedanta University for Orissa

Orissa is set to offer the younger generation educational excellence not only to the residence of the state of Orissa and Bharat but also to all the Indians living anywhere in the world, thanks to Shri Anil Agarwal of Agarwal Foundation that has donated US $1bn to turn his dream into a reality.

Prompted by Shri Agarwal, the noble son of Bharat and a leading industrialist who is also the Chairperson of Vedanta Resources, the Agarwal foundation has announced the plans to establish a world class university at a joint press conference with the state government of Orissa, graced by the presence of the Chief Minister Mr. Naveen Patnik, a politician of rare quality and dedication.

Speaking to the worldwide media, Shri Agarwal said that Indian people are one of the most industrious and hard-working people and the country has the potential to be a global leader in business, information technology, science and performing arts, if given the right encouragement, opportunity and the modern facilities that could match the best in the Western world.

In a brief statement to the gathering dignitaries and the press, Shri Patnik expressed his joy and delight that the foundation has chosen Orissa for such a prestigious project. He promised all the help, material and logistic, that the state could provide to make this mammoth task a roaring, runaway success. He further stressed that success breeds success and if this project draws international acclaim, it will bring more inward investment to the state of Orissa which is already enjoying an unprecedented economic success under his wise and able leadership.

He further said that this university will be the guiding light for thousands of students, both national and international and will put in motion an immense knowledge revolution in our state that will benefit the younger generation for years to come. He hoped that this is just the beginning of a glorious future for the state.

The consultant to the project has said that after careful consideration and in-depth research, they chose Orissa, as it is an ideal location with a co-operative state government that is able and willing to help the project at every turn.

The state government has not only pledged full support but set aside some 8000 acres of prime land near the Konark-Puri Marine Drive and to built all the infrastructure, such as roads, sanitation, water and electricity supply and to cut the red tape that normally hinders such projects and discourages foreign investment.

The Vedanta University Project Management has appointed the world renowned and globally acclaimed firm of Ayers Saint Gross who have nearly one hundred year’s experience and have designed some of the best universities in the world; to prepare the master plan, the blue print of the main university buildings, hall of residence, laboratories, conference halls as well as developing and greenifying the huge eight thousand acres sight, to make it a garden of Eden, a sort of natural reserve to merge with the countryside and be part of the development, to make the project ecologically friendly.

The State Government will pass a bill in the legislative assembly to give the university administration complete autonomy so that it can function efficiently without state interference. The state will also build a three lane motorway to link the university campus with Bhubaneswar airport, a quick and efficient link with the outside world.

The university will start enrolling students by the end of 2008 and ultimately could accommodate up to ten thousand students from all over the world, putting Bharat in the forefront as far as education is concerned.

Bharat is already attracting IT Firms, Call Centres for Western Service Sectors, Health Tourists and Retired Pensioners with excellent and reasonably priced services that include hospitals, restaurants, transport, retirement homes in Goa and Kerala. So why not overseas students who could not only bring their wealth of experience but when they qualify and return home in Western countries like America, Canada and Britain, they can be an ambassador of peace, harmony and our rich culture and tradition that is already taking the Western world by storm. In any case Indian educational standards are one of the highest, the best in the world.

Add to this the success of ayurvedic medicine and the Yoga, as demonstrated and preached by Swami Ramdevji on Astha TV channel and there is no limit to our success in the Western world, as Indian younger generation is one of the best, the highest achievers in the West, overtaking even the tiny Jewish community who used to dominate the profession, such as law, accountancy and medicine but no more.

Let us hope that this is just the beginning and other states like Gujarat and Rajasthan will follow in the foot-steps of Orissa and establish such learning institutions to match the best in the world.

Gujarat had already put such a plan in motion way back in 2001 with Sandipani University, near the city of Porbander, the birth place of not only Mahatma Gandhi but also the site of the ancient place of learning, the Ashram run by Sage Sandipani where Lord Krishna was a student. It was a world renowned place of learning at the time. Perhaps the knowledgeable readers of this prestigious publication may have more information about the development and the progress of Sandipani project that they could share with us, the readers of this prestigious magazine.

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