Secularism, Colonial hegemony and Hindu “fanaticism”

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Japan was crushing the United States in business and trade. We saw a plethora of ‘voluntary’ quotas being applied to articles as disparate as automobiles, steel and electronics in trade between the two countries.

Today, with competitive advantage guaranteeing the complete annihilation of the Western world’s textile industry, there are similar ‘voluntary’ restrictions on textile exports from developing countries such as India, Thailand, Mauritius etc. Steel dumping charges by the United States are being used as coercive tools to limit the supply of competitive product from countries as diverse as Brazil, South Korea, India and Russia.

When ISKON – a complete anomaly within the fold of Hinduism, in that it actively proselytized and converted – started to successfully propagate and grow rapidly in the ‘70s, it quickly got labeled as a ‘cult’. In the West, it was vilified, discredited and attacked at virtually all levels; the State, legal, popular media (print, TV, movies) and at the level of ordinary individual discourse.

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Religious Reflection without a mirror

{xtypo_dropcap}O{/xtypo_dropcap}ctober 27th 1893: It was late afternoon, slightly after four, as Richard Shandok slowly trudged up the snaking bridle path that led to the large mud house on top of the hill. Already, the sun had sunk below the majestic Himalayan peaks that surrounded the valley, changing the warmth of daylight into the coolness of dusk.

Seven years had passed since Richard had left his native Iowa as a missionary and settled in Bhawa Nagar, a little village deep inside the Himalayan ranges. After a nondescript journey that had brought him from New York to Bombay via London, he had started wandering through the plains of India, preaching the words of Christ to an uncomprehending but gentle populace.

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The secular-saffron squeeze: and its challenge to Indic Revival

{xtypo_dropcap}A{/xtypo_dropcap}s we look at India at the dawn of the 21st century, we find it confronted by some confounding challenges, as it tries to break out of its colonial shackles and assert its own – organic and modernized – entity on the global stage. The crux of this challenge lies in forcing ‘dharmic’ Indian culture and society to try and fit in to a ‘Christo-Western’ societal separation that divides the world neatly between ‘things religious’ and ‘things secular’.

Before we try to understand the issues involved, let me try to define two terms that will be very pertinent to this article. Using these two terms, as the foundation, we can then build the intellectual edifice required to understand the issues confronting Indic traditions today.

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