January 2003




JANUARY  2003 Contents


 Peace in South Asia
 - Is it attainable?
 Read what they have 
 to say:


 Swami Agnivesh &
 Rev Valson Thampu

 Ardeshir Cowasjee

 Lt. Gen Arjun Ray 

 Raju Narisetti

 Waheguru Pal Singh 



 Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
 - 50 years of sarod


 Secular symbols of
 Sri Lanka

 2002 Round-up

 Books 2002

 Sports 2002


 Raju Nasiretti

 Mahreen Khan

Real Issues

 Corruption vs. NGOs


 Letter from Pakistan


 'India in Slow Motion'
 - by Mark Tully

 Serialisation of  'Knock at every alien 
 door' - Joseph Harris



 South Asian Events in
 London &  Washington DC

 Editor's Note

 the craft shop

 Lehngas - a limited collection

 the print gallery


 Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in










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Peace in South Asia - is it attainable?

the-south-asian asks Swami Agnivesh


Rev. Valson Thampu


swamijipassport.jpg (15563 bytes) Rev Thampu.jpg (7936 bytes)
Swami Agnivesh & Rev. Valson Thampu

"Fundamentalism signals the decay of the spiritual core of a religion and society."


Which of the two is stronger -secularism or fundamentalism?

Both are as strong as we make it to be. The appeal of every ideology depends on the climate of opinion, especially the respect for truth and justice, we create. From a partisan perspective, a terrorist appears a hero. To the communally biased Godse, a Mahatma like Gandhi seemed a disaster. To the fundamentalists there can only be pseudo-secularists; for them secularism is not a genuine or authentic ideology. All secularists are, hence, pseudo-secularists necessarily. From a secular perspective, on the other hand, the fundamentalist outlook is prehistoric. Hence the importance of what sociologists call the "plausibility structure"-the framework of shared ideas, values and proprieties that acts as the shaping influence on popular tastes and choices. The task at hand is not to decide if fundamentalism is stronger than secularism or vice versa; it is, on the other hand, to create the authentic plausibility structure for secularism, or to propagate the authentic secular culture and outlook. This mandate is subsumed in the Indian Constitution. To give ourselves a secular democracy and to remain indifferent to the fundamental duty of propagating secular values and norms is to be irresponsible and hypocritical. And today we are paying the price for this hypocrisy.

Religious fundamentalism is a contradiction in terms; for it involves in
practice a violation of the 'fundamentals'(like love, compassion, truth,
justice, tolerance etc.) of the religion concerned. Fundamentalism signals the decay of the spiritual core of a religion and society. It is when a society becomes unspiritual that it gets hooked on the opium of fundamentalism. This means, among other things, that for secularism to remain robust, it must be nourished by a shared, trans-religious spirituality. Today religions have become contradictions of spirituality. In such a contest, fundamentalism might seem to be stronger. But that is a pointer to the spiritual and moral degeneration of a society, rather than a proof of the intrinsic strength of fundamentalism as such. Strength, at any rate, is not the yardstick for measuring the merit of religion or secularism. A madman may be stronger than his sane counterpart, but not necessarily more desirable for that reason.

Can fundamentalism pose a serious threat to the secular traditions of the
Indian sub-continent?

The danger that religious fundamentalism, especially of the majoritarian
variety, holds out secularism and democracy in the South Asian context is
eloquently illustrated by the woeful developments in the state of Gujarat.
The land of the Mahatma has been over-run by the combined armies of
religious and political (right wing) fundamentalisms. Once a people are
infected with fundamentalist prejudices and robbed of their freedom to think and choose dispassionately, democracy begins to stagger on its feet and collapse into fascism. The factors that aid and abet this process are: the educational under-development of the people, the hijacking of religion by vested interests and the exploitation of people's sacred sentiments for
political and other ulterior gains, the partisan patronage of the State, the
large-scale use of propaganda, the apathy of the intelligentsia, and the
support of the media. It does not have to be argued that religious
fundamentalism is already a plague for South Asia. But what needs to be
noted is the fact that secularism, as we know it today, has proved itself
unable to halt the juggernaut of religious fundamentalism in our context.
The antidote to religious fundamentalism is not religiously neutral
secularism, but true spirituality that insists on universal and inviolable
values and nurtures people in the practice of justice, compassion and


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