ask yourself why you have not rioted in the streets over the humiliation of this saintly man.
if we are all waiting for someone to tell us what to do, we are doomed. all of us who did nothing deserve condemnation. a lot of it has to do with our being brainwashed by all the media images of the pious, do-gooding padre, whereas the sanyasi is always shown as a dubious character. is this fair?
in that vein, there is news in the malayalam media (kaumudi online in malayalam) that a police SP in the sister abhaya case has been penalized. one michael, SP, has been fined rs. 25,000 and given six months' imprisonment for saying that abhaya and her family were insane. sister abhaya was a catholic nun found floating in a well in a nunnery.
fair enough. but it further says, to my complete astonishment, the following (my translation):
"local police and the crime branch investigated sister abhaya's death and ruled it a suicide. however, subsequent CBI investigation showed that it was a murder. But the report submitted before the court said, unusually, that IT WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE TO ARREST THE CULPRITS".
note the part in capitals. the suspects must have included the local padre, the bishop and the archbishop. but even the CBI says these people cannot be touched!
conclusion: a hindu saint can be humiliated and destroyed without a shred of evidence. but even a puny little archibishop or someone other church functionary cannot be investigated or caught. and it is not as though christist priests havent been caught with their hand in the till. hundreds have been convicted for sexual crimes. one old pope godman was accused of being a nazi collaborator. yet, in india, it is clear that no christist will ever go to jail.
this is apartheid, pure and simple.
BBC withdraws Offending Article on Shankaracharya
By: Dr Farokh Merat
March 18, 2006
On 11th November 2004 His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, the
Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police allegedly
conspired to murder Sankararaman, an employee at a temple unconnected to the
The very day after the Shankaracharya's arrest a vast character assassination
campaign was launched throughout India, portraying the Pontiff not only as a
murderer but also as an embezzler and a womanizer. Among the English journals
the most virulent attacks against Sri Jayendra Saraswathi came from Outlook
magazine. The titles of some of the articles by Mr. S. Anand, Outlook's
correspondent in Chennai, are eloquently self-explanatory: "How the Gods Fall,"
and Fiends" (sic), "A Sting in the Tail," "The Baton Awaits," "Prison Diaries
of a Pontiff." These articles are compilations almost exclusively of
slanderous back alley innuendos, invariably attributed to vague police contacts
other faceless sources.
But Outlook did not stop there. The demonization of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi
was to be internationalized on 28th January 2005 by no other than the editor of
the magazine himself, Mr. Vinod Mehta. In a talk titled "A View from India,"
the Outlook editor went on BBC Radio Four to inform English and European
audiences about the "Jayendra affair." The talk was rebroadcast two days later,
Sunday 30th January, immediately after a program of Christian church services.
To Hindus who happened to be listening to BBC Radio Four on that Sunday
morning, the contrast between the dignified church services and the vicious
heaped on one of their foremost religious leaders must have been
Two days later the talk was published as an article on the BBC website with
the title of "Murder, Mystery and Politics in India." Straight away Mr. Mehta
set the tone. "The charges are a tabloid journalist"s dream - murder, sleaze,
debauchery, greed and sex," he said. The story he went on to recount was meant
to illustrate each of these "charges." But it was overwhelmingly fictitious
and certain crucial details stood in contradiction with the findings of the
Supreme Court of India, made public some three weeks before Mr. Mehta delivered
his talk on BBC Radio Four. His tabloid dream was of his own making.
The Outlook editor did not merely indulge in fibs. His entire article was a
colossal lie - by omission. On granting bail to the Shankaracharya on 10th
January 2005, the Supreme Court had stated that the Tamil Nadu authorities and
police had failed to submit the least prima facie evidence connecting the
to the Sankararaman killing; they had also been unable to submit any grounds
of motive for the Shankaracharya to commit such an act. But Mr. Mehta passed
over the Supreme Court findings as if they had never existed. The reason is
obvious: the pronouncements of the Apex Court would have demolished his
Immediately devotees of the Shankaracharya throughout the world began writing
letters of complaint to the BBC. After some seven months of repeated
complaints the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit authorities admitted that Mr.
text contained "serious error and inaccuracies." They tacitly acknowledged that
apart from the alleged conspiracy to murder, none of the "charges" mentioned by
Mr. Mehta were to be found in the charge sheet. On being questioned about the
matter, Mr. Mehta had apparently told them that the charges of personal
misconduct were listed not in the charge sheet but in the FIR (First Information
Report), filed by the police shortly after the Pontiff's arrest - another lie.
The BBC remained adamant about keeping the offensive article on their
website, purged of the "errors and inaccuracies." Thanks to
devotees of the Shankaracharya organized themselves and engaged lawyers in
London. Finally, the threat of legal action compelled the BBC to remove the
article, apologize and reimburse the greater part of the legal costs incurred by
the Acharya's devotees.
Two questions come to mind. Why did the BBC believe Mehta's version of the
events and refuse for a full year to remove the article from their website? And
the second and far more fundamental question is: why did the mainstream media
defame and demonize the revered Shankaracharya instead of investigating the
facts and exposing the real culprits?
The first question can be readily answered. The BBC believed Vinod Mehta's
groundless accusations because large sectors of the media in India were mouthing
the same unfounded charges against the Pontiff. The media are by and large
conformist copycats. Why, after all, should the BBC send a journalist of world
rank to Tamil Nadu to investigate the case - as we repeatedly urged them to do
- when most of the national press in India was babbling the same lies? We
battled against the BBC - a minuscule David against a gigantic Goliath - for a
full year. Nevertheless, I must say a word in defence of the BBC: they were not
the real culprits. They got hoodwinked not just by Vinod Mehta but by the
Indian media as a whole. Having accorded them the benefit of a doubt, one can't
help wondering why the British, after having plundered, divided and departed,
still feel a pathological need to humiliate the Hindus. Would the BBC have dared
to allow similar calumnies against a Muslim religious leader of even the
lowest ranks? No, they wouldn't, for obvious reasons. But the gentlemen and
at the BBC have retained from their readings at school that devout Hindus are
a peaceful and peace-loving people. They knew that calumniations against the
revered Shankaracharya of Kanchi would not bring them bombs and sundry forms of
violence. Hence the platform given so nonchalantly to the pseudo-secularist
As to the second question, several explanations have been given: clever
orchestration of lies and manipulation by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and
collusion of the Centre for fear that Hindu-oriented parties may regain power
in the next elections; money generously and secretly disbursed by the
Evangelists to eliminate a Hindu religious leader actively opposing conversions.
But all this does not explain why the media engaged in such wholesale slander
and why the public did not object. The media and the public are partners. It
is said of a nation that it has the rulers it deserves. In the same vein it
can be said that the public has the media it deserves. There is a constant give
and take between the two. To be successful and survive in a competitive
context, each player in the media and the press has to cater to and please its
audience. At the same time the media and the press form and educate the public
- for the better or for the worse. In the end, the two are one. So the
question becomes: why was a considerable portion of the population of India, and
the Hindu population itself, receptive to lies and unfounded accusations
against one of the foremost religious leaders of the land, a Saint who had spent
more than fifty years of his life helping the downtrodden, building and running
schools, hospitals, homes for the disabled and the aged, charity organizations,
and doing everything he could to maintain communal peace and harmony, notably
in the grave Ayodhya issue? His profile was reversed by the media overnight,
between 11/11 and 11/12 2004. Why, one wonders, did not the public demand
serious journalistic investigation, evidence instead of innuendos?
It is fashionable, after the American model, to laud in flowery terms the
four pillars of democracy: the executive, the legislative, the judiciary and for
the last fifty-or-so years, the media/press. This is to forget the most
essential component of all: the civil society. Wherever the civil society is
healthy and coherent, the fourfold power system works smoothly. Otherwise it
does not. It is for the civil society to constantly watch the four "powers" and
take them to task whenever there is injustice, abuse of power, corruption,
Let us take an example. On New Year's Day 2006 the Calcutta Telegraph
published a cartoon of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi with a dagger sticking out from
his attire dripping with blood. Just a few days before, the Prime Minister and
President of India had expressed their great indignation at the offending
cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published in Europe. But about the cartoon
published in their own country ridiculing one of the foremost religious leaders
the Hindus, they expressed no opinion at all. Was it because of the unfounded
murder allegations against the Shankaracharya? But surely the leaders of the
country must have taken note of the verdict of the Supreme Court of India I
have already referred to, as well as a second verdict, dated 26th October 2005,
in which the Apex Court ordered the transfer of the murder trial out of Tamil
Nadu and chastised the State Government machinery for attempting to deprive the
Shankaracharya and co-accused of proper legal defense, launching persecution
against journalists, lawyers and members of the civil society "merely because
they expressed some dissent against the arrest of the Seer, and creating "a
fear psychosis in the minds of the people," thus discouraging witnesses from
testifying objectively. About all this, too, the President, the Prime Minister
and the Super-Prime Minister remained deafeningly silent.
But they alone are not to blame. It is for the civil society to inundate them
with letters asking: "Why such double standards?" And it is again for the
civil society to flood the Telegraph and other unfair media with letters of
vigorous protest demanding immediate apologies.
The sad truth is that peaceful and civilised protests are not given serious
consideration by the Government, while there is immediate response to agitation
and aggressive protests. This tendency on the part of the rulers, of whatever
hue, leads to violence and erodes civilised values. Had the Shankaracharya's
followers taken to the streets, it would no doubt have risen both the
Government and society at large from their slumber. But it is to the
credit of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi that he did not veer a millimeter from the
of the holy lineage of Adi Shankara. He urged his followers to hold their
peace and promised that Dharma would prevail, thus avoiding violence and
When a Saint of the stature of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi is slandered, it is
the sacred tradition of Advaita Vedanta, the highest light of humanity, that is
slandered. When the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham is attacked, Sanatana Dharma, the
root religion of all that deserves to be called religion, is attacked.
In South Africa they have a beautiful saying: People are people because of
other people. Transposed to the context we are concerned with, the proverb is
laden with hope. It means that if a few start taking the responsibility to act
rightly, even in little ways, their action is bound to ripple and influence
others, making the entire world a little more just, humane and peaceful - a
return to the primeval and pristine religion: Sanatana Dharma.
Dr Farokh Merat