Mumbai Pact: Inter-faith dialogue or a confrontation?*

Mumbai Pact: Inter-faith dialogue or a confrontation? And was Jayendra Saraswati, a man who is still facing a murder charge (pending in a Pondicherry court since 2005) the right man to dialogue with for such a meeting, given his controversial background (he has been accused of being a politician in religious garb)?
From all accounts in the Mumbai media and from the website of the Kanchi Mutt it seems to have been more a confrontation (http://www.kanchiforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2535) than a dialogue! And we seem to have fallen into the same trap as Bishop Aloysius Paul of Mangalore who merrily told NDTV with a smile on his face on Day One of the attacks of Christian churches in Mangalore last September – “I don’t know why they are attacking us when it is the Pentecostals who are converting people?” This later led to Home Minister Acharya saying, “Your bishop is complaining that the Pentecostals are troubling him also. “So he was doing us a favour by beating them up! If some of our people got beaten up, it was a case of what the Americans call “collateral damage”!
From what one reads in the papers here, from Jayendra Saraswati’s statements to the media and from what is on the Kanchi Mutt’s website, it seems the Kanchi “seer” or “pontiff” as he is variously called, was aggressive and did not give an inch.
One also wonders why a dialogue in the presence of so high ranking a Vatican dignitary like Cardinal Tauran was only with some representatives of the Hindu community when India has followers of six major religions and a Minister for Minority Affairs?
Why were lay people excluded from such an important meeting, if indeed it was important? Aren’t lay people, who in fact interact more with their brothers and sisters from other communities, not involved in a dialogue with those of other faiths? How is that that one sees only names of bishops involved in the “dialogue”? Even scholar-priests have been excluded. And if the discussion focused on Kandhamal and Orissa, who were the representatives from there? Why were they excluded? Why were priests like Cedric Prakash and others actively involved in working with people of other faiths in civil society groups for the human rights (of which religion is one) of people of all faiths not present at the meeting?
In the final analysis, what matters is the outcome from such meetings, not the output (which we are seeing in the media now). What is the outcome from this meeting?
From calls and mails I got today, it is apparent that people are asking questions. And in today’s world it is only fair that their questions be answered if we seek their help and understanding to take the process forward. Even if our bishops decide to be secretive and not speak to people from the community, the Kanchi group has already laid out its terms for carrying the “dialogue” forward in December on its website.
Some questions that are being asked:
What was the preparation made for this meeting? What kind of preparations? Who were involved? Because for any real outcome from these meetings, there has to be a lot of preparatory work off stage. And outcome or results are slow and long in coming. Was there any preparatory work in this case or was everyone rushed into it because Cardinal Tauran, was coming? We didn’t hear about any of this before? Why/why not?
Was the timing right? At a time when the entire edifice of aggressive Hindutva built up over 25 years (from the time of “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain’) is beginning to crack up and crumble before our eyes, when the man who mocked secular-minded people for many years as “pseudo-secularists” and got away with it is now being dubbed a pseudo by his own followers, was this a right meeting at the wrong time? Would it not have been wiser to wait a few weeks?
There is also an issue of propriety — propriety in associating with a man accused of murdering a temple official in the temple premises. Jayendra Saraswati and his “junior pontiff” Vijayendra were both accused, along with 22 others, of murdering the temple manager who had spoken out against him and accused him of financial wrongdoing. Jayendra Saraswati has admitted his was greatly disturbed by the allegations, though he denied being involved in the murder. He was refused bail by the TN High Court and twice by the Supreme Court. He was granted bail only on the third appeal before the Supreme Court in January 2005 and the case is now pending in a Pondicherry court. He has not been acquitted of the murder charge. Why then are we associating with him publicly, a man who is desperately seeking acceptance by civil society? True, innocent until proven guilty but then so are so many MPs and politicians who are facing murder cases, some of whom have been elected to Parliament. If civil society says that these men should be shunned, shouldn’t Jayendra Saraswati also be shunned till he is acquitted of all charges? Would the bishops share a platform with Narendra Modi tomorrow? He at least has not been formally charged in a court with a heinous crime like murder?
Let us also not forget that Jayalalitha brought forth anti-conversion legislation at Jayendra Saraswati’s instance. They were pretty thick till the murder charge tumbled out. So it is not as if he is the victim of false charges by a hostile government. Quite the contrary.
As for the outcome, it is worthwhile to visit the Kanchi mutt’s website: “The Catholics denied that they are involved in conversion and it was only the Protestants who do the same. So Jayendra Saraswati asked them to bring the Protestants for the next meeting, scheduled for December.”
– Did we, for lack of adequate preparation, end up falling into the same trap as the Bishop Aloysius Paul of Mangalore who told NDTV on Day One of the attacks of Christian churches in Mangalore – I don’t know why they are attacking us when it is the Pentecostals who are converting people? This later led to the Karnataka Home Minister Acharya saying, “Your bishop is complaining that the Pentecostals are troubling him also.” So he was doing us a favour by beating them up!
Did we fall into the same trap and really blame the Protestants?
I could be wrong, but judging from media reports and from what is on the Kanchi mutt’s website, it seems we were on the defensive. I hope I am wrong!
*Allwyn Fernandes, Journalist & Communications Professional.
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind do not matter, and those who matter don’t mind!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Mumbai Pact: Inter-faith dialogue or a confrontation?*

  1. harish

    The catholic church spoke to kanchi shankaracharya because enough information was available to the pope that the seer was innocent. You have not followed the case closely it seems that you have mouthed as you have liked, if some one were to file a case on flimsy grounds against you, and if the government decided to proceed against you, would you not by the same justification loose the right to even host this website. There are sufficient pointers to the fact that the arrest was inspired by vested interests. 1. What was the need to take the seer on deepavali alone. 2. what was the need to put him in a woman’s prison to start with. 3. what was the need to put a fraudulent police officer prem kumar in charge of the mission. 4. what was the need to force confessions out of many ordinary witnesses.
    Your entire article reveals your inbound hatred towards shankaracharya and for that matter towards hinduism.
    I have seen the shankaracharya’s speech, the problem is that christianity has become so used to confrontation with other faiths, that even a simple verbal reply seems like a major confrontation or affront. Unlike christianity majority of hindu sects dont advocate conversion at all. On the other hand all denominations of christianity actively seek converts. This changes the dimension isnt it?
    Let us say there are 1000 hindus and 2 christian in a village. after one generation there are 2000 hindus 10 christians( some having descended from their fathers and other through conversion). Next generation there are 50 christians and 4000 hindus. Then 250 christians and 8000 hindus, then 1250 christians and 16000 hindus, then 6750 and 32000, then 33750 and 64000, then you can see the situation. Thats the point the very idea that one can reach god in one way is a dangerous concept and it is what is called a dhurmatham . I am sorry to say christianity can never create a dialogue unless they reject the principle that one can reach god or heaven only through christ. It is absurd, anti rationality, inhuman and a fantic cult.
    It is strange that hindu religious leaders have to even talk to cult leaders. I am sorry if this offended you, but please see the outspoken views of the people in great britain and other people who managed to come out of the dark ages after seeing the back of dangerous christianity

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