Voice of India

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Voice of India is a publishing house based in New Delhi, India, that specialises in books about current affairs, socio-cultural and political issues, and challenges before India and its people from the perspective of Hindu culture, society and Hindu revivalism. It was founded by Sita Ram Goel in 1983 and later joined by Ram Swarup.


History[edit]

Sita Ram Goel's motive and objective, in his own words, behind founding the publishing house was to equip Hindu society with the information, knowledge and perspective necessary to combat and counter the constant state of ideological, cultural, political, psychological and physical aggression that, according to him, sought to undermine and destabilize Hindu society. Goel contended that there existed ideological and political forces inherently inimical to and predatory towards Hinduism- namely, radical Islam, evangelical as well as fundamentalist Christianity, and Communism, which he viewed as no less committed to aggression against Hindu society and no less doctrinaire for its fanatic adherence to dogma (in this case, Marxist dogma) than either Christianity or Islam, however deceptively it might cloak its violence under the veneer of "scientific socialism".[citation needed]

Voice of India is notable for publishing English language books by eminent journalists, historians, social commentators and academicians such as Arun Shourie, David Frawley, Shrikant Talageri, Francois Gautier, Harsh Narain, Subhash Kak, Koenraad Elst, and N. S. Rajaram.[1][2] VOI has also published the official VHP evidence bundle in the book "History versus Casuistry, Evidence of the Ramajanmabhoomi Mandir". It has also published on the controversial Out of India theory.[1][2] Voice of India books are reportedly widespread among the ranks of the leaders of the Sangh Parivar.[1]

According to Pirbhai, Voice of India was established to provide the Sangh Parivar ‘a Hindu ideology of its own rather than live on borrowed slogans.[3] He also remarks that the most repeated statement in Voice of India writings seems to be that ‘the problem is not Muslims but Islam’.”[4]

Reception[edit]

According to Heuze, the Voice of India authors draw their inspiration from democratic texts, European thought and secular and democratic polemicists to justify their anti-Islamic "crusade" while simultaneously distancing themselves from everything that could be perceived as an endorsement of the extreme-right.[5]

David Frawley, said:

"Their criticisms of Islam were on par with the criticisms of the Catholic Church and of Christianity done by such Western thinkers as Voltaire or Thomas Jefferson."[6]

Arun Shourie, who also had books published by Voice of India, including books co-authored with Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup, praised the work of Voice of India's authors, stating:

"One final reason for being confident is that because of the work of Ram Swarup, Sitaram Goel, Koenraad Elst, David Frawley, and Rajiv Malhotra the corpus is now reaching a critical mass. So, that we can think that within few years we will have a library for India and a library of India." [7][8]

The magazine Hinduism Today has for many years honored the views of Ram Swarup[9] in a number of its articles and publications, as it has also honored the views of Sita Ram Goel and the work of VOI.[10][clarification needed]

The Greek Indologist Nicholas Kazanas, in a reply to Witzel's criticism, wrote that Witzel's comments on Voice of India in the Frontline magazine have "the shrill tones of McCarthyism or any totalitarian dogmatism (and censorship)". [11]

While Voice of India had a controversial reputation, I found nothing irrational, much less extreme about their ideas or publications. They were simply doing for the Hindu religion what intellectuals in other religious traditions had done for theirs. Their criticisms of Islam were on par with the criticisms of the Catholic Church and of Christianity done by such Western thinkers as Voltaire or Thomas Jefferson. In fact they went far beyond such mere rational or historical criticisms of other religions and brought in a profound spiritual and yogic view as well. They were only controversial because, since such a Hindu point of view had not been previously articulated, its sudden occurrence was threatening to non-Hindu groups. http://www.hindubooks.org/david_frawley/how_i_became_a_hindu/journalistic_work/page3.htm

  • Reza Pirbhai, Modern Intellectual History (vol.5.1, 2008, p.27-53). “Demons in Hindutva. Writing a Theology for Hindu Nationalism”.

“Voice of India, in fact, was established to provide the Sangh Parivar ‘a full-blooded Hindu ideology of its own and process all events, movements, parties and public figures in terms of that ideology, rather than live on borrowed slogans or hand to mouth ideas invoked on the spur of the moment’.” (p.29, with reference to S.R. Goel: How I Became a Hindu.)

“Swarup puts it most succinctly in ‘A need to face the truth’, making what seems the most repeated statement in Voice of India writings, that ‘the problem is not Muslims but Islam’.” (p.45-46) The problem is not people, but the ideology that estranges these people from their fellow-men. But intellectuals are willing to sacrifice people to an idea, such as Islam.

“As Swarup puts it, Islam is ‘the most malevolent of these residues’ of ‘Semitism’, and Muslims alone are sealed ‘off from every shade of empiricism, rationalism, universalism, humanism and liberalism, the hallmarks of Hindu as well as of modern Western culture.” (p.50, with reference to Hindu Society under Siege, ch.2: “The residue of Islamism”; the author was in fact Sita Ram Goel, not Ram Swarup, but let that pass.) So, Judaism has changed, Christianity was forced to change, but Islam is most faithful to its source.

Pirbhai is at his best when he sums up Voice of India thinking as devising an ideology “rationally akin to the Enlightenment without falling prey to materialism”. (p.52) For some reason he, along with the Sangh, he considers this a “staggeringly harsh theology”. (p.51) Maybe it is just “secular” in the real sense of the term.

Reza Pirbhai asks what is this ideology. And here he starts replacing the facts he is supposed to be analysing with the theory which he is espousing: “An answer is complicated by the fact that the cadre of contributors to Voice of India claim to follow directly in the footsteps of every major colonial-era intellectual. Further complicating matters, the perspectives such intellectuals uphold stem from a dialectical process initiated in the nineteenth century, involving Brahmanical traditionalism, European ‘Orientalism’, British colonial modes of authority, and the anticolonial pull of nationalism, not to mention the social and strucutural features of South Asia that offered them all fuel.” (p.30) So, “the crux of Voice of India’s theology is provided by the contents of fin de siècle German indology, carried forward in Vivekananda’s works and superimposed on [Aurobindo] Ghose’s and Gandhi’s deployment of precolonial Brahmanism’s ‘divine’ Self and ‘demonic’ Other.” (p.32)

Eventhough the theory that Hinduism as a self-conscious religion is a colonial construct is popular with many academics, both in the West and in India, and now also including Reza Pirbhai, it has been firmly refuted by solidly secularist scholars such as David N. Lorenzen (Who Invented Hinduism? Essays on Religion in History, Yoda Press, Delhi 2006, esp. the essay “Who invented Hinduism?”, p.1-36) and Andrew J. Nicholson (Unifying Hinduism. Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Columbia University Press, New York 2010). The latter shows that many Hindu thinkers in the Muslim period already sought a common denominator of the sects and schools that made up the Hindu commonwealth. But it is the former we will quote at some length. David Lorenzen names Bipan Chandra, Gyanendra Pandey and Veena Das as some of the academics who teach or taught that Hindu identity does not predate the 19th century, along with a number of Americans. But he quotes a number of Hindu vernacular poets from well before the colonial era who show an awareness of Hindu identity. For instance, the 16th-century Maharashtrian poet Eknath gives a dialogue between a “Hindu” and a Muslim, Hindu-Turka-samvada, in which both sides affirm the strong points of their own religion and lambast the weak points of the other’s religion. Lorenzen fails to remark, in passing, that only Hindus have written such self-criticism, not Muslims. Also in the 16th century, the Ramanandi biographer Anantadas wrote a similar text about the 15th-century poet Kabir. In the Kabir-Bijak, this Kabir himself wrote another text confronting “Hindu” and “Turk” and their respective religions. A hundred years before Kabir, the romance Kirtilata was written by the poet Vidyapati. Lorenzen observes: “Vidyapati’s description of the Muslim quarter of this city [Jonapur] is imbued with a sharp anti-Muslim bias.” No, Vidyapati was not prejudiced, he knew the Muslims at close quarters and when he wrote something negative about them, he just wrote what his eyes had seen. But Lorenzen himself has a secularist bias. Anyway, here is Vidyapati’s testimony: “The Hindus and Turks live close together. Each makes fun of the other’s religion. (dhamme) (...) The Turks coerce passers-by into doing forced labour. Grabbing hold of a Brahmin boy, they put a cow’s vagina on his head. They rub out his tilak and break his sacred thread. (...) They destroy temples and construct mosques.” We have it from an eyewitness that Muslims in 1400 practised slave-taking, forced conversion and temple destruction, precisely the thing that everybody knows but that secularists try to deny. But more importantly, he proves that Hinduism as a religious category existed, a full four centuries before Pirbhai says that British Orientalists invented it. Lorenzen quotes an even earlier source to the same effect, viz. the Prithviraj Raso, a historical romance composed not long after the defeat of its hero, King Prithviraj, in 1192. Muslims sources from that period are even more unambiguous and numerous: they had no problem distinguishing between Muslims and Kafirs, and all Indian Kafirs (Pagans) were called Hindus. As Lorenzen puts it in his conclusion, “one can see the family resemblance of beliefs and practices taking a recognizably Hindu shape in the early Puranas, roughly around the period 300-600.” But Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel went even further back. The Mahabharata does not contain the word Hindu, but it is the foremost Hindu scripture, and the main source of inspiration to Voice of India.

What troubles Pirbhai most is Voice of India’s steadfast accusation that Islam meant nothing but harm to Hindu society, which he tries to minimize by calling it “Orientalist”: “Voice of India’s catalogue is most heavily laden with books and articles devoted to rehashing or reprinting Orientalist ahistories on the violence perpetrated by Muslims on Hindus (...) In such works, the writings of William Muir (d.1905), David Margoliouth (d.1940), Henry Elliot and other Orientalists are liberally employed, and Ram Swarup is even credited with forewords for reprints of Muir’s Life of Mahomet (1894) and Margoliouth’s Mohammed and the Rise of Islam (1905) – two works heavily criticized for their anti-Muslim biases from the moment of their publication. The gist of this strain of Voice of India works can be boiled down to the list of charges issued in the ‘preface’ of Hindu Temples:What Happened to Them? Echoing Orientalist ahistories exactly, that list includes ‘the destruction of Hindu temples’, ‘mass slaughter of people not only during war but also after the armies of Islam emerged victorious’” etc. (p.42-43)

He is well aware that either he is right and Voice of India is wrong, or he is a member of the tribe of history-deniers: “Those who challenge the Orientalist perspective are merely labelled ‘negationists’ and equated with Holocaust deniers who ‘conceal’, ‘minimize’ or ‘whitewash’ facts.” (p.44) He lists the fine fleur of the Indian intellectuals among the negationists as if that constitutes proof of anything, but does not bother to refute the Voice of India vision of Islamic history.

Pirbhai, a closet White Supremacist, persists in his colonial fixation: “Of course, Orientalist tropes concerning Muslim ‘atrocities’ are nothing new among Hindu intellectuals (...) Nor is the persistence of Orientalist misrepresentations particular to Hindutva circles.” (p.43) With this, he also attacks their Western counterparts, naming specifically Robert Spencer, Bat Ye’or and Ibn Warraq (of Lebanese, Egyptian and Pakistani provenance, respectively).

In his overestimation of Voice of India, he concludes: “Voice of India ideals have been successfully employed in rallying support for Sangh Parivar campaigns in India, extending from the Babri Mosque (Ayodhya campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s to the Gujarat ‘massacres’ of 2002, all of which have claimed thousands of mostly Muslim lives and played a part in bringing Sangh Parivar parties to the highest echelons of state power from the mid-1990s to 2004. They have also been responsive enough to globalization to successfully assimilate non-Indians like Franwley and Elst, attract diasporic Indians like Kak, and find common voice with ‘neoconservative Christians’ like Spencer, ‘rightist Jews’ like Ye’or and ‘secular humanists’ like Ibn Warraq.” (p.52-53)

Pirbhai does make a distinction, though: “Voice of India does not subscribe to the variety of anti-Islamic perspectives composed by the likes of Spencer and Ye’or, who imply that the Quranic message is inherently aggressive and therefore not divine. Nor is it accurate to consider Voice of India’s polemics a mere adoption of Jewish and Christian religious writings, past and present, that paint Mohammed’s claims (but not those of Biblical prophets) as ‘fraudulent’ revelations, perhaps even ‘Satanically’ inspired. Rather, Voice of India frames the concept of prophethood itself within a Vivekanandan approach to precolonial Brahmanism, rendering the revelations of all ‘Semitic’ prophets warped by delusions and demonic intervention. It is in recognition of this demonic source of inspiration that Goel ultimately declares that “it is a sin to regard’ Judaism, Christianity and Islam ‘as religions in any sense of the term’, meaning that the latter are to be identified with the anti-religious ‘powers of darkness’ also behind such ‘materialist’ creeds as Nazism, communism and Nehruism. The only solution for followers of such creeds, therefore, is ‘reconversion’ to the source of all ancient spirituality and civilization: ‘Hinduism’.” (p.49, with reference to Goel: Defence of Hindu Society).

Finally, let us remark that Pirbhai cites the Voice of India mission statement (p.40), e.g.: “our only weapon is truth”. And after reading this paper, we find more truth on the side of Voice of India than on the side of the author.

Partial list of publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Michael Bergunder (2004). "Contested Past: Anti-Brahmanical and Hindu nationalist reconstructions of Indian prehistory" (PDF). Historiographia Linguistica. 31 (1): 59–104. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Michael Witzel, 'Rama's Realm: Indocentric rewriting of early South Asian archaeology and history' in: Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public Routledge (2006), ISBN 0-415-30593-4, p. 205.[1]
  3. M. REZA PIRBHAI (2008). DEMONS IN HINDUTVA: WRITING A THEOLOGY FOR HINDU NATIONALISM. Modern Intellectual History, 5, pp 29.
  4. M. REZA PIRBHAI (2008). DEMONS IN HINDUTVA: WRITING A THEOLOGY FOR HINDU NATIONALISM. Modern Intellectual History, 5, pp 45-46.
  5. Heuze, Gerard (1993). Où va l'inde moderne?. Harmattan. pp. 91ff,114ff,123ff. ISBN 2738417558. 
  6. David FrawleyHow I became a Hindu: My discovery of Vedic Dharma
  7. "Arun Shourie's lecture of Indra's Net". 
  8. Das, Sankhadip (3 March 2014). "Transcript: Arun Shourie's Lecture on 'Indra's Net'". Hitchhiker's Guide to Rajiv Malhotra's Works. Retrieved 24 March 2014.  External link in |work= (help)
  9. "Hinduism Today's farewell tribute to Sri Ram Swarup". Hinduism Today. 
  10. "The Sagely Activist, Sita Ram Goel". Hinduism Today. 
  11. The RV Date - a Postscript', by N Kazanas. Athens, Greece. http://www.omilosmeleton.gr/english/documents/rdp.pdf

Sources

  • Hock, H.H. 1999. Through a glass darkly: modern “racial” interpretations. In J. Bronkhorst and M.M. Deshpande (eds), Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia – Evidence, Interpretation and Ideology, pp. 145–74. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Oriental Series, Opera Minora, Vol. 3, Harvard University.University.
  • Heuze, Gerard (1993). Où va l'inde moderne?. Harmattan. ISBN 2738417558. 
  • Ram Swarup is one of those rare souls whose vision exceeds that of those around them, whose mind is so clear it can bring clarity to others. For us, the editorial staff at Hinduism Today, his writings were a treat - always bold, incisive, unapologetic, targeting strategic issues with uncanny precision. Our personal meetings with him and with his friend and student Sita Ram Goel were always a delight. His passionate intellect was incandescent and it was working in service to his deeper spirituality. If we could but hear him and heed him, our future would be as strong as our past.
    • Paramacharya Palaniswami, Ram Swarup (2009). Hinduism and Monotheistic Religions. Voice of India. pp. back flap. ISBN 978-81-85990-84-2. : Editor-in-Chief shows how many Hindus honor Ram Swarup and Sitaram Goel and their work.
  • One wonders too at the relevance of his next rather irrational comment: “Ironically, many of those expressing these anti-migrational views are emigrants themselves, engineers or technocrats like N S Rajaram, S Kak and S Kalyanaramam, who ship their ideas to India from US shores”. What indeed has this absurd statement to do with facts and evidence?… Then, it continues in the same tone of irrelevance and contempt, forgetting how many Universities and Journals spend enormous funds on useless hypotheses and ostracise all non-immigrationists: “They find allies in a broader assortment of home-grown nationalists including university professors, bank employees, and politicians (S. S. Misra, S. Talageri, K. D. Sethna, S. P. Gupta, Bh. Singh, M. Shendge, Bh. Gidwani, P. Chaudhuri, A. Shourie, S. R. Goel). They have even gained a small but vocal following in the West among "New Age" writers or researchers outside mainstream scholarship, including D. Frawley, G. Feuerstein, K. Klostermaier, and K. Elst. Whole publishing firms, such as the Voice of India and Aditya Prakashan, are devoted to propagating their ideas”. Here two further points are worthy of note: first, Prof Witzel obviously does not know what “New Age” writers are; second, the whole passage has the shrill tones of McCarthyism or any totalitarian dogmatism (and censorship). Instead of emitting such strident emotional cries and witch-hunt slogans, Prof Witzel and his followers had better re-examine their unfounded linguistic assumptions and recall the words of Edmund Leach, who was neither an Indian nationalist technocrat, nor a New-Age writer, but a solid, mainstream pillar of the academic establishment
  • The members of Voice of India themselves are inspired only by 'democratic' texts when they invoke contemporary European thought to justify their anti--Islamic 'crusade', and they deliberately leave out anything that could be perceived as extreme right.
    • Heuze, Gerard (1993). Où va l'inde moderne?. Harmattan. ISBN 2738417558. p 123-124

External links[edit]

Wikiquote:Voice of India