Saturday, March 31, 2012

Peter Heehs' visa will not be extended; Romila Thapar and Ramachandra Guha lobby

Don't expel US historian, govt told Hindustan Times Gautam Chikermane, New Delhi, March 31, 2012
After spending 41 years in India as part of a team that digitised and archived the works of freedom fighter and spiritual leader Sri Aurobindo, American historian Peter Heehs has been abruptly told by the Regional Registration Office at Puducherry that his visa will not be extended anymore.
The ostensible reason for the non-extension of Heehs's visa, according to sources, is his ninth book, 'The Lives of Sri Aurobindo'. For years, a handful of religious fundamentalists have been harassing Heehs over his treatment of Sri Aurobindo's relationship with his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Richard, better known as The Mother. "Should I have to leave India, I am confident that I will be back shortly," Heehs, an inmate of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, said.
Proponents of democratic values and free speech raised their concerns over the issue. "Factional disagreements in Mr Heehs' hometown should not receive the implicit support of the Indian state," a March 30 letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister P Chidambaram from prominent historians, including Romila Thapar and Ramachandra Guha, said. "It would be greatly to the detriment of our country to be seen as having driven out an internationally recognised scholar..."
In their letter, the historians quoted a March 29 letter by minister of rural development Jairam Ramesh to Chidambaram. "I am very well aware that his book has angered some people in Puducherry," Ramesh's letter states. "But are we not a democracy where different points of view can be expressed?"
Based on select excerpts of the book presented by a small group of religious fundamentalists - and without actually reading it - a February 13, 2009 report of the Orissa government's IG Police Intelligence said it "appears to be blasphemous". Two months later, Orissa banned the book on that basis.
Sri Aurobindo was not a religious personality, and his teachings did not amount to being a religion - this was a fact underlined by the Supreme Court in its November 8, 1982 judgment. However, if Heehs's visa is not extended, the book will have to fight for its life in the Orissa high court - without its author.

The following anonymous letter is recently making the rounds in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It apparently arrived by post ...

Not since Satprem published the Agenda has the Integral Yoga community been wracked by such a schism. The Western disciples and Westernised Indians praised the book, and no doubnt were inspired by it for exactly the same reason I was (well, some of them anyway). But the religious and devotional Indians hated it. I myself could find nothing at all objectionable about his book, but the ashramites are up in arms; Heehs has been driven out and there was even a court case brought against him…
I can appreciate and respect that Heeh's critics are devotees who belong to the emotional religious polarity, and have a religious worship of Sri Aurobindo, and would therefore be offended by a non-hagiographic biography, especially by an ashramite who they had always considered one of their own. And certainly there is great value in passion and of faith which is lost in secularism. Also I can understand the ashramites (as Hindus) see it as another attack by a Westerner on their culture and sacred traditions, a culture i myself resonate very powerfully to (because of past life samskaras/vasanas no doubt!). But that doesn't excuse the lies and hysteria that they have spread about Heeh's book; I know their claims are lies because i read (most of) the book, and apart from one or two correct things almost everything they claim is in the book isn't.
The only thing I myself would say that is really critical of the book is that Heehs does not clearly specify that Sri Aurobindo attained the Supramental state early on; just the opposite, he seems to imply that Sri Aurobindo never really attained it, even after thirty years. The reason for this error is easy to see. Heehs is an academic, not a gnostic, and therefore he is not in a position to understand the higher aspects of Sri Aurobindo's life and teachings. In this respect at least his critics are right. by M. Alan Kazlev page uploaded 11 August 2009, last modified 11 January 2011 IY Fundamentalism - Religious Fundamentalism and Integral Yoga - keep up to date with the controversy. 

I am surely in my country, India, but my country is very big consisting of many countries. Though there is a cultural, geographical and historical link and now firm political link among all Indians, they are different by their regional cultural choice, by their different thought process and voice or voicelessness…
A writer of an alien language is rarely known to the common people. This way, though I know the people around me, daily see each other’s faces, do marketing together and try to assimilate each other’s culture, as everywhere in India, our acquaintances are very shallow. Shallow is ordinary people’s curiosity to know the other. Ethnicity has spread a deep route in spite of the blow of the global village idea. And I must say that the modern way of living has separated people, even families, tending towards nucleus family units, as in the West. We are not much concerned about the other, living in apartment buildings, moving in our own vehicles…
Active in the internet, writing in literary magazines that hardly reach the common readers, writing in English mostly, I am becoming more known to the literary world in general but not much known to the people around me who are the source of my knowledge about human character and culture. Towards the Rebirth of India Sep 24 2008 

Hema bids emotional adieu to Rajya Sabha Daily Pioneer SATURDAY, 31 MARCH 2012 00:14 PIONEER NEWS SERVICE | NEW DELHI
Film actor and BJP MP Hema Malini bid an emotional adieu to the Rajya Sabha on Friday after being its member for seven years. In her farewell speech, the ‘dream girl’ of yesteryears said that she was sad and with a heavy heart bidding goodbye to the Upper House where she learnt a lot.
Amidst the thumping of desks, Hema said that despite being attached to the position she realises that nothing is permanent and things move on. She remembered her experience in Bollywood where she ruled for many years only to pave way for a younger lot.
“I was the number one heroine in the film industry in the past for many years. As time passes you find there is someone else as number one. Nothing is permanent in life. I also feel attached. I feel sad,” she said. Quoting Aurobindo, she hoped that the country would soon become a super power.

Are moderates losing trust in science? Mother Jones —By Kevin Drum Thu Mar. 29, 2012
More and more, liberals and conservatives are almost literally living in different worlds with different versions of consensus reality… Is this because moderates have always viewed science as a politicized enterprise, something they're especially sensitive about? 

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