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Sita Ram Goel (Hindi: सीता राम गोयल Sītā Rām Goyal) (1921 – 2003), writer and publisher in late twentieth century. He had Marxist leanings during the 1940s[1], but later became an outspoken anti-communist. In his later career he emerged as a commentator on Christianity, Islam and Indian politics.

Life

Template:Hindu politics

Early life

Sita Ram Goel was born to a non-traditional Hindu family in Haryana, in 1921; though his childhood was spent in Calcutta. The family looked upon Sri Garibdas, a nirguna saint comparable to Kabir and Nanak, as its patron saint and his verses, "Granth Saheb"[2], were often recited at their home.[3]

Goel graduated in History from the University of Delhi in 1944. As a student, he was a social activist and worked for a Harijan Ashram in his village. His sympathies for the Arya Samaj, the Harijans and the Indian freedom movement, along with his strong support for Mahatma Gandhi, brought him into conflict with many people in his village;[4] Goel also learned to speak and write Sanskrit during these college days.[5]

Direct Action Day

On August 16, 1946, during the Direct Action Day riots in Calcutta that were instigated by the Muslim League shortly before Partition of India, Goel, his wife and their eldest son narrowly escaped with their lives. In his autobiography, "How I became a Hindu", Goel writes that he "would have been killed by a Muslim mob" but his fluent Urdu and his Western dress saved him. He further relates, that the next evening they "had to vacate that house and scale a wall at the back to escape murderous Muslim mobs advancing with firearms."[6] He subsequently wrote and circulated a lengthy article on the riots, titled "The Devil Dance In Calcutta", in which he held Hindus and Muslims equally responsible for the tragedy.[7] His friend Ram Swarup, however, criticized him for equating Muslim violence with Hindu violence, claiming that Muslim violence was "aggressive and committed in the furtherance of a very reactionary and retrograde cause, namely the vivisection of India".[7]

Communism to anti-communism

In mid-1940s Goel met members of the CSP (Congress Socialist Party), translated writings by Narendra Deva and Jayaprakash Narayan into English, and was offered a position as an editor of a CSP publication. But his first editoral for the weekly was deemed to be pro-communist, and he had to stop writing for the weekly.[6]

Sita Ram Goel had developed a strong Marxist leaning during his student days and was on the verge of joining the Communist Party of India in 1948. The Communist Party, however, was banned in Bengal on the day he planned to officially become its member. He read Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, Harold Laski's "Communism", and "came to the conclusion that while Marx stood for a harmonised social system, Sri Aurobindo held the key to a harmonised human personality."[5] Later, books by Aldous Huxley, Victor Kravchenko, and Suzanne Labin ("Stalin's Russia") convinced him to abandon communism.[8] Subsequently he wrote many books critical of communism in Calcutta, and worked for the anti-communist "Society for the Defence of Freedom in Asia" (SDFA).[9][10] According to Goel, when he wanted to apply for a passport in 1955, he was told that his case was receiving attention from the Prime Minister himself, and his application was not granted.[11]

'Nehruism' and Censorship

Goel wrote regularly for the "Organiser" weekly, whose editor K. R. Malkani was his friend. In 1961-1962 he used the pseudonym Ekaki (solitary) while writing the series "In Defence of Comrade Krishna Menon", critical of Indian National Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru.[12] Although the series was widely read and praised, he was later admonished by a leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for being too focused on Nehru, and the series was discontinued.[12][13] The collected series was published in December, 1963 by Vaidya Gurudatta [12] and an updated version released as "Genesis and Growth of Nehruism" [14] thirty years later. However Goel's writings about Nehru in the Organiser cost him his job [15] and disillusioned him of the RSS.[12]

According to Goel, he was under surveillance by the Indian government during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. He was not arrested, even though this was according to him demanded by some government leaders, including future Prime Minister I. K. Gujral.[12][16] In November, 1962 he was recruited to participate in a guerilla war against Communist China, but he refused, saying "that so long as Pandit Nehru was the Prime Minister of the country, I could be only a traitor to it." [12]

During the 1980s Goel worked on a series titled "Muslim Separatism: Causes and Consequences", but some passages from his articles were censored by the Organiser.[12] He discovered that his series was considered too controversial by the RSS leadership who thought that it was alienating Muslims from the party, and Goel had to stop writing for the Organiser after the completion of the series "Perversion of India's Political Parlance". K.R. Malkani, who was the editor for the Organiser for three decades, was sacked because of his support for Goel.[12][17] Goel also noted that on other occasions that some of his articles, e.g. his article on the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple controversy, were suppressed in the Indian media.[18][19]

Publisher and writer

Goel founded the publishing house Biblia Impex India (Aditya Prakashan) in 1963, which published books by authors such as Dharampal, Ram Swarup, K. D. Sethna and K.R. Malkani.[16] Sita Ram Goel joined the non-profit publishing house Voice of India in 1982.[20] Voice of India was founded in 1982 by Ram Swarup,[21] and published works by Harsh Narain, A.K. Chatterjee, K.S. Lal, Koenraad Elst, Rajendra Singh, Sant R.S. Nirala, and Shrikant Talageri among others .[12]

Early versions of several of Goels books were previously published as a series in periodicals like Hinduism Today, Indian Express or the Organiser. Goel speculates that, a series of article he published in Indian Express in 1989 regarding the destruction of Hindu temples by Muslims, may have contributed to the firing of its editor Arun Shourie the following year.[12] In August 1990 while releasing two books published by "Voice of India", Bharatiya Janta Party leader L. K. Advani chided Goel for using strong language.[12]

Goel also worked as a part-time secretary for the All India Panchayat Parishad whose manager was his friend Jayaprakash Narayan. Narayan was impressed by Goel's Hindi book "Samyak Sambuddha" and said to Goel, "If Sanatana Dharma is what you say it is, I am all for it. You can count me as a Sanatanist from today. You can say to whomsoever you please that JP has become a Sanatanist."[12]

Goel was fluent in Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, English and Sanskrit, and read Persian.[22]

Opinions

On alleged rewriting of history books

Goel claimed that there was a "systematic distortion" of India's history which the Marxist historians of Aligarh and the JNU had undertaken.[23] In particular, he claims that the history of medieval India and the Islamic invasions is being rewritten. He described it as an "experiment with Untruth" and an exercise in suppressio veri suggestio falsi.[24] According to him, the Ministry of Education has extended this experiment to school-level text-books of history. Goel called it "an insidious attempt at thought-control and brainwashing" and argued that the NCERT guidelines are "recommendations for telling lies to our children, or for not telling to them the truth at all."[24]

On Indian secularism

Goel has criticized Indian secularism, alleging that "this concept of Secularism is a gross perversion of the concept which arose in the modem West as a revolt against Christianity and which should mean, in the Indian context, a revolt against Islam as well."[25]

On Media bias

Goel claimed that there is a Media bias in India, in particular with regard to criticism of Islam or people like Nehru. In 1955 Goel asked one of his friends, who was supportive of Nehru and who had published in many international and national journals, to write an article critical of Nehru's policies. But the Indian publications didn't accept his critical article, and he claims that his standing as a scholar in India suffered thereby.[25]

Goel described an incident during a seminar on "Hurdles To Secularism" in 1963 which Goel attended, and which was presided over by Jayaprakash Narayan. As Goel tells it, most participants in the seminar criticized only "Hindu communalism". But when one Muslim speaker took up the issue of Muslim communalism, he was shouted down by the other Muslims of the seminar, and had to stop talking.[26]

On Indian nationalist organisations

Goel criticized Hindu nationalist organizations like the RSS. He claimed that with few exceptions they "shared the Nehruvian consensus on all important issues", and that "the RSS and the BJS stalwarts spent almost all their time and energy in proving that they were not Hindu communalists but honest secularists." He also claimed that RSS members are worried almost only about the reputation of their organization and their leaders, and are rather ignorant to Hindu causes.[23] When a Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) leader asked him to write a book about the BJS, Goel replied that his book "would be pretty critical on the score of their policies."[23]

Goel edited the book "Time for Stock-Taking", a collection of papers critical of the RSS.[27] According to Belgian writer Koenraad Elst, Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel wrote in defence of Hinduism, never of "Hindutva".[28]

On Christianity

Goel was outspoken in his criticism of Christianity. Catherine Cornille and others have criticized Goel for his anti-Christian perspective.[29][30]

In 1995 Goel sent Pat Robertson his book "Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression", and a letter in protest to Robertson's remarks towards the religion of Hinduism.[31]

On Islam and Muslims

Goel has criticized the history and doctrines of Islam in some of his writings. His works are also cited by critics of Islam like Robert Spencer[32] and Arun Shourie[33].

Despite his criticism of Islam, he said that he is not opposed "to an understanding and reconciliation between the two communities. All I want to say is that no significant synthesis or assimilation took place in the past, and history should not be distorted and falsified to serve the political purposes of a Hindu-baiting herd."[24] He argues that the Muslims should evaluate the Islamic history and doctrines in terms of rationalism and humanism "without resort to the casuistry marshalled by the mullahs and sufis, or the apologetics propped up by the Aligarh and Stalinist schools of historians", just as the European Christians did centuries earlier with Christianity.[24]

He believed that the "average Muslim is as good or bad a human being as an average Hindu"[24], and warned:

Some people are prone to confuse Islam with its victims, that is, the Muslims, and condemn the latter at the same time as they come to know the crudities of the former. This is a very serious confusion, which should be avoided by all those who believe in building up a broad-based human brotherhood as opposed to narrow, sectarian, self-centred, and chauvinistic nationalism or communalism.[24]

Literary influences

He wrote and published books in English and Hindi. He also translated George Orwell's 1984, three Dialogues of Plato, Denis Kincaid's book "The Great Rebel" about Shivaji and other books into Hindi.

Goel was well read in Western and Eastern literature, and among his most favorite writers or works were Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Aldous Huxley, Plato, Tagore, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay, Vaishnava and Baul poets, the Kathamrita written by Mahendranath Gupta (Sri M.) and Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy"[2].[34] His most favorite book was the Mahabharata, which he read in the original language.[35]

Sita Ram Goel was influenced by Indian writer and philosopher Ram Swarup. He said that his masters have been "Vyasa, Buddha and Sri Aurobindo, as elucidated by Ram Swarup".[36] He was also influenced by Tilak, Dayananda Sarasvati and Mahatma Gandhi.[34]

Banned books

Understanding Islam through Hadis

In 1983 Goel reprinted Ram Swarup's "Understanding Islam through Hadis". The book was a summary of the Sahih Muslim Hadith, and consisted of extracts from the Hadiths. In 1987 he again reprinted the book, but the copies of a Hindi translation were seized by the police and Goel was arrested briefly.[37]

In due course, some Muslims and the Jamaat-e-Islami weekly Radiance claimed that the book was offensive. In 1990 the Hindi translation of the book was banned. In March 1991 the English original was banned as well. The criminal case against Goel for printing the book was dismissed after some years on 5 May 1997, but the book still remains banned.[37]

Indian intellectuals protested against the arrest of Goel.[37] Arun Shourie commented on the criminal case:

No one has ever refuted him on facts, but many have sought to smear him and his writing. They have thereby transmuted the work from mere scholarship into warning. (...)The forfeiture is exactly the sort of thing which had landed us where we are: where intellectual inquiry is shut out; where our traditions are not examined, and reassessed; and where as a consequence there is no dialogue. It is exactly the sort of thing too which foments reaction. (...)"Freedom of expression which is legitimate and constitutionally protected," it [the Supreme Court] declared last year, "cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group or people." [38]

Hindu View of Christianity and Islam (1993)

In 1993 the MP Syed Shahabuddin, who in 1988 asked for the ban of The Satanic Verses[39], demanded a ban on Ram Swarup's book "Hindu View of Christianity and Islam".[40] Goel and Swarup went into hiding because they feared that they could get arrested. The court accepted a bail, and they could come out of hiding.[41][42] Arun Shourie and K. S. Lal protested against the ban.[43][44]

Colin Maine's "The Dead Hand of Islam"

In 1986 he reprinted Colin Maine's essay "The Dead Hand of Islam" [3]. Some Muslims filed a criminal case against Goel, alleging that it violated Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code and similar articles of the Indian Customs Act.

The judge discharged Goel and referred to the earlier court precedent "1983 CrLJ 1446". Speaking of the importance of that precedent, the judge in his discussion said: "If such a contention is accepted a day will come when that part of history which is unpalatable to a particular religion will have to be kept in cold storage on the pretext that the publication of such history would constitute an offence punishable under Sec. 153A of the Penal Code. The scope of S-153A cannot be enlarged to such an extent with a view to thwart history. (...) Otherwise, the position will be very precarious. A nation will have to forget its own history and in due course the nation will have no history at all. (...) If anybody intends to extinguish the history (by prohibiting its publication) of the nation on the pretext of taking action under the above sections, his act will have to be treated as malafide one."[37]

The Calcutta Quran Petition

Goel published the book The Calcutta Quran Petition with Chandmal Chopra in 1986 and on August 31, 1987 Chandmal Chopra was arrested by the police and kept in police custody until September 8 for publishing with Goel this book on the Calcutta Quran petition. Sita Ram Goel had to abscond to avoid getting arrested.[45]

Hindu Temples - What Happened to Them

There were proposals in November 1990 in Uttar Pradesh to ban Goel's book "Hindu Temples - What Happened to Them".[46]

Legacy and criticism

Sita Ram Goel has been described as an "intellectual kshatriya".[47] David Frawley said about Goel that he was "modern India’s greatest intellectual kshatriya", and "one of India’s most important thinkers in the post-independence era". According to Frawley, "Sitaram followed a strong rationalistic point of view that did not compromise the truth even for politeness sake. His intellectual rigor is quite unparalleled in Hindu circles..."[48]

Koenraad Elst met Sita Ram Goel in India and wrote about his work: "The importance of Ram Swarup's and Sita Ram Goel's work can hardly be over-estimated. I for one have no doubt that future textbooks on comparative religion as well as those on Indian political and intellectual history will devote crucial chapters to their analysis." [4] According to Elst, Goel and Swarup gave a first-hand "Pagan" reply to the versions of history and "comparative religion" imposed by the monotheist world-conquerors.[49]

The Japanese scholar Mitsuhiro Kondô claimed that Golwalkar's views on monotheistic religions "bear a striking resemblance to, and at times are identical to" the views of the Sita Ram Goel. She claimed: "the common structure between these two ideological currents [viz. Golwalkar and Goel/Shourie], separated by several decades as they are, highlights the core of the Hindu nationalist movement: ethnicism or exclusive particularism"[50] Koenraad Elst disagrees with Kondo, and says: "In sharp contrast with the repetitive-nationalistic and Indocentric approach of Golwalkar and the RSS, Goel and Shourie (and Ram Swarup before them) have developed a historical and philosophical critique of Christianity and Islam that has universal validity. It is part of continuum with Western and other foreign critiques of the said religions.[22]

The Belgian scholar Callewaert commented on Goel's book "Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression": It is a well written and well documented book, and without going into detail I can agree with many points you mention. I only take issue with the spirit in which it is written and the conclusions you draw. I worry about the aims you like to achieve, nourishing the feeling you have and that prompted you to write this book. [31] Goel wrote a lengthy reply to Callewaert that is reproduced in his book "History of Hindu-Christian Encounters".

Catherine Cornille has claimed that Goel belongs to a movement that "seeks to return to the pure Vedic religion", which Goel has denied.[29]

Partial bibliography

Hindi

  • Saikyularizm, Râshtradroha kâ Dûsrâ Nâm ("Secularism, another name for treason", 1985)
  • Samyak Sambuddha

Translations into Hindi

Further reading

See also

Template:HinduRevivalistWriters

References

  1. Sita Ram Goel, How I became a Hindu, Published By Voice of India, New Delhi, India
  2. This is a separate collection of hymns by Garibdas and a few other Bhakti saints. Not to be confused with holy-book of The Sikhs
  3. Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 1
  4. Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 2
  5. 5.0 5.1 Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 3
  6. 6.0 6.1 Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 4
  7. 7.0 7.1 Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 5
  8. Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 6
  9. Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 7
  10. Elst, Koenraad, "Ram Swarup (1920-98): outline of a biography" [1]
  11. Sita Ram Goel Genesis and Growth of Nehruism (1993)
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 9
  13. Suzanne Labin said:"I have read your masterpiece, 'In Defense of Comrade Krishna Menon.' It is profound, well-constructed, well argued, an honest, sound and brilliant study." On the dust wrapper of "In Defense of Comrade Krishna Menon"
  14. GENESIS AND GROWTH OF NEHRUISM
  15. Goel, Sita Ram, "How I became a Hindu", Chapter 8
  16. 16.0 16.1 Elst, Koenraad, "India's only communalist - A short biography of Sita Ram Goel"
  17. Goel, Sita Ram, "Freedom of expression: Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy"
  18. Goel:How I became a Hindu, History of Hindu-Christian Encounters
  19. Koenraad Elst. BJP vis-a-vis Hindu Resurgence. ch.17
  20. Goel:Freedom of Expression
  21. Letter by Goel to Hinduism Today, July 1998. Letters
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Koenraad Elst Who is a Hindu? (2001)
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Goel: How I became a Hindu, ch.9
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 Goel, Sita Ram, The Story of Islamic Imperialism
  25. 25.0 25.1 Goel:How I became a Hindu. ch.9
  26. Goel:Defence of Hindu Society. ch.9
  27. Hinduism, Environmentalism and the Nazi Bogey, Koenraad Elst Who is a Hindu? (2001)
  28. Hinduism, Environmentalism and the Nazi Bogey
  29. 29.0 29.1 Preface to Goel's "Catholic Ashrams". 1994.
  30. Catherine Cornille. The Guru in Indian Catholicism: Ambiguity or Opportunity of Inculturation, Louvain, 1990, pp.192-93.
  31. 31.0 31.1 S.R. Goel:History of Hindu-Christian Encounters, 1996
  32. The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion, Regnery Publishing 2006. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades), Regnery Publishing, 2005.
  33. Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud. 1998
  34. 34.0 34.1 Goel: How I became a Hindu
  35. Goel: How I became a Hindu, ch.1, 8
  36. Interview in The Observer, February 22, 1997
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 Freedom of expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998, edited by Sita Ram Goel) ISBN 81-85990-55-7
  38. Fomenting Reaction by Arun Shourie. 8 November, 1990. Freedom of expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998, edited by Sita Ram Goel) ISBN 81-85990-55-7
  39. Shahabuddin, Syed. "You did this with satanic forethought, Mr. Rushdie." Times of India. 13 October 1988.
  40. In Syed Shahabuddin's letter to P.M. Sayeed, Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, 20th August 1993. Sita Ram Goel:The Calcutta Quran Petition., Chapter 1.
  41. S.R. Goel, ed.: Freedom of Expression, 1998
  42. K. Elst: "Banning Hindu Revaluation", Observer of Business and Politics, 1-12-1993
  43. S.R. Goel, ed.: Freedom of Expression, 1998
  44. K. Elst: "Banning Hindu Revaluation", Observer of Business and Politics, 1-12-1993
  45. Elst 1991
  46. Elst 1991
  47. e.g. in India’s only communalist: In commemoration of Sita Ram Goel; Edited by Koenraad Elst; Voice of India, New Delhi. (2005)
  48. Frawley, David. How I became a Hindu
  49. Elst, Koenraad, "India's Only Communalist: an Introduction to the Work of Sita Ram Goel." In "Hinduism and Secularism: After Ayodhya", Arvind Sharma (ed.) Palgrave 2001
  50. Mitsuhiro Kondô: "Hindu nationalists and their critique of monotheism", in Mushirul Hasan and Nariaki Nakazato: The Unfinished Agenda. Nation Building in South Asia, Manohar, Delhi 2001. Koenraad Elst Who is a Hindu? (2001)

References

External links

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