This morning, a friend shared with me a conversation that supposedly took place between someone named Ramanathan, supposedly President of the Rashtriya Sanatan Seva Sangam, with Carnatic Music Singer Shri. O.S. Arun. The conversation sounded authentic enough. Therefore, I guess Mr. Ramanathan had recorded it. I could be wrong. The recording was clear. I could figure out that the voice at the other end was that of Shri. O.S. Arun (OSA).
I do not know if he informed Shri. OSA that he was recording the conversation and took his permission to do so. Also, I am not sure if it is correct to release a private conversation for public circulation.
The issue was that there was a flyer announcing that had Mr. Arun would be singing a concert of Christian songs set to Carnatic Ragas sometime later this month in Chennai. It set off a furore. Some of us were pained enough to see that. Then, a little bit of sleuthing on the internet showed that several other musicians had sung Christian songs mostly under the ‘Tamil Maiyyam’ banner in 2009. Tamil Maiyyam was promoted by Ms. Kanimozhi, the daughter of Mr. Karunanidhi, who passed away recently. Some of the singers do not appear to have sung Christian songs after that. Videos or pictures of Mr. Arun singing Christian songs with the Cross on a chain dangling from his neck were also discovered and circulated in recent days. For some, anguish turned into anger and they misplaced their marbles. That is unfortunate.
In general, artists should be free to pursue their art and craft in the manner they deem fit. In the past, Kannadasan and Vaali had written lyrics for the movie, ‘Annai Velankanni’ and T.M. Soundararajan had sung a very nice song when Jesus was being crucified, in the final scenes of the film. My grandmother took her grandchildren to the movie, if my memory serves me well.
But, I do realise that these are different days. Evangelism is very active and conversion of Hindus to Christianity is a big international agenda. This is indeed a ‘Clash of Civilisations’ as Samuel Huntington wrote. In fact, in that book, Prof. Huntington wrote, “Christianity spreads primarily by conversion, Islam by conversion and reproduction” (Chapter 3, page 65, 1996 Edition). Many Hindus are rather frustrated by this and some are angry. Justifiably so. There is something inherently unfair about coercive conversion achieved through material inducement, etc.
His Holiness Swami Dayananda Saraswati called conversion an ‘act of violence’. He also said something that should be of interest to the artists who had accepted invitation to sing Christian songs set to Carnatic ragas:
Religion and culture are not often separable. This is especially true with the Hindu religious tradition. The greeting word, namaste, is an expression of culture as well as religion. Even though a religious mark on the forehead is purely religious, it is looked upon as a part of Hindu culture. Rangoli [patterns drawn on the ground with rice flour] at the entrance of a Hindu house is not just cultural; it is also religious.
Indian music and dance cannot separate themselves from the Hindu religious tradition. There is no classical dance, bharata natyam, without Siva Nataraja being there. The classical, lyrical compositions of Meera, Tyagaraja, Purandara, Dikshitar and many others are intimately connected to the Hindu religious traditions.
…. The living religious traditions, intimately woven into the fabric of their respective cultures, have to be allowed to live and thrive. Religious conversion should stop–the aggressive religions should realize that they are perpetrating violence when they convert. We want them to live and let others live. [Link]
Further, Swamiji’s speech in 1999 in Chennai on this topic, delivered with his trademark humour, can be found here. I had done a blog post nearly six years ago on the ‘Declaration of the Second Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit’ that Swamiji had signed.
This is the context for the bewilderment, shock and dismay that many felt upon seeing the flyer of the proposed concert by OSA. The concert has since been cancelled.
It is one thing to express anguish at some of the artists failing to see the context and the evangelical designs behind the acculturation exercise that is being attempted in many forms. It is another thing to express anger, aggression, use vulgar language and threaten violence. It may be against the law. But, it most certainly is morally wrong and is both strategically and tactically stupid. It passes no test.
Indeed, imagine the following conversation:
Sir, please tell me how do I alienate artists, make them feel angry, powerless and frustrated and deliver them into the arms of Christian organisations and make them appear like the artists’ true benefactors?
Oh, that is easy. Take to Facebook and Twitter. Use foul language to abuse their mothers and sisters; threaten them with violence and aggression. Job done.
It sounds ridiculous. But, that is how things have unfolded, from what I gather.
One is justified in threatening a violent response if they encounter violence or perceive unwanted and needless aggression from the other side or a real threat to their physical safety. Anything else is boorish, uncultured and unbecoming of those who associate Carnatic Music with divinity. Losing the Ends for the Means?
With artists, one does not flex muscles. Most of them can be persuaded and made to see one’s point of view, with information and persuasion. If they still don’t, it is their prerogative and as fans and followers, one has the right to boycott them.
Chanakya spoke of Sama, Daana, Bedha and then only Dhandam.
Sama: conciliation or negotiation.
Daana: material inducement.
That is why ‘Samadhanam’ involves both of the above.
Bhedam: ‘Divide and Rule’.
Remember the Kriti, ‘Sarasa Sama Daana Bheda Danda Chathra’ by Saint Thyagaraja?
The meaning is this:
Oh Rama! You are the One who knows how to use the saama, daana, bEdha and danDa methods at the appropriate time…. [Link]
Lord Krishna offered Sisupala 100 chances to abuse him before he vanquished him. In Mahabharata, he goes to Duryodhana seeking peace including the request for just five villages. Only when all else fails, does the war begin.
The situations are not similar and the analogy is far from perfect but the simple point is that, even in such extreme situations, violence was the last resort. The current situation is far from that.
Once threat of physical violence is in the public domain, even spontaneous injuries or accidents can be spun as having been caused deliberately by an act of violence.
Imagine the near-eternal damage caused by headlines in international English language dailies:
‘Murderous acts of violence unleashed on artists by Hindu Right-Wing Extremists!’
Civilisational conflicts are not solved by threatening hapless artists with violence.
Withdrawal of following is a legitimate instrument for a fan. Before that, it is incumbent on the aggrieved fans to explain the rationale behind their pain and anguish instead of flexing muscles. The latter is inappropriate; counter-productive and self-defeating. It would amount to not even winning the battle; let alone the war.
Patience, persuasion, prudence, pragmatism and purse and not pugilism are needed to win this war in which the odds are loaded against Hindus.
(Postscript: I typed this blog post listening to the LIVE Streaming of a Carnatic Music Concert by Sid Sriram on the 10th August at the Arkay Convention Centre, accompanied by S. Varadarajan on the violin (delightful); K.V. Prasad on the Mrdangam and by Karthik on the Ghatam. Lovely concert.)