"People often perceive the Khap Panchayats as a group of barbarians sitting in the back of beyond, indulging in these horrific, medieval practices, " says Sangwan. "But actually, they represent a larger, rigid social order which delves on economic interests that nobody wants challenged.
Jagmati Sangwan" (Quoted from article below)
India's moon catcher: Portrait of a feminist activist
Jagmati Sangwan is helping to organise the fight against "honour" killings and other crimes against women in India.
Neha Dixit | 23 Jan 2016 13:36 GMT
It was a winter's afternoon in 1980 when a women's volleyball match between two Indian teams was delayed by an hour.
The team from Tamil Nadu, a state in the south of India, was on the court. But the team from Haryana, a north Indian state, had locked themselves inside their dressing room.
The officials were fuming and one was allegedly heard to say: "Instead of being grateful that they have got a platform to play, these girls are acting smart."
Inside the dressing room, intense negotiations were taking place.
Since Jagmati Sangwan of the Haryana team had returned from Mexico and South Korea, where she had played volleyball against women's teams from those countries, the attitudes of the Indian sporting authorities towards women's sport had jarred with her.
That day, she and her five fellow team-mates refused to go out onto the court until they had received some assurances. They had demands: better-quality kit, shoes and balls; improved training facilities; and an increased diet allowance. What they wanted, essentially, was equality with the men's teams.
The officials eventually conceded and assured the team that their demands would be met as soon as the tournament they were playing in was over.
Sangwan's team hit the court and won. She was 20 years old then.
In the 35 years since, one thing has remained consistent in Sangwan's life: her belief in collective resistance.
The 55-year-old is now the vice president of the All India Democratic Women's Association, an independent, left-leaning organisation dedicated to achieving democracy and equality. In India, if anyone is responsible for putting the issue of "honour" crimes on the national and international agenda, it is Sangwan.
The day I met her, she had just returned to work a few days after her daughter had suffered post-delivery complications.
We are sitting in her office in Shadi Khampur, a working-class district of Delhi.
"Just imagine," she says. "Thirty years back, I faced the same lack of mother and child care when my daughter was born. And now, she is facing the same. Nothing has changed really."
She speaks softly, the constant movement of her hands helping to articulate every point she makes.
But anyone who has ever attended a rally with her and heard her shout slogans such as "Patriarchy is a bluff. This is the time to smash it to dust" as though it were a battle cry, has witnessed the transformation of that soft voice.
A lesson in sexism
Sangwan grew up in Janta Bhutan village in the Sonipat district of Haryana, one of eight siblings in a family of farmers.
Like her male siblings, Sangwan was allowed to attend school. But there were differences in what the girls and boys were taught. She "did not even learn science in school", she says.
Then, once the girls reached the age of 15, their schooling just stopped.
It was at school that Sangwan encountered her first case of "honour" killing. A 13-year-old classmate was killed for "talking too much with boys".
When Sangwan was 16, she had her first experience of creating a collective, getting together with a group of girls from her village who wanted to continue their education.
"We would have never been allowed to travel to a college, an hour away in another town," she says, explaining how, as a group, they were able to persuade their parents to let them.
Every morning they would board the bus for the hour's drive to Gohana. And every day, they would run the gauntlet of name-calling, shaming and character assassination directed at females who dared to be in public spaces.
"You must have seen the video of those girls thrashing boys," she says, referring to a video of two young women beating two men who had allegedly harassed them that went viral.
"We did that on a daily basis. There was no other way to deal with the 'Eve teasing'. And mostly, we would be the only women travellers in those buses," she recalls.
tried to feel excited about my impending hug. But really, I just wanted to leave. I had been in the hall since nine in the morning and the novelty had worn off a couple of hours ago.
It is five o’clock before we are all herded together and told to wait for our tokens.
f I was being honest with myself, the only reason I was still there was the story. It was a story about getting a hug from Amma, and for that a hug was needed. But then, who decides? It’s my story. It could also be a story about waiting for eight hours to get a hug, and not getting it.
Realizing that I am a clueless heathen and an Amma virgin she kindly explained the basics to me:
“She is a Mahatma, a Great Soul. We believe that she is a fully realized spirit in human form who has come to earth to show people the way to enlightenment. Of course, Amma would never claim that about herself, but has been proof of it throughout her life. She teaches the importance of selfless love – we are currently living in the dark age of Kali Yuga, where love is only given with something expected in return. Amma gives darshan by hugging with true selfless affection and thus spreading selfless love, which is the only thing that can reverse the ill effects of greed and ego. Once a person has been at the receiving end of such selfless love, he is himself transformed. Humanity is big, but it is made out of people, and so the problems of humanity can be addressed one person at the time.”
A grey-haired Swiss woman, who was listening to our conversation, reassures me that I have made the right choice:
“Seeing her is the best thing that can happen in your life. There is simply nothing better!” She says with the matter-of-fact tone of a primary school teacher telling me that calcium is good for my bones.
All around me, her devotees have only one topic of discussion: Amma. Most of them had travelled with her before and have sat in on her hugging events dozens, if not hundreds of times. But it seemed they just couldn’t get enough, gushing about her warmth and humility and recounting their favourite Amma moments to each other.
When I am asked about my reasons for visiting I mumble something about hearing what a wonderful experience it is.
A video is being projected onto a large screen behind the stage, extolling all of Amma’s good deeds as skinny orphans with large, accusing eyes are sent to school, hospitals built by Amma’s organization provide free healthcare and Amma herself shovels some dirt around to inaugurate the large rebuilding effort that was undertook after the tsunami. Amma the Humanitarian is then replaced by Amma the Serial Hugger.
A long montage set to swelling music shows her embracing endless processions of devotees all over the world. They kneel before Amma, tears streaming down their faces, reaching towards her with greedy devotion. The Mother would laugh merrily, or sigh sympathetically, dry their tears and envelop them in a big tight hug, whispering comforting words in their ear.
The camera zooms in on the blissed-out faces of her western devotees enjoying their hug and babies laughing in her arms as she tickles their bellies. The video leaves no room for doubt: everyone is having a jolly good time.
(some text omitted by Corboy for brevity)
When the person we had all come to see finally walked on stage at noon a hush fell over the hall. A short woman with a plump childish face, wearing her signature plain white sari, she sat on the dais in the centre of the stage and started singing. Smaller screens surrounding the stage displayed Tamil and English translations:
“If I were the breeze, what would I do?
Oh Amma, I would follow you everywhere.
If I were the earth, what wold I do?
Oh Amma, I would rejoice in supporting your feet.”
And so on and so forth into eternity.
Amma is famous for her devotional singing, but the repetitive melody has a rather anesthetizing effect and soon I am nodding off in my seat. I find myself unable to fully appreciate the supposedly overwhelming joy of being in Amma’s presence and head for the canteen instead, where I can keep track of her speechifying on a screen while drowning my boredom in gallons of sweet chai. It takes another hour of singing and speeches before the hugging can begin.
wo cameras are pointed at the stage so that the waiting masses can see the Hugging Mother in action. The scene in front of me is a world away from the joy and cosy intimacy promised by the promotional video or the “chilled out vibes of love and, like, total acceptance” that apparently permeate her visits in the West. In India, religion and spirituality are an inextricable part of the loud, messy and crowded lives of the believers. This is not a quick dip into eastern spirituality, a solemn cathartic moment with a hip Indian Guru that you can humblebrag about over your skinny decaf latte.
Distances and differences, of status, age, and sex,
disappear in an exhilarating feeling (temporary
to be sure) that individual boundaries can be
transcended were perhaps illusory in the first
"Of ourse touch is only one of hte sensual stimuli that
hammers at the gate of individual identity...Phyllis
Greenacre has suggested there are other, more subliminal
exchanges of body heat, muscle tension, and body
rhythms taking place in a crowd..the crowds assault
on the sense of individual identigy appears to be
well nigh irresistable; its invitation to a psychological
regression in which the image of ones body becomes
fluid and increasingly blurred, controls over emotions
are weakened, critical faculties and rational thoughts
abandoned..is extended in a way both forceful and seductive."
There was a time when statesmen like Jawaharlal Nehru believed that religion was dangerous because it convinced followers that hunger, filth and misery were their natural lot. Today god-men, accomplished practitioners of the art of politics, wield considerable power and political clout. But they wilfully overlook, and thereby sanction misery, hunger and filth.
Consider the paradoxes of this rapidly growing phenomenon. Men of god are expected to be renouncers. New-age gurus dress in flashy apparel, travel in luxurious private planes, host celebrations attended by pomp and splendour, and endeavour to arouse shock and awe among devotees. Ministers, Supreme Court judges, high-ranking bureaucrats, police officers, corporate honchos, and media personalities genuflect at the feet of self-styled gurus. Never have religious leaders fetched such unthinking obeisance, and untrammelled power as they do today. It is not surprising that they have neither time nor inclination to do something about the ills of our society.
Right up till the turn of the twentieth century, a number of religious leaders driven by the quest for a moral order, and fired by the belief that untouchability was a later appendage to Hinduism, tried to retrieve the spiritual essence of the religion.
Over the millennia, others threw up their metaphorical hands in despair, broke away and established new religions — Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Hinduism, smudged deeply by social exclusion, became the object of struggle, the target of social reform movements, and often the butt of ridicule
Do we see any of this questioning by cults today?
Self-styled gurus can hardly launch a critique of a system of which they are the beneficiaries.
When the ‘spiritual’ leader of the infamous Swadheen Bharat Subhas Sena, Jai Gurudev, died in 2012, he reportedly left property and land worth Rs.12,000 crore, a school, a petrol pump, a temple that secured him immortality, ashrams, assets, and luxury cars.
Hinduism is a religion that teaches detachment; ironically, leaders of cults are passionately attached to worldly possessions, power and pelf. Their power is on public display.
Certainly, Indians have bowed their foreheads before gurus, renouncers, holy men, savants and peripatetic sadhus since time immemorial. But these transactions between believers and faith leaders were private, confidential and sacrosanct. These days transactions are public affairs; conspicuously orchestrated mega-events are televised and breathlessly consumed by a global constituency.
“The accident occurred around 1 a.m. when the bus driver lost control over the vehicle and rammed the bike before colliding with the car. While Harindrashankar and Kiran Babu died on the spot, Akshay and Jisha, who were pulled out after cutting open the car, died on the way to hospital,” said Crispin Sam, Circle Inspector of Police, North Paravur.
Three other women passengers in the car — Alappuzha native Gudiya S. Lal, 22, Kozhikode native Athira Sasikumar, 22, and Athulya Nair, 22, from Palakkad — sustained grievous injuries and are undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit of a private hospital. However, their condition is said to be out of danger.
Meanwhile, six persons who were travelling in the bus were admitted to hospital after suffering minor injuries. They were discharged later.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the bus, carrying a group of pilgrims who had been returning to Edappal after visiting the Mata Amritanandamayi Asram at Vallikavu in Kollam, was in the wrong lane and speeding.
The Cusat students were returning to their college at Kalamassery after attending New Year celebrations at Kadamakudy. The bike riders too were on the way to Ernakulam from North Paravur.
“According to a preliminary probe, the bus driver, Vipin Raj, had dozed off. In the impact of the collision, both the car and the bike were reduced to a heap of mangled metal,” police said. Vipin Raj was arrested and charged under Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the IPC.
These problematic organizations take in huge cash donations and they do not have independently audited financial statements. They also take in donations such as gold and ask for property to be willed to these so-called charities. Just how much “charity” is actually being done? Are the donations being audited and traced from source to destination? No, they are not. If there is a way to make money off their devotees and their lives, these groups will do it. Then, where is that money going? What are the money flows globally? A complete list of these destructive groups would be very long.
Traditionally, Hinduism is simply not a missionary religion. That is one of its strengths and key features. In this manner, it has influenced all the other major religions of the world, through sheer strength of the ideas contained in the world’s most ancient religion.
There are billions of dollars and deep seated corruption linked to many of these NRM’s/cults. They are receiving assistance from many special interests and political allies.
Meanwhile, social media and even IT hackers play key roles in “recruitment”, as well as systematic harassment of those that oppose their efforts. Those that are critical or acting to stop their criminal enterprises are often targeted by illegal means, so law enforcement must by brought in to mount the effort to combat them. Many people in authority, in government and otherwise, have seemingly been swayed or lured into providing begrudging support. Other are simply looking the other way, in purposeful ignorance. Some in our community are going along with all this simply for political or monetary reasons. This is away to grab power as well. Many first-generation immigrants from India and South Asia have always known full well what has been occurring. Now, their children are also getting wrapped up in this nexus.
These groups with connections to India have formed a strategic alliance with New Religious Movements (NRMs). These cults often have Indian “gurus” (teachers) as leaders/figureheads of the destructive cults. In this way, the Indian community here in the US is being split badly and harmed. There is much corruption, fraud, and in fact criminal activity connected with many of these 501(c) organizations. They are typically for profit businesses hiding behind charity/non-profit status. Often the 501(c) have devotees run businesses as registered agents, and then the money simply gets funneled back to the 501(c). The businesses run by such fraudulent 501(c)’s are utilized for recruitment as well financial and tax fraud. There is also immigration fraud, tax fraud, slave labor and much criminal activity linked to many of these destructive cults. In this way, they do significant personal damage to their followers or devotees. They also thereby harm extended families and friends of devotees, who are slowly transformed into slaves of the organization. Even God and family slowly comes second to the destructive cult.