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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Breaking India Forces and The Pejavar Swami – A Background To The Udupi Iftar Controversy


All of us who have been following the news are aware of the recent controversy that has arisen over the decision of the Pejavar Swami to invite members of Udupi’s Muslim community. People from far and wide, who do not have full knowledge of the local situation or the background of the Swami, are unsure of how to approach this issue or what position to take.

This is a report by some of us, who are completely neutral in

  • Not having any political affiliation
  • Not being members of the Madhva, Muslim or the Dakshina Kanara communities

The reason we state our lack of affiliation up front is to establish that none of the respondents have any interest or anything to gain or lose from either side.

To understand the events playing out currently, we must rewind events from the recent past as well as upcoming events in the future. This will help place the situation in context.

We will discuss in 3 parts:

  • The Chalo Udupi campaign of the recent past and the position taken by each of the players in this current situation
  • The players arrayed in today’s issues and their respective positions
  • The upcoming Karnataka elections and how it affects all of the people involved in this issue

The Facts of the Matter

What Really Happened At The Mutt?

Muslims from the town of Udupi and its outskirts were invited by the Acharya of the Pejavar Math, who is currently leading the regular worship at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple, to break their fast at a dining hall run by the Krishna Math.

This is a hall where people of all castes and religions are served food on a daily basis. After breaking fast, the invited guests had to perform namaaz immediately. The attic of the dining hall, which is not part of the temple itself (just as the hall itself is outside the temple complex proper), was provided for the purpose.

Certain fringe elements within the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Sri Rama Sene, have protested this event and have decided to agitate against the Pejavar Swami.

Rewind – Chalo Udupi

In the aftermath of the success of the Chalo Una movement, which was led by a certain Jignesh Mevani, the modus operandi was sought to be replicated elsewhere.

Jignesh Mevani is a protege of the controversial activist Martin Macwan of Navsarjan Trust, Gujarat. Martin Macwan can be called as de-facto leader for Breaking India forces in Gujarat and has presence & contacts in various other states of India, including North-East. A new face, Huchangi Prasad, was sought. Unlike the middle-class Mevani, Huchangi Prasad had emerged from genuine adversity. He was immediately adopted by India’s prominent faces in the NGO circuit including the Indian Writer’s Forum, which is led by such Leftist heavyweights as Romila Thapar, Githa Hariharan, Indira Jaising, A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Nayantara Sahgal, Paul Zacharia and T.M. Krishna, among others.

An interesting individual in this forum is Lawrence Liang, who was associated with the enigmatic billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. One may note that OSF has been accused of fomenting agitations such as the Arab Spring and Euromaidan, in recent years. The chaos unleashed by these two events found some measure of resonance with the impact of the Chalo Una movement

Now that a new face had been chosen, why Udupi? In both Gujarat and Kerala, the Chalo campaigns were against the government. But in Udupi, it was targeting a particular matha and its seer. Why this peculiar selection?

The Most Dangerous Man

It is well known that the Pejavar Swami had taken over the paryaya, a rotating Chief Priest position at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple. The Pejavar Swami, who has been a sannyasi for close to 80 years, has been one of the leading lights of re-mobilization of Hindus and at the forefront of forging a reconciliation between upper castes, the dominant middle castes and the scheduled castes, who have faced a lot of discrimination.

He has also been quite vocal about the need for a resurgent Hindu identity that is also at peace with the Muslim and Christian populations of India. Be it gauraksha or ghar wapsi or giving Vaishnava deeksha to innumerable Dalits, Pejavar Swami has been in the forefront in fighting for Hindu causes as well as bringing unity among the various communities. He has been one of the most vocal seers protesting against the practice of untouchability against Dalits. He acts as a bridge between traditional Hindu dharma and the modern society.

In short, the Swami is the most dangerous man. For Breaking India forces, that is.

The Real Chalo Udupi Plan

Based on facile and exaggerated excuses, claiming discrimination in the Krishna Temple, the agitators of Chalo Udupi were planning to march to Udupi and storm the temple premises. People of all communities have the privilege of darshan and prasad at the matha temple. No caste/religion is barred from darshan or having prasad. Thus, the purpose of these anarchists cannot have been anything less than rioting and causing damage to the centuries old matha with its Krishna temple. Such an incident, had it occurred, would have caused rift between various Hindu communities, the very need of the Breaking India forces.

Close on the heels of Chalo Una, the BJP Government and the Sangh Parivar had become wary of agitations with a Dalit face, since it has historically been seen as an Achilles Heel of the Sangh Parivar. The last thing any member of the Sangh Parivar would want is to be accused of anti-Dalit bigotry. Given this situation, the Sangh Parivar decided to wait this round out.

On the other hand, the Sri Rama Sene offered to support the Swami, but in the end, not much help was forthcoming on the ground. One wonders what compulsions stopped this group from following through on its promise.

Muslims of Udupi have always been supporting the matha and have shown devotion to Pejavar Swami as well as Krishna. During the recent paryayotsava where the Pejavar Swami was installed as Chief Priest, they participated in the celebration in a grand way and submitted huge ‘hore kanikke’ (donations) to the matha. Many local Muslims have also taken Vaishnava deeksha from Swamiji and thus can be compared to Raskhan, the Muslim Haribhakta from medieval times.

During the precarious situation of Chalo Udupi Andolan, it was the Udupi Muslim Souharda Vedike, a local Muslim organization, that put paid to the threats by launching a demonstration on the ground, and eventually prevented an escalation that was feared. In the aftermath of this support by Muslims, and after the recent iftar held in the dining hall, prominent members of Udupi’s Muslim community have even received death threats. It has to be kept in mind that this behavior of local Muslims is hated by Islamist extremists and thus death threats to local Muslim leaders, who support the matha, is certainly not unknown.

The Future – Upcoming Karnataka Elections

After the UP election, a specter is haunting Indian politicians. The specter of Hindu consolidation. It began with the unravelling of KHAM formula in Gujarat, more than 20 years ago, and has reached its apogee with the recently concluded UP elections.

It is easiest to drive a wedge in Hindu consolidation by exploiting the genuine grievances of India’s Dalit communities. In this context, taking aim at the Pejavar Swami would be most effective and a double gain, since he has consistently worked for reconciliation with Dalit people and a genuine reconstitution of their dignity. Cutting shim down to size would be most preferred by certain political circles who would prefer unravelling of Hindu unity.

To the Breaking India forces, a message they would want to give the Dalit community is this – ‘The Brahminical Hindu establishment would rather consort with Muslims than give you your rights’. Given that Pejavar Swami has been in forefront of including Dalits in Hindu mainstream, a high pitch false propaganda seems to have been planted and many who are gullible have fallen for this propaganda. Pejavar Swami has repeatedly visited Dalit colonies and offered Vaishnava deeksha to innumerable Dalits. These are not acts of an anti-Dalit. But the truth is being eclipsed by hysterical reaction without knowledge of ground reality – playing right into hands of Breaking India forces.

It is truly unfortunate that forces from fringe elements within the Sangh Parivar which have done such signal work towards Hindu unity and confidence would eventually end up playing into divisive forces’ hands here – by not understanding the ground reality of Udupi and allowing dissonance to foster between various Hindu communities due to their blind acceptance of the planted narrative as truth.

Note: This article has been jointly written by Trasadasyu (@dasyavevrka) and Generally Speaking (@zeneraalstuff)

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  1. Martin Macwan was exposed in 2006 in the pathbreaking book – NGOs Activists and Foreign Funds: Anti-Nation Industry jointly edited by Radha Rajan and Dr. Krishen Kak. The book was released in New Delhi by the incumbent Prime Minister who was then Chief Minister of Gujarat. Quoting from the book –

    The popular misconception about the Magsaysay award is that it is an ´Asian´ award. It is not. It is an American award for Asians. These annual awards, given to Asians under different categories, were constituted in the late 1950s by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation in memory of Ramon Magsaysay, the former President of the Philippines. A significant portion of the money component of this award is donated by the Ford Foundation. The political objective of the Magsaysay award is obvious from the choice of awardees.

    The Sean Macbride Peace Prize was constituted by the International Peace Bureau in 1992 in memory of Sean Macbride, a fierce Irish nationalist himself and son of Irish nationalist parents. Member of Fianna Fail and later Chief of Staff of the dreaded IRA, Sean Macbride parted ways with the violent IRA, became a member of the Bar and was also the foreign minister in the Irish Government. Co-founder of Amnesty International, Sean Macbride was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974. Readers must keep this very brief history of Sean Macbride in mind with regard to what follows later in this chapter about Akhila Raman and her views on Jammu and Kashmir.

    Digging into the profiles of these ´peace´ awardees, I stumbled upon an amazing and mind-boggling connectivity of powerful foreign agents and their domestic stooges. Somehow there is always a White Christian/ Western Government hand behind efforts to weaken the forces of Hindu nationalism. As pointed out earlier, Martin Macwan, a Christian from Gujarat, was awarded the Magsaysay in 2000. The same year he was also ´honoured´ by Human Rights Watch for being a ´human rights defender´. The same year he was given the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award. Macwan´s work, as also pointed out earlier, was brought to the attention of the RFK Human Rights award judges by William Schulz of Amnesty International, Smita Narula of Human Rights Watch, and Kathy Sreedhar of the Holdeen India Fund. Now let us take this step by step.

    William Schulz is actually Reverend William Schulz and he is the current President of Amnesty International and he is a White Christian. Amnesty International, let us understand, will never be headed by a Hindu, a Native American, not even by a white-skinned American ex-Christian who is now Buddhist or worse, a Hindu. Amnesty International will never be headed by an Asian or an African. And neither will Human Rights Watch or the White House or 10 Downing Street or any of the ultimate seats of power in Europe and America. I dare the New York Times to write an editorial on these racist/fascist tendencies of White/Christian polity of Western nations which adamantly refuse to share power with their non-White, non-Christian citizens with the same ferocity that it wrote the editorial when nationalist Indians refused to allow Sonia Gandhi to become prime minister—all their pious protestations about human rights, democracy and religious freedom notwithstanding!

    William Schulz is also the past President of UUA – Unitarian Universalist Association, an American denominational church. It is a self-proclaimed ´liberal religious group´ and says it has a few Buddhists in its congregation just as the Coalition against Genocide claims it is multi-religious in character. But we should know it is a Rev. Olivia Holmes who is Director of the UUA Office of International Relations and a Rev. Meg Riley who is the Director of the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy and it is a Rev. Burton Carley who is on its Board of Advisers. Jonathan Holdeen, a UUA member, bequeathed a generous fund for Christian charity and missionary work in India – and the Unitarian Universalist Holdeen India Programme (UUHIP) came into being. ´The Unitarian Universalist Holdeen India Program (UUHIP) was established thanks to a generous bequest to the UUA from Jonathan Holdeen, a businessman and attorney with an interest in assisting the most impoverished people of India´ is how their website puts it.

    This dear White Christian compassion for the poor brown people of India is overwhelming. Poverty, like peace-keeping and human rights, is thriving business for the rich and the enterprising among the White Christians. It is almost as if they have no avenues for Christian compassion and charity closer to home. Kathy Sreedhar , a White Christian (what else ! ) is the Executive Director (she is also described as Title Director) of UUHIP and she is Martin Macwan´s patron saint. Let us pause a moment here with Kathy Sreedhar. Kathy Sreedhar writes the following on the Gujarat riots dated 22 August, 2002. I think her writing comes competitively close to George W Bush´s juvenile simplicity, ´Al Qaeeda is bad, Al Qaeeda hates us´.

    The riots are an expression of a long-standing campaign by fundamentalists to change India from a secular to a Hindu religious state. At the time of independence in 1947, Gandhi´s vision of a secular state that embraced all Indians triumphed, yet a minority view persisted in favor of an overtly Hindu- based nation.

    In 1992, fundamentalist mobs burned down the Babri Mosque, a Muslim holy place, and declared they would replace it with a Hindu temple to Ram.

    You can imagine how difficult it is for our Indian partners, committed as they are to the secular ideal of Gandhi and his successors , to deal constantly with deeply prejudiced government officials. (http://www.uua.org/news/2002/020822.html).

    I didn´t know that the Babri ´Mosque´ was burned. I didn´t know you could burn stone for that matter unless Kathy Sreedhar knows something about stones that Indians don´t know. It is also news to Indians that Gandhiji had a ´secular ideal´, with his intuition bordering on the genius and with his passionate espousal of Ramrajya, or that he ever believed in the Fool´s Paradise called secular India. But this kind of writing serves two purposes it hides the right to evangelise and convert Hindus by foreign Christian missionaries under the cloak of ´secularism´ and also helps raise Christian conscience money in small coins and big notes in the churches back home in the US for NGO activism and proselytising missions in India. Read this:

    Then SEWA [Self-Employed Women´s Association, UUHIP´s ´partner´ in India] began marketing the goods outside the camps, including the United States, where a delegation of SEWA craftswomen exhibited and sold their wares at the Smithsonian´s annual Folk Festival on the Mall in Washington. Possibly some of you visiting Washington during late June and early July had the opportunity to speak with the craftswomen at their stalls and buy their beautiful scarves, table and bed linens, bags, and other items. Members of the Cedar Lane UU Church in Bethesda, Maryland, bought more than $1500 worth of SEWA´s textiles after I spoke with them about the riots. (same source as cited above)

    Kathy Sreedhar was also Member of the Council on Foreign Relations´ (CFR) Task Force on India and Pakistan, which released its two-year report. This Task Force is different from the CFR Task Force which included Frank G Wisner II , former US Ambassador to India and which presented a report in October 2003 on US Policy towards India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Council on Foreign Relations is an independent American think- tank with international political and strategic intentions, with a definite agenda on India, on Jammu and Kashmir in particular.

    It is also the publisher of Foreign Affairs, a reputed bi-monthly journal on international affairs. And if Kathy Sreedhar has been a member of CFR then her intentions in India are neither social nor charitable. And that is why Kathy Sreedhar is in Gujarat, a sensitive border-state and SEWA which has a significant presence also in Gujarat is being funded by UUHIP. Kathy Sreedhar has also declared her intention to shift her focus to Uttar Pradesh.

    After the close of the World Social Forum, Kathy will travel with FGHR (Fund for Global Human Rights) to Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest and most violent states in India, with a population so large it would rank as the eighth largest country in the world. Kathy and Mona Khan of the FGHR will meet women and dalit human rights leaders and activists to identify the most pressing human rights issues in UP, as well as the most critical support required to ´grow ´ human rights organisations and movements in UP (Unitarian Universalist Holdeen India Program Report to the UUA Board of Trustees, December 2003).

    As stated earlier in this chapter, NGO activism in India centers around just four or five issues – anti-nation and anti-national borders, anti-police and armed forces, anti-RSS and BJP, and anti-Hindu society (among Hindu women, so-called dalits and tribal peoples) The UUHIP has fraternal relations with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW). One of the major donors of HRW is George Soros and Soros does not put his money into things from which there are no returns. He is typical of the culture, which says ´There are no free lunches´. George Soros, his publisher Peter Osmos and William D Zabel, his legal adviser, and a few more of his dependants are all important functionaries in HRW. In the advisory committee of HRW are also serving and past members and Fellows of Council on Foreign Relations. George Soros, besides being a major donor to HRW, is also on the Board of Directors of the CFR. Oxfam too is a major donor to HRW.

    This is just one thread of the global network operating in the border states of India. There is another thread, equally mind- boggling, of powerful international agencies which come together as ´partners´ to fund NGOs working among dalits and women. Let us look at this mind-boggling network of foreign donor agencies in the racket to work in ´health and women´s welfare´. Friends of Women´s World Banking India, FWWB is a non- profit organisation and was established as an affiliate of Women´s World Banking (WWB) in 1982. It was created to extend as well as expand informal credit support and networks within India. FWWB has built a network of nearly 80 NGOs in different states across India. To carry out its various activities, FWWB is supported by partners from within the country and outside. Ford Foundation has been one of the earliest donor agencies to recognize FWWB, and has been supporting FWWB since 1991. Other long-standing partners include USAID, DFID, PATH, UU Holdeen India Fund, NABARD and SIDBI.

    USAID is an extended arm of the US Government as is DFID, Department for International Development, an extended arm of the British Government. PATH is ´involved´ with health and, what is most surprising, or should I say, what doesn´t surprise me at all is the composition of its Board of Directors – persons from CFR , HRW and US Government officials (http : / / http://www.path.org/about/board_directors.htm). Please note that while NABARD and SIDBI partner UUHIP which is an American church group along with USAID and DFID, none of them has entered into partnerships with IDRF , with the RSS , the Ramakrishna Mission or the Chinmaya Mission, perhaps because these are Hindu organisations.

    Two other big donors for NGO activism among women are the Ashoka Innovators for the Public (AIP) and Women´s Funding Network. Lest readers are deceived into believing that the AIP is Indian, Ashoka Innovators for the Public is an American funding agency which also offers Ashoka Fellowships. This is how their website describes the organisation and its objective:

    Ashoka was founded by Bill Drayton, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant and assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency. Drayton piloted Ashoka in India with a budget of less than $50,000. Today, Ashoka spends more than $17 million a year financing its fellows around the world and some of the projects supported by AIP and Women´s Funding Network include – Recovery for victims of sexual abuse, Project to prevent incest/child sexual abuse, Rural, dalit women organise violence prevention, health education for dalit women and girls, and Sewing co-operative for isolated Muslim women.

  2. Namaz and Iftar should not be allowed in Temple Premises at all. Saying so will not make any one fringe.

    Hindu temple premises are for Hindus only. If those Muslims were devotees of Swami, then they should not
    have any problem taking Prasad of Lord Krishna, it does not appear that they did. Only If they accept Prasadam,they can be considered as devotees of Lord Krishna and have a right to the temple.

    So, why have anyone in the temple premises who do NOT believe in the divinity of Sri Krishna? Worse, what if Namaz was offered and Ayats were recited condemning Kaffirs, idolatry? Can there be a bigger disgrace for Hindus?

  3. Question is this: while we need to outfox these Breaking India forces ramping up identity politics, why is it that we as Hindus should give undue importance to group Identity?
    Yes, Indians – the Bharatiyas who constitute members of the Udupi Muslim Souharda Vedike, have done wonderful and great acts of being ever to honestly friendly and helpful to Krishna Bhaktas in general & the Udipi Matha in particular. They just happen to have Islam as their faith given that they are born into it.
    By unduely stressing that they are muslims, we only play into the identity politics game with its nasty entitlement repercussions….

    Yes, Muslims are humans whom we should respect and honor as Lord Krishna is in them too and more so in this specific group. The whole event could have been described/ stated as that of Bharatiya friends of Udipi Matha came on the request of Pujya Swamiji to share/partake fruits given by His Holiness. And after that they had their individual needs to attend to their individual sampradaya requirements – for which they went to the terrace for about 15 minutes. They happen to be following islam.

    To tomtom it as iftar and then namaz…. this is where we fall into the trap of reinforcing identity politics….
    The advisors surrounding these venerable Swamijis should understand the nuances of handling identity politics issues.

    This Breaking India forces story has always been there, and gets played out again and again and again…..
    May be in the next iteration, we, Bharatiyas should know how to handle it. Yes, we SHOULD right royally proclaim Bharatiyata and Hinduness but know how to play down the breaking India identities..


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