It has recently come to our attention that a center in East London, Whitechapel, London is hosting an “Indian film festival” from the week starting Sunday 10 January 2005. A perusal of the list of films to be showcased however shows that this is yet another exhibition of anti-Hindu propaganda aimed at showing Hinduism as some kind of foreign colonial ideology in India and Hindus as oppressors of other religious groups. We urge all Hindus to attend the festival and where possible to lodge an appropriate complaint with the centre. We also urge the centre to afford the same resources to Hindu film and documentary makers to outline the many genocides and persecutions Hindu society faces today. We would also like this opportunity to provide a more detailed account and background to our position in this debate.
In a multi-racial, multi-religious, globalised village, the expectations upon any citizen is to promote peace and harmony. Hindu Human Rights group (HHR) actively and passionately stands behind this principle. However, if art is closely equated as means of access to truth, the so-called liberals and leftists have turned to using art into a craft of besmirching Hindus and Hinduism.
In the political realm, Leftists and Liberals generally view Hindus and Hinduism as deserving of attack and denigration for any number of alleged practices and social evils, depending on which particular cause that has become the latest fashion. They shout down as “aggressive” or “fundamentalist” any sign of assertiveness on the part of rank-and-file Hindus. Meanwhile the Rightists view us as “The Hindoo”, the dark-skinned “Other”, idol-worshipers and followers of allegedly superstitious practices – as if this makes us primitive and inferior, therefore deserving of conversion, conquer ring and cleansing by any means as they have done to other Pagans. To be assertive of our Hinduness is perceived by the Rightist as a threat to his worldview and way of life – deserving to be put in our place by covert and overt intimidation or even repatriation. Left or Right, both are open ill-wishers to the Hindus.
Art in proper visual form has always had the power to heal and sooth the soul. Of course, Hinduism has always recognized this and contains a wealth of artistic works and styles. It would be difficult for us to do justice to this artistic heritage but we certainly honour it and have no qualms in stating that we, Hindu Human Rights, are pro-Art and give all due respect to this important aspect of human existence and endeavour. However, as with all powerful forces, Art can also be harnessed for more malicious purposes.
Perhaps, artists should identify themselves, as just artists and not as journalists, not as “documentarians,” nor as propagandists. Art, as much as activism, is about articulating visions: the discovery of one’s own voice through innovations that are inextricably linked with tradition and culture. There is nothing inherently mystical or romantic about this process: we locate ourselves in sympathetic social scenes, articulate our ideas among ourselves, and then (hopefully) test and refine these ideas in the world of actual practice to bring in peace and harmony by sharing ennobling ideas and elevated thoughts.
However, if art is used a vehicle for ideology, a tool for the construction of consensus and hence of a community peppered with “anti-a-particular-community-feeling”, it can become an activist documentary and a marketing tool to arouse violent passions in a naive and malleable audience (sometimes called “brainwashing”). Hence, the audience then becomes an unwitting pawn in supporting an unspoken, but identifiable, agenda of such activists. Activist documentary, the overwhelmingly dominant mode in socially-committed video today, has a troubling tendency first to proceed to produce documentaries which propagate these unexamined values and then overlook the insidious consequences in society.
History has witnessed numerous genocides which have been preceded by the denigration of the victims often portraying them as irrational, immoral, lacking a legitimate religion, lacking in compassion towards others and thereby not deserving of the same human rights extended to other people. Hindu Human Rights is acutely aware of the abuse of such practices and painfully cognizant of its consequences (please visit our website http://www.hinduhumanrights.info for more details). Demonising a culture and community is the first step towards a successful genocide, as we have witnessed in the cleansing of Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Jammu and Kashmir, etc.
Thus, Hindu Human Rights steadfastly criticizes the film festival organizers for peddling propaganda and parading it as a contribution to multiculturalism by hosting highly questionable documentaries which construct misrepresentations and distortions of certain communities (Hindus being the main targets in this area). The same deliberately one sided “films of lies” are being used as a marketing tool by self-parading, self-appointed “liberals”, and is overtly insensitive as it promotes and justifies violence against and negative stereotypes of Hindus and Hinduism. Less noticeably, but just as importantly, it also creates exactly the apathetic and indifferent attitudes necessary in the West to allow Western governments to ignore and negate huge massacres of Hindus. Indeed, as Hindus, we are deeply aware of the richness of Art in our traditions and yet this never seems to be portrayed accurately to Western audiences. When Hindu spiritual ideas are used, it is done either without credit or in an offensive or insensitive manner displaying the wide ignorance that exists. Thus it is highly unfortunate and tragic that ordinary people in the West do not get the opportunity to experience and understand to richness of Hinduism in an appropriate context (a prime example being the popularity of physical yoga exercises and the corresponding ignorance of the other 98% of yogic spiritual teachings).
This genre of films and “documentaries” are generally first thought up by Indians with Hindu sounding names but anti-Hindu agendas (the products of secular western based schooling system with the finishing touches of Marxism and Leftism). Such people, full of self loathing and hatred of their Hindu spiritual and cultural heritage, realistically anticipate financial and intellectual support from their Western counterparts. The latter’s appetite for more and more bizarre and contentious analyses (reticent and hesitant to scrutinize more deadly and dangerous scenarios) is fed by such propaganda against what is viewed as an easier target to vilify without any fear of retaliation – Hinduism and Hindu culture. Furthermore it ensures that their Indian colleagues are supported by fat salaries and huge grants so as to enable them to serve up such distasteful and, even worse, such dangerous fare. The naive audience in the West will swallow the negative images and the ideas perpetuated by the disputed documentaries without being made aware of India’s wounded history of Imperialistic and Colonial invasions and misrule.
It is ironic that as these Leftists and Liberals here in the West encourage, fund and provoke films/documentaries which seek to attack and destroy Hinduism, Hindus and Hindu culture while at the same time the same society enjoys benefits such as meditation, yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, Hindu cuisine, Chakra/Tantra philosophy, Environmentalism, vegetarianism, Art, Dance, Music, architecture, to name but a few of the cultural treasures of Hinduism. It would not surprise us either to discover that such people who fund, promote and screen such anti-Hindu propaganda also claim to be staunch defenders of the rights of endangered and persecuted peoples. Rightists of course are just as happy with this maligning of Hindus since it fits their agenda of showing their own cultural and racial superiority and provides support to their objective of intervention in these “unfortunate” societies, even if it means using war.
Hindus and Hindu civilization has endured horrendous genocide and enslavement. Hindus have seen their culture and social fabric, educational system and economy denigrated and brought to the verge of destruction. Other mighty civilizations have significantly failed to survive such brutal depredations – their true culture and traditions a very dim and distant memory. In contrast, Hindus have survived and their spiritual and cultural heritage, although wounded, survives in every part of the globe to this day. However the defence of Hindu society, Hindu civilization, Hindu culture and Hinduism does not figure in the consciousness of these Westerners which instead seems to have the destruction of Hinduism and Hindus at their very epicentre. Will they not be satisfied until all of Hinduism that is priceless, energising and life giving has been hacked from its very land and home and its Hindu peoples reduced to a few hundred? Will they then feel less threatened and more able to champion the Hindu cause as an endangered people? Will they begin to write about the fantastic achievements and contributions of Hindu civilisation from the comfort of the Museum or while on safari in the reservation, having succeeded in destroying the Hindu society which nourished and preserved this sacred tradition?
As assertive Hindus, challenging the current distortions that pass for independent and impartial consideration of our culture, norms, practices and values we neither belong to the Left nor the Right – instead we are struggling to have an authentic Hindu voice heard in the world arena. Whenever such one-sidedly anti-Hindu festivals about India are screened in the West we appeal to both Hindus and non-Hindus sympathetic to Hinduism to attend and to raise their voices in a challenge to the prevailing stereotypes inimical to Hinduism peddled in the global forum. We urge people to raise their voices in protest against those willing to hijack Art to pursue their own political agenda. Above all, we ask for a sense of balance in all such festivals and events. Otherwise the millions of Hindus who have lost their lives, the millions of Hindu women and girls abducted and rape, their suffering … will not only be forgotten, but will persist into many future generations.
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