The Astana Times from Kazakhstan published an interesting report on May 21, 2015 that at Almaty, a memorial plaque was dedicated to prominent Kazakh historian Ermukhan Bekmakhanov, who would have turned 100 this year. Bekmakhanov was repressed under Stalin. He was accused of “bourgeois nationalism” for his research on the last Kazakh Khan, Kenessary Kassymov, who was leader of the anti-imperialist uprising of 1837-1847. In December 1952, Bekmakhanov was sentenced to 25 years in a labour camp for “anti-communist activities”. In February 1954, academician Anna Pankratova played a crucial role in the release of Bekmakhanov. The memorial was erected near the house where the well-known scholar worked and lived.
Former Vice-Chancellor of Hampi University Prof KS Bhagwan and late Bharateeya rationalist and Kannada writer MM Kalburgi, who are Left fellow travellers have conveniently ignored this incident which took place a few months back. Kalburgi is not alive, although his traumatic death is not acceptable in our democracy. Bhagwan recollects the lack of moral values in Ramayan and Mahabharat which according to him depicts a form of ‘suppression’ and cruelty. Certainly Bhagwan should remember Bekmakhanov who was one among the large array of intellectuals who were victimised by the ideology he believes and practises today.
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov the Nobel Prize laureate in Soviet Union became acceptable to the Soviet regime. Later Pavlov denounced Communism and voted against the appointment of Comrade Professors at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Nearly two decades after his death, in 1950, the communist government organised the Joint Scientific Session of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences, the Pavlovian session. Reputed Soviet physiologists such as LA Orbeli, PK Anokhin, AD Speransky and IS Beritashvily were assaulted for deviating from Pavlov’s teachings. The session was organised by the Soviet Government headed by Joseph Stalin in order to fight Western influences in Russian physiological sciences. As the result of this session, Soviet physiology self-excluded itself from the international scientific community for many years. Late rationalist and communist ideologue Govind Pansare was virtually silent on these facts.
Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov was another prominent Soviet botanist and geneticist who was the director of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences at Leningrad. The year 1937 saw widespread arrests of geneticists who were referred to as “Trotskyite agents of international fascism”. The Soviet scientific and popular press launched a bitter attack on Vavilov and his supporters. Genetics was declared as ‘a maidservant of Goebbels’ department and geneticists were denounced as “knights of the gene”. The ascent of Trofim Lysenko, favoured by Joseph Stalin, and Vavilov’s public criticism of Lysenko led to Vavilov’s arrest in 1940, and he died of starvation in prison on January 26, 1943.
In 1964, Russian Nuclear Physicist Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov Nobel Prize winner in 1975 spoke out against Stalins pet Lysenko in the General Assembly of the Academy of Sciences: “He is responsible for the shameful backwardness of Soviet biology and of genetics in particular, for the dissemination of pseudo-scientific views, for adventurism, for the degradation of learning, and for the defamation, firing, arrest, even death, of many genuine scientists”.
Prof Bhagwan inherits this Left legacy and make statements that Bharat should denounce Ramayan and Mahabharat and burn down Bhagawad Gita. In Deccan Chronicle September 23, 2015 Bhagwan candidly admitted his knowledge of Sanskrit was poor. Deccan Chronicle also reports through an interview with Bhagwan that after Siddaramaiah came to power in Karnataka, he (Bhagwan) tried very hard to get the chairman post of Kuvempu Bhasha Bharati but lost the chance. These theatrics are done to get a post by attracting the attention of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah according to Deccan Chronicle. This is Bhagawan’s rationalism.
Bhagwan should understand that burning books, urinating on idols and criticising epics by using derogative terms are not Bharateeya materialism. The Bharateeya Materialist school is addressed by Charvaka in the Sarva-darsana-sangraha of Madhava and Lokayata in Saddarsana samuchaya of Haribhadra. Nyaya or Tarka in Bharateeyaya epistemology gives rationalism its due place, but it does not lead to materialism, atheism or the Lokayata system. In other words Bhagawan should understand that rationalism or logic should not be confused with materialism. It was due to the profound presence of rationalism in Bharateeya epistemology that multiple Upanishads, systems of philosophical schools emerged including charvaka’s. Materialism was never a phenomenon in Bharateeya civilisation. It has existed in some form or the other at some stages in Bharateeya history, but has never established its influence in the mainstream of Bharateeya philosophical system.
About the time of the rise of Buddhism, there was a sect of religious mendicants of the materialist school, the Ajivikas, the followers of Makkhali Gosala about whom the sources are texts such as the Bhagavati-sutra, the Nandi-sutra, and Abhayadeva’s commentary on Samavayanga-sutra. The decline of Ajivikas is indicated by Sarva-darsana-sangraha. AL Basham points out that the Ajivikas compromised with the doctrines and customs of the most popular faiths around them. The commentator Utpala declares that they became ekadandin Vaishnavaites.
This great tradition of rationalism which has remained the life blood of Bharat cannot be inherited by Bhagawan and Kalburgi. Prof Bhagawan should read about Camille Bulcke the late Belgian Jesuit who picked Ramkatha: utpatti aur vikas (The tale of Rama: its origin and development) and obtained his PhD from the University of Allahabad. His thesis which is a critical evaluation of numerous Ramayanas was hailed by scholars all over Bharat and abroad.
When Kerala was celebrating the 1200th birth anniversary of Adi Shankara at Kalady, late Marxist patriarch EMS Namboodiripad strongly argued in his article published in Social Scientist January 1989, that Adi Shankara’s philosophy destroyed science and took Bharat to dark ages which he argued has to be fighted and won ideologically. Bhagwan has followed this legacy, by criticising Adishankara although he cannot be synonymous with Namboodiripad who held a high stature in dignity. Marxism declined and weathered away while Shankara and his works remain immortal. In Swami Vivekananda’s words–“By Buddha the moral side of the philosophy (Vedanta) was laid stress upon and by Shankaracharya, the intellectual side. He (Shankaracharya) worked out, rationalised and placed before people the wonderful coherent system of Advaita.” Prof Bhagwan and his colleagues are not eligible to understand the tradition of Bharateeya science and philosophy. Bhagwan should have protested using his backbone of rationalism, when the last rites of his associate late Prof UR Ananthamurthy were conducted as per Hindu traditions fulfiling the wishes of Ananthamurthy. Amid vedic chants, a team of 15 priests performed Ananthamurthi’s last rites according to Brahminical traditions as reported by Outlook on August 23, 2014. About 2 tonnes of wood, including 25kg of sandalwood brought from his birthplace Thirthahalli, 75 litres of ghee and three bags of dried cow dung were used for the cremation of Ananthamurthy as reported by The Times of India, August 24, 2014.
There are certain aspects in Karanataka on which the rational impetus of Professor Bhagawan turns a blind eye. For 25 years, the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) has been demanding protection of simple civil rights of Dalit Catholics such as the right to sit along with upper-caste Catholics during church meetings, the right to inter-dine and inter-marry with upper caste Catholics and equal treatment during church-controlled eventsat Harobele 60 kms away from Benguluru in Karnataka as reported by The Hindustan Times on August 2, 2015. Swaminathan Natarajan reported for BBC on September 14, 2010 that in the town of Trichy, in Tamil Nadu, a wall built across the Catholic cemetery clearly illustrates how caste-based prejudice persists.
On December 15, 2014, The Hindu reported that Kudanthai Arasan of the Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi, led a protest, in front of the Vatican Embassy in New Delhi, against segregation faced in cemeteries by dalit Christians who are grossly underrepresented in the clerg in Tamil Nadu. The rationalism of KS Bhagwan makes him cover his face on all these incidents which are not social for him. Bhagwan’s rationalism belongs to that school which declines to critically examine the cultural fabric but hurl abuses against Gita Ramayan and Mahabharat. The underlying root of this peculiar Bhagwan School is clear to even a school boy.
Dr BS Hari Shankar (The writer is from India Policy Foundation, New Delhi)