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Oz couple and goddess tattoo: Another case of Hinduphobia?

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By Nithin Sridhar

Australian citizens Matthew Gordon and his girlfriend Emily Kassianou were allegedly mobbed, harassed, and illegally detailed for 3 hours by the Bengaluru police on Saturday afternoon after a group of people found Gordon sporting a tattoo of Hindu goddess Yellama on his shin. It has been further reported that they were let go by the police only after he wrote an apology letter.

Gordon, in his Facebook post says that he was forced to write the apology letter. He writes: “I should not have to apologize for what is on my skin and be put in a traumatizing situation where it is apparently acceptable to be harassed, threatened and mobbed.

He further adds that: “She (his girlfriend) does not deserve sexual abuse both physical and verbal.” He asks for people’s support “to bring awareness to crimes of injustice.”

Tattoe-Attack-Facebook1In answer to his calls for support, Social Media has come out in full support to him and has vehemently expressed opposition to the regressive mentality of these attackers who have turned India into a fundamentalist country.

But before jumping on the wagon in calling out the regressive mentality of certain sections of Indians (read Hindus), let us first look at the other side of the issue.

Physical harassment or Simple attempts of convincing?

Gorden says in his Facebook post that he had to physically defend himself and his girlfriend was sexually abused physically and verbally.

But, a one-minute video of the incident posted in Youtube shows no physical manhandling. In fact the person in the video, a local BJP leader, Ramesh Yadav is repeatedly asking Gorden only to wear pants and not expose the Goddess tattoo in public.

Further, Ramesh Yadav stated in his interview to India Today that there was no harassment from their side. He said that, they only asked Gorden to either remove the tattoo, or cover them with pants. Yadav further alleges that, the Australian couple used abusive language against the people when they tried to convince them. Hence, Yadav had called the police.

Yadav has re-iterated the same in his interview to The Hindu, where he clearly says: “When we came to know that it was a permanent tattoo, we only asked him to wear a pair of trousers and cover it, for his own safety. We noticed it fine…..if some mob notices and takes objection to it. It is for his own good that we told him and convinced him about this.”

Further, the account given by Yadav has been supported by other eyewitnesses as well. One eyewitness told TV9: “When a few people noticed the Australian national Mathew sporting a tattoo of Yellamma on his shin, they requested him to wear a trouser and cover it. They explained……it might hurt the religious sentiments of the locals especially during Dasara….Suddenly, a local person wearing shorts appeared and created a scene.

He (the friend) told the Australian couple to make it an issue….the friend instigated Mathew and his girlfriend to make it an issue and told them to post comments on their Facebook page.”

Though the exact details of the incident will come to light only after a detailed investigation, prima facie, it appears that there was no harassment or sexual abuse against the couple as alleged by them.

Further, the couple themselves may have been involved in using abusive language and a friend of the couple may have been involved in instigating the couple to make an issue and post it on Facebook. The fact that Gordon has mentioned in his apology letter that he had used inappropriate language only strengthens the account given by the protesters.

Respect or Insensitivity?

Gordon on his Facebook post says that he “respects India and Hinduism completely.” But, one is left wondering what kind of respect is Gordon talking about that made him call his apology letter as being forced? In the apology letter he had stated: “I am sorry for hurting Hindu religious beliefs by my tattoo….I will make sure to cover it up while I am in India.

Now, by saying that the letter was forced and that he has nothing to apologize, he is effectively saying that he does not care for the sentiments of Hindus or about the symbolism of Hindu icons. Is this the way to show respect?

tatoee story

As a proof for his respect for Hinduism, he further points out in his Facebook post that he spent 4 hours getting the Goddess tattoo on his shin and spent 35 hours getting Ganesha tattoo on his back.

But, the question is how does getting a tattoo translate into showing respect towards Hinduism, when one is not even apologetic about misusing symbols from a culture that is alien to them? People get tattoos simply because they like those symbols, or because they consider it as decorative icons.

Let this be clarified that, there is neither any disrespect nor anything wrong in getting any tattoos. But, it is definitely wrong, in appropriating the symbol of another culture and then dictating back to the people of that culture about how they should perceive their symbols. That exactly is what Gordon is trying to do.

It is true that many westerners are indeed ignorant about Hindu religion and symbols. Hence, they find Hindu deities and symbols as exotic and wish to own them by getting those symbols tattooed on their body. But, this ignorance cannot be an excuse for insensitivity and cultural appropriation. And in this case, Gordon himself has said that he is not ignorant about Hinduism.

He has told The Hindu, that he had studied in India for three years. He further states that he is well aware of the values and mythology of the gods that he got tattooed on his body.

The question that now arises is, how come he was unaware of the fact that Hindus in general consider keeping feet on paper (considered as Goddess Saraswati) as disrespectful? Similarly, tattooing Hindu Goddess on feet or wearing slippers with Goddess drawn on it, or undergarments with Hindu symbols on it are all perceived as offensive. Hindus have repeatedly expressed opposition to such portrayals in the past.

Was Gordon really unaware of the Hindu perceptions about the issue? Or did he simply not care about how Hindus felt? From his Facebook posts at least, it clearly appears to be the latter. The couple is now trying to hide this insensitivity and cultural appropriateness by playing victim.

Many foreigners have accepted India as their home. They have not only blended well with the Indian culture, but have also become an inseparable part of it. But, what Gordon has done does not fit the category.

If, he really had genuine love, respect, and devotion to the deity and the culture, he would have never got it tattooed on his legs as a mark of respect for Hindu sentiments. Secondly, even if his argument is accepted that no other space was left on his body and hence he was forced to get the tattoo on his shin, he would have covered his leg while staying in India. Thirdly, He would have at least felt genuinely sorry when his error was pointed out by others. But, his actions have been one of contempt for the sentiments of Hindus and Hindu culture.

Claims of Racism and Sexual harassment

Gorden further posts in Facebook the views of his girlfriend Emily. She says: “there has been a wave of blatant racism and intolerance that has been a constant struggle. You hear horror stories about India, this is one.”

She further says: “Two weeks ago, I was groped and sexually assaulted at a concert. After being aggressively fondled, I thought to myself ‘surely this is my Indian horror story.’…Every day, I defend myself from people who are intolerant of western women…but what is more concerning is the cacophony of insults that is thrown at me, on a daily basis.

Tattoe-Attack-Facebook2If, one were to take this post at face value, it appears as if Emily is facing harassment, physical and verbal almost every day of her stay in India. If this were true, why did the couple not file a police complaint before? Why was Emily silent even after being groped by someone?

And most importantly, how is it even related to the incident that happened on Saturday? What is the couple trying to achieve by making claims of alleged racism and groping in an issue related to them being detained over their tattoo?

Is this an attempt to smear “India” as a racist, rapist country? There is no denial that many cases of sexual harassment of foreigners as well as discrimination against them have been recorded in the past. But, that does not make India itself into a rapist, racist country. The so called “India horror story,” she refers to is a clear case of branding India in a negative light.

Thousands of Indians have been victims of racial violence in Australia, so should the country be branded as racist then?

Giving a political color

Emily’s statement on Facebook further tries to twist the issue by giving it a political color. Her post says: “vicious assault by members of the BJP right wing political party….with police bending backwards to please them.”

Firstly, to suggest that police bend backwards to BJP when the state government is being headed by the Congress is funny to say the least. But, more importantly, the issue is nowhere related to politics or any political party. It is a pure case of couple hurting religious sentiments of Hindus.

Emily’s attempts at whitewashing genuine Hindu concerns by giving it political colors and making it an issue of so called Hindu-fundamentalism, clearly points towards ulterior motive behind the whole issue. Even if the couple themselves are innocent, they are at least being influenced by people and narratives that are biased and inimical to Hinduism.

Their efforts appear to have already started bearing fruits. A search in Google reveals, how newspapers have grabbed the issue with both hands. In a Facebook page- Indian Quotes, one can see people calling India as most racist country, or equating India with countries having Sharia laws.

Tattoe-Attack-Facebook3Tattoe-Attack-Facebook4The issue is not about whether Gordon was right or wrong about tattooing the image of the Hindu Goddess on his shin. It may not have appeared wrong to him. He may even cherish the icons placed his body.

The issue is that despite of him knowing that rightly or wrongly, such a depiction is disrespectful and offensive to Hindu sentiments, he neither made attempts to cover his legs, nor made attempts to genuinely feel sorry and offer apologies. Instead, he has not only retracted on his apology letter by calling it “forced”, the couple is also branding Hindus as being racists and sexual assaulters.

The issue is also that, the incident which is otherwise a small issue, is being used to portray India as racist and Hinduism as regressive.

Is this another attempt to portray India and Hinduism in bad light? Is there any ulterior motive behind the couple’s actions? It is not clear at this moment. But, what is clear is that, there is more to the issue than what meets the eye.

 

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Swarna Bharat Party condemns government’s healthcare policy in Karnataka

The privatisation of health policies was opposed by SBP

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Health policies of Karnataka being opposed by SBP
SBP asks government to work on government hospitals rather then privatising them. Facebook
18th November 2017:
Mr Asif Iqbal, Karnataka State coordinator of Swarna Bharat Party (SBP), today strongly opposed the communist, anti-market and anti-people policy of the Congress Karnataka government to cap healthcare charges in the private sector.
Mr Iqbal said that the Siddaramaiah government should start learning basic economics. Good intentions do not necessarily lead to good outcomes. This communist policy will shut down many hospitals and drive away thousands of health professionals. In this way, it will hurt everyone, including the poor. No communist society has ever done well, and this communist policy will badly harm Karnataka.
In a free market people voluntarily give their custom to the service provider who gives them the best service at the lowest cost. Simultaneously, the desire for profits motivates healthcare providers to provide good quality healthcare while keeping their costs down. And they can’t charge whatever they wish since they are forced by the competition among hospitals to keep prices low. Anyone who makes a profit in such a competitive environment is signalling that he has successfully and efficiently served the people. That is the best outcome for society.
Mr Iqbal said that a government’s role is to create the environment for market-led profitable investments, thereby serving the needs of the community. But instead of identifying and addressing any barriers to investment, the Congress communists are attacking the very existence of the health sector.
Mr Siddaramaiah should remember that the taxpayer does not subsidise private medical establishments, nor should there be any such subsidy. These establishments buy land at commercial rates, pay commercial taxes and get utilities like water and electricity at commercial rates. In fact, SBP understands that most private hospitals and clinics do not break even for the first 5-10 years and most earn barely enough to stay in business.
Mr Iqbal said that instead of Mr Siddaramaiah worrying about the private sector (which is already badly shackled with thousands of rules and infrastructure constraints), he should look within – at the total mismanagement of government hospitals. The private sector is the last ray of hope for the people of Karnataka. Now the anti-people Congress wants to extinguish even this last ray of hope.
SBP also opposes many other aspects of the new health laws, such as a district redressal body that comprises six members but with only one doctor member. Further, there are already several avenues for patients to complain, including consumer courts, civil courts, medical bodies. Creating another body is unnecessary and will only increase fear in doctors’ mind. SBP demands a complete repeal of the new law.

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Lingayats in Karnataka to form Forum, Demand Separate Religion Status

The squabble between the two seers has witnessed several turns past few days

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Lingayats against Veerashaivas
An important center of pilgrimage for people of the Lingayat faith in India. Wikimedia
  • The Lingayat community leaders are planning to form a forum to up the ante on their demand for separate religion status
  • The leaders hold that Lingayats and Veerashaivas are different 
  • Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha meeting is scheduled on August 10 to reach a final decision 

New Delhi, August 9, 2017: The Lingayat community leaders in Karnataka are planning to float an all India front, which will be an umbrella body for all Lingayat outfits in the country. It is an attempt to further up the ante on their demand for a separate religion status.

According to The Hindu report, Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha meeting has been scheduled on August 10, in Bengaluru, where further discussion will take place to evolve a consensus and reach a conclusive decision.

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The leaders, at a press conference in Kalaburgi stated, that contrary to the opinion of the Mahasabha, they do not consider Lingayats and Veerashaivas as the same. “We hold that Veerashaiva and Lingayat are different and hence demand independent status for the Lingayat community. A meeting of leaders representing both will be convened in Bengaluru on August 10. If the Veerashaiva Mahasabha continues to adhere to its stand, we will begin to float an Akhila Bharata Linghayat Mahasabha bringing all Lingayat organisations and religious institutions together,” said Sanjay Makal, a Lingayat leader, during the press conference.

“Veerashaiva upholds and practises the principles advocated by the vedas, aagamas, shastras, puranas and other texts that are part of Hindu religion. Based on this, earlier applications for religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat were rejected outright. If we demand independent religion status to Lingayat alone, we will be successful as the demand has solid material base,” he added.

Also read: First Hindi and now English, the Language War in Karnataka Continues

The squabble between the two seers has witnessed several turns past few days. Recently, Lingayat Mahasabha filed a defamation complaint against the Rambhapuri Jagadguru Prasannarenuka Veera Someshwara Rajadeshikendra Shivacharya Mahaswamiji, the head of the Veerashaiva math based out of Chikamagaluru. He had taken a stand that Veershaivas and Lingayats are the same.

On August 2, Sharana Chandramouli, Lingayat Mahasabha State President, filed a complaint against the Rambhapuri Pontiff for allegedly making defamatory statements against Mate Mahadevi, the head of the Lingayat mutt Basava Dharma Peetha.

According to Chandramouli, the Rambhapuri pontiff had issued a statement stating that Mate Mahadevi had, in 1962, written a love letter to Lingananda Swami, the religious head who initiated Mate Mahadevi into the mutt.

The Rambhapuri seer’s statement was followed by protests, with the followers of Mate Mahadevi shouting slogans against the Rambhapuri seer demanding him to tender an apology to the woman seer.

An effigy of the Rambhapuri pontiff was also burnt during the protests.

In reaction to this, on August 1, an effigy of Mate Mahadevi was also burnt, by thousands of followers of the Rambhapuri seer from Gadag, Dharwad and Bidar, who staged a protest in Hubballi.

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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In last 3 Years, there is a Significant Rise in Chamundeshwari Temple’s Income

The income rise is seen as there have been donations by devotees collected in the temple hundi and from various sources also.

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Chamundeshwari Temple
Chamundeshwari Temple. Wikimedia commons
  • The income of Chamundeshwari Temple has registered a notable increase over a period of three years
  • During the Ashada Shukravaras, private vehicles are prohibited on the road to Chamundi Hills by the administration
  • This temple is around 1,000 years old

Karnataka, July 31, 2017: On top of Chamundi Hills in Karnataka, there lies the famous Sri Chamundeshwari Temple. The hills are about 13 km from Mysore, Karnataka and globally famous for its beauty. The temple is named Chamudeshwari as in it resides goddess Durga, the word Chamundi means Durga itself. She is the fierce form of Shakti (power). She is known as the slayer of demons- Chanda, Munda and also Mahishasura, (buffalo-headed monster).

This temple is around 1,000 years old and, what was a small shrine initially, gained importance over the centuries and today it has become a big temple. The temple saw its first share of significance after the Maharajas of Mysore known as Wodeyars came to power in 1399 A.D., they were known to be great devotees and worshippers of the Devi Chamundeshwari. She became their home deity and thus assumed religious prominence at that time and it has only seen rise since then.

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The income of Chamundeshwari Temple has registered a notable increase over a period of three years. According to a statement issued by Deputy Commissioner D. Randeep, the temple’s total income between April to July when Ashada Shukravara’s (Fridays) are observed was: in 2015- ₹5.98 crore, in 2016- ₹7.86 crore and reached a height of ₹11.08 crore in 2017.

The total income came from various sources such as pujas and offerings and also the donations collected in the temple hundi. The hundi collection between April and July 2015 was ₹1.63 crore and during the corresponding period in 2016, it was ₹3.51. It increased to ₹3.86 crore in the following year.

The temple income though marginally dipped from ₹4, 35, 29,205 during 2015 (April to July) to ₹4, 35, 08,507 during 2016, it went up significantly to ₹7.22 crore during 2017.As per a statement from the Deputy Commissioner, the Ashada hundi collection alone during 2017 was a surprising ₹1.74 crore and he added that the hundi counting was carried out on July 26 and 27.

A noteworthy point is that there’s a large volume of traffic on the road to Chamundi Hills especially during the auspicious occasions and on weekends.

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During the Ashada Shukravaras, private vehicles are prohibited on the road to Chamundi Hills by the administration. As a solution, alternative arrangements are made for the transport by KSRTC buses. Such is the popularity of this big temple filled with devotees.

As traffic on the road to the hilltop grows dense on weekends and auspicious days, there is big chaos at the last stretch of the road leading to the area around Mahisasura statue owing to haphazard parking.

Whenever the flow of traffic increases, the traffic police halt vehicles near the Mysore City viewing point in order to prevent congestion at the hilltop. The halted vehicles are allowed to proceed only after sufficient parking space is created at the hilltop when the parked vehicles leave the area.

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Apart from Chamundeshwari Temple, there are some other wealthy temples in India- Sai Baba Temple of Shirdi and Tirumala Tirupati.

The renowned Sai Baba Temple of Shirdi, managed by Shree Saibaba Sansthan Trust is one of the wealthiest temples in the country. As per official records, from January to December 2016, the revered Sai Baba temple managed to accumulate a received income of ₹403.75 crore. When compared to the previous year’s income (₹393.72 crore), it’s a massive gain. Of the total income gained in the year 2016 ₹258.42 crore was in the form of donations. The temple earned a whopping cash donation of ₹258.42 crore. To make things more golden, it fetched ₹6.74 crore and ₹1.10 crore from 28 kg gold ornaments and silver jewellery, respectively.

When we speak of wealthy temples, how can we not mention Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam? Fondly known as Tirumala, the temple of Lord Venkateswara attained a massive wealth of ₹1,018 in 2016. Adding to the ever-increasing wealth, approximately 10 crore pieces of the iconic Tirupati Laddoo prasadam was sold. Not only this, ₹201 crore was generated by the online business. Each year the temple sells the online-ticket for darshan. In the said year too, more than 67 lakh Hindu devotees bought the online darshan tickets.

prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08

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