Open Letter to Shri B.L. Santhosh
Adarneeya Shri. B.L. Santhosh avaru,
Namaskara. We, the Indic Collective Trust, are a group of ordinary Hindus who are committed to the protection and advancement of Indic civil liberties and civilizational interests through a research-based approach. As an organisation working towards the goal of a Dharmic civilizational reawakening like several others, we wish we were communicating to you under happier circumstances. Unfortunately, that is not to be in light of your short tweet thread of November 25, 2021 using the hashtag #Toolkit in the context of the Char Dham Corridor Project, which has necessitated this response. This is a response and not a clarification, since the latter could have been issued if a good-faith engagement had been initiated to understand our respective positions on certain contentious issues, in particular in the realm of environment. However, since a public platform has been used to impute sinister motives to us as an organization and lump us along with rabidly anti-Dharmic portals and organizations such as The Hindu, NDTV and Scroll, we are constrained to issue this response to set the record straight lest our silence be construed as tacit acceptance of the insinuations and imputations contained in your tweet thread.
At the outset, please allow us to underscore the fact that contrary to the insinuation in your tweets, we are an apolitical organization that largely survives on contributions from members of the public and the personal contributions of the Trustees. We are at pains to categorically state that we are not stooges of any foreign power, much less an inimical power, or any political party or individual. This allows us to preserve our independence and affords us the ability to take positions that are neither bound nor restricted by political affiliations and expectations of “party loyalty” that come with such affiliations. Our loyalty is to the Dharmic cause and the cause alone which has been and shall be pursued staying within the four corners of Dharma, the Constitution and the law. This is evident from the initiatives we have taken ownership of thus far. For instance:
- We have championed the cause of Temple Freedom across the country through informed research and consistent legal action;
- We have rendered material support to Temple-based stakeholders during the lockdown;
- We have opposed the blanket ban on the manufacture and use of firecrackers, in particular on the occasion of Deepavali, in order to protect an indigenous industry and the communities which are dependent on it;
- We have advocated the cause of deportation of illegal migrants from Bharat in order to preserve its civilizational identity and to protect its territorial integrity;
- We have sought the reclamation of occupied Dharmic sites which is impeded by the Places of Worship Act, 1991 which is yet to be repealed by the Centre;
- Most recently, in the aftermath of the West Bengal State elections in May 2021, when organised terror was unleashed on those who voted for the BJP, and ordinary supporters and karyakartas of the BJP were left to deal with the situation on their own, we were among the first organizations to knock the doors of the Hon’ble Supreme Court on May 4, 2021 seeking its intervention to put an immediate stop to the State-sponsored political and religious pogrom. Please note that we saw Hindus in the karyakartas and not members or supporters of any political party. And when the Supreme Court did not respond to the urgency of the situation, we rendered our assistance and aid to Bengali Hindus who approached the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court.
The above enumeration is for your benefit in the event you have not been made aware of our body of work and our commitment to the Dharmic cause. In view of these causes which we have pursued with integrity, commitment and consistency, we have a duty and the right to respond to ad hominem campaigns that are intended to silence our voice, regardless of where they come from. It must be pointed out that as members of the civil society, albeit from the Dharmic spectrum, we have the constitutionally guaranteed right and the freedom to express our bonafide positions on issues of interest to us, namely those that have a bearing on Bharat’s civilizational consciousness. Such freedom also translates to us taking a view which, at times, may be at loggerheads with the view of the State apparatus, either at the Central or the State level. Surely, in your view, we hope, that does not warrant the sinister imputation of us being part of a ‘toolkit’ gang since that has the effect of giving the impression to the general public that we, as an organisation, are part of an anti-Bharat clique or cabal.
That our approach has been consistently issue-based and in the interest of Dharma is borne out from the fact that on several occasions we have publicly lauded the current dispensation at the Centre for its attempts to address long-standing Indic demands such as abrogation or dilution of Article 370, or providing expedited citizenship to persecuted Indic minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. This is notwithstanding the fact that till date the dilution of Article 370 has not resulted in creating conducive atmospherics for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to ‘the Valley’, or the fact that the rules for the CAA are yet to be notified. These examples are illustrative and are being highlighted to drive home the point that as an organization we believe in giving credit where it is due. Similarly, we would be failing in our duty if we did not critique or criticize any Government if its decisions are inconsistent with Dharmic ethos and at cross purposes with Dharmic interests. However, as a matter of organizational policy, we believe in maintaining civility in tone and dignity in engagement even if the disagreement is firm. In any case, we do not subscribe to the standard Leftist tactic of labeling and discrediting those who differ from us, which is unfortunately, what your tweet thread does in relation to us. This takes us to the specific content of your tweet thread, which warrants a bit of a background so that the dots may be connected by you, as well as by members of the public in whose eyes we have been sought to be besmirched.
It has been evident for a while now that ever since we as an organization have taken a vocal position opposing the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act (“the Char Dham Act”), which is consistent with our principled view on the need to free Temples from State control regardless of the party in power, certain vested interests have actively invested their energies and resources to malign and discredit us. Unfortunately for such vested interests and much to their embarrassment, our views were and remain in sync with the views of Temple stakeholders in Uttarakhand which resulted in the recent announcement by the Uttarakhand State Government to repeal the Char Dham Act. Notwithstanding the timing of the repealment, as an organization, we have welcomed it, which demonstrates that we are not driven by our egoes, individual or collective, but are merely interested in pursuing the Dharmic cause without fear or favour. Ever since the announcement of the repealment of the Char Dham Act, vested interests which could not digest the success of the Free Temple Movement have doubled down on their slander campaign against us. It is in this backdrop that the issue surrounding the Char Dham Corridor must be understood.
We wish to draw your attention to the fact that our views on the Corridor have been around for public consumption since 2019 i.e. much before Leftist rags and portals chose to weaponize the issue for their own ends in 2021. Merely because Leftist mouthpieces and organizations too oppose the Corridor project for their own reasons, it cannot in any manner dilute the legitimacy of our concerns. Our concerns and position are independent and stand on their own feet. Critically, silence on environmental issues on the part of Dharmic stakeholders over the years is precisely why tribal and environmental issues have been hijacked by the Left, turning such issues into potent fodder for Naxalism and proselytization. Please note that as an organization that puts faith in the centrality of Dharma and its inseparable nexus with Prakriti/nature, it has been our consistent position that the fragile ecological balance in eco-sensitive regions such as Uttarakhand must be protected if its character as Devbhoomi is to be preserved. After all, Sanatana Dharma has employed the concept of Tirtha, among other things, to instil respect for nature and protect the rights of non-humans. Naturally, our views on nature and development are influenced by such Dharmic notions, which equally manifested in our legitimate and bonafide concerns with respect to extensive development of infrastructure in Uttarakhand.
Importantly, as a research driven think tank, we have drawn support for our position citing the works and opinions of eminent subject-matter experts such as the renowned geologist Shri K. S. Valdiya who was honoured with the Padma Bhushan by the current dispensation at the Centre in 2015, a fact we hope you are aware of. We also hope that you are aware of the fact that Shri Valdiya’s research cum publications on the Sarasvati river are formidable and have been responsible for discrediting the Aryan Invasion theory. It would also not be out of place to mention here that just a couple of years after receiving the Padma Bhushan, this renowned geologist had called the Char Dham Corridor project meaningless as it posed a huge danger to human life and the sensitive ecology of the Himalayas.
Yet another stalwart environmentalist, Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna, who passed away earlier this year (on which occasion the Honourable PM himself expressed his heartfelt condolences) also expressed serious concerns in relation to the Char Dham project. He had called the deforestation that accompanied the construction of the highway “devastating” for the State of Uttarakhand. As one of the leaders of the Chipko movement that had saved the forests of Uttarakhand from being sacrificed for myopic commercial interests, he came to witness in the Char Dham corridor development, the uprooting of the very trees he had once planted with his own hands as part of his noble mission of forest conservation. You may find our tribute to him to be of some value in order to understand how and where we take our stance. Simplistic positions from certain mouthpieces that “people in Uttarakhand too need roads” exposes their utter ignorance on such an important topic and dissuades any serious engagement.
Importantly, Uttarakhand is not the sole subject of debate since based on Shri Madhav Gadgil’s report we also oppose the mindless commercialization of the Western Ghats, as well as the ongoing destruction of the Chamundi Hill in Mysuru, all in the name of ‘development’. On a related digression, you may want to consider the ‘home’ truth that the locals of Mysuru have launched a signature campaign to register their clear displeasure with the rampant commercialisation of not just the Chamundi Hill, but also Mysuru which is being treated as an extension of Bengaluru, much to the detriment of its stature as a seat of learning and culture. The fact that cultural giants like Shri S.L.Bhyrappa too have lent their voices to this concern underscores the seriousness of the issue and warrants an urgent revisitation of what constitutes ‘growth and development’ before nature is destroyed irreparably.
While there is much more to be said about the Char Dham project (points we had raised earlier), our consistent and limited position has been this- there may be strong reasons for the building of four-lane highways connecting the ancient shrines at Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, however, throwing respect for nature to the winds comes with a heavy price which the present and future generations have to bear. Therefore, it would help to pay heed to well-meaning subject-matter experts who have been honoured by the current Government at the Centre. After all, what is the point of honouring environmentalists with civilian awards while ignoring their life’s work and domain expertise? In any case, we sincerely hope you do not see such stalwarts too as being part of the ‘toolkit gang’ of which we are allegedly a part.
In addition to the above, on the specific question of our intent, perhaps there is an important question which you may want to ask yourself. The Leftist cabal has moved the Supreme Court to challenge the Char Dham project, but we as an organization have not, despite there being a reasonable scientific basis for our genuine concerns. Why? Because we understand that there are matters of national security involved and in such sensitive issues, it is best to engage with the Government directly rather than invite the intervention of the Supreme Court given the increasing entrenchment of the Judiciary in matters of Executive policy. However, we wish to add the caveat that national security cannot become an omnibus basket under which indiscriminate tourism and commercialization of the Himalayas is pushed. Such a policy may temporarily yield economic benefits, but is bound to have catastrophic consequences in the not-so-distant future.
In addition to clear and present environmental concerns, as practising Hindus we have the right to air the view that commercialization of pilgrim centres is a serious threat to their sanctity, more so for shrines like Kedarnath and Badrinath that are nestled in the arms of Mother Nature. Commercialisation causes ecological degradation, which is synonymous with disrespect for the deity as well as the Tirtha. We acknowledge that ours is not the only view and that there may be a number of Hindus who think exactly the opposite, even if it violates Dharmic respect for nature. The way forward then is to facilitate a dialogue with the Government actively playing the role of the facilitator so that it has the benefit of a plurality of views, informed and uninformed, before it takes a decision. Instead of adopting this constructive approach, we genuinely fail to understand the purpose sought to be achieved by your tweet thread. What is even more disheartening is the fact that your tweets mirror the ones put out by anonymous and known twitter handles, some of which are run by individuals who may have a commercial stake in the Char Dham project or whose commitment is to an organization instead of a cause. Given your tall standing in contemporary Indian polity, perhaps your social media team should have exercised greater discretion before putting out the thread since it does not do justice to the high position you hold and your long years of yeoman service to Maa Bharati.
We consciously took the decision to not respond to your tweet thread via twitter since our genuine hope is that this response leads to a dialogue instead of another round of unsavoury exchanges on social media which takes away from the seriousness demanded by issues such as environment and national security. We clarify that we are not rebels without a cause, and therefore we do not wish to spend our time and meagre resources engaging in social media skirmishes. Our only hope is that the actual issues, namely Dharma and Prakriti, are not lost in the din created by social media.
The Indic Collective Trust