Monday, December 3, 2018


Padma Bhushan Mr. N Vittal is a career IAS officer who is credited with affecting changes in the Central Vigilance Commission like Mr. TN Seshan did in the Election Commission of India. He is also known for his outstanding work in the Department of Telecommunications and the Department of Electronics. [] 

I congratulate Nixon Fernando for coming out with an unusual book “Rising to Second Freedom: Enlightened Minds and Ignited Spirit”.
It is an unusual book because of a number of reasons.
It has multiple dimensions and has huge potential to influence action over a wide spectrum of areas.  Edward de Bono says that ideas are spectacles with which we look at facts.  What Nixon Fernando has done is to bring within the compass of single book an amazingly wide spectrum of ideas.  His style of writing is such that the tone is always calm, looking at every issue first with the focus on facts and secondly evaluating every issue from an objective and rational point of view. 
This exercise carried out throughout the book in such a way that as I read the book, I got the impression that I was following an young enquiring mind which was exploring a whole range of ideas, in such a manner that this can be a source book for wide range of readers and social activists.
Nixon Fernando has been associated with two great active thinkers and leaders of our times, TN Seshan and Prof Bala Balachandran.  Seshan who is my senior colleague in the IAS has become a legend when in the nineties he practically reinvented the Election Commission and made the Election Commission of India the gold standard with which all other such institutions are judged for conducting free and fair elections in a democratic system.
Prof Bala Balachandran single handedly established a world class advanced institute of Management in Chennai in a record time of a couple of years, realized his goal of setting up an outstanding Indian School with a global mindset and Indian roots.  This made him after a lifetime track record of academic achievement in the US, a global icon for excellence in management education.
The book is designed to provoke ideas and action on the ground.  In fact, as I read it from cover to cover, I got the impression that this is the book that should never be read alone by a single reader.  It is the type of book that should be read in groups. 
Ideally, such groups could be students in a classroom, participants in a conference or seminar, in an institute of higher education in Management or a study circle of a serious minded political group /party or the corps of socially committed activists and civil society organizations.
Nixon presents the facts at every page and while you read, you wonder how is it going to be implemented?  And then, if the reader or the group of readers reading this book gets provoked by these ideas, then they themselves will develop the ignited mind to find appropriate solution and course of action to see at least that part of idea for betterment of society and better India are implemented.
Therefore, this book has an immense potential to influence thinking like Eric Shoemaker's  “Small is beautiful” and others which influenced thinking  and had a major impact on a wide range of people across the world. 
For us Indians particularly, this book should have a special appeal because it virtually holds a magic mirror before us in which we find ourselves and our history and traditions, culture, religion and our value /belief framework analyzed and reflected upon.  The book lists many of its multiple dimensions and facets are like a sparkling diamond.
This book in short, is intellectual tinder. 
Another aspect of this book is its supreme timing of publication.   After 1947, when our county became independent, till the general elections of 2014, the political narrative was dominated by the overwhelming impact of Nehruvian socialism.  Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision and his charismatic impact on the whole nation not only during the freedom struggle, but also the years after, first as the first Prime Minister of India for 17 years and later on by the Indian National Congress had the focus on left of centre and the critical narrative was highlighting the need for secularism, in the sense that the state will not have any link with religion.
Elections of 2014 when the BJP led by Shri Narendra Modi established a government for the first time which was decisively and explicitly a right of centre, a massive tectonic shift took place in the political narrative of India.  In this context, the word, Hinduism and Hindutva have become emotionally charged words conveying a wide range of impressions.  As Mr. Seshan points out in his Foreword, Nixon Fernando, being a practicing Christian has provided an insightful understanding of the essence of Hinduism i.e. Sanatana Dharma.  This in itself is an intellectual performance of high order which will be welcomed.
Facts and ideas analyzed in this book should provide the answer to many of the issues raised by the left of centre intelligentsia who question whether there is an intellectual gravity and depth to make a case for a valid and credible modern state in our country.  The way of actually understanding of the essence of Hinduism and Sanatana Dharmain as brought out in this book should go a long way in providing for an informed understanding of the philosophy of political right in the country.
An equally important aspect of this book is its exposition of equally important is its focus on Mahatma Gandhi. Our former President Dr Abdul Kalam and Prof Dr P.V. Inderesan former director of IIT Madras, articulated the concept of reconciling town planning with the vision of Mahatma Gandhi of village republics and PURA [Providing urban facilities in rural areas] was the result.  This concept has been brought out beautifully in the book by Nixon Fernando.
 In fact, in this book Nixon has displayed a quality which is in the Hindu philosophy, normally attributed to the divine!  That is the capacity of combining the opposites!  As a student of physics, with the focus on quantum theory and Heighenberg's uncertainty principle, Nixon Fernando has displayed what in Sanskrit called, ‘agatitha gatana samartyam’  i.e. the capacity to combine in harmonious way the opposites.  After all, God is considered to be ‘anoraniyam mahatvamahiyanan', smaller than the atom and bigger than the universe. 
In other words, this Book is indeed an unusual book with very provocative ideas.  The impact it has will depend as much on the readers and users of the book and the institutions and organizations that access it.
Once again, I congratulate Nixon Fernando on his efforts and wish the book all success. 

3rd December 2018

The book can be accessed at

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


The argument is that an agnostic view must be taken, the third generation human rights of a certain group of believers must be respected, and this has nothing to do with woman's rights. Secularism alright but why atheistic secularism, why not agnostic? 
By giving all women the right of entry to the Sabrimalai temple is the Indian system of law not stretching itself higher towards perfection? Is it not a sign that the nation is making progress? Not necessarily. The questions involved are not as straightforward as they seem.   
For an atheist it is a matter of women’s rights being pitted against what they see as the naivety and superstition of the believers, so atheists have no doubts on this matter. The agnostic will give credence to both perspectives and look at finding a middle way. For the believers however, something of unmeasurable value is poised for destruction at the altar of a needless misdirected controversy.
The United Nation uses an agnostic approach in its definition of Human Rights. Over the decades it has arrived at what some scholars call as the third generation of human rights. This concerns peoples’ rights to pursue their own faith and beliefs. And India is a signatory. So, for instance, a Christian in India would have the right to profess and practice his religion under the rule of law.
But, if the Christianity community itself does not have a right to exist, how would a Christian get his third generation rights? So by implication, the community itself should be able to enjoy its sacraments, its holiness, its beliefs and its places for worship. This calls for a new generation—the fourth generation—of Human Rights; not for individuals but for communities. A community needs to be treated as a legal entity and this legal entity must have the right to exist under rule of law.
The Indian Constitution leads the world in allowing for such diversity; for example the Indian legal system supports diversity in its civil code, something uncommon in the world. The Indian courts have also used terms like ‘integral to the practice of the faith’, ‘denominational’ or ‘essential practice’ to address this. If a certain practice is considered an ‘essential practice’ of a certain denomination or faith then credence has been given to such claims against challenges. The question therefore is to establish whether or not the traditional restrictions on the entry of women into Sabrimalai temple are integral to the faith or not.
The question gets further complicated by the fact that neither the belief system surrounding the deity Ayyappa Swami nor the whole of Hinduism can be defined as religions. If Christianity is the perfect example of a religion, then Hinduism is more than one. Hinduism is actually a confluence of sub religions or alternatively it can be called as a confluence of ‘denominations’. Each denomination by itself has a certain operational wholeness about; they can each be considered as sufficient paths to the divine experience. The scriptures celebrating Lord Ayyappa may only be a part of the voluminous scriptures of the Hindus, but the worship of Lord Ayyappa is traditionally considered to be adequate to meet the faithful’s spiritual needs. This makes the community of believers of Lord Ayyappa a complete and valid denomination. The faith in lord Ayyappa is a living reality for the believers and it plays a huge role in their daily lives.  
For example, Kannagi (name changed) is close to 60 years old and works as a daily wage labourer in one of the gardens in Chennai. She has a son of around thirty who is an alcoholic. His marriage is on the rocks and he lives with his mother separated from his wife and child. Advice, counselling, de addiction, medicines, nothing helped him get rid of his habit. Then it was suggested to him that he should wear the ‘mala’. And to Kannagi’s surprise and joy the man agreed. The young man’s awareness of culture surrounding the institution seemingly gave him hope. And in due course one night, he had one last swig at the bottle came back measuring the road, and the morning he wore the ‘mala’. 
A week down the line I asked Kannagi Amma “How is he doing?” and she replied, “He got angry and stamped me on the chest yesterday and I am in some pain. I held his feet and said ‘Sami should not get angry’. He calmed down after that. But he is finding it difficult, fighting it, I hope all goes well.”
The son was probably battling withdrawal symptoms, and the mother was both compassionate and hopeful. 
This real life instance shows how deeply the legend and traditions relating to Swami Ayyappa are integrated into the living culture in south India. Besides non-drinking the austerities include, non-smoking, no bad habits, no non-veg, no cutting hair or shaving, regular team prayer and most of all avoiding contact with women—including one’s own wife.
It naturally implies austerities for the wife as well. The man first of all seeks permission from his wife for undergoing the pilgrimage. Then it is she that hands out the ‘black’ robes to him. The family abstains in honour of the swamis in the home. And it is a process of purification for all the members of the family. So both men and women have different prescriptions in the pursuit of their faith in the deity. And in totality these practices in some way bind a family together in prayer and promote the family’s wellbeing.  
These austerities come as a package. And it includes the entirety of the disciplines coming through scripture, through living tradition and through the disciplines associated with the ‘Mecca’ of their ‘denomination’. The purity of such austerity may seem meaningless to atheists and agnostics but it means the world to the believers.
Then there are those who believe in a Universal God; for them all holy places, whether temples or mosques or churches are the same. The following two verses throw light on this system of belief: Bhagwad Gita 7:21, 22.
  “Whatever form a particular devotee wishes to worship with full faith—concerning that alone I make his faith unflinching. Endowed with that faith, he worships that deity, and from him gets his desires, which are indeed granted by Me alone”
The Universalists therefore consider deity worship as having limitations, but they overlook the limitations because they accord far greater value instead to the graces which faith brings. They recognize that for the faithful the worship of that deity is their only access to the Divine, so in wisdom they refrain from disturbing denominational faith.
As for those who do not believe in God, they must realize that there is no conclusive proof about the non-existence of God either. It can be considered a matter of perspective alone that while one believes that God exists the other believes that God does not exist. As such the faithful may be allowed a private place they call holy with associated notions of purity and defilement. One can therefore avoid wickedness and show kindness instead by abstaining from doing something that ‘defiles’ what the faithful consider as pure. 
The arguments placed in defence of women entry tend to reduce the profoundness of faith related matters to the simple question of a monthly biological cycle in women. In truth it is incidental that the cycles are natural to fertile women and it is the fertility instead that is addressed in the austerities associated with the deity. If the scriptures said that the deity distanced himself from fertile women then what is the hassle in respecting that? And though the board that takes care of the temple is under government control, the institution is still not a public utility equivalent to a hotel or a tourist spot; instead it is an integral part of denominational faith. Protecting the temple’s traditions is the protection of the third generation rights of the faithful.  
Even if the judges do not want to change their minds, it still leaves the women the freedom to act in wisdom. The options are clear: believers in the Universal Spirit will not disturb the denominational faith. Those that believe in Lord Ayyappa will observe the required austerities and those that do not have faith can, out of compassion, desist from wickedness against the faithful. Just because the law permits someone to do something that hurts another for no reason it does not mean one should necessarily do it. And if the judiciary finds itself helpless, the legislature can still amend the laws to ensure that the third generation rights of the faithful are protected.  
Note: Kannagi Amma’s son eventually had to cancel his pilgrimage on account of a death in the family. And his mother sighed deeply in the hope that he will undertake the pilgrimage the next time. And one prays of course that the verdict and its aftermath have not sullied the faith which the young man experiences it in surroundings.     

Sunday, April 6, 2014


The nation cannot accept the BJP because its inherent communal beliefs can lead to bloodletting. And the nation cannot throw out the BJP because the nation needs an alternative to the Congress; and there is no other party that is big enough to fill those shoes. BJP therefore represents a party which the Indian can neither swallow nor spit out. If, however, the AAP stands up to its destiny India can release the BJP from its misery.   
The following ten points will bring to fore the various ideas that are contained in this debate. Let’s see the points first and the merits of the case will become readily apparent.   
1)  In the last days of his life Gandhiji proposed, among other things, that the Congress split into two formations, one under Nehru and the other under Sardar Patel and fight elections against each other.
2)  The reason he said this was because:
a.  if in the future (it was 1940’s at that time) the congress failed to live up to the high ideals of the freedom struggle then the citizens of India needed an alternative
b.  The alternate ideologies that existed at that time were divisive. They did not have the vision to take India forward as one nation of united people; all of them propagated fragmented nationalism.
c.   Gandhiji wanted the political atmosphere in the country to be free of chauvinism and fragmentation; or in other words he wanted to avoid the poison of groupism based on cooked-up human barriers
3)  A look at today’s situation proves that Gandhiji was again right—as he most often was:   
a.  As Gandhiji feared, the Congress has let values slip—a long way—and it has not stood up credibly to the ideals of the freedom struggle.
b.  There is no alternative basic political ideology that unites Indians. None of them take India forward as a homogenous unit; none of them treat Indians as one.    
c.   The alternative that came up in 1998 was created out of one of the divisive ideologies that existed in Gandhiji’s times; besides using the divisive ideology to spread unrest in society this alternate team too patronized a system that was not free from corruption.
4)  The episodes of 1984 and 2002 demonstrate how the difference in founding ideology matters to the nation. In 1984 when goons went on to the street their ideology screamed at them to “Stop it”; in 3 days the mayhem stopped. Though of course, true to the fall in values—of the Congress—those responsible have not been made to face the law. In 2002 however the ideology itself said “continue”… and so the mayhem went on for months together. This ideology is dangerous for the nation… This particular ideology is essentially fascist in nature.
5)  And the most amazing thing is that though it claims to stand up for Hinduism it is truly anti-Hindu. The tussle is between the Hindutwa of Godse and Hinduism of Gandhi. True that the charge on Congress that it practices pseudo-secularism has some truth in it. But the pseudo-Hinduism of the right wing is far worse. In the garb of ‘nationalism’ Godse acted like an insane man; this approach is apparent even in today’s extreme right. The line that separates courage and foolishness is very narrow; similarly the line that separates nationalism from fragmented nationalism is also narrow. Godse’s was a fragmented nationalism.  
6)  Also do not bother about those who would encourage Arjuna not to fight the Mahabharata war but instead go to a forest and do penance. In today’s system there are no hereditary kings… instead there are political parties and elections. The success of today’s democracy requires that people must take up assignments in the political hierarchy as part of their ‘duty/dharma’. AAP you must do your duty for the nation. And when some people tell you that ‘you are in politics just for selfish interests’, tell them in return that ‘all drivers learn driving only because they want to put sudden break so that girls will come and fall on them’.
7)  The moment is opportune. The well-meaning voters of India are on the desperate lookout for an alternative party to give direction to this nation. Those totally unsatisfied with the Congress are even contemplating giving a divisive ideology one more chance—this tells you how desperate they are.
8)  AAP you have it going your way since you stand up:
a.  Against corruption
b.  Against all kinds of divisions in society
9)  Along with the above two you must also ensure that you inherit the legacy of the Gandhian struggle for freedom; for values, for the poor, for peace and prosperity.
10)              Set up systems; set up procedures; pursue the alternate politics you have come to represent. There is enough grey matter in India to guide you as you go along. If you can institutionalize your uniqueness it holds great promise for the nation.  
Nixon Fernando: Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Team Anna: Let it not be Blind-leading-the-blind

Dear Aravind Khejeriwal, 

Though there is reason in your arguments on the issue of taking on individuals, if it is done incorrectly the odds are stacked against you. The wise have something important to convey. It may sound harsh but one would not mind it if he takes into consideration the impact it could have on your team effort at national development. 

For starters there is this idea that comes in from the west—supposedly an accepted bench mark for wisdom—which says “Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events and great minds discuss principles”… And there is some truth in it…  

When taking on individuals and judging them Jesus Christ cautions people against seeing the SPECK in the other’s eye while failing to see the LOG in their own… This of course does NOT have to do with the accuser (team Anna) also doing the same mistake (supposed corruption as the ministers)… rather it is about the accuser creating a mistake at a higher level; the log-in-the-eye is considered as the propensity to ‘judge’ and ‘accuse’ people with a holier-than-thou attitude. And Jesus terms this to be a bigger mistake… 

The Brahma Kumaris point out that the issue of branding anyone (as anything, including criminal) goes against our basic nature of humans and it prevents us from touching our inner highest natures. And Sirshree Tejparkhiji of Tej Gyan foundation suggests that the true leader is one that is in tune with his inner nature; he says, ‘Only he must lead the world who is lead by his heart—by his Highest Nature…’ 

Jesus Christ also adds that if we instead resort to judgment when we deal with other people, then, our attempts to lead others with that perspective, is equivalent to the “blind leading the blind—both fall into the ditch…” A team effort of this kind would therefore surely grind to a halt sooner rather than later…  

What the ministers have DONE can be judged but the ministers themselves must not be judged… there is a subtle difference… true leadership lies in acknowledging the divine even in the ministers and only then, after we have rejected the tendency to judge, objectively find out what mistake they have committed and let them meet their destiny as the law dictates. 

Truly speaking, those who have displayed dishonesty in their dealings are not the ideal people for leadership positions; it damages the prospects of the future, in this case it is the destiny of the nation… the ministers therefore, if they have erred, need to be taken to task. Even so, it is important to separate the people from their actions when we deal with them… ACTIONS can be good or bad according to law… but PEOPLE are not good or bad… as Jesus Christ points out… “Only God is good…”

One hopes and prays that the error of ‘Blind leading the blind’ does not manifest in the efforts of Team Anna; the nation looks up to you and this would do great harm to the wonderful and much needed initiative…

Sunday, May 20, 2012


There seems to be three or four central ideas owing to which Islam seems to be at loggerheads with other religions and if Islam can resolve these along the lines of what the Holy Prophet and God truly desired, culprits can be pinned down and the world can be a better place.
A basic presumption that has not been condemned outright is that ‘God of the Muslims is not the same as the God of the Jews and is not the same as the God of the Christians and is not the same as the God of the Hindus….’ 

Connecting the others first, there is absolutely no doubt that ‘The Father’ of Jesus Christ is the same as the ‘Yahweh’ of Moses and the prophets… incidentally Jesus Christ was a Jew till he was crucified. The equivalence is clearly established in the Bible. Next, Jesus Christ’s answer ‘I am who I am’ and his saying that ‘I will be in you and you in me just as The Father is in me and I in The Father’, proves the equivalence of his perspective to the Adwita perspective of the Hindus. 

So if the Quran upholds the equivalence of the ‘God of the Muslims’ to any of the other three then it can be established, that the Holy Quran  indeed mentions the very same Principle that has been brought forward by the sages of these various nations.  

Check the verses from the Quran I.2:47-61 and no sane person will say that there is any difference between the true God of the Muslims and the true God of the Jews.  So that must kill the issue… and having said that the verse I.2:62 clearly says:- 

“Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, who ever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their lord, on them shall be no fear, nor will they grieve”
So the followers of other faiths, provided they are faithful to This One God, will have the promised rewards. Now the question arises as to why, despite this being so clearly said, some followers of Islam do not accept the fact that the faithful of other religions are also faithful. And the answer is that it is on account of an interpretation of a set of verses which could mean either of two things and people think it is their privilege to ‘interpret’ it as ‘they’ choose.
Check out these verses for instance, translated into English by Dr Muhammad TAqi-ud-din Al-Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan:

I:2:81. Yes! Whosoever earns evil and his sin has surrounded him, they are dwellers of the Fire (i.e. Hell); they will dwell therein forever.
1:2:82 And those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah ___ - Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, they are dwellers of paradise, the will dwell therein forever
The corresponding verses are numbered differently in the translation by Maulawi Sher Ali:

I.2.82 Aye, whoso does evil and is encompassed by his sins—those are the inmates of the Fire; therein shall they abide
I.2:83 But they who believe and do good works—those are the dwellers of Heaven; therein shall they abide
Clearly there is a mismatch. In the second verse of the first translation it was kind of the translators to put their interpolations and interpretations in brackets. But what is there in the bracket clearly is an ‘addition’. In fact it also gives insight into the colored perspective with which the entire translation has been done. The original text does not apparently give any advantage to somebody who calls himself ‘Muslim’ or ‘practices’ the rituals of Islam. But in the interpretation the scholar conveniently adds things about Islamic Monotheism… thus excluding those practicing Christian Monotheism for instance—which is not the idea mentioned in the Original Book. 

When it is said that the original must not be changed in as much as an addition or deletion of a dot, can translators take such liberties? 

That is not all; there is mention of people who do not do the will of God and at such places if the translator adds ‘Jews’ in a bracket while translating, it reveals further that it is a ‘colored’ translation. Therefore, instead of judging people on the basis of the actions of good and evil, such translators are instead judging on the basis of the labels of ‘Jew’ and ‘Muslim’. This is mischief. It defies the dictum that even a single dot must not be changed both in letter and spirit. 

This takes us to the second question. Who is the Kafir? 

Clearly, if there is Oneness in the Supreme Being, meaning that the various perceptions of the Supreme Being are but different views of the Same Thing, then the correct test for whether a person is faithful or not is not the label (Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh), it is the good deeds – bad deeds part which distinguishes the faithful and the unfaithful within each group.   

So it is about giving up one’s ego and bowing down in surrender to a Higher Power. If that ego remains (I am a ‘Good’ Muslim/Christian/Hindu said with pride also has elements of ego in it) then one is unfaithful, irrespective of what label he carries. 

And here comes the next part; Jihad: 

There is this person who is unfaithful—does not believe—and is therefore a kaafir. So then, must he be eliminated…? Absolutely not, the Quran clearly says that even with the unfaithful, if an agreement or pact has been made, then it must be honored by the faithful. 

The only place one can take to arms against the unfaithful is when the faithful are under mortal attack by them. And this has been associated with the term ‘Jihad’. 

‘Jihad’ is nothing other than doing what God wills of you, come what may. That is what Jesus Christ did when he laid down his life; it was The Father’s will which he held above his own. The equivalent term in Hinduism is Dharma. One must fulfill his Dharma—that is what the Highest Self desires—without pandering to his ‘individual’ ego. And if every act is guided by what God the Father expects, then a person is performing Jihad. 

Instead of seeing this equivalence which God has revealed to the various nations of the world, if a person gets stuck in his ‘personal interpretation’ that it is about ‘labels’ and not about ‘deeds’ and ‘kindness’, he is truly unfaithful—a Kafir if you may—does not matter even if he is flawless in his rituals and/or is labeled by himself or his fellowmen as a ‘Muslim’…  

The only thing that needs to be done is this: “Not a dot must be changed”, accept that in both letter and spirit. Produce a faithful translation of the Holy Book without coloring it with ‘perspective’; it will answer all questions and help better identify the wolf in sheep’s clothing—from all religions.