An Open Letter to Justice K.T. Thomas
It’s a whitewash, My Lord
BY A.J. Philip
Being born in a Christian home does not make one Christian. It may at best give him a push in that direction. As a person, everyone has to decide and make a life committal. That is precisely why it is said that God has no grandchildren
Dear Justice Thomas,
One regret I have is that I could not accept your invitation to visit your house in Lutyens’
the information that you had told the whole thing to a bishop of the Mar Thoma Church, who after listening to you patiently summoned up courage to tell you that he had “No Comments” to make.
Unfortunately, in the hurly-burly of
I then realised it was too late to make the promised visit. I am really sorry that I had to disappoint you. In retrospect, I am happy that you reposed faith in my perceived capacity to listen and give a frank opinion.
You may have difficulty in believing that I remember you every Sunday, when I attend the church service. In the liturgy that we follow, there is a special prayer we make for “all the rulers, judges, diplomats, legislators, especially the President, Ministers and Members of Parliament”. The liturgy book that I use was published in 1988 and it does not contain the word “judges”. I am told it was your powerful argument in the Church Council that resulted in the insertion of the category.
But I wish you were less selfish and more holistic. As you know, the Press, now called the Media, was considered the Fourth Estate in
The King was the First Estate, the House of Lords, the Second and the House of Commons the Third.
Though there is no such compartmentalization in
I once accompanied three bishops of the
I remember listening to your speeches on two occasions. One was the Juhanon Mar Thoma Memorial Lecture you delivered in
Instead, I quoted a couple of sentences from one of your own judgements to hint how disastrous it would be if judges erred. In the course of your lecture, you argued that the Indian Constitution empowered the citizen to “preach” but not to “convert”. I concluded that you might be a great judge but you had no understanding whatsoever of the phenomenon called “conversion”. Let me clarify, conversion is the logical culmination of preaching. Life on this planet is based on conversion. Photosynthesis is the process by which the energy of sunlight is used to transform water and air into plant food.
Without that basic conversion, life would perish.
So when you argued against “conversion”, you were actually arguing against life, for life depends on conversion and is conversion.
The moment life is produced it begins to convert – food into energy, energy into accomplishment and, later on, one life into another life by reproduction. All industry is based on conversion – conversion of raw materials into finished products.
Into this vast universal process of conversion there is introduced by the Christian faith a specific type of conversion – a Christian conversion.
A few years ago, while I was at
Rabindranath Tagore in one of his Hibbert Lectures at Oxford in1930, published as “The Religion of Man” (Rupa), begins with these words, “In the Sanskrit language the bird is described as ‘twiceborn’– one in its limited shell and then finally in the freedom of the unbounded sky”. Baptism is a process by which a person is “born again”. By the way, do you know which passage in the Bible, the great Indian poet and philosopher liked the most? It is Mathew 18:3.
Yet, you, a Christian, find a problem in “conversion”.
I remember you thunderously asserting that the Supreme Court had upheld the anti-conversion law passed by some states like Madhya Pradesh. But I would request you to check the date on which the court delivered this cataclysmic judgement. Was it not during the Emergency, when a mother and son’s word was the law?
Do you remember a judgement delivered by the Supreme Court, presided over at that time by Chief Justice A.N. Ray, who was picked up by Indira Gandhi for the job, during that period? It said even the citizens’ right to life stood suspended during the Emergency. Long after you retired from the apex court, the court reviewed some of the decisions of the period and made amends. I hope and pray that one day, the verdict on conversion, which has the Emergency stamp on it, would also be reviewed. After all, judges are not infallible.
I heard you a second time when you delivered the main sermon during a Good Friday service at the
You as a judge looked at how Jesus was tried and crucified. You were able to capture the mood in which the chief priests and the Pharisees conspired against him and he was finally brought before Pilate.
As an aside, the Archbishop of Canterbury had gifted Bishop Geevarghese Mar Athanasius a small painting of Jesus being questioned by the chief priests. When the bishop left
My friend, who is a Hindu, liked it so much that he took two more copies, one for himself and one for me. Every day I look at the picture that depicts a silent Jesus and the chief priest pointing his finger at Him and accusing him of treason.
In your sermon, you quoted Caiaphas, who gave the clinching argument against Jesus when he said, “You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John ). Like the Pharisees and head priests, a small group of privileged, nationalistic leaders, fired by their hatred for Muslims in the wake of the Partition, decided that the death of one person would save the nation. That person was none else but the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
What provoked me to write this letter is your comment about the killing of Gandhi. I have only newspaper accounts to go by, about your address at a gathering organized by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and presided over by its Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. I would never question your right to address such a gathering, for I believe that nobody is untouchable.
who had spent all their life build ingup the organisation. How can I question their sincerity, devotion and patriotism?
Come to think of it, what kind of a person was Nathuram Godse who shot Gandhi? He was an ascetic, unlike some of our own bishops, who seek legal advice, instead of spiritual guidance, when they are confronted with problems of their own making. I do not have to tell you what angered the Rightists of the period. The Mahatma had gone on a fast, whose objectives were seemingly in favour of the Muslims. He laid down eight conditions, one of which was the restoration of the 117 mosques in
When the people responded positively to his fast and his conditions were fulfilled, Gandhi ended his fast by accepting a glass of orange juice from Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. On that occasion, a passage was read from the Gita and the Quran and the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” was sung. The spirit of the Mahatma had triumphed over the hate and revenge in the hearts of people.
But a small section of people resented this. They were inspired by a Hindu ruler from the same area as Godse’s who – in self-defence, it is now claimed – extended his hand to the Muslim ruler and ripped open his bowels with a “tiger claw”, concealed in his palm.
Godse’s “tiger claw” was a pistol and his extended hand was a salutation to the Mahatma with folded hands.
For the likes of Godse, Gandhi was a danger and a threat. When the three bullets of the assassin were fired, two ideas met. The assassin’s bullets said, “Some”, meaning only Hindus, Mahatma Gandhi said, “All”, meaning Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, et al. Your point is that the court had exonerated the RSS of its involvement in the murder of Gandhi.
It’s like Bhima shouting that Ashwathama was killed in order to demoralize Drona, who doted on his son, by killing an elephant by the same name.
As the story goes, Drona went to Yudhisthira to check the veracity of the story.
After confirming that Ashwathama died, he added, “Praha Kunjara ha” which means he could not say whether it was an elephant or a man. Drona did not hear this, lost his will to fight and laid down his weapons making him an easy target.
Your argument that Godse was not a member of the RSS is like Bhima claiming that Ashwathama was killed. Now listen to Gopal Godse, brother of Gandhi’s assassin, who published the book “Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi”.
Soon after the release of the book in 1993, he gave an interview to the “Frontline” (January 28, 1994) in
which he said: “All the brothers were in the RSS.
Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS, rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram had become a “baudhik karyavah” (intellectual worker) in the RSS. He has said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS”.
Can you claim better knowledge than Gopal Godse? You have claimed that while being postedin
In his book “Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase”, he narrates an incident: “A member of Gandhi’s party interjected that the RSS people had done a fine job of work at Wah refugee camp. They had shown discipline, courage and capacity for hard work. “But don’t forget,” answered Gandhiji, “even so had Hitler’s Nazis and the “Fascists” under Mussolini”. Let me add to this, the LTTE cadres and the ones who hijacked aircraft to ram them into the World Trade Centres on 9/11 were also highly disciplined.
Since you rely too much on the court giving a clearance to the organisation, I would request you to go through the report of the Justice P. Venugopal Commission, which inquired into the communal flareup in Kanyakumari. You told me once about how you were allowed to visit the Jagannath temple at Puri. At that time I wrote a main article in the “Indian Express” by quoting you in the intro. Now, I would request you to visit a district in Orissa called Kandhamal and meet those who suffered at the hands of the merchants of death.
Also, I would like you to read Guruji M.S. Golwarkar’s “We or Our Nation Defined” and “Bunch of Thoughts” to find out what status Christians and Muslims would have in a “Hindu Rashtra”. And if you have some time, please read E. Stanley Jones’ two books on the subject, “Conversion” and “Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation”.
To come back to my thesis, it was immaterial who killed Mahatma Gandhi, when it was the ideology of hatred and exclusiveness that motivated the killer. One should not miss the wood for the trees. Yours etc
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)