Sita Ram Goel
(सीता राम गोयल ) (1921 – 2003), writer and publisher, influential in late twentieth century Hindu nationalist
circles. He had Marxist
leanings during the 1940s, but later became an outspoken anti-communist
. In his later career he emerged as a commentator on and strong critic of Christianity
and Indian politics
Sita Ram Goel was born to a non-traditional Hindu family in Haryana
, in 1921; though his childhood was spent in Calcutta
. The family looked upon Sri Garibdas
, a nirguna saint comparable to Kabir
, as its patron saint and his verses, "Granth Saheb
", were often recited at their home.
Goel graduated in History from the University of Delhi in 1944. As a student, he was a social activist and worked for a Harijan Ashram in his village. His sympathies for the Arya Samaj, the Harijans and the Indian freedom movement, along with his strong support for Mahatma Gandhi, brought him into conflict with many people in his village; Goel also learned to speak and write Sanskrit during these college days.
Direct Action Day
On August 16
, during the Direct Action Day
riots in Calcutta that were instigated by the Muslim League
shortly before Partition of India
, Goel, his wife and their eldest son narrowly escaped with their lives. In his autobiography, "How I became a Hindu
", Goel writes that he "would have been killed by a Muslim mob" but his fluent Urdu
and his Western dress saved him. He further relates, that the next evening they "had to vacate that house and scale a wall at the back to escape murderous Muslim mobs advancing with firearms." He subsequently wrote and circulated a lengthy article on the riots, titled "The Devil Dance In Calcutta"
, in which he held Hindus and Muslims equally responsible for the tragedy. His friend Ram Swarup
, however, criticized him for equating Muslim violence with Hindu violence, claiming that Muslim violence was "aggressive and committed in the furtherance of a very reactionary and retrograde cause, namely the vivisection of India".
Communism to anti-communism
In mid-1940s Goel met members of the CSP (Congress Socialist Party
), translated writings by Narendra Deva
and Jayaprakash Narayan
into English, and was offered a position as an editor of a CSP publication. But his first editoral for the weekly was deemed to be pro-communist, and he had to stop writing for the weekly.
Sita Ram Goel had developed a strong Marxist leaning during his student days and was on the verge of joining the Communist Party of India in 1948. The Communist Party, however, was banned in Bengal on the day he planned to officially become its member. He read Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, Harold Laski's "Communism", and "came to the conclusion that while Marx stood for a harmonised social system, Sri Aurobindo held the key to a harmonised human personality." Later, books by Aldous Huxley, Victor Kravchenko, and Suzanne Labin ("Stalin's Russia") convinced him to abandon communism. Subsequently he wrote many books critical of communism in Calcutta, and worked for the anti-communist "Society for the Defence of Freedom in Asia" (SDFA). According to Goel, when he wanted to apply for a passport in 1955, he was told that his case was receiving attention from the Prime Minister himself, and his application was not granted.
'Nehruism' and Censorship
Goel wrote regularly for the "Organiser" weekly, whose editor K. R. Malkani
was his friend. In 1961-1962 he used the pseudonym Ekaki (solitary) while writing the series "In Defence of Comrade Krishna Menon
", critical of Indian National Congress
leader Jawaharlal Nehru
. Although the series was widely read and praised, he was later admonished by a leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
(RSS) for being too focused on Nehru, and the series was discontinued. The collected series was published in December, 1963 by Vaidya Gurudatta and an updated version released as "Genesis and Growth of Nehruism" thirty years later. However Goel's writings about Nehru in the Organiser cost him his job and disillusioned him of the RSS.
According to Goel, he was kept under surveillance by the Indian government during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. He was however not arrested, even though this was according to him demanded by some government leaders, including future Prime Minister I. K. Gujral. In November, 1962 he was recruited to participate in a guerilla war against Communist China, but he refused, saying "that so long as Pandit Nehru was the Prime Minister of the country, I could be only a traitor to it."
During the 1980s Goel worked on a series titled "Muslim Separatism: Causes and Consequences", but some passages from his articles were censored by the Organiser. He discovered that his series was considered too controversial by the RSS leadership who thought that it was alienating Muslims from the party, and Goel had to stop writing for the Organiser after the completion of the series "Perversion of India's Political Parlance". K.R. Malkani, who was the editor for the Organiser for three decades, was sacked because of his support for Goel. Goel also noted that on other occasions that some of his articles, e.g. his article on the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple controversy, were suppressed in the Indian media.
Publisher and writer
Goel founded the publishing house Biblia Impex India (Aditya Prakashan) in 1963, which published books by authors such as Dharampal
, Ram Swarup, K. D. Sethna
and K.R. Malkani
. Sita Ram Goel joined the non-profit publishing house Voice of India in 1982. Voice of India
was founded in 1982 by Ram Swarup, and published works by Harsh Narain
, A.K. Chatterjee, K.S. Lal
, Koenraad Elst
, Rajendra Singh
, Sant R.S. Nirala, and Shrikant Talageri
among others .
Early versions of several of Goels books were previously published as a series in periodicals like Hinduism Today, Indian Express or the Organiser. Goel speculates that, a series of article he published in Indian Express in 1989 regarding the destruction of Hindu temples by Muslims, may have contributed to the firing of its editor Arun Shourie the following year. In August 1990 while releasing two books published by "Voice of India", Bharatiya Janta Party leader L. K. Advani chided Goel for using strong language.
Goel also worked as a part-time secretary for the All India Panchayat Parishad whose manager was his friend Jayaprakash Narayan. Narayan was impressed by Goel's Hindi book "Samyak Sambuddha" and said to Goel, "If Sanatana Dharma is what you say it is, I am all for it. You can count me as a Sanatanist from today. You can say to whomsoever you please that JP has become a Sanatanist."
Goel was fluent in Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, English and Sanskrit, and read Persian.
On alleged rewriting of history books
Goel claimed that there was a "systematic distortion" of India's history which the Marxist historians of Aligarh and the JNU had undertaken. In particular, he claims that the history of medieval India and the Islamic invasions is being rewritten. He described it as an "experiment with Untruth" and an exercise in suppressio veri suggestio falsi. According to him, the Ministry of Education has extended this experiment to school-level text-books of history. Goel called it "an insidious attempt at thought-control
" and argued that the NCERT guidelines are "recommendations for telling lies to our children, or for not telling to them the truth at all."
On Indian secularism
Goel has also criticized Indian secularism
, alleging that "this concept of Secularism is a gross perversion of the concept which arose in the modem West as a revolt against Christianity and which should mean, in the Indian context, a revolt against Islam as well.
On Media bias
Goel also claimed that there is a Media bias
in India, in particular with regard to criticism of Islam or people like Nehru. In 1955 Goel asked one of his friends, who was supportive of Nehru and who had published in many international and national journals, to write an article critical of Nehru's policies. But the Indian publications didn't accept his critical article, and he claims that his standing as a scholar in India suffered thereby.
Goel also described an incident during a seminar on "Hurdles To Secularism" in 1963 which Goel attended, and which was presided over by Jayaprakash Narayan. As Goel tells it, most participants in the seminar criticized only "Hindu communalism". But when one Muslim speaker took up the issue of Muslim communalism, he was shouted down by the other Muslims of the seminar, and had to stop talking.
On Indian nationalist organisations
Goel has also criticized Hindu nationalist organizations like the RSS. He claimed that with few exceptions they "shared the Nehruvian consensus on all important issues", and that "the RSS and the BJS stalwarts spent almost all their time and energy in proving that they were not Hindu communalists but honest secularists." He also claimed that RSS members are worried almost only about the reputation of their organization and their leaders, and are rather ignorant to Hindu causes. When a BJS
leader asked him to write a book about the BJS, Goel replied that his book "would be pretty critical on the score of their policies.
Goel edited the book "Time for Stock-Taking", a collection of papers critical of the RSS. According to Belgian writer Koenraad Elst, Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel wrote in defence of Hinduism, never of "Hindutva".
Goel was outspoken in his criticism of Christianity
. Catherine Cornille and others have criticized Goel for his anti-Christian perspective.
In 1995 Goel sent Pat Robertson his book "Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression", and a letter in protest to Robertson's remarks towards the religion of Hinduism.
On Islam and Muslims
Goel has criticized the history and doctrines of Islam in some of his writings. His works are also cited by critics of Islam like Robert Spencer
and Arun Shourie
Despite his criticism of Islam, he said that he is not opposed "to an understanding and reconciliation between the two communities. All I want to say is that no significant synthesis or assimilation took place in the past, and history should not be distorted and falsified to serve the political purposes of a Hindu-baiting herd." He argues that the Muslims should evaluate the Islamic history and doctrines in terms of rationalism and humanism "without resort to the casuistry marshalled by the mullahs and sufis, or the apologetics propped up by the Aligarh and Stalinist schools of historians", just as the European Christians did centuries earlier with Christianity.
He believed that the "average Muslim is as good or bad a human being as an average Hindu", and warned:
- Some people are prone to confuse Islam with its victims, that is, the Muslims, and condemn the latter at the same time as they come to know the crudities of the former. This is a very serious confusion, which should be avoided by all those who believe in building up a broad-based human brotherhood as opposed to narrow, sectarian, self-centred, and chauvinistic nationalism or communalism.
He wrote and published books in English and Hindi
. He also translated George Orwell
, three Dialogues of Plato
, Denis Kincaid's book "The Great Rebel" about Shivaji
and other books into Hindi
Goel was well read in Western and Eastern literature, and among his most favorite writers or works were Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Aldous Huxley, Plato, Tagore, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay, Vaishnava and Baul poets, the Kathamrita written by Mahendranath Gupta (Sri M.) and Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy" His most favorite book was the Mahabharata, which he read in the original language.
Sita Ram Goel was strongly influenced by Indian writer and philosopher Ram Swarup. He said that his masters have been "Vyasa, Buddha and Sri Aurobindo, as elucidated by Ram Swarup". He was also influenced by Tilak, Dayananda Sarasvati and Mahatma Gandhi.
Understanding Islam through Hadis
In 1983 Goel reprinted Ram Swarup's "Understanding Islam through Hadis" which sold out fast. The book was a summary of the Sahih Muslim Hadith, and consisted of extracts from the Hadiths. In 1987 he again reprinted the book, but the copies of a Hindi translation were seized by the police and Goel was arrested briefly.
In due course, some Muslims and the Jamaat-e-Islami weekly Radiance claimed that the book was offensive. In 1990 the Hindi translation of the book was banned. In March 1991 the English original was banned as well. The criminal case against Goel for printing the book was dismissed after some years on 5 May 1997, but the book still remains banned.
Many Indian intellectuals have protested against the arrest of Goel. Arun Shourie commented on the criminal case:
- No one has ever refuted him on facts, but many have sought to smear him and his writing. They have thereby transmuted the work from mere scholarship into warning. (...)The forfeiture is exactly the sort of thing which had landed us where we are: where intellectual inquiry is shut out; where our traditions are not examined, and reassessed; and where as a consequence there is no dialogue. It is exactly the sort of thing too which foments reaction. (...)"Freedom of expression which is legitimate and constitutionally protected," it [the Supreme Court] declared last year, "cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group or people."
Hindu View of Christianity and Islam (1993)
In 1993 the MP Syed Shahabuddin, who in 1988 asked for the ban of The Satanic Verses
, demanded a ban on Ram Swarup's book "Hindu View of Christianity and Islam
". Goel and Swarup went into hiding because they feared that they could get arrested. The court accepted a bail, and they could come out of hiding. Indian intellectuals like Arun Shourie
and K. S. Lal protested against the ban.
Colin Maine's "The Dead Hand of Islam"
In 1986 he reprinted Colin Maine's essay "The Dead Hand of Islam"
Some Muslims filed a criminal case against Goel, alleging that it violated Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code and similar articles of the Indian Customs Act.
The judge discharged Goel and referred to the earlier court precedent "1983 CrLJ 1446". Speaking of the importance of that precedent, the judge in his discussion said: "If such a contention is accepted a day will come when that part of history which is unpalatable to a particular religion will have to be kept in cold storage on the pretext that the publication of such history would constitute an offence punishable under Sec. 153A of the Penal Code. The scope of S-153A cannot be enlarged to such an extent with a view to thwart history. (...) Otherwise, the position will be very precarious. A nation will have to forget its own history and in due course the nation will have no history at all. (...) If anybody intends to extinguish the history (by prohibiting its publication) of the nation on the pretext of taking action under the above sections, his act will have to be treated as malafide one.
The Calcutta Quran Petition
Goel published the book The Calcutta Quran Petition
with Chandmal Chopra in 1986 and on August 31, 1987 Chandmal Chopra was arrested by the police and kept in police custody until September 8 for publishing with Goel this book on the Calcutta Quran petition. Sita Ram Goel had to abscond to avoid getting arrested.
Hindu Temples - What Happened to Them
There were proposals in November 1990 in Uttar Pradesh
to ban Goel's book "Hindu Temples - What Happened to Them
Legacy and criticism
Sita Ram Goel has often been described as an "intellectual kshatriya". David Frawley
said about Goel that he was "modern India’s greatest intellectual kshatriya", and "one of India’s most important thinkers in the post-independence era". According to Frawley, "Sitaram followed a strong rationalistic point of view that did not compromise the truth even for politeness sake. His intellectual rigor is quite unparalleled in Hindu circles...
Koenraad Elst met Sita Ram Goel in India and wrote about his work: "The importance of Ram Swarup's and Sita Ram Goel's work can hardly be over-estimated. I for one have no doubt that future textbooks on comparative religion as well as those on Indian political and intellectual history will devote crucial chapters to their analysis." According to Elst, Goel and Swarup gave a first-hand "Pagan" reply to the versions of history and "comparative religion" imposed by the monotheist world-conquerors.
Meera Nanda wrote on Goel: "In the hands of Hindutva's deep thinkers, notably Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel, dharmic ecology takes an explicitly anti-monotheistic turn, aimed superficially at Christianity. Goel notably, but also many others like N.S. Rajaram and Koenrard Elst hold 'Semitic monotheism' responsible for the crisis of modernity: they take the left's critique of the scientific revolution as disenchanting the world, but blame it on Christianity, rather than on science per se. All the ills of modernity that the left and right both agree upon are pinned on to the monotheistic conception of God who stands outside nature, creating this split between man and nature.
Political scientist Chetan Bhatt says that Goel has "a highly selective obsession with archaeology and to some extent anthropology" and that he marshalls "the most selective archaeological and historical facts" He also claimed: "Goel’s text uses Islamic sources to ‘prove’ that Mughals were only interested in religious domination of Hindus and nothing more. The historical method used is based almost entirely on highly selective non-contextual quotations from these sources.
S. Subramaniam criticized Goel's Islamophobia: "Shourie has nothing to say beyond repeating the Islamophobic tirade of his henchman, the monomaniacal Sita Ram Goel who is referred to repeatedly in the text as ‘indefatigable’ and even ‘intrepid’. Goel’s stock in trade has been to reproduce ad nauseam the same extracts from those colonial pillars Elliott and Dowson and that happy neo-colonialist Sir Jadunath Sarkar.
The Japanese scholar Mitsuhiro Kondô claimed that Golwalkar's views on monotheistic religions "bear a striking resemblance to, and at times are identical to" the views of the Sita Ram Goel. She claimed: "the common structure between these two ideological currents [viz. Golwalkar and Goel/Shourie], separated by several decades as they are, highlights the core of the Hindu nationalist movement: ethnicism or exclusive particularism Koenraad Elst disagrees with Kondo, and says: "In sharp contrast with the repetitive-nationalistic and Indocentric approach of Golwalkar and the RSS, Goel and Shourie (and Ram Swarup before them) have developed a historical and philosophical critique of Christianity and Islam that has universal validity. It is part of continuum with Western and other foreign critiques of the said religions.
The Belgian scholar Callewaert commented on Goel's book "Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression": It is a well written and well documented book, and without going into detail I can agree with many points you mention. I only take issue with the spirit in which it is written and the conclusions you draw. I worry about the aims you like to achieve, nourishing the feeling you have and that prompted you to write this book. Goel wrote a lengthy reply to Callewaert that is reproduced in his book "History of Hindu-Christian Encounters".
Catherine Cornille has claimed that Goel belongs to a movement that "seeks to return to the pure Vedic religion", which Goel has denied.
- World Conquest in Instalments (1952);
- The China Debate: Whom Shall We Believe? (1953);
- Mind Murder in Mao-land (1953);
- China is Red with Peasants' Blood (1953);
- Red Brother or Yellow Slave? (1953);
- Communist Party of China: a Study in Treason (1953);
- Conquest of China by Mao Tse-tung (1954);
- Netaji and the CPI (1955);
- CPI Conspire for Civil War (1955).
- In Defense of Comrade Krishna Menon: (A Political Biography of Pandit Nehru) New Delhi: Bharati Sahitya Sadan, (1963).
- Hindu Society under Siege (1981, revised 1992) ISBN 81-85990-67-0
- The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India (1982; second revised edition 1994) ISBN 81-85990-23-9
- How I Became a Hindu (1982, enlarged 1993) ISBN 81-85990-05-0
- Defence of Hindu Society (1983, revised 1987) ISBN 81-85990-24-7
- The Emerging National Vision (1983)
- History of Heroic Hindu Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders (1984; 2001) ISBN 81-85990-18-2 (with a review of Ram Gopal's Indian Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders Up to 1206 A.D.)
- Perversion of India's Political Parlance (1984) ISBN 81-85990-25-5
- Papacy, Its Doctrine and History (1986)
- The Calcutta Quran Petition by Chandmal Chopra and Sita Ram Goel (1986, enlarged 1987 and again 1999) ISBN 81-85990-58-1
- Sita Ram Goel, In Devendra Swarup, ed.: Politics of Conversion, DRI, Delhi 1986.
- Muslim Separatism - Causes and Consequences (1987) ISBN 81-85990-26-3
- Catholic Ashrams, Adapting and Adopting Hindu Dharma, edited by S.R. Goel (1988, enlarged 1994 with new subtitle: Sannyasins or Swindlers?) ISBN 81-85990-15-8
- History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1989, enlarged 1996) ISBN 81-85990-35-2
- Hindu Temples - What Happened to Them (1990 vol.1 ISBN 81-85990-49-2; 1991 vol.2 ISBN 81-85990-03-4, enlarged 1993)
- Genesis and Growth of Nehruism (1993) (With a foreword by Philip Spratt, founder of the CPI)
- Preface to Tipu Sultan - Villain or Hero (1993)
- Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression (1994)
- Time for Stock-Taking (1997), (critical of the RSS and BJP)
- Preface to the reprint of Mathilda Joslyn Gage: Woman, Church and State (1997, ca. 1880), (feminist critique of Christianity)
- Vindicated by Time: The Niyogi Committee Report (edited by S.R. Goel, 1998), a reprint of the official report on the missionaries' methods of subversion and conversion (1955)
- Freedom of expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998, edited by Sita Ram Goel) ISBN 81-85990-55-7
- Saikyularizm, Râshtradroha kâ Dûsrâ Nâm ("Secularism, another name for treason", 1985)
- Samyak Sambuddha
Translations into Hindi
- India’s only communalist: In commemoration of Sita Ram Goel; Edited by Koenraad Elst; Voice of India, New Delhi. (2005) ISBN 81-85990-78-6 (With contributions by Subhash Kak, David Frawley, Lokesh Chandra, Shrikant Talageri, Vishal Agarwal, N.S. Rajaram and others.)
- Elst, Koenraad. India's Only Communalist: an Introduction to the Work of Sita Ram Goel. In "Hinduism and Secularism: After Ayodhya", Arvind Sharma (ed.) Palgrave 2001 ISBN 0-33 79406-0