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Events

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Events
#21
Response of HHR to the statement by Ismail Merchant on the film "The
Goddess"

Hindu Human Rights group (HHR) highlights anti-Hindu bias in areas
such as the media because by demeaning Hindus and their culture, it
makes it much easier for anti-democratic elements to deny Hindus
their most basic right of all, that of life (please visit our
website at http://www.hinduhumanrights.org - Bangladesh, Bhutan,
Pakistan and India to name just a few examples). It is unfortunate
that Mr. Ismail Merchant has not sought to understand the protest to
his latest motion picture in that context and has instead chosen to
both sidestep the issue and deny that the existing opposition has
any legitimacy whatsoever. This is best explained by scrutinising
his statement (found at http://www.merchantivory.com/news-
thegoddess.html) in detail.

We would respectfully ask him to clarify what exactly he means
by "rightwing"? Is anyone who dares to oppose Mr. Merchant's views
on what he calls art, to be castigated as "rightwing"? It is obvious
that the use of "rightwing" is not explanatory, but yielded as a
swear word to hurl at someone who he does not agree with. As to the
claim that it is a "small contingent" opposed to him, we ask small
in comparison to whom? We are sure that his entire cast and crew
could be described as a "small contingent", but does being a "small
contingent", whatever that means, disqualify someone from having
views on a given subject?

Unfortunately Merchant's production is based on some fundamental
misconceptions about Hindu Dharma. According to our information, the
film is about Kali, who is a manifestation of Shakti. Indeed Shakti
is manifest in many forms although we would ask you to clarify with
Christian groups if Mother Mary is one of them. He also makes an
incredible contradiction. On the one hand he claims that Shakti is
not represented in a single deity such as Kali or Durga, and then to
say that Shakti is universal energy represented in Kali, Durga and
Mother Mary. This argument just does not make sense. It is like
saying that rain is not water it is only manifest as water.

Mr. Merchant seems to be of the opinion that we Hindus should be
grateful that an international star such as Tina Turner has even
taken a slight interest in ancient Hindu culture. Does he think that
only Ms. Turner can portray ancient culture of India to the world?
This is not to cast dispersion on her abilities as an artist, but it
does suggest that Mr. Merchant has a very narrow view on who exactly
can explain the greatness of India's dance, music and spiritual
ethos, when many others, obviously not good enough in his
estimation, have been doing that for years.

It appears however that Merchant is dictating exactly how Kali Mata,
revered goddess for millions of Hindus, should be portrayed. He
talks about her divine wisdom being spread to all, Hindus, Muslims,
Christians and Atheists. He then has the audacity to preach that a
true devotee of Kali should respect his film as a celebration of
her. But this attitude is insulting. He is dictating how one should
revere Kali, and anyone who does not is denigrated as
somehow "rightwing". As to Kali's compassion and divine wisdom being
spread to people other than Hindus, then as Hindus we certainly
respect the right of others to their beliefs and if they wish to
join us in showing respect to the Divine Energy manifest in Kali.
However, since we are only here to speak for Hindus, we would urge
you to contact representatives of the said communities to elicit
their views. In the mean time, we wonder what his views are on the
numerous Kali temples which are being destroyed and desecrated in
the world, Bangladesh for example?

As to the issue of discrimination, it is the character and method
that Kali is being portrayed that concerns us. He brings up the fact
that Tina Turner is a Buddhist as if it is news to us. We would urge
him to visit our site where he can see that we support the cause of
the Tibetan Buddhists and the (Richard) Gere Foundation. The basis
of our objection to Ms Turner is that she is a well known sex symbol
in the West and the same would apply if an Indian actress who had
the pin up sex appeal of Ms. Turner, such as the examples found in
what is known as Bollywood (like Miss World winner Ashwariya Rai),
were to do this. It seems that it is Merchant who is discriminating
against Hindus by portraying one of their holy figures in the manner
he has chosen.

Again the use of swear word, this time "extremist". Anyone who
opposed Merchant is therefore an extremist. Join that
with "rightwing" and you have "rightwing Extremist" and it is not
hard to figure out who is tainted with that label. As to crisis,
right before us we have controversy over the recent Mel Gibson film.
Were all who opposed it "rightwing extremists"? Of course not, just
as those who were in favour of it would also reject that label. Then
Ismail Merchant has the gall to preach to Hindus what their central
message is, "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", and even claims to speak
for "all Hindus". Of course HHR fully supports his freedom to
express his personal opinions, but then again he does not
reciprocate the opposing point of view. Just what gives him the
right to speak on behalf of all Hindus, and dismiss the opponents to
his project as "extremists", "rightwing" and a "small contingent"?

As to there being a crisis, this project which only insults yet
another of Hinduism's sacred beliefs, is but another of a long line
of media assaults on Hindus and their culture, following hot on the
heels of such pathetic productions as "The Guru", "Second
Generation", and "Xena" which debased Hindus in order to earn
revenue for their wily creators. HHR is determined that this should
be looked at from the issue of respect for all, and just as they
would condemn the attack on any other community, so they ask
responsible film directors to do the same when it comes to Hindus
and Hinduism.

We repeat our request that Mr. Ismail listens to the concerns of
Hindus and rethinks this project.

Thank you.

Hindu Human Rights
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