The Rediff Interview/ Francois Gautier

'There is an unconscious militant dislike of the Christian world towards Hindu India'

Francois Gautier is the South Asia correspondent for Le Figaro, one of France's most respected newspapers. He has lived in India since 1971, and has been associated with Auroville in Pondicherry for much of that time. He has strong views on India, as can be seen in the following. Rajeev Srinivasan interviewed him by email.

Could you tell us a little about your background, for example your education and upbringing?

I was born in Paris in 1950. I had a strict upper-class Catholic education but I never really fitted in the system and revolted against it quite early. Thus, I was sent to many famous boarding schools all over Europe, from which I was regularly kicked out! My family wanted me to be a businessman and I attended an American business school in Paris called IDRAC, but my interest was in writing and I quit to work in a small newspaper, which quickly folded; then I wrote the script of a film for a friend (whose father, a famous film director, had given him 30,000 francs to do his own film). Needless to say, the film was never released and soon after, I left for India: I had just turned 19.

Have you worked with anybody other than Le Figaro?

When I reached India, I stopped writing for a long time, except my own diaries and I went into other spheres -- meditation and gardening, for instance! In 1982, at the occasion of the Asian Games in Delhi, I chanced upon an article (on the Asian Games) in a French newspaper. It had all the usual clichés on India: poverty, fakirs, Mother Teresa... So I wrote a letter of correction to the editor; and he offered me to write an article, which I did. And then another article followed and another and another...

I then started writing and photographing for different publications and finally ended-up being the correspondent in South Asia, for the Geneva-based Journal de Geneve, which at one time used to be one of the best international newspapers in Europe. Five and a half years ago, I switched to Figaro, for which I now work exclusively, except for the occasional photo feature (on kalarapiyat for instance).

How did you become interested in Indology?

Indology grew on me the moment I started getting out of Auroville (which is a bit of an island in the midst of India). In fact I would say that India grows on those (Westerners) who LIVE in India in whatever field (dance, music, spirituality, crafts, photography -- but not journalism). Also I have an interest in spirituality and it opens up so many different areas of Indian life.

You are married to an Indian, aren't you? Do you have other roots in India now?

I have been married nine years to Namrita, who is from Delhi (mother is Hindu, father Sikh). Being married to a "daughter of India" is a natural complement of my being in this country for 30 years. My roots are very much in this country, even though I remain a Westerner. But I have no intention of going back to France, except for yearly visits to meet my family.

What is your relationship to Auroville?

I came to India with the first caravan for the international city of Auroville -- and even though I spent seven years in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Pondichery, because I was immediately attracted by this totally Indian and spiritualised atmosphere (lots of Westerners in Auroville), my dedication is to Auroville, where I have spent most of the last 22 years. It is this ATTEMPT at human unity which makes Auroville great (because so far, we cannot boast of many achievements!) and the fact that such a place exists and that it is in India (where else could it be but in the land of great tolerance and spiritual experiment?) is a sign of hope for the rest of humanity.

I have read excerpts from Rewriting Indian History on the web at www.hindu.org, the site of Hinduism Today. What is your relationship if any, with Hinduism Today?

No direct relationship with them. Sitaram Goel, publisher of the Voice of India (For a long time, Sitaram Goel and Ram Swarup, who just passed away, single handedly defended Hinduism in the face of the Marxist-Christian-Muslim onslaught in India) had read some of my articles in Blitz magazine and asked me if he could publish a series of them under a book form. I answered that I would rather write the book from scratch and thus was born The Wonder That Is India.

Later, Hinduism Today, a remarkable set-up, which for the first time in the history of Hinduism is attempting to rationalise and gather together this great knowledge to present it to the world, offered to put it on their site in the net.

You take exception to A L Basham's The Wonder that was India: because it thinks of India only in the past tense?

Not only does he think that India was great solely in the past, but his idea of India's greatness is very selective; furthermore, he subscribes to the usual Western slogans: the eternal clichés propagated by a few Christian missionaries and "enlightened secularists" on the Indian caste system. "The Aryans anointed themselves the ruling class (= Brahmins and Kshatriyas), while the poor conquered Dravidians (Harappans), became the slaves, (= Vaishyas and Shudras)". Or: "As they settled among darker aboriginals, the Aryans seem to have laid greater stress than before on purity of blood and class divisions hardened..." (pp. 36, The Wonder that was India). Or else this monstrosity: "...In the Vedic period, a situation arose rather like that prevailing in South Africa today, with a dominant fair minority, striving to maintain its purity and its supremacy over a darker majority"... (pp. 138, The Wonder that was India). Poor India, being granted the honour by Basham, of being the founding father of racism! But it is thus that Basham lays the ground for his later theories on what he calls Hindu imperialism.

You quote widely from Koenrad Elst (whom I have interviewed in the past). Isn't Elst -- and for that matter Dr David Frawley and Dr Subhash Kak -- dismissed by some as not serious scholars?

It is very unfortunate that Konrad Elst is not able to publish his writings but in Hindu-oriented magazines or publishing houses, for he is not only one of the most thorough and knowledgeable scholars on India, but also, because he is a Westerner, he is able to perceive things that Indians themselves, blinded by two centuries of colonialism and 50 years of so-called secularism, do not see any more. I hope that History will grant him his due place in the fight for Indian Renaissance.

All are very rigorous scholars -- the scope of Elst's knowledge is amazing. But they have been going for a long time against the mainstream thought of this country, which was initiated first by the Britishers and later taken on by Nehru and the intellectual left based in JNU, all of which were predominantly anti-Hindu and which strove to eradicate the genius that was India.

What other books have you written? Do tell me more about them.

I have written Rewriting Indian History, published by Vikas. In February Un autre regard sur l'Inde (A Different look at India), will be published in France and Switzerland by Editions du Tricorne and I have just finished a novel called The last caravan to India which I hope to publish first in France and later in India, after getting it translated in English.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on two books in collaboration with Indian photographer Raghu Rai. The first one is on kalaripayat, which as you may know is the ancestor of all great Asian martial arts, such as judo and karate. This Kerala-based multi-discipline martial art travelled to China and later to Japan with Buddhism and brought to these countries not only martial knowledge, but also medical science which gave birth to acupuncture in China. The other book is about the French influence in India, past and present.

Your views on the discrediting of the Aryan Invasion Theory. Isn't it a bit far-fetched to suggest that in addition to not being invaded, in fact Indian tribes went westwards?

'The massacres perpetuated by Muslims in India are unparalleled in history, bigger than the Holocaust of the Jews'

Your views on the discrediting of the Aryan Invasion Theory. Isn't it a bit far-fetched to suggest that in addition to not being invaded, in fact Indian tribes went westwards?

Not at all. Because not only do latest archaeological and linguistic discoveries prove that there never was an Aryan invasion of India and that it was a theory propounded by the early archaeologists and linguists which were all at the service of the British (including the much vaunted Max Mueller who has falsified India's historical datings). Because how could the colonisers of the land, the bearers of "civilisation" and the true religion, ever accept that they might be the descendants of those they were colonising?

As for Aryan (or rather Indian tribes) to go westwards, there is nothing preposterous in that theory. Just compare Greek philosophy with Vedic thought, which it is known now, is much older than Greek civilisation. There is also a striking similarity -- which has been dwelt upon by numerous Indologists, including French scholar Alain Daniélou -- between some forms of Christianity and Hinduism.

There is no doubt that Christ was inspired by Hindu and Buddhist esoterism and there are numerous stories that he even came to India to be initiated. And finally, many recognise that the Gypsies, whose language has still many similarities with Sanskrit, and appeared in Europe around the 14th century after having transited through Iran and Egypt, were a lost tribe of India, probably of harijan origin.

I have been reading a good deal of argument about Bhagwan Gidwani's The Return of the Aryans. What is your view of this?

I have not read this book and I would be interested to know where I can get a copy. But this whole Aryan concept is an invention of colonial linguists for their own hidden purpose; it is even today used by Christian missionaries and was also taken up by Hitler, this great asura of the 20th century, to justify the killing of six millions Jews. What does Aryan mean? Nothing! There were Vedic tribes who happened to be receptive enough to the forces of Nature and the Cosmos to develop a unique spiritual system which was the basis for the future Indian civilisations. Full stop. All the rest is propaganda of Muslim writers and Christian missionaries, who, since they came to this country, have been intent to divide India into religions, castes, tribes etc. Whereas Vedic philosophy was always for unity: santana dharma.

Everything, every path, every sect is acceptable, as long as it leads you from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, from mortality to immortality. Today the Congress, the Left and all the Mulayam Singhs are still at it: how to divide this country and make sure it dies forever.

Your views on the Islamic invasion and the missionary invasion?

I think the above answers your question, but I must add that if the Vedic greatness had not degenerated and India had remained united in dharma, there could have never been Muslim invasions and later Western colonisation. This said, the massacres perpetuated by Muslims in India are unparalleled in history, bigger than the Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis; or the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks; more extensive even than the slaughter of the South American native populations by the invading Spanish and Portuguese.

In the words of another historian, American Will Durant: "the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilisation is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying within".

Why is it that foreign writers fall into either of two camps: either openly hostile (eg. Barbara Crossette, Molly Moore) or openly supportive (eg. you, Mark Tully)

You either hate India or love it. Let's forget about tourists, because they are a distinct breed and their purpose is different. But if you take Western journalists or writers, you will find that a great many of them (after some time) dislike India, or even sometimes hate it. Take the British who were in India for 300 years, how many of them got even to understand truly even a little bit of this great country? 0.02% (you can't even say that Foster understood India)?

There is basically an unconscious militant dislike of the Christian world towards Hindu India (and in this militant hate, Christians are even ready to ally themselves with their traditional enemies: Islam. Recently, I was in Jhabua, where the four nuns were raped [it was not a 'religious' rape as reported by the Press] and the lawyer whom the Christian priests had selected to defend their case, was a Muslim).

And even today you find that the West loves to honour only these Indians who basically are anti-Hindus, such as Mother Teresa or Amartya Sen, however brilliant they are in their own fields. True, India is a difficult country for a Westerner : dirty, unhygienic, obscure sometimes. It is also full of contradictions and it does not open-up to those who do not make any efforts to truly understand it.

But once more, you have to LIVE India if you want to understand it. This is why journalists and Western corespondents always closeted in Delhi, this artificial and arrogant city, can never understand India: they are just mouthing the same old clichés (Hindutva, caste system, Ayodhya, secularism), which they hear at the same embassies cocktails, the same journalists' parties, the same secular Indian press meet (such as Outlook)...

What is your view on the Saraswati Vandana/Vande Mataram controversy?

The ministers walked out when the Saraswati Vandana was played. But why should anyone object to Saraswati, the Goddess of learning, She who bestowed so much Grace on India. In 1939, a disciple had said to Sri Aurobindo that: "there are some people who object to the singing of Vande Mataram as a national song; Sri Aurobindo had replied: "in that case Hindus should give up their culture". But the disciple had continued: "the argument is that the song speaks of Hindu gods, like Durga and that it is offensive to Muslims". Said Sri Aurobindo: "but it is not a religious song, it is a national song and the Durga spoken of is India as the Mother. Why should not the Muslims accept it? In the Indian concept of nationality, the Hindu view should be naturally there. if it cannot find a place, the Hindus may as well be asked to give-up their culture. The Hindus don't object to "Allah-Ho-Akbar".

What do you think the solution is to endemic Macaulayism in India?

It is obvious that education in India has to be totally revamped. The kind of Westernised education which is standard in India, does have its place, because India wants to be on par with the rest of the world, and Indian youth should be able to deal confidently with the West: do business, talk, and relate to a universal world culture. But nevertheless, the first thing that Indian children should be taught IS THE GREATNESS OF THEIR OWN CULTURE. They should learn to revere the Vedas, they should be taught the genius of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana; they should be told that in this country everything has been done, that it was an unsurpassed civilisation, when the West was still mumbling its first words, that Indian civilisation reached dizzying heights, which have been since unsurpassed.

But overall they should be taught early that India's greatness is her spirituality her world-wide wisdom. INDIA'S NEW EDUCATION HAS TO BE SPIRITUALISED; IT HAS TO BE AN INNER EDUCATION, WHICH TEACHES TO LOOK AT THINGS FROM THE INNER PRISM, NOT THROUGH THE WESTERN ARTIFICIAL LOOKING GLASS.

Do you find Hinduism in danger? Besieged? But isn't it true that it has always survived -- muddling through somehow?

Yes, it is true that Hinduism has always managed to survive in the face of tremendous odds (Muslim holocaust, British colonisation, Nehruism...). But it is also true that life is always on the razor's edge and that nothing is won until the last moment. Today Hinduism is facing a more insidious onslaught, but which may be even more dangerous: from its own people.

From the Left, who wants to eradicate totally Hinduism and for that purpose supports whatever is inimical to it, including Islam and Christianity; from the so-called 'secular' politicians, such as Mulayam Singh or Laloo Prasad, who have done tremendous harm to India; from Sonia Gandhi, a Christian, who might one day be prime minister of India; from missionaries who continue to convert through covert means; from its so-called intellectual elite which swears by liberalisation and Westernisation, not understanding that this will eventually kill India's soul...

Overall, there is a vast semi-conscious conspiracy to denigrate Hinduism; and there Muslims and Christians walk hand in hand: it goes from Husain painting Saraswati naked, to Deepa Mehta's lesbians being called Radha and Sita. Everybody calls Thackeray a fascist or a madman, but let a Hindu minority in Saudi Arabia, or even in Europe, try to denigrate the Virgin Mary or Jesus, and see what happens. At least the man has guts, whatever his excesses.

Do you think the State-sanctioned disparity between Hindus and other faiths will continue?

It is a great tragedy that for instance different Congress governments have left millions of Bangladeshis settle in Eastern India and have kept quiet about it, just to cater to the Muslim vote bank. Today even, all the 'secular' politicians refuse to accept the Assam governor's conclusions which are absolutely right: Assam's way of life, its culture, religion, are being totally wiped out by the Bangladeshis immigrants, who on top of that bring with them a militant religion and do not really integrate in the Indian mainstream.

This should not happen and it is one of the dangers that Hinduism has to face today, because Muslims multiply much more rapidly than Hindus, who have generally accepted the need to have only two or three children, even in the backwards villages of Tamil Nadu.

Where do you think the population is going in regards to Hinduism, never mind the politicians?

I do hope that India is not going to turn its back on Hinduism. Because with 800 millions souls, Hindus constitute the majority of this country. Traditionally and historically, Hinduism has always been the most tolerant of all religions, allowing persecuted minorities from all over the world, whether the Jerusalem Jews, the Parsis from Persia, Christians from Syria, or even Arab merchants, to settle in India over the centuries and practice their religion in peace. Are the French ashamed of their Greco-Roman inheritance? Not at all ! On the contrary they even think that civilisation started only with the Greeks. Would you call the Germans or the Italians "nationalists" because they have Christian Democrats Parties?

Christianity is the founding stone of Western civilisation and nobody dares deny it. Clinton goes to the mass and swears on the Bible and none finds anything to say. We French are brought-up listening to the values of Homer's Iliad, or Corneille's Le Cid. It is true that in France there has been a separation of the State and the Church; but that is because at one time the Church misused its enormous political power and grabbed enormous amounts of lands and gold. But no such thing ever happened India. The much-maligned Brahmins never interfered in politics and today they are often a neglected lot.

Aren't there ills in Hinduism? Why aren't these being cleansed? You would admit that there is continuing casteism in India; perhaps also patriarchal ill-treatment of women?

Oh yes, there are a lots of ills in Hinduism, the worst one being that for some mysterious reason, Hindus tend to be the most undisciplined, (look how they drive) collectively selfish, and nationally uncaring community in India, so that it requires a Mother Teresa to look after their own underprivileged. In the same way, they tend to extend cleanliness only to their own immediate surroundings: their homes, or their front porches, but neglect the rest.

It is puzzling for instance how a people which has worshipped the Ganges for thousands of years, treats it with so little respect, dumping every day thousands of chemicals in its waters. They are panicky, cowards (I have my own theory on this: the collective terror unleashed by the Muslim invasions in the unconscious mind of Hindus still trigger in them this panicky and everyone-for-himself syndrome) and have lost this great quality of courage, selflessness and boldness, which Vivekananda tried to drill back into them, with little success.

They are corrupt, which is the gravest of sins, because it is not only the poor, which is understandable, but also the rich, who mix ashes in cement, adulterate petrol, mustard oil, alcohol (maybe we should have here for a few years a military dictatorship China-like. Take, for instance, a few of the hoarders who recently manipulated the prices of onion or salt, put them against a wall and shoot them like animals. You will see how India's economy will straighten-up quickly). There is so much black money in this country, so much hidden wealth, which could make India one of the richest countries in the world if it became white again.

And finally Hindus exploit and abuse their own underprivileged: they pay badly their servants, mistreat them; no wonder that sometimes these very servants kill their masters for a few rupees! My good friend and competitor, Françoise Chipaux, Le Monde's corespondent, showed me recently the servant quarters of her flat which is in Sujan Singh Park, one of the poshest districts of Delhi. You should have seen them: there were not even toilets! Once again you take a few of these owners (who ask for two years advance, half of it payable on a foreign account) and shoot them...

We have a dilemma regarding reservation and the upliftment of the weaker sections. What is your view on the OBC, SC/ST problems?

India's great Sage and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo, felt that the caste system is the most misunderstood, the most vilified subject of Hindu society : "Caste was originally an arrangement for the distribution of functions in society, just as much as class in Europe, but the principle on which this distribution was based was peculiar to India. A Brahmin was a Brahmin not by mere birth, but because he discharged the duty of preserving the spiritual and intellectual elevation of the race, and he had to cultivate the spiritual temperament and acquire the spiritual training which alone would qualify him for the task. So it was for the Vaishya whose function was to amass wealth for the race and the Shudra who discharged the humbler duties of service without which the other castes could not perform their share of labour for the common good".

But, yes, there is no doubt that the institution of caste degenerated: "It ceased to be determined by spiritual qualifications and thus lost most of its meaning. The spirit of caste arrogance, exclusiveness and superiority came to dominate it instead of the spirit of duty, and the change weakened the nation and helped to reduce us to our present condition". Thus, Nehru's intentions by devising the reservation system may have been good, but as usual it has been perverted by human nature and has encouraged sloppiness, cheating and believe it or not, casteism in the reverse sense, as it pays today to say that you from an underprivileged caste!

Thus, everybody wants to be part of OBC, even Christians who converted to escape the caste system! Moreover, it has encouraged anti-brahmanism, like in Tamil Nadu, whereas Brahmans never interfered in political affairs and single handedly preserved the Hindu tradition.

What are your views on the Nehru dynasty and Sonia Gandhi's recent rise?

'Gandhi's and Buddhism's ahimsa, were the non-violence of the weak and the coward; not the non-violence of the lion'

What are your views on the Nehru dynasty and Sonia Gandhi's recent rise?

It would be a real shame if Sonia Gandhi becomes one day India's prime minister. It is not the question of her being a foreigner (although there should be enough brilliant people amongst the 800 millions Hindus); it is the question of her having not the slightest idea of what India is truly about, locked that she is in her 6, Janpath fortress, surrounded by sycophants. Moreover there is no doubt that she is a Christian, which is perfectly her right; but as most Christians, she probably has a hostile bias against Hinduism -- and it shows in her remarks against the BJP and for "secularism".

As for the rest of the Gandhi dynasty, I hold Nehru most responsible for this country's present condition, because his policies have done tremendous harm to India and continue to do so. What we see today is his legacy at all levels of Indian life, be it political (secularism), education (Macaulyism), intellectualism (Left) or even art (aping the West).

India's relations with the US are at best rocky, but lately France seems to have taken it upon itself to try and supplant the UK as India's partner in Europe. Is there going to be improved trading relations with the EU?

I should hope so ! the US has demonstrated since 1947 the most stupid, arrogant, ignorant, short-sighted policy towards India. Today is no better, as it is continuing to favour Pakistan, a country which is ten times smaller than India, ten times less democratic, ten times more dangerous. When you see the amount of love, adulation -- nay aping, I would say -- there is amongst Indians towards America; and when you see at the same time the basic hostility that the Muslims masses in Pakistan and other Muslim countries have towards the US, you can only conclude that Americans are the most idiotic race there ever was in this planet, which is already full of imbeciles!

France is equally ignorant of India, but for some strange reason there is a measure of good will, of sympathy, of symbiosis even, for India. It gets translated sometimes in the wrong manner: France's love for Satyajit Ray for instance, who however brilliantly, presents a very pessimistic image of Indian society. But there, we find a ray of hope, there is a chance of the two countries finding some meeting ground.

Thus if India, now that she is a nuclear power, can develop some kind of privileged relation with United Europe, it could counterbalance the US's hostility. But then you will see, as soon as China will start to falter economically -- and that should not be too far -- the US will suddenly "discover" that India exists and Newsweek will run a cover on "the other Giant of Asia". The rest of the world, which anyway always copies America, will follow.

What do you think the long-term fallout of the nuclear bomb will be?

India should stand by the dogma of ahimsa, non-violence, But to be non-violent one needs to be strong . Over the centuries history has shown that India has always been the bullied, the oppressed, the invaded, whether by Alexander's armies, the Muslim, or the Western colonials. Even the Chinese made mincemeat of India in 1962. By getting the nuclear weapon, India makes the first step in getting some respect -- even if it is fear -- in the eyes of its hostile neighbours.

Look at the paranoiac reaction of the Chinese, isn't it symptomatic? Also there should be no doubt in anybody's mind that Pakistan is the latest reincarnation of Islam's militant hatred towards Hindus, the Infidels par excellence. Pakistan's present active hostility towards India, is nothing but what the Koran still preaches: Jihad fi Sabilillah, 'Holy War for the Greater Glory of Allah'.

In the face of such hostility, India has to guard herself; then only she can allow herself to be magnanimous. Gandhi's and Buddhism's ahimsa, were the non-violence of the weak and the coward; not the non-violence of the lion, which lets prey walk by, because he is not hungry and knows he can get them any time he wants.

In some ways, aren't you being disloyal to your country and the Catholic faith into which you were born, by accepting India so much?

Why? A soul has no nationality, no religion! Rather I would say that it has only the religion and the nationality of it past lives. Each soul has a history and belongs to some country, some race, where it reincarnates again and again. I consider India as my country, not because I happen to live here, but because the moment I set foot in this country, something deep in me recognised that it was my place, my known territory. Now it is also true that I cannot deny my own culture and upbringing -- and I am proud of it in many ways: it allows me to express myself, it gave me the backbone of my professional and literary achievements. If only India could get some of the material perfection the West has, its thirst for perfection, its caring for the others and motto of egalitarism!

If you were setting India's course with Europe, what would you do, on a political and foreign policy front?

Again, India has to assert her own personality, by pursuing the foreign policy that suits best her own interest. Automatically she will then gain respect, not only from Europe, but also from the US. Actually India should take a lesson or two from China. Look at the Chinese, they do exactly what they like, they keep threatening and blackmailing the world, and not only they get away with it, but also have the respect of all Industrialised nations.

India presents a far more better picture than China, which has killed a million innocent Tibetans: it has managed to remain democratic in spite of all its problems -- separatisms, overpopulation, corruption, etc.

I think Europe will come to appreciate India's democratic achievements, specially the day when China's iron (and bloody) communist hand will be removed by whatever circumstances. That day, all problems which were kept bottled-up and suppressed in China will erupt to the surface and one could witness a chaos similar to what happened in URSS.

And this is exactly what the present government should tell Europe : "Look, you cannot ignore us, we are the next superpower in Asia and the largest country by 2020; we are nuclear, but we are democratic and we have a long tradition of tolerance and culture". I think a few nations will understand that language -- maybe not the British, (who are anyway a spent nation) because they still live in the past -- but at least the French; and maybe the Germans.

How exactly does the French people and the French establishment view India? The view from here is that the French are supremely pragmatic, not given to posturing.

I did not know the French were supremely pragmatic! The German, surely; but the French: you flatter them! French are like Bengalis: they are great talkers, good artists, warm, fun-loving people, but infinitely lesser doers than the Germans. Today with modernism and the American way of business, which the US has slowly imposed upon the world, this may be changing; but still the French love good food, fun, debating and posturing -- witness their sports mania, which is mostly armchair sportsmanship! This is why maybe there is an empathy with India, which is also a bit of an armchair sportsman, such an in cricket, this crazy sports left by the British, which is totally unsuited to India's climate. True, the French are the only nation which did not condemn India outright after their nuclear blasts.

There may be three reasons to it: first of course, the French had just concluded their Pacific tests and suffered themselves from the world's hypocrite condemnation; two, there is that mysterious 'kinship' between India and France (of which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Pondichery often spoke); and three, different Indo-French programmes, started by Mrs Gandhi who spoke good French and knew Malraux well, continued by Rajiv Gandhi who promoted the year of India in France in 1985 and continued by Mr Chirac's visit to India beginning of 1998, finally bore some fruits.

Your views on Hinduism and its central place in the Indian enterprise, if it were to come from an Indian, would be considered 'fundamentalist'. But you seem to be tolerated to some extent by the 'secularists' of India. Is that primarily because you are a white person? Is it a racial thing?

Very good question! I would say that it is not so much because I am a white person, although that can help in India, either because the average Indian is nice with the Western man, or because there is a colonial hangover here which means that your white skin sometime opens you a lot of doors with India's upper class, 'elite' intellectuals, or top bureaucrats (in passing, upper-class Indians must be the most snobbish people in the world; but they don't realise that it is something they inherited from the British and that they are only aping their erstwhile colonisers).

No, I would say that the fact that I work for a very reputed and conservative newspaper opens a lot of doors to me, which would otherwise be closed. Konraad Elst or David Frawley, that other eminent Indologist, do not have this privilege and I make the most of it (would you interview me otherwise?)

Paul Theroux said recently that Indians are obsessed about race, caste and food. What do you think?

Paul Theroux is a very pompous man and on top of that, a mean and treacherous friend -- witness his book on his ex friend Naipaul (who had the courage to change his ideas about India). People like Theroux may be brilliant and witty, but they are quickly forgotten by History: who will know Theroux in 100 years? As for his opinion about India, I would not pay too much attention to it; first it is not very original, as millions of Westerners have already condemned India in the lines of race, caste and food.

By race, he probably means the Aryan race, which is as we have seen, is a bogus subject; we shall not get again into the caste issue, the favourite whipping boy of India haters.

But food?? At any rate, the West is much more obsessed with food than India! From the Romans downwards there was a mania of overeating and bulimia is a typically Western phenomenon, (which may come to India because of Westernisation). But long ago, Indian sages knew that "one eats for living; but does not live for eating".

Francois Gautier Bibliography

* The Wonder that is India (Voice of India, 2/18 Ansari Road, New Delhi 110002)
* Rewriting Indian History (Vikas, 576 Masjid Road, Jangpura, New Delhi 24). Can be found in New Delhi at some bookshops, such as Fakir & Sons in Khan Market.
* Un autre Regard sur l'Inde (Editions du Tricorne, 14, rue Lissignol, Genève 1201, Switzerland)
* La dernière Caravane des Indes (to be published)

Interviewer's note: This interview was completed in December 1998, before a series of violent Hindu-Christian incidents were reported in Gujarat and Orissa.

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