Francois Gautier: Custodian of India’s Historical Heritage
By Kalyani Giri, www.indoamerican-news.com
HOUSTON: Eminent journalist and author Francois Gautier is passionate about India. His love affair with that country began in the ‘70s, when as a young student, he left his native France and meandered across Europe and arrived in India. So captivated was he by India’s arresting liveliness and the warmth and kindness of the people, that years later in the early ‘80s he returned to India and made it his home. During the last three decades, he has been a high-profile ambassador to India through the power of his pen.
“It is a wonderful privilege to be born Indian,” said Gautier to a multigenerational gathering at the Arya Samaj of Greater Houston on August 10. “I’m a westerner but I feel it is a privilege to live in India.”
The renowned writer is currently visiting several cities within the US to raise funds through his visionary foundation FACT – India for the creation of an Indian history museum in Pune, in the state of Maharashtra in India. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History, named for the Indian military leader Shivaji (1627 – 1680), will cost an estimated US$40 million. Gautier is eager to begin work as soon as he returns to India and is confident that this fundraising tour will bring in the much-needed initial $100, 000 to jumpstart the project. A wall within the museum will bear the names of donors supporting the museum project. The museum will be built on land donated by a private trust. Gautier believes that with the help of commissioned historians hired by the museum, visitors will be privy to accurate chronicles of India’s great history. For Gautier, the epiphany came upon him when he started research on a book he was writing. He found that history books carried outdated theories such as the Aryan invasion that have since found to be fictional.
Earlier in the day, he chatted informally with Indo American News sharing his thoughts and vision for the museum.
“India has been largely maligned by distorted information and misrepresentation. No records or schoolbooks have a correct account of the Hindu Kush genocide, where millions were slaughtered. Exactly how many were killed isn’t known but that was India’s holocaust. Yet everyone knows about the Jewish Holocaust,” said Gautier. “India’s history, falsely propagated by the British, Christian missionaries, and western media, has made me realize that we need to show Hindu civilization in its correct and true context. For the sake of our children and the generations to come, and the world!”
The first exhibit to be set up will honor the life and times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. India’s rich cultural heritage will be portrayed through the Vedas. The museum will document and exhibit the various invasions from Alexander the Great to the Arabs, the Goa Inquisition, the ongoing massacre of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus by Muslim terrorists, the persecution of the Syrian Christians, Buddhism’s rise and decline, India past and current. Highlighted too, will be India’s glorious contribution of yoga and Ayurveda to the world community.
“The museum will be there for our children, for them to know that regardless of the fact that the British broke the backbone of our agricultural system and caused the deaths of millions of Indians from famine, and despite the Muslim onslaught, India prevailed and remains prosperous,” added Gautier, a practicing Hindu who was spiritually influenced by the writings of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950). He has since joined forces with spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who supports him in his quest for the truth about India’s past. Gautier estimated that it would take several years till completion of the museum.
“I’m thinking about 10 to 15 years. Once people realize how important this project is, and how essential, the funds will pour in,” confided Gautier. Speaking softly in a lilting Indo-French accent, his messages however were undoubtedly strong as he condemned the slaughter and maniacal “ethnic cleansing” of Hindus in the Kashmir valley by the Muslims, an area Gautier covered as a political journalist from 1987 to the late ‘90s.
“There were over a million Hindus living peacefully in Kashmir. Today there are a mere hundreds. The Kashmiri Pandits moved me with their despair, but nobody else seemed to give a damn. Indian media abroad and in India were only covering the Muslim angle,” said Gautier.
Through FACT – India, an organization he founded in 2003 to draw attention to human rights abuses in South Asia, Gautier documented the genocide in Kashmir in a video called Terror Unleashed – An Exhibition on Kashmir, and presented it to the US Congress in the desperate hope that Washington would intervene and help resolve the issue.
“Several House Representatives saw it and lauded the video but nothing was really done about it,” said Gautier. “US presidents think that by pouring money into Pakistan, it will curb terrorism. That won’t work.”
Gautier said that the dissent among Hindu community leaders has led to disunity.
“If there’s fighting among ourselves, how do we present a united front to the world? After all this time that Indians have been in the US and enjoy great prosperity, they still do not have a voice that is heard. Yet other communities work together and in that unity, they find a voice. Indian organizations need to share a common agenda and work towards that.”
He confided that it is “tragic” that the children of Indian immigrants adopt the American way of life and are lost to India.
“They’re hostile to spirituality. And it’s mostly the fault of the parents who either don’t care, or don’t instill cultural pride in their children. Families are fragmented, values lost. Instead of pushing children to visit the temple, engage them in other spiritual activities like the classical arts and yoga. It will bring them closer to their cultural roots,” said Gautier. “It’s such a pity that India is so poor at sports, as that could have helped make them proud of India.”
At a private meeting with local youth at the Arya Samaj, Gautier urged young people to be proud of their cultural heritage. “It is a privilege and a responsibility to have Indian roots and there is no contradiction here – you hail from the lineage of the Vedas. People are moving forward and coming to Hinduism for spiritual answers,” said Gautier.