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Two religions, one common taint

As the Hindu faith grapples with a first-time brush with terror, the clergy is trying to separate religion from terror.

delhi Updated: Nov 16, 2008 00:45 IST
Zia Haq

As two Hindu seers turn terror suspects, a section of the clergy — including one of the three Shankaracharyas — has criticised “attempts to taint the entire Hindu faith” with terms like “Hindu terror”, a view echoed by Muslim clerics who are also angered by the term “Islamic terrorists”.

The clergy also questioned the use of the title of Shankaracharya — head of one of the four monasteries collectively regarded as the Hindu Vatican — by self-styled guru Dayanand Pandey, arrested from Kanpur for allegedly masterminding the September 29 Malegaon bombing.

As the Hindu faith grapples with a first-time brush with terror, the clergy is trying to separate religion from terror.

“Nobody should malign the religion a terrorist may belong to,” said Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, who presides over two of the four holiest monasteries, Dwarkapeeth and Joshi mathas.

The Shankaracharya told HT from Mumbai: “A true Hindu can never be a terrorist.” That’s a view remarkably similar to the fatwa (edict) issued in May by Islamic seminary Darul Uloom after a wave of bombings attributed to Islamic groups. “A true Muslim can never be a terrorist,” the fatwa said.

Saraswati said he objected to the use of the Shankaracharya title by Dayanand Pandey, the name now used by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad. Pandey went by the name of “Mahant and Shankaracharya” of his monastary in Jammu.

“Other than the three heads occupying the four peeethas (monastery orders) established by saint Adi Shankarcharya 2,500 years ago, nobody else is authorised to use the title,” Saraswati said.

He said: “The government must come out with instructions that people be debarred from using this most scared title unauthorised.”

Vedic scholar and president of the Universal Association for Spiritual Awareness Pandit N.K. Sharma said a seer had to pass through a rigorous process and was selected as a Shankaracharya only by those currently presiding over the four mathas or monasteries.

Sharma said this had to be seconded by the Kashi Vidwat Parishad, a body of elite Brahmin scholars in Varanasi. The ceremony had to be according to the Matthamanaya Mahaanushahshan, a manual by Adi Shankarchayra, he explained.

The head of Vidya mathas in Varanasi, Avi Mukteshwaranand, said right-wing Hindu organisations were tarnishing the true image of Hindusim. “The Sangh Parivar and Bajrang Dal have politically hijacked a great religion for personal enlightenment,” he said.