In 1981, I became successful in persuading the Chinese government in re-opening for Hindu pilgrims the route to Kailash and Manasarovar. After 3 years of persuading the Chinese, in April 1981 the Chinese strongman Deng Xiao Ping invited me to China to meet him. In that meeting, he told me that as a “special favour to me and my efforts and in recognition of my steady advocacy of improved Sino-Indian relations [ he used the term “lao peng yeou” ‘meeting old friend’ ] he was asking the officials to meet Indian counter parts to work out the arrangements for pilgrims to visit Kailash. Deng had in jest asked me “But you must go first”. He had said it jokingly, but I was keen to see Kailash and Manasarovar. So when I met Mrs. Gandhi in Delhi to tell her of my meeting with Deng, I told her that I will lead the first batch of pilgrims and that she should agree. She laughed and said “of course. I wish I could go too.”
The opening of Kailash and Manasarovar had been considered impossible by our Foreign Ministry officials. China is a communist country and Kailash and Manasarovar is in the most sensitive area of Tibet . Therefore how could China allow Indians, even if as Pilgrims, to walk into Tibet ? But the impossible happened because throughout the three years of talks with the Chinese, Parmacharya not only gave his blessings to me for this venture but encouraged me. “We must be friends with China and Israel ” he would keep telling me whenever I came to him for darshan and anugraha (blessings).
When the Kailash and Manasarovar re-opening was announced, the first batch consisting of 20 pilgrims was slated to go in the end of August. That meant in 30 days of walking from the end of August to late September. By the time, we return, it would be end of September. At those heights in the Himalayas , September meant snow and ice cold temperatures, and that we would have to walk! Foreign ministry officials told me that since the route had not been in use for nearly 25 years, it would be a rough walk. We would have to clear bushes on the way, and perhaps encounter animals and snakes!
To make matters worse, Inderjit Gupta, then a CPI Lok Sabha MP, and good friend of many years, asked my wife to prevent me from going on this trip since I would not return. “It requires mountaineers to trek this route, not people like us” he told her. Others told me that I should think of my family (of two daughters then age 11 and 8) and not venture on such foolishness. In fact one BJP MP, perhaps more out of jealousy than concern, told me that it is punya (blessing) to die on the route to Kailash. If that were so, I wondered, why not a single BJP or RSS leader has ever gone on a pilgrimage to Kailash? Perhaps because there are no Muslims there, nor a Masjid to demolish! BJP is anti-Muslim but not pro -Hindu, so Kailash means nothing of political value to them.
But the net result of all this was that a scare was created in my family and social circles. Many urged me to forget going to Kailash. I had done my duty, they said, in getting the route opened, but it is not necessary to go there. My daughters reminded me of my promise made the previous year that I would be with them on my birthday, which fell on September 15th. The previous year I had to be away to address a meeting in Bihar . If I went to Kailash I would again not be in Delhi on my birthday. This troubled me.
So anguished and confused by all this I flew to Bangalore , and drove down to where Parmacharya was camping. He was reading a book when I saw him. He put down his book and glasses, and asked me what brought me to him. “Kailash and Manasarovar route has been opened with your blessings. I have been asked by our Government to lead the first batch of pilgrims. But all my colleagues in Parliament are scaring me with stories of what can go wrong with me on this hazardous trip”. Parmacharya said in a comforting voice “Nothing will happen. You go and come. The opening of Kailash route is a great achievement for our country”
“I have only regret. That I will not be able to be with my daughters in Delhi on my birthday” I added. “When is your birthday?” He asked. “September 15th. But the journey back will not be completed before September 30th.” Parmacharya only smiled. He puts his palm in blessing and merely said: “you go and come”. I left on September 1st on my journey.
My journey to Manasarovar lake and then for a darshan of Kailash went very smoothly thanks to Parmacharya’s blessings. I returned to the Tibet-India border on September 13th, and camped that night at Kalapani, a military cantonment on the Indian side. That night, faraway from Delhi on the Himalayas , I could not help thinking of my daughters and my promise to them to be with them on my birthday. It would be another 15 days of walking before I could reach the plains and then Delhi .
Next morning at breakfast, the camp commandant came to me with a telex from Delhi . It said that on Prime Minister’s instruction, an air force helicopter would be coming that morning at 10 AM from Bareilly to pick me up and take me back to Bareilly , from where I will be taken by car to Delhi . I was thrilled. This meant that I would be in Delhi on September 14th evening, and be with my family on the next day for my birthday! What a miracle!
I was that time just an MP, and that too from the opposition. And yet this privilege was extended to me. The only reason for this was the blessing of Parmacharya. With this blessing, any miracle could happen. I was honoured to witness it. I prayed to Lord Shiva and Durga at the Kalapani temple at 18,000 feet above sea level, with snow all around. I said a special thanks to Parmacharya. When I returned to Delhi , and thereafter went to see Parmacharya, I explained all that happened. He merely smiled.
In 1986, I was passing Kanchipuram, so I made a detour and went to the Kanchi Mutt. Parmacharya was there giving Darshan to hundreds of people. I also stood in the crowd. But the pujaris saw me and whispered to the Parmacharya that I had come. So he asked me to come close and sit before him. After the crowds had left, he looked at me as if to ask me why I had come. The Babri Masjid issue then was hotting up, and so I said Parmacharya that I was planning to visit Ayodhya to study the situation. I asked the Mahaswami what stand should I take.
Parmacharya looked at me very sternly and said “you are a politician. Why do you have to take a stand on a religious issue? You stay out of it. You spend your energies on improving our economy or our relations with China and Israel .” I was taken aback by his stern remarks. But I persisted and said “At least the Government will have to take a stand”. He said: “Let the government make it possible for the religious leaders of both religions to come together and work out a compromise. But you stay out of it.
I then told Parmacharya that my friend, and leading Babri Masjid agitator Mr.Syed Shahabuddin wanted to see his holiness, and whether I could do bring him next time. The pujaris around the Parmacharya protested. They said that Shahabuddin was anti-Hindu, and he should not be allowed inside the Mutt.
The Parmacharya waved away their objections. He gave me permission to bring him to the Mutt. Then he said to the Pujaris. “Only Subramanian Swamy knows the art of befriending Americans, Chinese and Israelis at the same time. He can also be a friend of Shahabuddin.” Then turning to me, he said: “Keep this quality. Never be afraid of making friends with anyone.” I have followed this advice despite heavy criticism from the media. I have made friends with Morarji, Chandrasekhar and Indira Gandhi after terrific quarrels with them. Sometimes one needs to quarrel to come to an understanding of each other’s strength. Generally, I love to oppose those in authority because for a strong democracy, opposition is necessary. But Indian society being feudal, those in power underestimate who oppose them. And in my case, people in power have always underestimated me because they think I am alone. But they don’t realize I have friends everywhere, in all political parties and in all important countries. That is why I have won all my battles against Government.
Because I have never betrayed anyone, these friendships remain for a long time. In 1990, I could have betrayed Chandrasekhar and fallen for temptation offered by Rajiv Gandhi to become PM. But when I discouraged this idea, Rajv Gandhi’s esteem of me and trust in me went sky high. Because of the trust I develop my friends from all over the world confide in me. People ask me often “How do you get so much accurate information”. This is the answer. I have secret friends and open enemies. Most other people have the opposite: secret enemies and open friends.
Thus Shahabuddin trusted me to bring him to the Mutt with honour. In early 1987, I brought Shahabuddin to see Parmacharya. I brought the fierce Muslims-rights agitator Mr.Syed Shahabuddin to Kanchipuram to have a darshan of the Parmacharya. Shahabuddin had told me many a times that he had a urge to see the Parmacharya. He never explained why. Nor I asked him why since I assumed everyone would like to see a living God on earth.
Although Shahabuddin is a strict Muslim, he accepted two fundamental points defining a patriotic Indian Muslim. The first point, a patriot would accept that though he is a Muslim, his ancestors are Hindus since 99.9 percent of Muslims of India are descendents of converts. Muslims who think that their ancestors are Persians or Arabs or from Tajikistan , can never be patriotic Indians, because they live in a myth. They are psychologically uprooted from India . The second point is that although the present day Indian culture is composite, in which all communities and religions have contributed, the core of this culture is Hindu in character and substance. Hence even if one changes one religion, it need not lead to a change of culture. Religion is personal, culture belongs to the nation.
Shahabuddin had accepted the two points and that is why I defended him against the charge that he was communal. But the RSS [which is not pro-Hindu, but merely anti-Muslim], saw in Shahabuddin a convenient hate figure, and dubbed him a “second Jinnah”. Naturally bigots of the RSS protested when they came to know that I was bringing Shahabuddin to meet Parmacharya. When we arrived at the Kanchi Mutt, the Mutt-Pujaris told me that Parmacharya had wanted me to bring Shahabuddin right into the inner part of the Mutt where he was staying. We were made to sit before a shut door, and told Parmacharya would come soon.
The door was opened by Parmacharya himself. When Shahabuddin saw him, he started to weep, with tears rolling down his cheeks. He folded his hands in a ‘namaste’ and said “Oh my Lord Parmacharya, please save my community and save the nation”. I was taken aback [Much later when we were back on our way to Chennai, I asked Shahabuddin why he broke down , before the Parmacharya. He simply said that he could not control himself when he saw the radiant face of the Parmacharya.]
Parmacharya asked Shahabuddin what troubled him. He said “The Babri Masjid has been shut to Muslims by a Court Order and I pray to you to help us open it to us”. [At that time, 1988 there was no talk of its demolition by RSS]. Parmacharya told him that Hindus and Muslims should work out a compromise. He suggested a number of proposals, such as joint prayers, or Hindu Prayers on Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Muslims Namaz on other days with Sunday being denied to both. All these compromise proposals, Shahabuddin said, would be unacceptable to devout Muslims.
I added in my proposal. Koran prohibits Namaz in constructions built by demolishing other religions holy places : therefore if it can be proved that a temple was demolished by Babar’s men to build the mosque in Ayodhya, and then the Muslims themselves should agree to the Babri Masjid demolition.
Parmacharya looked at me with a benign smile. He had earlier warned me to stay away from this issue, instead asked me to concentrate on political and economic issues. But Shahabuddin quickly agreed that Koran prohibited reading namaz in such places, but contested that Babri Masjid was built on a temple site. He said he had construction blue prints to prove his point. Two hours of discussion had taken place, and therefore the Mutt pujaris were getting impatient. A big crowd was waiting for the Parmacharya’s darshan. So Parmacharya closed his discussion by asking Shahabuddin to bring his blue prints and come again. Surprisingly, again Shahabuddin prostrated before him, and then we both left.
Shahabuddin never came back again. But two years later, I became the Law Minister. I confronted the Muslim organizations with a proposal that the Government would appoint a Supreme Court Judge in a one man Commission of inquiry to determine whether or not there was a temple before the Babri Masjid was built. And if the conclusion was that there was a temple, then Muslims must agree to give up the Masjid. If not, then the Hindus would vacate the masjid.
Surprisingly, while all the Muslim organisations agreed to my proposal, the fanatic Hindu organizations refused to agree. Our government did not last long enough for me to go ahead with the Commission of Inquiry anyway disregarding the fanatics. Nor could I persuade the successor Narasimha Rao Government to follow my proposal. It would have amicably resolved the issue. But alas, Babri Masjid was finally demolished in bitterness.
Perhaps Parmacharya was telling me not to get involved from the beginning because he foresaw that it would be demolished as a part of destiny. If Babar’s violence was undone 450 years later, then RSS violence on December 6, 1992 could also be undone someday, but I hope, by understanding and love. Otherwise the cycle of violence will continue in the country, with the Hindus and Muslims not reconciled to each other.
In April 1990, I received an urgent summons from Parmacharya to come to Kanchipuram. So I rushed. When I saw him, he merely smiled, put up his palm in blessing and then waved me on to go away! I was puzzled. Why was I asked to rush to the Kanchi Mutt from Delhi , merely to be sent away? The Mutt pujaris told me that on Parmacharya’s instructions the Mutt had decided that I was to share the dais with Rajiv Gandhi on the occasion of Parmacharya’s 97th birthday in May that year, to be celebrated in Kanchipuram. It turned out that no other politician except Rajiv and myself were to share the platform. It was a great honour, not only that I would be with Rajiv, but more that it was on Parmacharya’s instructions. But why did he so honour me?
That May meeting turned out to be crucial for me, because it created a rapport with Rajiv which I did not have before. Rajiv too had great regard for the Parmacharya and therefore his selection of me to pair with Rajiv, meant for Rajiv that I could be trusted. From that date onwards, Rajiv trusted me blindly with no reservations.
Parmacharya thus not only altered my outlook, but he also ensured from time to time that I came on the right path. Once for example, in 1992, the two junior swamis, Jayendra Saraswati and Vijendra Saraswati had asked me to collect some funds for a Ghatikasthanam library that they wanted to build in honour of the Parmacharya. They even printed letter heads to make me the “Patron” of the project, but insisted on a donation.
With great difficulty, I collected Rs.15 lakhs and gave it to them as Janata Party’s gift. When Parmacharya came to know about it, he sent me a query: “Why should you donate to the Mutt when you are yourself begging for funds from the people to run your party? Please do not do it in the future”. Since then I have stopped giving donations to any cause. Beggars cannot donate.
Naturally, when Parmacharya attained samadhi in 1994, I felt like an orphan in public life. HE was always there when I had a dilemma to set things right. But I had the God’s grace to see him, a living divinity, for 17 years. Many of his opinions and directions I can never reveal, because he said them knowing fully well that I will keep it to myself. But by guided and listening to him, I have become so strong mentally as a person, that I feel that no one can cow me down or demoralize me no matter how bad a situation I am in.
Parmacharya taught me that the easiest way to finish an enemy is to make him a friend. He had urged me not to hate the sinner, but the sin. Of course, sometimes the easiest way is not available because of ego clash, and so the sinner has to fought to be made to realize the sin. But one has to keep in mind that there is a God’s scheme, redemption for the sinner what we call as prayaschitam. The ultimate revenge belongs to the divine. As human beings we have no right to revenge; only self-defence and righteous struggle. As Hindus, this is easy to understand because we believe in the law of Karma. People who see me fighting fiercely with Indira Gandhi, Chandrasekhar and Jayalalitha and then working with them get confused or even disgusted at what they perceive as my opportunism. I do not make up with those I quarrel with at height of their power, but when they cease to be in office. The reason for this flexibility in making friends out of enemies of yester year is the advice that Parmacharya once gave me in 1977: ” India is plagued by divisions, and the egos of our rajas had played havoc with our national security, making it easy for foreigners to conquer us. Therefore, never hesitate to create unity, without of course compromising on the fundamental concepts of morality. India has never forgotten those who unite the nation.” I have defined three such fundamental moral principles.
These three fundamental concepts of morality are
I shall not speak lie, even if I withhold truth.
I shall practice what I shall preach.
What I do will be transparent for all to see. I consider myself therefore free to plan my political strategy as I see best, without regard to criticism from my political opponents, but within these three moral limits.
Categories: Devotee Experiences