This is the English article that I wrote for a leading Telugu daily. Do let me know your feedback in the comments.
RAMLILA AND THEREAFTER
On June 5 , in the wee hours of Sunday morning ,the drama that was enacted in Ramlila Maidan , reminded me of Rabindranath Tagore’s agony about the religiousmindedness of our nation when in 1926 he had raised the question of its nature. He had gone even a step further by commenting that a non-believer was better than a believer in religion . One of the characteristics of our nation is to drag religion into every field , be it economics or politics. We are in the habit of shuttling from religion to politics and from politics to religion . History records many such instances. It is indeed difficult to fathom why and how Aurobindo Ghosh would transform from being a guru of armed revolution to Rishi Aurobindo of Pondicherry and how and why swami Vivekananda’s disciple Sister Nivedita would transform from being a nun into becoming an inspiration to the followers of armed revolution and helped them actively.
Being aware of our preoccupation with religion , Gandhiji declared that India should be a secular state as Independence had come at the price of Partition on the basis of religion. While engaged in restoring peace in the riot-ridden areas of East Bengal, on 22nd February 1947 Gandhiji said in his prayer meeting that there can not be a state- religion .Religion, he said , is absolutely a personal matter. He forcefully asserted that the state and religion are two separate domains and should be kept absolutely separate . He asserted , ‘the state should undoubtedly be secular…everyone living in it should be entitled to profess his religion without let or hindrance , so long as a citizen obeyed the common law of the land.”(Harijan,24th August 1947) But he did not have the time to elaborate on the nature of a secular state as he was assassinated before he could, in the name of religion. No one , not even Pandit Nehru had ever used the word “secular” or “secularism” in their political sense. In the long history of the freedom struggle of India. For the Indians it was almost a new word.
From the same news report of Harijan it becomes apparent that Gandhiji came to know of this word, secularism in its political sense from Reverend John Kellas –the principal of Scottish Church College, Calcutta. George Jacob Holyoake was the first person to use this word as a political nomenclature in 1854 in his booklet entitled Secularism, the political philosophy of the people. It was later put into practice by Charles Bradlaugh in the British Parliament. But it is doubtful whether Gandhiji knew of Holyoake in February 1947. Perhaps he had derived this wisdom independently from his own experience and reflections. However the word “secular” was incorporated in the Indian constitution as late as 1976 but one wonders whether in these 36 years we have understood the real significance of the word.
In the 90s of the last century when Manohar Joshi was campaigning for election in the name of Hindutva a case was lodged in the Bombay high court. The verdict of this case (Nitin Bhaorao Patil vs . Manohar Joshi) was to declare the election result of Manohar Joshi as null and void. But the Supreme court reversed the verdict of Bombay high Court stating that Hindutva and the Hindu religion were not one and the same and asserted that Hindutva is a culture and not a religion . The supreme court however did not clarify the culture of Hindutva . Because of this it is difficult to define Hindutva. After all what is meant by Hindutva culture? What are its salient features ? What are its characteristics and nature ? How will one identify it? How does one categorise widow burning and honour killing? Do they fall within the scope of Hindutva or are outside it ? What is the difference between Hindutva and Hindu religion? Let us consider the Yoga of Ramdev. Is it an independent culture outside the scope of Hindu religion? Is it a part of Hindutva? Is saffron the predominant colour of Hindutva. These questions naturally come to one’s mind looking at the meteoric rise of saffron clad Baba Ramdev and his extraordinary popularity throughout the world.
Anna Hazare went on a fast to push a specific demand for a joint drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill . Baba Ramdev on the other hand is still fasting for the fulfillment of many demands , primarily to bring back the huge, huge, huge amount of black money stashed away in the foreign banks and to declare it as a national asset. He is also pressing for death penalty for corruption, withdrawal of currency notes of Rs. 500 and 1000 denomination , uniform wages for different categories of labourers , use of Hindi as a medium for medical and technical instruction in educational institutions and other wide ranging demands. Probably every Indian will support his demand for bringing back the black money. But very few are aware of the procedural problems related to the execution of these demands.
However when on June 1 Baba landed on the airport of the capital ,the heavy weight Finance minister accompanied by three of his colleagues went to meet and greet him and to dissuade him from the fast. The Government knew about the much hyped fast from the beginning . Once the Govt. failed to dissuade him it should have immediately banned the show instead of carrying on a brutal midnight attack on peacefully sleeping men,women and children. This is wholly barbaric and inhuman . Did the Govt suddenly realise in the late evening of June 4 that there are other political players behind the saffron screen of Baba Ramdev biding their time to swing into action? Did this late realization prompted the Govt. to act in the early hours of the day? Then we are bound to feel that the Intelligence network of the Govt has failed miserably. Perhaps the whole drama had started at least a month ago when the naïve Baba was egged on by some clever friends to create a space apparently for him but really for them in the current political scene of India.
Since the Supreme court had given the stay order on the verdict of the Allahabad High Court , I was apprehensive of the renewal of the Ramjanmabhumi movement by the saffron brigade . Little did I know then that the Congress itself will offer a golden opportunity to the opposition for nailing them. They are also questioning the Govt. why they had not taken any action against Gilani and Arundhati Roy .Those who carry on trade with the commodity called religion will not easily let go of such an opportunity . The congress led Govt has brought on itself a grave problem affecting the entire nation.A congress leader has called Baba a “thug”,a cheat . Firstly it is in very bad taste. There is no doubt that by promoting Yoga and bringing it to the doorsteps of ordinary people Baba has helped scores of people to find relief from various maladies and lead happier life .Secondly if he is a thug why did cabinet ministers go to meet him at the airport? Why did they invite him to a talking table in a five-star hotel for that matter? From when has the Govt . started to pamper the thugs ? In the meantime another respected congressman has stated that the decision of eviction was not taken by the congress but was taken by the Govt.indicating a clear divide between the congress and the congress led Govt. It might just be an attempt at controlling the damage already done.
I must say the handling of the entire matter exposes the criminal ineptness of the Govt and gives rise to a deep doubt about national security. The Indian nation should also be aware of the fact that the saffron robe is nothing but a saffron robe and anybody anywhere can wear it for any reason. The Govt should also take prior cognizance of all dubious proposals and should not cajole during daytime and stealthily attack at the dead of night.This is immoral . This is criminal.