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Living in fear this I-day
The country seems to be as scared of corona as it is of secularism
A former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue, KN Govindacharya, recently made a comment that summed up the current socio-political downtrend in the country. He said, “The basic coat on the canvas of polity (in India) is Hindutva now. As socialism and secularism were the pivot of politics between 1952-80 and 1980-2010, respectively, Hindutva has now come to acquire the same dominance.”
In the context of this comment, and more importantly the truth in the observation, it is both banal and interesting at the same time to discuss what hope the country’s 73rd Independence Day invokes among citizens. With the Indian Constitution suddenly becoming inefficacious, it is also time to be alarmed and start introspecting about our losses more than achievements in the last seven decades.
If one thinks that the ongoing pandemic is the worst form of worry this August 15, then one has to be myopic. The pandemic, in no way, can match the zealots’ passion. So much is their conviction that even the virus seems belittled at times.
Talking about achievements, India has many feathers in its cap to show off. One can laud the country’s achievements in science and research and how young minds have been nurtured to become scientists, professors, doctors and engineers.
After so much dedication and hard work, young and educated Indians have finally understood, with all their logic and scientific knowledge, what Ayodhya means to the majority Hindus of the country. They realised that years of injustice, oppression and discrimination can be pardoned by offering Lord Ram’s prasad first to a Dalit family. “Lord Ram living in tents for years, will finally get a temple,” said the Prime Minister. And the country rejoiced as it should when it would send the first man to Mars.
That is beside the point that an entire country forgot the Dalit history of oppression by upper caste Hindus of the country for centuries. The Lord has a house now or at least the assurance that it will be constructed soon. But what about hundreds of his disciples who are sleeping on footpaths? The revelling Hanumans (Hanuman was the biggest Ram Bhakt) did not think of it. They are not expected to.
“Entire nation prayed for well-being of Amitabh Bachchan. Many went to Mandir and did arti for him… Amitabh didn’t tweeted (sic) single word on Ayodhya Bhumi Pujan. 500 years of journey, entire nation and media covered by the news but BigB was sleeping,” tweeted Arnab Goswami, a prominent journalist, who himself sleeps when there are real breaking news in the country and creates ruckus for nothing.
Nonetheless, 500 years of journey is more overwhelming than mere 70 years of independence and all the hubris about the supremacy of one religion is justified. This is what the country intended to achieve from the first day of independence. In fact, it is another wave of freedom, from secularism and republic nation. This August 15 will be a special day.
On July 5, the PM tweeted in Hindi, translated here in English, drawing an analogy between the freedom struggle of crores of Indians, including Muslims, and the struggle, of the regressive and narrow-minded Hindus, for the Ram mandir. “Like the Dalits, backward classes and Adivasis and people from all strata supported Gandhi in his fight for independence. Similarly today, with the support of all citizens, we start the construction of this Ram Mandir.”
The PM remembered history and epic but forgot to mention a year-old incident in Jammu and Kashmir. The Muslim-dominated northern state’s struggle for freedom is not 500 years old but definitely no less important. To the government, these demands for sovereignty and autonomy are foibles of a bunch of disobedient citizens, who can be straightened up by pellet gun or thrusting them into darkness.
Coming to the corona crisis, a Gujarat-based godman, Shree Purushottam Priyadasji Swamishree Maharaj, has died of COVID-19. It is not about how god’s own men are also vulnerable to the disease but what happened before and after the great man’s death. Before the man died and since he became a godman, he had been practising a uniquely grotesque religious ritual. The saint distributed prasad from his mouth, even during the pandemic. A video on social media showed how disciples in their trance danced towards the godman, ensconced in his elaborate throne, to collect the multiple germ-laced piece of prasad. The PM of the country condoled Swamiji’s death and remembered him for his “noble service to the society”.
Who are these experts worldwide who are asking people to wear masks and maintain physical distance? The scientific gibbesrish is no education. The real education is in the East and the godmen and their followers, among them public leaders and great minds, are testimony to that.
Meanwhile, Gujarat’s total number of COVID-19 cases has crossed 67,000 two days back. On July 16, the day the saint left his earthly abode after serving humanity well, Gujarat’s total number was around 44,500.
The threat of corona virus has dampened the mood for all occasions. This is because physical distancing and large gatherings are the rules for lesser mortals and no celebration can be complete without the conventional social gestures and practices. So this makes Independence Day dull this year. Many organisations and government offices are keeping the celebrations low key. Anyway, there is no reason for the brouhaha over this day.
Independence Day is next week and the entire country is awaiting that moment when tricolour balloons will fly in the sky, carefree festoons will sway in the soft breeze and the band will play one of the patriotic songs, not quite socialist but perfect for an eyewash of an occasion. This year, there will be restrictions on elaboration. We may have to be confined inside our houses on a day we ought to celebrate freedom. But nothing changes. We will still want corona virus to be banished forever. And we will still pray to the Lord for fast abolition of secularism.