Sundry thoughts on political tirth-yatra

Rohit Dhankar

[The only things that can save our future as a proud democratic and secular nation are clear thinking and courage to act. Otherwise we will continue to be duped by various devices as our history of last 70 years has proved.]

During the elections the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was beckoned by his god to meditate in Kedarnath cave, in solitude. But since he is the PM the cameras in the cave did not violate his solitude. This was a confirmation to the voters that he is a Hindu before being the Prime Minister of India. Of course, he has the freedom to ‘practice’ his religion and no one has the right to question his religious beliefs. But one wonders if symbolic use of religious acts to remind the voters their shared faith is all that innocuous. One also wonders if the government paid for his private visit to Kedarnath, and if that is legitimate expenditure for a secular state.

The so-called secular parties which took pride in cosying up with Islamic practices like iftar parties and usually down played their Hindu practices are now catching up. It started with ‘secular to the core’ politicians flaunting their multicoloured pooja threads on their right wrists. The pooja thread works as a symbol to remind the public that the person bearing it is a Hindu or at the least respects Hindu practices. In the times gone by this thread used to be a thin single strand wrapped around the religious ceremony participants’ wrist in such a manner that it automatically unwrapped in the first bath or washing of hands. As per the custom one is not supposed to deliberately break or remove it. Now for some inexplicable reason it has become thick like a rope and tied with such care that is impossible to come untied by itself. And since it is not supposed to be deliberately removed and the politicians attend numerous religious occasions, the multiple coloured ropes around their writs proclaim their respect for the Hindu rituals as well as bread germs as they become quite dirty in a few days.

Now it seems a very very secular son of Dilli called Aravind Kejriwal has proclaimed “To all the elderly citizens of Delhi, I want to say, this son of yours will send you on at least one ‘tirth yatra’ in your lifetime” (The Hindu, 5th July 2019). By this time I am sure the images of Shravan Kumar taking his parents on pilgrimage on his shoulders are vivid in the minds of many of the devote Hindus of Delhi, or that is what this avatar of Shravan Kumar hopes. One wonders if a secular Delhi Government is within its legal bounds in spending hundreds of crores in such a flagrant act of luring voters on their religious sentiments.

Till 2014 all parties used Muslim religious sentiments to assure the Muslim community of their ‘secularism’. This was under the belief—true or not—that Muslims vote en-block and thus can act as a veto to making government at the centre, even if cannot by themselves ensure coming to power. In last two general elections the BJP has countered this ‘secular’ strategy by consolidating Hindu votes by the same trick played on the larger community; and Hindus being in overwhelming majority can actually ensure coming to power, as they did, over riding so-far believed Muslim veto.

The awakening of ‘secular’ parties to a need to dupe Hindus by playing with their religious sentiments started becoming visible through the thick pooja threads on political wrists. Now that gesture is being taken to the next level by Mr. Kejriwal through his Shravan Kumar act.

This act certainly is against the spirit of secular constitution, I am not sure if it is downright illegal and whether can be taken to the court.

Our politicians have proved themselves man and women without principles. We as voters so far have been easy to dupe, have proved ourselves excessively selfish, completely devoid of thinking of greater common good and myopic to the core. This has brought our democracy to a perilous situation. Every single retrograde practice of the society is being used to the hilt to capture power, be that caste or religion or any other kind of conflict in the society. The crude force that was used in a feudal setup to control populace has been replaced by chains in the mind, which are even more dangerous to humanity.

There is an all-round attack on clear thinking, rationally held convictions and courage to act. The tools come in all imaginable kinds of shapes and sizes. Ranging from blatant play on caste and religious sentiments, drawing people into cycle of consumerism and leaving no place to think by bombarding people with half-truths and dubious opinions. Sadly, this very post is likely to add to the last-mentioned tool of dumbing down clear thinking.

Caste and religious thinking charge our minds. The cycle of loan-buy-earn-pay-more-loan leaves us with no time to reflect. In such a situation reasoned convictions get no chance of forming, and if formed erode quickly. Bombardment of half-understood half-truths through social media serves in creating a false belief of being well-informed, knowledgeable and produces an illusion of thinking for ourselves. The only way to break free of the sinister web is to reflect. And reflect we don’t.

Gita warns against loss of clear thinking:

क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोहः सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः | स्मृतिभ्रंशाद्बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति || २.६३ ||

“Anger produces confusion, confusion produces loss of memory, loss of memory produces destruction of the mind, and because the mind is destroyed, he perishes.”

The cycle does not need to start with anger, though that is being stocked through religion and caste. It can actually start directly with ‘sammoh’ (confusion or bewilderment). The politicians and mass media presently focus on this. The rest of the cycle progresses to logical end by itself.

Socrates declared unexamined life as unworthy of living. But was also aware that his audience is unlikely to believe him: “you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less likely to believe me. Yet I say what is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you.” He was right, and he could not persuade his audience. Nor are we persuaded by him today, we do not examine our beliefs about what our politicians say and do seriously enough.

The only things that can save our future as a proud democratic and secular nation are clear thinking and courage to act. Otherwise we will continue to be duped by various devices as our history of last 70 years has proved.


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