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Mainstream, VOL LV No 19 New Delhi April 29, 2017

Morari Bapu’s Ram

Sunday 30 April 2017, by Sandeep Pandey


The usual picture that one would see of Ram would be with Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman, of what is called the Ram Darbar. It was not a tradition to have an isolated picture or idol of Ram. Even the common greeting was ‘Jai Siyaram’, Sita’s name appeared together with Ram’s.

Then came the Ram temple movement. A picture of Ram in aggressive posture, with arrow mounted on the bow, his hairs flying towards back, appeared during Lal Krishna Advani’s rath yatra. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad converted a family Ram to an aggressor Ram. The Jai Siyaram greeting was transformed to the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’. If the purpose of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had been to spread the message of Hindu religion, then a Ram Darbar picture would have been sufficient. But the VHP was interested in milking political advantage out of the temple campaign. Hence the character of dignity personified by Ram was changed.

Now Ram had waged a war against Ravan. Where would one find a Ravan in this day and age? So, it was decided to target the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. In the name of the Ram temple movement workers of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party, Hindu Mahasabha, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena launched an attack on the dilapidated structure of the Babri mosque. It was the BJP which was in power in Uttar Pradesh and in the Prime Minister Narasimha Rao they found a Vibhishan, someone who was willing to help them in the demolition of the mosque.

The Ram temple movement helped in the polarisation of votes which helped the BJP. But in the process they have communalised the entire society and pushing the real issues affecting people like poverty, illiteracy, malnou-rishment, sorry state of affairs of health care, farmers’ suicides, issues of injustice against marginalised sections of society and now cow slaughter, Pakistan, Kashmir, Love-Jihad, anti-Romeo squads, Triple talaaq have become the dominant issues in politics. People who differed from the views of Hindutva politics became its victims. Individuals like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi were murdered. The politics of religion soon turned into politics of hatred and Muslims became the easy target. Muslim citizens on suspicion of having consumed beef or while carrying cattle from one place to another had to pay with their lives. The seeds of this kind of violence were inherent even in the Ram temple movement. The cases of Muslims murdered in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 during the frenzy of the Masjid demolition have not been registered till date.

The path on which the Hindutva forces are taking this country will make it a fundamentalist nation. Is this the concept of Ram Rajya?

This country will have to be saved from the politics of Hindutva. It will have to be ensured that the followers practice the true tenets of their respective religions and live peacefully. For peace and happiness in society, communal harmony is essential. For communal harmony, the syncretic aspects of religion will have to be given preference over the fundamentalist streak in it.

Here the efforts made by the famous preacher of the story of Ram from Gujarat, Morari Bapu, are worth mentioning. The idols of Ram, Lakshman and Hanuman that have been installed in the Ram Darbar of the temple in his native Mahua in Bhavnagar district are bereft of weapons. He believes that the Gods of future will not need any weapon. Morari Bapu has thus shown a character of Ram quite contrary to that of VHP’s.

It is possible to establish communal harmony on the basis of Morari Bapu’s conception of Ram. The Hindus believe that their religion is very peaceful. But the politics of Hindutva, imitating the politics of other religions which originated much later in history, is trying to radicalise it. This poses a perilous threat to the very existence of the Hindu religion.

The Hindu society must stick to the image of Ram as portrayed by Morari Bapu or Mahatma Gandhi and decisively reject the aggressive Ram, the movement for construction of whose temple is based on violence. Only this will save the Hindu religion. To insist on building a Ram temple on the disputed site is not religion but politics. Why should the common Hindu be drawn into this politics?

If the Hindu religion has survived so long in history it is not because of its aggressive character but because of its accommodative nature and value of tolerance. We have not only welcomed people holding different views but even adopted them. The people who want to make it a fundamentalist religion are knowingly or unknowingly harming it.

Acharya Yugal Kishore Shastri, the priest of a temple in Ayodhya, has opposed the politicisation of the Hindu religion. He has decided to convert his Ram-Janaki temple into an all-faith harmony centre where people believing in any religion and even atheists would be welcome. An ‘All Faith Harmony’ Trust has been formed. The former Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India, late Zafar Saifullah, was also a part of this effort.

The politics of Hindutva will create divisions in society whereas the efforts of Morari Bapu and Yugal Kishore Shastri will strengthen the unity within various groups. The people of India have to decide whether they want a violence- and rift-ridden society or harmony and peace?

Noted social activist and Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey is the Vice-President of the Socialist Party (India). He was elected to this post at the founding conference of the party at Hyderabad on May 28-29, 2011.

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