We must get out of the trap of labelling hate crime critics as anti-nationals and look at the bigger picture of Hindu thought
It is good that in the digital swamp of opinions, the epistolary tradition is back as a serious tool for getting heard and making a point above the chaos. Open letters have been a part of the political protest movement down the years, often to force a wider dialogue on a particular issue or compel the recipient to act on it if the establishment of the day has been intransigent or deliberately ignorant. That’s the reason why about 50 eminent personalities, including Anurag Kashyap, Aparna Sen, Mani Ratnam, Ramchandra Guha, Soumitro Chatterjee and Shyam Benegal, decided to lend heft to what has been known for some time. But by collectively writing a letter to the Prime Minister as concerned citizens who do not want further polarisation of the society or labelling of free thinkers as enemies of the nation, a Constitutional right one may add, they have relied on National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records to make their case. Highlighting that hate crimes are on the rise, they have pleaded that the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities be stopped immediately. The decline in the percentage of convictions in such cases has worried them further as has the use of “Jai Shri Ram” as a provocative political slogan to justify majoritarian arrogance and display of power. Benegal, who has been a bard of independent India by documenting social change through his films, even clarified that the sacredness of Ram was dear to the Indic consciousness and was being defiled as much violence was being perpetrated by wrongfully invoking his name. But the trouble with the discourse that has been simplified into binaries of nationalists and traitors is rationality itself. So instead of taking it in the right spirit or even countering it with the argument that the Prime Minister has anyway expressed his discomfort in Parliament, a public forum, the pro-establishment brigade has predictably engaged in comparative one-upmanship. They have now questioned the dissenters as to why they never see atrocities against Hindus instead. Now this debate between Left-liberal domination of civil discourse through decades and the new-found assertion and inclusion of Rightist thought is not new. Yes, there should be all shades of opinion and interpretation in the plural matrix of India but does that behove we won’t look at their distortions, some of which indeed challenge the expansive aura of the Vedic civilisation?
It is true that the rallying cry of “Jai Shri Ram” has been long politicised and has been the reason for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) rise since the days of the Rathyatra and Ayodhya. Considering Ram temples were historically built as an assertion of Hindu identity in the Mughal and colonial era, what was once a holy chant became a popular slogan in the political space. But what many forget is that the original chant of “Jai Siya Ram” has been appropriated to suit man-made agenda and is not true to our civilisational DNA. One where Siya is Sita, the shakti or the energy of the super-consciousness we embody as Lord Ram, the sacred feminine to the divine male. “Jai Siya Ram” was always meant to be about inclusive fullness of forces, and not celebrating one over the other. Clearly, the newly-evolved “Jai Shri Ram” sounds more muscular in comparison, predicating its iconic value on a demonstrative appeal. This then is the real problem, the Hindu-ness of our civilisational thinking being challenged as “anti-national.” Simply because the blame-game is easier than deep introspection. If the ruling BJP indeed wants to rescue Hindu pride, the long-standing demand of its ideological chaperone, the RSS, it is best placed to do so now, when it has a mammoth majority. Does it really need to keep to the agitationist ways of the Opposition? Also, civilisationally, we have had ancient city-states that functioned in the spirit of democracy. So there should be space for dissent, not incarceration, the Opposition as competition, not criticism. The BJP leadership must realise that it certainly is the ruling party but does not rule the cultural ethos. Besides, greater Hinduism has survived despite its many offshoots. Politicians should remember that if they reject the larger definition, they will end up suffering the most.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer