Monday, November 24, 2014

Self-anointed Middlemen ..... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/November 23, 2014

Self-anointed Middlemen Pose Greater Threat to Hindutva than Gun-toting Jihadi

Divinity never dies. Neither do institutions that form the pillars of civilisation. Both will survive as long as humanity does. But some leaders and promoters of religion in the process of advancing their own commercial or personal interests cause incalculable damage to its sanctity. If understood and practised in its true spirit, religion does not teach hatred or advocate violence. It, however, comes under scrutiny when some followers assume the role of interpreters of faith and become subjective spinmeisters. Their names are legion—babas, sants, maulanas and evangelists. They treat faith either as a business enterprise or a weapon to divide mankind. With people asserting their electoral rights to choose their rulers, the conflict between religious contracts and the democratically established system is assuming ominous dimensions. As the younger generation acquires better education and access to unlimited sources of both pure and impure information, it is religion and its accessories that have become the greatest lure. What Marx and Mao couldn’t do to religious belief, the modern messengers of god have done, using weapons and anarchy. In India, materialism portrays religion as the worst enemy of progress and modernity. The real target, however, is Hinduism, which is the third largest religion of the world.  
‘Sant’ Rampal 
Last week’s saga of the so-called ‘Sant’ Rampal in which six innocent cult members met violent deaths reflects the threat which a powerful religion like Hinduism is facing from its own prophets and followers. As a result, Rampal is being perceived and projected by non-believers as one of the symbols of what is wrong with Hinduism and its ambassadors. His defiance of the state, the judiciary and uncivilised conduct of his followers were used by atheists and secularists to demolish the very idea of Hinduism and what it stands for. Horror stories about the activities in his palatial ashram became lethal arsenal in the hands of those looking for dynamite to demolish one of the world’s oldest religions. Until his downfall, Rampal wasn’t projected as the criminal he is, exploiting the poor and rural lower classes who looked up to him as a saviour. In truth, he was just another gangster who was using religion to expand his real estate empire all over north India, all the while misusing his connections with powerful civil servants and politicians to expand his vast congregation of the gullible.
Rampal is not alone. Many pretenders in various parts of the country have been using caste, community and even a glamorous lifestyle to woo millions of bhakts. Till date, over a dozen babas like Ram Rahim Singh, Ashutosh Maharaj, Baba Baljit Singh Daduwal, Amrita Chaitanya, Swami Premananda, Swami Nithyananda and Asaram have done enough damage to God’s name (read Sunday Magazine cover story, An Unholy Mess). All of them have much in common. They are richer than many top corporates, their personal life more colourful than many famous and infamous movie stars and politicians. By their avaricious activities, many so-called babas have added more converts to the army of Hindu baiters than even the good Lord could have done.

Hinduism, however, is not the only target of the enemy within. In the 1980s, Sant Bhindranwale used arms to defend his religious beliefs and encouraged the killing of thousands of innocents. The Taliban and jihadis are killing people in God’s name and extracting money and land to establish their own social order and the tyranny of inhuman warlords. There are numerous examples of Christian evangelists straying into undesirable adventures in the name of religion. But no other religion other than Hinduism is under constant attack by either non-believers or politically motivated intellectuals. They choose to forget that a pantheon of great and credible social and political leaders has defined Hinduism as a faith, which believes and practises inclusiveness and tolerance. Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t a diehard Hindutva propagandist. Yet, his words are: “If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after truth through non-violent means. A man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth... Hinduism is the religion of truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known.” Let us go further back into history. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda, who swept into a relatively newborn country like America wearing saffron robes that denoted an ancient faith, proclaimed, “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.” He told his supporters, “Say it with pride, we are Hindus.” 

Unlike most other religions, Hinduism neither has a specific time of origin nor a specific founder. Fraudulent oracles like Rampal used this weakness to invent their own bizarre interpretations. There appears to be strong economic reasons too for fake religious propagandists to flourish in society. An analysis of the followers of controversial godmen reveals that they come mostly from poor backgrounds and are denied unhindered access to healthcare, education and proper employment. Hence, they find solace in the hawkers of salvation, peace and good health. The proliferation of deras and ashrams is the direct outcome of the establishment’s failure to maintain India’s original character as a welfare state. All instruments of governance have fallen into the hands of oligarchies. By following pro-rich policies, they have raised aspirational levels of Indians living below poverty line. Even the rich who have been denied a share in the Growth Story turn towards the powerbrokers of God to get access to the rulers for money, healthcare, jobs and even clean water. Since India is a country inhabited predominantly by Hindus, it is Hinduism that has become the roadblock for those who want to divide the nation. Hence, the self-anointed middlemen of Hinduism pose a much more serious threat to Hindutva than even gun-toting jihadis.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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