Saturday, September 22, 2007

In The Name of Ram

Religion’s a funny business, alright. My site meter tells me that my posts on Religion have traditionally done a better job than my other poorly performing posts. So, just to liven up things here and boost the sagging fortunes of this blog, I am posting one on religion.

Watch any news channel now and you know who are the attention grabbers currently - Ram Sethu, DMK and the BJP and their stallions, the VHP and other rag tags. Wonder how come Shiv Sena has not entered the fray- after all; it is the Madrasi Dravidian Karunanidhi who has been making these anti-Hindu comments.

It all started with the ASI making an ass of itself with its uncalled remarks, in a petition to the courts hearing the Ram Sethu issue. The affidavit claims that there was no historical evidence that Rama and Ramayana ever existed.

There is a lot of literary work that talks about the Ram Sethu and its origins. Should we conveniently ignore all that because the ASI thinks it is unscientific to consider literature as a source for historical veracity?

I am not questioning the ability of the ASI to judge these issues but surely, they could have stuck to plain engineering and economics for their stand, instead of bringing Rama into the picture.

Judging the evidence of the Sethusamudram bridge is fine but questioning the very existence of Rama is not their prerogative. Why would the ASI make such a claim and create a controversy when none existed, atleast from a historical angle? Beats me.

Whether we like it or not, religion is an integral part of all our lives and plays an important role in moulding us. It is a sensitive issue and the government could have shown greater tact. Sonia or Ambika may think that Rama is a figment of our dreams and there is nothing wrong if they think that way.

After all, this is a matter of faith and everyone has his or her set of beliefs which needs to be respected by others. But to put that in a government affidavit and make a fool of oneself is a simple case of committing political hara kiri.

Karunanidhi’s arguments do not even merit a discussion but they do make for decent juvenile reading.

Does Rama have an engineering degree and where did he graduate from???

Did the Tamil Nadu CM actually make such a remark? Imagine asking what Kamban’s authority on Ramayana is; after all, has he done his BA in Tamil from any college?

This is no atheist blogger venting out his spleen against religion and God but the Chief Minister of a State. Is it acceptable for a public figure and that too the head of a state to make such comments? Surely, there are better things to argue about rather than the veracity of Rama’s existence? Matters of faith anyway cannot be decided by logic and are best left to the people who care about it.

DMK cannot raise the bogey of freedom of speech here. After all, you could scarcely imagine them questioning the existence of Jesus and the marine engineering skills of Moses in splitting the sea or probing through the Koran for any non-scientific material?

There are many Hindus who are not too particular about religion but even they are bothered when their religion is selectively mocked at by the highest leadership but in the same breath, nothing is mentioned against the other religions because of the fear of being branded “communal”.

Shouldn’t the political class think that their comments may alienate a certain set of people, simply because of religious bias while taking potshots at religion? Of course, my point is not that they should rant against all religions and thus prove their secular credentials.

India is a religious cauldron and there are people waiting for an excuse to go berserk with their beliefs. What is the need to vitiate such an atmosphere by coming up sensitive remarks that would offend any community?

I do not have any issue if such a feeling were expressed by someone in his personal capacity but public figures must be sensitive to other’s feelings and not just scream over roof tops to claim a point.

What happened after all this mud-slinging is ofcourse highly deplorable. A bus of the Tamil Nadu State Transport was torched (killing 2 persons) and Selvi, Karunanidhi’s daughter, was attacked – all in the name of Ram. There are thousands who are willing to die and kill for religion but no one it seems who wants to live for religion.

Such acts of vandalism have no place in any civilized setup and it is extremely painful to see such acts of democratic hijacks. There are so many of us asking this question repeatedly Is our faith so narrow that one person’s statements can make us behave like barbarians?

To me, the entire issue is a debate of ecology and economics. There will be always be conflict in this area but we need to sit across a table, discuss this out and close it. There is always a solution but it can happen only when there is a give and take and tolerance and acceptance of different sets of values.

As a democracy, we are making rapid strides but where we seem to be caught in a time wrap is our level of intolerance. Forget it, it is not even a time wrap; I’m sure we have been more liberal in the past but as we progress we just don’t care what someone else wants to say.

Considering the complexities of running this nation where the only uniting point is nationalism, we must tread very carefully. A small scratch and the entire fabric holding this idea will tear apart.

I strongly believe that religion divides people but it can also be a great unifier. It teaches us to forgive and forget; the true value of our religions has been conveniently forgotten in the din of intolerance that we have come to practice.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article, Pradeep. Good points.