Invading The Secular Space By Ram Puniyani
14 November, 2009 Countercurrents.org
India has quite a broad fare of God men. There are Gurus, Sants, Maharajs, Acharyas and Purohits (clergy) in the main. Their role has been changing over a period of time. Last three decades seem to be the time of their major glory, with their presence in all spheres in a very dominating way. Their number has also proliferated immensely and while some of these are big players, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Baba Ramdeo, Asaram Bapu to name the few. There are hundreds of them scattered in each state. Many of them are working in close tandem with Hindu right, Swami Assmanand, Late Swami Laxmananad Sarswati, Narendra Mahraj etc.
These are the ones who have created their own niche with different techniques, while Shankarachayas, are associated with the Mutts coming from historical times, the Akshrdham chain is also not very old a tradition. The Pramukh swamis (Chief Guru) of these temples wield enormous clout. One recalls Anand Marg came up during the decade of seventies and not much is hearing of that now.
Overall religiosity has been on the upswing and not many are protesting the promotion of blind faith by many such God men. The rational thought and movement is on the back foot and political leadership, social leaders, of many hues are bending over backwards to please these Babas, some of whom are also dispensing health and some of them claim to be looking into the crystal ball of future.
There is an interesting correlation between the coming up of adverse effects of globalization, rise in the anxieties and deprivations and the current dominance of God men. Many an interesting observations about these God men are there, the major one being the rise in alienation in last three decades along with the rising religiosity in the social space. Many a remarkable studies on this phenomenon are coming forth.
One such is by a US based Indian scholar of repute, Meera Nanda. In her book, The God Market, she makes very profound observations. She points out that this rising religiosity is manifested in boom in pilgrimages and newer rituals. Some old rituals are becoming more rooted and popular. She sees a nexus between state-temple-corporate complexes also. Secular institutions of Nehru era are being replaced by boosting demand and supply of God market.
A new Hindu religiosity is getting deeply rooted in everyday life, in public and private spheres. The distinction between private and public sphere is getting eroded as the case of Sai Baba in Maharashtra Chief Ministers official bungalow shows. Hindu rituals and symbols are becoming part of state functions; Hinduism de facto is becoming state religion. Hindu religiosity is becoming part of national pride with the aspiration of becoming a superpower. She observes a trend of increased religiosity. In India there are 2.5 million places of worship but only 1.5 million schools and barely 75000 hospitals. Half of 230 million tourist trips every year are for religious pilgrimage.
Akshardham temple acquired 100 acres of land at throw away price. Sri Sri Ravishanker's Art of Living Ashram in banglore has 99 acres of land leased from Karnataka Government. Gujarat Govt. gifted 85 acres of land to establish privately run rishikul in Porbander. Most significantly Nanda argues that the new culture of political Hinduism is triumphalist and intolerant, while asserting to be recognized as a tolerant religion. While claiming to have a higher tolerance, its intolerance is leading to violence against minorities.
It is because of this that even if the BJP may not be the ruling party, the political class and other sections of state apparatus have subtly accepted Hindu religiosity and the consequent politics as the official one, and so the justice for victims of religious violence eludes them. The question is, can the struggle for justice for weaker sections also incorporate a cultural-religious battle against the blind religiosity and proactive efforts initiated to promote rational thought. Comments (8)
Hindustan Times, November 15, 2009 by Meghnad Desai
It was Gandhi’s idea that India should have a single national language, and that it should be Hindi/Hindustani. The idea of Hindi as the sole national language offended many in the South. Their languages not only had different scripts — not Devnagari in which Hindi was being projected — but also completely different vocabularies which, while...
That Hindi is our national language seems to be one of the most successful rumors spread in our country - The rumor with the widest reach - that probably gave birth to this Hindi arrogance. I wish these leaders and crores Indians realize the fact that India does not have a National language. There is no such thing in our constitution.
The national language of the United States is English and that of Ireland is Irish. The national language defines the people of the nation, culture and history. India is culturally so diverse, there are so many languages spoken that there cannot be any one such language that defines the culture and history. As of 2009, the Indian constitution recognizes 22 scheduled languages. Neither the Constitution of India nor Indian law specifies a National language. Posted by Bharath Ganesh at 2:08 AM Dash Maniac a.k.a. Bharath