Priests of Hindu Sangh Parivar
C P Bhambhri
Millions of Hindus were made to either participate in yoga exercises led by the Modi-Ramdev combine or they were exposed to the drama of Modi and yoga exercises through television in the whole country. It also became quite clear that the Modi-Ramdev duo led yoga was a projection of Hindu Yoga Vidya and it began with Hindu ritual of ‘OM’ for every participant. The politics of patronisation for Hindu saints for ideological mobilisation of Hindus for BJP has again come to public notice when the whole government, led by Narendra Modi, is extending every kind of support, despite opposition of green activists, to the three-day World Culture Festival, organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation, on Yamuna floodplain in Delhi.
The objective of the Modi government is that involving Hindu priest Sri Sri will send a message to Hindus that cleaning of Yamuna River is a holy Hindu task to be performed by Hindus only and Yamuna River is Hindu and does not belong to the whole country and everyone irrespective of religion. It is not the first time that BJP and Sangh Parivaar have activated shankaracharyas, saints and sadhus for political mobilisation and the fact was noted and noticed in a big way when L K Advani launched a ‘Rath Yatra’ from Somnath temple in Gujarat to Ayodhya for the construction of Ram temple at the so-called birthplace of Lord Rama and this largest mass mobilisation undertaken by BJP political leadership culminated in the destruction of Babri Mosque on December 6, 1992. BJP and Sangh Parivaar were not at all worried about the violence which followed after the destruction of Babri mosque because their real goal of dividing the society on communal lines was achieved and Hindu priests along with Hindu politicians of BJP jointly acted to ‘divide’ the society between Hindus and Muslims.
Political priests of Sangh Parivaar get many benefits from their association with the Sangh and many priests like Sadhvis and Sadhus have become BJP ministers and MPs. If Hindu priests help BJP in spreading their ideological message, they receive benefits in monetary terms because of their association with BJP-in government. Ramdev, the yoga teacher, just to illustrate the point, has expanded his business empire because of his public association with Narendra Modi and his government. What is the impact of such a political-priest nexus on society? First, sadhus, saints and priests on the basis of their new public status have succeeded in re-establishing and consolidating their hold, even control, over the gullible Hindu believers and temple-going Hindus are accepting Hindu rituals because local temple priests ask them to believe and practice the rituals which are essential for their salvation and happiness.
The post-independence India has seen an ongoing and unstoppable activity of temple construction on public land and every encroachment for the purpose of constructing a temple is condoned because law enforcing agencies fear not only public opposition but also political protection which is given to the ‘political priests’ by local political leaders. Ritual-based religiosity among Hindus has increased because of political patronage which is extended by politicians for political gains, especially during elections. The above narrative about the growth of ritual-based religiosity and prominence of the priestly class in public and political life clearly shows that superstition and obscurantism among the believing population of Hindus have grown. This is direct off-shoot of Hinduisation agenda of the Sangh Parivaar. Indian Renaissance Movement has been completely derailed because ritual-based superstitions practised by the priests have become the reference point of Hindu believers who blindly accept the so-called sermons and teachings of the priests and all kinds of holy men.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s idea of ‘scientific temper’ and Communist parties’ programmes for social awakening of the masses by creating a spirit of enquiry and questioning of all religious traditions suffered a big setback because the mainstream social and cultural life has come to be dominated by religion as interpreted by priests and sadhus. The teachings in temples have become important than the idea that ‘religious traditions of the past need rigorous scrutiny’.
The battle against superstition-based religious rituals as practised by priests has become a kind of contest among unequals, because the Hindu Sangh Parivaar and all its affiliates and BJP government are determined to ‘revive’ the ritual-based, temple-sanctioned religious traditions of the dead past and if a few ‘rationalists’ have been killed, governments are not at all worried because those sitting in the corridors of power are themselves practitioners of superstition and rituals as prescribed by priests. The ideologies of Hindutva, led, controlled and guided by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, neither have any agenda of ‘questioning the dead traditions of the past nor it has any agenda or programme of social reform’ because Renaissance and social reform go hand in hand and the RSS does not care for these things.
If tribal population of Asuras do not accept Durga or participate in Durga puja, RSS and its ABVP launched a movement against students of JNU who are projected as “anti-Durga”. If Dalit students have their own ‘reference point’ and oppose ‘Manusmriti code’ for dividing castes into rigid hierarchy, the mainstream Sangh Parivaar affiliates oppose Dalit alternative cultural narrative. It deserves to be stated here that if the Sangh Parivaar does not accept ‘cultural diversity’ of India, it is impossible for it to accept the idea and movements of those who challenge every ‘religious tradition’ because those ritual-based traditions belong to the dead past and have outlived their utility. The telling example of Sangh Parivaar’s obstinate opposition to any social reform is provided by the presence of ‘large number of abandoned Hindu widows’ who are found in every holy city of Hindus like Haridwar, Mathura and Kashi (Varanasi). The clock has been turned because Brahmanical-Sanskitic Hindutva of the Hindu Sangh Parivaar is socially conservative and statusquoist and its growth in society is directly hitting the prospects of renaissance and Hindu social reform of any kind. The thousands of schools and RSS daily shakas are a fertile ground for the teaching of superstitions like Saraswati puja or recitation of gayathri mantra, chanting of ‘OM’ or start the day with a prayer ‘Surya Namaskar’.
The Sangh Parivaar does not want to spread the message of modern verifiable science and scientific spirit of inquiry and instead of new knowledge systems, it wants to teach so-called ‘Ancient Vedic Science’ whose method of inquiry is fundamentally opposite to modern science. The Sangh Parivaar wants to perpetuate superstitious of the past like ‘worship the sun’, instead of scientific study of solar system and in the process it would create Hindu believer “zombies and robots”. The upshot of the above narrative is that the ideology of the Sangh Parivaar is a ‘total’ negator of the modern ideas of progress, science and rationality. The source of knowledge for the Hindu Sangh Parivaar is ancient Hindu classics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, Gita, Smritis, Vedas, et al forgetting a fundamental fact of knowledge that “every text has a context” and ancient knowledge system had a historical content. Past has to be re-examined, re-interpreted and questioned. The RSS and its ideologues do not believe in the idea of ‘scrutiny’ of the past knowledge system and this is the reason that half-baked ideas of ill-educated ‘Hindu priestly class’, as natural allies of the Sangh Parivaar, are perpetuating irrationality and superstition.
To some up, cultural agenda of the Sangh Parivaar is to ‘freeze’ the Hindu in the past and these parrot-like Hindus should recite shlokas and stop thinking for themselves. It is not only politics of RSS and its political affiliate BJP is dangerous and divisive, its cultural agenda is meant to put the clock back and push the Hindus to believe in scriptures and not scientific enquiry of the past. This challenge is quite formidable. (END)