Skip to main content

Seeking to represent both state and religious power, Modi 'followed' a feudal ethos

By Ram Puniyani* 

The vibrations of the spectacle of inauguration of Lord Ram’s temple are still in the air (January 2024). This inauguration was done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at the centre of the whole ceremony. He has ensured that he represents both the ‘state power’ and ‘religious power’. In feudal times these two powers were working in close collaboration, boosting each other.
There was King-Pope, Nawab- Shahi Imam and Raja-Rajguru. In Maharashtra there is a very apt rhyming of this collaboration, Shetji-Bhatji. (Landlord and Priest). That the country is being ruled by politics in the name of religion is seeing this fusion is a matter of deep concern.
When India became Independent and Indian Constitution came into being, the presence of religion in social space was very much there, and so the controversy around Somnath Temple. As Dr Rajendra Prasad was planning to inaugurate the temple as the official head of the state, Nehru wrote to him: 
"I confess that I do not like the idea of you associating yourself with a spectacular opening of the Somnath Temple. This is not merely visiting a temple, which can certainly be done by you or anyone else but rather participating in a significant function which unfortunately has a number of implications".
Nearly seven decades down the line Modi, the Prime Minister of India, inaugurated the temple with pomp and show and the President of India, Draupadi Murmu, as onlooker from her vast Rashtrapati Niwas, was the appreciative onlooker. The Central Cabinet not only hailed this act but went a step further to pass a resolution
“…the body of the country attained Independence in 1947… the Pran Pratishtha (Consecration of Idol of Lord Ram) was done on 22nd January 2024… As per the resolution Ram Temple movement has united the country as never before and it is the day when India’s soul got freedom.”
While on one hand this shows the erosion of the secular values which we saw was the attempt by the state to keep aloft most of the time, though in a compromised way, now the word secular is a strict no. Even Nehru at that time had realized that while the Constitution is based on secular values; the society is in the grip of religiosity.
Nehru advised the President not to inaugurate the Somanth Temple in his official capacity, now the whole Cabinet is hailing Modi not only for inaugurating the temple but also adding that this inauguration marks the freedom of Soul of India. As such the slavery of India has been another contentious matter. One big actor Kangana Ranaut, drawing a large applause, had declared that India got Independence in 2014, when Modi became Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister and his ideological cohorts have been saying that India was a slave for over a thousand years. Meaning that the period when the Muslim Kings ruled, was a period of slavery. How can we define the slavery of a country or a region? Broadly two major criteria can be applied. One when the region is being controlled from outside. The Muslim kings who ruled did settle here and ruled in collaboration with the local landlords-kings.
The second major criterion is when the region's wealth is drained out. The period of Muslim rule did not see any such phenomenon. This phenomenon was seen during the British period. Shashi Tharoor in his book, the ‘Dark Era of Empire’ tells us the drain of wealth from India to England during this period. British rule was the period of slavery in both these counts. Some Muslim Kings plundered but they did not stay here to rule.
Now the freedom of 1947 was accompanied by the Sovereignty and bestowing the power to our representatives. What about the ‘soul of India’? What is the soul of India? The soul of Indian lies in the values which were the base of the freedom movement. The soul of India lies in these movements which accompanied and ran parallel to the freedom movement. These were the movements of workers and farmers; these were the movements for social equality.
Dr Rajendra Prasad at Somnath
The soul of India was built on the foundation of Indian civilization, which is well described by Nehru India as “some ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie had been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously.”
Freedom movement drew heavily from the movements of farmers (Bardoli, Champaran among others), movements of workers; the one’s led by Narayan Meghaji Lokhande and Singarvelu to name the few, and the struggles for social equality of caste and gender. This began with Joti Rao Phule, Savitri bai Phule, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Ramasami Periyar Naicker. These transformed the society from the values of ‘feudal like’ society to the one with aspirations for democratic society.
The Indian Constitution is the embodiment of “Soul of India” for the majority of the people. Those who did not participate in the freedom movement were the ones who upheld the caste and gender hierarchy of earlier society, these were the social classes that were on one hand against the caste and gender equality and on the other were against the rights of farmers and workers. These were precisely the forces which asserted the politics in the name of religion, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS.
Muslim League on one side was claiming that Muslims were the rulers, while Hindu Mahasabha-RSS asserted that we have been a Hindu Nation, Islam and Christianity are foreign religions. Surendra Nath Bannerjee well articulated the rising India in his book, ‘India: Nation in the making’, reflecting the country’s sentiments as it was shaping around the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
Today claims of Lord Ram being the uniting figure are being made. Lord Ram has many interpretations. A mythological figure presented by Mahrishi Valmiki and later popularized by Goswami Tulisdas is one interpretation. Kabir saw the Lord as embodiment of universal humanism and Gandhi saw him as a uniting figure. RSS-BJP has presented Ram as an exclusionary figure.
Around the campaign for this temple how many lives have been lost, how the society has been polarized, how the minorities have been ghettoized and how the plight of Dalits, Adivasis, women and workers has been worsened during last few decades gets reflected in the social indices and the emergence of Muslim ghettos, all around.
Today we do face the attack on the ‘Soul of India’ as it emerged during the freedom movement, in contrast the ‘Soul of India’ as being presented by the present ruling dispensation's efforts to create a spectacle around the temple!
*Well known political commentator; see Youtube, Facebook, Instagram,Twitter, Pinterest, Website, App



A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Attack on free expression': ABVP 'insults' Udaipur professor for FB post

Counterview Desk   People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, condemning what it called "insult of Professor Himanshu Pandya" by students affiliated with with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP) in Udaipur, has said he was evicted from the class where he was teaching after raising "ugly slogans", forcing him to "leave the university".

Enhanced rock weathering leads to 9-20% higher crop yield, help climate resilience

By Aishwarya Singhal, Lubna Das*  Enhanced rock weathering -- a nature-based carbon dioxide removal process that accelerates natural weathering -- results in significantly higher first year crop yields, improved soil pH, and higher nutrient uptake, according to a new scientific paper, released in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed open access mega journal published by the Public Library of Science since 2006.

NE India: Creating 'greater divisions', BJP claims to have overcome tyranny of distance

By Makepeace Sitlhou*  In March, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said at an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh that previous governments had not cared for states that sent only two representatives to the country’s Parliament, as Arunachal and several others in the Indian Northeast do. Modi failed to see the irony of his claim given that he has not visited Manipur, which has only two representatives in parliament, since the outbreak of an armed ethnic conflict that has raged on for nearly a year. The toll from the violence stands at more than 200 lives lost, and many thousands displaced.

Will numerically strong opposition in Lok Sabha strengthen democracy?

By Prem Singh*  After the first phase of the 18th Lok Sabha elections, which were conducted in seven phases, it was already indicated that a large part of the country's population had decided to contest the elections against the present government. A large number of unemployed youth and the already agitating farmers played a major role in this act of protest. 

Heatwave in Bundelkhand: 'Inadequate attention' on impact on birds, animals

By Bharat Dogra, Reena Yadav*  While the heat wave and its many-sided adverse impacts have been widely discussed in recent times, one important aspect of heat waves has not received adequate attention and this relates to the impact on birds and animals.

Adivasi rights leader arrested, 'taken away' in unregistered police vehicle

By Our Representative   In a surprise move, a People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) activist, Sunita Potem, who has been raising issues of Adivasi rights in Bastar, has been arrested from Raipur. She was arrested by a team led by DSP Garima Dadar on June 3 "after being pulled out of her room at 8:30 in the morning by the team", sources said.