I think Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have come up with a ‘revolutionary’ suggestion: leave the problems of the country to God and hope for the best. I was watching an AAP spokesperson seriously endorsing this premise. The economy, she said, is not doing well. Why should we not seek divine intervention to put it right? After all, the vast majority of us are religious. Lakshmi and Ganesh are revered deities in the Hindu pantheon, and stand for wealth and well-being. Their pictures on our currency notes are bound to put the economy back on the rails, and bring prosperity to all of us.
AAP has hit a goldmine, because there are enough gods and goddesses in Hinduism to bring us success in almost any field of endeavour. For instance, to boost agricultural productivity, and redeem the unfulfilled promise to double farmers’ incomes, the only policy intervention necessary is to ask farmers to pray to Devi Annapurna, the goddess of food and nourishment. Kartikeya, son of Shiva and Parvati, is worshipped as the God of War. The ministry of defence needs to just emblazon his portrait on all arms and equipment, to guarantee our victory in war. The worship of Kamadhenu, the goddess to protect cows, is enough to transform the largely pitiable condition of our bovine population.
Similarly, the ministry of renewable energy could make Vayu, the god of wind, its mascot for success; the forest department could worship Aranyani, the goddess of the forests, to improve its functioning; the ministry of water resources could adopt Varun, the god of water, rain and the seas, to better achieve goals; the meteorology department could pray to Indra, the god of rain and thunder, to make its prophecies more accurate; the ministry of environment could appeal to Bhumi, the earth goddess, to make India less polluted; and the ministry of power could adopt the portrait of Surya, the god of energy and light, to boost electricity generation. Nothing more needs to be done.
What is sickening is that politics of this nature is based on the assumption that Hindus are mentally deficient. In other words, they have no mind of their own, no ability to assess proposals on merit, no knowledge of what the real remedies to existing problems are, and no sense of what the true priorities of governments should be. They are just cannon fodder to be seduced by any proposal that pays lip service to their gods or their religion. If that happens, they will forget whatever their real grievances or expectations are, and flock like dumb sheep to the highest bidder for their religious beliefs, even if these bids are patently populist or unworkable.
This attempt to belittle Hindus is a serious affront to their status as the legatees of a highly evolved and discerning civilisation that goes back to the dawn of time. To see them as helpless and unthinking puppets twitching inertly at the transparently cynical tug of every puppeteer of competitive Hindu politics, is insulting. Moreover, it devalues the profound scope and depth of Hinduism. We revere our gods and goddesses because they stand for certain deep spiritual truths, within the larger context of Hindu philosophy. To use these deities for such cheap stunts is a slap on the face of a great religion underpinned by an even greater degree of cerebration.
Essentially, religious politics of this nature is a return to primitivism. When, millennia ago, humans had just begun to organise themselves into settlements and tribes, their knowledge was limited, their organised planning fledgling, and their vulnerability to elemental forces which they could not predict or understand, very high. Then, they had to depend solely on gods and goddesses for protection. Today, in the 21st century, when India is planning a trip to Mars, to argue that we should helplessly embrace that same kind of primitivism, is not only ridiculous but would invite outright derision in any modern nation.
Religion and philosophy are one thing, superstition and delusion quite another. Let us not make a mockery of a nation that has enshrined in the Constitution the Fundamental Duty “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of enquiry and reform” (Article 51A h). Also, please don’t give the bogus argument that science and religion are interlinked. They are — and I have written at length in my book, Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker — on how modern science is validating the seminal insights of our ancient seers and sages, but not at this cheap level of trivialising one and debasing the other.
The real patent for Hindutva politics lies with the BJP. AAP’s imitation can only be a photocopy. Nobody respects photocopies, especially when they represent an extraordinary bankruptcy of ideas. Unfortunately, power has become the only god for politicians today. On the altar of this expedient worship, the good sense of ordinary citizens is being mocked.
Pavan K Varma is a former diplomat, an author and a politician. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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