49 celebrities have written an open letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These celebrities have expressed concern over the fact that Jai Shri Ram has turned into a bloody war-cry. Interestingly, signatories to the letter include Ramchandra Guha, himself named after the Hindu god!
Now, Narendra Modi is a “sharm-nirpeksha” (shameless) politician. When Modi was the Gujarat CM, he justified mass killings by invoking Newton’s Law! Modi was denied the US visa for years for his involvement in the pogrom. And Shere Hindustan Sanjiv Bhatt claimed that Modi had directed officers to let the Hindus vent their ire. Bhatt is now behind bars for daring to speak the truth when other IAS and IPS officers wagged their tails like pet dogs.
The Prime MONSTER of India, as critics call Narendra Modi, is not expected to lend an ear to what celebrities tell him. But the open letter shows that the resistance is not dead and there are still people who call a spade a spade. I salute these celebs. Their open letter to Andher Nagri ‘s Chaupat Raja has set me thinking about Ram.
For thousands of years, Ram has been central to the Hindu psyche. Arguably, the most popular Hindu god. For millions of illiterate Indian villagers, Ram Ram is the favourite form of greeting. They greet their Muslim neighbours also with Ram Ram. And nobody takes offence. When a Hindu passes away, his pall-bearers chant Ram Nam Satya Hai reminding themselves and others that while man is mortal, Ram is immortal. And the chant is NOT directed against Muslims. It is only an expression of their deep-rooted religious beliefs.
Remembering Ram when somebody dear to your heart goes gives the bereaved strength to survive and move on. Even Muhammad Iqbal called Ram “Imam-E-Hind” and penned an Urdu poem extolling his virtues. And Gandhiji, the greatest of all Indians, had Ram on his lips when he fell to a Hindu fanatic’s bullets. For the Mahatma, Ram and Allah were two sides of the same coin. “Ishwar-Allah Tero Naam” was one of his favourite bhajans.
My mother, who had little formal education, read Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas daily. I never heard anything against Muslims from her mouth though she did criticize Tulsi Das for his anti-women uttering!
For Hindus Ram is an ideal ruler and an ideal son. Though not an ideal husband. Because the Maryada Purushottam didn’t do justice to his wife Sita whom he sent to jungles when she was expecting. And another interesting fact. Rampur in UP was ruled by Muslim nawabs for decades. But no Muslim nawab changed Rampur’s age-old name! Unlike Yogi Adityanath who changed Allahabad to Prayagraj.
Fast forward to 1980s. The decade of the Ramayan serial and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Ramanand Sagar’s TV serial Ramayan became a national obsession and Sundays saw empty streets as entire country sat glued to TV sets. The serial also gave the new slogan Jai Shri Ram which soon gained popularity with blood-thirsty Ram Bhakts out to demolish the Babri Masjid. The 1980s also saw the rise of hate-mongers like Uma Bharati and Sadhvi Ritambhara who abused Muslims calling them “Babur ki Aulad” (children of Babur). By the same absurd logic, Hindus could have been called Godse ki Aulad.
Thankfully, Muslims didn’t stoop to this level. But the upper-caste dominated Indian media called these Hindu fanatics “firebrand”. Nobody called them hate-mongering goons. In 1990, LK Advani, India’s eternal PM-in-Waiting, set out on his Ram Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. Advani’s Rath Yatra resulted in killings of hundreds of innocent men, women and children. Despite causing rivers of blood to flow, Advani couldn’t realise his cherished dream of becoming the Prime Minister. Ram ki marzi?
In 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished by Kar Sevak terrorists triggering off another round of mayhem, loot and rapes. One should watch Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Ram Ke Naam (in the name of Ram) to see the havoc wrought by these so-called Ram Bhakts.
So let us discuss the popular Hindi saying: Muh me Ram, bagal me chhoori! ( Ram on the lips and dagger on the side). Whoever coined this saying must have come across people who invoked Ram to conceal their misdeeds. The saying aptly describes the Hindutva ideology. Hindu fanatics have given a high-sounding name to Hindutva: Saanskritik Rashtrawad (cultural nationalism). But this blood-soaked ideology in nothing but “muh me Ram, bagal me chhoori“!
A fascist ideology directed against Muslims, Dalits, women and communists. And Jai Shri Ram has turned into a war cry.
To quote the great revolutionary poet Kaifi Azmi, these Ram Bhakts have sentenced Ram to “doosra vanvaas” (the second banishment to jungles)!
(Mr. Amitabh Kumr Das is a 1994 batch IPS Officer. His views expressed here are personal.)