Yes, the Ram Mandir dream has inched closer to realisation with PM Narendra Modi’s announcement of the Ram Mandir trust in the parliament. Predictably, this was followed by the loud chants of Jai Shri Ram by enthusiastic MPs of the ruling party.
What has our Ram—yes, he belongs to the collective imagination of this country— been reduced to! A slogan, a victory chant, or a divisive totem?
And after the North East Delhi violence, Ram’s name stands much maligned. Planting of a Jai Shri Ram bearing flag on a vandalised mosque and the viral videos of Hindu mobs indulging in violence and arson chanting the Lord’s name have done more harm to His divinity than any external aggression ever would.
No, I have nothing to say about the comparable acts and slogans of the ‘other’ side. Those who are born in Muslim families can comment on those, I’ll stick to the religion I was born into.
Ram’s Katha and Ram’s Rajya
The political Hindu imagination has always fallen back on the idea of ramrajya—an elusive utopia—to make a case for nativist revisionism in not just polity but also socio-cultural contracts between the citizens of this country.
Let’s fall back on the very Ramkatha to see how flawed the divisive ideas of the current government are.
The Ayodhyakand and the beginning of the Aranyakand specify the duties of a king: rajdharm or kshatradharm (since kshatriyas were the rulers).
The Ayodhyakand defines dharma of kshatriyas: violence is to be eschewed, unless absolutely necessary, in the domain of sociopolitical action. We do not really encounter any violence in the Ayodhyakand. The kshatriya dharm also binds the ruler to safeguard the brahmanical order—the order based on knowledge. Ram’s kingly duties involve providing protection, often jeopardising his own life, to the rishis engaged in various scholarly and spiritual pursuits.
Are scholars safe in this country today?
The beginning of the Aranyakand makes a case for the king’s primary role to be “guardian of righteousness and glorious refuge of his people,” and to be “the protector of his subjects”.
Can the BJP government righteously claim that they are the protectors of all their subjects after the chants of Desh Ke Gaddaron ko, Goli Maaro Saalon Ko?
Inputs From Quint