Will you vote for Lord Rama? This question ought not to even be posed, but yesterday Dr. Subramanian Swamy announced that besides corruption and the government's agenda, he was planning to speak about “Sri Rama as India's Asmita". It topped his list.
We often pull up theocratic societies for living in some backward age, and rightly so. However, given that they are dictatorships I find it rather pertinent that although they promote the Sharia as law, they do not market the Prophet as an election issue.
Let us first understand this ‘asmita' business, and business it has become to gain mileage and garner enough money to keep a warped idea of religion as state alive. Asmita means self-esteem. A nation has got to understand its potential and that of its citizens, not rely on beliefs.
The Swaraj and Swadeshi movements can be called asmita. They were fighting against colonial rule.
As an aside, why is Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party talking of Swaraj now? What does self-rule mean in today's context? India is a democracy, and people do vote. It is imperfect, but we have a Constitution in place. It is, in effect, already people's rule. I shall leave cynicism for another day.
Our asmita is that no foreign power has succeeded in dictating our policy decisions, at least not overtly. Our asmita is that we can use the veto power keeping our interests in mind and not whether some superpower is breathing down our neck. Our asmita is that the army cannot meddle with the elected civilian government. Our asmita is that we have not destroyed most of our heritage. Our asmita is in our professionals and our labour force.
Having said that, we are on shaky ground on a few of the above-mentioned points. We do not believe in dignity of labour and, therefore, we remain feudal. The poor workers suffer. We do not value professional talent, and that is the reason for some of it leaving. And our heritage sites become mere political crutches.
This is contemporary reality, and we have to deal with it. How would projecting Lord Rama as “India's Asmita" help? His religious significance for the majority notwithstanding, what has he contributed to the country as nation-state?
He is considered Maryada Purshottam, the ideal male. So, does India, Bharat Mata, need a perfect man-god figure to regain her self-esteem? There are several deities in the Hindu pantheon that are worshipped by different sects. Goddesses Saraswati, Durga, Lakshmi; Lords Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna - why are they not part of “India's Asmita"? No one is a fool. We are aware that this is a political move, to build that mandir in Sri Rama's name.
No one can successfully promote any god as a nation's pride. It is illogical and unreasonable. One could say that Hindus take pride in their faith, which is altogether different. Sri Rama was a king, and we aren't even a monarchy. It is bad enough that some of our leaders land up in fancy-dress competition clothes for their campaigns.
The good lord did return from banwaas to Ayodhya. It is a small part of India, currently under the Samajwadi Party. This is how India today makes its choice. It is tragic that politicians use religion when all else fails, or they have nothing more to offer. A gullible public is forced into fighting for the right of a god's birthplace. This aspect should steer clear of who comes to power and what it does for the people.
Those who vote for Sri Rama, Prophet Mohammed, or Jesus Christ, as well as the neo-theocrats who do some nifty marketing of these figures need to first get some self-esteem. Asmita is right within you.
(c) Farzana Versey