Sunday, 14 October 2007

Ram Rajya or Ravana Rajya?

It was ironic yesterday to read of Narendra Modi's faith in Ram Rajya and the values espoused by Gandhiji and his refusal to think in terms of religion. This irony gains greater bite when you realise that the Godhra panel is checking the Gujarat CM's call records--records of calls made by himself, his ministers and VHP leaders to those accused of rioting and taking lives. In his latest interview, Modi would like other Indian states to emulate the administrative model he has set up for Gujarat. I wonder if that also includes the aiding and abetting of rioters, to get a Modi-fied result for his party, the BJP?

If it were not so horrible, I would laugh to see the BJP, heir to the RSS, which always opposed Gandhiji and his struggle against the British, now proclaim their adherence to the values he espoused. It's something, to see the very ideology that nourished your assassin, now trying to absorb your ideas in its fold.

So why the comparison of Modi with Ravana and not Rama? For one thing, it was Ravana who ran a terrorist state--his rakshasa hordes were the terror of the ascetics who welcomed the advent of Lord Rama into the forest, to free them from this tyrant and enable them to perform their austerities in peace. Very similar to the artists of Gujarat (remember Chandramohan? What became of him?) who live in fear of the Bajrang Dal, who call themselves worshippers of Hanuman, but who really respect nothing but the lathi and the gun. Aditi Mangaldas, the noted dancer, has refused to accept an award given her by the states' cultural council, in protest against the lack of cultural freedom.

And Lanka, like Gujarat today, was prosperous--but both states had little respect for the law (remember Sita, the wife of a "poor forest dweller," picked up by its ruler, Ravana?) and believed in finders being keepers--the biggest looters in the 2002 riots in Gujarat were not the slum-dwellers, as in Delhi 1984, but the middle classes. People displaced by the 2002 riots have returned to their homes provided they do not name their neighbours in the ongoing investigations.

This not only proves that Modi is a fit heir for Ravana, not Rama, but also proves that the BJP, far from being different from the Congress, was worse. Rajiv Gandhi may have been foolish and insensitive when he made the remark about the earth trembling when a big tree falls, but he did call out the army to restore order within four days. And neighbours, instead of pouring kerosene on their Sikh fellow citizens, did hide them in their homes and did keep watch over the approaches to their colonies. I know, because I saw this first-hand. What did Mr. Modi do? He refused to listen to his Prime Minister, a wise old man, who spoke of rajdharma, of the need to take care of all Gujaratis, ignoring religious denominations and differences.

Will Gujarat fall to fire and the sword, the way Lanka did? And will a true Ram Rajya be ushered in then? I don't know--I am not Tiresias.

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I work as a freelance editor and writer in New Delhi. 


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