Is celebrating Janmashtami right wing?

Last Updated: Mon, Sep 03, 2018 15:30 hrs
Janmashtami

A cursory morning glance at my Twitter feed showed up an interesting article. India Today – a respected magazine and one that I grew up reading – had put out a tweet mentioning “More than 1000 Shobha Yatras have been organised in various districts including Kolkata. India Today’s Deputy Editor @manogyaloiwal gives you a glimpse of how the right-wing celebrated #KrishnaJanmashtami”(screenshot below). It seems that this tweet was subsequently deleted.

Given that this tweet and the feature is no longer available on social media, one would refrain from commenting on the same. But what is stark and indeed worrisome, is how certain terms have been coined and are used or rather, misused.

India was and remains a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty. The constitutional, moral and social fabric of this country has remain unchanged through decades of rule and mis-rule. The majority religion, Hinduism, is a religion that is pluralistic in nature and believes in peaceful, respectful co-existence. Unlike the Abrahamic faiths, there is no one God in Hinduism. It is this very nature of the religion called Hinduism and the people called Hindus which has helped this country develop its diverse, multicultural, multilingual identity. This multicultural and multilingual identity has not changed over the last few years.

But yes, there has been one stark, sweeping change that has left some people the intelligentsia feeling uncomfortable. The policy of ‘minority appeasement’ in order to gain short term votes is not being practised to the extent it used to be. Communities that were used to doles and grants handed out as largesse of the ‘sarkar’ are now being encouraged and motivated to be self-dependent, to be masters of their own destinies and to be productive, self-reliant individuals. In most cases, the communities have also responded extremely favourably to the encouragement and incentives given.

True secularism is when all segments of the society- irrespective of their faith- are given equal opportunities to grow and prosper. Providing short term monetary gains to a particular community in order to secure their status as a ‘vote bank’ is not secularism – in fact, it motivates the community to remain backward, dependent on grants and is anti-secularism. Minority appeasement should never be confused with secularism.

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The current Central Government appears to be truly focused on secularism and has abandoned the myopic policy of minority appeasement. It also seems that the majority of the people of the country have understood the same and appreciate the Government’s efforts for inclusive development (witness BJP’s sweeping win in Uttar Pradesh). However, this does not seem to have gone down well with certain people – the educated, elite who feel that anything which is remotely Hindu is essentially damaging the secular fabric of the nation. Hence the growth of terms like ‘right wing Hindus’.

The term ‘left wing’ usually is referred to the ‘radical, reforming or socialist section of the society’. The term ‘right wing’ refers to the ‘conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system’. Keeping these meanings in mind, one wonders what the India Today tweet of ‘right wing celebrating Janmashtmi’ really means.

Lord Krishna is assumed to have manifested on Earth in Dwaparyuga (which ended more than 5000 years ago). He is older than most other religions which emerged later. He was the God who went as messenger of peace to the Kauravas, the one who did not wield arms in the war of Mahabharat, the one who is known as ‘ranchod’(the one who flees the battlefield) since he chose to move his people away from Mathura instead of making them face Jarasandha in a war. How can such a peace-loving God be associated with a term that means ‘reactionary’?

In India, Krishna has been loved and worshipped since time immemorial. He is loved as the mischievous son, as the seductive lover, as the perfect friend and above all, as the wisest of them all. His message has always been one of love, peace and doing one’s duty. His birthday (Janmashtami) has always been a source of joy for the devout.

Shobha Yatras have been a part of the Hindu and the Indian culture for long. They are nothing more than a collective celebration. Shobha Yatras used to happen even before the current Government came to power. Ganpati celebrations in Maharashtra, Puja in West Bengal, the Rath Yatra, the procession during urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisthi, the gandham procession of Hazrath Syed Latheefullah Shah Quadri, the singing of Christmas Carols, the langars on the birthday of the Sikh Gurus, the processions on Mahavir Jayanti – all are nothing but the collective expression of the devout. There is no ‘right wing’ or ‘left wing’ here. A Hindu has as much right to be part of the Janamashtmi procession as a Muslim has to be part of the Muharram procession. Both are citizens of the same country. The law is the same for them. Even the public discourse and views of the intelligentsia should be same for them.

If an urs is not right wing, then why is Janmashtami ‘right wing’?

It is important that religious celebrations are recognized as being just that –an expression of faith, a harbinger of hope, a break from the monotony of routine. It is a great disservice to the nation when religious celebrations are used to score political brownie points.


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Aditi Kumaria Hingu is a marketing graduate from IIM Calcutta, currently she works in the corporate sector. She comes from an army background.

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