Thursday, June 2, 2011

Are we now a country ruled by sadhus and babas....and why “maun vrat” may be a better practice than “bhook hadtal”!

As if Baba Ramdev wasn’t enough, we now have Sri Sri Ravishankar, Swami Agnivesh, ex-BJP’s spiritual leader Govind Acharya and a myriad other sadhus wanting to decide the future of our country. This galaxy of sadhus rules the prime times of all TV channels and hogs the front pages of all newspapers. The only other section of people getting more representation is the one of lawyers! And film stars (Shekhar Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Mahesh Bhatt in the past). Together, the sadhus (often accused of tricking the poor Indian people with magical acts), lawyers (whose only mission in life is earning pots of money and plots of land) and film stars (who have forgotten that their own image with respect to corruption and illegal wealth is the same as that of a politician’s) are engaging in a discussion on how to remove corruption in India!

I am sorry but I do want to listen to preaching from random godmen. Exactly who is Baba Ramdev? A yoga guru who probably knows nothing about the way Parliamentary democracy and government institutions work. A godman who lives life king size....he has a private plane of his own (all tax issues in order here?). He mixes his yoga practice with lectures on religion and morality. He has questioned the morality of homosexuality and filed a case against the Delhi HC’s order legalizing gay sex. He probably knows nothing of science, but he voices his protest against genetically modifed crops. Now he wants to sit on a fast demanding an ordinance to get back the money supposedly stashed abroad. Excuse Indian ordinance that compels foreign governments and banks to start disclosing names and returning monies? I had no idea that the jurisdiction of an Indian ordinance extended worldwide! Does this godman even know what double taxation treaties are? Does he know that various foreign countries and dominions have built and positioned themselves as safe tax havens? Does he realize that black money is a global problem, not just an Indian one? That the entire world is battling this issue. Does he even realize that this entire estimation of black money stashed abroad is fanciful in itself? And finally, does he know that the US has recently charged NRIs with stashing their US earned money in India! But he still wants to go on a fast.....demanding an ordinance!

And what about Sri Sri Ravishankar? A tremendous humanitarian leader; an ambassador of peace who preaches a stress free and violence free society. But why does he have to indulge himself in politics? Fortunately, on Times Now, he was the most sensible of them all. Clearly stating that Ramdev should not go on a hunger strike if the government was giving an assurance that it was working to get black money back. It’s a different issue that Sri Sri prefers the cool climes of Frankfurt to the dust and grime of India to talk about his stress free ideology and give TV interviews.

And then there is Swami Agnivesh. An Arya Samaj intellectual who likes to sport a Swami Vivekanand like appearance. He’s himself run into several controversies, especially with the Hindu clergy....challenging even the sanctity of the Amarnath temple. He’s been a politician and even a minister in the Haryana state government. Why does an intellectual like him fashion himself as a Swami? Why does he want to look like a spiritual leader? Is he nurturing political dreams all over again?

And then of course there is Anna Hazare. The man who has done some genuinely good work in Ralegaon Siddhi. What I cannot understand is why he with all his mass following does not contest elections and fight the system from the inside. I cannot understand why he has to keep the kind of company he keeps. Has he personally verified how the Bhushans have earned their wealth? Does he know the kind of problems godmen have caused in India?

Has he forgotten Swami Nityanand, who lured young women by positioning himself as a Lord Krishna incarnate. He’s now one of the “most wanted” religious leaders....but not by his followers.....but by the long arm of law! And how can we forget Swami Aseemanand.....who derived unending joy (aseem anand) from plotting attacks at various Muslim places of worship. He’s now being tried for terror plots in the Ajmer Dargah, the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid as well as the Samjhauta Express case. Even the “ash” trick of the venerable Sathya Sai Baba was controversial. I’ve seen videos explaining how the ash is produced. If it was presented as an act of magic, it would have been entertaining.....but when presented as an act of God, I am sorry but I find that to be plain cheating. I have a big problem with godmen. And I don’t think it is a good idea for us to allow them this kind of political space.

In fact, we need to show these Godmen their rightful place. In the ashrams, in the hills doing meditation.....and definitely not in TV studios. In my layman-ish understanding of Godmen, they are supposed to inspire peace and calm. They surely don’t yap all the time like lawyers and politicians. My humble request to all of them is to go on a 10-day maun vrat....and maybe if they can take the lawyers also with them, then finally, they would be doing India a great service!

I am not ready to accept that India’s future will be decided by this bunch of people. If this were to go ahead, how would India be any different from Pakistan where we have seen that the Mullahs have taken over the political discourse? Are we going to be comparing ourselves with Iran and Saudi Arabia where religious leaders double up as the ruling elite? On the one hand, we have India positioning itself as the global technology experts in IT and engineering, in pharma and biotechnology, in nuclear science and astrophysics.....and on the other hand, our media is allowing these godmen to occupy political space? It’s really a shame for the country and leaves me really sad about the kind of media we have.

The real truth is that godmen should be banned from politics. The other real truth is that media in India has become a joke. There was a time when senior journalists occupied powerful positions in media.....they had the maturity to conduct intelligent debates. A time, when media led society out of its dogmas. Today, calling TV anchors journalists itself is a joke. Give me the Shekhar Guptas, the MJ Akbars, the Vir Sanghvis....even the Swapan Dasguptas.....but please spare me from these godmen!

1 comment:


    Would love to know your thoughts on the 'facts' presented in this note.