Saturday, November 10, 2012

Did Sushma Swaraj just complain about the “Radha” song from Student of the Year???

Now I know that the BJP can be exceedingly orthodox when it comes to religious matters. From doing pujas when the rains fail to making singing of Saraswati Vandana compulsory in schools in MP, the BJP has shown a penchant for high order and aggressive Hindu orthodoxy. But to suggest that the name “Radha” is reverential for Hindus and hence films must treat it with respect is going a bit too far. I for one have always believed in a more liberal outlook towards religious matters and thought that they should be strictly limited to one’s personal space. It doesn’t matter which religion it is, but it should be kept confined strictly inside one’s home; if not just inside one’s heart.

Unfortunately, the BJP’s preference for Hindu culture and rituals is not designed to be voluntary or optional; it is sought to be imposed on one and all. Had the effort been to explain and spread the several virtues of Hinduism through an honest outreach which included the naysayers, it would have been far more successful and effective. But instead, there is usage of force and a lot of unreasonableness. The BJP ducks charges of being too Hindu oriented by saying that it’s not Hinduism but Hindutva that it actually supports. Till date, I haven’t understood the difference between the two. If Hindutva is a “way of life”, then shouldn’t Hindutva attempt to showcase the more inclusive and liberal parts of the way of life that I know for a fact most Hindus practice? Many Hindus I know are happy to eat beef, albeit on the sly. Many others are devout, but don’t publicly display it. Likewise, most Hindus don’t attach any “religious” symbology to names like Radha, Kaushalya and Sita – the three names that have raised the hackles of Sushma – treating them on par with other names.

Sushma has objected that Radha has been shown in the film as not knowing how to dance and being invited to the dance floor to learn to dance. So does she mean that all Radhas have genes that make them expert dancers – if so, then maybe this is something that geneticists should research! Actually, if Sushma heard the lyrics of the super cool music of the film carefully, she would find much more to be upset with than Radha’s dance prowess (or its absence). The lyrics of the song “Radha” actually put the words “sexy” and “Radha” together. Surely Sexy Radha must be appalling to Sushma! Not only that, but apparently, Radha likes to move that sexy Radha body. Man that’s going too far, isn’t it Sushma??!! And when Radha wants to party and Radha wants more, then that must be going over the top for most BJP leaders!

Sushma is planning to take up the matter in Parliament. Now, that surely makes the absurd assumption that she and her party will allow it to function! And if it is allowed, then of course how can there be anything more important that debating Radha! And then of course, there is “Oh My God” which I must admit, I haven’t seen. But I have seen the play (with Paresh Rawal doing an outstanding job) and I can understand why Sushma is so livid. The movie points at various aspects of Hinduism that modern Hindus find unacceptable. The waste of tons of milk in temples in ritualistic practice, when there are millions who could make much better use of it. The “fear” of God rather than the “love” of God. And of course, the ghastly act of “suing God” that the comedy is primarily based on. What irreverence; this is an assault on Hinduism!

The BJP has always been paranoid and extreme about Hinduism. Hindutva is just a worn out fig leaf. One worries that if they ever got a majority on their own in Parliament, they  would forget all about governance and dive straight into building temples and promoting Hinduism. Maybe there would be a 5-10% reservation quota created for the sadhus and sants. Who cares if women get their reservation or not; sadhus must! And then, India will officially change its name to Republic of Bharat! And in those five years that they get, the BJP – backed up ably by the Bajrang Dal and the RSS – would make up for lost history by demolishing even more Babri Masjids. They may even prescribe a dress code for us. Delhi could be renamed Indraprastha or Hastinapur and Ahmedabad (oh, what an awful name!) Karnavati (so beautiful!).

Now I know I am exaggerating, but the point is that when the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha finds her sensitivites tickled by an innocuous song and thinks it is an attack on the religious fabric of the country, she needs to be derided. Religious bigotism is even worse than destroying freedom of speech which we often see happening in India in the form of banning books.

What I would like Sushma – an otherwise charismatic and level headed politician – to do is to focus the country’s attention on more relevant topics. To offer an alternate model of governance. To attack the Congress on corruption charges but to act on corruption within the BJP itself. She should tell us her preferred economic model, her party’s approach to Pakistan and Bangladesh (against who they love to rant), their attitude to nuclear power (their stand on Kudankulam is inexplicable); to subsidies and how to reduce them; how they would handle fuel pricing (remember if they had their way, diesel prices would have been Rs 20 more than what it is at present), FDI (first supporting, then opposing) and inflation in general. That’s what I want the BJP to focus on. Not on religion which should remain inside the hearts of people. India is a tinderbox of emotions and religious passion, and when a public leader supports one religion – that too the majority religion – it is dangerous.

Sushma may well want to look at atleast one aspect of the recent US polls. The fact that Republicans represent the conservative point of view on religion (they are against abortions and gay marriages for instance) and strive to secure the dominance of the Whites has worked against them in an increasingly heterogeneous and modernizing country. If the Republicans don’t modernize, they wont ever succeed. The message cannot be missed by the BJP. Or by other parties (including sections of the Congress) that support ultra-orthodox viewpoints.

The real truth is that Radha may or may not know how to dance and she may well have to be taught to shake her booty. But Sushma surely needs to learn a few steps as well….!

No comments:

Post a Comment