BJP trolls, follow Modi's advice on Vivekananda

On the 125th anniversary of the icon’s famous Chicago address, his message seems to be lost in translation.

 |  6-minute read |   11-09-2017
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It’s 125 years since the “9/11” of 1893, or the day when Swami Vivekananda stunned and won over the Chicago Parliament of WorldReligions with his warm and intelligent speech famously starting with “Brothers and Sisters of America”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a gathering of students at Vigyan Bhavan in the national capital revisiting that speech and saying that the “9/11 of 1893 was about love, harmony and brotherhood”.

While the PM extolled the virtues of the 1893 speech by one of modern Hinduism’s icons – Swami Vivekananda, he emphasised that Indians cannot “litter their motherland while chanting Vande Mataram”. The theme of the convention was “Young India, New India”, and PM Modi as usual left the students with a handful of catchphrases, such as “Jan Seva is Prabhu Seva”, “India’s standing in the global stage is due to Jan Shakti”, “there’s no life without creativity”, “Vivekananda was in search of the truth”, etc.

In this light, it’s important for us to reread what Swami Vivekananda had in fact said at the Chicago Parliament of World Religions. Here are a few lines that reverberate through ages, and are particularly pertinent now, as the climate of hate intensifies in India.

“I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true.”

“I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.”

“Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.” It’s important that Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago address is read and reread multiple times, and we should be grateful to PM Modi to make an occasion of the 125th anniversary of that great speech that espoused love, harmony and brotherhood. But we need to ask the PM, what about love, harmony and brotherhood in India of the present times?

vivekanand690_091117031658.jpgIt would be great if the trolls follow Narendra Modi’s speech and check their hateful impulses.

Dear prime minister, we are indeed happy that you decided to draw the attention of India’s young students to the message of love and peace that Vivekananda had spread more than a century ago.

But when you fail to admonish those who abuse journalists, writers, public intellectuals, feminists, civil rights activists, privacy lawyers on social media, or celebrate with glee the brutal murder of a left-wing journalist such as Gauri Lankesh, you besmirch the memory and message of Vivekananda yourself. When the social media cell head of the ruling party puts forward a shoddy and extremely petulant defence of you not unfollowing trolls who dish out death threats and sickening abuses on Twitter, then dear PM Modi, Swami Vivekananda’s message of love and harmony gets lost in translation and irony. Because Vivekananda had explicitly mentioned in his speeches and writings of the need to fight fanaticism head on, and when the trolls spread the venom of hate and bigotry, they too taint the memory of Vivekananda, the great saint you want the young Indian students to emulate.

Dear prime minister, the young students of India are getting a confused message from you. Because you asking them to hold Vivekananda in great respect is directly at odds with you following the vicious trolls on social media. Why don’t you condemn the trolls like the way you came down hard on gau rakshaks, who killed in the name of the cow?

Vivekananda had said in his 1893 address that India had always been a shelter to those persecuted, to the refugees of all hues, all religions and all nations of the earth. Yet, your government for long had been of the view that the Rohingyas of Myanmar should be deported to where only bullets from the military junta, or fatal violence from the ultranationalist Buddhists await them.

Only after much debate has the MEA issued a kinder statement voicing “India’s concern” on the plight of Rohingyas. Hope you act on that note of kindness and accept Rohingyas, like the way tiny Bangladesh has sheltered over 200,000 of them. You said Vivekananda sought the truth, and not a guru. You are absolutely correct. However, the trolls carry out hateful social media campaigns in your name, dear PM, making you a virtual guru. Almost everyday, the false narrative is busted on fact-check websites such as Alt News, Boomlive, etc, while opeds on opinion portals such as DailyO, plead with you to unfollow the trolls, to side with truth.

Dear prime minister, we know you mean well for the young students of India. Reminding them of Vivekananda’s speech is a wonderful gesture. However, it would be great if the trolls follow your speech and check their hateful impulses, replace their politics of bigotry and fanaticism with the message of love, plurality and tolerance. That’d be the truest tribute to Swami Vivekananda.

Also read: Ryan International school murder: How to teach children to protect themselves

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