The Constitution of India has no provision allowing the government to spend public money on religious ceremonies, but governments of different times have always found ways to delve into the public exchequer for some such function or the other. This practice is not restricted to any particular party.
The upcoming International Gita Mahotsav, being organised by the Haryana government between December 6 and 10 this year, is an example.
As RSS pracharak-turned-politician Prime Minister Narendra Modi is himself appearing in advertisements for the event, planned by another pracharak-turned-CM Manohar Lal Khattar, it is worth mentioning the views of another follower and preacher of the Bhagavad Gita, Mahatma Gandhi, on the subject. And what he told RSS forefathers about the philosophy of the holy book.
It is well-known that Gandhi referred to shlokas of the Gita in most of his evening prayers and declared himself a follower of the book. But in September 1947, he had the rare opportunity to put forward his ideas on the Gita at a meeting of RSS workers in Bhangi Colony, Delhi.
A few days before the meeting, Gandhi had compared the RSS with fascist organisations in conversation with its leaders. At the Bhangi Colony meeting, after Gandhi finished his speech, there was a question-answer session.
The book Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase, written by his personal secretary Pyarelal, provides details of the meeting. A member of the audience asked Bapu that Lord Krishna had taught in the Gita that the evil-doer should be punished for his deeds. He was referring to the killings of Kauravas by the Pandavas in the Dharmayuddha of Kurukshetra.
The question would have been a simple one at any other time, but it was asked at a time when Delhi was hit by communal riots and Muslims were targeted in the city by refugees from Pakistan and Hindu extremist groups.
|Gandhi's teachings on the Gita had no impact on right-wing organisations of that time. (Photo: India Today)
Gandhi was doing his best to bring peace in the capital of India. He replied: ''One has to be an infallible judge as to who was the evil-doer before the question of killing could arise.'' This means only a person who is perfect can do justice to evil, as no human being is perfect so only the almighty can do this. No individual can explain the Gita to punish the evil himself.
Gandhi added that in a modern social order, to provide justice and punish the sinner is the duty of the State. The State will do this according to the law of the land. He urged the RSS to have faith in the government, and not become judge and executioner in one.
Mentioning (Jawaharlal) Nehru and (Sardar) Patel by name, the Father of the Nation said: ''They are tried servants of the nation. Give them a chance to serve you. Do not sabotage their efforts by taking the law into your own hands.''
As PM Modi and CM Khattar are going to celebrate Gita Jayanti, they must learn from the teachings of the Mahatma given to their ideological forefathers. This is important as these teachings had no impact on right-wing organisations of that time.
Vinoba Bhave categorically mentioned a published article of Guru Golwalakar, in March 1948, in the first meeting of followers of Gandhi at Sewagram, after his assassination. Bhave also referred to the RSS and Bhagavad Gita, in the presence of Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad and Maulana Azad. He said: ''I read some article of their Guruji in some newspaper. They are also devotees of the Gita, but they derive the notion from the holy book that one who can pay respect to the Guru and can kill him is the Karmayogi. Arjuna paid respect to his gurus and killed them." He pointed out that the RSS reads the Gita in a spirit opposite to what Gandhi read and advocated.
Now when RSS pracharaks are ruling the country and also showing full faith in the ideals of Gandhi, his teachings on the Gita should be made part of this government ceremony. The state needs it most as it witnessed the violent Jat agitation last year.
The state also saw incidents of unlawful gau rakshaks torturing innocent people, and is known for its record of atrocities against Dalits.
If all these things can be taught in the Gandhian way during the celebration, Gita Jayanti can actually serve the state and the nation's social and secular traditions.