The ugly truth behind Modi's Yoga Day

Who is the Prime Minister to speak about India’s 'ancient heritage'?

 |  4-minute read |   22-06-2017
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As expected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone to town on the alleged mocking of International Yoga Day by the Congress as “snubbing India’s ancient cultural heritage” which he claimed showed the “ideological bankruptcy” of the Congress, which he alleged was “allergic to anything and everything Indian”. Very harsh words but untrue.

Firstly, who decided on the date of International Yoga Day? PM Narendra Modi. Why did he choose June 21 every year? Because June 21 is the death anniversary of the first Sarsanghchalak (supreme leader) of the RSS, Keshav Hedgewar, who like other RSS leaders of the time, abstained from the national freedom struggle from 1925 to 1947.

What does Hedgewar and the RSS have to do with “India’s ancient cultural heritage”? Isn’t fixing the date for International Yoga Day a political gambit hidden from the people, not only in India?

Is India’s cultural heritage unilinear? Is it not true that the present day Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs were abused as mlecha (outcastes)? Weren’t women highly subordinate to men? What tiny fraction of women were allowed to learn Sanskrit or become priests, or perform yoga in male company?

Weren’t the non-Brahmins warned that their learning Sanskrit would lead to severe punishment, including the pouring of molten lead into their ears? Does the RSS deny that Brahmins who presided over the ghats carrying out the death rituals were considered to be inferior to other Brahmins? So even Brahmins were not equal.

King Asoka was a Buddhist not Hindu. Buddhism spread throughout his kingdom through persuasion, not coercion. Centuries later Buddhism was wiped out from the Mauryan kingdom by the Brahmins.

rss-embed_062217115717.jpgDoes the RSS deny that Brahmins who presided over the ghats carrying out the death rituals were considered to be inferior to other Brahmins?

Even present day Ayodhya was earlier a Buddhist town called Saket. There are few Buddhist relics left. A Hindu zealot hacked down the Bodhi tree where Buddha sought and got enlightenment. How many Buddhist stupas are left? Where have they gone? This Brahmanism, which is venerated by many, was neither equal, nor enlightened, and much less democratic.

No Prime Minister, there is no one ancient Indian history, and to begin with there was no one ancient or medieval Indian history. There were several, and there were very few and transient, small mini republics which were short-lived and thanks to religious, caste and gender differences, which come out even in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

But Mr Modi, where is the reference to the great Bhakti tradition of Tulsidas, Kabir, Mirabai and others? After all, the Sangh Parivar tried (not entirely honestly) to invoke Tulsidas as supporting the ancient (medieval) destruction of the original Ram Mandir.

Unfortunately, Tulsidas, who was writing the Ramcharitmanas around the time the dispute was on, never referred to any religious clash or destruction of a Ram temple. So Prime Minister, your rendition of ancient culture is unilinear and unipolar.

India has had, and still has, many cultures. Is yoga an ancient culture, or a step towards meditation? But Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Parsis all have a physical routine before going in for prayer, and even meditating.

Anyway, who is the Prime Minister to speak about India’s “ancient heritage”? He has had no advanced spiritual training. Yoga alone is insufficient. He claims an MA degree in “entire” political science, an MA certificate no one has seen, and which a senior faculty member in the political science department publicly claims included courses which were not taught at the time. But the use of manipulation of names is cited even in the Mahabharata, in a famous episode.

Therefore, the PM’s latest tirade is, to say the least, ahistorical and abusive. To be fair, as an EBC he would not have had in-depth training from Brahminical scholars. Being less supple at his age, his yoga techniques need much to be desired.

But acerbic and baseless assaults on his critics expose his lack of what is best in Indian culture. As his tumultuous  career shows, his knowledge base, his willingness and mendacity to misuse events (International Yoga Day), his motivated abuse of critics, including the CBI, ED, etc, highlights his growing deviations from the core continuing values of Indian culture.

Also read: Modi government has politicised yoga

Writer

Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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