The typical features of a Kanwariya today: Fear, fundamentalism and far from faith
The majority of the new-age Kanwariyas are completely derailed from the traditional understanding of the religion.
- Total Shares
The fever of religious music in the early 1990s was one of the big attempts to capitalise on and politicise the faith of the people. The Ram Mandir movement, demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and the BJP becoming a national party during this decade was not just a co-incidence. We, as a society and as personally practicing Hindus with some sense of tradition, mythology and spirituality, were shifted to a more marketed, hollow but politically motivated, pragmatically interpreted and narrowed, limited understanding of our spiritual and traditional existence.
There was a crowd who, instead of fighting for jobs, education and basic facilities for the livelihood, stood for constructing a Mandir and demolishing a Masjid.
This crowd and the people were told that despite being the majority, their existence is in danger and that they should be proud of being Hindu.
After almost three decades, the extension to this fundamentalist brotherhood in our society has added a new name in their family tree – the Kanwariyas.
Though among these Kanwariyas, there are a few who go on Kanwar yatras for practicing their faith and belief in the God Shiva, the majority is completely derailed from traditional understanding and existence.
Here are some basic characteristics of these new-breed Kanwariyas:
No sense of Shiva
Firstly, they have nothing to do with God Shiva. They don’t know him. Or, let’s say, they are misinformed about Shiva. The idea of Shiva, the character of Shiva, the role of Shiva... they don’t understand this. Shiva for them is a God who allows them to have rave parties on the roads and in daylight.
Shiva, for them, is an excuse for intoxication and violence. The most inclusive, democratic, loving and powerful, yet non-violent Hindu god is an excuse for breaking laws and disturbing social order.
Far from faith
They have no faith. The faith claimed is false, because faith comes with commitment and commitment needs discipline. Discipline means no vulgarity and violations in personal and social conducts. However, they are just the opposite to this condition.
The story of the Kanwar Yatra describes the legend that during this month of Shravana, devotees take holy water from the river Ganga and put it on a Shivalinga. Since ages, this has been done, as per legend, to help Lord Shiva overcome the effect of the poison he swallowed in his attempt to save everyone. The yatra demands sanity and piousness.
What we see around us now is just the opposite.
Most of these devotees have not seen books like the Shiva Purana. They can’t chant relevant slokas and prayers completely or correctly. The only way they express their devotion is through the loud and vulgar songs played by DJs. Cheap dances and gestures on some shallow remixes are their way of worship.
Most of them come from lower-middle-class backgrounds. Many are not well educated and quite a few have a very poor academic history. Unemployed, dependent on the families, they are the same people who disobey their parents, bully the poor locally and in public, frequently disrespect women.
The attire and the pilgrimage become an excuse for such conduct in public. One would rarely find someone who is struggling for his bread, butter and shelter in everyday life today making attempts to do this pilgrimage these days.
They are basically anti-socials who use the pilgrimage as an excuse to break laws and disrespect the freedom and space of others. One can easily identify this kind of new generation and lumpen youth in other religions as well.
(Photo: India Today)
We cannot ignore the fact that this accelerating trend in western UP, Haryana, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan gets a majority of its participants from the ghettos and villages of OBCs, Dalits and economically weaker sections. Jatts, Gujjars, Kolis are some castes which have started participating with their caste banners and slogans as well. This trend is increasing. There is a desperation to prove themselves to be as Hindu as the upper caste Hindus.
This is not happening without reason. There are political forces fuelling this desperation. There is a planned attempt to play catalyst and provoke these groups to prove themselves. This is not new; the history of riots in our country clearly shows that most of the time, OBCs and Dalits were provoked and used in violence.
In the name of the god who is known for making everyone fearless, these people are spreading fear in the society. This fear is not only for other religious minorities, it targets the common man and society across sections. The reason fuelling this fear is simple; the disturbance in everyday life by these people should not face any resistance. Breaking traffic rules, vandalising market places, vehicles and beating up people are typical practices forcing this fear.
Then comes the attempt to legitimise these practices of creating fear; the use of the tricolour, our national flag. The hockey sticks or baseball bats in one hand and the tricolour in another are the messages that these are Hindus and these are nationalists. This nationalism is far from any patriotic feelings. This is a clear misuse of the national flag. For most of them, the flag is not for pride and respect; it is the shield against all the misconducts they attempt.
Schools are closed on their routes. Meat shops are shut. Medical patients are suffering in traffic. Women and minorities are unsafe and exposed to vulgarity. Daily life crawls. Households have locked themselves behind walls. The old are scared of such noise and such speed.
Confused and used
The question is – are they the people who are deliberately conspiring against the country, society and people? The answer is, no. However, the uniformity behind their dress, trends, songs, slogans and support systems do suggest a proper political planning which is fundamentalist and feudal in its nature.
These people are puppets in the hands of a powerful and resourceful political ideology; the ideology which gains from social and religious divides, the politics of hate and exclusion, the politics of fundamentalism and backwardness, the politics of using their own people as misguided missiles.
These self-claimed Shiva devotees are used and confused.
They have little idea how they are damaging the socio-cultural character of our nation and the daily life of the common person. Politics is using them as puppets. The fear they create grows the majority of citizens are left helpless and disturbed.
This is an alarming situation for a constitutional democracy and its people.