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Doing It Everyday 2
|by Meena Kandasamy|
Now, we shall look at a mini-exposition by the Joint Secretary, Parva Samanvaya Vibhag of the VHP, Mr. Santosh Trivedy on the topic of Festivals for National Integration which finds its place in the same website. He writes,
Dissecting this manifesto is no more difficult or different. Their dream projects peep out from behind gossamer curtains. Their appropriation of religious beliefs to serve political agendas dictates itself out.
First, the contention of Trivedi that festivals have a theme and a great continuity with our itihiasa or history. Look at the word 'have'. If any festival lacks a theme or historicity that is no problem. Leave it to the saffron brigade' The Sangh Parivar can rack its combined brains and invent themes and extrapolate in order to achieve continuity in history. The search for a linear, homogeneous Hindu history is part of their project anyway. [And regarding the choice of 'itihasa (epic) or history', the reader can pick out the correct answer.]
We now move to the second grandiose statement: the emphasis on a scientific principle. Except for the carnage in Gujarat, whose scientific principle was traced by Modi to Newton's Third Law, which festival of hate or love or whatever had any scientific principle? This invention of a scientific background is in order to steer clear of criticisms that arose from movements like Raja Rammohun Roy's Brahmo Samaj and Periyar's Self-Respect movement that criticized the superstitious, dogmatic and utterly unscientific basis and origin of festivals. Or may be, they are speaking to the colonialists, the imperialists who have more than once pooh-poohed the irrational celebrations. Think of Whitehead, Elmore and other western scholars of the pre-independence era who were rudely taken aback by the atrocious nature of some of the festivals. So we find the VHP preening itself to announce of the scientific principles.
First Science, then Health. The Greater, Larger Things. Festivals buttress scientific principles, and scientific principles buttress fasts. The quid-pro-quo of political logic. The practice of fasts is connected with 'health and hygiene.' Since fasting has been developed into something of a national weapon, no one will have the audacity to question this claim. We condescend to understanding the health and hygiene (?) factors. But in India with its seasonal starvation deaths and serious malnutrition in a major section of the population, fasting, like feasting, is a luxury that only a few can afford. And only very few, like the banal right-wing can make the most of it.
Having claimed that festivals are 'powerful instruments' (one has to emphatically agree, seeing the Hindutva experience), Trivedi moves on to talk of celebration on a large scale. When the Sangh Parivar speaks of a large scale, it sounds draconian: chills creep into my spine, and my fingers twitch instead of flying across the keyboard. We have seen what large scale has meant to them: the kar-seva in Ayodhya, the riots in Mumbai, the agitations against Mandal, the genocide in Gujarat. Terror is shape of largeness. And before you are done with dealing on their massive dreams, the next line sends another jolt: Not only large, but early. In his words: 'facilitate early realization of the goal of national renaissance.' Translated into ordinary speech it is the impatience to declare the Hindu Rashtra. And towards this end, he calls for a 'reorientation'. In the following lines, we learn that this reorienting is moving the festivals from the private sphere into the public sphere. So, religion is not religion is not religion. Religion is politics and vote-banks and mobilization and hatred and crimes.
'Mutual participation' is part of the project of foisting an Hindu identity on Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. So Hindus are required to flock to gurudwaras, and likewise Buddhist and Jainist festivals can also be appropriated. This is the ahimsa of assimilation. One also needs to wonder why, in this article on 'Festivals of National Integration', there is no mention of the festivals of the other religious minorities'Muslims and Christians, or of Hindus taking part in them. Will that not aid national integration?
So, having given the guidelines to woo the religions of revolt, here is the procedure for integrating the Dalits and the Adivasis who have never been part of the Hindu society. So, all Hindus are advised to observe 'Harijan-Girijan' (forgive the arrogance of their rhyming words, almost like Humpty-Dumpty) festivals which is once again a project of mobilization and conscription. Observing subaltern festivals is an excellent entrepreneurial idea: minimum investment, maximum returns. As Lele notes in Hindutva: The Emergence of the Right, 'Many of the tribal, low caste deities to which Brahminism had to adapt ended up as consorts or local incarnations of the pan-Indian patriarchal gods, thus investing these pan-Indian symbols with unprecedented power and potency for popular mobilization.'
There has to be some clarification about commonly confused words: it is the stark Hindu nationalism that is preferred to be substituted with the dreamy, grandiose project of national integration. Cow worship and om/saffron flag hoisting are meant to be universal practices. Which universe are they practiced in? Here, we are forced to read blatant instances of Hindutvaization as a step towards the 'promotion of national integration.' The picture that has evolved is clearly illustrative of the sinister designs behind the Hindutva celebration of fairs, festivals, and yatras. This is the reason why the Sangh Parivar is keen on filling up the calendar.
So you see, they have blocked all the dates: either the VHP is coming on yatras or people are going on yatras, or they are all celebrating, here, there everywhere. Calling these festivals red-letter days would sound communist, or in a out-of-fashion sense, Freudian. Welcome, aboard to the saffron-letter days. This is the egalitarianism of the new holiness: you need to no longer look forward to sacred days that occur so rarely, no longer is Friday the traditional day for women to pray in temples. Everyone's learning saffronized Solomon-Grandy rhymes and a new version for every week. Ritual days don't any longer punctuate the weary life. The Sangh Parivar is doing it everyday. If the festivals are a way to expend your energies and stretch your budgets, the prescribed fasting for so many occasions shall set that straight.
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