Doing It Everyday 2

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,

'Our festivals have a theme and a great continuity with our ithihasa or history. Some of them are associated with nature. Many of them have roots in scientific principles. They are all of great social and cultural significance too. The practice of religious fasts is not only of great spiritual and religious significance but also of essential principles of health and hygiene. Ours is a philosophy of life propounding the omnipresence of paramathma, the immortality of Athma, the principle cycle of births and deaths etc. Our festivals are also an expression of that philosophy. They are very much inter-linked with music, dance, painting, and other arts. Devotion to God and society has been a main theme with many of our festivals. Thus our festivals have been powerful instruments of integration and exponents [sic] of unity in diversity.

Celebration of these festivals on a large scale and with the message of our Rishi will be giving us the impetus and samskars [sic] to the society and facilitate early realization of the goal of national renaissance. This requires, a reorientation in the practice of our festivals, keeping in view the times and requirements. The objective shall have to be integration and social awareness.

So far most festivals are celebrated at the family level or at some limited sectarian or institutional level. The area has to be widened and they should be brought to mass and collective level. Leaders of various sections and communities may be invited to explain the importance and relevance of each festival to the masses. There should be mutual participation in the festivals celebrated by individual sections. For example, a guruparva celebrated in a gurdwara may be attended by all the Hindus. The Buddh and Mahavir Jayanthi and others may be celebrated collectively. Festivals observed by Harijans, Girijans shall have to be extended to all Hindus. In addition to collective celebration of festivals certain universal practices on the festive and other occasions also would be helpful in promotion of national integration. Tilak Dharana on the forehead, cow worship, hoisting of 'om' and 'Bhagava (Saffrron) flags are some of them.'  

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.

Monopoly of the calendar

'Due to Vishva Hindu Parishad and others, there began a growing confidence among Hindus. A large number of saints and seers too took up the cause and came out of their seclusion and plunged into action in the society. The Ekathmatha Yagna, the Rama Janina Bhoomi Abhiyan changed the mood of the entire Hindu society. But the speed and vigour of progress is yet to rise, to cope up with the growing challenges and activities of the disruptionists and foreign agents.

The festivals and parvas are being celebrated with interruption although there is some adverse effect because of the political atmosphere or economic disparities. Holi Dipawali, Vijyadashami, Raksha Bandhan, Sankranti and the like have a great impact in keeping the society [sic] intact and in promoting unity and integrity of the nation. The enthusiasm in pilgrimages from Kashi to Ramaswaram, to great centres like Prayag, Tirupathi, Nathadwara, Vaishnodevi, Sabarimalal etc. are on the increase. Special mention may be made of the increasing popularity of kumbhamela, in which Hindus from all over the world take part.'

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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More by :  Meena Kandasamy

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