About the Ram Charitmanas controversy
Nupur Sharma offended the Muslim community by quoting something from Quran.
Irrespective of whether what she quoted exists or not in Quran, offense was taken and she had to go underground.
Death threats were issued. She was removed from the party post. Multiple people were killed just for supporting her.
She is a marked woman for life.
Many in the Hindu community supported her by saying that she was merely quoting the holy book.
The Bihar Education Minister Chandrashekhar has quoted a few lines from Ram Charitmanas to give an example of how the book makes derogatory remarks against the people of the “lower” castes.
Dalit activists are quoting lines like ढोल, गंवार, शुद्र, पशु , नारी । सकल ताड़ना के अधिकारी॥
YouTube videos are being made trying to convince you how compassionate Sant Ravi Das and Kabir Das (both the poets came from lower castes) were and how casteist and supremacist Tulsidas and Kalidas (both the poets were upper castes) were.
This development can be used both positively and negatively.
It is quite obvious that the controversy has been raised keeping the 2024 elections in mind.
For the first time people of lower castes and backward communities are experiencing electricity, cooking gas, running water, access to medical facilities, better schooling, health insurance, and other facilities that were so far, supposedly, only available to people of privilege and upper castes. For this reason, they are voting for the BJP.
Due to social media and instant messaging apps large number of people can exchange information and put up a united fight against divisive forces. They no longer need politicians and journalists as intermediaries.
The Hindu community, even people from the upper castes, are increasingly realising that caste divides do more harm than good. People from other religions are taking advantage of these caste divides. Mass conversions are happening and soon may come a day when Hindus will be a minority in their own country.
In cities and towns inter-caste marriages are happening. Caste barriers are being torn down. Even in villages people of lower castes have realized that their respective messiahs and champions have been taking them for a ride and enriching their own coffers instead of elevating the communities.
For consecutive elections Hindus have been unifying behind Modi. To a great extent he has been able to dismantle the caste barriers by making sure that the government help reaches the last man standing.
The Mandal-Kamandal controversy is aimed at rupturing this unifying phenomenon.
Handled badly, the controversy will certainly end up achieving what it is intended to achieve.
Atrocities in the name of caste have happened in the past and no one can deny that. They cannot be brushed under the carpet. Vestiges of these atrocities still surface in many parts of the country.
It doesn’t matter if the caste divides were created by the British or they are inherent in the society. The reality is that they exist. The reality is that unspeakable atrocities happen in the name of caste. Yes, many members of the oppressed communities take advantage of the laws of the country and victimise people of the upper castes — another reality we need to deal with.
There is immense poverty and backwardness even among the upper castes who have been ignored due to vote bank politics. The upper castes have become the Jews of the 1940s.
Do the highlighted offending lines exist in Ram Charitmanas and other ancient books?
If they don’t, it must be proven once and for all by involving scholars from all the sides. Line by line must be interpreted and analysed.
If they exist, and if there is a context, then that context must be explained.
For example, if a vile person in the book utters something hateful, it cannot be claimed that the author believes in those things.
For example, if Ravan justifies abducting Sita you cannot say that Valmiki himself believed that Sita should have been abducted.
Similarly, in Ram Charitmanas if there are some derogatory things about communities or women, are these things being said by a vile person, or a respected person?
What if disrespectful things about communities and women have been said directly by Tulsidas or by a respected character like Ram?
Then there is nothing wrong in accepting that. We must remember that Ram Charitmanas was written 500–600 years ago. Values and beliefs were different. Keep in mind that in the times of Mahabharat, abducting women for the purpose of marrying them was an accepted, even respected practice.
Old, religious books are, old. There are many things written in the Bible and Quran that seem outrageous now and the Hindu right never misses an opportunity to underline them.
These books were written centuries ago. They have been written and rewritten hundreds of times and each time, the authors wrote them with their own perceptions and beliefs.
Hence, in the context of the current controversy, if derogatory references exist, they should be accepted as they are without feeling defensive.
If they don’t exist, or if they exist through a context, it must be clearly explained even if a national level campaign is needed.
Otherwise, these divisive tactics will go on forever.
Hindus must realize that a bigger threat awaits them than these inter-caste quibbles. Seeds of caste divides were sown by the British and they were harvested by our politicians when the British left.
Now is the time to destroy this cancer. It is a good opportunity, and it must be lapped up. It is not about who gets to say their say. It’s about burying the old differences and emerging as a unified community.
There is no excuse. We are highly connected. It is very easy to reach out to people with the right information just as it is easy to spread misinformation.
One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that people who stoke divisive controversies have no intention of clearing the muddy waters. The muddier the waters are, the more successful is their agenda of dividing the society.
Despite multiple invitations for debates and discussions, these luminaries never respond and it can be assumed that they don’t want controversies to die down.
Hence, they may not respond favourably to suggestions for open debates. They mostly prefer propagating their opinions within their own ecosystems where nobody opposes them or counters them with facts.