Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blasphemy Inc.

A few days ago, we all witnessed how a 'godman' was harassed into submitting his stick at the airport. The uproar that followed at Mumbai and Aurangabad airport is also remembered by all.

Incidentally, the godman claimed that seizure of the 'dharm-dand' started a period of repentance during which he will be expected to maintain strict discipline by not doing either travelling, eating food, drinking water or speak. What confuses me is that this was realized by him after he travelled from Lucknow to Mumbai and sprouted angry sentences from his mouth.

I had never heard about the particular godman before, but was told by the media channels that he is very acclaimed by many people. However after witnessing a conduct that befits only politicians, I dispelled all doubts in my mind about his being a saint. A real saint in his place would have either refused to travel or tried to calm the people as soon as he would have heard about the angry response of the people. It should be noted that it was not a police raid in which his stick was taken away, but due to a security requirement that forbids people from carrying any dangerous articles inside the aircraft. Had the godman decided not to travel, there wasn't any question of having his stick taken away.

Now let us discuss the issue of disrespecting the godman's right to travel with his stick. As far as I remember, the government doesn't mantain any list of approved godmen, which in fact makes sense as they don't require government's approval for their sainthood. But this creates a problem as to who should be considered a godman and who not. What I mean to say is that if a saffron-clad person comes to the airport carrying a trident and having a hundred supporters behind him, does this qualify him to carry his weapon with him? What seems most obvious to me is that the security officer at the Lucknow airport was as ignorant as me about the godman's support base. He was just doing his duty by not allowing any unscrupeless thing onboard. Even if being aware of such a thing, one should avoid personal convictions while following duties.

Here I remember the famous tale of King Harishchandra who did not allow his wife to use the 'shamshan' for burning the dead body of his own son. Even though the person in concern was his own son, he didn't waver from his responsibilities. I have always laughed at his mixing truth with hallucinations (giving his kingdom to a saint based on a dream), which create serious doubts in my mind about his saneness, as a ruler is expected to work for the welfare of his subjects. What prompted him to hand over the future of a vast kingdom into incompetent hands (the saint wasn't an established 'good' ruler) is beyond me. But I have always regarded him for his decision at the graveyard.

Also, we shouldn't forget that a belief for one means blasphemy for the other. I am sure that the saints/godman who frequently travel abroad for sermons (ignoring the warnings that going overseas will debar them from being a Hindu, leave alone godman status) have to face similar treatments but keep quite as they know they are powerless there.

Now let us take a broader perspective of the whole issue. These things happen when people prefer 'idol worship' over 'ideal worship'. What is surprising is that it is prevalent in even the religions that ridicule 'idol worship'. When we are expected to worship hard work and dedication, we start worshiping Hansie Cronje and Md. Azharuddin instead. No wonder when idols betray, we either assume that the ideal has betrayed us or start seeing it as mirage; both of which are not the truth. What I mean to say is that instead of idolizing Mahatma Gandhi, we should idealize non-violence; instead of idolizing George Washington as a champion of freedom, we should idolize the spirit of the never-say-die attitude. People should only be a source of inspiration, not the source of ideology. It is easy to change whom you want to draw inspiration from, but difficult to change the ideology. When one attains such wisdom, it will be possible to draw inspiration from even the likes of Adolf Hitler.

Let us look back at the primary incident now. A quick look at the profile of the godman indicates that he was earlier absconding for a forgery and later emerged as a godman by preaching peace. There is nothing wrong in idealizing peace. Also that he was a (suspected) conman before cannot be held against him as history is full of such people who have raised from being conman/dacoits/plunderers to saints. But definitely, the manner in which he had reacted to the incident makes me feel that this shows a weakness in personality. This let-down wouldn't have taken place if instead of idolizing a person, his supporters would have idolized the ideals set forth by him. Of course belief is a personal issue and I am not asking anyone to change it, and am merely expressing my views. On similar lines, they should also understand this and have a distinction between holding one's views and forcing their views (the airport incident).

Freedom of speech is very different from right to harass.

1 comment:

nishant said...

u write really well, a pleasure going through your posts...