Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Descend into the heart of darkness

Recent events in India suggest a dangerous rise of ultra-religious nationalism. The recent rise of the Bharat Swabhiman Andolan is explicitly about nationalism.

Some of the claims are plain illogical: using swadeshi goods, reducing reliance on Western technology. Can this movement practice what it preaches, and stop using televisions and microphones and video cameras? They are all Western technology, and chances are that their recording equipment isn't made in India. Can the so-called swami stop travelling by a foreign-made jet?

Also, where does this stop? Do we defend our borders using bows and arrows?

If the newspaper coverage is true, this movement aims to ban cow slaughter (even by non-Hindus), and bring India back to its ancient roots, enforcing the varna (color, or caste) system.

This idea of improving India by "going back to our ancient roots" is just bullshit. The current democracy, though dysfunctional and hobbled is far better than the feudal system of the past which exploited the poor, the illiterate, and gave no rights to women. To want to go back to the past is to yearn for a time when sati was legal and encouraged, when dowry was accepted, and female infanticide was noble. What we need is more progressive thought, moving ahead rather than looking behind.

And let's not even start about racial purity. It has been tried before.

Some of the claims of this person defy belief. He claims to cure a variety of diseases through yoga: cancer and AIDS are two of them. His gullible followers should ask to see some solid proof of these two claims before taking him seriously. Also, he claims to 'cure' homosexuality through yoga. The only thing yoga cannot cure these days is stupidity, ignorance, and intolerance.

This post will put me at odds with family-members who revere this supposed sadhu. What is most disappointing for me is not being able to steer friends and family away from this dangerous breed of political thought. What started out as a regimen of physical exercise has morphed into a brand of ultra right-wing political thought that is dangerous and retrograde. As a political movement, it is hurtful to openness of thought, the separation of religion from political life, and the rights and security of Indians who aren't Hindu.