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Pleasing Gods With Public Money

By Ram Puniyani

07 March, 2009

Karnataka’s BJP Government has a lot of ‘innovation’ up it sleeves. Its firm belief in the supernatural powers residing in temples and operating through the clergy, Pujaris, has made it to undertake moves which defy all the logic of rational thinking and understanding about the phenomenon of nature. Undoubtedly all of us have a full right to our deities and rituals in personal life but to make it a matter of state policy is totally against the spirit of modern times and the values of our Constitution. Faith based actions by the state Government are coming to be witnessed in Karnataka, time and over again.

As soon as BJP came to power in Karnataka, its Muzrai department ordered all the temples to conduct daily pujas in the name of Chief Minister Yeddyyurappa. Fortunately the order was withdrawn soon enough. To carry the things further, in its latest budget (February 2009) Government has allocated 130 crores of rupees for temple and mutts. The idea is to propitiate the divine forces to show mercy on Karnataka and to ward off sins committed by the previous Government. The learned CM further displays his understanding by saying that there are no rains and food production has fallen due to sins committed by various people in the past, the money is allocated so that Gods will be pleased by this money, operated through the pujaris, the clergy, and so Gods will shower mercy on the state.

On the similar lines, during this Shivratri 50,000 liters of Gangajal (water from River Ganga) was brought in two tankers and distributed to 1500 temples across the state. The logic was that Ganga jal is pavitra (sacred) and washes the sins. Unfortunately the minister for Muzrai did not reveal as to how one quantifies the sins and how much water is required to wash how many sins! If by chance that be true, one may require numerous Gangas to wash the sins of Yeddyyurappa and company, the way they have gone on to supervise the attacks on churches and attack on girls in the state.

For BJP the issues around religious identity are the bridge to come to power. At center it rode to the seat of power through the chariot of Ram temple. In Karnataka it is Baba Budan Giri Dargah which has acted as its spring board to grab the seat of power. The move to get holy water for washing the sins is a new dimension and ‘discovery’ for the government. Now probably all the courts can stock Gangajal and while delivering the verdict on crimes, a pouch of holy water can also be given to ensure the sins being washed away.

One is sure, that the Government will soon be requisitioning Cow dung which is also used for purifying the polluted objects, the way Mahad’s Chavdar Talab (Tank) was purified with cow dung after Dr. Ambedkar and his followers drank water from the same. Just to recall, this was part of the agitation which Ambedkar led for dalit’s rights’ to have access to public drinking water. One knows that the dalits were denied access to the public drinking water and Ambedkar had to lead the agitation for the same.

That our society is in the grip of religiosity is well known. Also with the rise of religion based politics, the source of communalism, it has become worse. These gestures of Holy water and giving offerings to the temples are a part of the process to promote blind faith. One sees the holy water being brought by the Haj pilgrims, and those visiting the Ganga River. Should governments also be doing this? What is the borderline between people’s faith the governments policies?

In medieval society clergy was ruling the roost. The clergy in different forms claimed to have the monopoly over knowledge. The coming in of scientific reasoning and understanding was part of the secularization process whereby the clergy and faith based practices were relegated to the private lives of people, while state was to undertake profane issues in a rational way. Challenging the clergy had been a hazardous process in the past and those challenging the ‘representatives of Gods’ or Gods incarnates on the earth had to face various banishments. Charvak was denounced and his writings on rational thought process were wiped out by the clergy.

Copernicus, Galileo and scientists of their genre had no better fate. Servatus was tied to the pole in the public place and burnt alive for challenging the notion that the diseases are due to the displeasure of Gods! In medieval times, King, ruler, was the repository of power as he was regarded as the son of God and his power was given legitimacy by the clergy

Our Constitution makers were clear on this. While debating on these issues it was made clear that the issues related to faith will be in the domain of private life, while the issues related to public policy will be based on reason. It has also been mandated that state will promote rational thought and fight against blind faith and will promote scientific temper.

Karnataka Government is undertaking most blatant and crude display of religiosity, something totally against the sprit of our constitution. With pain and agony one feels that these worthies occupying the seats of power need to be subjected to training that rains are not due to pleasure or displeasure of Lord Ram or the God concerned with that department but due to factors related to environment. They should also be educated that food production depends on agricultural policies not on the whims of this or that God! That the concept of sin, the punishment for that being sent to hell is a concoction of the clergy, cutting across religions to keep their hold on social affairs.

Such steps by Government will promote blind faith amongst large section of population; it is a total opposite of the path we should be undertaking. At one level it is disgusting that government is spending public money for things which are part of faith and blind faith. At another level it is a matter of worry that the RSS politics will lead to a state of affairs where the issues pertaining to public welfare will be gradually substituted by these retrograde things.

What is needed is that Government focus on providing drinking water to villages and cities, what is needed is that health services are boosted, what is required is the effort to bring in policies for all round development of society. To propitiate the Gods-Goddesses should be left to the people’s own faith.

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