Kabir was against bigotry; PM Modi should practice what he preaches

Kabir life and philosophy does seem alien to PM Modi’s rabble-rousing approach to governance and Modi sounded like a boisterous layman rather than a leader of a country

IANS photo
IANS photo

Ashutosh Sharma

Kabir religiously spoke from his experience, denounced bigotry and took the bull of religious fundamentalism by the horns. But, if Kabir was alive in present day India, it does feel that he would have been either tagged as an “urban or rural Naxalite” and killed by some unknown gunmen or placed under police custody for hate-speech. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the anniversary function of the 15th century revolutionary poet and saint on Thursday, described Kabir as someone who represents the essence of India's soul.

Ironically, while waxing eloquent about Kabir, the PM sounded more like a boisterous layman or a self-proclaimed scholar of Kabir’s philosophy and less like a statesman or a leader—who believes in practicing what he preaches. One was reminded of the following scathing doha written by sant Kabir:

Karni bin kathni kathay, agyaani din-raat!
Kukar sam bookat firay suni-sunaai baat !!

(One who doesn’t practice what he preaches day and night,
That foolish person is similar to a dog barking about the hearsay)

As PM Modi progressed, historic facts became flexible for him. At the hallowed land of Maghar, Kabir, Guru Nanak and Baba Gorakhnath had engaged in spiritual discussion, he asserted referring to a legend.

One who hardly misses any opportunity to attack his rivals, PM Modi used this occasion as well, alleging that his opponents were dividing the society to make political capital. Claiming that they don’t want peace and development in the country, he said conclusively: “They haven’t read Kabir seriously.”

Clearly, the PM hasn’t read the following couplet:

Bura jo dekhan main chala, bura naa milya koye!
Jo munn khoja apnaa, to mujhse bura naa koye!!

(I searched for the crooked man, met not a single one
Then searched myself, “I” found the crooked one)

“All they want is an environment of disharmony and discontentment in the country,” he remarked, and then went on to quote another doha:

Pothi padh padh jag mua, pandit bhayo na koye!
Dhai aakhar prem ke, jo padhe so pandit hoye !!

(Reading books everyone died, no one became any wise,
One who reads the word of love, only becomes wise)

If one looks at this doha against the backdrop of Naxalism and civil unrest in Kashmir, Modi’s entire approach towards such issues stands completely at odds with Kabir’s philosophy. Such conflicts, which can be solved through political and diplomatic means, are being handled with ruthless military might and not the wisdom of love.

PM Modi also gave a new interpretation to ‘Hari’—a word which frequently emerges in Kabir’s poetry as a reference to the God, as ‘Vikas’ does in the case of Narendra Modi’s speeches. He urged citizens of the country to seek ‘Hari’ in ‘Vikas’ (Development). But what kind of ‘Hari’ his government has ushered in the country, which is so bereft of happiness and loves bloodshed? Why this ‘Vikas’ during last four years of Modi Raj has generated so much anger and violence?

In fact, ‘Hari’ is producing more happiness in our neighbourhood, Pakistan. Notably, every South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation nation barring Afghanistan is ahead of India, with Pakistan at 75, Bhutan at 97, Nepal at 101, Bangladesh at 115 and Sri Lanka at 116, whereas India has been ranked 133rd in UN’s global list of the happiest countries.

Coming to BJP’s Hindutva politics, Kabir has said:

Pathar puje hari mile, to main puju pahar!
Ghar ki chakki koi na puje, joko pees khaye sansar!

(If God can be found by praying to a stone idol then I would worship mountain,
But I find the stone grinder at home better which gives flour to feed the world)

While his government has so far spent Rs 4,343.26 crore on advertisements and publicity, India has largest number of malnourished children in the world. Starvation deaths keep hogging headlines. In the past four years, India, according to Thomson Reuters, has become world’s worst country for women, one of the most unequal country globally, press freedom, hunger and environment indexes are on the decline. Indian cities dominate world air pollution list. Lynch mobs are ruling the roost everywhere. Amid chaos, India now has now 121 billionaires—19 more than last year, according to Forbes.

It’s intriguing to ask if PM Modi really believes in what Kabir preached, won’t he and his party indulge in politics of Mandir-Masjid in the run up to 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Not unexpectedly, PM Modi—who loves to call himself a fakir despite having a penchant for expensive clothes, Bvlagri spectacles, Mavado watches and swanky Mont Blanc pens—also quoted Kabir’s another famous doha:

Kabira khada bazar mein, mange sabki khair!
Na kahu se dosti, na kahu se bair!!

(Kabir, standing in the market place, wishes well for all,
Neither friendship nor enmity with anyone at all)

PM Modi’s friendship with Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries chairman, is an open secret. And Ambani has moved up to the 19th global rank on the list of billionaires worldwide this year from 33rd last year. He has become the richest man in the country now. The Prime Minister had personally inaugurated Ambani’s hospital in Mumbai and then congratulated him from his official Twitter handle. On September 2, 2016, newspaper readers in the country had woken up to a full front-page ad of Reliance Jio featuring PM Modi.

Speaking about Kabir, PM Modi also touched upon social equality and Dalits. But under his rule the rate of crimes against Dalits and Muslims has increased manifold. What is worse is that the conviction rate in such crimes remains abysmally low.

Somewhere in the middle of his speech, PM Modi stated that: “the spiritual pursuit of Kabir doesn’t start with blind devotion but actually knowing (Kabir’s philosophy)”.

Even though Kabir seems to be a stranger to Narendra Modi, his one-off praise for Kabir is an attempt at appropriating him ahead of ensuing elections when BJP is battling accusations that it’s anti-Dalits and anti-Muslims.

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