Mahatma Gandhi’s compassionate ‘Ram’ very different from RSS and Modi’s angry ‘Ram’

Mahatma Gandhi wrote “By Rama Rajya I do not mean a Hindu state. What I mean is the rule of God,” where the weakest would secure justice. His ‘Jai Siya Ram’ cry was different from ‘Jai Shri Ram’

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Dr Ragini Nayak

In November 2019, the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict, paving way for the construction of Ram Mandir. Rahul Gandhi tweeted the message of brotherhood, trust and love; Congress Working Committee unanimously supported the decision asserting that this would close “the doors for BJP and others to politicize the issue”.

Be it as may, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that BJP-RSS would leave no stone unturned to continue riding the wave of religious sentiments attached to Ram Mandir and exploit them for maximum electoral gains. That is why, on this Martyr’s Day, in order to push the communal discourse to the margins, let us revisit the unifying, humane and universal conceptualization of Ram and Ram Rajya of Mahatma Gandhi, who died with the name of Rama on his lips, as against the divisive, hateful and parochial one propagated by the Sangh Parivar. We mustn’t forget that even on the day of the grand Bhoomi-poojan, Narendra Modi had to invoke Gandhi for validation.

Seeking oneness with Rama was the holy grail of Gandhi’s moral life because he considered Rama to be the ultimate source of morality and ethics. Gandhi believed that japa or repeated recitation of Ramanama was the fundamental mechanics of calling forth the righteousness within. For Gandhi, Rama was not a mythological/historical figure, but a symbol of the omnipresent and omniscient divine power. Gandhi clarified this position in an article written in Harijan in 1946, where he proclaimed that, “My Ram, the Ram of our prayers is not the historical Rama, the son of Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya. He is the eternal, the unborn, the one without a second.” In Gandhi’s scheme of things, there didn’t exist any monopoly of a particular religion on Ram. Gandhi’s Ram belonged to all alike; something that is unpalatable to the self-proclaimed crusaders of Hinduism, harping on the name of Rama only to meet political ends.

While RSS epitomized Rama as an ensign of Hindu narcissism, their brand of Hindutva politics and Hindu Rashtra; Gandhi saw ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ as an embodiment of both ‘Ishvar’ and ‘Allah’. He popularized ‘Ram Dhun’ as the motto of the Indian Freedom struggle, symbolizing Hindu-Muslim Unity and assimilation of all cultures, castes, class and religion. While Sangh Parivar portrayed Rama as the ‘Angry God’ ever ready to annihilate the enemy (Modi reminded us in his speech after the Bhoomi-poojan that ‘Bhaya bin hoye na preeti’ i.e. there can be no harmony without fear) and instigated Hindus to establish their might; Gandhi sang praises of Maryada Purshottam, the very epitome of ideal behavior and rectitude, full of compassion and benevolence.

While Sangh Parivar harnessed people’s devotion towards Rama and transformed it into a frenzy of destructive passion; Gandhi used the name of Rama to save the Indian tradition of generosity and tolerance; to eradicate hatred and communalism. While Sangh Parivar converted the benign greeting of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ into a war cry, wreaking havoc on the opponents; Gandhi spoke of using ‘Jai Siya Ram’ as a panacea for physical, mental and moral ailments.

Post Bhoomi-poojan, in order to sound inclusive and accommodative, Narendra Modi not just switched to chanting Jai Siya Ram but consciously equated Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of establishing Rama Rajya with the Karyaarambh or the beginning of the construction of Ram Mandir.

Gandhi’s vision of Rama Rajya as a utopian welfare state has nothing to do with the Hindu Rashtra of the Sangh Parivar where nationalism would be colored by religion, law would be enlivened by religion, citizens’ rights would be realized according to religion and Manusmriti, in all probability, would supersede the constitution. Gandhi held a completely contrasting view.

In 1929, he opined in ‘Young India’ that, “By Rama Rajya I do not mean a Hindu state. What I mean is the rule of God, the state ruled by the divine…the ancient ideal of the Ramayana is undoubtedly one of true democracy in which the weakest citizen could be sure of swift justice without an elaborate and costly procedure…a true Rama Rajya would ensure equal rights to both prince and pauper.”

For Gandhi, Rama Rajya meant an ideal state, based on proper moral code and decorum; where there is no discrimination and where every individual has the right to participate in the process of socio-political decision-making. The definition of Rama Rajya as given in the Ramcharitmanas is also similar to the one endorsed by Gandhi:

Daihik Daivik Bhaitik Tapa.

Ram Raj Nahi Kaahuhu Byaapa.

Sab Nar Karahin Paraspar Preeti.

Chalahin Swadharm Nirat Shruti Niti.

(Nobody has to suffer physical, spiritual or material infirmities, everyone lives in harmonious coexistence, and everyone follows their religion, abiding by the law.)

It goes without saying that in Gandhi’s Rama Rajya, lynching wouldn’t be the new normal, Rohith Vemula wouldn’t be forced to commit suicide, women wouldn’t be deprived of their dignity and self-respect, farmers wouldn’t fear wrongful acquisition of their land or be deprived of their MSP, dissent and disagreement wouldn’t be considered treason, mobocracy wouldn’t overpower law and order, migrant laborers wouldn’t be left to die, Jammu and Kashmir wouldn’t perpetually remain under lockdown and courts would never turn a blind eye towards safeguarding liberal and secular ethos.

Rama would never allow such injustice under his watch. Rahul Gandhi echoed this sentiment in his tweet by calling Rama the ultimate embodiment of supreme human values of love, compassion and justice. Now, it is the duty of the Congress to take this message to the people that the communally charged divisive ideology of Sangh Parivar neither looks upon Rama as a ubiquitous divine power nor as a democrat who sacrificed every pleasure for the sake of others. For them, Rama, Rama Mandir and Rama Rajya are not a matter of faith but the means to divide people and amass votes by creating false perceptions and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

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