Rahul Gandhi on Ram, Sita, BJP-RSS—and living the true Hindu life
Sita may be inseparable from Ram, but she has no place in a patriarchal Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s scheme of things
The following translated excerpts from Rahul Gandhi's speeches during the 2022-23 Bharat Jodo Yatra have been taken from Dayashankar Mishra's self-published book Rahul Gandhi: Sampradayikta, Dushprachar, Tanashahi se Aitihasik Sangharsh.
Excerpts from the speech at a rally in Agar-Malwa, Madhya Pradesh on 2 December 2022
During the yatra, I met many people. A pandit ji came to see me, and raised a very deep question, which he then proceeded to explain. He said, “Rahul ji, he who was Lord Ram, was an ascetic. He devoted his entire life to penance.” Quite right.
Then he said, “Gandhiji used to say ‘Hey Ram!’ Gandhiji’s slogan was ‘Hey Ram!’ What does ‘Hey Ram’ mean?” After a brief silence, he said, “The meaning of ‘Hey Ram’ is… Lord Ram was not just a person, he was a way of life full of love, brotherhood, respect and penance. He showed the whole world the way to live. And every time Gandhiji said ‘Hey Ram!’ he meant that the feeling that is Lord Ram is present in our hearts. And that feeling should guide our lives. In other words, to live one’s life by doing the kind of penance Lord Ram did, serving society the way he did, spreading love and brotherhood the way he did.
Panditji asked me to raise this question in my speech: Why do the BJP people raise the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’ but never say ‘Jai Siyaram’ or ‘Hey Ram’?Rahul Gandhi
"Next, there’s ‘Jai Siyaram’. What might ‘Jai Siyaram’ mean? Panditji told me this as well. I learned so much in course of the yatra. It means simply that Sita and Ram are one. Hence the slogan, ‘Jai Siyaram’ or ‘Jai Sitaram’. Meaning Ram’s way of life, the things he did for Sita. And what did Lord Ram do for Sita? Don’t you know that? He went and fought for her honour. So, when we say ‘Jai Siyaram’, we remember Sita and honour her rightful place in society. Correct? So that’s ‘Jai Siyaram’ or ‘Jai Sitaram’. There’s a third slogan: ‘Jai Shri Ram’. That’s where we praise Lord Ram."
Pandit ji asked me to raise this question in my speech: Why do the BJP people raise the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’ but never say ‘Jai Siyaram’ or ‘Hey Ram’?"
I liked that a lot, as pandit ji had revealed a very deep thing to me. The RSS and BJP people do not live their lives the way Ram lived his life. Ram was not unjust to anyone. He worked to unite society. He was respectful towards everyone. Lord Ram helped farmers, labourers, traders, everyone. Right? His philosophy, his spirit, his way of life — that has not been adopted by the RSS and BJP people.
And the second slogan, ‘Jai Siyaram’, is perhaps the most important slogan of all. But how can they say ‘Jai Siyaram’ when there is not a single woman in their organisation! It is not a ‘Jai Siyaram’ organisation because women cannot join it. Sita cannot even think of being part of it. Sita has been excluded.
This deep truth was revealed to me by a pandit ji from Madhya Pradesh as I travelled down this very road. Now, I want to say to our friends in the RSS, “Use all three slogans — ‘Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Jai Siyaram’ and ‘Hey Ram’ — and please don’t insult Sita ji."
Do you recall the picture of Ram Darbar, depicting maryada purushottam Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman? This picture, seen in every devout Hindu home, showed Ram carrying his bow slung across his shoulder. For their political purpose, the RSS and BJP use another picture of Lord Ram, in which he stands with his bow raised, aiming at the lord of the sea for obstructing his way to Lanka. He pulls the string. This is the only incident in the life of maryada purushottam where he gives in to wrath. This is the picture of Lord Ram that the RSS and BJP prefer. Where wrath is the central theme.
Similarly, an artist did some artistry with an image of the courageous and calm Hanuman and infused his image with anger. That picture was made the new identity of Bajrang Bali. Plastered on the backs of vehicles, this Hanuman does not look calm or courageous; instead, he looks wrathful. Here too, wrath is the central theme.
Having done with faith, it was now the turn of a national symbol. Spending thousands of crores of rupees, a new parliament house is being built to replace the old one. The name of this project is the Central Vista Renovation Project. An administrative area running all the way from Raisina Hill to India Gate in our capital Delhi.
On the roof of the parliament house in this Central Vista, the Ashoka Pillar, our national symbol, has been installed. This 20-feet-high pillar weighing 9,500 kilos was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with all the Hindu rites and rituals. Lok Sabha Speaker, Om Birla, was merely marking attendance.
If you look at the pictures of this Ashoka Pillar carefully, you will see that the calm, courageous and patient lions of the original Ashoka Pillar appear ravenous, roaring and enraged. It seems as if the four lions that symbolised strength, courage, confidence and pride have deliberately been depicted in agitated and aggressive mode.
Excerpts from Rahul Gandhi’s speech at a rally in Malakheda, Alwar on 19 December 2022, which marked 100 days of the Bharat Jodo Yatra
The yatra has now been on the road for 100 days. Through Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. On the way, along with our friends from the press, I see other dear friends. Usually, they happen to be standing atop the BJP offices.
I start off, and there they are, standing with their hands tied. And what do I do? I spot them and I wave at them. They don’t wave back. They keep standing, their hands tied. They keep watching me. They cannot wave a greeting to Rahul Gandhi. They might want to, but they cannot, they do not have permission. I wave some more. One or two wave back. And then I blow them a flying kiss, just as you did...
Sometimes they look at me and gesture a question towards me, because they cannot talk to me, you see! They cannot come to me, that’s forbidden. I don’t hate them. I fight against their ideology. But I like them, as I like all living beings.
And so, they make that questioning gesture with their hands, meaning, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” You’re going from Kanyakumari to Srinagar! Their leaders say, “Why is Rahul Gandhi marching?"
That was on my mind. I thought about it for a while. What was I doing? What am I doing? I am walking. I am meeting people. I am hugging people. What am I doing? And I got my answer.
For their workers, their foot soldiers, for those who wave questioning hands at me and ask, “What are you doing?”, my answer is, “I am opening a ‘shop of love’ in the market of hate.”
Hate me. Abuse me. That’s what’s in your heart. You run a market of hate. I run a shop of love. And I’m not just talking about myself. Don’t think that it’s only Rahul Gandhi who is saying this. It’s all of us, the entire organisation that led our country to freedom.
Who am I? It’s people like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Ambedkar ji, Azad — all of them, each of them, had opened a ‘shop of love’ in the market of hate. That’s what we do. So, this is my answer to all the BJP people. Join us. Start opening ‘shops of love’ in the market of hate. You will, eventually, have to. Because our land, our faith, is one of love and not of hate.