Adityanath Yogi as Commissar

Ram Puniyani

From Allahabad to Prayagraj: What’s in the name?

Adityanath Yogi, Chief Minister of UP seems to be on the name changing spree. In his latest move he has changed the name of famous city of UP, Allahabad to Prayagraj. Prayag is the meeting point of rivers and since this city is the meeting point of Ganga, Yamuna and probably of invisible Sarswati, this name might have been chosen by him in his attempts to remove the Islamic touch to the names of our cities. As such many a versions of the origin of the name of this city are circulating. One such says that it was Ila-vas. Ila being the mother of mythological Pururva Another such says it was in the name of Alha of Alha-Udal (part of popular folk lore) fame. More concrete records tell us that Akbar had named it Illaha-bad or Illahi-bas. Illaha is a generic term of Gods. He regarded this city as holy city of Hindus and Illah-bas in Persian means ‘abode of Gods’. This is clear from the records and from the coins of that time and reflects the inclusive spirit of Akbar. Earlier Yogi had made many changes in the names like that of Mughal sarai to Pundit Deendayal Upadhayay Junction, Agra airport in the same leader, Urdu Bazar to Hindi Bazar, Ali Nagar to Arya nagar etc. He regards all Muslim sounding names as being alien.

In an interview Yogi said he has to change many more names. On his agenda is to change the name Taj Mahal to Ram Mahal, Azamgarhg to Aryamgarh and to cap it all as per him the name India in our constitution should be changed to Hindustan. As per him these places were renamed after invasion of Muslim kings, so there is a need to re-change them. In UP Mayawati had already begun this name changing game which was to some extent reversed by his successor Akhilesh Yadav. Now in a more persistent way Yogi is identifying the Muslim sounding names and changing them one by one.

Adityanath Yogi is the Mahant of famous Gorakhnath Math. His predecessor of Math was in also politics, and Yogi has been a major player on the political chess board in UP. He comes from the Hindu Mahasabha stream of politics. His dominance has been very visible as his slogan, UP mein rahna hay to Yogi Yogi Kahna hoga (If you want to stay in UP, you have to Chant Yogi-Yogi) had been prevalent in parts of UP. His Hindu Yuva Vahaini has been in the news off and on; not for right reasons. He belongs to the group of large number of Holy men, Sakski Maharaj, Sadhvi Uma Bharati, Sadhvi Nirnajan Jyoti etc. who have been part of Hindu nationalist agenda. As such Holy men are supposed to have renounced the World to focus on spiritual pursuits, but this lot seems to be more active in Worldly pursuits.

The phenomenon of these holy men-women being in politics seems to be there in many post-colonial states. In these countries there has been absence of radical land reforms and there is persistence of hold of landlord-clergy which seems to be the reason for the God people to be in political arena. In these places God men and women has been part of the politics, which opposes the democratic values as being Western or alien, being against the spirit of ‘our’ land. They in a way harp on the pre Industrial values of birth based hierarchies. Surveying these countries one can see the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, succeeded by many Ayatollahs. In Pakistan the Mullahs have been working closely with the military and landlord elements to undermine the democratic possibilities in society. In Pakistan the most prominent name which emerged was that of Maulana Maududi, who worked closely with Zia Ul Haq in Islamization of Pakistan. In neighboring Mynamar, the monks like Ashin Wirathu, also called ‘Burma’s bin laden’, are part of the politics to oppose the democratic society, to target the religious minorities there.

Back to India we have seen the crop of these Holy men, dominating the political scene in various ways. Most of these Godmen-women have been part of Hindu nationalist movement and are very vicious as far as hate speech is concerned. One recalls that Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti had used the word haram Jade, Sakshi Maharaj was booked for blaming Muslims for population growth. Yogi himself has many cases pending against as far as hate speech is concerned. The worst of these was when he advised the rape of dead Muslim women.

Yogi has intensified the communal agenda to no end. UP state is organizing Hindu religious festivals. One recalls that the on occasion of Divali, the Helicopter carrying Lord Ram and Sita landed and the Gods were received by Yogi. UP State also organized the lighting of lamps in big numbers. Recently he had again been in news for the declaration that state Government will spend 5000 crores for the Kumbh mela. All this is taking place at a time when the state is suffering sever crunch in regards to health care and other infrastructure related issues. Young children, infants have died in hospital for lack of facilities; times and over again. The cities where name change has been brought about languishes with bad infrastrures and state constantly lags behind in Human growth indices, what to talk of the abysmal condition of human rights in the state. The condition of minorities is worsening as state sponsored moves to trample on their livelihood in the form of closing many the meat shops, which was done right at the beginning of his rule in UP, among other steps which is order of the day.

Yogi also bluntly stated that secularism is a big lie. His actions are showing as to how he is forcing the march of the state in the direction of Hindu nation, without any qualms for secular values as enshrined in our Constitution!

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Sabarimala Shrine and Women’s Entry

Ram Puniyani

We live in a democratic society where all of us supposed to be equal. In pre-industrial society the inequality was very much there and it was based on birth. In Indian society this inequality, the one based on birth, pertained to caste and gender. Leftovers of this inequality are very much there even in today’s society. One aspect of this has been pertaining to entry of women in places of worship. In most of the mosques, it’s predominantly men who pray to the Allah. In temples the discrimination has been based on the ground of caste and gender, both. One recalls the epic struggle of Dr. Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar in matter of Kalaram Mandir for temple entry of dalits. One also recalls the recent campaigns led by Trupti Desai for entry into Sanctum Santorum’s of Hindu Temples (Shani Shingnapur of Maharashtra in particular). Recently we also had the agitation of Muslim women for entry into inner precincts of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. These recent agitations did lead to success of women gaining entry to these hallowed places.

That is not the end of the story. There are scores of famous and not so famous temples which still bar the entry of certain castes and women. One of the most well known of these being Sabrimala Shrine of Lord Ayappa, where women of menstruating age group are not permitted. The premise is that Lord Ayappa had taken the vow of permanent celibacy. In a recent (28 September 2018) Supreme Court Majority judgment (4 against 1) the Court ruled that banning the entry of women to Sabrimala shrine is discriminatory and violates the rights of Hindu women. The judgment has been welcome by most of the women’s rights groups and many others. Kavita Krishnan’s tweet well summed up the view of most women’s rights groups,

“In Instant Triple Talaq, Haji Ali, and Sabarimala cases courts have rightly held that women’s equality can’t be held hostage to religious practices. Just as it’s unconstitutional and discriminatory to debar entry to temples based on caste, it’s the same to debar entry based on gender. Also, we project our own values on our gods - and patriarchal values that put the burden of men’s celibacy or sexual choices on women are deeply damaging to women in real life.” At the same time RSS cautioned with the statement that feeling of the people should be considered. Congress asked the Trust controlling the temple to ask for review of judgment while BJP asked the state Government to bring an ordinance to reverse the same. Many other organizations are planning to get it reversed through appeal against the same.

The journey of women’s march towards equality is not a smooth path. The abominable practice of Sati was the first one, which was opposed to begin with by Raja Ram Mohan Roy. He did have massive obstacles in his path despite the supportive legislations which came to abolish the horrendous practice of burning the widow alive. Despite many legislations, the Sati has could not be eradicated easily. Just a few decades back we saw the Sati of Roopkanwar, and when the most from the society responded by calling for strict punishment, while the then Vice President of BJP, Mrs. Vijayaraje Scindia took out rallies in support of practice of sati. The other major reform among Hindu women related to age of consent. The debates have ranged for increasing the age of consent initially from 10 years to 12, when even the leaders like Lokmanya Ganadhar Tilak opposed this move on the ground that this is against Hindu traditions. The notion prevalent being that girls should be married before the first menstrual period. There are brilliant accounts of these struggles for these reforms which are worth being recalled, one such being Tanika Sarkar’s book ‘Hindu Wife Hindu Nation’. Just few years ago many a maulanas came up in arms against the age of consent being raised to 18. For them the special provisions for early marriage of Muslim girls was mandatory.

Our society is very uneven. The arguments for early marriage do relate to lack of education, mostly among poor, where the safety of girls is a big issue. Today the Sabrimala judgment is a matter of debate between those aspiring for equality and those sticking to age old customs, which have women’s inequality in-built into it. Even today there is a wide spectrum of social thought on the topic. On one side we see that a group of women have resolved that they will ensure that menstruating women will not enter the temple, on the other we have places like Eklavya Ashram where menstruation is no taboo, where menstruating devotees also pray. To strike a balance in such a situation is as difficult as the tight rope walking.

Many a women’s groups kept aloof from the struggle for temple entry for women on the ground that all religions are inherently patriarchal, so why fall in the trap. To the best one can say that patriarchy is the core foundation of most institutionalized religions. This demand for temple entry is a step in demolishing the patriarchal set up, which should lead to total abolition of the same in times to come. Legislations don’t solve the problems in themselves; still they are the major step in laying the direction for future march of the journey for equality. The other social situations of poverty and lack of security for women in this set up are the major aggravating factors leading to sustenance of patriarchal mould.  We need the social policies which bring to fore and provide foundation for application of legislations in letter and spirit. With Supreme Court taking the lead in this the onus is on us to pave the path of equality in times to come. Need to create the situations congenial for such judgments. 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED