Arrival of Militant Ram in Bengal
The late eminent scholar, A K Ramanujan, reminded us in his well-known text, Three Hundred Ramayanas, that “not only do we have one story told by Valmiki in Sanskrit, we have a variety of Rama tales told by others, with radical differences among them.” It may be mentioned in this connection that the Academic Council of Delhi University decided to drop this celebrated text from the history syllabus a few years ago, despite intense opposition from the history department. The decision was preceded by a militant protest by activists from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, who “barged into the history department to protest the teaching of the Ramanujan text and vandalised the place.”
The above episode is not an isolated one. Different parts of India are witnessing manifestations of militant Hinduism being preached by the BJP.
Public celebration of Ram Navami was never a part of the cultural tradition of Bengal. But, Kolkata and different districts of West Bengal witnessed the unfamiliar sight of sword-brandishing, saffron-clad men accompanied by women and children marching down the streets and chanting slogans like “Jai Shri Ram” and “Har Har Mahadev” to celebrate Ram Navami on 5 April 2017. Reportedly, members of various outfits backed by the Vishva Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP took out over 150 rallies in West Bengal to celebrate the festival. In fact, processions with swords, spears, bows and arrows, and bike rallies festooned with saffron flags ruled the roads in numerous pockets of Kolkata and districts of West Bengal. The state president of the BJP, Dilip Ghosh, was seen among those holding swords in Kharagpur. To put it in his own words: “Lord Rama carried a bow and arrow. So how can his puja be done with empty hands? When Muharram is observed there is no talk of polarisation … But, when Ram Navami is celebrated, they say it will lead to polarisation. If Ram Navami does lead to polarisation, let it be. We will do it.”
The aggressive assertion of militant Hinduism in West Bengal is organically connected with the BJP’s landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh. Let us see how the land of “Bengal Renaissance” faces the challenge posed by militant Hinduism.
Arup Kumar Sen
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