As an atheist who calls atheism irrelevant to her religious beliefs because it is already too much effort spent thinking on the subject… I had never thought I’d see the day when I would speak up in support of a religious figure. But then, I am a believer in people. And, like with Vastanvi, in this case too, the religiousness of the subject is peripheral, and my issue is with what is happening with people.
I have no idea whether Baba Ramdev is genuine or fake. He may be a publicity stunt, he may be the real deal or he may be a political tool. I don’t know. I have never been into yoga, or gymnastics or mental masturbation.
What makes me write this article is the lynching Baba Ramdev is suffering in a supposedly tolerant country. It is the same thing as Hazare faced, as many other people faced. If he is truly fake and will fast for two days before changing his mind, I guess, it can’t be hidden. If he is the real deal and he ends up in trouble because no one took him seriously and thought they could simply ignore him, I’d say a heck of a lot of people would have it on their conscience, whether they took responsibility for their actions or not. Not because I believe that a “fast” should be pacified by default, but for trivializing his voice so that it is sabotaged. This is a common practice in our country whenever any status quo is touched. That bothers me.
Heck, I don’t even know what he wants apart from ending corruption. As in, I have no clue on the specifics of his demands, I don’t know when he started fasting, I don’t know if he has declared a fast to death or not…. nothing. I was busy with other things. I got aware of it when I laughed at something funny someone said about him. Wicked that I am, bashing anything religion makes me feel great. But then the tone kept changing. It was no longer about finding him funny or even religious.
“Jokes” like “When Baba Ramdev dies, he should be buried with his money” started floating around. And I was like…. whoa? Are we really eagerly discussing death scenarios for someone for someone who we think is a fake? While nothing has happened on the physical plane, the image in my mind is that a pack of dogs tearing into someone for sport – not even food. It was the same image I had after the Sialkot lynching of the two boys in Pakistan. Few people made them out to be the villains and led the charge. The bloodthirsty crowd enjoyed the spectacle and participated to whatever extent they were comfortable.
I have been speaking of intolerance being our undoing. Democracy is not only about a citizen being free to do what he wants, but his right to do so being respected by other citizens. No one is asking anyone to sit in support. But to attack a man for being something you don’t like is… ethically illegal? I don’t know. Maybe its the wrong word.
It brings to mind the calls to assassinate Julian Assange over Wikileaks. Whether he was right or wrong is besides the point. Whether someone acted on it is besides the point. That kind of hatred is corrosive. It reeks of intolerance. It reeks of considering yourself as somehow superior and more morally correct than another for no real reason. It reeks of the lack of values of dignity – as though one person has a right to strip another of all claims to being a valid person.
Frankly, I have made fun of the man often enough. I find it funny that he seems fascinated with the cameras and is always sneaking looks at them. Then I saw a video of me. I do that too. I am hideously camera conscious. He still sneaks glances as though he is checking, I do brief stares with outright mistrust like a horse grazing in a field stares suspiciously at an intruder. It is so bad, that I have no real “good” photos of me at all. I crop my profile pics out of group photos where I’m not paying attention. Maybe I am fake too.
There are nasty comments about his money. Yet, many of these critics go to places of worship. The fact of people and places of worship is that they are given money by people who believe in them. Just like political parties are sponsored by people who believe in them, think tanks enjoy the support of those they create supporting proofs for, and open source coders writing useful plugins get people clicking little Paypal buttons to “buy them a coffee”. Unless someone wants to prove that the money is illegal, or that he forced someone to pay him, this talk is sour grapes.
Most of these conversations are led by those who have stakes of influence being challenged. A sorrowfully large number of people are supporting simply because the logic is familiar. It is one grounded in “security”, in resisting unknown, high stakes change. I find that sad, because most of these people are also the ones thirsting the most for change. It is folly to insist on doing the same thing over and over and expect change. It is beyond fear politics to have your main argument that an entire country of people is incapable of being ethical enough for the change to be viable.
Somehow, the fantasy is that a country that walked the streets to force the government to create the Lokpal or fight corruption, or whatever, will be impotent to bring him down if he goes rogue. This visual is one of someone standing on a precarious perch with legs locked tightly to prevent falling. He neither climbs, nor falls, only goes weary with fatigue till the whole thing is pointless. The ones who don’t want things crowded at the top say “Hey, nice fear this one! It worked!”
As far as I know, I have never intended anyone any harm, I am extremely naive about many things, and I have often been lynched for being different. I feel an affinity with the man. I feel that I am not safe being me, because I’m astonishingly different from the norm, and my thoughts rock status quos routinely. So far, my articles have generated appreciation. What happens when I say something really out there? Something that some political party or lobby starts thinking will challenge their playgrounds? When those who disagree want to stop my voice completely?
Will I then be surrounded by people visualizing dancing on my grave?