There is a statement attributed to Lenin in Russia before the Bolshevik revolution, when the Czars held power - that the greater the number of churches, the worse the condition of the people. The meaning is quite clear: The rulers promoted church-building to divert the attention of the populace from life’s torments resulting from misrule. This is something for the people of Uttar Pradesh to think about too. With the state having been handed over to a Hindu monk-politician of the communal variety to administer, conditions of everyday life have deteriorated rapidly in the recent period. This has not stopped Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, personally, from foregrounding the mythology around Lord Rama and Ayodhya.
Recently a plan was unveiled to build a massive statue of the warrior Rama on the banks of the Saryu river in Ayodhya. That was topped in a sense on Wednesday when the river bank was converted into a reception site for Lord Rama returning from Lanka upon vanquishing Ravana, after which the celebration of Diwali followed.
Around 400 models and artistes from Delhi and Mumbai, and Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia, were mobilised by the state to participate in a religio-cultural extravaganza, with the CM playing the master of ceremonies, and his ministers and the governor paying dutiful obeisance to actors in role playing Rama, Sita and Lakshman, as they dropped from the skies in helicopters.
The Lord Rama resides in the hearts of his devotees. Diwali, the gorgeous festival of lights, is celebrated in India not only by Hindus but by many people of other faiths - making it in some ways a national festival of sorts.
There were indeed periods when Mughal emperors sanctioned state festivities on the day of Diwali. Our present-day rulers, however, stage this grand celebration stuff with an eye on the vote of people of the majority community through the fabrication of religious fervour when there is not much they have offered by way of governance.
India is not the Hindu counterpart of the so-called Islamic Republics, which, in any case, are not multi-religious societies like ours. It is a secular republic by definition, which arose out of deep contemplation and debate.
The state cannot be a part of religious activities in India. Praises of divinity in any form, through routes followed by devotees of any faith, must necessarily be the province of individuals and civil society entities, and not the government.
The UP Chief Minister has disregarded this necessary attribute of our democracy. He has laid himself open to people of non-Hindu faiths pressing a demand to be shown the same consideration by the government. As a party, the BJP needs to reflect on the use of religious symbols for politics.