In an interview to a national news channel on March 2, spiritual leader Jaggi Vasudev called former JNU students Umar Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar “fools”, and added that they should not be walking the streets. He had been airing his views on dealing with attacks like Pulwama when the interview veered towards the JNU sedition row.
His comments have since sparked a big debate on whether religion and politics should mix. It all started after Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association and member of the Communist Party tweeted a link to the interview and wrote, “Sadhguru is openly instigating violence against Kanhaiya and other vocal critics of the present regime...Expose these crude hate mongers and fraud men masquerading as spiritual gurus (sic).” The tweet has since had hundreds of responses and been shared thousands of times.
While most users accused Krishnan of “deliberately misreading and instigating hatred towards someone you don’t agree with,” a few others slammed Sadhguru for wading into politics.
One user wrote, “So now the country is taking political advice from religious gurus? Amazing (sic)!” Another added, “The last thing our country wants is advice from people like Mr Vasudev...I thought spiritual gurus were supposed to be above politics…This is a telltale sign of democracy in peril (sic).”
In her defence, Kavita Krishnan said, “I am not saying be silent. But echoing the worst kind of anti-constitutional sentiments under the garb of spiritualism is wrong. The courts have found zero evidence against Umar Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar for their alleged crime.” She added, “Why is any criticism of the government and Sangh Parivar an act of anti-nationalism? If he speaks on a subject, they should be backed by facts. As a spiritual man, he is using his power to back a particular narrative and that is extremely dangerous. I’d rather he stated openly he is for the ruling party.”
Taking a contrary stand, public speaker Dushyant Sridhar, says that sometimes, spiritualism does need to mix with politics. “It is not possible for spiritual leaders to abstain from commenting on issues in the current world. While news was telecast once a day a few decades ago, it is on 24/7 today. So one can’t really run away from commenting anymore. Since Sadhguru has a huge spiritual following, he may have been compelled to take a stand,” says Sridhar.
Author Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan also agrees that there is some merit in talking about what is happening in the world, but says it should be done with caution. The author of You Are Here says, “I don’t think spiritual leaders should be wading in with all guns blazing. They should have opinions but that should be separate from their political motivations and vendetta.”
Though Madhavan has admitted to not seeing the interview or the tweets, she adds, “I am not claiming to know about this political argument but if you are claiming to represent God, you should know God is a neutral force.”...