Shobhaa De | Welcome to the New India: Ram Rajya is finally here!

We have just celebrated what may be the most crucial Republic Day in the history of India. Seventy-six years after gaining Independence, young India is waking up to an entirely New India. Almost unrecognisable in its present avatar. Certainly, a far cry from the India that my generation grew up loving and fervently believing in, as our nation took baby steps in the big, bad world, unshackled and free of the British yoke. We were finding our feet as citizens of a free and proud nation, which was assuming its own role and importance globally. Nothing was perfect. And many mistakes were made, as leaders who had spent years in jail and suffered immense humiliation fighting for our freedom charted out a course that would take the country forward. We were poor. But we had our self-respect to fall back on. Plus, deep reservoirs of hope invested in our future. Unwieldy and chaotic, our democracy miraculously survived against all odds and with countless doomsday pundits ready to write off an audacious, ambitious and impatient nation. But, aha… there wasn’t a trace of arrogance in our collective attitude. No boastfulness and chest-thumping either. Yes, leaders were frequently at loggerheads. But no one doubted their good intentions and genuine commitment to India’s future. These stalwarts had sacrificed precious years, given up a great deal, and struggled tirelessly to provide fellow countrymen and women with a strong, common, united Indian identity. Educated, erudite, articulate, the netas of yore ensured the fundamental idea of a secular, pluralistic, prosperous, undivided India remained intact, while carrying on the tedious, frustrating business of nation-building. We felt good -- no, great -- calling ourselves Bharatwaasis.

It’s the turn of the “Other India” now. About time, say the young, who have no recollection nor much interest in the past. Like the young across the world, their lives are focused on themselves -- on ‘’making it’’. This is a good time to “make it’’. The mood is assertive, upbeat and optimistic. Nobody has the time for reflection or nostalgia. Our history books have been carefully tweaked to erase narratives that are out of sync with today’s political vision, and have been designed to upgrade and promote a specific ideology with its own cast of characters. Our present is being vividly described as the beginning of a new “Kaal Chakra”, heralding a significant cycle of radical and dramatic change. A juggernaut is rolling through the country. The choices are clear -- join the juggernaut or get trampled under it.

This is no time for any citizen of India to be singing “Ekla Chalo Re’’. We are all expected to join the procession that leads us to Ayodhya. This week’s maha-extravaganza will be remembered for decades to come -- the meticulously choreographed optics in particular. Nothing, but nothing, was left to chance, as a sole, stately figure of a man with the entire bhoj of 1.4 billion people on his broad shoulders, every single camera focused exclusively on him, took his time to walk into the grandest Ram Temple in the world. Fascinated devotees and interested global viewers watched as the superhero conducted the solemn ceremonies, always from an elevated level, which provided unrestricted and flattering camera angles for close-ups, with great lighting and attractive props, designed to create an eye-popping visual impact.

Analysts insist that the superbly calibrated consecration ceremony of the Ram Lalla idol was more a political than a religious event, going by those present next to the Prime Minister as he conducted the rituals -- the RSS sarsangchalak and the saffron-robed Uttar Pradesh chief minister. The four shankaracharyas were conspicuous by their absence. But Corporate India was there in full force, having donated generously to the building of the temple. Mr Modi resorted to his characteristic clever word plays, replete with analogies and symbolism. He urged Bharatwaasis to “expand consciousness from Dev to desh, Ram to Rashtra, from deity to nation”. Zero ambiguity in his message: Hinduism=Patriotism. Take it or leave it. The majority took it.

No other Prime Minister has linked nationhood to one specific religion (Hinduism), as openly, as unabashedly. We should thank the Prime Minister for doing away with the veil of ambiguity once and for all. No more smokescreens. On one level, this is a very positive development, as it strips away any lingering doubts about the future of India: Ram Rajya has been declared. India has been anointed as a clearly defined Hindu nation. It also signals the end of double-speak and hypocrisy. The Prime Minister has boldly spelt it out for those still wondering. He has levelled with the people unequivocally. You know where you stand. And if where you stand makes you feel shaky, scared, uneasy, insecure… well then, sorry, but you are in the wrong country. Political analysts, while acknowledging the religious coup, have described the Ram Mandir show of strength as a “saffron rebirth”. One can call this a masterstroke and the shrewdest poll strategy ever. Never mind what happens to the nervous and silenced minorities. In the bargain, Prime Minister Modi has also neatly outsmarted and checkmated the motley, weak and confused Opposition. Just look at the bizarre response! Sonia Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge declining the Ram Mandir invitation is as misguided as Mamata Banerjee deciding to snub the Congress and going it alone in the West Bengal elections. The INDIA bloc is looking like a shabby rag doll, opting to bicker when unity was desperately required.

It’s implicitly understood and accepted that any adverse response to the Ram Mandir will be taken as an insult and suitably dealt with. To say a word against any aspect of the ceremony is asking for trouble. A critic risks being labelled anti-Hindu, which automatically translates to being anti-India. Since Elections 2024 are going to be driven more by social media slogans than political manifestos, it looks like a win has been handed over to the BJP without even a semblance of a fight from any Opposition party. Electoral fortunes are hard to predict. But going by the massive mandate of unconditional approval granted to the Ram Mandir consecration ceremony, it’s fair to conclude everything is now in Ram Lalla’s mutthi… remember that old song from the movie Bootpolish: “Nanhe munney bachhey tere mutthi mein kya hai?” And the child’s response: “Mutthi mein hai takdeer hamari…” India’s takdeer (destiny) is indeed in one mutthi. May Lord Ram bless our country and lead us on the path of truth, justice and equality for all. Jai Shri Ram!

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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