My grandmother is 75. And she likes her gods. She did not like it one bit when Jayalalitha got the Shankaracharya arrested in the winter of 2004. Would they dare to do such a thing with the Pope or some Muslim holy man, she asked? And when Karunanidhi questioned Ram’s engineering abilities, that did not make her happy either. Just before someone complains, I have to say that she is not some Hindu ‘fundamentalist’. She is like most Indians, reasonably religious and interested in politics. She sees the Tehelka expose on tv and asks whether Modi is really involved; a rhetorical question; she knows just as well as everybody else what happened. After all, she does get her news from the same television channels and (tamil) magazines. I wonder what she would say if she heard that the West Bengal Chief Minister has reignited the Ram – Real or Fake debate (does he not have enough on his plate already?).
Buddhadeb has said that Ram is a fictional figure. I agree wholeheartedly. And I would have agreed more with him (or Karunanidhi, for that matter) if he had said similar things about Prophet Muhammed’s conversations with Allah during the Taslima Nasreen issue. Why is freedom of expression and feelings of Hindus any less important than the Sethusamudram project and the feelings of Muslims? There is no reason other than the fact that he and most Indian politicians are deeply pseudo-secular and indulge in doublespeak. I would have put freedom of expression miles above any possible benefit derived from the project any day because it is an extremely valuable and scarce commodity now-a-days. But that cannot be done as Muslim fundamentalists have shown time and again. While any sleight of Hindu gods or symbols might make the VHP or any of the numerous hindu fundamentalist groups carry out protests and bandhs for a couple of days, burn a few buses and kill a few people, a sleight of an Islamic symbol might trigger a worldwide protest and might even result in a fatwa by some cleric who has nothing else to do.
The BJP and everyone else who taunt pseudo-secularists should consider this fact and forgive Buddha, other politicians and that part of the intelligentsia which is pseudo-secularist. After all they are so because they are shit scared of the wrath of Islam and Islamic fundamentalists. But that is not going to happen, is it now? So, Buddha should watch out the next time he indulges in doublespeak. On the other hand, let Buddha say what he wants. My grandmother is not going to stop believing in Ram because Buddha said so. And I am not going to start believing in him because Buddha said so.
This incident is so funny that it makes a great joke – Buddha says Ram is fictional. I just hope buddhists don’t take offence.