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Jagannath’s Crony Murderers

M C Raj

 It is nothing new in world history. From the time religions were formally established gods have been indulging in killing. The other day I was in a house warming ceremony of a friend in Kerala. The priest who came to bless the house took a reading from the Bible on that occasion. The Bible clearly asked the Jews to mark their houses with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. If the house was marked with blood then the angel of god would know that it was the house of a Jew belonging to a chosen race. The ploy was that god would send his angels that night to kill all the firstborn male babies of the Egyptians. This apparently happened 4000 years ago. But the killings between the Arabs and the Jews continue unabated even today. What was baffling is that the Christian priest chose this reading on the occasion of blessing a house in contemporary times. Killings in Hindu Scriptures are glorified and are even required as karma of the Kshatriya caste in order to be reborn. There is no wonder then that the minions of such gods indulge in mindless killings and sexual orgies whenever they want. There is a section of Hindu religion that religiously approves the two, namely sexual orgies and killings. It is called Tantric Hinduism. There is something called Vajrayana Buddhism that is very similar. Hindus and Buddhists will vehemently argue against this. But history bears ample evidence to the contrary.

The arrest of Krushna Pratihari on 29 August is only the tip of the iceberg. There are hosts of others who have been charge sheeted for the murder of Taluccha Bhagaban Mohapatra. Both belong to the temple management of the Puri Jaganntha Temple Trust in one way or another and were also in politics, small times and big times. Before going into the murder of Mohapatra it must be realized that His Eminence Lord Jagannath himself owns 96,000 acres of land. ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’ is indeed a strange country. Almost all of this land is registered in the name of Jagannath himself with benami owners, which are the different Trusts in his name. How can a country governed by a secular constitution allow a non-person to own so much of land? The foundations for all related criminal activities by the followers of Jagannath are laid already in the tacit acceptance of this non-constitutional authority of religion in ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’. Incidentally Jagannath also owns land in Nepal.

Let us not single out Jagannath and crucify him in his absence. Though he is the biggest real estate owner in India he is not alone. Even Vinoba Bhave’s Boodhan Movement owns 56,000 acres of land in Orissa. The Movement was started to distribute land to the landless people. But today it stands as a giant and dances on the emaciated bodies of the landless poor in Orissa. The Corporates and religious institutions are in endless competition to outsmart one another in land grabbing. Did we not learn that Christians from Europe went to different continents, established their religion and finally plundered their land and resources? Spain even made a strategic plan of sending the missionaries first to those ‘barbarian’ lands, mollify the ‘uncivilized’ indigenous people with messages of love and forgiveness and then send the army and rulers to capture the countries. There is always a precedent. India is a land of ancient precedents.

Is there any wonder then that rivalry based on real estate interests in the two managerial fellows of Jagannath temple was out to draw each other’s blood. One of them succeeded. The other did not survive to succeed. Is there any wonder then that the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Mutt in Tamilnadu is still fighting a battle to liberate himself from the shackles of murder that he weaved around himself. It is another thing that Jayalalitha and Jayendra Saraswathi actually are perpetuating a historical fight between the Shivites and the Vishnavites among the Brahmins. If a Shankaracharya can be put behind bars for having allegedly murdered one of his managerial staff why not minions like Pratihari and Mohapatra follow suit. In all likelihood Lord Jagannath will save Pratihari from the clutches of law. After all judges too are believers in one or other god. They cannot sacrifice god given laws and morals for the sake of constitutional laws and secular morality. Did you hear of the high court judge in Allahabad cleansing his judicial chambers with dirty waters of Ganges? His predecessor was a Dalit judge. That was the difference between faith and constitution.

Murder plots replaced mantras within the precincts of the temple. Gun replaced Trishul of the deity. Blood replaced holy water. One thing can never be replaced. That is money. You may use anything and replace anything if only if it can bring money and more money. Ask Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupathi, the swallower of black money. He will vouch for it. Unfortunately we do not have Sai Baba alive now. Otherwise we would have had a living witness of the ultimate utility of religion, temples, gods and their cohorts.

 It is the historical tension of transition that India is facing. Religion was the epicenter of human life for many millennia. God was the epicenter of all religions. The Shamanic tradition of the indigenous peoples and the personality of Buddha posed the biggest challenge to the centrality of god. However, religion with god at its center as a human institution became and remained the strongest instrument of governance. Kings and emperors used religion as a handy tool to bring people into subjugation. Constantine coverted Christianity into a State religion and Ashoka converted Buddhism into a State religion. Religion played an effective role in providing meaning and legitimization even to the types of slavery of people that monarchs established. Many periods of enlightenment, industrialization, capitalism, socialism, rationalism etc. relegated religion to the periphery of governance.

 Modernism, globalization and postmodernism have replaced religion from governance by establishing nation states and non-theo centric constitutions. India’s struggle for independence and the subsequent conflicts of transitions did not completely succeed in relegating religion to the periphery. The tension of transition was brought to the social levels already from 1906 by forces of fascism. Caste groups, specifically Brahminism that enjoyed unlimited economic and political benefits of religion could not let go off it just for the sake of a secular constitution that wanted to provide space for all citizens. India has not overcome this tension in transition. It is like an oscillating scale. Sometimes the ancient position of religions seems to take the epicenter of governance in India. At other times everyone speaks of the primacy of constitution.

 It can never be disputed that though India has a secular constitution the role of religion, the role of caste governance have not yet taken the back seat in the mechanisms of governance. Unless this tension of transition is reduced by relegating religion to its due place India is only going to continue the topsy-turvy development that it is successfully implementing through the products of Harvard University.

 How does a nation reduce this tension of transition? Very simple! Restore religion to its original role. It has to be a mechanism of internal governance of communities and not be at the centre of governance in a modern nation state. Let Hindus use their Scriptures for the internal governance of their communities. Let Muslims use Koran for their internal governance. Let Christians use the Bible. Let Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Dalits etc. use their Scriptures for their internal governance. But let no one try to make their religious scripture as the governing document of the nation state called India. Let the constitution of India become the epicenter of governance of the country. As long as institutions of any one religion is allowed to dictate terms to the mechanisms of governance in a multicultural nation like India, the march forward with our back to the future will become inevitable. Let all religious institutions come under the governing principles of a constitution. This will mean taking away the land that is unjustly owned by these institutions and distributing the same among landless people in the country. It will mean not allowing the authority systems of religions, the mutts, the ashrams, the churches etc. to have even the slightest excuse to escape from their constitutional responsibility, much less to subvert the functioning of the constitution in the name of safeguarding religion.

But then India has entered into a shameless era where the Corporate is gradually replacing the role that religion hitherto played. India has entered an era where a Prime Minister had to lay down her life just because she wanted to establish the rule of law. This is where rulers in India or citizens in India have to wake up to the biggest challenge of governance. The citizen should not be placed in a helpless situation of choosing between the devil and the deep sea, I mean between the powers of religion and the powers of corporatism. If this happens you will have either a country of enslaved citizens or a country that will be in eternal civil war. The Orissa event, which is only the tip of the iceberg must alert citizens of the deeply embedded rock underneath. It is high time to wake up, ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’.