Doubly pious: Editorial on Mohan Bhagwat's recent speech
Pious politics and piety in religious beliefs are far from contradictory. Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, demonstrated that in a recent speech. Finding a shivalinga in every mosque and beginning a movement around it is not something ‘they’ are interested in — presumably that includes the Bharatiya Janata Party and the rest of the sangh parivar. This is in tune with the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya ruling, which referred to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, that except in the Babri-Masjid case, there can be no conversion of the religious character of any place of worship from what it was on August 15, 1947. But in the same breath, Mr Bhagwat strongly espoused the cause of Hindus with regard to the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, declaring that it was not merely a matter of faith but of ‘historical fact’. The discovery of an alleged shivalinga by a court-ordered survey team has established this ‘fact’ although the mosque management identified it as part of a defunct fountain. Here Mr Bhagwat contradicted the rest of the Places of Worship Act which states that no such dispute would be entertained in any tribunal or court. But courts are there to judge ‘facts’, are they not?
Speaking in multiple voices is not new for the RSS-BJP. Both the BJP president, J.P. Nadda, and Mr Bhagwat have generously stated that the courts will decide. The enormous confidence gained from the Ram Janmabhoomi verdict, the BJP’s majority in Parliament and the number of states it governs, the task of polarization being carried out ceaselessly by sangh parivar foot soldiers and the success this has brought are all reflected in this large-hearted sentiment. If courts countenance these disputes — the Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura is the other one — who is going to call Mr Bhagwat out for inconsistency, hypocrisy and cleverly insinuated incitement? That a sadhu should demand he be allowed to pray at the shivalinga and threaten to go on a fast upon being prevented by court orders shows how the Hindutva version of the majoritarian religion is daring the rule of law. The danger to the secular Indian republic has never been greater. There are now two clearly diverging paths. People will have to decide which they wish to follow.