Doing a Varanasi in Delhi is monkey business. Narendra Modi is Member Parliament from Varanasi. Varanasi by the river Ganga is famous for worship of the river in the evening. The lamps lighted and chanting of Aarti (prayer) lend a kind of mystique to the believers. The truth is it is good business for the priests. Such rites are responsible for the widely prevalent conservatism in the Hindu society. Instead of discouraging them, the new breed of politicians is unabashedly out to exploit further for vote politics. There is no other reason for the Delhi government to start the Yamuna Aarti in Delhi from 13th November 2015. The Delhi Chief Minister (Delhi is not a full-fledged State like UP but only a Union Territory administered by the Government of India), who challenged the Prime Minister in Varanasi lost his security deposit and has a personal grudge against him. He imagines that by aping the Ganga Aarti in Delhi, he can derive all the benefits that Varanasi does by the Ganga Aarti. He is mistaken. Delhi is no holy city as Varanasi (Banaras & Kashi are its other names). There can be no greater insult to Hindu religion than such a crass heresy for political gains.
It is an example of the greed of the priests to have agreed to perform the Aarti for a few silver coins. One of the reasons for more than 1100 years of India’s slavery was such greed of the priests, who had no qualms of conscience in putting the Tilak (Holy mark on the forehead) on the forehead of the enemy. Such rites chain a society to superstition and backwardness. The chief Minister of Delhi is a graduate from the IIT. He is expected to promote scientific temperament. He criticizes the Narendra Modi led BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party), calling it communal (meaning it is not secular but Hindu religious party) but practices anti-secularism by reviving conservatism, superstition and rituals, denigrated as Karmakand by elite Hindus. Delhi has voted his political party because of the votes of the Muslim and Christian voters, who are opposed to such ceremonies. Why is the Chief Minister of Delhi sinking back into the conservative, reactionary, obscurantist, anti-progressivism of the BJP kind? He needs the votes of the Hindus. So, he thinks, the Hindus in Delhi are so foolish as to fall for his guile by these monkey tricks! He is mistaken. Hindus will teach him a good lesson as they have toppers of IITs, IIMs, IISc, IIFT, AIIMS and other institutes, whom he would find difficult to trick.
The priest class must wake up to the present times. They harm themselves only by performing and promoting such rites. Already, a major chunk of the community had moved away to other sects. Secularism has done it more harm as it is practiced by the Hindu community alone. All others have their personal laws applicable to them. The Muslim personal Law Board even has been pursuing a programme titled “Faith & Constitution”. It is worth watching. It hides in English words more than it reveals. It means the Muslim personal law is above the Constitution of India. Secular Muslim scholars have spoken publicly that in a democracy religion follows the common law of the land passed by the parliament. Many such scholars have expressed the fears of ordinary members of the Muslim community that they will be branded Kafir by the religious leadership if they were to express similar secular views. The Hindus take pride in calling themselves secular and the Constitution of India their Holy Book. There hardly goes a day without foul-mouthing the Hindu beliefs in the media by politicians, writers, scientists of indigenous or foreign origin or residence. One reason for their narrow view of Hinduism is the fragility of belief displayed by the priest class, which can agree to denigration of the Hindu religion to any extent for money, rather than giving a call to resolutely discourage such attempts. Peace is mistaken for cowardice and even advocates of the ISIS have the guts to use terms like Hindu Terrorists/ Hindu Extremists/ Hindu Talibans, because they have nothing to fear. If Hindus start taking offence at such attempts to depict a cultured society as Taliban, nobody will ever dare to do so. For this, the Hindu priests must resolve never to perform the kind of Aarti the Delhi government arranged for Yamuna . A government that freely discharges millions of gallons of sewerage into river Yamuna has no right to perform an Aarti of the dirty Yamuna.
Is the Delhi government trying to suggest that Hindus can worship even a dirty river like the Yamuna at Delhi? Such an insult should not be taken lightly. Unless the Hindu society in Delhi rebuffs such unholy attempts of the Delhi government, other faiths will heap more insults on them. Pooja can’t be offered so cheaply. It needs to be upgraded properly. River Yamuna needs cleaning and rejuvenation and no amount of Yamuna Aarti can ever do it. Use scientific methods to clean the river. Stop Aarti business until the river is restored to its pious cleanliness and become the Holy Yamuna once again. It will take decades before this objective is achieved if started today. If Aarti is employed to restore the health of the river, it will take centuries before it becomes clean and rejuvenated. Presently it is so polluted that the Delhi Pollution Control Board has measured the BOD (biological oxygen demand) , a measure for the amount of polluting organic material in the river at 30 mg/1, about 13 times the permissible limit and chemical oxygen (COD) at 116 mg/1. The river is very dirty. It needs scientific cleaning and not superstition.
It is now for every member of the society severally and jointly to decide on the option to be exercised. Superstitions can and have always been harmful for the people but superb commercial ventures for the priests in all societies and now for the politicians. Here is a short version of a story which I read some 4o years ago. In a desert village one day, water started flowing at some spot. It took a few minutes for the priest to arrive there. As soon as he arrived, he announced that it was the Holy River Ganga which has appeared for the benefit of the people. He advised the poor villagers to arrange for a Pooja and bring the necessary offerings for the purpose. In no time everything was arranged and he started the rites. Soon the whole village descended at the spot. Late in the afternoon, however, a jeep load of people arrived with machines and asked them to clear the place. The angry villagers led by the priest demanded to know the reason. They were informed that the water pipelines passing through the village had burst and the water was flowing from it and needed to be fixed.
There is no scope for revival of conservatism. No more karmakand or unreasonable rituals. No superstitions. No more backwardness. No magic. No illusions. No delusions for king Emperor or Chief Minister. It is modern India, a respectable member of the knowledge society.