Sunday, September 29, 2013

State, temple and corporates: constructs and micro identities in postmodern India

Kaleidoscope and queen were amazed and shocked to find Mr P in Levi-Strauss jean and denim shirt in Varanasi as being part of the family which owns all but four temples of the old city. Mr P is a Brahmin and a saint who does not need to 'sacrifice' any of the earthy comforts to attain Moksha. Mr. P belongs to a considerably large group of many other such saints and leads a life which is quite contradictory to the common constructs associated with saints.

God man and not so godly pursuits:

Quite obvious, this section devotes itself in discussing Asaram's alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl. It appears that the girl and her parents are made to believe that she is possessed by some evil spirit and Asaram being a guru is with the power to drive it off. Asaram's ideology is anti-western, anti-non vegetarian, anti-sexuality as he says if one removes these 'antis' s/he perpetuates evil side of human beings such as aggression, wrath, etc. He advises not to fall in love before marriage, abstain sexual intercourse for pleasure as it is for the continuation of life cycle. He further advises to stop celebrating valentine's day, and also talks in favour of rapists who raped and killed the medical student in New Delhi. 

For Asaram the saint Kaleidoscope and the Queen meet at Varanasi is perpetuating evil side of their personalities.

The constructs: 

Asaram and people like Asaram projects the image of saint that is well nurtured by the mainstream media. Socialisation and social constructs are intermixed for the perpetuating their hegemony. Throughout life people tend to identify themselves with their parents, teachers and heroes. Therefore when Asaram and the like shares dais with leaders of such height as L K Advani, Narendra Modi or Uma Bharati it leaves significant effect on people's mind. When Bollywood superstars vow their respects towards these godmen the  powerful constructs embodied by them are formidable. Despite of many cases of murder, sexual assault and land grab Asaram has considerable power in BJP ruled states such as MP, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. Asaram's arrest has been projected by VHP as an attack to weaken Hindu culture and Hindu ideology. These acts often go unnoticed but smoothly blends faith, politics and money. 

Interestingly all these happen in a time when Science and Technology dominates much like the Pharaohs of Egypt and Zamindar's of Bengal. While Science and Technology bring new barbarism, religious pursuits are even more powerful. One instance would show the nature of constructivism in neo-liberal India. The solar eclipse of 1980 was a phenomenon that people were advised by the televisions to avoid, people avoided. The 1995 eclipse was promoted by television as a spectacle and people watched the spectacle. Interestingly in the same year the country was moved by the miraculous milk drinking Ganesh. Constructs, stereotypes and myths are created, recreated and killed everyday.

Liberalisation and India's own special ways:

Godmen like Asaram project their agendas against west and aspects of 'other' culture that comes with post liberal era of the country. However, strategically Asaram and others like Ramdev uses political clout which surrounds them, encash Hindu sentiments promoted by several political parties and voluntary organisations, build their empire on leased and discounted lands from states, collect donations from sections of rich Indians in India and in Abroad, collect money from temples that tend to grow like mushrooms. They are successful in attracting corporate fundings from organisations which seek to encash from religious tourism, healthcare and education industries. Neo-liberal India sees free flow capital along with a blend of states, temples and corporates effectively. Under Neo-liberal regime India attract private capitals from both global and indigenous players. It has become relatively easy to club up money from people and corporates to form religious-cum-business empires. Saints whom Kaleidoscope and the Queen meet in the Varanasi, with whom they dine together, talk over hours and share a special friendship are therefore sidelined, although Mr. P cannot overthrow the political clout which surrounds him just because he is part of the family which owns numerous temples in the holy city. 

The rest, the dominant discourse of sainthood run patanjali, get funding for Art of Life (AOL) form Infosys, get land from the state, spread Hinduttava among the tribals of MP, Chhatisgarh and then they allegedly rape girls, kill people, and encroach lands all for sake of faith and value of a age old tradition collectively called the Hinduism.



  1. We know India is in a constant flux between her multi-religious domain and postmodern challenge. People like Asaram are making most out of India's neo-liberal policy. So far I think it is an obvious outcome of extremely powerful global forces on local and micro identities which feel the threat of extinction. So people like Asaram will continue to dominate and will not come under scanner until they commit something like this.

  2. Well this represents political strategies of parties like BJP in mixing cultural capitalism along with neo-liberalism. These strategies like any strategies have both sides. While the same strategy excel in promoting ganga aarati in varanasi, Durga Puja in Kolkata (although BJP does not have significant influence in Kolkata, here the role is played by non-left parties), and Ganesh festival in Mumbai, it also involves other sides where spiritual gurus like asaram continue to dominate.

  3. When CMs like Mamata Banerjee declares Imam allowance to enhance and continue her politics based on communalism isn't she promote people like Asaram? Asaram is not an individual, he must be seen as embodying a whole generation of people in neo-liberal India.

  4. Thanks for sharing this post...............