Whose Ram Rajya Are We Talking About?
Whose Ram Rajya Are We Talking About?
My daughter asked me “Appa, what is Ram Rajya?” I sighed deeply for I am not a Ram bhakt. I am in fact a khambhakt(hard boiled) with respect to mythology or our tradition. I began my narration.
Our citizens are fooled and lulled into the delusion about the mythic Ram Rajya (Realm of Lord Rama). When one talks of Ramayana, I wonder which of the 300 versions of Ramayana does one talk about it? For the Buddhists, Ravana never existed and there was no case of abduction. For the Srilankans, Ravana avenged his sister’s humiliation and he was a great Shiva devotee, musician, Ayurvedic scholar and a man who invented the “pushpak (name of ancient aircraft).” Within India Jains have their own version, in which Rama was a non-violent; adivasis (triblas) have their own version. Let us understand what Ram Rajya meant for two of our greatest leaders, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Ambedakar.
To quote Gandhi“BY RAMARAJYA I do not mean Hindu Raj. I mean by Ramarajya Divine Raj, the Kingdom of God. For me Rama and Rahim are one and the same deity. I acknowledge no other God but the one God of truth and righteousness.” He further elaborated that Ram Rajya was one where the meanest citizen could be sure of swift justice without an elaborate and costly procedure and my dream of Ram Rajya ensures equal rights alike of prince and pauper. In one of his essays he describes political independence as Ramarajya i.e., sovereignty of the people based on pure moral authority. He further said that “there can be no Ramarajya in the present state of iniquitous inequalities in which a few roll in riches and the masses do not get even enough to eat … my opposition to the Socialists and other consists in attacking violence as a means of effecting any lasting reform. My Hinduism teaches me to respect all religions. In this lies the secret of Ramarajya.”
Contrast this with what we hear today. RSS Leaders say that in India everyone is Hindu whatever the religion that one may follow. would that be acceptable to non-Hindus? One hears of people beaten up if they don’t chant Jai Shri Ram. This chant has become the new slogan for one’s nationalistic credentials.
However, Dr Ambedkar was not impressed with the idea of Ram or his Rajya. In his seminal work on Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar argues that Ram perpetuated the four varnas system. Ram ensured that transgression did not happen in his kingdom and cites the example of the killing of Shambuka, a Shudra. The ascetic was blamed for doing tapasya (austerity) — which, according to the Varna system, was a crime for Shudra — and causing the death of a Brahmin boy. According to the Dharma, the duty of the Shudras consisted only in the service of the twice-born. Ambedkar wrote, “Some people seem to blame Rama because he… without reason killed Shambuka. But to blame Rama for killing Shambuka is to misunderstand the whole situation. Ram Raj was… based on Chaturvarnya (four caste). As a king, Rama was bound to maintain Chaturvarnya. It was his duty therefore to kill Shambuka, the Shudra, who had transgressed his class and wanted to be a Brahmin. This is the reason why Rama killed Shambuka. But this also shows that penal sanction is necessary for the maintenance of Chaturvarnya. Not only penal sanction is necessary, but penalty of death is necessary. That is why Rama did not inflict on Shambuka a lesser punishment.”
Justice was elusive in Ram Rajya.
Ambedkar was appalled by the manner in which Ram killed Vali. In his book Riddles in Hinduism, Ambedkar lamented, “This murder of Vali was the greatest blot on the character of Rama. It was a crime which was thoroughly unprovoked, for Vali had no quarrel with Rama. It was a most cowardly act, for Vali was unarmed. It was a planned and premeditated murder.” Like a good lawyer, Ambedkar argued against Sugriva, calling his act of proclaiming himself king “a clear case of usurpation”. “Sugriva should have ascertained, should not merely have assumed that Vali was dead. Secondly, Vali had a son by name Angad whom Sugriva should have made the king as the legitimate heir of Vali.” And, yet, in Ram Rajya, it was Sugriva who wins Ram’s support while Vali is killed in a deceptive manner.
Ram Rajya, too, was a patriarchal state.
Ambedkar was most critical of the manner in which Ram treated his wife Sita. He narrates this aspect of Ram’s life in great detail in Riddles in Hinduism. He cites from Valmiki’s Ramayana about Ram’s utterances to Sita when the latter comes to see her after his victory over Ravana: “I have got you as a prize in a war after conquering my enemy, your captor I have recovered my honour and punished my enemy… I did not take this trouble for your sake….I suspect your conduct. You must have been spoiled by Ravana… I allow you to go anywhere you like. I have nothing to do with you.” Ambedkar laments that it would be difficult to believe any man with ordinary human kindness could address his wife in such dire distress as Rama did to Sita. In the Ram Rajya, Sita was twice asked to prove her purity and chastity, and is abandoned, based on gossip, “in a somewhat advanced state of pregnancy in a jungle, without friends, without provision, without even notice – in a most treacherous. In the final act, according to Ambedkar, “Sita preferred to die rather than return to Rama who had behaved no better than a brute. Such is the tragedy of Sita and the crime of Rama the God.”
The suppression against women and Dalits continue even today not to mention the hatred for Muslims and adivasis as well. Gandhiji talked of swift justice and we know how fast and how fair does the justice system work. Everyone is not an Arnab Goswami for the Supreme Court to get provoked into calling attention for individual liberties. We have the middle and upper class glued to Ramayana in the TV while the poor migrants were doing a great internal exodus. Our PM extols the virtue of sacrifice by the poor for the welfare of the nation. He didn’t blink even once in declaring a national lockdown with a four- hour notice. While, we are being told about green shoots and recovery of economy well the migrants continue to languish. Migrants from Orissa continue to get poor pay and overworked. Such stories will emerge in the near future as well. We know how the government has dispensed with labour laws in the name of ease of doing business.
Does then Ram Rajya is about building the grandeur Ram temple and establishing the Vedic city at Ayodhya?
My daughter then said “I thought Ramayana was a simple love story between Rama and Sitha but his rule, should it be so complicated as you make it sound?” She further asked “I do agree with Ambedkar, if Ram and Sitha were separated why was it Sitha alone was asked to prove her chastity? And why did she have to oblige Ram?”
“I agree with Mahatma when he said justice should be accessible to the common man. Why is the Chief Justice not keen on Article 32? When the commoners are put behind bars at the whim of the state/rulers what then becomes of justice?” my daughter asked rhetorically.
“Why the hell in the last six years things have got so complicated while it didn’t happen that way since independence?” she continued.
“I also thought that with education comes enlightenment. But why are we people voting for mythology as against empowerment?” she bombarded me with such questions.
As I didn’t have any answers, I said we are just commoners but our mighty ruler knows what is good for the country. Like the majority of our country men we shall impose faith in Him and live in peace.