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The World of Sadhus

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

By Rajesh Pradhan
Orient BlackSwan, Noida, 2014, pp. 324, Rs. 695.00


Dark-gray cloud masses Obscuring the horizon Mile after mile after mile, Traversing forested hills, Skirting inaccessible jungles, Childishly aggressive, Swift as wing they covered The face of earth. Some did handsprings Stamped their feet, Clambered up hills, Roaring and screaming, Lakhs and lakhs of them, Energetic vanars... The above excerpt from the Valmiki Ramayan’s ‘Yudhkand’ has for long been relevant to the birth of a new political discourse in India with Lord Rama at the epicentre in the dying decades of the twentieth century and thereafter. On several occasions a large number of citizens of contemporary India acted like characters described in these lines of the epic and at times they donned different garbs. On occasions, they have also not cheered the mythical hero, his memory or even sought to resurrect his dominance; but have often—like in Varanasi on one evening in May 2014—lined up on streets to cheer their own personification of the hero who, they believed, had capacity to provide them deliverance from bad days and ensure the arrival of the euphemistic achche din.  Hindu nationalistic politics in India from the mid-1980s has a fairly lengthy continuous narrative and can be viewed from different perspectives and with an assortment of stereotypes as main protagonists. Within the narrative of electoral politics, the dramastis personae was led—in the late-1980s and early-1990s by Lal Krishna Advani and by  2008 had begun to be increasingly dominated by Narendra Modi. In contrast, within the motley assembly of allied organizations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in the late 1980s and 1990s there were ageing gents like the wiry Ashok Singhal who, though the inverse of Advani in gentility, articulated the same worldview. Though Singhal remains the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s presiding deity, the organization has reached a crossroads. That however, is a different tract. As a reporter writing on the Ayodhya dispute in the years immediately after the locks were controversially opened and the shrine thrown open to Hindu devotees, there was a maze to wade through—literally to the actual site in Ayodhya past the numerous bylanes and hundreds of temples—both forsaken and engaged. There was also this complex web of organizations, bodies and individuals, each claiming the stewardship of the agitation. For a long time it was tough to comprehend the interdependence of these organizations and how a set up like the Shri Ram Janabhoomi Mukti ...

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