Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajaman: Susmita Dasgupta

[In this guest post, Susmita Dasgupta throws light on some important aspects of the Ayodhya issue that have been misunderstood. First, she argues that there is an anomaly in treating the Nirmohi Akhara as a “Hindu” group, when in fact historically, akharas (aakhra in Bengali) were gymnasiums associated with sects that were usually opposed to organized and/or textual religions like Hinduism and Islam and claimed themselves to be non-Hindus. More importantly, she points out that the worship of the child-God – Ram Lalla, or Balkishan – was an important ingredient of defiance against organized religion. The Hindu appropriation of Ram Lalla, she argues, is therefore the greatest anomaly in the case, and this is the anomaly, she suggests, that historians should have focused on.]

Archaeologists are divided over the issue of whether a Ram Temple at all existed under the dome of the Babri Masjid and the Muslim theologicians are divided over whether the Babri is a legitimate mosque at all because in Islam if a mosque is built over a heathen’s structure of worship then it is not fit for prayers. Historians from JNU are almost universally concerned that whatever the archaeology is, the mosque should remain intact as a historical monument. The secularists are upset that the fictitious Ram Lalla be accepted as a party to a dispute and every structure of the Muslims could be pulled down on the flimsiest belief that the land archaeologically belonged to the Hindus. Such a judgment would then be a precedent in pulling down every mosque in the land and may even cast aspersions on the continued existence of the Taj Mahal and Red Fort !! I, too share similar concerns.

But historians of such caliber have failed to note the greatest anomaly of the case and which is the confounding of the Nirmohi Akhara as Hindu. The akhara is a gymnasium, a place where people are supposed to do their exercises, train in weights and various kinds of martial arts and athletics. Akharas were somewhat like the youth clubs and became as central to various mystic cults like Sufis, Bauls, Vaishnavs and Rampanthis and even certain sects of the Sikhs. The akhara was the same to these cults as the temple was to the Hindus and the mosque for the Muslims. Important saints like Ramdas, Namdeo, Eknath, Tukaram and others had veritable akharas. These sects were usually opposed to organized and/or textual religions like Hinduism and Islam and claimed themselves to be non-Hindus. They were influenced by Vaishnavism, the Bhakti and even some surviving remnants of Buddhism and Jainism.

These sects also had influences of the yogis, a cult based around the yoga method of exercises, which developed around the 12th century AD. The confounding of physical exercises with spiritual achievements is not new to India because such have been the ways of the Ninja in Japan. In fact, martial arts have invariably been tied to monasteries that were outside the fold of ecclesiastical religions. Nirmohi Akhara as the name suggests was one of the numerous instances of a “non-Hindu” sect.

An important ingredient of defiance against the organized religion was the worship of balkishan and ramlalla, infants or child gods. This is because the child has no sense of social discrimination, and because of its defecation and urination breaks the purity barriers constantly, the image of the God as a child is therefore a profane one. In due course of time, the Krishna worshippers could climb into the Hindu fold because Krishna has a Puranic backing. Unfortunately Ram who was only a fiction hero without a Puranic text to validate him, remained a God worshipped by these marginal sects, eventually the untouchables. Nirmohi Akhara is one such sect of marginals who exist autonomously and with equal mixing of Hinduism and Islam.

The Ramlalla Virajaman as God literally means a star, a fictitious character that evolves, grows, matures, ages and even dies rather than the absolute and fixed God like a Hindu deity or a Semitic God.

Therefore, the Hindu appropriation of Ram Lalla is the greatest anomaly in the case and the cause for the dispute.

The historians should have ideally argued over the Hindu claim over Ram rather than proceed to sieve archaeological evidence of whether there was or not a temple beneath the mosque. One has no idea of how the Hindus could suddenly lay a claim on Ram worship, which typically has never been a God in the Hindu pantheon. There are numerous deities across the country, tasla devi, bhadu, phullara, ashaan bibi and many others who are worshipped by the local persons irrespective of their religion. These deities pertain to sects that do not belong to the mainstream religions. The worship of Ram Lalla at the premises of the Babri Masjid, where the Muslims also prayed together with the Rambhakts have been a vindication of practices in India that are neither wholly Hindu nor fully Islamic.

The anomaly in this case was that a local worship became appropriated and hijacked by interests of the metropolis and this the historians of eminence should have noticed and investigated rather than fall into the trap of having to categorize something in terms of mainstream religions.

45 thoughts on “Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajaman: Susmita Dasgupta”

  1. What? Is Ram didn’t have any puranic backing? and Hinduism appropriated Ram? May be you don’t know about lots and lots of temples existing for Ram. If that is your case, there wont be any Hindu temple. Technically every temple is locally worshiped so you can say that it is a local temple not belongs to Hinduism. But you dont understand why Hindu agams and silpa sastras existing to mandate how to build a temple and set process for worshiping.

    I am surprised that you haven’t invoked Aryan Invasion Theory to justify the demolition of the temples.

    FYI- Nimohi means not attached. It not attached to other akharas but attached with hinduism.

    Rajasankar

    1. Aryan inavsion has little reckoning among Rampanthis. Ram is worshipped as a human being as opposed to Gods. Do read Tagore for elaboration on Ram worship. All his works are presently translated. Ram becomes a generic term for man, or person, or an individual.

      As far as the temples go, they are not exclusive to Hinduism. Jews, Parsis and strange sects in Orissa that are part Bactrian, part Greek, part Zoroaster that have built the famous Sun Temple.

  2. There are two problems with such critiques.

    First problem is at a conceptual level. When this critique tries to prove what is “Hindu” and what is “not Hindu”, resultantly it also tries to arrive at a “true” definition of “the Hindu”. Politically, differentiating between the “true hindu” and the “co-opted hindu” is a dangerously labyrinthine project. This effectively leads the debate to certain definitional questions, which can be manipulated easily by the Hindutvabadis to define “Hinduism” as they wish to define. Even historically, the growth and evolution of Hinduism is so nebulous and multi-layered, it’s diffcult to settle the claim unequivocally about what is “Hindu” and what is not. Moreover, if one settles for a rigid definition of the “Hindu”, then it tends to negate the idea of tolerance and pluralism within the religious traditions, which have proved to be an effective instrument against various hues of religious bigotry and fundamentalism.

    Second problem is more specific, and has to do with the definition of “akharas”. I’m not sure if akharas, like Juna, Niranjani etc. tracing their lineage to “Dashanami/Ekdandi” sampradaya founded by Adi Shankara can be classified as “non-hindu”. I’m not sure if the Vaishnavite “tridandi” sects can be considered outside the Hindu spiritual hierarchy as the author herself admitted “the Krishna worshippers could climb into the Hindu fold because Krishna has a Puranic backing”. Such religious offshoots are never easily amenable to such logical categorization. A good example here would be the Brahmo Samaj. Though it started as a eclectic reformist movement outside the traditional Hindu polytheism, the leaders of “Adi Brahmo Samaj” never considered themselves outside so-called “Hindu” society. In fact people like Debendranth Tagore have actively collaborated with the orthodox Hindu leaders to “better and preserve the Hindu religion”. His eldest son Dwijendranath was quite eloquent about this in his conversation with Krishnakamal Bhattacharjee. I’m also curious about Rama’s Puranic non-existence, when there’re quite popular texts like Vishnupurana and Bhagabatpurana.

    It would be better if the author has cited references to support her claim.

    Though it may be a fascinating exercise to analyse the origin and development of today’s “Sanatan Hindu Dharma” historically and theologically, I don’t think it serves any serious political purpose. I presume most of the secular historians are well aware of this blind alley and hence they deliberately shunned it.

    1. Try telling a Brahmo that he is a Hindu; try telling a Baul that he is a Hindu or a Muslim. What religion does Lallan Fakir belong to? or for that matter what religion is Fakirism? What was Kabir, Hindu or Muslim, or what was Nanak’s religion? What religion did Dadu belong to? India has a long history of religions that are neither Hindu nor Islamic.

      The term aakhra started with the yogis of the 12th century AD, and later on all Bhakti sects had aakhras. The Vaishnav Aakhra, or aakhras of Fakirs are mentioned very often in Sarat Chandra’s Srikanta.

    2. I’m sorry to say that this reply doesn’t address most of my questions.

      However, taking a cue from the author one may ask: try telling Mahant Bhaskar Das of Nirmohi Akhara that he is not a Hindu.

      My contention was not to prove that Brahmos are Hindus or Kabirpanthis are Hindus. The purpose of religious syncretism is defeated when one tries water-tight compartmentalisation of such sects into “Hindu” and “non-Hindu”. Nuances of historical evolution will be the unwilling martyr of such a categorisation project.

      There’s another paradox, not central to the argument but important nonetheless. I think the author is mixing up between “Identity” and “Identification” (a la Deepesh Chakrabarty) while positing her hypothesis. When “Nirmohi Akhara” is being categorized as “non-Hindu”, the process of “identification” is being followed. In her reply, when she is asking rhetorically to ask Brahmos whether they are Hindu or not, then what becomes important is not the history of Brahmos but how Brahmos want to see themselves, i.e their “identity”. What’s the yardstick here? How do we measure the “Hnduness” or “non-Hinduness” of a specific sect- by asking how they see themselves or by asking how they are seen by others?

  3. Nivedita/ Susmita

    A very interesting pot I have never heard this argument before. I was just wondering, that the part about the Akhara is in italics. Is that to supply emphasis only or are you quoting some text?

    Either way, can you give a link or the source you have relied on? I would really like to read up more on this.

    Thanks

    1. Rahul, I have posted Susmita’s article as a guest post, with an introductory paragraph in italics. Only the introductory para (in square brackets) should appear in italics, if there are other parts in italics, that is some sort of glitch not visible to me on my computer.
      Susmita will respond to other queries I assume, as and when she reads them.

  4. Many do question if Ram is a myth? Ofcourse with so saying, I dont want to offend many of the people here and outside. It wont be a bad idea to talk on the issue?

  5. No, Ram is not a myth. He is fiction. The various Rampanthis adhere to Ram as a fictitious character because of his being a Virajaman, which literally means on an as is where is basis.

  6. Nivedita/Susmita

    This is rather interesting perspective on the origins and history of akharas and their, according to you, non religious nature. But don’t the Nirmohi Akhara declare themselves to be a Hindu religious organisation?

    I believe they are headed by a mahant, and correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a mahant a Hindu religious leader?

    1. Devika,

      Mahants are also in gurudwaras. Nirmohis say that they are Ram worshippers and Ram is worshipped by untouchables many of who are of nn-Hindu origins. Please follow my longer note at the end of this page where I mention how many untouchable castes were actually of non-Hindu religions. No wonder Dr Ambedkar asked the Dalits to abandon Hinduism because the religion had abandoned them.

  7. Susmita seems to be unaware of the difference between a monument and a disputed religious structure. How exactly does this judgement cast aspersions on the continued existence of Taj Mahal and Red Fort?

    1. Neelakshi,

      The religious structure was pulled down because it was a sign of Muslim conquest and eventual domination of Hindus in India. So monuments too may follow suit.

  8. Hey,

    This is new. I read a lot of debates about Ayodhya but this one just takes the cake. Completely different from the others.

    I would just like to point a few things out.

    1) The Nirmohi Akhara is in fact a HINDU group.

    a)Definition of the Nirmohi Akhara: Nirmohi Akhara is a Hindu religious sect of the Vaishnavite order. It was established in 1720 by Ramanandacharya to counter the growing influence of Shaivism. (Sadly not 12th century. But dates never matter)
    b) The use of the word Akhara was done to symbolize the rebellious nature of the group which you pointed out. So its not literally an Akahara per say but a play on that word.

    So that almost clears the religion of the Akhara.

    As far as the Ayodhya suit is concerned, its not a Religion fight.
    Its a simple land dispute with 3 ligitants
    i.e. Ram Lalla represented in the court as God is considered a minor, Nirmohi Akhara and the Waqf Board.

    It doesnt matter here who is of which religion.THus the question of whether Nirmohi Akhara is Hindu/Muslim or any other religion doesnt arise. (Although after research, we now know it is, but anyways)

    The religious undertones to the case are irelavant as long as all the parties can prove their case in the court. And that is what happened at the verdict.

    Just my 2 pennies. Hope i did not hurt any religious or rather irreligious sentiments here :)

    1. Raj,
      I agree that the dispute is a property dispute rather than a religious one. To the best of my understanding, neither the VHP nor the Waqf board should have been parties and the land should have been left to the Normohi Aakhras. The akhra is very common to Vaishnavs who at one point of time through Chaitanya, Vidyapati and Chandidas claimed to be very different from the Hindus. Saratchandra repeatedly mentions of characters who leave Hinduism to become Boshtomis, meaning Vaishnavites and go into Akhras. Later on Hinduism has appropriated many such distinct religions under its fold just as major languages such as Hindi or Bengali or Marathi have appropriated many dialects that could have been independent languages.

  9. it is not the akhara we should be questioning but the vhp which is dominated by atheists, arya samajis and saivites. at least the akhara chaps are proper sree vaisnava ram-bhaktas!

  10. I believe the VHP on behalf of Ram Lalla wants the entire plot of 67 acres or whatever to build the Ram temple. I get the impression that the Nirmohi Akhara is more open to the idea of sharing the land with a mosque. In fact – someone please correct me if I’m wrong – wasn’t there a period of time prior to 1949 when the mosque was being used for prayers and the Nirmohi Akhara was also using the outer courtyard for its prayers? If so, the idea of peaceful coexistence is not completely utopian so long as the Hindutvavadis are kept out.

    1. Yes, Rohini,

      It really seems as though the Hindutvavaadis have caused all the problems.

    1. Nirmohi Akhra wants ownership vis-a-vis the Sunni Waqf Board and VHP sides with the Akhra. But while admitting the suit, it seems that the courts way back in 1966 admitted the Akhra’s plea on grounds that it was a separate religion altogether, neither Hindu nor Muslim.

  11. Since I come from Bengal, being familiar with Shantiniketan and the entire area forming the bed of the Ajay river roughly known as the Radh, meaning land of the red soil, I am aware of various sects including the Bauls that belong neither to Hinduism or Islam. These Bauls, Sanyasis, Fakirs and “Boshtoms”, the last being a colloquial name for Vaishavs, usually have akhras. These akhras are seen everywhere and in fact if some of my friends and I sought out a hideout in the attic of our homes, the elders would refer to these dens as our akhra. The akhra, that literally means a gymnasium is also used to mean a den, or a camp to mark it out as a space that is aloof from the mainstream life.
    The Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay of Devdas and Parineeta fame, who also wrote his four part long Srikanta mentioned quite a bit of the Vaishnavs who at that time were eager to be “non-Hindus”. Tarashankar Bandopadhyay mentions (Saratchandra also does a few times) of bedeys, or snake people, who have strange religious beliefs and may have both Hindus and Muslims among them, signifying not so much of syncretism but of a distinct religion, or “mini religions” as we used to call them whenever we encountered them on trips to the villages. The cult of Satyapir, an Arab holyman who came as a part of Arab mystics while the Prophet was as yet alive and Islam was not born in the form that we know of it today. Satya Pir today has been absorbed in the Hindu cult as Satyanarayan, though he has no Puranic status. Shirni, chaal maakha and paanch kolai are prasads offered to Satyanarayan, the very items that the Hotel Marriott serves as Arab breakfast in Dubai !!
    In fact, Shirdi Saibaba is neither Hindu nor Muslim. Neither is Kabir nor Dadu, nor is Eknath. Nanak’s theology was neither Hindu nor Islam and not before Guru Govind did we know of the Sikh. Such sects, we may call them as pagans of Hinduism and Islam existed all through Indian history. Hazariprasad Dwivedi has encyclopaedic commentaries on such yogis, Nathpanthis (Naths being Christian mystics during the life time of Christ) and many other queer sects including the tantrics in central and eastern India, all of who were distinctly anti-Hindu. The Mir community to which Baiju Bawra belonged is once again such a community, being neither Hindu nor Muslim.
    Tagore has a long essay (I forget the exact name, but is available in English translation) where he mentions that while Krishna is a God in human form, Ram is a human in God form. The worship of Ram is a defiance of Gods and Tulsidas’s credit lies in religionising Ramayana, a story for children into a Holy text. He hints that Ram became a God for the untouchables who were denied access to Gods and Brahmins. Indeed, Kabir’s worship of Ram vindicates this position. Ram, Phullara, Manasa, Bhadu, Asanbibi, Bonbibi, Dakshin Ray and many others are worshipped in many parts of Bengal which do not belong to the mainstream religions. It is just like some languages are destined to remain mere dialects while some become major languages.
    Untouchables have often been non-Hindus. Buddhists have been regarded as untouchables in many parts of Bengal, so have been the Agrahari Sikhs from Bihar. In my mother’s ancestral village in the Ajay valley, Baghdis, an untouchable caste were Agrahari Sikhs and hence the name of the village as Nirole, which means a religious singing in the Guru Granth Sahib.
    The Nirmohi Akhra as the name suggests is in the line of such legacy. For the VHP to suddenly appropriate such a stand- alone sect is out of place. It is said that the Muslims and the Hindus offered prayers together at the mosque; but in case of Ram, Muslims and Hindus do offer prayers together. The Ramlila has many Muslim families who are tied by relations of jajmani to such performances just as in case of the jaatra in my mother’s village, both Muslim and Hindu families perform Vaishnav plays like Sayyid Ahliwal’s Padmavati and Jaydev, dramatizing the romance between the Burmese queen Padmavati and the poet Jaydev, in which Vaishnavism appears as being different from Hinduism.

    1. ” The worship of Ram Lalla at the premises of the Babri Masjid, where the Muslims also prayed together with the Rambhakts have been a vindication of practices in India that are neither wholly Hindu nor fully Islamic.”

      – Did the Muslims in Ayodhya worship Ram Lalla? Can you document this? Please dont try to see syncretism where it does not exist. Sometimes reality check is important – it may not be a good anti-Hindutva story, but that is immaterial.Also, if Nirmohi Akhara was “non-Hindu”, what is important what are they now – self-definitionally. Religion, like other human categories, is not a static thing.Why are the non-Hindu Rambhakts of the Nirmohi akhara siding with the “hindu” VHP?
      Why not with the Wakf board. From your article, it would seem that the akhada being some ostensibly non-Hindu formation, could also ally with the Wakf board and then 2/3 rd of the land can be used for “non-Hindu” purposes. You made a lot from – ask any ….. type pf statement. While the ask any type of statements are extremely unsuitable for taking discussions forward, since one makes experential claims that cannot be corroborated, I can only provide my own ask any. Ask any Muslim from the Wakf board side whethe the Nirmohi Akhada is a Hindu formation or not.

  12. @ Sushmita: What exactly are we debating here? Or more particularly what is the purpose of this debate?
    Has our country not been ravaged enough by communal riots? The primary reason for these riots has been the dogged persistence we seem to have in compartmentalizing and categorizing something as amorphous as faith. We are a nation of multiple faith and beliefs. Evolution of religion and religious practices is a sociological phenomenon that stretches over thousands of years. It is not pragmatic to assume we know everything about the process. If we do pretend, it would be acting somewhat like Arthur Balfour when he so portentously justified to the British Parliament, the British involvement in the Suez Canal Crisis with a series of “WE KNOW”. As Edward Said points out in his book Orientalism, Balfour could not have ‘Known’ the entire history of all that he called the Orient, which stretched over a period of more than 1300 years.

    It is my belief, no man in his right mind bays for the blood of his neighbour and friend in the name of religion. Religious tensions have been whipped up in our country quite systematically post the uprising of 1857. It began with the British in accordance to their policy of ‘divide and rule’ and continues to be an effective device in the hands of politicians with vested interest today.

    Is it not time already to wise up to this ominous condition? We hold the keys in our very hands to diffuse the situation, the first thing to do is to stop this misdirected desire to segregate, compartmentalize and “other” the bona fide citizen of our own country.

    Even if we are to pursue this topic from an academic point of view one must concede the fact that nothing is etched in stone. We cannot arrive at what we wish to call the moment of truth, the watershed point in history when everything as it were, was divided, simply because there is no such point in time. The Babri Masjid, regardless of whether it was built upon the ruins of a temple, was a hall of worship, a huge swathe of our population saw it as a signifier of of their faith. Its demolition caused anxiety and fear for personal security in many a heart. Likewise, whether Ram is a character of fiction or in fact an avatar of Lord Vishnu or in the least a historic Leader, he is worshipped by millions. Any attempt at defaming the figure of Ram or associated elements of reverence will only draw bitter resentment from his worshipers.
    At the root of this problem of ours today is xenophobia, which is ultimately threatening to tear our nation apart. No religion is better than the other, no form of worship any less worthy than another. The sooner we realize this the better. The first step in this direction will most definitely have to be the cessation of the process of ‘othering’.

    1. Pramit, I can see that you are more concerned in the way forward towards a communal harmony rather than in an academic debate. But my purpose of raising the issue of the Nirmohis was to point out that ours is not a society which is polarised into Hindu and Muslims which has been the entire point over the politicization of the Babri Masjid. The Babri Masjid was looked upon by the VHP as a symbol of Mughals and hence Muslim conquest of India and tearing it down was a way to remove a wrong done in the past to the Hindus.

      The courts admitted the plea of the Nirmohis as an equal claimant of land and contestant to the suit. In a way this has diffused much of the communal tension by bringing in a third force. My point is that historians would do well to delve into various such religions to stand as buffers between the polarisation of Hindus and Muslims.

  13. A healthy debate is on here and I am quite sure none of the participants here could ever support or patronize a group who indulges in violence. But what is their percentage in term of total population? Do they or can they stop the unscrupulous politicians and vested interest from taking advantage of the illierate masses?

    1. I am inclined to disagree with Sadman a bit. No, not many of us would actually go about killing and pillaging, but our minds are very violent with communal divisions.

  14. Hi Susmitha,
    It seems to me,(from your writing and replys )that the ideas and the juice behind your article comes from readings of Sarat Chandra and Tagore . Perhaps you should spend some time reading others also ,like Swami Vivekananda, who are the true experts in this field . Then you would know , there is no need for this debate.

    1. Swami Vivekananda is not new to me. I come from a very rooted family in Bengal in which these are parts of our dining table discussions. Vivekananda was instrumental in much Hinduisation which both Tagore and Saratchandra eventually resisted. Tarashankar Bandopadhyay is yet another rich source of history about various sects and religions that flowed in Bengal as a policy of Murshid Quili Khan, the grand father of Siraj-ud-Dowla of the Plassey fame. Vivekananda wanted a sanitized version of Hinduism in which so many forces of the pagans were dismissed by him. He founded the Ramkrishna Mission order with this idea and understanding of Hinduism and the Ramkrishna Mission is not counted as Hindu. Did you know this??

    2. I think Suresh and BC have cleared the issue about Ramakrishna mission .However its not Ramakrishna mission we are talking about , we are talking about Hindhuism. And you are not referring the greatest guru of Hinduism of this century but the ones who resisted him. Vivekananda did not want a sanitized form of Hindhuism , he wanted it to be seen the way it is. You mentioned about sects, various beliefs , practices etc . In HIS words : these are tributaries which lead to the ocean called Hindhuism . You can pick up any book with his lectures on society , you will find this explanation. And understand Hindhuism is not just a religion, you with your “background” should be able to understand it. Please dont equate it to one .

      Besides, about the verdict, after a long time a sight of settlement has come up, if the court has crossed its line or not , it does not matter as long as there is chance of co-existence. And I am pretty sure just because a part of the land has been awarded to somebody they will build walls to restrict others’ view. After such a long fight even enemies tend to understand each other ,these are people of the same land.The missing violence today is evident. Why not this should setup be given its chance??

  15. Education brings enlightenment. The participants here are all educated and enlightened to them it matters very little particularly on the religious aspects of Normohi Aakhras. The judgement is more political than legal. The learned judges have ruled the piece of land to be divided amongst three groups of them Normohi Aakhras is a separate party. The learned judges did not rule the piece of land to be divided just to bulid a Ram temple and Mosque. That give credence to Ms.Susmita Dasgupta’s point.

  16. …the Ramkrishna Mission is not counted as Hindu. Did you know this??

    Firstly, I am not sure this is true in all states. (It might be true in some states. I think it is or was true in Bihar. ) Secondly, the reason for the Ramakrishna Mission wanting to consider itself non-Hindu are strategic: they want the education institutions run by them to have the same autonomy enjoyed by non-Hindu educational institutions. In my view, they should certainly have that but it does not take away the fact that the group wants/wanted to be considered non-Hindu for strategic reasons and nothing else.

    I admit to being puzzled and even irritated by your post. I am not sure about what you mean by the “Hindu” appropriation of Ram. Who are the “Hindus” you refer to? Presumably they are not members of the Nirmohi Akhara, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis or atheists. So who are these Hindus who “appropriated” Ram? Card-carrying members of the RSS/VHP/Sangh Parivar? When did this alleged “appropriation” take place? Even if your curious hypothesis is true, so what? Are you saying that Ram is not open for appropriation? Why? Because you say so?

    I am not saying anything new here. I am roughly saying in a very strident way what has been said in a very clear way by BC in his/her two eminently sensible comments. You can ignore what I am saying but do go back read what BC says and see if you can come up with a coherent response.

  17. I agree with Suresh. Ramakrishna Mission declared itself as “non-Hindu” in a court case which have been fought between the Mission and the teachers of Mission-run college. Yes, it was for a strategic purpose, to enjoy the privileges of a minority educational institution. However, the Supreme Court dismissed their petition.

    There are already enough references in the web about this case. This was how Hindutva gang viewed the case:

    “In 1980, Rama Krishna Mission, a Hindu institution, was facing some problems in its educational institutions and apprehended government intervention and takeover. To save itself from looming danger, Rama Krishna Mission claimed a non-Hindu (minority) status before Calcutta High Court to come under protection of Article 30. Though its pioneers like Swami Vivekananda had taken pride in being Hindus, disabilities attached to Hindu institutions in independent India made Rama Krishna Mission disown Hinduism to claim the status of a non-Hindu (minority) religion. Though the High Court allowed its petition, vide its above-cited judgement, the Supreme Court reversed High Court?s decision and held that Rama Krishna Mission was a Hindu institution, and was not entitled to protection under Article 30. ”
    (http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=195&page=43)

    If we follow the earlier rhetorical example of Brahmos, “Try telling a Brahmo that he is a Hindu”, and now Ramakrishna Mission’s self-declaration, both of which are essentially determining “religion” through “identity” and not “identification”, then Nirmohi Akhara is evidently a “Hindu” organisation. At least that’s what simple logic says.

    1. Try telling a Brahmo that he is a Hindu ?

      Small question – How many Brahmos of Dhaka stayed back in Dhaka after partition? After all the fault-line was Hindu – Muslim and not Brahmmo- Muslim.

      Kafila, this is not a standard I expect from you guys. Please check the manuscript, even if it is a personal friend or anything

  18. Stridency is quite a hallmark of debate in the blogosphere, Suresh, and you should be proud of it. I too happen to agree with Shama Zaidi that this has been, if not the only, at least a rare debate on this topic on the internet. But frankly, I could not figure out why you’re irritated, nor the vehemence of BC’s comment. Okay, so Sushmita put it a bit inaccurately that RK Mission is not Hindu. But is that really the point of the debate? Your ‘irritation’ is a very much mainstream Hindu irritation which comes to the fore whenever talk arises of of the endless counter-narratives and heterodox tendencies, and even those that operate within a largely ‘Hindu’ universe are by no means Hindu in their own self estimation. You might be very cock-sure about the fact that Ram was always and only Hindu, but if the perspective that he is not, is coming from a believing and rooted Hindu Bengali universe, should that not make you ask, maybe there is something to explore here. The fact is that the netherworld of Hinduism – especially a range of its Tantric communities (many of the kind who live in cremation grounds and eat or drink from a human skull) – often provide you with counter narratives to those dominant in brahminical Hinduism. These tendencies, as well as many lower caste heterodox sects, have usually been disowned and not accepted as part of Hinduism – rejected by modern Hindu ideologues (not Hindutva alone). Just as in some narratives, Ram and Sita are siblings and in some, Radha is Krishna’s maternal aunt – there are scores of others that you should not even in your most irritated moments pretend to know about exhaustively. That is sheer arrogance. This is the beginning of all intolerance – to valorize your narrative, your version above all others when other narratives are as rooted in the milieu of the subcontinent as yours.

    1. Ashish, boy are you insufferable. Here goes:

      1, You know nothing about me or my religious beliefs or the lack of them so don’t go down that route.

      2. Since you seem to lack reading comprehension, let me spell it for you: What BC was noting was the very real problem involved in critiques like that of Susmita’s. A statement like “Ram was appropriated by Hindus” is very problematical because in order to make sense of this statement, you need to define “who is a hindu” and “who is not hindu.” To quote BC, When this critique tries to prove what is “Hindu” and what is “not Hindu”, resultantly it also tries to arrive at a “true” definition of “the Hindu”. Politically, differentiating between the “true hindu” and the “co-opted hindu” is a dangerously labyrinthine project. This effectively leads the debate to certain definitional questions, which can be manipulated easily by the Hindutvabadis to define “Hinduism” as they wish to define [it]. Got it? Only you can read this as being supportive of Hindutva.

      3. You think you can impress me by invoking a couple of examples of the different Ramayana traditions? For your information, I am well aware of the diversity though I certainly can’t claim to know all of them. Nearly 15 years ago, I came across the beautiful edited book of Paula Richman, Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

      4. I am pretty sure you will inflict more of your pomposity on us. Fine; feel free to have the last word.

  19. If Ram is not plural, it is necessary to pluralize him. Not afresh but in recognition of the many ramas spread all over the subcontinent and beyond. Thanks, Susmita — the Hindutvavadis would love to have one Ram so that they can fix the place where he was born and your post really exposes their strategy.

  20. Was thinking how many shrines would have to be demolished in Kerala had the Jains and Buddhists decided to be as violent as the Hindutvavadis and were as powerful! It is well-known that many of the most venerated Hindu shrines in this State were buddhist and jain temples — interestingly, some of the most prominent of such temples are dedicated to rama and his brothers! in fact hindu temple practices in kerala resemble buddhist worship in sri lanka very closely!

    Talking about idols being treated as persons — I don’t know if this is held anywhere else, but here, gods are often ‘consulted’ about particular events through what is called the devaprasnam. Like it happened a couple of years ago at the famous devi temple at Attukal when the priests saw ominous signs of the devi’s absence during the annual festival. when ‘consulted’ the devi apparently expressed deep anger at an incident which had happened during the festival — during the free feast held every noon on festival days a beggar woman who had come in for food was thrown out because she did not look clean. This apparently angered the devi who left the premises vowing never to return — she is said to have gone to reside with her sister, at the devi temple of Karikkakom! she is said to have returned only after prescribed penance was offered. There are stories of Hindu gods refusing to stay in temples.

    certainly, there are traditions which escape the Hindutvavadi’s grasp, and challenge their efforts to kill divinity — to deaden it, make it stay still — so that they can turn it into a passive instrument of their evil ends, set up final narratives of its origin, progress and even its end.

  21. I think Mr. Sinha got it wrong. The debate strated with my intial post which has nothing to do with RK Mission. Ramkrishna Mission bit is a small digression in response to Susmita’s post. I’m not sure if my specific questions bordered on being “vehement”. And let’s not brand each other “mainstream hindu” etc. It’s too tirirng to indulge in “tu tu main main”.

    I’m sure that the author wanted to showcase the pluralism and heterodoxy of India’s religious tradition, and I’m in full agreement with her obvious intention. But the arguments she’s used are all wrong- logically, conceptually and factually. I would’ve been seriously interested in studying the source of this narrative and that’s what I requested the author to share with us. But haven’t heard anything from her yet.

    I’ve already explained why there’re both conceptual and logical problems with her arguments. I’ve also pointed out some of the factual “curiosities”.

    Let’s talk about the “baul” tradition. It’s a bit odd to base one’s counter-narrative on Rabindranath and Saratchandra. Qualitiatively it’s similar to Hindutvabadis’ “Ramcharitamanas” based argument. Anyone who is a serious student of “Baul” tradition must be knowing that 19th century study of this tradition started with Akshaykumar Dutta, followed by Kshitimohan Sen (Amartya Sen’s maternal grandfather). It’s Kshitimohan Sen who initiated Rabindrantah to the world of bauls. However those 19th century perspective of bauls have been challenged and modified to a great extent by recent studies by Sudhir Chakrabarty, Shaktinath Jha and others. There have been voluminous studies of such tradition in Bangladesh by people like Mohammed Enamul Haque. There’s a quite extensive literature on Bauls by Shashibhushan Dasgupta, Edward Dimock, Carol Salomon, Jean Openshaw among many others.

    I’m sure that the author knows about all these. But surprisingly this article lacks the intellectual rigour and diligence one expects from a serious historical counter-narrative. And that’s the minmum I expect from an article published in Kafila.

    1. Thanks BC, for your very thoughtful reply. And for the references – they will be very useful for someone like me. Not everybody is an academic or a historian and it is always useful to be directed into areas one does not know much about. I do think of course, that you can never know much about anything – life always surprises me at least. some people are luckier, they know everything in advance and nothing ever surprises them. My only point really was that there are countless narratives that circulate – and they do so long before they reach the anthropologist’s or historian’s tract. It is the latter who depend on the former, collecting unverified narratives and making sense of them. A good anthropologist I suppose, would be one who has his or her ears open for such unverified narratives – which a novelist is always quicker to pick up, since he or she has no disciplinary axe to grind. It is possible that the particular narrative is misleading but I would take it very seriously if a Saratchandra, a Rabindranath or a Tarashankar were portraying these in their works of fiction.
      And by and large, I agree with your take on Vivekananda in the Bengali piece below.:)

  22. And couldn’t resist to touch upon the story of Vivekananda, though it’s not directly related to the topic of the article. A good starting point would be Tapan Roy Chowdhury’s “Europe Reconsiderd”. I presume some of the readers can read Bengali (sinceere apologies to those who cannot). This is an excerpt from a conversation about Vivekananda I had elsewhere. Hope this demonstrates that the history of 19th century Bengal is more nuanced than this odd fight between Vivekananda and Rabindranath/Sharatchandra.

    “আপাতত: হিন্দুধর্ম ও ভারতের পুরোনো গপ্পে ফেরা যাক। প্রাচ্য ও পাশ্চাত্যের মত এই ক্ষেত্রেও বিবেকানন্দের লেখাপত্র বেশ জটিল এবং অনেক সময় ইনকন্সিস্টেন্ট। তাও যে কথাবার্তা বেরিয়ে আসে তা হল: একদিকে ইসলাম নিয়ে বিবেকানন্দ প্রশংসায় মুখর এবং অন্যদিকে বিবেকানন্দ মনে করেন ভারতবর্ষীয় মননের মূল স্রোত হল হিন্দুধর্ম। আজকের সেকুলার বহুত্ববাদের গল্প বিবেকানন্দতে পাওয়া যাবে না কারণ হিন্দু-মুসলিম রাজনৈতিক সম্পর্ক নিয়ে তখনও এতটা বিপাকে পড়তে হয় নি। কিন্তু এই হিন্দুধর্ম কোন হিন্দুধর্ম? তার মূল বনেদ হল বেদান্ত যার বৌদ্ধিক অভ্যাস হিন্দুসমাজ থেকে তখন প্রায় অবলুপ্তপ্রায়। বিবেকানন্দের মতে ভারতের ইতিহাসের সব থেকে গৌরবোজ্জ্বল অধ্যায় হল বৌদ্ধযুগ ও মুঘলযুগ। অন্যদিকে হিন্দুরাজাদের রাজত্ব নিয়ে বিবেকানন্দ ব্যঙ্গবিদ্রুপে প্রখর। ভারতের নতুন সমাজ হিন্দুর মস্তিষ্ক ও ইসলামের দেহ নিয়ে গড়ে উঠবে এই বিখ্যাত উক্তির সাথে সবাই পরিচিত। তাঁর থেকে আরও উল্লেখযোগ্য হল বিবেকান্দ যখন খৃষ্টীয় এবং ইসলামী সভ্যতার তুলনামূলক আলোচনা করছেন। তাঁর মতে উভয় সভ্যতাই আগ্রাসী, কিন্তু যেখানে ইসলাম আগ্রাসনের পরে সেখানকার জনগণের মঙ্গলসাধনে রত হয়েছে, সেইখানে খৃষ্টীয় সভ্যতার আগ্রাসনের মধ্যে মঙ্গলজনক কিছুই দেখা যায় না। এখান থেকেই বিবেকানন্দ সোজা চলে যান প্রাচ্য ও পাশ্চাত্যের গল্পে এবং ইসলাম হয়ে দাঁড়ায় প্রাচ্যের সদ্গুণের প্রতিভূ। সুযোগ পেলে সেই লেখাটা তুলে দেব। ইসলামকে শ্রদ্ধার একটা ঐতিহাসিক প্রেক্ষিতও রয়েছে। বিবেকানন্দের বাবা ছিলেন সেইযুগের রীতি অনুসারে আরবী ও ফারসীতে সুপন্ডিত। শোনা যায় কোরান নিয়েও তাঁর পড়াশুনো ছিল। পড়ন্ত নবাবী সভ্যতার সাথে এই সব বাঙালী চাকুরীজীবী পরিবারের ঘনিষ্ঠ সম্পর্ক ছিল। এ ছাড়াও তখন বহিরাগত আগ্রাসনের মুখ হল বৃটিশ সরকার। ইসলামী সাম্রাজ্যের একে ভগ্নপ্রায় দশা, তার উপর দীর্ঘদিনের লেনদেনের মধ্যে দিয়ে সম্পর্কও অনেক সহজ হয়ে উঠেছে, বিশেষত: লিবেরল নাগরিক সমাজে। ইসলামী জাতীয়তাবাদ তখনও ভবিষ্যতের গর্ভে। মুসলিম মধ্যবিত্তসমাজ সেইভাবে গড়ে ওঠে নি। অতএব বিবেকানন্দের হিসেবে একদিকে হিন্দু, বৌদ্ধ ও ইসলাম এবং অন্যদিকে খৃষ্টীয় মিশনারি। তবে এক্ষেত্রে একটা কথা বলে নেওয়া ভালো। বিবেকানন্দ এবং তাঁর সম্প্রদায় খৃষ্টধর্মের প্রতি শ্রদ্ধাশীল ছিলেন। আলমবাজার মঠে সন্ন্যাসযাপনের সময় তাঁদের পড়ার মূল খোরাক ছিল বাইবেল। বেলুড় মঠে বড়দিন পালন করা হত। তাঁর বহু লেখায় খৃষ্টভক্তির সরাসরি উল্লেখ রয়েছে। তিনি খৃষ্টধর্ম এবং খৃষ্টীয় সভ্যতাকে আলাদা করে নিয়েছিলেন এবং যাবতীয় তীব্র বাক্যবানের টার্গেট ছিল খৃষ্টীয় সভ্যতা। আরও একটি টার্গেট ছিল- প্রচলিত হিন্দুধর্ম। বৌদ্ধধর্ম এবং বুদ্ধ নিয়ে বিবেকানন্দ সবসময়ই আবেগাপ্লুত, ইসলামের সমালোচনাও ক্কচিত্ কদাচিত্। তাঁর গুরু রামকৃষ্ঞের কাছে এই তুলনামূলক ধর্মের দুনিয়া ছিল আরও অন্যরকম। বিবেকানন্দ যেখানে হিন্দুধর্ম (বিবেকানন্দের হিন্দুধর্ম)- বৌদ্ধ- ইসলাম- খৃষ্টের কথা বলছেন, সেখানে রামকৃষ্ঞের কাছে দুনিয়াটা হল শাক্ত-বৈষ্ঞব-বেদান্তিক-কর্তাভজা-ইসলাম-খৃষ্ট। যদিও রামকৃষ্ঞের ইসলাম ও খৃষ্টীয় পথে সাধনার কথা শোনা যায়, কিন্তু প্রকৃতপক্ষে এই দুই ধর্মমতের সাথে তাঁর পরিচয় ছিল যত্সামান্য। কিন্তু যাবতীয় শ্রদ্ধার পরেও বিবেকানন্দ যে ভারতবর্ষের কথা বারবার উচ্চারণ করেন তা হিন্দু ভারতবর্ষ।

    কিন্তু বিবেকানন্দের ভারতবর্ষ হিন্দু ভারতবর্ষ। তার অন্যতম কারণ বিবেকানন্দের লক্ষ্য হল সমাজ এবং সংস্কৃতি, এবং তাঁর মতে এই সমাজের মৌলিক দিক হল আধ্যাত্মিকতা যা সম্পূর্ণভাবে হিন্দু আধ্যাত্মিকতা। সমাজের বাহ্যিক সংগঠনের দিক থেকে বিবেকানন্দ ইসলাম বা পাশ্চাত্যের অনুরাগী। তাই বিবেকানন্দ বারবার “ভারতবর্ষের আত্মার” কথা বলবেন এবং তাঁর মতে এই আত্মা সম্পূর্ণত: হিন্দু আত্মা। সেই সময়ের নিরিখে বিবেকানন্দের দুটি প্রায়োরিটি- এক, পাশ্চাত্যের কাছে প্রাচ্যের গৌরবকে তুলে ধরা এবং দুই, নিজের দেশে নতুন সমাজের গঠন। প্রথম কাজের ক্ষেত্রে তাঁর সহায়ক হিন্দু শাস্ত্র বিশেষত: সেইসময়ের ওরিয়েন্টালিস্ট পন্ডিতদের বাড়বাড়ন্তের পরিপ্রেক্ষিতে। সেই সময়ে প্রায় কোনো বাঙালী হিন্দু বুদ্ধিজীবী মুসলমান সমাজের হালচাল ভাবনাচিন্তার সাথে পরিচিত নন। সেযুগের কলকাতার সেন্সাসে দেখা যাবে মুসলিম জনসংখ্যার প্রায় পুরোটাই মধ্য কলকাতার বস্তিবাসী যাঁদের সাথে হিন্দু মধ্যবিত্তদের সামাজিক সংযোগ ন্যূনতম। হিন্দু মধ্যবিত্তদের কাছে মুসলিম সমাজের একমাত্র আর্শি হল ভাষা, সাহিত্য এবং ইতিহাস, যাঁর প্রতি একধরনের মিশ্র অনুভূতি দেখা যায়। এই প্রত্যক্ষ সংযোগ প্রায় কোনোদিনই ঘটে নি, আজকের দিনেও না। কাজেই হিন্দু মধ্যবিত্তের সমাজচেতনার কেন্দ্রবিন্দু ছিল নিজেদের সমাজ এবং বিবেকানন্দ তাঁর ব্যতিক্রম নন। এবং এই নবলব্ধ চেতনাকে বিবেকানন্দ পাশ্চাত্যে বিক্রি করবেন। বিক্রি করবেন কথাটা বিবেকানন্দের নিজের ব্যবহতৃ, যেখানে তিনি স্পষ্টই বলছেন, আমি ওদের স্পিরিচুয়ালিটি বিক্রি করব, আর ওরা আমাকে পয়সা দেবে। দুই নম্বর ছিল হিন্দু সমাজ সংগঠনের চিন্তা। যেখানে বিবেকানন্দের কাছে প্রায়োরিটি হল দারিদ্র্য দূরীকরণ এবং জাতপাতের বিরুদ্ধে লড়াই। হিন্দু-মুসলিম ভ্রাতৃত্ব কোনো ভাবনাতেই আসে নি এবং সেই সময়ে হেজিমনির ধারণাও বাজারে আসে নি। কাজেই হিন্দু ভারতবর্ষের মধ্যে পোলিটিকাল ইনকারেক্টনেস ছিল না। এর পরে বঙ্গভঙ্গের সময় যখন রবীন্দ্রনাথ মুসলমান গাড়োয়ানদের রাখী পরাতে যাচ্ছেন তখন অবনীন্দ্রনাথ ভয় পাচ্ছেন এই বুঝি গোলমাল বাঁধে। এতটাই ছিল শ্রেণী এবং ধর্মের দূরত্ব। তবে এই সাময়িক ভাইচারাও যে লোকদেখানো স্টান্ট, তা নিয়ে রবীন্দ্রনাথ নিজেই “লোকহিতে” বিস্তারিতভাবে লিখেছেন। এইধরনের সামাজিক পরিস্থিতিতে বিবেকানন্দ ভারতবর্ষ এবং হিন্দুধর্মের কথা সমার্থকভাবে উচ্চারণ করছেন। ভূদেব মুখোপাধ্যায়, বঙ্কিমচন্দ্র চট্টোপাধ্যায়দের ভারতবর্ষও হিন্দু ভারতবর্ষ। ঠাকুর পরিবার ব্যতিক্রম নন কারণ জাতীয়তাবাদের প্রতীকী নাটক হিসেবে তাঁরা পদ্মিনী এবং আলাউদ্দিন খিলজির নাটক মঞ্চস্থ করছেন। বিদ্যাসাগর ধর্ম, দর্শন এবং আধ্যাত্মিকতা নিয়ে প্রায় নির্লিপ্ত। খৃষ্টীয় মিশনারিদের বিরুদ্ধতায় দেবেন্দ্রনাথ এবং রাধাকান্ত দেব হিন্দুসমাজের রক্ষার্থে সভা গঠন করছেন। এই গল্পের মধ্যে ইসলাম প্রায় অনুক্ত। যদিও কলকাতার প্রথম রাজনৈতিক হত্যা করেছিল ওয়াহাবী মতাবলম্বী এক মুসলমান। দ্বিতীয় রাজনৈতিক হত্যা আন্দামানে লর্ড মেয়োর হত্যা। সেও একজন মুসলিম ঘাতক। মুসলিম বুদ্ধিজীবীদের সমাজ সাথে সাথে বিবৃতি দিয়ে এই হত্যাকান্ড থেকে নিজেদের পৃথক করে। এই ক্ষেত্রে সে যুগের হিন্দু এবং মুসলিম বুদ্ধিজীবীদের আলাদা করা শক্ত।

    এই পরস্পরবিরোধিতা উনিশ শতকের প্রায় প্রত্যেক বিখ্যাত ব্যক্তিত্বের মধ্যে। রামমোহন সতীদাহ রদের বিরুদ্ধে আন্দোলন করেন এবং নিকি বাইজিকে বায়না দিয়ে আমোদ আহ্লাদ করেন। দ্বারকানাথ রামমোহনের সমাজসংস্কারে কাঁধ মেলান এবং তাঁর মালিকানার বাড়িতে বেশ্যাখানা চলে। বিদ্যাসাগর স্ত্রীশিক্ষার কাজে নিজের সারা জীবন ব্যয় করেন এবং সাধারণ রঙ্গমঞ্চে গণিকাদের অভিনয়ে ক্ষুব্ধ হন। রাধাকান্ত দেব সতীপ্রথার পক্ষেও আন্দোলন করেন আবার স্ত্রীশিক্ষার প্রচলনেও অগ্রণী হন। এরকম উদাহরণ আরও অজস্র। কারণ উনিশ শতক বাঙালী বুদ্ধিজীবীর আত্মপরিচয়ের শতক। তাঁরা খুব মৌলিক কতগুলো প্রশ্নের উত্তর খোঁজার চেষ্টা করছেন নিজেদের জীবন ও অভিজ্ঞতার মধ্য দিয়ে- আমরা কারা এবং কেন? এই ভাঙাগড়ার সময়ে কেউ কোনো রেডিমেড উত্তর দিচ্ছে না। নিজেদের ক্রমাগত সেই উত্তর খুঁজতে হচ্ছে। এবং এই খোঁজার প্রক্রিয়ার মধ্যে পরস্পরবিরোধিতা আসাটাই স্বাভাবিক। নিজেরাই প্রশ্ন করছেন, উত্তর দিচ্ছেন, এবং পরমূহুর্তে অন্য কোনো দ্বন্দ্বের মুখোমুখি হয়ে আগের উত্তরকে নাকচ করে নতুন প্রশ্নের মুখোমুখি হচ্ছেন। আইডেন্টিটি গঠনের সময় এইটাই স্বাভাবিক দ্বান্দ্বিক প্রক্রিয়া। বলা যায় এই সময় হল বাঙালীজাতির টিন এজ। একদিকে সে যেমন তারুণ্যে ভরপুর, আবার অন্যদিকে সে সংশয়ে দীর্ণ। বিবেকানন্দ পুরোপুরি উনিশ শতকের ফসল কারণ তিনি মারা যাচ্ছেন ১৯০২ সাল। নিজের পরস্পরবিরোধিতাগুলোকে গুছিয়ে অগ্রসরণের কোনো সুযোগই পান নি যা রবীন্দ্রনাথ পেয়েছিলেন। রবীন্দ্রনাথের দীর্ঘায়ুর জন্য রবীন্দ্রনাথের পরস্পরবিরোধিতা অতটা চোখে পড়ে না, কিন্তু রবীন্দ্রনাথও একইরকম ভাঙাগড়ার মধ্য দিয়ে গেছেন।”

  23. @ Susmita

    ” The worship of Ram Lalla at the premises of the Babri Masjid, where the Muslims also prayed together with the Rambhakts have been a vindication of practices in India that are neither wholly Hindu nor fully Islamic.”

    – Did the Muslims in Ayodhya worship Ram Lalla? Can you document this? Please dont try to see syncretism where it does not exist. Sometimes reality check is important – it may not be a good anti-Hindutva story, but that is immaterial. Also, if Nirmohi Akhara was “non-Hindu”, what is important what are they now – self-definitionally. Religion, like other human categories, is not a static thing.Why are the non-Hindu Rambhakts of the Nirmohi akhara siding with the “hindu” VHP?
    Why not with the Wakf board. From your article, it would seem that the akhada being some ostensibly non-Hindu formation, could also ally with the Wakf board and then 2/3 rd of the land can be used for “non-Hindu” purposes. You made a lot from – ask any ….. type pf statement. While the ask any type of statements are extremely unsuitable for taking discussions forward, since one makes experential claims that cannot be corroborated, I can only provide my own version of the ask any. Ask any Muslim from the Wakf board side whethe the Nirmohi Akhada is a Hindu formation or not.

  24. @susmita,
    are you aware of the masculinist nature of these akharas? do you know about their role during the shuddhi movement in the United Provinces(read charu gupta: epw archives)? these akharas are “youth clubs” for you!!!

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