Mixing religion with culture of violent nationalism

Various Hindutva organizations under RSS are making grand preparations for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. They consider it liberation from mental and cultural slavery. A senior RSS functionary Dattatreya Hosabale said, “Ram Janmabhoomi movement was not just about religion but about Indian identity and nationalism.”
Ever since the Supreme Court paved the way for the construction of Ram temple, devotees are sending gold and silver including ornaments and bricks to be used for construction. They feel that their dream of 500 years is getting fulfilled.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present for the ground – breaking ceremony (Bhoomi Poojan) on August 5.
Intellectuals and activists irrespective of their faith criticize temple construction while the whole country is suffering from pandemic Covid which has infected more than 1.7 million people and over 36,000 killed on August 1. The deadly virus is spreading rapidly. Millions of people in India, living Rams, are suffering from starvation, unemployment and dying of Covid 19 and other diseases. When the priestly class and common people are drugged with religion they don’t understand reason.
The Ram temple is built with the blood of thousands of men and women who were killed in different communal riots over the years. Though politicians and Hindutva groups would hail the construction of Ram temple as a symbol of cultural nationalism, it will remain a symbol of violent nationalism nurtured by revenge and hatred. This is contrary to all values for which India was known for centuries.
What Hindutva groups are doing now was done by Christians and Muslims in the past. The command of Christ to spread His Gospel of love was misunderstood and misused by the powerful ‘Christian’ countries of Europe and made it a conquest for political expansion and economic exploitation. Church made it an opportunity to expand Christendom, imperial institutional Church under the patronage of colonial rulers.
In their zeal for expansion of the Church they destroyed local cultures, religions and their temples. With the might of military power they constructed Churches over the temple foundations. This part of the history is not taught in the seminaries and formation houses. Hence even in the hostile situation the priests, nuns and bishops who are ignorant of the history keep up their colonial legacy only to be alienated and attacked.
Muslims also followed the same method of Christians and started aggressive ways of expanding their religion. They too used violence to suppress the Hindu population who were not only tolerant but receptive to all diversity which was the heritage of India. It was the pluralistic heritage of India that welcomed people of all cultures and religions with honor.
The Hindutva leaders and their groups today are following the same aggressive evangelical methods which Christian and Muslim invaders and missionaries used in the past. By abandoning the original Hindu ways of pluralism and universality they have adopted aggressive nationalism and misinterpret universal family spirit of Hinduism.
They have adopted the destructive culture of violence and exclusive nationalism to establish Hindu Rashtra which is not Ram Rajya of Lord Ram. As Jesus was misused for political purpose by Christian rulers, Lord Ram is also being misused by Hindutva forces which goes against the ethos of Hinduism and the soul of India.
Following the way of Christ, Church in India shall abandon the vanity of colonial legacy. It is high time to distinguish between expanding the imperial style of institutional Church and returning to the way of Christ based on His life and values which are the same values enshrined in the Constitution of India. Abandon urgently all external exhibitions inherited from the colonial era: dress, habits, attitudes, priorities, rituals and way of life to be integrated into the national mainstream.
The way of Christ and His values are urgently needed for India. This is the opportune moment for the Church and the consecrated persons to play the role of facilitators for promoting fraternity, peace and universal family spirit: Vasudhaiva Kuntumbakam. This is the paradigm shift of “putting new wine in new wineskin.”

Varghese Alengaden