Lord Ganesh – the deity in the pandal where the wretched hungry man was clubbed to death for allegedly stealing prasad – will have something to say to ‘bhakts’ when they appear for judgment.
Piety is now a fatally political thing, make no mistake.
No infrastructure that may have been spawned over the last few years projects as ruthlessly the muscle of new India’s nationalism as religious infrastructure.
Embedded in that projection is a brutal assertion of class, even if by those among the majority community who have little to boast of as durable assets.
The mere fact of belonging to the majority community instills them with the belief that they rule the realm as much as those who actually wield state power.
Some days ago, in the National Capital, a poor person (fortuitously a Muslim named Isar Mohammed?) was caught allegedly stealing prasad (offering to the deity), tied to a pole, and mercilessly lynched for some five hours till he died.
All this while, ostensibly, the deity looked on and did not take his part.
In popular Hindu theological culture, there is a resonant adage: khali paet bhajan na hovei, Gopala. Translated, it means, ‘sorry, lord, cannot pray on an empty stomach.’
That truism seems now to have found its authoritarian reversal: those that have shall get, those that don’t shall die for wanting to get.
There was that time when religious practices were validated by their human content: they were either caring or uncaring of concrete misery among living beings.
Not any more.
Gods and corresponding governments now follow the Calvinist principle of “election”: you are either in grace with the gods, or you are not; and in either case, the matter is not subject to reasoned iteration in pursuit of justice.
Indeed, only the propertied can be in a state of grace, their earthly status being proof that god loves them, and will do so hereafter as well.
And forget about what Allah is reported to have said to the Mullah ji who was presented before him upon earthly demise: ‘Send this man to jahanum (hell),’ He is heard to have said.
When the astonished priest complained that all his life he never missed namaz, roza, Haj, giving zakat (charity), etc., Allah retorted, “But what did you do when I visited you?’
“Ya Allah, when did you do so?”
“How did you treat the orphan boy who came to your door for a morsel?”
The so-self-righteous Mullah’s face fell.
“So now, go to jahanum, and none of your ritual allegiance to religion may save you.”
I am quite sure Lord Ganesh – the deity in the pandal where the wretched hungry man was clubbed to death for stealing prasad – will say something similar to the ‘bhakts’ when they appear for judgment.
The Hindu universe has no hell but they will surely receive their comeuppance in their rebirth.
Maybe they will be reborn as hungry sans-culottes, attempting to steal Prasad?
We will watch, along with Lord Ganesh, while the government marches along on its course of sanctifying development with muscular dharmic fanfare to drive home the point that Bharat is mahan and Vishwa guru.
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