Politics and Religion
Mixing of religion and politics is not new but the Madhya Pradesh government seems to be scaling new heights in this respect as it recently announced that Computer Baba, Bhayujji Maharaj, Narmada Nand, Hari Haranand Pandit and Yogendra Mahant will lead the initiative of cleaning the river Narmada as state ministers. Surprisingly, two of these newly-appointed state ministers had announced a Narmada Ghotala Yatra to expose the delay in cleaning the Narmada and protest the state government’s failure to keep its promise of planting six crore samplings on the river’s banks. This co-option by the MP government has successfully defused the Narmada Ghotala Yatra.
The Madhya Pradesh government’s appointments are worrying in light of the recent large-scale scandals involving babas and ammas. On Wednesday, a Jodhpur court sentenced Asaram Bapu to life imprisonment in a rape case. The havoc created by the followers of Ram Rahim and Rampal is not a very distant memory. Allegations of sexual exploitation against Virendra Dev Dixit are well-known By the way many of these cults are organized, and their proximity to political bigwigs, make scrutiny of their deeds almost impossible — in fact, a potentially life-threatening proposition.
There is scarcely any need to dig deep to find out the credentials of these babas. Namdev Das Tyagi calls himself Computer Baba because of his love for computers and modern gadgets. He also claims that his memory is like that of a computer. Another self-proclaimed saint is Bhaiyujji Maharaj. He has enjoyed proximity to both the BJP and Congress in the past. Last year, he announced retirement from the spiritual field. He is known for his lavish lifestyle.
We have diverged from the principle of separation of politics and religion, enshrined in the Constitution. The principle of the secular state is one of the core principles of the Indian Constitution. This means that an individual has the right to choose his/her religion but the government should always keep its distance from religious affairs.
In an era of populist politics, it is difficult to imagine that politicians will stop collaborating with the babas and ammas until people express displeasure at these so-called spiritual leaders. Though the Constitution has given citizens the right to practice their faith it is also their responsibility to inculcate scientific temperament, the spirit of inquiry and humanism.