BJP-RSS turning benign Ram into Rambo, Hanuman into a symbol of anger: Bhupesh Baghel

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Sunday hit out at the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), accusing them of turning “gentle and benign Lord Ram” into a Rambo-like figure and Hanuman into a symbol of anger.

In an interview, the Congress leader told The Indian Express that India was passing through a phase of “provocative and aggressive nationalism” —communal strife was reported from across India in April — with no space for “dissent and disagreement”. He added that this would pass and the Congress would make a comeback.

“Ram is embedded in our culture. Ram is both sakaar and nirakaar (form and formless) … We have accepted Ram in various manifestations. We know Kabir’s Ram, Tulsi’s Ram and Shabari’s Ram. Ram lives in the hearts and minds of every Indian. The workers have accepted Ram in one form, the farmers see him in another form, the tribals see yet another form, the intellectuals and devotees see him in another form,” Baghel said.

He went on to add, “Mahatma Gandhi also saw Ram. His last words were ‘Hey Ram’ and he used to recite Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram. But today, the way the BJP and the RSS see Ram and the agenda they are setting, the Ram who was ‘Maryada Purushottam’, the one who lives in the hearts of every devotee as a symbol of love, they have turned him into a fighter. Rambo bana diya ja raha hain (They are turning him into Rambo). Akramak (aggressive). Hanuman is the epitome of humility, devotion and knowledge. But the posters of him today. If you look at Hanuman’s old pictures, the Lord was so beautiful, bhakti se dhyan mudra main (meditative and devotional). And today, angry and aggressive. The way they are setting the mindset of the society … they did it with Ram earlier and are doing it with Hanuman now. Our Ram is that of Kabir and Tulsi, the Ram of tribals, farmers, and workers. The benign Ram who is omnipresent.”

One of the Baghel government’s ambitious projects is the Ram Van Gaman Paryatan Paripath or a tourism circuit envisaged to map the route that devotees believe the deity took during his exile from Ayodhya.

The chief minister also took a dig at the BJP, saying that its idea of nationalism was imported. “Who met Mussolini? It was BS Moonje … the drums, caps, everything is imported. Their model of nationalism has no place for dissent and disagreement. Our nationalism is different. Ours is rooted in traditions from the beginning, evolved by the likes of Shankaracharya, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa …”

Asked why his party had not been able to convey this message to the electorate, Baghel said that it took the RSS 75 years to make the country understand its version of nationalism. “Remember, it was rejected during Gandhi’s time. (VD) Savarkar and his ideas were rejected. But it is like bubbles in the water. A time will come when they will burst. This period will also end.”

On Congress and Rahul Gandhi

Asked what, in his view, the Congress was not doing, Baghel said, “See, the society is facing a period of provocative nationalism and aggressive nationalism. There is no respect for dissent, there are attempts to stifle dissent. The Congress will not be able to do that. It has never done that, is not doing it, and will never do that. But people are supporting it. But this country belongs to the Buddha, Mahavir, Kabir, Guru Nanak, and Tulsi … the Indian society values love, brotherhood, and tolerance. That has been our tradition for thousands of years. In the end, love and brotherhood will emerge victorious.”

The Congress leader said he was hopeful that this phase the country was going through would end when people realise “enough is enough, there has been too much violence”. Baghel added, “The violence that is taking place in different states, I don’t want to take the names of any state. Is anybody leading this violence? Nobody is leading, it is headless. And if headless people set the country’s agenda, then it is very unfortunate for the country. Wherever the violence is happening, it is headless. And if stone-pelters and slogan shouters set the country’s agenda, then it is unfortunate.”

The chief minister said former Congress president Rahul Gandhi was the only leader fighting the BJP without holding back. “He is the only person who attacks the BJP directly. He is not scared. He is the only leader who has been talking about people’s issues, be it price rise, unemployment, faulty implementation of the GST, demonetisation.”

Asked why the Congress was losing despite Gandhi raising people’s issues, Baghel said, “It is up to the people to accept it or not.”

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