Professor V Karthikeyan Nair’s article in the latest issue of the Malayalam weekly Kalakaumudi [June 4-11] is titled ‘The Sengol that tore apart the Constitution’. The article starts with making contrast between India and a few religious nations. Pakistan is a Muslim nation. The UK is a Christian nation. But India towers above them all with a very modern Constitution which states explicitly that Indians can have religions but India does not have a religion and that Indians can have gods but India does not have gods. It is that very fundamental principle that the government of India mocked albeit very solemnly when the Prime Minister received the Sengol (sceptre) as a symbol of power from a Brahmin religious supremo. It is a serious matter that the Prime Minister himself affronted the Constitution.
In the days of kings and chieftains, crowns and sceptres were symbols of supreme authority. India liberated herself from kings and chieftains in Aug 1947 when the first Prime Minister made a new tryst with destiny at the stroke of the midnight hour. Nehru described that historic moment as an awakening to freedom from a protracted suppression. It was also an awakening to a new India founded on modern values and principles; it was a giant leap from the old Brahminical system that was steeped in superstitions and heartless practices.
The present Prime Minister took India back to a past that was terribly oppressive for the vast majority of the country’s people, argues the article. A bevy of half-naked Brahmin priests were made to utter some magical abracadabra, the writer says rather acerbically. The nation was also fed with a story about Rajagopalachari and a kingly sceptre. It is true that Rajaji did get a sceptre made in gold following the tradition of the Chera-Chola kings and got it blessed by the high priest of the Thiruvavaduthurai mutt. The sceptre was given to Lord Mountbatten [which is questionable according to a report in today’s Hindu] who then gave it to Nehru without any rituals. Nehru thought of it as yet another gift and relegated it to the museum. Nehru knew that his power came from the people and not from the gods of the Brahmins.
Nehru was not the kind of man who would attach any significance to a symbol of royalty. He was the kind of man who wanted the Ram Lalla figure placed by some vicious element in the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya to be thrown in the river Sarayu. Nehru dreamt of redeeming India from religions and gods. Modi surrendered India to those same feral forces.
Professor Karthikeyan argues that President Murmu should have been the one to inaugurate the new Parliament building. A woman from a marginalised section of the country presiding over such a momentous function would have driven quite a few points home. The emerging status of women in India, for one. The country’s commitment to the Dalits, for another. But Modi chose to abide by Manu’s views such as Na stree swatantriamarhati, says the article. I think Modi’s quintessential narcissism was more the cause.
What message did Modi pass to the nation by falling prostrate before a group of mumbo-jumbo-muttering priests whom the first Prime Minister strove to drive away from the public spaces of India? Professor Karthikeyan wonders whether Modi is trying to convince the nation that the Brahmins carry the ultimate truths and values. The prof also surmises that Modi will soon replace India’s Constitution with Manu Smriti.