Source – Daily Pioneer
Distortion of religion and religious figures has become the favourite task of certain so-called secular people and their outfits that camouflage their activities well. They see nothing wrong in hurting majority community sentiments
Mahishasura recently had its day of resurrection and glory at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. An annual ‘Mahishasura Martyrdom Day’ (Mahishasura Shahdat Divas) is observed by the university around Dussehra since 2011. The observance is accompanied by the denunciation of Durga, who allegedly personified Aryan/Brahmanic onslaught upon the non-Aryan asura. A bi-lingual (English/Hindi) magazine, Forward Press, published by Aspire Prakashan, Nehru Place, New Delhi, has been providing ideological fodder to the newly-erected cult of Mahishasura. The magazine fashions itself as the voice of Dalit-bahujan-OBC-women.
But there is more than meets the eyes. The Forward Press is managed by Ivan Kostka, a Christian evangelist who reportedly holds a Canadian passport. Then there is Vishal Mangalwadi, a contributing editor, who describes himself as a Christian philosopher and social reformer. In his latest book, The Book that made your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization’ Mr Mangalwadi argues how the Bible inspired progressive movements in Europe in science, human rights, women’s rights, and politics! Arnold J Toynbee, Will Durant, Steven Runciman and Henri Pirenne would have been puzzled! Interestingly, no mainstream newspaper/magazine in the West published a review of that ‘revolutionary’ book despite great liaison efforts by the publisher viz Thomas Nelson.
Originally from Allahabad, Mr Mangalwadi runs a ministry called ‘Revelation Movement’. Then there is Sunil Sardar, a Christian priest, who, on February 28, 2012, was arrested with 500 rounds of live ammunition at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. He said he brought them from the US to gift his friend in Maharashtra. Evidently, ‘Mahishasura Martyrdom Day’ is an evangelical proxy-war rather than genuine class discourse.
This time, the organisers overreached themselves. They vilified Durga through obscene pictures and outrageous narrative in Forward Press. Two students of JNU, Ravindra Singh Basera and Amba Shankar Bajpai, lodged FIRs against the organisers, leading to confiscation of copies of the magazine by Delhi Police. Ivan Kostka, editor-in-chief and Pramod Ranjan, consulting editor, went underground. Pramod Ranjan issued a statement saying they had done nothing against the Constitution of India. It is a specious excuse. The freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution is not absolute. Article 25 says: “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this part, all persons are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion”. Clearly, the odious counterfactuals on Durga were calculated to harm public order and morality. It falls under the category of hate speech covered under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code.
To give the readers a perspective, a few years ago, mainstream media had discovered a tribe called Asura in Jharkand and north Bengal. Numbering a trifle over 10,000, they maintain they are descendants of Mahishasura, their legendary chieftain. The community being traditionally illiterate, possesses no written history. In their ‘alternate history’ Mahishasura was a just king supposedly killed by deception by Durga, a ‘secret agent’ of the gods.
The rest of the country has no clue. In northern India, Durga is worshipped in nine different forms during the Navaratris, none of whom killed Mahishasura. It is more common to find Durga installed as Chamunda Devi (slayer of demons Chanda & Munda) as in Palampur (Himachal Pradesh), Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Rajkot (Gujarat) etc. There will be no surprise if the puppeteers behind ‘Mahishasura Matyrdom Day’ now go on an anthropological expedition across India to locate the descendants, real or imagined, of Chanda & Munda or their masters Shumbha & Nishumbha!
The worship of Durga as Mahishasura-Mardini (the slayer of Mahishasura) is more common in Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh as Durga Puja. The literary source for Durga as slayer of Chanda-Munda and that of Mahishasur is common. It is called Durga Saptashati (alternatively called Chandi), taken from a larger text Markandeya Puran. I have religiously read Durga Saptashati several times. Though the book describes several wars like those of Vishnu with Madhu and Kaitava, of Durga with Mahishasura, Chanda & Munda and Shumbha & Nishumbha there is no fundamental malice displayed towards the enemy. Chapter four of Durga Saptashati describes the devtaas (gods) assembling to praise Durga on killing of the Mahishasura. Therein, they say that the asuras would have heaped further damnations upon themselves if left unchecked. Their evil deeds would have paved their way to hell. Durga, by killing them, has actually salvaged them and elevated those beings to heaven. Thus the devtaas (gods) bore no fundamental ill-will towards the asuras. They never imagined a different or dangerous spiritual destiny for the asuras. The devtaas were against the asuras because the latter had evicted them from the heavens and deprived them of their privileges.
This is verily the Hindu worldview — all differences are temporal not spiritual. But to the Christians or to the Muslims the heathen or Kafirs should go hell. One could enter the heaven only by adopting Christian or Islam. To Ivan Kostka and Vishal Mangalwadi the bahujans — Dalits, OBCs, women all are condemned to hell if they practise their native faith. Mahishasur can excite them for war against their Hindu co-religionists. But being a heathen himself, Mahishasur cannot give them salvation. They can enter heaven only through Christianity. Thus it is a strange situation where according to Durga Saptashati, Mahishasura found heaven; according to Christian theology he rots in hellfire.
The adherents of Durga view the war-episodes described in Durga Saptashati as allegorical. The asuras to them were not people, still less representative of any race, but ideas and states of mind. There is not a single mantra used in Durga Puja that has any racial bearing whatsoever. No worshipper of Durga would begrudge the asuras remembering their legendary king Mahishasura. They have their freedom of belief not merely under the Constitution of India but also in Hindu view of life.
There is actually a statue of Mahishasura at Chamunda Hills, Mysore (Karnataka). But that freedom does not extend to those who wish to hijack the practice for political ends. The fear of God — to use the Christian phraseology — must be put in their hearts in no uncertain terms.