By: Ratan Sharda
I chanced upon the following article from a little known news portal “The Art Newspaper” through Flipboard. Obviously, this portal is supposed to focus on Art and Culture, however, it has other interests that match with our Indian illiberal class. It is a classic example of the creation of a Hinduphobic narrative with partial facts and loaded reporting on a smallest pretext.
News: A small temple in a small lane of a small crowded village called Shahpur Jat (a protected ‘Lal Dora’ area) in south of Delhi, obviously populated mostly by native jats had a Sai Baba murti which was removed/broken down and removed by the trustees of the temple. This is the news. Period. Now, Left illiberal groups decide to blow it up into a Hinduphobia narrative.
So, this is how it is reported by the Left illiberal class. The title of the news story is –
Hindu nationalists tear down Delhi temple statue of Indian spiritual teacher, claiming he is a Muslim (https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/jihadi-statue-removed-from-delhi-temple)
Title could have been ‘Jat owners of a temple remove Sai Baba statue from their temple.’ But, that won’t suit their narrative. Ok, ok. It could have been ‘broken’ not removed.
The report then says that the men who demolished the idol (not my words, as a Hindu I would call it a Murti because it was being worshipped, not a show piece) It is true that Sai Baba is worshipped both by Hindus and Muslims. I would rather say, was worshipped. Because they have abandoned the entire holy area of Shirdi temple complex and it is being controlled and managed by Hindus now since decades. BJP/RSS have no role in this appropriation. Even the mosque in the premises of the temple of Sai Baba is no more a mosque. It is just an exhibit where Sai Baba lived. Regular artis are held, no namaz is held there. Reason may be that Islam does not allow worshipping any god or bowing to any human being. It is a big sin. A senior Maulvi of Tuscon mosque quotes many ayats about it, I am quoting just one –
[4:48] GOD does not forgive idolatry,* but He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up idols beside GOD, has forged a horrendous offense. Footnote: *4:48 Idol worship is not forgivable, if maintained until death. One can always repent from any offense, including idolatry, before death comes (see 4:18 & 40:66).
(For complete reading on this issue, read this article – https://www.masjidtucson.org/submission/monotheism/idolworship.html)
The news rightly notes that, “A number of Sai Baba’s devotees in Delhi have since filed a complaint, but a formal case has yet to be launched.” In the next para the reporter plays a trick. He/she brings in Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, with no peg to hang on in this story. There is no elaboration of this statement by the reporter. It says, “Appearing in several of the videos is the high-profile Hindu priest Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, who has been described as “the high- “one of the shrillest voices in the Hindutva ecosystem.” I tried searching for this information, I did find that he had praised the act according to some reports .But, isn’t he repeating what the Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati had said earlier? (I will come to him later). Worst has been said about Hindus and their belief system by various Maulvis, I am not even talking about politicians. No Left illiberal group has ever found them objectionable enough.
The story is further developed with demonising this ascetic who could be earning millions of dollars but chose to be Sadhu to work for Hindu society. It says, “He is currently under investigation by Delhi police for stoking religious tensions with an inflammatory speech against the Prophet Muhammad, in which he calls for a “war on Islam”. Earlier this month, he publicly praised the beating of a 14-year-of Muslim boy, who was seriously injured on 12 March for drinking water from a Hindu temple in the northern city of Dasna, Uttar Pradesh.”
The reporter simply refuses to acknowledge the other side of the story that the temple is in an overwhelmingly Muslim majority area where Muslims have kept harassing the people who manage the temple including worse desecration of the murtis, that the boy who came deep inside the temple for water could have gone to two more taps, one outside the temple and one near the entry. But, he chose to harass the managing person there. Reporter refuses to admit that managing this temple has been a nightmare as Muslims boys deliberately walk in to harass the local priest and temple had to be fortified to keep away the mischief mongers. There are videos available on line to vouch for it. But, story must always be of ‘poor’ minority boy being harassed, while boys are from ‘majority’ in that area, where the so called ‘majority’ is an oppressed ‘minority’ actually. This is the background from where Yati’s angst rises. He has witnessed a Jihad like situation from close quarters. He has studied Islam. This sanyasi has come into lime light only recently due to Dasna. His only tenuous link to Hindutva forces is a local BJP leader of Delhi, Kapil Mishra. But, for reporter he is THE ‘Right-Wing Hindutva force’, to be mainstreamed so he can be demonised and Hindus can be demonised.
Scroll.in quoted by this reporter may be right when it writes that a local Padam Panwar ‘reportedly’ said that the figure, which was erected in 2009, was taken down because it was old and damaged. In the video he (Panwar) can be heard saying: “He is no god. He died in 1918. He is Muslim.” Scroll.in reported that a message forwarded by Panwar on the Shahpur Jat society’s WhatsApp group on 27 March claims that the popularity of Sai Baba “also known as Chand Miyan” was a “conspiracy economically supported by the Islamic world”.
A person does have a right to his/ her opinion. Isn’t it? Hindus don’t issue fatwas for beheading of a person who has a different view on faith, even if he/she insults a God. It is obvious that it is his and many of his friends’ view as he seemingly had not been scolded by his brethren in the group. This local issue, obviously’ has nothing to do with “Hindu Nationalist” forces. No recognised “Hindu Nationalist” force has ever made a comment about Sai Baba being Muslim. We can judge who is being indirectly named. But, ‘Hindutva forces’ have never claimed monopoly on representing Hindu society. Yati has equal right to present his view point. Don’t our Left liberals keep talking of freedom of speech?
The report rightly points out that, “Sai Baba is worshipped widely across India and the world, with numerous temples and monuments dedicated to him.” Now, comes the unsubstantiated sly blow: “However in recent years, his (Sai Baba’s) philosophy has become a hot button issue amid rising Hindu nationalism abetted by the ruling political party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).” Can the honourable journalist show one instance of any BJP leader ever speaking against Sai Baba? Infact, during BJP rule in Maharashtra, the temple trust of Sai Baba was headed by a BJP leader, who gave his best to create a world class infrastructure in Shirdi, the seat of Sai Baba.
Next allegation can be termed as ‘shooting one’s own foot’. I love this!
Reporter says, “Soon after the BJP came to power in 2014, a conclave of Hindu priests passed a resolution that he should not be worshipped.” Obviously, the reporter is blindsided by his/her Hindu and Hindutva hate. The person who led this attack on Sai Baba’s worship was Shankaracharya Swaroopananda who has openly spoken of his love for Congress. He was so incensed when Modi ji became PM that he slapped a journalist for mentioning his victory. Here is one such link – (https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/mp-shankaracharya-swaroopanand-slaps-journalist-for-question-on-modi/story-emlQ01sUt38SHYej6fZoYI.html)
It was his congregation that passed something like what the reporter calls a resolution. (https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/sai-babas-worship-causing-maharashtra-drought-says-shankaracharya-317347-2016-04-11) He and his followers came on TV during this period to put forward their point of view. No Hindutva leader (obviously the entire report is an exercise in BJP/RSS/VHP bashing, so let us name the nameless devil) ever supported their arguments.
This Shankaracharya is known to make controversial statements including criticising VHP/BJP and Ram Mandir construction. He has targeted RSS/VHP/BJP leaders routinely where he says BJP and RSS have done maximum damage to Hinduism. Here is just one example – https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/bjp-and-rss-caused-the-biggest-damage-to-hinduism-in-recent-times-says-shankaracharya-swaroopandanda-saraswati-1225003-2018-05-02.
I am not surprised, because Left – illiberal ecosystem has a selective amnesia. This lobby has a single minded focus of creating a Hindu-phobic narrative, as Mumbaikars say, “Masala maar ke” – by spicing it up – with half truths, falsehood and poisonous reporting. I hope this case study opens the eyes of ‘Hindtuva’ leaders and they put some efforts to counter this poisonous narrative.