It is a time of churn in India, as anywhere else in the world.
The old secular , leftist and liberal schools which was built learning upon the lessons of The World Wars, the Revolutions of Russia, France, the thoughts of Marx, Mao, Lenin and Stalin gradually had gone stale. What once helped the oppressed people solve their day to day issues had become in some cases initiator of violence or oppression themselves. The Right meanwhile is more appealing to people as it promises to take people back to the Good-Old-Days. It promises the glory days.
For almost 6 decades after independence of India the Left Parties, Leftist policies where popular. Over time, increasing conflicts between the once shunned Right and the ubiquitous Left are common place. Narratives are built with cases of return to old glory in the case of Right and of oppression or class struggle in the case of Left.
The society seems to swing between one form of violence and injustice to another, swinging past the midpoint of peace. While this seems to be a post World War phenomenon, in reality, the fight between thought schools are not new; at least to the South of India. Indian Civilization being so ancient, it has seen similar days in the past. It has lived and survived these to tell its tales.
Examples of how the Jains and Buddhists – The Heterodox systems- had frequent conflicts with Shaivas (Worshippers of Lord Shiva ) and Vaishnavas (Worshippers of Lord Vishnu ) – the Orthodox systems – are detailed in Tamil Scripture of Periya Puranam. There are even descriptions of impalement, immersion in lime, drowning a saint in ocean tied to rope, and several such mass attempts at conversion to a school of thought. Well, if one looks critically at these, convert-or-perish instances of those times, it was no different from the crimes committed by the IS terrorists now where they behead non-Islamists. Yet, these beliefs co-existed, albeit with friction, with royal patronage to a particular school of thought. The Royals were rarely ‘secular’ , to use today’s terminology. Yet, there seems to be times in past where the saints seem to come from all stratas of society and they were respected equally. In Periyapuranam and elsewhere in South Indian history, there are references to a number of saints who have come from humble social backgrounds ( which now belong to oppressed social classes ) and are equally respected – and in some cases more – by the peer saints and followers alike. This does seem strange when we consider that South India actually required a Temple Entry proclamation to allow the commoners from “lower castes” to enter the temples again in 19-20 century. This was about 500 years after the saints from the very same castes were actually venerated. So we really are not sure when the social degradation happened. One thing is certain. Depending on ones ideology – left or right, one can choose to go back to either a past where caste oppression and persecution existed or to one where they apparently did not . I use the word ‘apparent’ because here I have to go by the scriptural records and not actual rock edicts themselves.
[ Some terminologies I use in the poem I am translating here to stimulate further reading : 'Austere Potter' : Saint Thiru Neelakanta Kuyavanar, first saint listed by Saint Sundarar in his list of 63 'Shepherd' : Saint Sri Thirumoolar, composer of Thirumanthiram 'Toddy and fish loving incarnation' : Sri Mutthappan, Kannur, Kerala 'Fearless tiger mounted battlegod of yore' : Sri Ayyappan of Sabarimala, Kerala 'lowly ox' : Ochira Parabrahmam, Ochira, Kerala 'first monist' : Adi Sankara , Kaladi , Kerala composer of Manisha Panchakam ]
Recent rise of right wing in India has witnessed renewed conflict between Left and Right at various levels ; political and otherwise. Some of these have been peaceful, but many especially in the district of Kannur, Kerala State has been especially bloody. The once popular Left movement in India is on the wane as it is losing state after another. The right on the other hand is on the rise. Probably the Left has moved away from the minds of people and Right is occupying the space.
It would be nice if there is no violence and lasting peace. My wish.
2 replies on “Cry of the Zealot”
Wish I could add to this. But I was numbed by the simplicity and the clarity of this piece, that I stopped still. Reading this was like meditation. I found a peaceful and a quiet corner in myself.. I took with me the core of this wonderful narrative..
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Thanks so much. Glad you liked it. ☺️