Astras on Ram Navami : An integral component of Hindu practice

In the state of West Bengal where the ruling administration is bitterly known for its predilection towards Muharram processions over Durga Puja, and wide spread open appeasement towards Muslims, its irritation over Ram Navami processions is heedless and ridiculous

Out of Muharram processions during eight years of the ruling party’s dispensation in West Bengal, records do not show even a single incident of violence. Muharram procession participants bear arms too, however that does not seem to vex the ruling dispensation at all. The irritation solely seems to stem from bearing of arms during Ram Navami processions. The hypocrisy is laid bare and is violative of Articles 15, 19, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. 

Why target processions when they are legal and peaceful:

The freedom and right to lead a procession through public streets is guaranteed by law. In Sadagopacharior v. A. Rama Rao (1903) I.L.R. Mad, 376, it was held that the right to conduct religious processions through public streets is a right inherent in every person. This ruling was later followed by the Bombay High Court in Chandu Sajan Patil v. Nvahedehand AIR 1950 Bom 192. Thereafter, the Supreme Court of India pronounced in Himat Lal K. Shah vs. Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad and Anr., Decided On: 15.09.1972 that public processions are prima facie legal, and any procession which even causes even an appreciable obstruction to the highway cannot be considered to be a public nuisance. If such a freedom and right to lead a procession through any street and colony of one’s choice is guaranteed and protected under law, then why should such a procession be attacked and pelted stones at, whenever it enters and passes through a Muslim area? Won’t our Muslim brothers and sisters be tolerant towards a secular society and co habit harmoniously? 

Bearing of Arms:

Every year, there is needless hue and cry created about honing arms during Ram Navami processions. There was an incongruous remark made by the Chief Minister, where she bemoaned whether Lord Rama wanted swords in his rallies. In fact, weapons or “astras” have played a central and ubiquitous role in historical accounts of Hindu Gods and Goddesses since time immemorial. In Hindu mythology, there are three kind of beings besides the animals – the Devas (Gods), Manushya (humans, descendents of Manu) and Asuras (demons). Humans reposed faith in Devas who were responsible for maintaining the cosmic order and destroying evil. The astras or weapons are symbols of power in the hands of the Devas. Each God thus is associated with a particular weapon, namely Shiva (Trishul or Trident), Vishnu (Chakra or Wheel), Brahma (Brahmastra) and Hanuman (Gada or Mace). The bow and arrow is associated with a number of divine weapons held by various Gods, not just Rama i.e. Gandiva (Arjun), Pasupat (Shiva), Varunashtra (Indra). The Mace or Gada is a symbol of sovereignty, cosmic order, law of cause and effect or Karma. The Chakra is the symbol of Dharma that rotates and spreads its beneficial influence in all directions. It symbolizes the constant cycle of birth and death from which humans seek liberation. It is a symbol of the cosmic mind which destroys negativity. The weapons or “Astras” destroy the six negative emotions- kaam, krodh, lobh, moh, matsarjya and ahankar and put us back on the rightful path of spiritualism. Weapons have thus been mainstays behind the heroic victories and conquests. It is thus only symbolic that processions when taken out in the name of Lord Ram, involve weapons as illustrations of the heroic victories achieved. In current times, such illustrations and symbolisms become even more necessary, in light of the unprecedented and overt deference of appeasement politics by the ruling dispensation in Bengal and degrading law and order in the State. 

Violence is Mainstay of Bengal Politics  

Peculiarly, even though the entire country celebrates Ram Navami on the same day, clashes erupt only out of West Bengal. Similarly, during elections, Bengal is brimming with violent clashes between party workers, whereas elections in other states pass off peacefully. This trend of intimidating voters, rigging and booth capturing started during Left rule and has continued with brute force till date under the aegis of the Trinamool. 

Conclusion

When a procession is peaceful, and requisite permission has been obtained, one can find no reason to block or interfere. If FIRs are registered for carrying arms, the same standard should apply across all festivals and not solely against political opponents to please vote banks. Rendition and illustrations of Hindu epics especially the Ramayana and Mahabharata will be incomplete without mention of weapons and astras. At the same time, if government feels it is necessary to ban the carrying of arms during such processions, it must enforce such a ban across all festivals irrespective of religion. Such courage and fair commitment shown will be truly secular. 

Fear and hate mongering spiced with violence and appeasement have become the mainstays of West Bengal politics. The embers are damaging the peace and civility of the State. Women safety was once a no brainer in the city. However, recent incidents of rapes (in a school and in a bus) have blurred the Camelot. Youths with skull caps on bikes are freewheeling through blue and white lit flyovers with abject disregard for rules. Traffic cops are letting them off for fear of reprimand from the seat of power at Nabanna(The Secretariat). School textbooks have been churned to erase mention of “Ram” in Ramdhonu (which means “rainbow” in Bengali) to Rangadhenu (a word that does not even exist in the Bengali dictionary!). Mention of parents’ name has been changed from Ma, Baba to Ammi and Abbu. Saraswati Puja celebrations have been halted. World famous Durga Puja festival has been dwarfed by patronizing Muharram celebrations, a move which even received widespread ridicule from the Calcutta High Court. 

The on ground report says that the common voter is tired of the open appeasement going around, and wishes to vent his / her frustration and bring about a change. However, that freedom of choice is undone with booth capturing and threats by incumbent party workers. At 45 kms from Kolkata, in a village in Baruipur (District of South 24 Parganas) has seen silent illegal settlement of Rohingyas with the State Government looking the other way. One village at a time, Hindu families are being forced to relocate. This anti majoritarian stance of the ruling dispensation is disturbing since today’s borders of Bengal were created out of a United Bengal in 1947, after already conceding the major share to Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh). The remainder portion is facing the danger of a demographic upheaval. A rude awakening is much desired. The ubiquitous smoke from chimneys and industrial factories has vanished, replaced by disconsolate smokes rising of violent communal clashes.