Mother, Manu and Poverty article was written some time back in the wake of RSS Chief Bhagwat’s remarks on the Mother Teressa.
When Mohan Bhagwat, Chief of RSS said ‘Mother Teresa’s service may have been good but it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian.’ he indirectly made certain obvious presumptions. One, the social work is always with the intention of converting people to your own faith. Second, the poor are vulnerable to the lure of money and facilities. Third, the poor should be left to themselves so as to avoid any blame of proselytization, and they need not be a concern of the civil society.
Mother, Manu and Poverty
Let us look at the first aspect that the social work is always with the intention of converting people to your own faith. RSS itself prefers to be called a Nationalist social organization. It is engaged in various social works especially in the events of natural calamities. So should we presume that RSS too does it with the ultimate motto of converting people to its faith i.e. Hinduism? And if that is not the case (unlike Christians whom they blame) should we presume that they, the RSS, do their social work only for Hindus. So, even in the case of natural calamities they first identify Hindus and reach out only to them, leaving the suffering people of other faiths to their fate.
Let us consider the second aspect that is the poor are vulnerable to the lure of money and facilities. Now, this is quite an insulting statement about the poor. It is to brand them as dishonest simply for trying to survive. Who wants to be poor by choice? Of course nobody. To say that they should not be lured by money or facilities is to suggest that they should not strive to seek access to livelihood and better future. It is to suggest that they should remain stagnating where they are or rather where they are predestined by their religion. It is to suggest that suffering ignominiously, dying poor and neglected is good rather than going in search for self- emancipation, self-respect, and dignity.
Now let us look at the third aspect that is, the poor should be left to themselves so as to avoid any blame of proselytization, and they need not be a concern of the civil society. RSS wants [claims] to build a strong nation through its nationalist movement. Is this how it would build it leaving aside poor and marginalized to their fate? Whom does RSS want to make strong? India or just a few privileged ones?
RSS and all its affiliates are going full steam after all those who have ‘stolen’ their flock. They blame Muslims for doing it on the strength of sword; they blame Christians for doing it in the name of charity. They blame Dr. Ambedkar for doing it in the name of dignity.
The majority of those who have moved away from the faith which Bhagwat espouses are poor and marginalized, a hapless lot. Whether Mother Teresa’s objective was to convert her beneficiaries to Christianity or not, it’s a matter of every body’s knowledge that she did a great service to humanity. It is visible for anybody to see. As for conversions, she is quoted by her biographer Navin Chawla (former Chief Election Commissioner) as ‘I do convert but convert to be a better Hindu, better Muslim, better Catholic and better Sikh. Once you have found him, it is up to you to do what you want. Conversion is not my work.’ What Mother has said also happens to be a common knowledge about her. No wonder there is uproar all over the country and even in the parliament condemning Bhagwat and his creed.
But in the din of this noise, a very crucial aspect is getting lost.
Why people get converted? Why poor get converted? Why are poor among Hindus lured to conversion? Bhagwat perhaps stated the fact but he spared himself of introspection. Why ‘his flock’ migrates?
Poverty is universal. All religions have poor people in their fold. In fact, Christianity whom Bhagwat blames of luring with money was once upon a time known as the religion of poor men. Poverty is a result of lack of access to the resources of livelihood or lack of efforts to harness them when access is available. The lack of access could be natural or artificial. Artificial lack of access happens to the prisoners of the state (but their survival is taken care of by the state), slaves and people of certain castes among Hindus. This last phenomenon is unique to India. And Bhagwat will be too embarrassed to accept it though he cannot deny the fact.
It is true that Hindus do not have one single religious scripture. There are many scriptures and as many deities. Everyone is free to follow any one or more scriptures as well as deities. But the social structure is defined by one scripture and all Hindus from
Shankaracharya to Mahatma must adhere to its tenets. That treatise is called ‘Manu-Smriti’ and the social structure it prescribes is called the Caste System.
Caste is one precious possession every Hindu must save at any cost. He cannot risk it in the name of social work.
It was this sense of duty towards the Caste System that Rama, a King supposed to protect the religion, had to kill Shambuka who had transgressed his Shudra caste and wanted to be a Brahmin. This prescription of heavy penalty, a penalty of death or cutting off the tongue or pouring of molten lead in the ears of Shudras attempting to educate themselves with the knowledge of Vedas, kept the Caste System live and kicking.
Dr. B R Ambedkar in his book ‘Annihilation of Caste’ (1936) had observed that ‘thirteen millions of people living in the midst of civilization are still in a savage state and are leading the life of hereditary criminals! But the Hindus have never felt ashamed of it…. the aborigines have remained savages because they (Hindus) had made no effort to civilize them, to give them medical aid, to reform them, to make them good citizens. But supposing a Hindu wished to do what the Christian missionary is doing for these aborigines, could he have done it? … If these savages remain savages they may not do any harm to the Hindus. But if they are reclaimed by non-Hindus and converted to their faiths, they will swell the ranks of the enemies of Hindus. … Not only has the Hindu made no effort for the humanitarian cause of civilizing the savages but the higher caste Hindus have deliberately prevented the lower castes who are within the pale of Hinduism from rising to the cultural level of the higher castes. …. The Hindus criticize the Mohammedans for having spread their religion by the use of the sword. They also ridicule Christianity on the score of the inquisition. But really speaking who is better and more worthy of our respect – the Mohammedans and Christians, who attempted to thrust down the throats of unwilling persons what they regarded as necessary for their salvation; or the Hindu who would not spread the light, who would endeavour to keep others into darkness, who would not consent to share his intellectual and social inheritance with those who are ready. …. Caste in the hands of the orthodox has been a powerful weapon for persecuting the reforms and for killing all reform.’
If anyone dares to cross the barriers of Caste he is faced with excommunication from the society, a complete isolation, ‘hukka- paani band’ kind of a situation.
Even murder in the name of honour; and this is so even after over six decades of Constitution of India being in force. The effects of Caste on the ethics of Hindus are simply deplorable. As a result even after several kinds of affirmative actions provided in the Constitution and willingly or un- willingly implemented by the government, condition of masses has not improved much. More than quarter of our population is below the poverty line.
The obvious reason for this poverty is the lack of education, lack of resources for thousands of years. The Manu- Smriti which defines Caste system and which proclaims its sanctity to be preserved at all costs clearly stipulates that the Shudras cannot acquire knowledge and property, cannot keep arms and must serve the other three castes at all times without any expectation of returns. This being the prevailing situation for several centuries, poverty and neglect of human life are derived straight from the religion called Hinduism. Mohan Bhagwat is learned enough to know this but he is also clever enough to not only ignore it but to divert attention from it. That is the reason why enemies are created in the name of Muslims or Christians. Even Mother is an evil before the Manu.
Author – Harishchandra Sukhdeve, Email – firstname.lastname@example.org, You can find him on Facebook with the same name.