Prayagraj: Politics could turn mundane in Delhi during the winter but not at Kumbh. The biggest spiritual gathering of saint and seers is witnessing a heated debate on reservation, education and India’s relationship with neighbour Pakistan. The gathering at akharas is unanimous of the view that religious preachers have to interfere to save the future for humanity. They have urged the Central Government headed by Narendra Modi to take decisive steps to remove caste-based reservation, which ascetics think is damaging and spreading hatred in the society.
Swami Narmada Bhartiji Maharaj, quite vocal against reservation, said that all the political parties must come together on this issue, which has to be purely seen from an economic point of view and not caste. As other sanyasis join the bonfire or ‘dhuni’ in front of the camp, the message from the intensified debate became clear that the Modi government with an absolute majority in the Parliament is their last hope.
"The sant samaj is working towards harmony in the society but the strength of our nation has been significantly weakened by caste-based reservation. The intent of reservation sounds good, but in the long run, it has only brought inequality, and, moreover, created an atmosphere of hostility against each other. Everybody is seeking reservation quota and politicians are fueling the fire for electoral gains,” Maharaj said.
Mahant Girija Shankar chipped in with his argument that reservation as envisaged by Indian leaders after Independence was meant for a limited period to get the underprivileged on their feet and help the government in countering massive disparity.
"But even after 71 years, we are moving in a circle. In fact, the situation on the ground has worsened because of growing reservation demands and further divisions of castes and sub-castes. Aren’t we undermining a merit-based society by more and more reservation? Even this government is not different from the previous ones though we have huge expectation from Modi. We have nothing to do with electoral politics but leaders must understand, we cannot keep quiet on certain issues,” Shankar said.
A mahant, who didn't want to be named, said the priests should keep themselves away from politicians. He also argued that sanyasis should only provide value-based direction and let the government do its job.
Mahant Adwait Bharti Maharaj, who came from Kamakhya, Assam disagreed with his fellow sanyasi. He asked the Modi government to come out with a clear policy on reservation. He said the caste-based system has to go from this country otherwise, it would slowly destroy the country.
"It is like committing suicide. Masses are being exploited in the name of upliftment. Political parties are showing dreams of a better life but in turn sowing the seed of discord among the people living in the same locality,” he said.
The heated debate swiftly turned to education with some sanyasis present at the 'dhuni' blaming the system for its inability to provide the best education for the underprivileged. Mahant Ramesh Puriji said India is one of the most cultured and intelligent countries, but when to it comes to education for the young generation, shockingly, the country has not been able to understand the need for modern education as well as preserving its old tradition.
"Everybody is talking about nationalism today and need for incorporating this into our education system. In my view, Indian politics is the biggest opposition to nationalism. In a country where politics is affecting building a small toilet, do you think nationalism is a priority? We should never forget those who gave us freedom, but their sacrifice, I believe, has been lost in the cacophony of current politics,” Puriji added.
Mahant Naga Baba Rampuri said nationalism should not be politicised as it may create divisions within the society.
Mahant Girija Shankar made a passing comment that the test of nationalism should start from India's leaders and that they need to be taught to work selflessly for the people, who have elected them.
"Education should not be fiction but a reality. Let's not use nice words to hide the ugly reality of the struggle and lack of jobs. Don't we see anguish among people? A great service to society is possible only when we have modern education in villages without forgetting our roots," Shankar added while passing chillum to others.
As smoke and scent of marijuana also called 'prasad' among sanyasis filled the air, an elderly mahant, who was sitting quietly on a newly woven rug, softly said that India must destroy nuclear weapons of Pakistan if it wants peace in the region.
"If those weapons fall into hands of terrorists and they push the button, India will be wiped out from the map. Politicians say one thing and do another thing. We cannot trust Pakistan,” the mahant said requesting anonymity.
For the saints, a part of their inner evolution, political issues are of qualitative change. And just like spiritual progression, they desire collective and vertical change.
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Updated Date: Jan 04, 2019 16:15:00 IST