Friday, February 6, 2009

Pinarayi with Bow and Arrow: New Ram Avatar in Politics ?

IN POLITICS and society symbolism is very important. Symbols signify the message and the masses identify with the party, its ideology and politics through their readings of these symbols and slogans.

That is why we have hammer and sickle signifying the working class base of the Communist party, the crescent that reminds of the Islamic traditions, the crucifix that tells us of Christ and his sacrifice...

And it was Lal Krishna Advani in his Rath Yatra days who made the bow and arrow of Lord Ram into a symbol of an aggressive, exclusive and violent Hindutva which culminated in the destruction of Babri Masjid at the end of his march from Somnath to Ayodhya. Ever since the rise of aggressive Hindutva politics in India, Ram and his war-like figure had been made its principal symbol aided by the television serials in the mid-eighties that provided a cultural ambiance for such a transformation.

The BJP reaped rich harvest out of this politics of culture, winning many seats in the Hindu heartland, though in the process they did incalculable damage to the age-old image of Ram in the Indian psyche. Lord Ram was the maryada purushotham, but today he is more of a Rambo in Indian context.

The transformation of Ram into such an aggressive, violent figure in the post-Rath Yatra days is a matter of great sadness. Because Lord Ram's has been an image etched in Indian mind in a different way when Gandhiji described his ideal nation as Ram Rajya. It was unfortunate that Gandhiji decided to use religious terms that appealed only to the Hindu society to describe the Indian nation, but still it was a nation that was sober, tolerant, inclusive and receptive. Its ethos and principles were based on love and acceptance, not hatred and exclusion.

When Advani converted Lord Ram into such a figure of hatred and violence, he was negating Gandhiji and his Ram in a fundamental way. True, Gandhiji had been shot down by one of his ideological gurus half a century ago, but it was only a physical annihilation, and ever since they were preparing the ground for his spiritual elimination and the installation of the new Ram to lord over our country. With devastating results, now we know.

I started thinking about the symbolism and their meanings when I saw the picture Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM leader in Kerala, holding an arrow and bow with a flowery headgear presented to him by his enthusiastic supporters in Kannur the other day. His New Kerala March is now on its way and before it reaches the State capital later this month we should expect more exhibitions of these symbols of a changing political party.

But I was confused about what the party supporters in Kannur wanted to convey by donning their leader with the bow and arrow, with a headgear of flowers? Was it the image of Lord Ram on his triumphant march to power, a la Lal Krishna Advani? Was it the declaration of the Rambo-like politics in store for us, which, by the way, should cause worry to all of us?

Or was it the other way? The Cupid or our beloved Kamadeva on his way to make a conquest? If indeed this was a message of the party turning a bit romantic during these times of Valentine's day when in our country cultural cops are already on the prowl, I am all for it. Let Comrade Vijayan don the mantle of Kerala Cupid.

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