I mean by Ramarajya-Divine Raj, the kingdom of God. Ramarajya of my dream ensures equal rights alike of Prince and Pauper…. Ramarajya is undoubtedly one of true democracy…. (Young India, September 19, 1929)
On January 22 in Ayodhya, the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, presided over the Pranapratistha ceremony at the Ram Mandir. In his speech after that, he claimed that the event heralded the birth of a new era. Further, he declared that the foundation for the next thousand years had been laid. The Sangh Parivar, its allies, and sympathisers announced that India is moving towards Ramarajya. The term Ramarajya was close to the heart of Mahatma Gandhi, and it was his vision for an independent India. This article attempts to understand the concept of Ramarajya as used by the Father of the Nation and the reality in India today.
Gandhi’s Idea of Ramarajya
According to Gandhi’s political philosophy, Ramarajya literally means Rajya or reign of Rama. Rama being the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, Ramarajya could be understood as the ‘reign of Lord Vishnu or God’. In the common parlance, Ramarajya is a ‘perfect democracy’.
Gandhi wrote in Hind Swaraj in 1929, “By Ramarajya, I do not mean Hindu Raj. I mean by Ramarajya, a Divine Raj, the Kingdom of God. For me, Rama and Rahim are one and the same deity. I acknowledge no other God but the one God of Truth and righteousness.”
For Gandhi, the state embodies a relationship between the government and its citizens. The state unites its people into a community and provides all possible means for its well-being, security and development. The state functions in the common interest without neglecting the last individual’s interest (Anthyodaya). Gandhi’s concept of Ramarajya is inspired by morality, ethics, and spirituality, as Rama is believed to embody all these virtues. Therefore, in Ramarajya, laws are guided by morality, power is decentralised, and the interests of every individual are attended to.
According to Gandhi, religion binds one inextricably to the Truth within and purifies one’s thoughts, intentions and actions. For Gandhi, there is no religion higher than Truth and Righteousness. Religion and morality go hand in hand. Therefore, one who loses morality ceases to be religious. For India, which is heterogeneous, multireligious, and characterised by inter-caste and inter-religious problems, Gandhi proposed the concept of Ramarajya, which is based on morality and virtues. Not one religion’s dominance over other religions. Rama is the embodiment of morality and virtues.
Rama is Truth incarnate. Truth is God. Every religion worships ‘Truth’. Therefore, the end of all religions is Truth. But the means to achieve this end may be varied. Different religions may perceive the Ramarajya in different terms. Muslims may call it ‘Khudai Raj’. For Christians, it is the ‘Kingdom of God’. Or ‘Dharmarajya’ may be a more inclusive word.
In Dharmarajya or Ramarajya, every individual is of great value. No one should be discriminated against on any basis whatsoever. Gandhi was against any social discrimination, so he called for eradicating untouchability. Ramarajya, of his dreams, ensures equal rights to princes and paupers alike.
Features of Gandhi’s Ramarajya:
Gandhi’s Ramarajya is a reign characterised by wisdom, compassion, morality and justice. The following are some of its features:
- Equal status of all: In Gandhi’s Ramarajya, all individuals are equal regardless of their caste, creed or gender and therefore, all must have equal opportunities and rights.
- Equal distribution of resources:Gandhi’s Ramarajya is where there are no rich or poor, no class conflict, where there is an equal distribution of national resources, and where there is a self-sufficient economy. The nation’s wealth is to be used to serve the common good. The prosperity of the country should be shared by all its citizens. In such a Ramarajya, the wealthy and powerful would act as trustees and use their resources for the betterment of the poor and the needy.
- Decentralised Power:Ramarajya of Gandhi advocates local self-government and decentralisation of power. Decisions that affect the local people should be made locally, involving people at the grassroots level.
- Morality and Spiritual Values:Ramarajya of Gandhi’s dreams is governed by morality and spiritual values. Truth, love, compassion, and forgiveness are characteristic values of every citizen, and an Individual’s conscience should be his or her guiding light.
- A Just Society:In this Ramarajya, no one is above the law, and all should be treated justly. Self-discipline is the most crucial ingredient of justice. A self-disciplined person respects the rights of others as well.
- Non-Violence:Non-violence is Ramarajya’s mantra. All violence should be done away with, and all conflicts should be resolved peacefully. Non-violence and Satyagraha are the means to press for one’s rights.
- Education for Empowerment:For Gandhi, education is essential for the development of individuals and the whole society. He emphasised the importance of holistic education, including intellectual and moral development.
In the background of these features of Gandhi’s Ramarajya, let us cast a bird’s eye view on the Modi’ Ramarajya’ during the past ten years, its relentless attempts with phenomenal success to communalise and polarise the Indian society and how it has undermined the democratic values of the Indian Constitution.
The Ram Mandir movement catapulted the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) to power in 2014. Notwithstanding the promises of efficient and corruption-free governance, the country witnessed a gradual and steady onslaught on its democracy and its institutions. The governance was transformed into totalitarianism with religious hegemony. When Gandhi’s concept of Ramarajya is juxtaposed with that of Mr Narendra Modi, one may get a fair idea of what the Sangh Parivar and its allies meant by Ramarajya and what to expect in the coming years.
- Poverty and Unemployment:Most of India’s public enterprises have been handed over to corporates. About 10.1% of people have been affected by unemployment. Rising prices of food grains and commodities of daily consumption are soaring to the skies. The lives of rural and urban poor have been reduced to abject poverty. Many young Indians leave the country to pursue education and jobs in foreign lands.
Demonetisation grounded the economy almost to a halt. Sales, traders’ incomes, production, and employment nose-dived. Small producers and traders lacking capital to stay afloat were shut down. India’s multitude of daily wage workers could not find employers with the cash to pay them. Local industries suspended work for lack of money. The informal financial sector, which conducts 40% of India’s total lending, predominantly in rural areas, collapsed.
- Socio-Economic Inequality:According to Oxfam’s Report “Survival of the Richest: The India story”, the rich have grown richer and the poor poorer over the past decade. Thewealthiest 1% in India now own more than 40% of the country’s total wealth, while the bottom half of the population together share just 3% between 2012 and 2021. The report also highlighted gender inequality in India, stating that female workers earned only 63 paise for every 1 rupee earned by male workers.
The Scheduled Castes and rural workers are the worst affected. They earned only 55% and half of what the advantaged social groups earned, respectively, between 2018 and 2019. Oxfam India stated that the country’s marginalised communities, such as Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Women, and informal sector workers, are continuing to suffer in a system that prioritises the survival of the richest.
Thanks to the implementation of GST, the poor in India are paying disproportionately higher taxes and spending more on essential items and services compared to the rich.
- Standard of Education:In an era of science, technological revolution, and artificial intelligence making inroads into daily lives, the country’s education system is being taken back to primitive times. Everything from science to history is being mythicised in such a primitive manner that India has become a laughing stock at the international level. The following findings of the latest ASER report titled “Beyond Basics” smack at the face of the country with a pathetic scenario of our educational standard.
- About 25% of this age group still cannot fluently read a standard II-level text in their regional language.
- More than half struggle with division (3-digit by 1-digit) problems. Only 43.3% of 14-18-year-olds are able to do such problems correctly. This skill is usually expected in Std III-IV.
- A little over half of the surveyed group between 14 and 18 can read sentences in English (57.3%). Almost three-quarters of those who can read sentences in English cannot tell their meanings (73.5%).
- Religious Intolerance and Discrimination:Ram, who was an avatar of God, is taking the avatar of a destroyer. Hailed as the ‘Maryadapurusha’ and ‘Purushottama’, Rama’s values have been thrown into the winds. Hatred, intolerance and vilification of minority religions are being disseminated in all possible ways, the media being the leading national channel for this purpose.
The Indian constitution provides for freedom of conscience and the right of all individuals to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion; as a secular state, it requires the state to treat all religions impartially and prohibits discrimination based on religion. But the ground reality is devastating.
- Thirteen states in the Indian Union have passed laws prohibiting religious conversions for all faiths. Some states have imposed penalties and severe punishments against religious conversions, even for the purpose of marriage.
- The police and law enforcement authorities have been let loose on minorities in the states like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. They harass, persecute, penalise and even publicly flog men of minority religions based on allegations. Some state governments have bulldozed Muslim-owned homes and shops following communal violence. A report drafted by a Citizens Committee stated that there were “multiple instances of apparent police complicity” in violent actions against protestors, who were chiefly Muslim, in the Delhi riots in 2020.
- In its report, the ‘Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)’ said Christians were “increasingly targeted using these anti-conversion laws,” as “allegations of forced conversion, no matter if false, have led many Christians to be attacked, arrested and detained by police.” In several BJP-ruled states, the Sangh Parivar’s foot soldiers disrupted Christian prayer assemblies, desecrated Christian churches and beat up Christian congregations. The police either witnessed the attacks, sometimes joined the miscreants and finally arrested the Christians alleging conversion.
- In its annual report, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the government “continued its systematic discrimination and stigmatisation of religious and other minorities, particularly Muslims.”
- United Christian Forum (UCF) said till November 26, 2022, 511 anti-Christian incidents around the country had been reported to its hotline, compared to 505 in all of 2021. It urged the government to take action in response to these incidents. The Modi administration maintained a deafening silence.
- Religious leaders, academics, political figures, and activists made inflammatory public remarks about religious minorities. The cries of minorities, the anguish of the right-thinking citizens and letters of senior government officials and retired bureaucrats did not cut any ice with the Prime Minister.
- Justice for all?
The state violates the Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and the right to dissent daily. Any criticism of the ruling dispensation or public disagreement with its policies is construed as ‘anti-national’ and an act of ‘sedition’. Protests or demonstrations are silenced in the name of national interest, and human rights are violated with impunity.
Here are five instances out of the many others that signify the slow but steady withdrawal of the promise of social justice enshrined in the Constitution of India.
- Public Lynchings
The public lynching incidents have steadily increased since 2014. Muslims, Dalits and other minorities have been victims of public lynching based on false allegations.
- Arrests of Journalists
At least fifty-five journalists have faced arrest and imprisonment for practising their profession and exercising freedom of speech and expression on various issues of national concern. Journalists arrested on charges of sedition during the Modi rule include Siddique Kappan, Prashant Kanojia, Rahul Kulkarni, Dhaval Patel and many others.
III. Misuse of the UAPA
The UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) has been misused as a weapon to subdue social activists or human rights activists. The Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case, the arrest of journalists in Kashmir, and the violence against activists in the Delhi riots cases are but a few examples. The incarceration of 83-year-old Stan Swamy and his murder in the police custody has stirred the nation’s conscience.
- Police Atrocities
The protest of Students of Jamia Millia Islamia against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was brutally handled by the Delhi Police. The police were given a free hand to enter the university campus, to thrash the students and to damage university property. JNU also saw a similar ferocity.
- The Manipur Ethnic strife
The state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in the BJP-ruled state of Manipur set ablaze the state. The gross human rights violations and wanton killings and pillage are the orchestrated events. The rape, the naked parade and the torture of women of the Kuki tribe are the ultimate blot on Indian democracy. Aren’t these the ‘Sita Matas’ in Modi’s Ramarajya?
If this scenario is the foretaste of Modi’s Ramarajya, one shudders to think what will be the actual Ramarajya that is envisioned by the Sangh Parivar on the occasion of ‘Pranapatishta’ of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.