Kozhikode: For ages the last month of the traditional Malayalam calendar was known only as Karkidakam and not 'Ramayana Masam' as it has been dubbed of late. It is said the renaming was the handiwork of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and it happened around 1982 when the right-wing organisation initiated the Ramayana Parayana (Ramayana recital) widely across Kerala after its Vishala Hindu Sammelanam.
The growing political importance of Ramayana recital event is due to its role in uniting religious Hindus across the state, where devotees have been rendering the Indian Epic at homes for ages. It is in this backdrop that both Congress and CPM are vying to conduct events coinciding with the Ramayana month. Interestingly, secular political parties claim that the Ramayana is not a religious text and not confined to the Hindus.
The Leftists would be organising 14 seminars across the state to 'demysitify' Ramayana under the banner of the fledgling group Sanskrit Sangh. The group is yet to register as an organisation, though it was formed in 2017 September, says its convenor Thilakaraj T.
Meanwhile the Congress will observing Ramayana month with an event organised by KPCC Vichar Vibhag on July 17. It will be inaugurated by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. Shashi Tharoor, MP, would be the keynote speaker at the event to be held at Gandhi Bhavan in the state capital.
“Sanskrit Sangh is not going to observe Ramayana month. In fact we are organising seminars on the thoughts that originated from the Ramayana. There will not be any recital of the epic, and the target audience is secular and not any religious group. Ours is an independent group of scholars, academicians, historians, teachers and students. We gather at some libraries or schools occasionally and make sure not to add any religious colour to it. The Ramayana is not a religious text, but an epic. Some turned it exclusively a Hindu religious text and in short our attempt can be said as a counter to the RSS agenda on similar lines,” said Thilakaraj.
“We are not questioning any religious beliefs, but misinterpretation of popular texts for someone's convenience. If you could recall, prime minister Narendra Modi had quoted from the Bhagavad Gita in 2016 while urging workers to work sincerely without thinking about the fruit of reward. Afterwards, the labour laws changed in favour of the employers! Such misrepresentation of text had led prompted me to form a group. There should be someone to interpret the text correctly,” he added.
However, Thrithala MLA and Congress leader VT Balram believes that the secular parties in Kerala need not follow these Sangh strategies as the state is secular in nature, compared to other parts of the country, where the BJP is trying to portray Congress as anti-Hindu.
“Ramayana month observance was unified in the state as a tactic of the Sangh, under P Parameshwaran in 1982. This was clearly an RSS agenda. In the name of defending the RSS agenda, Kerala CPM is repeating them as such be it Rakshabandhan, Shobayathra or Yoga. They are repeating the RSS agenda and giving it more authenticity. CPM received RSS leaders like OK Vasu and gave them top positions like the chairmanship of the Devaswom Board. These two groups have become two sections that share politics,” Balram said.
“CPM has been doing it in all areas it had influence. In West Bengal, they were organisers of Kali puja. Pampering religious sentiments of areas it works has been part of their vote bank politics. It is not to be followed by the secular parties. Congress stance is different, we are not going to observe Ramayana month. Congress fights the BJP in all the states face to face and it blamed the former as anti-Hindu. So, our party has a political responsibility to convince the moderates among the Hindus in other states that our party is not anti-Hindu. Even such efforts are being criticised by the CPM as pro-Hindu, and in the one or two states they have presence, they are shamelessly following the Sangh agenda,” he added.
Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram director P Parameswaran, who was in the forefront in the Vishala Hindu Sammelanam in 1982, meanwhile reacted that CPM as well as the Congress were in such a pathetic state that they are ready to do anything to gain some popularity.
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