This Thursday, CNN-IBN anchor and senior journalist Sagarika Ghose termed Lord Rama as “divine encroacher” in one of her tweets, which she later deleted as it caused considerable outrage among the twitterati, a section of whom she loves to refer as “Internet Hindus”.
Earlier, another journalist, Priya Ramani, in one of her articles had termed Lord Rama as “loser” for making Sita go through agni pariksha, and again it caused considerable outrage, though the article is still there (and I’m NOT asking it to be removed or deleted).
These are not only two instances, in fact these are very minor instances and perhaps didn’t warrant any outrage given that Lord Rama has gone through much more with people calling him male chauvinist, anti-dalit, anti-dravidian, an aggressor, and Ramayanas being burnt down south on so many occasions.
Even though I fancy myself as an atheist in terms of religious beliefs, there are some cultural “Hindu” elements within me (which I can’t escape), because of which, maybe, I don’t find these comments quite charitable.
But it’s not just the Hindu cultural elements, I find such comments equally uncharitable when made about gods or prophets of other religions, say, finding fault with the personality or “morality” of Prophet Muhammad.
And no, it’s NOT because it hurt sentiments. Yes, it does hurt sentiments of many for sure, but as was pointed out in my earlier post, I don’t believe any act should be stopped just because it hurts sentiments.
I believe that finding faults with the “morality” of historical figures is technically flawed. It’s flawed, maybe even illogical, to judge the morality of someone (whether an imaginary god or a real historical figure) based on the accepted moral standards of the modern society.
It’s similar to making a retrospective law or an ex post facto law, which seeks to punish someone for actions performed at a time when they were legal. Almost all modern democracies consider enactment of such a law as a violation of rights of freedom and human rights. In USA, a country that boasts of its freedom of speech and liberty, ex post facto laws are completely forbidden. It’s also forbidden in Iran.
Take a very simple example. Smoking in public places was prohibited in India around 2 years back and now it’s ‘criminal’ to smoke in a public transport bus. But can we paint all those people, who had smoked in public buses more than 2 years back, as ‘criminals’ and make them pay fines now?
Passive smoking was equally unpleasant even then, but there was no ‘accepted social law’ to ban it in public places, so those guys, who are ‘criminals’ by today’s standards, were well within their right to indulge in that act. It’s unfair to brand them ‘criminals’ today for an act committed 2 years back. And it’s just a 2 years old story.
How fair is it to pass judgments on actions that happened centuries, rather millenniums, ago and brand someone as a loser, encroacher, aggressor, male chauvinist, etc.?
No, there are no universal or constant moral standards, as a rationalist one should be able to appreciate that and make that difference. Just like evolution of species, there has been evolution of morality too. And yeah, no matter what the believers and the faithfuls say, today’s moral standards are “more evolved” than those of the times of Lord Rama or Prophet Muhammad.
Now I can understand if there are a set of Ram Bhakts today who insist on making their wives go through agni pariksha for having spent a night out. They clearly are “losers”, criminals in fact.
(at this point of time, I must add, before someone else points it out, that as per some versions of Ramayana, agni pariksha never happened with the ‘real’ Sita, and it was only her ‘shadow’ that went through it and the ‘real’ Sita came out as a result; similar justifications could exist in other religions too for their oft-criticized “immoral” acts, but I won’t go into such aspects in this article)
And we all know that such people exist, but they are not necessarily Ram Bhakts, in fact some claim to be modern, secular and progressive. But if someone justifies his male-chauvinism (a modern thought that came much later in the process of evolution of morality) based on the deeds of Lord Rama, then his Ramayana needs to be corrected.
But otherwise, no one has any business going on correcting Ramayana and other religious text and figures just because they look outlandish or immoral by the scientific and moral standards of today’s world.
I know it’s easier said than done, because many believers are now increasingly being encouraged by some elements to believe in the literal interpretation of the religious texts, which are in direct conflict with the findings of the modern science as well as the modern morality. Such situation will no doubt push the rationalists and the atheists to point out the presence of “unscience” and “immorality” in their religious texts and beliefs.
But without such a trigger, I guess such comments can surely be avoided, unless you just want to make news and attract attention.