The eternally stupid politics of religion
by Bhaskar Menon on 27 Dec 2014 6 Comments

The latest examples of the eternally stupid politics of religion come in the call to give official status to the Bhagavad Gita and a dump on Hinduism by the new Hindi language Epic channel. The first is stupid because the Gita is so far above the government’s poor power to add or detract that giving it official status is somewhat like endowing it on the sky. Those pushing for it do it only to discomfit the proponents of minority faiths.

It does not matter that their targets are people who try to subvert Hinduism with niggling malicious propaganda such as the Yam Kise Se Kam Nahi sitcom on the Epic Channel. The show presents Yamraj, the god of Death in the Hindu pantheon, as a narcissistic, corrupt dimwit using his power to get his wife things like furniture, a microwave, a refrigerator and a high-definition television set. Given that depiction, the title of the series takes on an additional layer of malice, for it slimes all other Hindu deities. (The images that appear with the title include none from another tradition.)

With media reports announcing that another Yamraj sitcom is in the works for another channel, it is necessary to ask why some people seem to have decided to make that unlikely deity a figure of fun.

I think it has to do with Yama’s role in the Katha Upanishad, which explains one of Hinduism’s cardinal beliefs, that death is merely a door to another life. As I noted in an earlier post, that teaching, long derided as absurd by the missionary faiths, has been validated by science, making nonsense of the Heaven-Hell carrot and stick essential to keep their followers in line.

Presenting Yama as a clown is the first step to closing the minds of the faithful to a destabilizing truth. So who are the people behind Yam Kise Se Kam Nahi?

The producer is one David Polycarp. The “creative” brain is a Debbie Rao. Polycarp used to be with the Disney Channel. He is now a partner with Vasant Valsan in Troublemaker Productions, the company responsible for this atrocity.

Epic is described as “India’s first genre specific channel,” whatever that means. Epic went on air on 16 November 2014, and from what has been on offer so far it seems the channel will rely on a mix of the Mahabharata serial, cloak and dagger “history” (the Mughal era Siyaasat) and docudramas about real events.

As that potent mix of content can shape Indian opinion on key aspects of national life it is important to know who is behind the venture. According to a report in Hollywood Reporter, Mukesh Ambani in his personal capacity owns a quarter of the Epic Channel; the Mahindra Group is reported to own a similar share. No mention of the remaining 50 per cent.

From that information I would jump to the conclusion that there is a direct foreign element in the venture. Indian corporate biggies are extremely vulnerable to pressure from the managers of their assets abroad, and when told to provide camouflage they are in no position to demur. Based on that leap, I predict the channel will soon be airing a slew of the BBC productions rewriting our history and subverting our national consciousness.

As our Intelligence agencies and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry have little capacity to police this cultural front, and as Indian mass media have long been bribed into a comprador role, nongovernmental organizations must take on the task of raising public awareness.

The danger is not confined to television; it comes also from the teachings of mysteriously rich Babas, Sants and Gurus in command of armed thugs.

This should not be viewed as a purely Hindu concern, for Indians of all faiths are affected by the malicious few. But Hindus have to play catch-up in terms of paying attention to what is being said and done in their name.

To begin with, they might set about systematically examining the content of the extremely low cost and well produced books that purport to contain English translations of ancient Sanskrit works. Those I have read contain much gibberish and seem to be an exercise in misinformation.

Even seemingly prestigious publishers should not escape inspection. For instance, The Times of India’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita subverts some key teachings; the Introduction is incredibly obtuse. (Reading it made me think of the Jain recensions of the Ramayana that turn the plot upside down.) 

In undertaking all this Hindus should discourage politicians from coming to their support: our religion has survived thousands of years on its own formidable strengths.


The views expressed by the author are personal

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