I talk about divine intervention a lot. But I’m not actually religious. And I’m certainly not one of those people who is extreme about being non-religious, I understand the need for organized religion even if I don’t subscribe to it.
And so, when the Ram Setu controversy hit headlines, my initial reaction was something along the lines of the people who want to define this debate in the context of religion v/s development. That’s fair I think, because we are going to remain stuck in the dark ages if we don’t understand that breaking down a building does not mean your faith has been broken. By the way, if you haven’t already, read Vir Sanghvi’s Sunday piece in HT, I thought he did a great job of explaining how the BJP/RSS etc are doing a great job of promoting this random extremism in Hinduism which is so unnecessary. I mean it’s true. The Indian Express carried an edit a few days ago that said that if this is all the BJP has as a political card -- dressing up as characters from the Ramayana and holding rallys, disrupting working people -- then clearly if there is a midterm poll, its not going to have too much to offer to the people. It's too hypocritical a party, they okayed this project (as they did with the nuclear talks with the US) but now they’re wasting everyone’s time protesting against. Anyway, with the Congress affidavit telling people that there is no proof Ram existed – even if they have detracted the statement – the BJP has been given another chance. True that. My boss actually wrote an article saying that India isn’t ready and doesn’t even need a debate which tests the validity of religions. You believe, then good. I'll take your word for it.
But at the same time, I also wasn’t too sure if I am pro this canal building, especially if there could be another route. See, I remember the first time I heard about the Ram Setu, that there were actually these stones or whatever, and it could be the route Ram took to rescue Sita, I thought it was bloody cool that these things may have happened. Like when they discovered Dwarka under-water (Dwarka right?) or that the Saraswati did exist? I repeat, I’m not religious, although I am a Hindu, but I actually think it’s cool because it just makes our history all the richer. Yes, I can be a sentimental git sometimes.
But I also have the annoying habit of thinking with my head and not with my heart. So, what I don’t understand is, why don’t we know information about this proposed canal? How much will it cost? How much money can India make of it? What will be the ecological damage? In fact, I saw We the People on NDTV and despite so many people saying, we want to hear about environmental effects etc, the discussion never really turned there, people kept getting louder and I went to see if the dog was doing something exciting cause I was getting bored. We can never change the debate from religion v/s development to an informed debate over the merits and de-merits of a proposal if we don’t get serious. And I know that has been the attempt with the nuclear deal on the part of the government and every lawyer in the country, to explain to us the nuances of the nuclear deal, but I’m pretty sure we’re only doing it cause America is watching! Why can’t we do the same in our own house, while setting internal affairs?
No wonder people write off politics. They don’t want to know, they don’t want to listen, because at the end of the day bullshit arguments are being made 99.9% of the time. I’m really lucky to be working at a place where people actually sit and engage with the issues of the day, in fact, I’m definitely the most far removed from reality of the lot. But come sunset I’m a fucking genius when I tell my friends what’s happening in the country.
My answer, perhaps, is this: If you can preserve a monument because it’s going to be a heritage site and people can some soak in history, yes, keep it. If it’s going to be submerged underwater and you can’t really tell the difference, then maybe it’s ok for the story to remain in the history books while we build a much needed canal. If it’s going to damage the eco-system of the area, then tell me to what extent. And then tell me what kind of money the country is going to make off it and which pockets, exactly, it will go into. Will this help people in the area?
And on the basis of that, I’ll tell you what I think.