All this Servitude!

Sankara Narayanan

Aphotograph in the social media showed V Narayanaswamy, a Congress minister in UPA govt, was holding slippers in his hand while Rahul Gandhi was touring the flood damaged areas in Puducherry. It is flashed that the slippers are of RaGa. But Narayanaswamy (NS) later clarified that the slippers were his and he was holding them for Rahul to wear so that he could walk through the flooded area.

If they were RaGa's slippers as alleged, NS' act was a shameful servitude and sycophancy at its best. Even if the slippers were NS', he is not free from of shame. If RaGa cannot wade through the flood waters without slippers, how can NS do the same after offering his slippers to the crown prince?

During Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi was on a state visit to Rajasthan. When he was struggling to climb up a camel, the chief minister had offered his palm for Sanjay to place his foot. A few services rendered by central ministers, chief ministers and other Congress men at that time to Sanjay Gandhi are not fit to be mentioned. Servitude has always been a thriving Congress culture to appease the powers that be.

NS' act will pale into insignificance if one observes the activities of Jaya's ministers, MLAs, MPs, party functionaries and bureaucrats in TN. This is a rule in Jaya's durbar rather than an exception. None of her ministers and other elected representatives will address any gathering or press conference without showering sky high praises on Amma, the revolutionary leader. Even some bureaucrats observe this method in madness.

Sycophancy in Amma's durbar reached its peak when she was sent to jail in the disproportionate asset case. Disgusting is a very mild word to describe the theatrics enacted during those days. There was hardly any distinction between religion and state. Several of these ministers are neck deep in corruption These gimmicks are deliberate attempts to rescue themselves from her autocracy and certainly not out of respect towards their revolutionary leader. Pasting Amma's photo on each packet of relief material to be distributed is a mandatory comic now.

Recently a press conference was called by the chief secretary of TN in the secretariat. A few key ministers and secretaries were also present to explain the action taken to mitigate the flood fury. It was a shocker for the national and internalional media. The ministers and secretaries were only reading out the prepared texts with liberal doses of Amma bhajan. Hardly any reply was given for the specific questions raised by the media persons. Virtually the ministers and secretaries walked off the press meet unable to face the media criticism of Amma's administration.

This servitude, though of lesser extent, has been observed all through the UPA rule. But the feudal habit of feet touching has picked up momentum after the BJP formed governments at the centre and many states. Hardly any difference is observed between the public and private life. The habit of younger people touching the feet of elders in public platforms is proudly and nonchalantly exhibited as if it is the state protocol.

The state and a particular religion are woven together. If anyone objects to the attitude adopted in the name of culture, that person will at once be branded a 'Sickularist', the favourite abuse of Bhakts. Is it the way to administer a modern state by touching the feet of others in Parliament and other state functions?

Touching the feet, washing them and prostrating are feudal and outmoded customs. If at all practised, it is within the family or religious functions. Not for people holding public offices to follow these in state functions. But saffron brigade has no such compulsions.

More than a dozen tribal women were made to wash the feet of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat during a function at Ram Janki Temple in the holy town of Ayodhya in 2012. While some local sadhus described it as a 'sin', the Sangh dismissed the criticism and called it 'ignorance of tribal customs'. RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said it was customary for tribal men and women to welcome their guests by washing their feet. Madhav won't reveal why only women were offered this privilege while tribal men were also present in the gathering. But people like Bhagwat and Madhav don't and won't understand that women should be respected.

Washing the feet of anyone is an anachronism in the modern age. Here the tribal women were forced to wash the feet of a Brahmin in public. This is not only a caste discrimination punishable under the law of the land but also an insult to women as a whole. Of course, according to Sangh, Hindu culture sanctions supremacy to Brahmins and women are just objects to perform the duties assigned to them by men. The women in general and tribal women in particular have no choice. Sangh's dictates are above the law of the land as it never recognised India's Constitution as genuine.

Congress was in the forefront of freedom struggle. Its stalwarts played key role in drafting the Constitution and declaration of Republic. Hardly a few years after the formation of Indian Republic, the first President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad bathed the feet of 200 Brahmins in the holy city of Banares.

To bathe another's feet publicly is vulgar. To restrict this vulgar privilege to the caste of Brahmins should be a punishable offence. An inevitable accompaniment of the caste system and lunacy. That the President indulged in this vulgar display was a merciless indictment of right thinking people.

To bathe another's feet on the ground that he is a Brahmin is to guarantee the continuance of the caste system, of poverty and sadness. The spirit, of which such evil acts are born, can never plan the country's welfare nor adventure with joy. It will ever keep the vast millions lowly and submerged. It will deny them social, economic and spiritual equality.

About this shameful behaviour of Dr Rajendra Prasad, Rammanohar Lohia said, "The hands that publicly wash Brahmins' feet belong to legs that may kick the Sudra and the Harijan".

Similarly the hands that lifted Rahul Gandhi's slippers/that worshipped Jaya belong to legs that will not hesitate to kick the oppressed people.

Vol. 48, No. 27, Jan 10 - 16, 2016