In a statement, DMK MP TR Baalu indicated that it was a violation of the law for a governor to express religious, Sanatana and Varna views, further claiming that Ravi was breaking the oath he took when he took office have.
Days after he waxed lyrical about “Sanatana Dharma” during an event at Vanagaram in Chennai last Saturday, June 11, Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi continues to face fierce backlash. At an event organized by Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajam to celebrate the centenary of “Harivarasanam” – a devotional lullaby sung to the deity at Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta – the governor made the controversial statement stated that it was “sanatana dharma” who built Bharat (India).
“Ayyappa seva is rashtra seva (service to the nation) because this land was created by our rishis and sages who expounded and expanded upon the truth embodied in our Vedas, which became our sanatana dharma,” Ravi had in his speech said. His comments unsurprisingly drew ire from multiple quarters, with DMK MP TR Baalu noting that the governor’s statements violated the Indian constitution and also targeted up to 90% of the country’s population. In a statement condemning Ravi’s speech, MDMK MP Vaiko also claimed that Ravi exposed himself by boasting about the ideology of the RSS and the Sangh Parivar, which denies human equality and Varnashrama (the division of society in four varnas by birth). .
It is not new for constitutional officials to attend religious events. When former President Rajendra Prasad decided to attend the inauguration ceremony of Somnath Shiva Linga in 1951, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to him in a letter: “I confess that I do not like the idea of you associating yourself with a spectacular inauguration of the Somnath Temple. This is not just visiting a temple, which surely anyone else can do, but attending a significant event that unfortunately has multiple implications. Nehru vehemently opposed his decision, however, Rajendra Prasad attended the event.
What is Sanatana Dharma?
religious organization iscon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) defines Sanatana Dharma as the eternal and innate propensity of the living entity (Atman) to perform seva (service). It is “transcendental” and “refers to universal and indisputable laws that lie beyond our transitory belief systems. Most followers prefer to call their tradition Sanatana Dharma, rather than using the newer term ‘Hinduism’, which they say has sectarian connotations,” reads the Iskcon website.
However, Sanatana Dharma is an outdated idea that does not meet the needs and demands of today, pointed out R Vijaya Sankar, former editor of Frontline magazine. “These dharmas, behind a vague concept meaning ‘eternal duty’, may have been necessary when the religion was founded. But it is impossible for humanity to consistently adhere to an “eternal” duty, because people’s needs vary from time to time. Sanatana Dharma is a flexible, ahistorical and unscientific set of principles in contrast to the Indian Constitution which is well defined and leaves no room for individual interpretation. Also, the concept of a “nation” is modern and has nothing to do with ancient sages. Since 1950 we are all bound by the Indian Constitution of India. Other personal beliefs and practices only become relevant afterwards,” he said, adding that the governor is currently acting like an RSS agent. “Statements like this can create chaos and even lead to calls for a rewrite of the constitution.”
Ravi had stated in his speech that he was a follower of Lord Ayyappa. The criticism he is currently experiencing is not due to his personal convictions, emphasized DMK MP Baalu in his statement. “Considering the position he holds, his statements must be consistent with the Constitution and not violate its laws,” added the DMK Treasurer.
Instead, Ravi said at the event that “the constitution does not carry the soul of India”. He added that Bharat practiced “unity in diversity” centuries ago, citing the prayers of the sages that “every being must be happy and free from disease” as an example.
“The Sanatana Dharma was created during the Vedic period, which in turn led to the formation of our Rashtra. Bharat was born thousands and thousands of years ago. The Indian constitution was not,” the governor explained in his speech.
According to Baalu, the governor’s speech came across as an attempt to tear down the founding principles of the constitution. “The preamble to the Constitution declares India a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic. I am obliged to remind the governor that the Constitution guides the nation, not Sanatana Dharma or the rules of Manu,” he said.
In his speech, Ravi had also claimed that Bharat was not created by “kings” like other countries where emperors waged war and conquered land. “Our nation was created through light by our sages and sustained by those who followed the Sanatana Dharma. If we remove the dharma from this equation, we are reduced to yet another mass. Although we have different languages, regions, climates and cuisines, Sanatana Dharma is what keeps us together as a family,” he had said.
But Baalu disagrees. “Sanatana Dharma has separate rules for each caste. But before the rule of law, everyone is equal. It has been hundreds of years since the British took and blew up the laws of the orthodox era when people were divided into four varnas and classified as higher and lower. Ravi is still in that trance from centuries ago,” he said.
The governor had also compared the Sanatana Dharma to other “Arahminic religions,” which he said see man as the center of creation. “They believe that God created all other beings for the pleasure of man. Sanatana Dharma does not say this. We believe we are an integral part of creation, but we make no claims of superiority,” he said.
Ravi also explained that while invaders came to Bharat and temporarily defeated the local kings until about the seventh and eighth centuries, they too became sanatana dharmic. “That was the strength of the Dharma,” he said.
In response, Baalu pointed out how a person, meant to reflect secular principles, shows an inclination towards a particular religion and makes comments against others, thereby inciting violence against them in a public forum. “Anyone who supports the New Education Policy should also be aware of the changes in Indian society and structure over the past 200 years. Let him not forget that even those to whom he wishes to lean cannot fully follow the principles of sanatana. Also, this system is against women and up to 90% of the population,” he said.
The DMK leader further criticized Ravi for consistently speaking out in favor of the Sanatana and against secularism, adding that the constitution and various Supreme Court rulings state that governors are subject to the policy decisions of the state government. “It is against the law for a governor to express religious, sanatana and varna views. It contradicts the oath he took when he took office. I would like to ask the governor to retract his comment,” he added.