In 1893, a young man in saffron made all of India proud at the Parliament of religions in Chicago. The Ramakrishna Mission that he established became renowned throughout the length and breadth of India for its social service, its emphasis on reform and focus on education. Since then, generations of Bengalis have prided themselves over the fact that the great Swami Vivekananda was born in our land.
But now, this icon faces a challenge and Bengalis face a choice. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government has passed an order that all government schools must be painted in Didi’s favourite blue and white colours by March 5. On behalf of the taxpayer, the state government has already written a cheque for Rs 500 crore for this task.
Among these schools to be doused in blue and white, is the Krishnachandrapur High School in South 24 Parganas, established by the Ramakrishna Mission in 1948. Swami Vivekananda’s saffron must go, to be replaced by Mamata Banerjee’s blue and white.
The Chief Minister has thrown the gauntlet before Bengali society. Mamata Banerjee or Swami Vivekananda? Make your choice now!
This situation has in it several lessons for Hindu society and let me make here an effort to list them all.
(1) First, it underlines the ruthlessness of the “secular” establishment. The “secular” establishment is committed to the absolute destruction of the Hindu psyche and the absolute humiliation of Hindus. Nothing less suffices. Swami Vivekananda inspires confidence and pride among Hindus. So, he must go.
It should be noted that Mamata Banerjee is only putting finishing touches to what the Left Front began by taking over this Ramkrishna Mission school in 1977. Now, Didi is wiping out Swami Vivekananda’s saffron color, as if, almost literally, to wipe him out of history.
This should be compared to the weak kneed response of India’s Hindu majority. Take the case of Aligarh Muslim University, which is a fully public funded institution *and* a minority institution at the exact same time. How? Nobody knows.
In fact, there is even a verdict from the Supreme Court saying that the AMU cannot be a minority institution for the simple reason that it’s government run. And that Supreme Court verdict did not come yesterday. It came in 1967! No government has dared to enforce it. The Central Government has been appealing this verdict since 1967! In 2016, the Modi government withdrew the appeal but does that mean AMU will finally lose its minority status? Nobody knows.
Compare it to how the secular establishment gets things done. The Left Front government saw a Ramkrishna Mission school and just went and grabbed it. Now Mamata is even painting over the saffron so that the history of the school is lost forever. Case closed, sealed and buried.
(2) Second, it exposes all hollow claims by the secular establishment of having any respect for the regional diversity of India. In recent years, as the BJP has gained traction in Bengal, “intellectuals” have gotten into the act, warning that the BJP, supposedly the party of upper caste Hindu vegetarian males from North India, neither understands nor respects the local culture of Bengal.
Ha! Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee gets ready to wipe out Swami Vivekananda’s saffron! Is Swami Vivekananda also supposed to be a Hindi speaking male from North India? If Swami Vivekananda is not Bengali enough for you, who is?
So all this talk about Bengal’s unique culture and regional pride is just a ploy by the secular establishment to sow division among Indians and stem the rising tide of BJP. Inside Bengal, the secular establishment insists that Bengal must be completely stripped of its history, turned into one uniform kingdom that sees nothing except the supremacy of Didi’s blue and white.
(3) Faced with accusations of Hinduphobia, the secular establishment insists that there is a distinction between “Hindutva” and “Hinduism.” This episode in Bengal shows that this supposed distinction is pure made up nonsense.
No, Mamata Banerjee makes no distinction between saffron of BJP and saffron of Swami Vivekananda. The war on Hindus is very real. They don’t just have a problem with BJP, they have a problem with Hindus themselves. They get angry when they see anyone wearing saffron, even if it is Swami Vivekananda.
In fact, they will go after anything that sounds vaguely Hindu. Textbooks in Bengal even purged the word “ramdhonu” (meaning rainbow) and replaced it with “rongdhonu,” because the second word supposed to sound secular.
Can’t have a Bengali word with “ram” in it! Did Modi invent this word? Did the RSS insert the word ramdhonu in the Bengali language? Of course not. We are seeing an inquisition of sorts against Hindus, where anything … a word for a rainbow, a colour of paint … really anything can be seen as heresy against Indian secularism.
(4) There is now a concerted effort by liberal elites to destroy Swami Vivekananda in our national memory. This is related to (1), where I point out their commitment to destroying any icon that would make a Hindu feel proud about her/his place in the world.
In 2017, at the time people were commemorating the date of Swami Vivekananda’s historic Chicago address, Scroll came up with this mind boggling headline.
The gloves are off. Swami Vivekananda is not only a target for being a Hindu, he is now the man who apparently laid the “foundation” for India’s politics of sectarianism. Now you know who to blame for the Partition of India and the murder of 30 lakh people that went along with it.
In 2012, when the nation was outraging over the gangrape of Nirbhaya, The Hindu managed to find the real culprit.
Vivekananda’s “masculine pose” in photographs is to blame for the gangrape of Nirbhaya! How could we not have realized before something so obvious!?
(5) The last and final lesson is also perhaps the most important. Hindus have to come out of their complacency. Yes, Mamata painting a school blue/white or one article in Scroll or one in The Hindu can’t destroy Vivekananda. Please be aware that leftist intellectuals already understand this. This is a victory that they intend to win inch by inch. Every little smear thrown at Swami Vivekananda pushes the envelope just a little. The difference will become visible decades later, when Swamiji is finally a hate figure that people are embarrassed to support.
Think it can’t happen? See what they did to Vande Mataram. At one time, it used to be one of the most revered battle cries of nationalism. But the left worked on it and worked on it … to the point that “cosmopolitan” Hindus today would be embarrassed to say it. In the future, they will do the same to Swami Vivekananda. They are working on it non-stop.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.