The Telangana government, under K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), had ordered a respectable guru, named Paripoornananda Swami to be externed from the state of Telangana, under the Anti-Social and Hazardous Activities Act, 1980. In basic words, a Hindu preacher had been banned from entering the state.
Before analysing the legitimacy of the externment, we must take a brief look at the events that led to him being externed.
It all started with the self-declared ‘rationalistic’ film critic, ‘Kathi Mahesh’ (who has been a darling of the Telugu media), referring to Lord Rama, on a TV debate, as a ‘crook’ (dagulbhaji). He went on to make many other vicious comments about the Ramayana, least of which was the claim that Sita Devi should have stayed with Ravana because she would have had ‘a better life’ in Lanka.
As a result of such audacious remarks- which not only speak volumes about Mahesh’s ignorance regarding Hindu scriptures but also about his insensitivity towards the beliefs of the majority of his state and nation- Swami Paripoornananda felt the need to hit back.
The Swami simply pointed out the fallacies that existed in Mahesh’s vague ideas and consequently told him that he would embark on a ‘Dharmika Chaitanya Yatra’ if there was a refusal to apologise for the comments. The Yatra was supposed to be a form of protest, expressed by countering the ‘insult against Rama’ with a chant of the ‘Sri Rama Sankeertanas’, as the Swami walked from the Shiva Temple in Bodduppal to Yadadri.
Ignoring his basic right to protest, the Telangana government called off the Yatra and even chose to house arrest the Swami: with a number of police officers inside and outside the house, to monitor every activity of his, and various reporters outside his place of residence, making his time extremely difficult. The police and the government, referred to it as a “step forward while ensuring the betterment of the Telangana society.”
The state, also went on to extern Mahesh, under ‘Section 3’ of the Anti-Social and Hazardous Activities Act, 1980 for the statement that he had made. Within a matter of days, Swami Paripoornananda (who was the first subject to house arrest), was also banned from Hyderabad for a period of six months under the exact same section.
Therefore, to break down the ridiculous state of affairs:
- Mahesh had made slanderous remarks
- Paripoornananda Swami proved him wrong, asked him to apologise- without which he threatened to express his democratic right to protest peacefully by chanting Rama’s sankeertanas.
- The Telangana state under KCR banned Kathi Mahesh
- They subjected the Swami to an extra period of house arrest.
- Paripoornananda Swami was forced out of the city for 6 months
What makes it worse, though, is the fact that ‘Section 3’ of the Anti-Social and Hazardous Activities Act, 1980 is in reference to acts of goondaism only. Not only is it abhorrent to call a reputable Swami who sacrifices everything to become a Sanyasi, a “goonda“; legally too, referring to someone with no criminal record as an ‘anti-social element’ holds no water.
In that regard, it also makes little sense to extern Kathi Mahesh under the act, because he too has not explicitly committed any act that deserves to be classified as goondaism. While I do believe his remarks and comments reflect serious insensitivity, ignorance and idiocy, he has no legal reason to be externed from the state. While it can still be said that he violates Article 323 of the Indian Penal Code, by “causing voluntary hurt”, it is very clear that sending him out of the state holds no real justification legally and even practically, because it merely shifts the burden on to another state.
While Kathi Mahesh, may or may not have pushed his freedom to express, Swami Paripoornananda’s democratic protest, by no means, calls for any form of punishment. Subramanian Swamy too seemed to have believed the same, as he wrote to the Chief Minister of Telangana:
Dr. Subramanian Swamy writes to Telangana CM KCR, warns of consequences if the order of externment against Swami Paripoornananda are not cancelled pic.twitter.com/esXOvsCCH8
— Virat Hindustan Sangam (@vhsindia) July 19, 2018
However, things do not end there. Aside from the fact that Swami Paripoornananda deserves to be brought back, the vindictive claims of the left-leaning media sites on this issue, need to be addressed.
Kancha Ilaiah- known for glorifying a “Post-Hindu India”, and writing books on the Hindu deities being “untouchable Gods” and so on- writes a piece for The Wire, jumping to defend Mahesh. All he does is use the opportunity to claim that this is a step that backs a “Hindu dictatorship” where “untouchability and graded caste inequalities will be reinforced.”
Of course, Ilaiah is more than happy to ignore the fact that a Swami has also been externed from the state, just for saying that he wished to embark on a Yatra while chanting his God’s name, to counter the nonsense spoken about the same deity in public.
He would much rather, add a “Hindu dictatorship” angle to it, to make the Hindu-bashing hero, appear like an abiding victim of atrocities by ‘casteist Hindus’.
It is worth noting that Scroll.in, who are well known for adding irrelevant angles to the most legitimate issues, decide to employ Mahesh’s ludicrous narrative of ‘Dalit victimhood’ in two of the three articles they write on the matter. “When a Dalit questions Ramayana, it becomes anti-national”: they quote in a headline, while they say in another article that he may have been subjected to externment “not least because Kathi is a Dalit”.
I cannot help but think of how caste was never an issue when channels chased Mahesh for his views on movies; how caste was never an issue when Mahesh was a ‘Bigg Boss Telugu’ contestant; how caste never was an issue when people begged for opinions on literally every social and political issue, there existed.
But of course, the convenience story dictates explicitly, that ‘caste’ must be the only consideration when dealing with Mahesh’s slanderous remarks on the Ramayana.
In truth, Telugu people have witnessed the most vicious of attacks on Hindu Gods and scriptures. Their culture has been such that, when ideas and arguments were penned, they were countered with a pen. For instance, when a celebrated personality named Muppala Ranganayakamma once wrote a book named ‘Ramayana Visha Vriksham’ (The Toxic Tree of Ramayana), it was countered with other books. And when it was countered, nobody made laughable excuses like that of ‘casteism’; they instead chose to understand the other side.
In the same way, the externment of Kathi Mahesh cannot be justified, just as the externment of a Swami who questions his views cannot be justified. But what sets the two apart, is the fact that Mahesh had crossed the line that the freedom of expression guarantees him, while Paripoornananda Swami was far from that ‘line’.
In the meantime, leftist portals cannot employ downright silly excuses, when they defend the position of their darlings- who fail to adhere to basic levels of decency when articulating their views on a religious perspective.
But still, such absurd positions on part of the media, cannot take us away from the real question which the Telangana government must answer with utmost urgency: what can possibly justify, banning a noble Swami from the city that his life revolves around?