Ashok Gladston Xavier
The stories are very powerful. Over a period of time they gain a lot of traction. The places mentioned in the stories appear to be real and people attach a lot of meaning to them out of reverence. The symbols and signs used in the stories become core elements of propaganda. Soon it becomes a machinery that establishes a structure and with a body of evidence that is highly questionable. Not many try to challenge this because of its threatening stature. Who would dare to ask if the birth place of Jesus or Ram exactly as it is claimed. Leave alone the historical, and archeological evidence that could support it.
In one of my classes on critical thinking I asked a student, “When where you born?” the student replied, “in 1998”. “Where were you born?” the answer came, “In the hospital sir”. Can you tell me the bed number in which you were born? The reply was a puzzled “No!” I followed up asking, can you ask your parents? The student pulls out the mobile phone and dials his mom bit can’t find the answer. My argument is that if you can’t remember or find your own place of birth that was less than 25 years ago how can one locate the birth place of a person who was born a few thousand years ago. Worse still, there are claims of the exact spot of birth of people who are not born at all.
The fact is that we have buildings standing tall claiming to be the birthplaces of the gods. These places occupy an emotional space. If contested the brand of anti-national or sickularist descends forcefully.
Stories that have been retold tend have objects, animals, birds and many other things attached to them. These symbolize an ideology to claim the spaces of discussion and appropriate the images by attributing them to a single religion. The bow and arrow belong to Rama, the chakra and conch belong to Vishnu, the flute belongs to Krishna, the cross belongs to Jesus, the rat belongs to Vinayaga, the peacock belongs to Murugan, veena belongs to Saraswathi and the list continues. These symbols are also deified along with the gods and are revered as holy objects. Any slightest perceived disrespect attracts a disproportionate reaction.
The holy cow is a clear example for a completely unimaginable reaction. The bull being a symbol of Shiva can be seen at the entrance that is dedicated to him. On the other hand, several atrocities are committed in the name of love for the cow/bull. From the actions of some people it can be inferred that the cow enjoys more rights than human beings. They have gone to the extent of killing people who have been involved in transporting cattle for farming. As the epitome of this a section of the so-called intelligentsia is being created in the name of the ridiculous cow science that explores the value of cow dung and urine on radiation and its impact on preventing COVID-19. These pseudo scientists who have no clue of scientific evidence-based methods hide behind the garb of religious beliefs.
When they are challenged intellectually or invited to prove their dubious theories they respond with violence as they sense a clear danger in the questions. Unable to answer any of the significant questions they end up stirring up emotions of the public and begin to attack the people who dare to question.
These reactions can be traced to the insecurities that are a result of seriously doubtful ideas that are not based on any sound proof. When a person is educated especially in critical thinking there is a clear danger to those who have made a living out of the fears and concerns. Development of a scientific temper is an enemy of these exploiters, they are threatened to lose their status and power that was built with carefully crafted stories. Scientific temper shakes the fundamentals mass mobilization in the name of caste and religion. It disturbs the usual business of deception that has built an empire of spiritual entrepreneurship. Given the current trend let’s not be surprised if the word scientific temper is removed from the constitution.