Are Raj Bhawans becoming the new sites to push the Hindutva agenda?
Raj Bhawans in various state capitals of India are supposed to be sites of dignity and impartiality; their inhabitants upholders of constitutional values. But are some of the governors' estates, especially those housing BJP-appointed governors, becoming promoting sites of the Hindutva ideology?
This appears to be the case. The latest episode substantiating it is a stinker written by Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Chautala to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on the installation of a statue of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, an RSS ideologue and the tallest leader of the erstwhile Jan Sangh, in the state Raj Bhawan.
The Raj Bhawan in Himachal Pradesh is not lagging behind. Governor Acharya Dev Vrat, who is close to Yoga Guru Ramdev, has been embroiled in quite a few controversies. The latest being the organising of a 'Ram Charit Chintan Satra' in the Raj Bhawan premises with top politicians and even judges attending it.
The issue of installing Upadhyaya's statue by the Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki has become controversial on two alleged accounts. The first is that it violates the sanctity of the institution of the Raj Bhawan. And second, it also violates the building bye-laws in Chandigarh that do not allow installation of statues in official premises.
Reports have quoted the officials saying that the bust was brought to pay respect to Upadhyaya but has not been installed. It belongs to the Haryana government and can be taken away by it anytime. But Chautala has reportedly contested it.
In his letter to Khattar, he has pointed out that the Haryana government is also resorting to wasteful expenditure for the celebration of Upadhyaya's birth centenary.
“It has been brought to my notice that when a meeting was held, ostensibly for the celebration of the golden jubilee of Haryana’s existence as a state in the Raj Bhawan, the real purpose was to give a cover to the process of promoting the political thought of RSS and the BJP at state expense by chalking out a state-wide celebration of the Pandit Upadhyaya's birth centenary,” the letter states.
He has raised the issue of the unveiling being done in a hushed manner.
“If you are convinced that Pandit Upadhyaya’s contribution to public life was considerable and that his thoughts are accepted by large sections of the society and hence need to be propagated then I am surprised that no one outside those connected to your party were invited for the unveiling. Surely, in your mind, you thought that it was a state function and that is why you and the Governor installed the said statue in the Raj Bhawan complex and unveiled it.
"I am surprised that someone failed to inform you that for such an occasion the Leader of the Opposition and other important leaders too need to be invited. Therefore, I like to believe that since you must have had doubts about its propriety, that is why the hush-hush affair,” Chautala, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, pointed out.
Questioning the 'audacity' of the government in deciding to install the statue of a party figure in the Raj Bhawan complex, Chautala has underlined that Khattar cannot be unaware that he and his party do not own the Raj Bhawan. If they are there then that is because of the democracy and electoral process that even uproots those who believe they have deep roots and establishes dark horses because of the will of the people, he added.
“That ‘will of the people’ is not the monopoly of any political party. Moreover, the Raj Bhawan is, and has to be, above party politics and hence any attempt to politicise it, is reprehensible. In fact, no previous government, and many have gone by and many more will follow, has ever attempted to inject politics in the Raj Bhawan complex,” the letter states.
Chautala has asked Khattar issue a clarification whether the bust was commissioned from the private funds of the Governor, it was his property and hence would be taken away by him whenever it is time for him to depart, as he surely will one day after the expiry of his term in office.
He has also urged Khattar to desist from such flagrant attempts, and repose faith in the fact that if the philosophy of Pandit Upadhyaya is relevant today then even without support it will spread.
“Marxism did not spread all over the world because of state power and in our own country, in spite of violent opposition from the state power, the message of Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi was spread to the remotest corners and also the most illiterate of men and women,” Chautala has pointed.
Adding up to more trouble
This new controversy is an addition to the Khattar regime's efforts in what observers call making Haryana the new laboratory of Hindutva after Gujarat.
“This government is not interested in the welfare of the state but only in taking the RSS agenda further. I was compelled to write the letter. I want to know what was Upadhyaya's contribution in the freedom movement or what did he do for Haryana. You have finished off the sanctity of the Governor's House. If such a trend continues, it will soon reach the Rashtrapati Bhawan and people would just go there to look at statues,” Chautala said.
Meanwhile, similar things have also been going on in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh where Acharya Dev Vrat, a former Arya Samaj Pracharak, occupies the Raj Bhawan. However, Himachal's shortcoming on such issues is that there is no solid voice to oppose such acts because the Congress regime under Virbhadra Singh is known to play ball on such issues.
The only opposition comes from the Left which does not have the required political support in its favour.
In the early half of June, a week-long Ram Charit Chintan Satra being organised in the Raj Bhawan. This was attended by politicians as well as some high court judges.
It needs to be pointed out that Acharya Dev Vrat has been courting controversies right from the time he took over as the Governor of the hill state.
In his first 'At Home' ceremony on the Republic Day, he had broken away from the protocol getting artistes from the government’s public relations department to sing 'patriotic songs' for half an hour before he arrived.
He then further ignored the decades-old ceremonial standard practice by taking to the dais and delivering a 25-minute speech, mainly on Ram Prasad Bismil. Bismil was an Indian revolutionary during the freedom movement associated with the Mainpuri conspiracy of 1918 and the Kakori conspiracy of 1925.
Thereafter, his presence at a function in Haryana where Ramdev had called for beheading those who do not chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', also came under criticism as this amounted to degrading the ethos of the institution of the Governor and the values of secularism.
Thereafter, he had also reportedly got a 'Yajnashala' built in the Raj Bhawan where Virbhadra, his wife Pratibha Singh, Himachal assembly speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail and Leader of the Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal had performed a 'yajna'. Speaking at the event he said that chanting of mantras during a 'yajna' ensured the welfare of people.
Virbhadra said that yajna was a sacred ritual which should be performed by all humans, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, sects and beliefs. He had reportedly also said that burning of candles in churches, lamps in temples and incense in many sacred places clearly show the continuation of the ritual.
“We have twice written to the President regarding the violation of the sanctity of the institutions of the Governor as well as the Raj Bhawan. These are wrong practices which do not go with the values enshrined in the Constitution,” senior CPM functionary Onkar Shad told Catch. He added that every such move needs to be protested by the people.
Observers say that such practices in Raj Bhawans are yet another way of imposing a line of thought on the masses.