Indian Railways shall begin operating a new Ramayana themed train, reports ANI. Mainly targeted towards pilgrims, the train shall run across various destinations related to Lord Ram as per Hindu mythology. It is expected to be on tracks by the end of March.
After palace on wheels, Indian Railways is set to bring Ram temple on wheels. The train will be designed to have pictures, thoughts, poems, and songs of the deity on the interior as well as exterior. Bhajans (devotional songs) will also be playing onboard for the pilgrims. Earlier, Shri Ramayana Express was launched in November 2018.
Furthering the Hindutva agenda?
Such religiously tainted initiatives point towards a Hindutva agenda which the ruling regime has been openly pushing for. Why such a train only for one particular religion? Within Hinduism itself there are many other gods and pilgrimage sites. Is this linked to the larger dispute that has unfurled around Ram janmabhoomi at Ayodhya? Ram is one of the most politically appropriated gods within Hinduism. There have been instances of Muslims being forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and lynched for not doing so. These are symbols of hyper-masculine, majoritarian Hindutva which is different from Hinduism.
Can violence be justified in the name of religion? Why should anyone be forced to say that one particular god is great? Is the greatness of god determined by the number of people chanting so? Would Lord Ram ever want people to kill in his name? Religion when tied to ugly politics and violence can lead to neither religiosity nor spirituality. Our faith is supposed to make us feel stronger and provide us a moral compass. Why should it lead to enmity among faiths and followers? How can one religious tradition be adjudged as superior to another? How can a comparability between faiths be established?
Religiosity is a personal journey of self-exploration and fulfilment through faith and prayer. It cannot be achieved through violence, bigotry and hatred. It cannot be imposed through threat or intimidation. To be religious or not religious is a choice, and so is chanting the name of a particular god. Extremism in any form is dangerous. There cannot be any place for extremism or violence in religion. Hatred divides; religion unites. Similarly, spirituality is a quest and not as shallow as forced chanting. It is an elevating and liberating experience. Indulging in criminal activities and brute force can never make one recognize one’s soul force. Jai Shri Ram when used in prayer can be self-empowering; but when used as a war cry, it is destructive and can lead to heinous crimes against humanity.
For a state-run entity to come up with trains for followers of a particular religion is also not in the spirit of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution. All religions are equal and so are their followers. In times when moves of the state such as CAA are being criticized as discriminatory on the basis of religion, is this train another step towards building a Hindu Rashtra? The fear that the answer might be in the affirmative is not misplaced.