The assembly elections in West Bengal were important not only for Mamata Didi, Mr. Modi, and their respective political parties (Congress and others had already lost and quit) but also for Shree Ram, the Maryada Purushottam. While Didi and Modi were battling it out in election campaigns, the one who took most of the heat was Shree Ram. Didi used to get infuriated by the mere name of Shree Ram. So allergic she was to Shree Ram that if someone said ‘Shree Ram’ while her escorted car zoomed past the person, she could hear the chant and would immediately stop her caravan and would let know the person her utter displeasure and hate for the word, ‘Shree Ram’! This is the same Shree Ram who millions of Hindus worship every day, asking for their revered god’s blessings for prosperity.
It won’t be wrong to say that even Shree Ram would have been puzzled on Didi’s angst for him without any reason. Bengali Hindus are also confused entities. Like millions of Hindus in different parts of countries, Bengali Hindus too worship many gods and goddesses. However, it is Maa Durga (or Kaali) who happens to be the most prominent figure when it comes to the Hindu God’s hierarchy in west Bengal whom they worship with grand fanfare and these days even with, ahem, Azans.
In this hierarchy of gods for Bengali Hindus, Shree Ram figures probably lower in the list, as one could guess by the hardly worshipped Ram-Navami in West Bengal, and their tolerance to open contempt of Didi for Shree Ram. Just imagine what would happen if Didi showed the same contempt for gods of other religions. It won’t be wrong to say that just like Hindus forgot Sanskrit, their religious language, and most of their culture, Bengali Hindus forgot Shree Ram too. They, however, being the flagbearer of secularism, were ok with Didi’s contempt for Shree Ram, until the election time approached when they were reminded by BJP that Shree Ram happens to be an important figure in Hinduism. Bengali Hindus slowly started showing love and respect for Shree Ram, even if reluctantly.
Probably this was the best time for Shree Ram in the past several decades in West Bengal when for the first time he would have enjoyed the show of devotion from Bengali Hindus. As the wave of the devotion to Shree Ram started spreading, though not like a wildfire, for once one hoped that among many issues, protecting Hinduism, stopping denigration of Hindu festivals and Hindus in general, and bringing back the glorious Hinduism in Bengal would also be the key issues when Bengali Hindus go to vote for electing their next leader.
The election happened, and results came. Didi and her contempt for Shree Ram won. The hope of the return of Shree Ram from vanvaas, and with him, the hope of glorious days of Hinduism in West Bengal lost. It is obvious that for Bengali Hindus, respect for their religion and gods, Shree Ram or others, was never an issue. The secular Hindus in West Bengal have once again elected Didi over Modi; they have chosen contempt over respect for Hinduism; by voting the perpetrator, they have supported banning Hindu festivals and rituals over promoting non-Hindu religions. Shree Ram had, for once, hoped that after a long time, he would get to receive a grand welcome on his return to West Bengal as well. His vanvaas of many decades would end. Alas, he has to remain on vanvaas for five more years and probably longer.
Next time, it is very likely that there won’t be another Modi or Shah to make secular Bengali Hindus aware of Shree Ram’s vanvaas and his endless wait to return to West Bengal and get his rightful place in society. Shree Ram’s vanvaas would continue…for a long long time until there comes another Narendra- Modi or Vivekanand- to resurrect them. As I hear an azan in distance in the late evening while writing this article, I am sure that West Bengal too would be hearing azans at this time oblivious to the endless exile and pain of Shree Ram.