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Once Upon A Ram Rajya: How The BJP Government Stole Christmas

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By Moumita Ghosh:


While Christmas celebrations were stalled in Pakistan as part of a gesture to both condemn the brutality of the Peshawar massacre and express solidarity among the nation’s members, the “good” citizens of India were expected to ditch their Santa hats and carols this Christmas season and instead pick up their brooms while chanting ‘har har Modi! ’, for a reason quite different. Welcome to the land of modern-day Ram rajya where the 25th of December was officially declared as – ‘Sushashan divash’ or Good Governance Day. The day also marked the 90th birthday of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the 153rd birth anniversary of Madan Mohan Malaviya, the founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Both the personalities are also to receive the Bharat Ratna; the latter, posthumously. While it is safe to presume that most of us are quite familiar with the former’s name, but before one dismisses the latter as some boring, ancient, academician of the bygone era, here is a quick heads-up: Madan Mohan Malaviya was a pioneer of Hindu nationalism, being one of the first members of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha: a party extreme right-wing in its approach, recognizing India primarily as a “Hindu Rashtra”. In recent times, the party has been in the news for asking actresses who perform in item numbers to be labelled as prostitutes while also seeking permission from the government to install statues of Nathuram Godse at various public places throughout the country, besides declaring to build a temple in honour of Godse, whom they consider to be a ‘martyr’. The party, which had Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as one of its pre-eminent leaders in the 1920s, has also called for the re-conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism at different points in its history, a trend which found expression in the recent Ghar Wapsi issue of the Bajrang Dal, a close offshoot of the Hindu Mahasabha, which espoused the ‘Bahu Lao, Beti Bachao’ campaign and quoted Christianity and Islam as nothing more than a ‘samasya’, even raising funds to facilitate such conversions.


So, all was well in the land of Ram-rajya as acche din-s were on their way until the “deliberate mischief” caused by a TOI reporter. In a circular dated December 10th, issued by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) to their schools (the rural-residential Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas) which is affiliated to the CBSE and recognizes itself as an autonomous organization devoted to the “excellence in all domains of education”, under the ministry of HRD, declared the 25th of December as the day for ‘Good Governance’ and instructed the observance of the day through the conduction of quiz, one-act plays, essay writing competitions, screening of documentaries and films on “ best practices in good governance” and other related activities in schools.

Although such instruction was not given to the other CBSE schools till then, much “useless” criticism and controversy, to put it in Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani’s words, was sparked off by such a declaration of the central government, followed by the HRD minister Smriti Irani dismissing media reports as “totally, totally, inaccurate hain, baseless hain” and claiming that the school vacations shall be adhered to, adding that the essay competition would be held online and that participation is voluntary.



Keeping parity with the press note released by the HRD ministry, Aijaz Ilmi, a national member of BJP, summed it up to NDTV in an interview when asked if the lines between religion and politics are getting blurred: “I think you are reading too much into this. It was a distorted version that was given about by a section of the media. There was no instruction to make schools remain open on the 25th of December which is a very happy occasion of the Christmas day. There was no instruction given to any CBSE school, Kendriya Vidyalaya-s, only to residential Navodaya-s . It is very clear that children who are staying back, they celebrate their festival and if they want to take part in a voluntary, online, essay competition on good governance, they are free to do so. No coercion, no compulsion, no attack on any religion or any section of the society.”

The central government’s brand new take on what constitutes a “voluntary” action is indeed creative as the circular (the link to which has been shared above) requested the deputy commissioners of all the NVS regional offices to merely “ensure” that Good Governance Day was observed in all the JNVs in their region. The NDA government’s voluntary observance also interestingly necessitated evidence, in the form of a “consolidated report”, instructed to be prepared with photos and video recordings of the specific activities carried out on the concerned day and submitted via e-mail.

The final arrival of the day saw BJP MPs, including BJP President Amit Shah, who were evidently not busy anticipating the possible imposition of the ‘voluntary’ task of writing essays, devote their time in their respective constituencies for the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ while not forgetting to bring their DSLR-armed friends to capture the “true spirit” of the day! According to Zee News, even Narendra ‘Ram’ Modi visited his Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, to mark the ‘Good Governance Day’ where he literally ran the show – from inaugurating an Inter-University Centre for Teachers`Education inside the BHU premises to wielding a broom in a bylane leading to the Jagannath Temple in Assi ghat area, amidst media reporters and his bhakts, thus setting an example to the residents of modern day Ayodhya.

But why the 25th of December was zeroed in as the day remains a matter of much speculation. The hashtag #goodgovernancedaycarols which were doing rounds on Twitter are surely funny but they also cause one to think, much like the jesters in a Victorian court. The declaration of the Bhagwad Gita as the national scripture, the treatment of Hindu mythological narratives as ‘facts’ in NCERT textbooks, many of which have been penned by Dinanath Batra, (the ‘book police’ if you will), the PM’s silence regarding the Ghar Wapsi issue, to mention a few, are all merely instances of coincidence which, in Aijaz Ilmi’s words we are “reading too much into”? In the modern-day Ram rajya, these events should not be perceived in isolation either as they exhibit specific patterns of a much bigger picture of a conscious, chalked-out process of saffronization under the same old garb of ‘development’ where ‘vikaas’ means being stripped off your basic rights to education, religion, knowledge and much more in the days to come, where promising ‘vikaas’ to people is, as Jarod Kintz would say- ‘putting them in a straitjacket and kicking them down a flight of stairs’. Hindutva fascism? What’s that?! It now comes in the mask of –‘Saabka saath, saabka vikaas!’.

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  1. Deva

    Have we, as a society, become this regressive, so obstinate as to be closed to reason? Are some notions too sacrosanct to be questioned? Are we so blinded by propaganda that we find conspiracy at every corner?

    1) My fellow Christians celebrated Christmas as usual. Restaurants were decorated, malls were adorned, all in all, it was as Christmassy as usual. Then who the hell stopped anybody from exercising this right?

    2) Is it a crime to be born on 25th December? Is it a crime for the former PM to be born on a date (that he had no control of) coinciding with Christmas? Does Vajpayee not deserve to be adored on his birthday? Who says celebrating Christmas and celebrating good governance is mutually exclusive? Is Christmas that weak, to be toppled by honouring two individuals? How intolerant have we become!

    3) Shame on your bigotry, when you do not question why and how missionaries pay tribals to convert into Christianity and then claim success fee in name of fundings from the west. Are they too holy to be out of law? Shame on your bigotry, when blashphemy laws prohibit minorities from celebrating their festivals in Pakistan. When forcible conversions take place at the threat of rapes, you make no noise. Why?

    When those converted forcibly find contradiction in their usual ways of life and that preached by religion, their voices are subdued, but when they want to return to customs they feel comfortable, you cry loud?

    4) Such hypocrisy, using rationality when it suits your purpose, but conveniently forgetting it when it is counter productive to your purpose, no questions asked? Why is rationality selectively applied to oppose ban only on certain books? What is so scary about the book on why Godse killed Gandhi? Did anyone dare to question the holy notion of “Mahatma”? What is it about Godse’s courthouse trial that it moved the judicial bench emphatically to tears? Why is a devil made out of an assassin? Why do we elevate people on a pedestal, why, is Gandhi not human to commit mistakes?

    5) How the hell does writing an essay in an online competition strip one of right to eduction, religion and knowledge? Why are you consciously misleading the public?

  2. Samar Tyagi

    What is wrong with celebrating 25th Dec. as Good Governance Day. No circular was issued about non-celebration of Christmas.
    In fact i take very serious note of your stand against Malaviya Ji, founder of BHU. He is the man who has made grass root intervention in development from starting a university that provides higher education in almost courses at low fees. Even BHU also has a hospital with more than 1000 bed that provides quality treatment to patients from Bihar, Eastern UP, MP and Jharkhand.
    There are so many good initiatives taken by Malaviya Ji. He was a liberal Hindu that accommodated existence of all and not radical and extremist . May be the organisation he founded has not done well in years to come but we can not blame him for its deed.
    Nowadays, it has become habitual people to write anything with no serious study about the topic and creating too much academic pollution. Your statements about Malaviya ji lacks credible evidences and one have no right to malign anybody’s reputation. Who are you to assess his credential..merely reading a few statements from web won’t be suffice. Think twice, what you write and learn to respect our leaders who have really sacrificed their lives for mass education and development of underprivileged region.

  3. Ravi

    There is no prohibition on organising a game of volleyball, but to do it in a leprosy colony is a tad insensitive.

    There is no prohibition on arranging a banquet, but to position it in front of a JJ colony is a tad insensitive.

    There is no prohibition on throwing a few beef burgers on a barbecue, but to do it in front of a Krishan Mandir is a tad insensitive.

    There is no prohibition on cooking some pork sausages on a barbecue, but to do it in front of a mosque is a tad insensitive.

    There is no prohibition on observing a brand new Good Governance day, but to do it on Christmas day is deliberately proactive and a political act.

  4. rajesh sharma

    It is silly to imagine that Christmas would be dampened by declaring the same day as “good governance day’. festivals are celebrated by people not by the governments.if ‘the good governance day “has really any impact on christmas,then it means earliar it was managed not India Christians are less than 3% I think still they enjoy far more space than their population ratio.Ask any Christian of north-east who was born on “janam- Ashtami”let us all be proud Indians.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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