Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Mangalore Today and has been adapted for Nirmukta
The one who named the idiot box as that must have had the population of Karnataka on his mind. What happened in the last week of February bears witness to the fact that the idiot box is of the idiots, for the idiots and by the idiots. Going back to the incident, it had to do with a stale topic -the end of the world in 2012. While few people know that the whole concept was a ploy to boost audience numbers for the eponymous movie, almost everyone wants to do something about it, rather take some action to prevent its occurrence! At this point steps up an individual- an astrologer on TV who has been advising a lot, insulting and mocking people on one of the popular TV channels under the name of forecasting the future and reading the past using his ‘science’. People have conveniently forgotten the predictions of the very same individual who had made the sweeping statement about 15 years ago that the world would come to an end in the year 2000. There may be a number of long-winded explanations as to why that did not happen. But, I am sure much of the credit would be taken by him, arguing that all the rituals that he has performed to prevent the event have been successful!
Anyway, having saved the world from destruction once, he wants an encore now. This time the target is the end of the world scheduled for 2012. The remedy this time is lighting lamps – not any lamps mind you but those with wicks dipped into oil. It has come to the attention of this great man (which was probably a divine revelation made only to him) that this ritual done now would be able to stave off the end of the world-2012. That too ordinary oil will not suffice- it has to be a mixture of five different types. This miraculous combination when burnt would give off certain ‘chemicals’ that would influence the divine powers to save the world from its imminent end. While any sensible person would ask as to how this contribution to global warming, however negligible it may be, would help prevent the destruction at hand, the gullible residents of the state containing the software capital of the world and numerous other bastions of science went into overdrive to contribute towards putting an end to the impending catastrophe. Lamps were lit everywhere and some ill-informed shop keepers were puzzled by the demand for this special blend of oil! Now that we the residents of Karnataka have tirelessly worked to save the world we can wait for the next cunning rogue to come forward with the next corny suggestion to save the solar system, or maybe the Milky Way galaxy! What makes us so gullible and probably so stupid? It is in the old saying yatha raja tatha praja– As the ruler, so are the ruled!
The murky combination of superstitions with politics has made a mockery of the constitution in Karnataka. While one can say that there is something rotten in the state of Karnataka quoting the immortal Bard of Avon, the rot seems to have set in very, very deep. This state can be said to be one of the most advanced in terms of science. We have Bangalore, the software capital and silicon valley of the world. Besides, we have some of the premier scientific institutions of the country here and many of technology institutions too. In this place today we have a ruling party with a deeply superstitious person as the Chief Minister who has made us a laughing stock of the whole world.
Sri B.S.Yaddiyurappa (that seems to be the latest way of spelling his name) is now running a government of the superstitious, for the superstitious and by the superstitious. He has come to power allegedly by performing some tantrik rituals, astrological advice and blessings of religious institutions, not necessarily in that order. He has changed the spelling of his name, supposedly on the advice of numerologists (or is it nameologists?), made changes in his chambers, residence, dress and in fact in every aspect of his life he seems to be ruled by such inanities. Although he claims to be a Lingayat, followers of Basavanna, a revolutionary thinker who declared that work is worship and opposed many superstitions during his times, he is full of all sorts of these superstitions.
The first time that a Bharatiya Janatha Party government came to power in the south was in Karnataka when he managed to get a simple majority in the legislative assembly of Karnataka. Though it was not a majority on its own, he “managed” it by arranging defections from other parties as well as luring independents by various means. Now that the same is being tried with him, it raises his hackles and makes him rant and rave about a number of things in general but one in particular- the power of black magic. He has gone on record innumerable times that his enemies (read, the opposition parties) are resorting to black magic to finish him off. He has been desperately in search of measures to protect himself! If the Chief Minister of a state can say this, then the citizens could not be blamed for following suit. It was also claimed that he is wary of each new moon day. The purveyors of such alleged sorcery have their time tables set as to conduct such rituals which would take effect on new moon days. He was supposedly advised to sleep in the nude to avoid the ill effects of these rituals. The conduct of the head of the executive of a stat,e cowering from the fear of black magic, leaves much to be desired. If that were to be the state of affairs for a VIP with Z plus security, what should be the fate of a common man?
He has been also advised by his personal as(s)trologers to conduct some other rituals too like performing surya namaskaras in the buff on some river banks and not moving out of his house during that period etc. He had been also advised by his consultant vastu specialists that the entry to the Vidhan Soudha should be restricted to one direction only and he has ordered all the entrances to be closed except that particular one. Despite of all these precautions there were signs of black magic at this heavily guarded seat of power of the Karnataka govt.! Whether this happened right under the noses of the police or whether it happened with their due collusion is anybody’s guess!
Well, this bombardment of superstitions from the top leaves the common man of Karnataka a very confused person! As for the common woman, her desire to protect her family by all means is well exploited by the purveyors of these superstitions. If you want to scare a man it can be possible by threatening him with some mishap happening to his person. But, to do it to a woman you have to pose something of that sort to her family. The as(s)trologers of the media are masters at this game. They threaten that something will happen to husband or children, and the lady goes out of the way to protect them! Particularly since the protection will involve denying herself of things like food or performing some corny rituals! This group is the target of the superstition mongers who rule the waves during day time when the men and children would not be at home! The men are targeted in the early morning programs when their load of this trash is dished out to them in rapid fire saturation doses before they set out for work. The children’s turn comes when the examinations come around and before the announcement of results when their vulnerability is easily exploited.
The latest in this now seems to be attempts to hand over hospitals to religious institutions! The Chief minister had expressed some intentions to that effect, stating that since the govt. is incapable of running hospitals, they are thinking of handing over the same to some religious institutions (read, mutts). After this, a few departments such as the police will be left out, and soon the worthy Chief minister can also think of handing over that position too to them so that they could stop crime by threatening divine retribution. If this is the state of affairs halfway through the term, one can only wait with apprehension for the rest of it! One can only say that the affairs of the state are becoming murkier day by day with the supernatural intervening at every step.