The Civil Service in Bharat is a British legacy. Established to exploit the maximum revenue from Bharat in an orderly fashion, the members of the service came to enjoy immense power in the course of time and became the “steel frame” of the British Raj. The officers of Indian Civil Services or ICS, initially exclusively British and later even Indians with British outlook, were akin to the small Rajas that practically ruled their fiefdoms and had huge discretionary powers. With revenue collection and general administration, they often zealously tried to civilize the natives, who were after all looked upon as uneducated, poor, miserable child-people. After independence, the name of the service changed to Indian Administrative Service or IAS, but many things remained the same.
An incident in Himachal Pradesh recently has generated much discussion on social media. An IAS officer of 2018 batch, Ms. Ritika Jindal apparently broke an “age old parochial tradition” by performing ‘havan’ at Shalooni Temple at Solan, HP. She apparently “taught lessons of equality to priests”. This announcement was met with generally hostile reactions from wider Hindu society present online.
Salute to young #IAS officer #RitikaJindal for breaking age old parochial tradition by performing 'havan' at Shalooni temple, Solan HP. She also taught lessons of equality to priests, others. This gutsy officer shows us true spirit of #Dussehra.@jairamthakurbjp@IASassociation pic.twitter.com/o3xSBjjAnK
— District Collectors (IAS) (@DCsofIndia) October 25, 2020
Why the outrage ?
But why is there an outrage? After all, as the tweet above notes, had she not tried to civilize the natives? Why are these ignoramuses resisting the efforts of noble sahibs in teaching them liberal values?
As such the role of administrators, including IAS officers, is not what they consider “social reform”, but to improve the governance and delivery of services to citizens. Many officers in recent years have taken it upon themselves to become celebrities and even have dedicated Public Relations teams. This points to their desire to be seen in limelight, and often results in making a nexus with local media and politicians. A few such officers have have even been implicated in various corruption scandals. However, this has not reduced the penchant for fame among many young officers. If they achieve the same in the job allotted to them, everyone would be happy.
The second reason for the outrage is that no officer is ever expected to go to a mosque, church etc. and demand to perform priestly duties there. Not only is it against general courtesy, where one should not intrude into workplace of other, but also perhaps only Hindus will tolerate such an insult to traditions. It must be remembered that although only Hindu places of worship are covered under various temple acts (which ideally have no place in a truly secular set up and also have no parallel in the Western nations such ‘reformers’ worship), but even these acts cover only secular matters like administration of temple properties.
The lady had no business meddling in religious affairs and “teaching equality” to temple priests! Basically, she as a Tehsildar, was in charge of the temple and arm twisted the priests to do what she liked in contravention of long established traditions. Thus, an agent of our secular state used her powers of administering a temple, to illegally meddle in the religious affairs of the temple. Of course, a moralizing interview followed in which madam lectures that we should remove the “patriarchal” mindset and the “orthodoxy” from our society and work according to the constitution.
The action of the officer is also wrong from the point of dharma. She must understand that temple rituals are governed by certain traditions and no one actually has the right to interfere with the same. For example, watch the video in the tweet below. This was shot in premises of Kanchi Matham where priests are offering pooja in Shri Vishnu Durgai Amman temple. The Swamiji of the Matham, Shri Shankara Vijayendra Saraswathi watches from outside only as he does not have the right to enter the sanctum sanctorum.
— KanchiMatham (@KanchiMatham) October 23, 2020
Thus rather than seeing it from the point of view of gender justice and rights, one should see this from the point of view of agama shastras and traditions. As such women are not prohibited from havans and can do the same at home, alone, in family setting or with husband. A male IAS officer would have invited the same censure as Ritika Jindal if he had barged into a temple and arrogated right to conduct puja to himself, in pursuit of say ‘social justice’.
Why did the officer do it?
The education we get in schools and colleges has secularised Hindu Dharma and sees it only from the point of view of caste and gender. The education system declines to consider it worthy of respect and piety, or something that contains deep philosophy and a unique, relevant worldview. It is not surprising given that our textbooks have largely been written by Hindu hating Marxists. In comparison to Hindu Dharma, Islam and Christianity are extolled for their “brotherhood” and “equality”, despite them having extremely regressive, fundamentalist and superstitious worldview which they have tried to impose on others at a terrible cost to humanity.
The issue is compounded by the fact that Hindu children get practically no religious education. A Christian child gets religious education in Sunday school at Church, a Muslim child at home or in Madarsa but a Hindu child has nowhere to go. State has taken over temples, the traditional places to impart religious education and does not let Hindu-owned schools impart any religious education! Ultimately, most children have no idea about Hindu Dharma, its scriptures and philosophy. This is of course compounded by the media and entertainment industry that is under the thumb of deracinated liberals, Islamists and Marxists.
Most people do not understand how preparation for UPSC Civil Services exam changes the worldview of a young student. The prescribed newspaper is The Hindu, which the officer herself read according to one of her interviews. NCERT books are indispensable and the syllabus itself, and associated books, encourages you to think in a particular manner. The person who emerges not only has the pride of being an all-knowing superhuman, but also a positive bias towards leftist ideology. The result is in front of everyone to see.
The hubris of knowledge is also compounded by the fact that one has cleared the Civil Services exam, thus making one infallible. This leads to detachment from ground realities and most IAS officers live in a protected cocoon in which the world is seen by rose tinted glasses and British-Nehruvian blinders. They make schemes that benefit few and set targets that they are sure of missing. Their policies are unimplementable and in a world that increasingly demands specialization, they remain generalist misfits. In fact, they are at loggerheads with other specialist streams in civil services like IRS, IPS etc. and feel that their higher-rank in the UPSC exam exclusively entitles them to secretary-level roles and a higher pay. Have they now started believing that they know Hindu Dharma better than priests, swamis and Hindu scholars?
Need for new Hindu religious places acts
The interference in the traditions of Hindu temples comes under the shield of various Acts and HRCE (Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments) laws that grants government officers a right to manage secular affairs of the temple. This is an instructive example of how they move from secular affairs to religious. This could entirely be due to ignorance and not necessarily due to malice. However, this has to be guarded against.
Hindu temples that used to be the guardians of Hindu religious learning and centers of Hindu culture are in shackles of these acts. The donation by devotees is often used by the state in secular purposes. This is directly in contravention to the wishes of a devotee who donates at the temple. With freedom to use this money, temples could use it to propagate Hindu Dharma and also provide religious education to Hindu children.
The need of the hour is a new model for management of Hindu religious places. Government can help in the management but should not be the sole authority to manage these temples. Sikhs manage their gurudwaras in a democratic manner, where the community elects representatives to efficiently manage the same. This model could also be tweaked to serve Hindu temples.
The IAS should focus more on the governance issues than spend time on their colonial-era “civilizing mission”. The officers would do well to remain within the boundaries of their rights and not interfere in the social and religious customs of the society. The same mistake has been made by Supreme Court in the recent Sabarimala judgment. Some practices are “essential parts” of the religion and no secular authority has a right to intervene in the same. The beauty of Hindu Dharma lies in the diversity of sampradayas, practises and traditions – it is time the Secular State starts truly respecting this plurality instead of just paying lip service to bolster its ‘secular’ credentials.
Indeed, the secularists and atheists, whose ideology drives these officers and judges have not been able to make an ideal harmonious society anywhere. The protection of Hindu culture and dharma has been made dependent on the whims and fancies of officers of the government. In our country where Hindus should ideally have special rights by virtue of our country being the last refuge of Hindu Dharma, the constitution discriminates against the Hindus. As a first step, we need a new framework for governance of Hindu temple so that officers like Ms. Jindal get no chance to interfere in ancient traditions of dharma.
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