This year’s birth anniversary of Lord Buddha coincides with six months of the ongoing farmers’ agitation in India.
On May 26, when the Indian farmers observed black day to make the deaf government hear their demands, the prime minister of the country was lecturing the people on the philosophy of Buddhism.
The farmers in India have been struggling for the repeal of controversial farm laws that threaten their livelihood and increase corporate control over the agro industry. However, the right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government under Narendra Modi won’t listen.
While the Indian nation and the Indian Diaspora came together to oppose the disputed farm laws, Modi spoke on the principles of Buddha, in his online address to emphasize non-violence and the importance of serving humanity during COVID 19.
What he conveniently overlooked was that Buddha, in spite of being born in an aristocratic family, had ploughed the fields like those who worked on the farm lands owned by his father. While Buddha was pained to see the tillers working hard and being exploited by the rich, Modi lacks compassion for the farmers who have been camping near New Delhi since November 26.
Modi, a well-known political hawk, instead used the opportunity to draw attention to the menace of terrorism, as if Buddha’s only teaching was to renounce violence. In that sense, Modi was clearly being hypocritical, as his own government continues to patronise terrorism against minorities, especially Muslims.
Though he did say something meaningful by appreciating the scientists and health care workers fighting the pandemic, his statement will go down in history as tokenistic considering the ground realities in India.
More than 250,000 human lives have already been lost, while the hospitals continue to lack oxygen supplies. This is a direct result of the political ideology of Modi and his party, who lack scientific temperament and have been promoting superstition shamelessly. Modi himself has tried to glorify Hindu mythology as science several times, while some of his party leaders have been advising people to consume cow urine to be safe from COVID 19. Buddha had taught his disciples not to be blind followers of anything. He himself believed in reason, and encouraged everyone to adopt critical thinking. Like it or not, Modi’s words do not match his actions. He and his party are the deniers of science and reason, and that explains why India has gone into a mess.
Modi has no moral right to even talk about such a great soul, who led the world through sacrifice and compassion and wanted to create a just society.
We can only hope that good sense prevails over the bigots on this year’s Buddha’s birth anniversary.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist