Inauguration of Parliament Building: Coronation Ceremony?

Modi Parliament

This 28th May 2023 the new and more lavish building of Parliament was inaugurated by Prime Minster Modi. Most opposition parties boycotted this function as they argued that the inauguration should be done by President Draupadi Murmu. As per article 79, President of India, along with Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, constitutes the Parliament, thus President is part of the legislature. Keeping her out indicates the appropriation of centrality for everything by Modi.

The inauguration was marked by two major events. One was the presence of large number of Sadhus, priests, heads of many mutts. Invocations of Lord Shiva and Ganesha were in the air, Hindu religious rituals, were followed to the core undermining the secular nature of our state and Constitution. Modi received Sengol, Scepter, from Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam, a Shaivite matha near Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. Accompanied by the representatives of various Adheenams in Tamil Nadu and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the PM installed the Sengol, the sceptre, in the new building.

The argument goes that it is symbol of transfer of power. It is part of the great Chola tradition when the Sengol was presented to the new king as a symbol of his powers. This showed that he derives his powers from the almighty God through the divine agency of the priest. So now the attempt is being made to revive the ‘glorious tradition’ by the Prime Minster.

It is also being asserted that at the time of Independence Sengol was passed on from Lord Mountbatten to Jawaharlal Nehru as a symbol of transfer of power. This is totally concocted story. Jairam Ramesh in his tweet tells us that, “A majestic scepter conceived of by a religious establishment in then Madras province and crafted in Madras city was indeed presented to Nehru in August 1947… There is NO documented evidence whatsoever of Mountbatten, Rajaji & Nehru describing this scepter as a symbol of transfer of British power to India. All claims to this effect are plain and simple — BOGUS. Wholly and completely manufactured in the minds of a few and dispersed into WhatsApp, and now to the drum-beaters in the media. Two of the finest Rajaji scholars with impeccable credentials have expressed surprise.”

Surely Nehru must have received it from the priest of Shaivite Mutt, just to respect him and his feelings. So instead of keeping him in his PM’s office he got it preserved in Allahabad Museum. It is totally false that he treated it like a walking stick. Nehru and all major leaders of freedom movement did not uphold kingdoms or kings. They conceived of a democracy where power comes from the people through elections. Sovereignty belongs to people and not from God coming through the Clergy. The democratization of Indian society led to these values where the PM or President is not the King answerable to Religious authority, ‘Raj guru’ (Royal Priest) but to the people and to the Constitution.

Incidentally C.K.Annadurai the founder of Dravid Munnetra Kazgham wrote a scathing article against the Sengol being represented as a symbol of power. As per him, ““You know they must get rid of it to pave the way for the blossom of democracy. The heads of the Mutts, who are afraid that you might seek to implement what you have learnt, will not only give a golden scepter, but even a scepter embedded with *navaratnas* to protect themselves,”

The Hindu ritualism was the part of BJP-RSS agenda which wants to undermine the plural nature of our country and impose the Hindu Nationalist view. This Hindu nationalist view again is the part of the norms and rules which emerged from the Hindu Kings and rajas, which later were joined by their ideologues who articulated this Hindu Nationalism. It is no mere coincidence that the inauguration of the New Parliament building was planned on the 140th birth anniversary of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who is the ideologue of Hindu Nationalism and was probably the first one to articulate this in his book, ‘Hindutva or Who is a Hindu’. This book also gave the justification for religion being the basis of Nationalism, and thereby the first book to openly articulate the germs of ‘two nation theory’.

Mr. Modi through this spectacle is given the signal for primacy of faith over the Indian Constitution. He proclaimed that “Today India is turning once again to that glorious stream of ancient times”. What were the values of those ‘glorious ancient times’: an authoritarian king presiding over the society with caste and gender hierarchy, as enunciated in Manu Smriti. This book was burned by Dr. Ambedkar. As per Ambedkar, it is scriptures like these in ancient times which kept the dalits and women in secondary position in the society.

Ideologues of RSS are glorifying the event by saying that this is a revival of Hindu glorious tradition where Dharma is above the political power, the king is duty bound to abide by Dharma and Sengol represents that. The government argues that the sceptre reflects a continuity of tradition by embodying sanctified sovereignty & the rule of dharma. Ram Madhav of RSS states (IE, 29th May 2023) “”As Sengol reaches the new Parliament house its real significance as the ‘Dharma Dand’ – the Indian civilisational tradition of ethical-spiritual authority over mere political authority – must be the point of debate rather than the nitpicking over its historicity.”

And he further says, “In the Indian civilisational tradition, monarchs and kings were never considered as the supreme authority. Irrespective of whatever regalia were used, like crowns or sceptres or orbs, the royals were always reminded by the court priests at the time of the coronation that Dharma, the ethical-spiritual order, is the only supreme authority.”

In a way this event was one more steps in the direction of Hindu Rashtra and shows that Naredra Modi has monarchical ambitions. It presents Kingdom’s values in modern garb and uses religion as a cover for suppressing the democratic values. It parallels other fundamentalism, in the name of Islam (Pakistan), Christianity (America) and Buddhism (Sri Lanka). The subtle subversion of democracy is more than clear as just as inauguration ceremony was on, a few Kilometres away the police was brutally attacking the protesting wrestlers and their supporters who have been protesting in a most democratic way!

Originally published in News Click

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Dr Ram Puniyani

Dr Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. Email: [email protected]

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