Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Language of Aparadha and Demonization

The first calls to blow up the Yamuna "Half-Moon" Bridge have already come out. It made me realize that the picture used on that poster was a total mistake. The language of "aparadha" that was used there and in the current discourse is not really the right way to approach publicizing this issue.

Most people do not understand what offenses are, and they have little or no idea of the sacred or why Vrindavan and the Yamuna are sacred. We do not really want to associate the preservation of Vrindavan's sacred heritage with militant Hindu nationalism and the kinds of things that happened in the Babri Masjid fiasco.

To characterize the people involved in making the bridge as demons is also wrongheaded. That makes it into a demons-demigods fight, which is not what it is. Always attribute the best motivations to your enemy: they are thinking of the development of this bridge as a way of improving the lives of the Brajavasis by increasing the flow of tourist traffic as well as goods and services to the community. This is of course totally misguided, but we must be able to show clearly why and how.

The core of Vrindavan town must be preserved as far as possible. It must be cleaned and improved. The outer parts of the town, like Raman Reti and beyond, are beyond salvation. But the ancient core of the town from Madan Mohan to Tattiya Sthan must be preserved and upgraded. Not by making it open to more traffic, but by making it clean and attractive. By increasing green space--bringing more water into Seva Kunj and Nidhivan would be a good idea. But other spaces that are filled with rubble or garbage should be cleaned up. Money needs to be invested in institutions like schools, etc., in the inner town area, so they do not look so neglected.

In other words, an alternative idea of development has to be put forward, one which recognizes Vrindavan's value as a sacred space. Anger is good as a motivator, but we have to be careful that it does not simply increase friction and unnecessary enmity. No doubt, there ARE demonicac, self-centered interests on the other side, but making that the issue will simply muddy the waters and turn it into the wrong kind of battle.

We need to fight with ideas. If people are not listening, it is because the right people are not talking the right language or loudly enough. Start by convincing a local resident in Braj. Tell them the money would be better spent on improving living conditions and quality of life for the people of Braj.

If Braj is clean and the people are being taken care of, it will become more and more attractive. If the poor people see that they too have an investment in the well-being of the community as a whole, that will make them active participants in the community life. These are the kinds of things that need to be fostered. Not violent revolution.

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