Hindi Fighting Words-Foreign Policy (Spring 2020)

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We summarise pieces published by foreign publications that are also relevant to the Indian audience in the International Eye section of the magazine. The longer version of this piece is published by Foreign Policy Magazine.

What is in a name? Some would say it holds no meaning to a person. But in this case, names do have a particular assemblage of meanings. Here, the phrase “Jai Shri Ram” provides sense to a specific community.

The feature points out, “Jai Shri Ram translates as ‘Victory to Lord Ram,’ a popular Hindu deity. But while this seemingly harmless phrase originated as a pious declaration of devotion in India, it is today increasingly deployed not only as a Hindu chauvinist slogan but also as a threat to anyone who dares to challenge Hindu supremacy.”

The phrase was frequently deployed by the people who attacked anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protesters. Several killings have been executed in the name of Ram. All hell broke loose upon those who refused to chant the name. Akhalaqs, Junaids and many more were met with their fatal end.

“Jo Na bole Jai Sri Ram, bhej do usko kabristan (Those who don’t say Jai Shri Ram, send them to their graveyards)”, says a Hindu supremacist in a video. The use of cemeteries as a reference made clear that the message was directed at Muslims and Christians. 

Ram, the protagonist of the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, was extolled as the embodiment of the perfect man. “Attacking the weak or innocent to show your arrogance or your might doesn’t count as the dharma [duty] of the brave,” is the moral of the epic.

Moreover, Ram, as a heuristic device, was notched up by BJP to amass Hindu votes. “Jai Shri Ram now had an additional meaning: an expression of Hindu dominance and the BJP’s rise,” says the feature article.

The original and longer version of this article is published by Foreign Policy Magazine in its spring 2020 issue.

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