Pramukh Swami and the shadow of women
“Women cannot directly receive advice from Pramukh Swami due to his vows as a sadhu in the Swaminarayan tradition that prohibit him from interacting directly with females. Women have to ask male relatives to approach Pramukh Swami on their behalf, or have written messages sent to him to ask for guidance.” — From the wiki page of Pramukh Swamiji of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
Now, Pramukh Swamiji used to be the spiritual guru of APJ Abdul Kalam, who also used to be close to other fakes like Amrithanandamayi, Sri Sri Sri, Sai Baba and once even offered floral tributes to the statue of RSS founder Hedgewar. For Kalam, Pramukh Swamiji was so influential that the last book he wrote was ‘Transcendence: My Spiritual Experience with Pramukh Swamiji’. As I said in a much-hated post after his passing, this is all that one can expect from a man whose world view is pretty shallow.
Sreedevi.S.Kartha, a writer based in Kerala, did the Malayalam translation of this book recently. Yesterday, the publisher Current Books asked her not to attend the book launch scheduled for today as women are not allowed to share stage with the chief guest Swami Brahmavihari Das, who is a representative of Pramukh Swamiji. Another weird condition for the Swamiji to attend was that no one apart from the men in the Swamiji’s entourage could sit in the first three rows at the event, as the “shadow of women can’t fall on the Swamiji”.
Thanks to widespread protests from left youth organisations and women’s organisations, the release did not take place, although “feminist author” Sarah Joseph tried to save the day for the publishers. The protests are a sign that Kerala has not given in completely to obscurantist fascist elements, although there are several signs to the contrary.
This particular swamiji was in the news earlier this year after a woman journalist was forced out of an event in which the Maharasthra CM Fadnavis was being felicitated. Her crime? She sat in the front row, from where her shadow could fall on him.
Now that the protests have become a success here, we should also be questioning the translator on whether she was not aware of these ‘basic details’ about the Swamiji’s aversion to women, before she took up the translation work. Also, other than the monetary benefit, what purpose would her translation serve other than introduce some more non-English readers to the Swami’s patriarchal garbage, already given ample legitimacy by the ‘dream-seller’ President. Wasn’t she providing more strength to the ideas of the obscurantist Swami, against whom she was forced to fight one fine day, because she was denied the stage at the release event? Would she still have raised a protest, had she come to know about the Swami’s fear of women’s shadows at some other event in Kerala, considering the fact that she had translated a book on him? One thing is proved though, that progressive forces will stand up for you when your rights are questioned, even if you are not really someone who holds progressive views
Also it was wonderful that Sarah Joseph chose to stand by her publishers, rubbishing her known feminist standpoints. She says that the news could be fake and that there was nothing wrong in the publisher keeping out the (lowly) translator, as they wanted a ‘simple’ ceremony. What has the presence of the translator got to do with the simplicity of the event?
Anyway, the strong protests in Kerala today and after the murder of Kalburgi are a message to the rising tribe of Hindutvawaadis here. Swamis like him might be celebrated at his homeland, Gujarat. But here we spit on them, with all our collective contempt.
PS- The Hindutva tribe has picturised this episode also as an attack on Hindu religion. They sure are bringing their own religion down by finding their saviours in all such obscurantists.