The Bhupesh Baghel-led Chhattisgarh government completed two years a few days ago, and this time the celebrations were centred around the key theme of Bhagwan Ram. The Chhattisgarh government organised a four-day-long ‘Ram Van Gaman Paripath Paryatan Rath Yatra’, which passed through the places where Bhagwan Ram took abode during His exile and ended at Chandkhuri’s Kaushalya Temple, where the state government ministers proclaimed their devotion to Bhagwan Ram. Also, the state tourist department organized a big event at Kaushalya temple which indicates that the Chhattisgarh government is trying to promote the state in religious tourism.
However, the celebrations led by CM Bhupesh Baghel were opposed by many senior Congress and many Adivasi leaders. “The Congress party is working on the agenda of the BJP and the Sangh. The agenda of making the tribals Hindus have so far been that of the BJP and the Sangh. My understanding of why the Congress needed to build the Ram Van Gaman path in this way is beyond me. I do not remember whether the Congress party has ever held any meeting on this issue or discussed it with the tribals,” said Arvind Netam, a senior Congress leader and former union minister.
Moreover, the tribals and other leaders, who supported Congress overwhelmingly in the last assembly election, are not happy with the Bhupesh Baghel government “invoking majoritarianism”.
“We are protesting the majoritarianism that is being thrust upon us. We are also protesting the legality of taking anything from areas under Fifth Schedule. We are also protesting the attack on tribal customs and traditions,” said Sarva Adivasi Samaj (SAS) leader Vinod Nagwanshi.
The tribal activists also tried to stop the Yatra led by Bhupesh Baghel and opposed the Ram Van Gaman Circuit, the religious tourism circuit being developed by the state government with an expenditure of ₹134 crores. “We are against the entire construction of this project. This is against our customs. The Adiwasi is neither an atheist nor a believer. She just believes and worships nature,” said SAS in a letter sent to the governor.
The Congress party, especially its state units, have found a new love for Bhagwan Ram since the rise of Hindutva politics and verdict on Ram Mandir. This is evident from the fact that only a few days before Prime Minister Modi did Bhoomi Pujan at the RamJanmabhoomi Temple, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel had announced the construction of a grand temple of Mata Kaushalya, Mother of Bhagwan Ram, near the state capital Raipur while maintaining the original structure. Chandkhuri, where Mata Kaushalya was born, is in Chhattisgarh. The place already has a temple of Mata Kaushalya, and the Chhattisgarh government will beautify the premises.
Ram Van Gaman Paryatan Paripath, the path Bhagwan Ram traversed before entering South India, is being developed as a tourist destination by the Bhupesh Baghel-led Chhattisgarh government. Bhagwan Ram had spent a significant time in Chhattisgarh during His exile of 14 years; and the places He visited including Sitamadi-Harchauka (Koriya), Ramgarh (Ambikapur), Shivrinarayan (Janjgir-Champa), Turturiya (Balodabazar), Chandkhuri (Raipur), Rajim (Gariband), Sihava-Saptrishi Ashram (Dhamtari), Jagdalpur (Bastar), and Ramaram (Sukma), have been identified as religious tourism hotspots.
It must be noted that in 2005, the UPA government under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh had ruled out the existence of Ram. Not only this, but the old party had also started preparing to start work on building a dam on the site of the original Ram Setu.
At that time, the BJP strongly opposed this decision. In 2006, the UPA government, in its affidavit as filed in the Supreme Court, said that there is no historical evidence about Ram and there is no firm evidence that the ‘Ram-Setu’ was constructed by mythological characters.
Mocking the sentiments of millions of Hindus, there was a plan by the then UPA government to demolish the Shri Ram Setu, hence paving the way for the Sethusamudram Project (SSCP) in 2005.
However, now the Congress governments in states like Chhattisgarh led by CM Bhupesh Baghel, have started accepting the Hindutva politics which is the biggest victory for the Hindus of the country. The old guard of the Congress and the Congress leadership in Delhi still has disdain for Hindutva politics but the leaders with ears to the ground have now started accepting it.