Badrika Nath Mahapatra

After his rise to occupy the most powerful position in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mostly evokes extreme reactions. There are his die-hard supporters and on the other hand are his virulent critics. The middle ground is occupied by people who are vastly outnumbered by the above two categories.

The staunch supporters of PM Modi in particular and the BJP, in general, are derisively called ‘Andh Bhakts’ (literally translated as blind devotees) by many of his/BJP’s fierce opponents. If we discount the reason (intense dislike) that prompts them to use this epithet, they do have a point in using this term. 

Most of the ‘Andh Bhakts’ of PM Modi look up to him as if he is the promised Kalki Avatar of Lord Vishnu who has descended on earth to wipe out evil and establish Dharma (righteousness) in India and beyond, maybe. Every action of his and of the central government is regarded as a master stroke.

Sometimes this blind allegiance goes to a comic extent. For instance, according to the admirers of PM Modi, the promulgation of the three contentious farm laws was a masterstroke; not dispersing the protestors who disrupted and inconvenienced lakhs of common citizens was also a masterstroke; the PM not talking to them directly was a masterstroke; not using force on the riotous mobs who disrespected the tri-colour was a masterstroke, and ultimately the repeal of the said laws was also a masterstroke. The irony of this was not lost on even the die-hard BJP/Modi supporters.     

However, the question which now arises is whether this ‘Andh Bhakt’ syndrome is restricted to the followers of the BJP and PM Modi only. Let’s look for that in the major social/religious communities and political formations in India. 

The majority of Indian Muslims believe that their sacred scripture The Quran is the infallible and inerrant word of Allah revealed to their Prophet Muhammad. They are over-sensitive about any perceived slight/disrespect to Allah, Quran, and Muhammad as evidenced recently in a number of beastly murders of non-Muslims who were accused of supporting the then BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s ‘disrespectful’ words about Muhammad.

In many demonstrations of Muslims against cases of alleged disrespect of Muhammad, slogans of beheading being the only punishment for disrespect to their prophet have been raised. In most Islamic countries, blasphemy is punishable by death, and lynchings and attacks of/on alleged blasphemers are common in countries like Pakistan.  

Many Christian evangelists in India have been accused of promoting blind beliefs by offering miraculous cures for chronic diseases in the name of Jesus Christ. There have been spectacles of attendees of congregations presided by new-age Christian preachers behaving as if they have been possessed by evil spirits.

Among the Sikhs, of late, religiosity and radicalism are on the ascendancy. Beadbi or sacrilege (to Guru Granth Sahib) has prompted many Sikhs to commit murders of persons accused of causing Beadbi, the recent instance being the murder of a woman consuming alcohol in Gurdwara premises in Patiala.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of India’s constitution and a staunch opponent of blind beliefs, especially among the Hindus, has been elevated to God-like status by most of his neo-Buddhist followers. Any adverse remark about his views, even those based on facts, invites hoarse protests and threats of violence from his admirers.  

Coming to Hindus, though most of them don’t take offence to slights of their gods, goddesses, and sacrilege at temples, there is blind devotion in many of them in other forms.  Many Hindus follow spiritual leaders, derisively called ‘godmen’ by those not enamored of them. Many of these spiritual leaders have proved to be susceptible to worldly pleasures like ordinary humans.

A few of them have been pronounced guilty by courts of law and are serving sentences at present. However, their followers have an unshakable belief in their ‘supermen’ and continue to worship them like God. Also, many Hindus strongly identify with their birth-based caste identity and support their caste leaders irrespective of the latter’s record, character, and vision. They throng to meetings, demonstrations, dharnas, etc. at the call of their caste leaders and don’t look beyond their caste while exercising their franchise in elections.   

Talking about political parties, many party men/women have blind devotion to their respective party leaders. In Tamil Nadu, there have been instances of workers/supporters of tall leaders like Dr. M.G. Ramachandran and J. Jayalalitha committing suicide upon the death of these popular leaders. 

In recent years, most of the Indian political parties have become personality-based organizations with the top leader straddling the scene like a colossus. The communist parties and BJP were welcome changes in this respect earlier.  However, after the ascendancy of PM Modi in BJP, the party increasingly looks like a personality-based party though there are strong regional satraps like Yogi Adityanath in UP who have their own bases. 

As for other political parties with a dominant top leader, viz. Samajwadi party of Akhilesh Yadav, BSP of Mayawati, Aam Admi Party of Arvind Kejriwal, TMC of Mamata Banerjee, DMK of M.K. Stalin, Shive Sena (UBT) of Uddhav Thackeray, etc., their workers/supporters usually have very little appetite for any criticism, however constructive it may be. 

To conclude, the trait of blind devotion or ‘Andh Bhakt’syndrome is nothing new and it has been continuing for ages. With the advent of the internet, anyone can check and verify whether his/her beliefs about their beloved leader/political party/religion/community are based on sound judgment, logic, reasoning, and scientific spirit or not. However, many still prefer to become ‘Andh Bhakts’. It is indeed a sad commentary on the faculty of critical examination of evidences of man, whose brain is the most developed one among all life forms on earth.  

As renowned American astronomer and author Carl Sagan had said, “You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)