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Friday, June 9, 2023

Music Maestro Ilaiyaraaja, a Dalit Follower of Ramana Maharishi, Faces Ire of Extremist Christian Group

Music composer Ilaiyaraaja is facing protests from extremist Christian groups in Tamil Nadu for saying that he doubts whether Jesus was resurrected (restored to life after death), and that true resurrection happened in the case of Ramana Maharishi when he was 16.

The 74-year-old Ilaiyaraaja, who has just been awarded with Padma Vibhushan, made the comments during his visit to Google headquarters at Silicon Valley in the USA on March 15, during a free-wheeling discussion with Google staff on his life & work, and the power of music in life’s journey. He even sung along with the Google staff.

The entire discussion, which is mostly in Tamil can be seen in this video –

The bit which has sparked the controversy comes right at the end, around the 42 minute mark.

Newsminute has provided this translation of his words –

“This is a song I wrote about Bhagwan Ramana. After writing this song, I never thought of writing another song. Don’t think this is unrelated. Of all the enlightened thinkers who have appeared on earth, there is none like Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi. They say of Jesus Christ that after he died there was a resurrection and he came back to life. I usually watch YouTube documentaries when I get the time. Now they are saying there was no resurrection. They have produced all the proofs possible and they are saying that he did not come back to life. The foundation on which Christianity is built and the basis on which Christianity has grown for over 2,000 years- they have correctly proven historically on YouTube that it has not happened.

Whether that happened or not, the one and only person who has truly experienced resurrection is Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi. That too, when he was a 16-year-old boy. He was overcome with the fear of death. He wanted to see what death will do to his body. He decided to lie down on the ground, hold his breath and his blood flow stopped. His heart stopped and his body became cold. He died. It’s his own statement that he died. His body froze and even though his body froze one unknown is seen. He went to that state of realization.

Ilaiyaraaja is probably referring to YouTube documentaries like this , this & this. Resurrection is widely considered to be a cornerstone of Biblical Christian mythology, and hence questioning it might offend devout Christians. But if we look at Ilaiyaraaja’s talk, the comment about Jesus and Ramana Maharishi are just a small part of a talk which focused primarily on music. Also, Ilaiyaraaja has just quoted what several renowned scholars and documentary makers have presented about the Jesus resurrection story, he hasn’t made any disparaging remarks about the Christian faith per se.

He even acknowledges the possibility that Jesus’ resurrection might be true, before going on to assert his belief that true resurrection for him happened in the case of Ramana Maharishi.

But Ilaiyaraaja’s statement, well within his fundamental right to freedom of expression & in the spirit of open and civilized debate,  has proved so unacceptable to Christian supremacists and secularists in Bharat, that  a radical Christian political group called Sirupanmai Makkal Nala Katchi led a protest right outside his house demanding his arrest.

Sirupanmai Makkal Nala Katchi which translates as ‘Minority People’s Welfare Party’ appears to be a front of a group called ‘All India Christian Rights Movement’ (AICRM) founded by one Rev. Dr. Sam Esudoss.

AICRM’s website shows that it runs a Ministry called ‘Jesus Protects Ministry’, but is primarily a political group with the stated vision of “helping born-again Christians go to Parliament so India emerges as a Christian country”.  

Other material on the website is full of classic missionary propaganda fear-mongering like “nuns being sexually assaulted, missionaries burnt, Churches destroyed, and an all-round climate of persecution and oppression of Christians.”

All the media outlets who have reported on this incident have not gone into the rabid, Christian-extremist and communal background of Sirupanmai Makkal Nala Katchi – these organizations continue to get a free pass to operate under the radar from the secular-liberal intellectual elite, while Hindu groups are demonized for just daring to exist, howsoever mutually respectful their ideology.

What Ilaiyaraaja said should be welcomed – we should have the freedom to debate all religious doctrines and ideologies, there can be no taboo areas. And the hypocrisy of Christian missionary organizations, whose entire soul-harvesting model is based on abusing and denigrating Hindu Gods and beliefs, is just staggering.

Just for the record, this is what the official flag-bearer of ‘secularism’ in the country, the Congress party said in the Supreme Court when it was ruling the country in 2007 –

Even during the recent controversy over the PM’s gentle jibe comparing Congress MP Renuka Chowdhary’s derisive laughter to  the laugh of Surpanakha, Congress MP Anand Sharma had said that the Ramayana is ‘fiction and mythology’, and ‘unscientific’ so a waste of time for MPs like him.

Every secular-liberal journalist or pseudo-intellectual worth his/her salt has, at some point or the other, taken potshots at Hindu Gods and festivals – whether it calling Sri Ram as a divine encroacher, bad husband & worse; Sri Krishna as a romeo/sexual molester; Maa Durga as a prostitute. This tweet sums up the approach of our English-language speaking intellectual elite –

But one thing that the missionary vultures excel in is playing victim. The members of the Sirupanmai Makkal Nala Katchi have alleged that the purpose of Maestro Ilaiyaraaja’s words was to offend Christian belief and hurt Christian sentiments. One member of the party said, “He has to be arrested. He is inciting religious violence. That’s our demand. He has insulted our religion. Instead of arresting him, the police is arresting us.”

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