Listening to Ramdev

Swami Ramdev may have jumped off the podium but is still news. Many of my friends see him as a threat to democracy arguing he is harassing an elected government. They see him as de-politizing the country with quack medicines for real problems. Others with a more conspiratorial view read him as a Rasputin, less sinister because he has shades of a clown, a village idiot. They are worried about his rustic populism which makes a hash of our more urbane secular categories. Others more liberal see him as comic book stuff. Crudely put, it is like watching a Bhojpuri movie with English subtitles. It will appear boisterous and crude.

By focusing too much on the man, we lose the sociology behind him. To say he is a Yadav, a Kisan’s son, A Yogi from Haryana is not saying enough. This is a sociology of convenience. We think we can dispense with a man once we created a grid of social science terms. To the western eye, he is another OBC figure demanding to be heard. Ignore his egotism, his colossal sense that the world moves around his Copernican self. Ask not what did he say but how did people around him construct the movement? To fight him, you have to understand him.


Shiv Visvanathan is a Social Science nomad.

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