Written by Suman Oak
20 years on MANS on the path of Progress
Initially Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samitee (ANS) was agitating against Buvabaji (god men), ghosts, Bhanamati, Sorcery, etc. It was surely complementary to the broader, social reform movement initiated by Phule-Shahu-Ambedkar and many others who preceded and followed them. It was then looked upon as a minor action group of dedicated people. During the last 20 years, however, it has progressed through Eradication of Superstition, Scientific Way of Thinking, Scientific Outlook, Critique of Religion, Secularism and Rationalism. Progress on all these fronts continues simultaneously and has now become the main component of the broader, all inclusive reform movement carried out by secularists and rationalists. However there is slight difference between the thinking of MANS and other staunch rationalists. Like Rationalists, MANS too prefers that people maintain their moral rectitude solely depending on their own conscious; but it has no quarrel with those who want to be and are moral with the help of God and religion. For, being moral is important than being or not being religious. The organization does turn a blind eye to the social reality that most people are born in families that are religious and not rationalists. It is therefore necessary to intervene effectively but peacefully, amicably and democratically in the social life of people by encouraging and promoting their reasoning capacity. We all know that for ages religions have been teaching people to believe in supernatural power and to surrender to it. They have taught us to obey religious edicts and not to doubt their propriety; to leave everything to the religious luminaries and accept whatever destiny has decided for us. Eradicating this mentality and instilling confidence in oneself as the maker of one’s destiny is a tall order and requires us to go slow with the reform movement. Bluntly telling people that God does not exist and depending on him for salvation is but foolishness will alienate the ANS from the society which is certainly not helpful to work at grass root level. ANS therefore adopts a policy of intervention by edifying people through various constructive programmes and activities.
MANS adopts a multi-pronged approach to the larger reform movement. Along with eradication of superstition, it aims at spreading knowledge especially of science; making people aware of all sorts of exploitation-economic, religious, social; making them aware of their responsibility towards environment and their duties as responsible citizens; making them conscious of the need to criticize religion and the malpractices carried out in the name of religion; instilling tolerance towards religions other than their own and engendering scientific outlook and rationalism in them. ANS is aware that to achieve all these aims it has to meet the young minds head-on and arranges many programmes for school children, college students and also their teachers, for the change of mind has to start when the minds are being formed. ANS has fought many a battle against the exploitative religious and social systems and the individual Buvas, Babas and Matas, some of whom have dragged the president of the organization into the court of law launching several cases against him in various courts all over the country. ANS does not just carry out a struggle against superstition and the godmen, it is a movement against the social system that engenders superstition and encourages godmen. Hunger, poverty, ignorance, religion, God and disease are the root cause of superstitions. ANS cannot fight many of these causes on its own; it therefore joins forces with many other like minded organizations and co-operates in their struggle against the system- the corruption in it, its neglect of the poor their health-education-nutrition, etc. as well as injustice, insensitivity and indifference of its administration towards public and such other things.
MANS needs to do many more things. There is a whole world of superstition in Maharashtra (and everywhere in the country) which needs to be studied; the activists need to be trained in handling the equipment as well as difficult situations that can arise; there is a need to raise a whole army of young activists trained in politics, economics, education and more Importantly ethics; all of it being less theoretical and more practical.
Bertrand Russell had very succinctly put it; ‘war, religion and nationalism are the three great evils in our life. We may add parochialism to this list. Fighting these three forces organizations like ANS have to guide the people from superstition to rationalism and finally to humanism; to the lofty ideal of ‘Vishachi Maze Ghar’ meaning that the whole world is my home- not in the sense of exploiting it (or like interest of America first and foremost) but in the sense of being responsible towards everything existing in it. Quoting Russell again; “A good life is one that is inspired by love and guided by knowledge and elicits the awareness that each generation is trustee to further generations of the mental and moral treasure that man has accumulated through the ages.”
Lastly I may quote M.N. Roy from his booklet, ‘The Rhythm of the Cosmos’, “Liberated from the time-honoured spiritual bondage, thanks to the advance of modern science, man can rediscover the essence of his nature. It is not to believe but to question and enquire. The biological heritage of rationality enables man to penetrate deeper and deeper into the secrets of nature and discover the truth. It is also the only foundation of a Voluntary Morality. Reason is not a metaphysical category. It is the consciousness of the harmony of nature, and as such is empirical reality. Rationality is a biological function which is a microcosmic echo of the rhythm of the cosmos.”