Swami Vivekananda is the new poster person for the Marxist. His picture has been splashed on posters across the State along with a slogan “Casteless society; secular Kerala.” The posters announce the youth march being taken out in the State by the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the youth wing of the CPI(M). They also contain an extract from his famous speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.
Vivekananda, a social reformer and philosopher, spoke extensively on religion and religious beliefs. Though he was not against other religions, he is revered by Hindutva-based organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a Hindu nationalist.
“Swamiji was a great proponent of Hindu nationalism, in the right sense of the word. He saw Hinduism as more than just a religion. He saw it as a great culture,” said P. Parameswaran, president of the Vivekananda Kendra.
Renowned historian K.N. Panikkar said Hindutva had appropriated Vivekananda. "He was basically a universalist. Universalism is a part of secularism," said Dr. Panikkar.
DYFI State secretary and MLA T.V. Rajesh said there was nothing wrong with the party using images of Vivekananda in saffron robes. Parties like the RSS had appropriated the reformer’s teachings and taken them out of their original context, he said.
“Vivekananda is not the property of any religion or religious group. He was a true Communist in that he fought to reform the ills of society such as casteism.” The youth march was part of DYFI’s struggle against moral policing and communal forces that were now striving to divide Kerala society, he said. The march will also go through the spot in Shoranur where Vivekananda began his tour of the State in 1892.
Historian M. Gangadharan said electoral politics and not ideology was the reason for the Marxist party’s interest in the teachings of a leader they had shunned for long. “Such attempts are to ensure that the party does not alienate voters who subscribe to Vivekananda’s beliefs. Communist leaders these days even go to religious institutions and air their religious beliefs freely. In the last few years, party members have been praising people the Communist leaders had criticised earlier,” he said.
Vivekananda had many followers in West Bengal and the Left politicians there would never say a word against him. There was also a thought within the Marxist party that all voters who are followers of Swami Vivekananda should not go to the BJP and its allies, he said.