On any given day in the life of a person, particularly In India, exposure to religious references is inevitable. Not only do we have one temple per street, but also the presence of paintings, posters and banners with religious references make us aware of this omnipresent entity. The importance of “God”, “Eeshwar”, is known to every Indian. But who is “God”? Who is this “Eeshwar”?

Even a child knows how the Indian national emblem, the Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath, looks like. Every Indian knows that “Satyameva Jayate”, the motto inscribed at the base of the emblem, means “Truth alone triumphs”. But what is “Truth”? What is “Satyam”?

“Dharma” Sandeh and RTI

The questions arrived upon above are not simple philosophical or even spiritual in the least according to a certain Shradhanand Yogacharya, a man with a keen thirst for “knowledge”. Seeking to know who the “Eeshwar”, in whose name an oath is taken and also what “Satyameva Jayate” truly meant, Mr. Shradhanand’s RTI application changed hands and finally ended up with the Law Ministry. With an unsatisfactory response from the stumped Law Ministry, Mr. Shradhanand forwarded his application to the Central Information Commission (CIC). What is interesting here is that during a video conference session in the CIC, a Law Ministry official justified that they could only provide information which is part of their records.

Even the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), S K Chitkara, tried to convince Mr. Shradhanand that terms like “truth”, “religion” and “caste” were not defined in any part of the Constitution and hence, no information could be provided. The CPIO further explained that the meaning of the above-mentioned words are supposed to be explained by teachers and Acharyas. The CPIO also clarified that these questions cannot be asked under the RTI Act as the term “information” is clearly defined under the law as “any material in any form… relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force”.

Being termed as a time-consuming “useless exercise”, the Chief Information Commissioner, Sridhar Acharyulu, rejected the second appeal of Mr. Shradhanand. Acharyulu further mentioned that the requested meanings of the terms have been explained in several Supreme Court judgements in the public domain. Acharyulu also suggested to Mr. Shradhanand to approach Gurus to clarify his doubts.

Though the whole incident is something easily brushed off, it raises an important doubt regarding the bigger picture. Thinking along the lines of the officers of the legal arm of the Government involved in this above incident, understanding the concept behind words as simple as “Satyam” and “Eeshwar” requires a knowledgeable (usually Hindu) Guru. If the common citizen himself requires a Guru for such an understanding of the concepts, wouldn’t the ruling Ministers also require somewhat advanced understanding of the same concepts (with a more rigorous training)? While Mr. Shradhanand pointed out that we citizens may not know several key terms used by us often in daily life, it is time for us to question our rulers’ knowledge of the same terms as our fates are decided by their actions.

Mr. Shradhanand, it’s time to ask somebody else!