After Rhea Chakraborty, Will News Channels Go After Sadhus Who Smoke Ganja With Equal Fervour?

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After Rhea Chakraborty, Will News Channels Go After Sadhus Who Smoke Ganja With Equal Fervour?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

The Sushant Singh Rajput case has seen many twists and turns. What was first claimed as murder, later turned into a charge of abetment to suicide, which later turned into a financial charge of stealing Rs 15 crore, which has now been reduced to a drug angle. And if some sources are to be believed, 59 grams of it. Rhea Chakraborty has been arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau – the agency’s self-professed mandate is to look at the circulation of narcotics. News sources claim she had admitted to the procurement and consumption of drugs.

The Maharashtra Government has separately launched a drug probe against Kangana Ranaut. The NCB is said to have a list of “25 celebs” who are part of a drug cartel. Prime-time anchors shout every night about “cleaning Bollywood” of this drug mafia, and #PudiyaBollywood is trended on Twitter to target the drug abuse by the industry.

While we all pretend that no one consumes drugs – just like no one consumes alcohol in Gujarat – cannabis is considered sacred in certain temples of North Karnataka and even served as prasad.

As per Sharana, Aruda, Shaptha, and Avadhuta traditions, devotees consume cannabis aka ganja in various forms, believing that it helps them achieve enlightenment. The Mouneshwara temple at Tinthini in Yadgir district in Karnataka conducts an annual fair in January, every year, where devotees receive small packets filled with ganja as prasad. The devotees then smoke the prasad after praying to Mouneshwara or Manappa.

“The devotees and saints believe this sacred grass shows the path to enhancing knowledge of spirituality. During the fair, anybody can come here and smoke. While some eat ganja after boiling it, others consume it like tobacco powder,” Gangadhar Nayak, a member of the temple committee said. Temple authorities have denied that the cannabis is sold to outsiders for recreational purposes.

As the debate in the country around usage of drugs heat up, many social media users are asking whether sadhus and religious institutions will be hounded in the same way that Rhea Chakraborty has been vilified on the news for two months every night.

Some users have also tagged news channels like Republic TV, Times Now and Aaj Tak to do a primetime episode and trend hashtags in relation to this.

As pointed out by journalist Shoaib Daniyal, “marijuana is as old as anything else in Indian culture, and the elite taboo against it is very recent, borrowed from the West.”

In India, marijuana has been in use for millennia in various forms including ganja, bhang, hashish and other variants. Bhang has a mention in texts dating back to 1000BCE and also in the Vedas. The calls for criminalising cannabis were first raised in British India, from 1838 to 1877.

In 1985, India passed the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 1985 which continued to criminalise cannabis in the form of buds or charas while allowing the sale of bhang, which is still heavily consumed on festivals like Holi and Shivratri.

While channels get their “high” from hounding Rhea Chakraborty over recreational drug consumption, it is also perhaps time to look back at our history, culture, and roots. Many countries across the world have legalised recreational cannabis. Is it time for India to consider it as well?

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