The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which stormed Ayodhya in 1990 and 1992 with the support of sadhus and the local people of the temple town, drew a blank this time as, barring its few known supporters, religious leaders stayed away from the 84 Kosi yatra. Meanwhile, the people of Ayodhya had to face a lot of hardship due to the yatra as the police forced closure of shops and suspended public transport. Moreover, two dozen barricades were put up in and at all entry points of the city.
Acharya Satyendra Das, priest of the makeshift Ram Janmabhoomi temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya, is critical of the VHP for using the sants (saint) of the temple town for the “political requirements of its sister organization BJP.” He said, “Why should the religious leaders of Ayodhya support the VHP and extend their cooperation to its programmes? VHP regards the sadhu samaj (seers) as its bonded slaves, whom it can use as and when needed. It is in the habit of using saints for its political ends. Far from consulting us, they never bothered to even formally inform the religious leaders of Ayodhya about the various programmes and agitations they organized in the last two decades. This so-called Hindu organisation fighting for the cause of the Ram temple is so arrogant that they think it’s enough for them to just make an announcement and sants and mahants will rush to its podium.”
“The VHP uses religious leaders only as a front and claim that the sadhus and sants of Ayodhya will lead the agitation for the construction of a Ram temple,” said Acharya Satyendra Das adding “Barring a few like the former BJP MP Mahant Ram Vilas Vedanti and Mahant Nitrya Gopal Das, Chairman of the Ram Janmabhoomi trust, none have ever supported the political agenda the VHP is pursuing under the garb of religion. Can you name the sant who announced this programme? It was conceived and devised by the RSS and announced by Ashok Singhal. As usual, Singhal claimed that a sant would lead the parikrama. The VHP, for its convenience, also changed the ancient tradition of parikrama (circumambulation) to yatra. A parikrama is a pious spiritual and religious event where only saints participate and can never have a political agenda. The VHP not only renamed it as yatra, but also addded a heavily loaded agenda like ‘jan jagran’ (creating awareness) to drum up support for the Ram temple and mount pressure on the Union government to bring a bill in the present session of Parliament to hand over 67 acres of land at Ayodhya to the VHP for the construction of the temple. The 84 Kosi parikrama, as per ancient tradition, is held in the month of Chaitra Purnima (April) and concludes in Baisakh Purnima (May). With what authority is the VHP organizing the 84 Kosi parikrama during Chaturmaas (a four-month period from Sawan in July to the end of Diwali)? Saints never cross a river during this period as rivers are not only in spate but also undergo Prajnan (reproduction) during this time.”
Accusing the VHP of pursuing a political agenda ahead of the 2014 elections, he said, “There is a strong perception that the ruling Samajwadi Party is extending its tacit support to the VHP as its suits the political interests of both the SP and the BJP. I don’t remember Ashok Singhal ever meeting Mulayam Singh Yadav, whom he once loved to call as Mullah Mulayam, in the last two decades. There is some secret understanding between the Samajwadi Party and the RSS, which is not in the public domain. The VHP must clarify its position as to why and for what they led a big delegation to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav.”
The Digambar Akhada at Ayodhya, which had been at the forefront of the agitation for the Ram temple, wore a deserted look on Sunday as its chief Mahant Suresh Das, though a VHP supporter, stayed away from the VHP’s call for the parikrama. Suresh Das succeeded Mahant Ram Chandra Paramhans Das, who was the chairman of the VHP-floated Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas (trust) till his death in July 2002. Digambar Akhada was the epicentre of the violent movement in 1990. Later, a memorial for the karsewaks who died in police firing in October/November 1990 was built in its premises. “There should be no political agenda behind any religious event and I don’t approve of politics under the cover of a parikrama. The VHP should have maintained the religious sanctity of the event as only saints participate in a parikrama. At the same time, the UP government should not have trampled over the religious sentiments of the people by banning bathing at the ghats of Saryu river as it is counterproductive,” said Mahant Suresh Das.
Mahant Ram Sevak Das of Gokul Bhawan temple, who also stayed away from the VHP’s call, said “I do not oppose the parikrama, but I am certainly against politics under the cover of a religious event. It’s not good for Ayodhya. The divisive politics of the VHP and the Samajwadi Party is being thrust on the people of the town. The government should have allowed the parikrama and made security arrangements. There was no need to create a ‘tamasha’ (uproar) and disrupt normal life in the temple town.”
Falahari Baba – the head of the Rajgopal Mandir and Sanskrit school who is known for his neutral stance as he is not affiliated with any political party – said, “The Samajwadi Party and the VHP are both responsible in equal measure for creating the mess in Ayodhya. The SP government is stoking old fault lines for its narrow political ends while the VHP is reenacting the epic tale of Ramayan where Ravana had abducted Sita by posing as a sanyasi (hermit).”
Rasik Peethaadheeshwar Mahant Janmejay Sharan of Shri Janki Bada Sthaan temple, a critic of the VHP and the Sangh Parivar, questioned the wisdom of organsing the 84 Kosi parikrama in the monsoon. “Never in history was such an important spiritual event organised in this season. The VHP has nothing to do with the sanctity of the 84 Kosi parikrama. They have reduced an important religious event to a political gimmick. Their sole agenda is to boost the sagging electoral fortunes of the BJP ahead of the 2014 parliament elections. Not only the saints and mahants of Ayodhya, but also the common people have no interests in the antics of the VHP,” he said.