RELIGIOUS CHAUVINISM

Sadhu parishad plans religious demonstration over contentious temple loudspeaker in Uttar Pradesh

A week ago, BJP workers and UP police clashed in Moradabad over the same issue. This time, sadhus and kanwarias will be going.

Just over a week ago, on July 4, the Uttar Pradesh police stopped the Bharatiya Janata Party’s attempt to hold a mahapanchayat at Kanth subdivision of Moradabad to protest against the removal of a loudspeaker from a local temple. In the pitched battle that ensued between BJP supporters and security forces, scores were injured and a large number of leaders and workers of the saffron party were taken into custody.

Yet, even before Moradabad could regain normalcy, fresh attempts are being made to keep the communal pot boiling. A Hindutva outfit, Akhil Bharatiya Sadhu Parishad, has started mobilising sadhus to perform the Jalabhishek ceremony at the temple in Moradabad.

“On the day of Mahashivratri (July 25), a large number of sadhus from all over the country will visit this temple and perform Jalabhishek,” a Haridwar-based sadhu, Swami Yatindranand Giri, told Scroll.in over the phone.

Giri, who is the national convener of this outfit, said the Parishad took the decision at a meeting of its office-bearers at Hardwar on Sunday.

The temple from which the loudspeaker was removed is situated at Akbarpur Chendri village in the Kanth subdivision of Moradabad. The trouble in the village began following the local administration’s decision to remove the loudspeaker from this temple on June 26. The local administration argues that the loudspeaker was removed because it was lying there illegally and that there is no tradition of it being mounted on this temple on any day other than Shivratri. BJP leaders, however, claim that the loudspeaker has been at the temple for last 40 years and was removed at the behest of the local MLA, Aneesur Rahman, who belongs to the Peace Party.

On June 27, protesting against the removal of the loudspeaker, a group of locals, including members of some right-wing organisations, held a roadblock at Kanth and clashed with the police. Soon after, the BJP announced that it would organise a mahapanchayat, scheduled for July 4, which would be attended by all BJP MPs from western Uttar Pradesh and other local leaders of the party. The decision was widely criticised, and the Bharatiya Kisan Union, which has great influence in western Uttar Pradesh, called the move a “gimmick” of the BJP to divert attention of farmers from its bid to amend the Land Acquisition Act.

In any case, the police acted swiftly, arresting a good number of the BJP leaders and workers and chasing away the rest of them on July 4.

Yet, India’s ruling party is now keeping its distance. Yatindranand Giri asserted that “it has nothing to do with the BJP” and that “it is purely an agitation by the sadhus”. Giri, who heads the Sadhu Parishad, has been closely associated with the Sangh Parivar. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, he contested from Haridwar parliamentary constituency on a BJP ticket. He lost to the Congress candidate.

Giri said the Sadhu Parishad would seek help from Hindu organisations like the Bajrang Dal. “It is a cause of Hindus; the local units of Bajrang Dal and and other similar organisations will help us in our effort to mobilise locals to perform Jalabhishek on the occasion of Mahashivratri in that temple,” said Yatindranand Giri.

The Parishad has also planned an awareness drive regarding the issue among kanwarias (devotees of Shiva), who will come to Hardwar to fetch water from river Ganga to be poured on the Shivlinga in their respective towns and villages. “We will launch an awareness drive among kanwarias and encourage them to attend the Jalabhishek at Akbarpur Chendri on this year’s Mahashivratri,” Giri said.

This year, the month of Shravan, when the Kanwarias make this journey, begins on July 13. “Sadhus associated with the Parishad will start educating the Kanwarias as soon as they arrive in Hardwar,” the Parishad chief said.

 
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