13 दिसंबर 2013

The Gandhi of Ayodhya

The Gandhi of Ayodhya

The Gandhi of Ayodhya

10 Dec 2013 09:12 PM, IST

The Gandhi of Ayodhya

By Abu Zafar, India Tomorrow,

Equipped with multimedia mobiles, laptop and engaged with social networking sites this 55 years old Mahant continues with his mission to spread the message of peace and humanity.

Yugal Kishor Sharan Shastri is an ex-RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) pracharak who worked actively in Ram Janambhoomi movement before demolition of Babri Masjid on 6th December 1992 but later realized his guilt and turned completely and established his image as propagator of peace and communal harmony across the country.

It was 1987 when Shastri realized, after his ten year long journey in RSS, from a Kabaddi player to full time pracharak executing different organizational duties in various posts of RSS and VHP, that he is not at the place where he should be.

But what forced him to take such extreme decision while serving as district secretary of VHP in Faizabad that houses Ayodhya, the epicentre of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmbhoomi controversy?

Shastri reveals that though he was distressed over the culture of hate language against the Muslims from very beginning, the dissent over eliminating Hashim Ansari, a petitioner in Babri Masjid case, forced him to break the relation with Sangh.

“They were reluctant or stubborn to kill Hashim Ansari as he was witness in the case; but I kept asking them whether it would solve the problem, they didn’t have any answer.” Shastri told...

Finally at the end of 1987 Shastri resigned from Sangh as he was not ready to acknowledge communal agenda of Hindutava forces. “I had resigned because of the language of hatred; that was totally anti-Muslims and promoting hatred between two communities. For me such language was against our ethics and culture.”

Shastri explains that how the VHP and other outfits associated with Sangh Parivar started violent activities before the demolition of Babri Masjid.

“As I was senior leader, I used to patrol with a group of VHP members armed with a long trident. They claimed that there is some danger to the life of Shastri ji.”

Shastri admitted that under his leadership too there were some violent activities against Muslim community. House of a Muslim, Waliullah tailor, was burnt. After realizing his fault, Shastri went to Waliullah and apologized for it.

He was born in a lower middle class family in village Bahra in Sitamarhi district of northern Bihar in 1958. He studied in a Madrasa (Muslim Seminary) after completing primary education at nearby village.

According to him the village Bahra has around 7000 population where Muslims were around 30 per cent. Shastri says that he had a Muslim neighbor and his mother belonged to Rautahat district of Nepal. Rautahat has largest population of Muslims in Nepal. Interestingly, his love towards Urdu language and curiosity towards Muslim community drove him to the Madrasa in his own village where he paid a handful of rice as fee to gain basic knowledge of Urdu.

Recalling the full-pant rule of Madrasa, Shastri says, “Even today, whenever I go to my home I visit the Madrasa,” “In my childhood, I used to visit the mosque as well and Muslims didn’t have any objection seeing a Hindu boy inside the mosque,” says Shastri. He later studied Quran in Hindi language.

Descending on Ayodhya in 1970
In summer of 1970, 22-year-old Shastri left his home for Ayodhya along with a Hindu priest.

“Famine was common in Bihar at that time and I was forced to leave home for starvation,” The priest Ram Balak Das Tyagi offered me to go to Ayodya and become a Sanyasai (priest). He promised me of education facility there, recalls Shastri.

Shastri stayed in a temple called Mani Ram Das Ji Ki Chhawni in Ayodhya. After couple of days, he started working in the same temple for two times meal and place of stay. His job was to clean the plates and bowls of the temple everyday in the morning and in the evening.

For expenses like soaps and oil he had to ingeminate Sita Ram for three hours daily in morning and evening. He used to earn Rs. 20 to 25 per month. After working for more than one year, Shastri left the job and joined Surajkund temple on the invitation of its priest Avatar Sharan.

Shastri learned Sanskrit from Avatar Sharan and simultaneously he completed the higher secondary examination, then graduation in Sanskrit from Trivedandi Deo College Ayodhya affiliated with Sampoorvanand Sanskrit University, Varansi. Later he did PG in Sanskrit from the same university in 1984 and at the same year Mahant Avatar Singh gave charge of Sarjukund temple to Shastri.

Growing up under the shadow of saffron flag
Shastri was fond of Kabaddi since his childhood and it led to him to join the RSS in 1978. Shastri says that RSS used to organize games like Kabaddi and Kho kho in a playground in Ayodhya.

“RSS engages youths in the name of playing Kabaddi and Kho kho and gives 30-minutes long lecture once game is over. They explain attributes of Hinduism, the threats to Hindu religion, ways to deal with the loss to Hindu community, how the population of Muslims is increasing in India day by day and that how they insult statues of Hindu gods and goddess by urinating on them or slaughtering cows in the temple,” he explained.

“The participants of these games are from 15 to 25 age group and they get impressed by such lectures,” he added.

He says that RSS leaders select some active players and convince them to take part in Officer Training Camps (OTC). Shastri was among them who were selected for OCT in early 1980.

“I was sent to Gorakhpur’s Gorakhnath Temple for preliminary training for 25 days where I leant sword fencing, judu karate, Kabaddi in open sky on sunny days of June.”

The second stage training was organized in 1981 at a college in Varanasi. It was also for 25 days. In this camp main focus was on lectures and interactions. After finishing second training people were sent for third training and then appointed as Prcharak. But Shastri was selected as Parcharak after completing the second training camp itself.

After being selected as a Pracharak, he was a full time worker for RSS and posted in Barabanki district of the UP.

It was 1982 when Shastri began his career as Pracharak in Barabanki where his main work was to manage Shakhas (branches) and parades of Sangh.

Shastri says that each Pracharak was given Rs. 80 to 90 for expenses, clothes were provided by the RSS office and the meal was depended on turn basis.

“If some money remains from expenses then one has to return it to the office,” he explains.

He held same position till 1983 and in 1984 Shastri was appointed as district coordinator of Hindu Jagran Manch; but within only six month he was made district secretary of VHP in Faizabad and participated in Ram Janmbhooi Movement.

Remembering the 6th December
Shastri resigned from Sangh in 1987 and started working with Shankracharya of Dwarka Peth (Gujarat) and then joined with Swami Saroopanand Saraswati.

Shastri says that Swami Saroopanand also wanted to build a Ram temple at the same place in Ayodhya but he was against violence and hatred culture of VHP.

“He wanted to do the same like VHP, but through the help of government and intervention of court. He used to say that violence is against the principles of Sanatan Dharm,” Shastri elaborates.  “After that I became spokesperson of Shankarachariya and initiated a movement across the country. Later noted Gandhian activist Nirmala Deshpande also joined it.”

Shastri claims that he worked with the then Prime Minister of India P.V. Narasimha Rao and that he was part of his plan to discredit Sangh from Ram Janmabhoomi temple movement.

“Deshpande had nothing to do with mandir-masjid dispute but was working only for peace.”

Shastri says that on December 6, 1992, when Babri Masjid was demolished, Deshpande was in his temple in Ayodhya. Rao asked Deshpande that who can work against VHP in Ayodhya and then she recommended my name,” Shastri recalls.

Shastri claims that when he met Rao in January 1993 at PMO with Swami Saroopanand of Dwarka Peth he said he is not against the temple building but not at the cost of law and order.

“Rao told us that even it is his wish to build the temple at same place, but not on the cost of law and order, it should be maintained”

“But Rao condemned the incident of December 6 and said that Karsewaks are not criminals but real culprits are VHP leaders who provoked them,” he added.

Rao had given AC 2 tier pass to me and to three more persons, who were allowed to travel with me. I was also provided security on the recommendations of Rao, he claims.

Rao wanted to stand a movement of sadhu sants against VHP. His plan was to build separate trust; one is Ramjanambhoomi Ramalya trust and other was Babri Masjid trust.

Shastri is one of the trustees in the Ramalya trust. “Former HRD minister Arjun Singh had annoyance against VHP and he used to say that if High Court delivers verdict in favor of temple, I will not let the VHP people to build temple but other people will do the same,” he claims.

Hate politics running out of steam
Now Shashtri thinks that this style of hate politics can’t go for more days.

“Now common Hindus especially younger generation don’t have any interest that where Ram was born.”

Saying that Sangh has become weak now days, and Shakhas have failed to attract more people, he said, “During our time there were at least 70 Shakhas in Faizabad district, but now the number has reduced to 2 or 3. Almost same situation prevails across the country.”

Shastri says that Hindu Yuva Vahini, which played key role in recent riots in UP, is too becoming weak. Now they are utilizing anti-social elements and goons for rioting.

“Earlier Pracharaks were appointed at Tehsil level, but now it is limited to district level. In a new trend, VHP is appointing its district head on salary basis.”

He also said that when BJP came to power, it worked for upper caste people leaving members of SC, ST and OBC communities embarrassed.”

Shastri, who organized a Citizen Harmony Walk 2012 from Ayodhya to Kanyakumari, believes that there is no scope for hate propaganda and communalism in the civil society. “Hate and communalism are floating points and truth remains truth end of the day.”

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