By Sami Ahmad
PATNA–Pandit Dhirendera Krishna Shastri of Bageshwar Dham in Madhya Pradesh has stirred quite a controversy by repeatedly asking for ‘Hindu Rashtra’ during his five-day stay at Naubatpur, 10 kilometers west of Bihar’s capital Patna.
He was here to recite the story of Hanuman (Hanumant Katha).
When NIA (National Investigation Agency) arrested a few Muslims last year under UAPA from Phuwalri Sharif, one of the allegations was that the accused were hatching a conspiracy for an ‘Islamic nation’. But there is no action against the man who publicly advocated for a Hindu Rashtra.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed his dismay over such a statement and termed the call for Hindu Rashtra a violation of the Indian constitution.
Commonly known as Bageshwar Baba, he came to Patna on a general flight but returned on a chartered flight. Many accuse him to be a Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) sponsored Baba. It is also alleged that BJP is using him as a political tool for polarization and accorded him a red-carpet welcome.
Twenty-six-year old Baba Bageshwar was received at Patna airport on May 13 by many senior BJP leaders. Baba was welcomed by BJP leaders like central ministers Ashwini Kumar Chaube, Giriraj Singh, Patna Sahib M.P. and ex-minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Patliputra MP Ram Kripal Yadav, and others. Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari drove the Baba to the venue.
BJP leaders tried to paint the Grand Alliance of Bihar government as anti-Baba and hence, anti-Hindu while Baba himself talked about Hindu Rashtra.
Hindi daily Dainik Jagran reported that Baba said, “If five crore Biharis hoist a Mahaviri flag and sport Tilak, India will head to become a Hindu Rashtra.” He said that the journey of the Hindu Rashtra should be started from Bihar. Prior to this, he declared that India was already a Hindu Rashtra, only a formal announcement is to be made. He said that very soon such an announcement would be made.
Reacting to this talk of Hindu Rashtra, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, “Would they change the name of the country? Impossible!”
He said that such talks carried no ‘value’ and it was violation of the Indian constitution.
Central minister and Begusarai MP Giriraj Singh targeted chief minister Nitish Kumar and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav for not going to Baba’s programme. He alleged that ‘those people’ go to Iftar parties but avoid Hanuman Katha. He alleged, “Hanuman Katha does not fetch votes, so, they don’t go there.”
His reaction came after deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav refused to attend the Baba programme. He said, “I go to places where there is something for the betterment of the common people.”
The organisers said that they had sent an invitation for the programme to chief minister and deputy chief minister.
Tejashwi’s elder brother and minister Tej Pratap had alleged that Baba Bageshwar is a coward and anti-national who indulges in “Hindu-Muslim rhetoric.” Though Baba Bageshwar himself had said after reaching Patna that he would not do ‘Hindu-Muslim’ but only ‘Hindu-Hindu’. Bihar education minister Chandrashekhar had also accused Pandit Dhirendra of spreading hatred. Giriraj Singh is not alone to connect this programme with votes but the others are not issuing public statements.
Political observers say that BJP leaders would use this type of programme for political purposes by polarization on religious lines.
Convener of state Loktantrik Jan Pahal (Democratic Public Initiative), Satya Naryan Madan says that Baba Dhirendra Shastri is a BJP-sponsored Pandit and it is natural that their leaders are attending his programme and arranging the crowd. But he says that it is not proper to misuse such religious programme for Hindu vote consolidation.
He says that listening to Pravachan is an old Hindu tradition but there should not be political exploitation of this religious sentiment. He said that BJP had done the same and as they were in the Bihar government for 15 years, they have repeatedly used the religious sentiments for vote consolidation.
He said that Pravachans (sermons) do pull crowds but the crowd in Baba Bageshwar is also managed. He said that the religious crowd does not mean support for political ideology but BJP is trying to create the same.
State secretary of CPI-ML comrade Kunal says that there is a right to practice religion and it is a private affair but BJP misused to garner votes which is extremely condemnable. “No doubt, the BJP is trying hard to make Baba Bageshwar’s programme a rallying point to consolidate Hindu votes but they would not succeed.”
Senior minister of the Nitish-led Bihar government Vijay Chaudhary says that BJP leaders have made Baba a mascot to further their own agenda. He said, “There is an experiment going on in Bihar in the name of religion.”
Senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari said that BJP is thinking of winning Bihar by using Baba. He said that this is the reason that BJP leaders are standing before Baba with folded hands.