October 10, 2015

India: RSS seeks VHP help to unite seers under one umbrella for bigger stir (Lalmani Verma)

The Indian Express

RSS seeks VHP help to unite seers under one umbrella for bigger stir

varanasi, varanasi violence, vhp, rss, varanasi protests, protests in varanasi, violence in varanasi, varanasi news, india news Police in action against protesters during a violent clash in Varanasi on Monday. (PTI Photo)
WITH THE Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) taking the state BJP unit to task for allowing Congress take the lead in spearheading the protest against police lathicharge on sadhus and devotees in Varanasi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has reportedly asked VHP to bring seers from all “groups” under its banner and begin an aggressive agitation.
The issues to be taken up are ban on immersion of idols in Ganga, lathicharge on sadhus and lodging of an FIR against them. RSS offshoots including BJP, Bajrang Dal and ABVP have been asked to help VHP making the agitation a success. VHP’s former organisation secretary for Kashi region, Manoj Kumar, has been asked to coordinate the agitation.
On Thursday, within hours of Bhagwat arriving in Varanasi and holding a closed-door meeting with local BJP and RSS leaders, BJP leaders had announced that they will court arrest if sadhus were arrested on charges of violence and arson that took place during the Anyay Pratikar Yatra on October 5.
On Monday evening, several policemen and protesters had sustained injuries as they clashed in Varanasi’s Godaulia chowk. The yatra was held in response to the police lathicharge on Swami Avimukteshwaranand and others on the intervening night of September 22 and 23 over immersion of a Ganesha idol in Ganga. Last year, the Allahabad High Court had directed that no idols would be immersed in Ganga. The police had registered an FIR against 56 people, including Avimukteshwarananda and Congress Ajay Rai — MLA from Pindra — who was later arrested.
Sources said Bhagwat took the decision as he was dissatisfied with the way the local BJP unit had handled the lathicharge issue and made no effort to register their protest against the FIR lodged. This, despite the fact that Hindutva continues to be on the agenda of BJP.
A senior BJP leader, who was present in Thursday’s meeting, said VHP has been given the responsibility to lead the agitation because it could reunite the sadhus, who have become divided in two groups based on political lines. For example, Swami Avimukteshwaranand of Shree Vidya Math, who had led Monday’s yatra, has been supporting Congress. He and Ajay Rai had symbolically inaugurated the trauma centre of BHU after repeated cancellations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Varanasi.
On the other hand, Mahant Balak Das of Narsingh Math is close to the BJP and had taken out a separate yatra with VHP on October 1 to protest against the September lathicharge on sadhus. Sources said while BJP leaders were not interested in taking part in Monday’s yatra due to Avimukteshwaranand’s association with Congress, they later joined the same on the directive of RSS that wanted to show that BJP was with the sadhus.
When contacted, VHP leader Manoj Kumar said on Friday: “VHP is an organisation of Hindus and all saints… it does not look at them with any political inclination. We will unite them against the ongoing atrocities on the Hindu society. I will also meet Swami Avimukteshwaranand soon.” Kumar admitted that VHP will lead the agitation while other RSS offshoots will actively support it.
He held a meeting of VHP office-bearers on Friday and decided to meet the Varanasi SSP with demands including the withdrawal of cases against sadhus. It was also decided that a meeting would be held with all local sadhus to find a way to immerse Durga idols in the Ganga. “VHP will also warn the administration that atrocities and threats on seers will not be tolerated,” said Kumar.