Akhara politics: An unholy affair – The Massive Story Information

The favored Bade Hanumanji Mandir on the banks of the Sangam (the place the Ganga, Yamuna and legendary Saraswati rivers meet) in Prayagraj (earlier Allahabad) opened as typical on September 25. However for the primary time in 17 years, the puja of the uncommon lete hue (supine) Hanuman idol befell with out Mahant Narendra Giri, the peethadheeshwar of the Baghambari Muth that runs the temple. Giri had allegedly dedicated suicide on the night of September 20, and the temple complicated had been closed to devotees—once more a primary in lots of a long time; the temple was open for darshan even on the peak of the Covid pandemic.

The physique of Narendra Giri, who was additionally the secretary of the Niranjani Akhara in addition to the president of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP), was discovered hanging from a ceiling fan on the visitor home of the Baghambari Muth within the Allahpur locality. Police off­icials discovered a ‘suicide notice’ on the spot, by which Giri made critical allegations, together with of blackmail over a purported pornographic video, in opposition to three individuals—Anand Giri , one in every of his major disciples; Aadya Prasad Tiwari, head priest of the Bade Hanuman Mandir and his son Sandeep Tiwari. All three at the moment are in police custody.

Given his high-profile connections and the truth that Uttar Pradesh goes to polls early subsequent yr, Giri’s suspicious loss of life has generated a number of political warmth within the quick aftermath. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who rushed to Prayagraj on September 21, initially introduced the formation of a Particular Investigation Workforce (SIT) to research the case, saying “nobody accountable might be spared”. However after Samajwadi Occasion president Akhilesh Yadav reached the muth and demanded an inquiry led by a sitting excessive court docket choose, Yogi referred the case to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) on September 22.

Baghambari Muth now resembles a police camp. All the things associated to Narendra Giri, together with his rooms, has been sealed. Vishambhar Rai, a senior advocate on the Allahabad Excessive Court docket, says, “Typically, it takes every week for the CBI to begin work after being known as in. However the best way by which the CBI staff reached Prayagraj inside 48 hours, it’s clear the case is high precedence.” Inspector Normal (IG) V.Ok. Chaudhary, who’s main the CBI staff, has fairly a process on his palms. The crime scene had been compromised earlier than the police arrived, the CCTVs weren’t working and Narendra Giri’s lawyer has raised doubts in regards to the veracity of the ‘suicide notice’, saying the mahant suf­f­ered from joint pains and located it exhausting to write down.

The Beginnings

Born in 1961 within the Bibipur village of Prayagraj’s Saidabad city space, Narendra Giri was Rajendra Singh earlier than his initiation (deeksha). Singh left house in 1983 on the age of 21. Krishnakant Pandey, a childhood buddy and founding father of the ‘Maa Vindhyavasini Prachin Vichar Manch’ in Prayagraj, remembers, “Rajendra met Mahant Divyanand Giri of the Niranjani Akhara on the 1983 Kumbh Mela. By 1985, Divyanand Giri had initiated his renunciation. That’s when his identify modified to Narendra Giri.” Quickly, Mahant Balwant Giri, the then peethadheeshwar of the Baghambari Gaddi Muth, gave him guru deeksha.

The Niranjani Akhara, whose headquarters is in Daraganj, established the Baghambari Muth within the late 18th century. They later purchased 10 acres of land for the hostel at close by Allahpur. It received the identify Shri Muth Baghambari Gaddi as a result of it was a residence for the saints or sants. The mahants related to the Niranjani Akhara turned the peethadheeshwar of the Baghambari Muth. In 1980, Mahant Vicharanand, the then peethadheeshwar, tried to interrupt away from the Niranjani Akhara, however the matter went to court docket. After a authorized battle for almost three a long time, the Baghambari Muth was formally separated from the Niranjani Akhara in 2015. Narendra Giri took over because the peethadheeshwar and mahant of Bade Hanuman Mandir in 2004 after Balwant Giri’s loss of life.

The Murky Land Offers

Narendra Giri first hit the headlines in 2011 over a land dispute. Questions have been raised when he bought seven bighas of the muth’s land for Rs 40-odd crore. A luxurious residential property, Sangam Actual Property, has come up since on stated land. The dispute led to dangerous blood between Narendra Giri and his anointed successor then, Anand Giri. Retired SP Hemant Saroj, who had a stint in Prayagraj, says, “The muths personal a number of property, as do the temples, ashrams and akharas. Most of it got here to them as charitable donations. Many sants and mahants, who communicate of this life as illusory maya and preach renunciation of worldly possessions and attachments, have themselves fallen prey and never been in a position to withstand these temptations. They dwell in palatial ashrams and journey luxurious vehicles value crores. So it’s no shock that disputes come up between the sants and disciples over property.”

Aside from Prayagraj metropolis, sources say the Baghambari Muth and Niranjani Akhara have properties value greater than Rs 1,000 crore in Meja, Jhunsi, Karchana, Kaushambi, Mirzapur, and others in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Haridwar. A senior police officer in Prayagraj, says on situation of anonymity, “The muth additionally has properties value crores of which there is no such thing as a document. Arbitrary possession of those lands has turn out to be the principle reason for disputes.” Baghambari Muth has 30 acres close to Raja Manda Kothi in Prayagraj and 25 acres in Shankarpur.

In the meantime, the prime suspect within the suicide abetment case is Anand Giri, as soon as Narendra Giri’s chosen successor. Anand’s father is a farmer they usually have been initially residents of the Brahmano ki Sareri village in Bhilwara district, Rajasthan. His unique identify was Ashok. He was initiated into the muth by Narendra Giri in 2000. Anand acquired his training within the Vedas, Sanskrit and yoga, however he was additionally good in English, which set him other than the opposite disciples within the muth.

Until Could this yr, Anand Giri was additionally the administrator of the Bade Hanuman temple and the Baghambari Muth. Anand was earlier within the information in 2019 after he was arrested in Australia on prices of indecent assault introduced by two feminine disciples. He was arrested however later acquitted by a Sydney court docket. Following this incident, sources say, relations between Narendra Giri and Anand Giri soured. On Could 13 this yr, Anand Giri was expelled from the Baghambari Muth and ABAP, purportedly for sustaining relations together with his household, a strict no-no for ascetics. Anand then despatched letters to the president, prime minister and Union house minister accusing Narendra Giri of illegally promoting muth property. He additionally complained to the CBI. Nevertheless, on Could 26, after compromise talks between the 2, Anand Giri apologised, and touched his former tutor’s ft in a gesture suggesting cessation of hostilities, say muth sources.

SP’s Akhilesh Yadav on the Baghambari Muth, Sep. 21

Narendra Giri had forgiven his disciple, however Anand’s return to the muth was nonetheless banned. For that motive, he was unable to take part within the occasions it organised. There was a tiff over this too. A sevadaar on the muth says, “After the dispute with Anand, a video went viral in Could by which Narendra Giri is seen throwing cash at a nautch woman. Since then, the mahant had been on the again foot.” The CBI has but to uncover particulars of the alleged incident, together with when it befell, who the lady was, and who shot the video. There’s additionally the thriller one who knowledgeable the mahant about Anand and a brand new video (talked about within the ‘suicide notice’), although it has but to floor.

Anand, now in jail, has been embroiled in some controversy or different for a few years now. His luxurious ashram arising on the banks of the Ganga within the Shyampur Kangri space of Haridwar is on the centre of as soon as such controversy. Narendra Giri had raised questions on it because the three-storey ashram constructing has come up on unlawful land, flouting constructing norms. The Haridwar-Roorkee Improvement Authority (HRDA) had sealed the ashram on Could 13. However Anand and his cohorts had damaged the seal and moved again in. Not solely that, utilizing his affect within the Haridwar administration, building work too had restarted. After Anand’s arrest, the Haridwar administration has resealed the under-construction ashram. “The individuals related to the muth have turn out to be victims of rival conspiracies to seize property,” says Vishambhar Rai. “This has been happening for many years, and could possibly be the rationale why many mahants of the Baghambari Muth have died below mysterious circumstances.” (See Bloody Path at Baghambari.)

Sarcastically, in ‘dharmanagari’ (holy city) Haridwar, there have been 22 identified circumstances of sants being murdered or mysteriously disappearing prior to now three a long time. Ramesh Tiwari, head priest of a temple in Haridwar, says, “The mysterious deaths are primarily associated to property disputes. Land-related disputes of about two dozen religi­ous establishments in Haridwar are pending in courts. The police additionally avoid these issues.”

With Narendra Giri’s loss of life, there’s a risk that the character of akhara politics will change. The submit of ABAP president has lengthy been mired in controversy. In 2010, the election to the Akhara Parishad was challenged within the Allahabad Excessive Court docket. In 2013, the court docket stayed the election. Even so, the following yr, Narendra Giri was elected president although Mahant Gyandas of Hanumangarhi in Ayodhya challenged it within the excessive court docket. The court docket froze the election outcomes once more, however the akharas maintained that Narendra Giri was their chief, reaffirming the choice on the 2016 Ujjain Kumbh Mela. Mahamandaleshwar Maheshanand Giri of Niranjani Panchayati Akhara, Haridwar, says, “Narendra Giri was accepted by many of the akharas, however now the disputes will begin afresh.”

Akharas and Hindutva

It was after the formation of the BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in 2017 that the interior dynamics of the akharas began altering. Sushil Pandey, affiliate professor on the historical past division of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar College, Lucknow, who has written extensively on the position of the akharas within the Kumbh, says, “Virtually all the massive Hindu muths and temples within the north affiliate themselves with one akhara or one other. So, not directly, they have an effect on a big part of society. After 2017, the political significance of the akharas elevated quickly, since they have been on the forefront of the BJP’s Hindutva politics.”

In 2019, on the Kumbh held in Prayagraj, the ABAP confronted a direct problem to its authority, dealing with off with the Juna Akhara over the difficulty of granting recognition to the Kinnar (transgender) Akhara. On the Kumbh, Juna Akhara not solely merged with the Kinnar Akhara (the ABAP had known as the latter a faux outfit and refused to recognise it) but additionally participated in all of the three royal baths of the Kumbh together with sants from the Kinnar Akhara. Mahant Harigiri, chief patron of the Juna Akhara, says, “The Akhara Parishad was being arbitrary in recognising the brand new akharas. It raises questions in regards to the relevance of the ABAP.”

Narendra Giri was not solely ABAP president and Niranjani Akhara secretary, he was additionally near the Samajwadi Occasion. Photos of him taking a dip within the Ganga with Akhilesh Yadav throughout the 2019 Kumbh in Prayagraj, brought about fairly a stir. Quickly after, Amit Shah, then BJP nationwide president, lunched with the sants and peethadheeshwar Swami Avdheshanand Giri of the Juna Akhara. The akhara and the BJP have since turn out to be fairly shut. The Juna Akhara is headquartered in Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Throughout his Varanasi excursions, the PM makes it a degree to go to the akhara to hunt the blessings of the saints.

Sushil Pandey says, “Ram and Krishna are a part of the BJP’s grand agenda. For this very motive, the akharas related to the Vairagi sect, who consider in Vishnu, have turn out to be extra politically influential. In such a state of affairs, a change within the inside politics of the akharas might turn out to be seen within the coming days.” On the Haridwar Kumbh held in March this yr, the Vairagi akharas had received offended and distanced themselves from the ABAP over area allotted to them on the Kumbh, which they noticed as an insult to their stature. Sources say the Vairagi Akhara is making ready to current its declare to the submit of the brand new president of the Akhara Parishad. A proposal for the collection of the brand new ABAP president is anticipated at its assembly after the ‘shodashi’ (rites on the 16th day after loss of life) of Narendra Giri.

A tussle has additionally began over the submit of secretary of the Niranjani Akhara and the following mahant of the Baghambari Muth. For inside preparations, the akhara now has three secretaries—Mahant Ravindra Puri, Mahant Ramratan Giri and Mahant Omkar Giri.

The Baghambari Muth was the non-public property of Narendra Giri, and he has talked about Balveer Giri as his successor within the ‘suicide notice’. Balveer is a resident of Uttarakhand. In 2005, Narendra Giri had initiated him as a sant and apparently rewarded him for hisefficiency by entrusting him with the well-known Bilkeshwar Mahadev temple in Haridwar. After the tiff with Anand Giri in Could, Narendra Giri gave Balveer the No. 2 place at Baghambari Muth. Nevertheless, Mahant Omkar Giri says, “No determination might be taken on a successor until the CBI investigation is over.” All eyes at the moment are on what the central company digs up in its investigation. n

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