TO WOO the sizeable population of Kabirpanthis — followers of Sant Kabir — in eastern UP, the Centre is set to spend crores to erect a mega memorial for the 14th-century saint “on the lines of Taj Mahal and Red Fort”. The work on the memorial, to come up in Maghar near Gorakhpur — where Kabir is said to have breathed his last — would start soon. The Centre has allocated Rs 80 crore initially for the project.
The proposal was fast-tracked following a special request to the Prime Minister by Sharad Tripathi, BJP MP from Sant Kabir Nagar, in whose constituency Maghar falls. “Kabir is the answer to all the extremism in today’s world, which has spread its roots from west Asia to south Asia. He would rebuke both Hindus and Muslims in the same breath and was a firm believer in humanity,” Tripathi said.
“Unfortunately, successive governments in UP and Centre have done nothing to preserve and propagate Kabir’s 600-year-old legacy. When I assumed office in 2014, I was pained to see that the district named after Kabir had done nothing for him. So, I have proposed that a memorial to be erected in his memory, which matches the scale of Taj Mahal and Red Fort. The proposal has been accepted by Modiji and the culture ministry,” added the first-time MP.
Tripathi’s proposal also entails a special light and sound programme to be held at the memorial every evening. Further, he has pitched for the closest railway station, Khalilabad, to be renamed after Kabir. Two museums dedicated to Kabir’s life and teachings would also be part of the project — one in Sant Kabir Nagar and another in Varanasi perhaps, where Kabir was born.
Besides, the multi-crore project also envisages construction of roads leading to the memorial and other related infrastructure for tourists. The entire Kabir circuit is likely to cost the government Rs 400 crore. When contacted, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said: “The ministry is assessing Tripathi ji’s proposal and money won’t be a constraint to see Sant Kabir’s legacy coming alive in India. His followers are spread not just in UP but also in Haryana, Bihar, Punjab and across the world.”
The government also wants to compile all teachings and dohas by Kabir at one place, and make it accessible to people digitally and physically. Since Kabir was a weaver by profession, steps would also be taken to promote handloom spun by his descendants — the julaha community in eastern UP, which is currently reeling under severe recession.
Sources said work on the memorial is expected to be done on a war footing to show some visible progress ahead of the UP elections. In the run-up to elections, there is also a plan to organise sabhas for kabirpanthis, where senior BJP leaders will address gatherings and stress on the party’s commitment to pluralism.