A Day In The Life Of: Swami Om ji, ‘national convenor’, Hindu Mahasabha
Seventy-year-old Swami Om Ji has Valentine’s Day all figured out. A Hindu couple found together on this day are to be pushed into a wedding, or watched till “lust” becomes “love”. A Hindu girl plus a Muslim or Christian boy are to face ‘ghar wapsi’. And couples putting up resistance are to be “kidnapped”.
As for a Muslim or Christian girl with a Hindu boy, well, Om Ji and the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, of which he is the “national convenor”, “above the national president”, haven’t considered the possibility.
It’s 10 am, the day before Valentine’s Day, outside Hanuman Mandir in Delhi. The courting couples of the Capital’s popular Connaught Place are just metres away. Om Ji has his eyes on everything — including the florists gleaming before their busiest and most profitable day, and the tattoo artists hawking special Valentine’s Day packages.
Behind there, Om Ji says pointing in the general direction of the temple, they have been holding meetings of “volunteers”. He refuses to say where exactly, admitting they are wary since the ghar wapsi backlash. According to him, “over 100” of these volunteers will be on “secret operations” through Valentine’s Day.
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Om Ji says they have held 50 such meetings of volunteers and threshed out “three programmes”. “If we find Hindu couples, we will ask them to get married, as our main aim is to convert lust into love and only marriage can achieve that. Even if they disagree, we will keep an eye on them,” he says. The other two “programmes” concern Muslim and Christian men. “As for other men who are with Hindu girls, we have told volunteers to ask them politely to come back to the Hindu fold and marry the girl. If they disagree, we will kidnap them, reconvert them and get them married. Kidnap karke, mandap main bithake, shadi karvake, pyar se ghar wapsi karwa denge (We will kidnap them, get them married, and have a ghar wapsi without any trouble),” he says.
Couples will also get a lesson in the “Chhattisgarh model”. “In Chhattisgarh, we hold matru-pitru puja (prayers for parents) on Valentine’s Day. The government has also declared the same. We have told volunteers to tell all Hindus the meaning of love. If you love your parents, and your parents who have raised you are bigger than god, then worship them. God will be happy,” he says.
Around noon, Om Ji takes a short break for lunch with his volunteers. With much to do, he says, food isn’t priority.
Om Ji says he started his political career with a short-lived “party” called the “Ram Rajya Parishad”. In the recent Assembly elections, he contested from the New Delhi seat against AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal as an Akil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha candidate. Om Ji has no doubt why the AAP leader won. “Kejriwal wants to make this a Christian country. I fought him because he is a CIA agent. But he won because of CIA funding,” he says.
“Ye Hindu rashtra hai, yahan pe sab Hindu the (This was a Hindu nation, it had only Hindus),” he goes on. “During British and Mughal rule, many Hindu women were swayed by these outsiders. And once a Hindu girl establishes physical relations, she considers the man her parmatma (god). But now we are getting them back into our fold,” he says.
Dedicated to the right-wing “cause”, Om Ji himself has stayed a bachelor.
His next stop: “hot spots” in the Capital. “Volunteers have been keeping an eye on couples here for the past 48 hours. The hot spots are malls, shopping complexes, multiplexes and restaurants,” Om Ji lists.
His own flowing hair, the strings of beads around his neck and hair, and bright saffron clothes aren’t really the best outfit for such spying operations, Om Ji admits. So volunteers are instructed to wear “normal clothes” to fit in with youths.
More research has gone into identifying areas where “higher” density of Muslim or Christian men “turn up on Valentine’s Day”. After some prodding on how they had done so, he leans in and whispers, “Do you really want to know? It is through the electoral rolls.”
According to Om Ji, close “examination” has showed them where and when Muslim and Christian men hang out. “We know our Hindu girls; the only task is to recognise the boys. Our data is more accurate then even that of intelligence agencies,” Om Ji beams.
As he travels across Delhi on an autorickshaw, he goes through newspapers, especially Urdu broadsheets, to “guide” his volunteers. He can read Urdu, Om Ji adds proudly. “I read those newspapers to know what is happening on the other side. Sometimes things are written against us.”
Around 1.30 pm at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Park in Central Delhi, there is another meeting with the volunteers. It is the final one before V-Day. Om Ji halts, and says he doesn’t want the media inside. “Let this programme get over. I will give the exact number of men who have returned to the Hindu fold,” he promises.
What would be his last words to his volunteers as they head out on their “secret operations”? The ruins of Ferozeshah Kotla Fort with its share of lovers towering in the background, Om Ji doesn’t bat an eyelid. “Is baar pyaar ya takraar. Yahi bolunga unko (This time it is love or confrontation. This is what I will tell them).”