Accusing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi of indulging in votebank politics, the SC/ ST Teachers’ Welfare Society of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has opposed his proposed visit to Guru Ravidas’s temple in Seer Govardhanpur area of Varanasi on February 22 on Ravidas Jayanti. The Society has claimed that the PM’s visit is aimed at securing Dalit votes for BJP in Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Several thousand people from across UP and Pubjab visit the temple on Ravidas Jayanti every year and take out a religious procession. Guru Ravidas Janmsthan Public Charitable Trust runs the temple in PM’s constituency while Dera
Sach Khand Ballan in Punjab governs it.
This year, Ravidas temple authorities have invited PM who will address the gathering of Ravidas’ followers at Seer Govardhan. Head of Dera Sach Khand Ballan Sant Niranjan Das will also remain present at the event.
The SC/ ST Teachers’ Welfare Society of BHU has written to the trustees of the temple demanding to “review” their decision of inviting the PM. In letters sent to Saint Mandep Baba of the Trust and Sant Niranjan Das, general secretary of SC/ ST Teachers’ Welfare Society, Prof Mahesh Prasad Ahirwar has stated that PM’s visit to the temple was aimed to exploit the religious sentiments of Dalits and misguide them while aiming to get their votes for BJP in upcoming Punjab and UP Assembly polls.
“I have argued that temple is a religious place and it should not be used for political purpose. I have demanded that PM should not be invited at the temple because he will be coming to address gathering for political gains only,” Ahirwar, a professor in Centre of Advanced Studies in Department of Ancient Indian History Culture and Archaeology in BHU, told The Indian Express.
In the letter, Ahirwar has said that incidents of atrocities on Dalits have increased since BJP came to power and Centre has not taken any strong steps to control such incidents. “Leaders of Sangh Parivar and BJP and ministers often insult Dalits by their statements. From Sangh head Mohan Bhagwat to Lok Sabha Speaker and other leaders, all are running a campaign for review of the constitution and abolish reservation system but Prime Minister has neither contradicted their statements nor has expressed government’s view on the issue,” read the letter.
Ahirwar has alleged that interference of RSS and its other offshoots has increased in the affairs of universities and other academic institutes and harassment of Dalit students too has increased after BJP came to power at the Centre. “The serious most fact is that the Akalis, who had hatched conspiracy for murder of our Saint Ramanand in Varanasi in 2009, have been invited on Ravidas Jayanti, which is insult to Ramanand ji who sacrificed his life for the pride of his community,” Ahirwar alleged in the letter.
Ahirwar has also alleged that former VHP president Ashok Singhal had made attempts to take control of Ravidas temple in 2005 by taking out a ‘Chetna Yatra’ from Chittor to Varanasi. “How is it justified to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is ready to fulfill the every expectation of ‘manuvadis’?”, the letter read.
Ahirwar said that his protest was symbolic and his organisation has no plans to hold any demonstration during PM’s visit. Ahirwar claimed that harassment of Dalits on BHU campus was also being done and he had informed about some instances to Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Vijay Sampla who had visited the campus on Monday.