Even as Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Monday alleged that he was prevented from entering the Barpeta Satra – a 16th century vaishnavite monastery – during his two-day Assam visit last Saturday, Basistha Sarma, the burha-satriya or head of the monastery said it was he who had waited for over four hours to receive the Congress leader, until he (Gandhi) by-passed the place and took a different route.
“I clearly deny there was any opposition or demonstration to prevent Rahul Gandhi as alleged. On the contrary, I was at the satra gate for nearly four hours, waiting to receive. Former chief minister Bhumidhar Barman and several other senior Congress leaders were also chatting with me waiting for Rahul Gandhi on Saturday,” burha-satriya Sarma told The Indian Express over the telephone from Barpeta.
Rahul Gandhi was on Monday quoted as having told reporters outside Parliament that he was prevented by the RSS from entering the Barpeta monastery when he took out a seven-km padayatra from Barpeta town to Medhirtari and addressed a rally at the end of it.
“It is a totally baseless allegation. There can be no question of not letting him enter the satra. I was personally waiting to bless him. The satra would have benefitted from his visit. I have seen a similar statement being made by chief minister Tarun Gogoi too. Bhumidhar Barman and other senior Congress leaders should tell him about how we waited for nearly four hours until we were told that Rahul Gandhi had taken a different route bypassing the Barpeta satra,” the burha-satriya said.
The burha-satriya also said that while about 1,000 people gather for the morning naam-prasanga (prayers) at the satra every day, the numbers were more on Saturday because Rahul Gandhi was supposed to visit the satra. The Barpeta Satra was established in 1583 by Madhavadeva, who, along with Srimanta Sankaradeva, the 16th century saint-reformer of Assam.
“In fact the people, most of whom were our own bhakats and devotees, were very disappointed after Rahul Gandhi took a different route and by-passed the historic satra. While women do not enter the satra, many had gathered and were chanting naam from the kirtana while waiting for Rahul Gandhi,” burha-satriya Sarma said.
The reality, the burha-satriya said, was that the Congress vice-president actually visited the satra after completing his padayatra. “I was told by a satra managing committee official that Rahul Gandhi visited the satra around 3:30 PM that day after completing his padayatra. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi and Pradesh Congress president Anjan Dutta had also accompanied him,” he said.
Interestingly, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi too had on Sunday alleged that the RSS was planning to create a situation if Rahul Gandhi had visited the Barpeta satra.
He said the RSS had “infiltrated” religious places in the state and that RSS workers were on Saturday planning to create a situation of confrontation if Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had visited the Barpeta Satra before the start of his padayatra.
Gogoi also said that some people within the Satra governing body were opposed to Rahul Gandhi’s plan to visit it. “I have asked the Barpeta deputy commissioner to verify the facts,” Gogoi said.
Meanwhile, the RSS on Monday not only vehemently denied Rahul Gandhi’s allegation as “totally baseless”, but also said it was chief minister Tarun Gogoi who was trying to cook up a story with the forthcoming assembly elections in Assam.
“Why should the RSS oppose or prevent his (Gandhi’s) entry to a satra. We don’t run or control the satra institutions. The Barpeta Satra has its own elected satradhikar and a managing committee. Moreover, didn’t Rahul Gandhi visit the satra after his padayatra? It was an afterthought on the part of chief minister Gogoi,” a senior RSS functionary at Keshav Dham, the state RSS headquarters here said.
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