Rajendra Prasad Purohit does not believe in sadhus or babas or sanyasis. But that was not why the retired CRPF commandant was rattled when he learnt that his son and daughter-in-law had decided to give away their son to a “godman”.
What disturbed him more was that five-month-old Mulk Raj’s future was being decided in the crib, by his “highly educated” parents Pawan and Pooja. “‘How could you give him away,’ I asked them. Is he a toy?” Purohit says.
The child was to grow up in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, 653 km from his parents in Ajmer, under the tutelage of Rameshwar Dayal or Chhote Sarkar Maharaj, the present head of the Dada Darbar Vedic cult. Once grown up, he would “continue the legacy” of Chhote Sarkar, who was himself adopted by the ashram’s previous head.
It was almost done. Mulk Raj, born on February 5, was to be “offered” to the godman on Guru Purnima, which fell on July 31 this year. Except, the grandparents wouldn’t have it.
Purohit and his wife Anusuya got together with the infant’s maternal grandparents, Ramesh Chandra and Manju Saraswat, who also live in Ajmer. After knocking at every door — the police, administration and the State Human Rights Commission — they moved the Rajasthan High Court on July 20 against their own children. On August 1, the court held that the child will remain with the parents and restrained them from giving him away to the godman.
“It has got nothing to do with faith. It is simply a violation of the child’s rights. He is still breast-feeding. Who are the parents or anyone for that matter to decide what he will become?” Purohit says. “The judge also noted that it was up to the child to decide whether he wanted to be a sadhu (saint) or a shaitan (devil).”
While Dayal couldn’t be contacted, his lawyer Sunil Joshi calls the case a ploy to malign the godman’s reputation. “He is highly educated and a respected man. He runs a super-specialty hospital. And these people are calling him tantrik and all sorts of names,” Joshi says.
Pawan and Pooja have questioned the jurisdiction of the Rajasthan High Court over an adoption deed made in Madhya Pradesh. The parents have also argued that there is no lower age limit in the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.
Going to court against their own children wasn’t easy, says Anusuya. “The entire household has been fragmented,” she laments. “It seems the children have been put under a spell by their guru.”
While Pawan runs a small business of water-heating equipment in Jaipur, Pooja, a PhD degree holder, was till recently teaching at the DAV College in Ajmer, where she stayed with her in-laws. Pawan and Pooja have another son Raunak, 8.
Rameshwar Dayal is the fourth in line of spiritual heads described by its officials as “incarnations of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu”, and “performers of miracles”. The ashram’s principal seat is in Sanjay Nagar, Khandwa, about 130 km from Indore. The “adoption” took place here on March 5, Holika Dahan, a ritual held before Holi.
It was a day of prayers at the ashram. When Pooja and Pawan put the month-old Mulk Raj into the lap of Rameshwar Dayal, Anusuya was there — a point the parents’ lawyer stresses. “Why did she not say anything then?” asks Hemant Nahta, the lawyer.
Anusuya defends that she was overwhelmed at the ceremony. “That man took some prasad… a barfi …ate a bit and then fed his joothan to my grandson. Mulk Raj was barely a month old. He was not supposed to have anything except his mother’s milk,” she says. “I didn’t know how to react. I was shocked and angry.”
Following the ritual, Rameshwar Dayal renamed Mulk Raj ‘Anant Dayal’ and declared him his successor.
Rajendra Purohit came to know of what had happened only on March 22. That night, the Purohits called up Pooja’s parents and informed them. The next morning, the Saraswats came to the Purohit home, located in Ajmer’s Shastri Nagar, to try and talk Pawan and Pooja out of the idea.
“They had one answer to everything: ‘Guru ji ki aagya hai (It is the Guru’s command)’,” says Pooja’s father Ramesh. He hasn’t been able to sleep peacefully since, he adds. “I saw how adamant they were… how determined to give the child away. Their own flesh and blood. Every time I close my eyes, I feel scared. What does the godman want with the child? The guru has so many disciples, why my grandson?” Ramesh says.
The grandparents next met Dayal directly, travelling to Delhi in late June to convince him to give up Mulk Raj. “We thought any reasonable man would understand,” Purohit says. “We pleaded with him… I have served the country with pride but I fell at his feet.” Dayal remained unmoved, reportedly telling them that when the parents had agreed, why were they bothered.
On July 1, the grandparents went to Jaipur to meet Pawan and Pooja to again ask them to reconsider. “We are doing it in the name of god,” the couple said. On July 16, after their complaints to the police and the Rajasthan Human Rights Commission came to nothing, they went to court.
A week later, Pawan and Pooja got an adoption deed made, and left the child at the Khandwa ashram.
On August 1, Justice Bela M Trivedi passed an interim order restraining them from handing over the child to the godman and directing that Mulk Raj be kept in the custody of his mother. When the father is not allowed custody of a child below 5, by “no stretch of imagination” could he or she be given to a godman’s custody, Justice Trivedi said.
Pawan and Pooja’s lawyer Nahta insists the adoption is right by law. “The guardianship act does not allow a sansyasi to adopt, but Rameshwar Dayal is not a sanyasi. He is only celibate, and can raise the child like a single parent,” he says.
While putting the adoption deed on hold, the judge said the grandparents be allowed to meet Mulk Raj whenever they wished.
“We have not seen him for almost a month,” Purohit says. “Our lawyer had asked us not to meet him before the high court order since the other side could blame us for any little injury the child may suffer.”
Pawan and Pooja have moved on, in the words of Nahta. “Mulk Raj is now the son of Rameshwar Dayal… They (Pawan and Pooja) are no longer his parents.”