BY SANJEEV VERMA
The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday declared that Ashutosh Maharaj, the chief of Nurmahal-based Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan, had died a natural death on January 29, and directed the Punjab government to cremate the body within 15 days in accordance with due religious rights.
Justice M M S Bedi made it clear that in the meantime, the body would be kept with respect and dignity, and would not be displayed for any other purpose except for “last darshan” of persons claiming to be his relatives, friends or followers, a subject to public order and morality.
On January 29, the Jalandhar Sansthan doctors had declared Ashutosh alias Mahesh Kumar Jha clinically dead, after which the Sansthan management had kept the body in a freezer, stating that the spiritual head had gone into samadhi (deep meditation) and would come out one day. For the past nine months, the body has been lying inside the freezer.
Justice Bedi said, “It is declared that the belief of the followers of Maharaj Ji and DJJS, that they have got a right to retain the body of Maharaj Ji under refrigeration for an uncertain period being in Samadhi, is held to be not a practice protected by their religion, being not essential and integral part of their religion under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. It is their fundamental duty under Constitution to develop scientific temper, humanism.”
Rampal repeat? Followers stream into dera, block road
Streams of followers started arriving at the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan here on Monday after the High Court ordered cremation of dera head Ashutosh Maharaj’s body. Locals said this was unusual as large crowds of followers normally visited the dera on Sundays. Members of the Sansthan put up barricades on the road leading to the dera. Many musclemen manned the barricades and did not let in anyone except vehicles carrying dera followers. They manhandled some journalists and threatened to smash their cameras. The dera men relented only when a police officer asked them why they were behaving “like followers of Rampal”, the Haryana self-styled godman whose followers fought the police for two days in Hisar district before he was arrested.