Shabri Kumbh as a national festival was the brainwave of Morari Bapu, that enthralling charioteer of the renascent Hindu spiritual campaign. The Shabri Kumbh as it unfolded on the forlorn forests of the interior of south Gujarat was a sight for Gods to see. Vanvasis from all nooks and corners of the country, in fact the entire globe, converged for the three-day congregation. The number swelled beyond all imaginations of the organisers, to over five lakh. They came, singing, dancing, playing, in their traditional attire, speaking different dialects, recounting some very close association their ancestors share with the folk heroes, but all intimately and deeply cemented to the large cultural mosaic of Hindustan. They came from the Andamans, from Lakshadweep, from Wayanad in Kerala, from Singbhum, from Dandakaranya, from Chitrakoot, from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, from North-east and Leh.
However, the stunning conspiracy of silence in the media in the wake of the Shabri Kumbh in Dangs, Gujarat is appalling, to put it mildly. The chorus of the doom prophets has come to an abrupt halt as if in a philharmonic opera.
For almost two years there was no let-up in their vicious propaganda. The ?majority Christian Vanvasi population has a contingency plan. They are frightened. But they are prepared to retaliate.? This was the ridiculous refrain for weeks, before the holy congregation in the allegedly secular media. For authenticity they had Father Domenic, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops Council, to articulate the imagined fear of the inhabitants of the remote Vanvasi village and to blame the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as the chief architect of the entire campaign. This was another plan to whip up communal sentiment, they alleged. And we were told that the unsuspecting Vanvasis are being forced to worship ?alien gods like Rama, Hanuman and Krishna and even some unknown goddess called ?Shabri,? leaving their ?traditional faith? in the religion of Christ, Isa Misi and Girija Ghar.? Canard in absurdity could not have been more vicious and fictitious. They also propagated that a new Kumbh was being foisted on the Hindus, who were traditionally aware of only the Kumbh Melas on the banks of the holy Ganga and Narmada.
At the outset it has to be clear, that for an Indian, every inch of this land is sacred and worthy of worship. For the Hindu in particular, there is no piece of earth on this vast landmass called Bharatvarsh, that is not associated with the long, unbroken memory of his history, tradition, victory and defeat, life and folklore of Rama and Krishna. There is no hamlet, no forest, no rock or rivulet that is not associated with the sacred life of Rama and Krishna. And Shabri is the symbol of a liberated, self-confident, empowered and sanctified, modern society.
There was absolute peace in the huge gathering. The people of Dangs met their brothers and sisters from the far-off places in India as if sewed together in a common bond. The allegedly Christian tribals of Dangs did not find anything strange or unfamiliar about the sight. They in fact joined, enjoyed and shared the celebration as their own. It was the feeling of belonging, the sense of brotherhood, realisation that after all we are one, we are strong and no level of disinformation, intimidation and shenanigan can separate or divide us. For record, the converted Christians in the area are less than ten per cent of the total population.
The credit for the peaceful conduct, for making it an event to cherish, for creating history of sorts should go to the visionary leadership of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which has been for decades tirelessly working in the Vanvasi areas, to emancipate them, educationally, physically and socially.
On the political front, no word of appreciation is sufficient to laud the good work Narendra Modi had put in to ensure law and order in the face of year-long provocation. His administration took care to create the atmosphere of dignity and confidence in the area. The civic facilities and the infrastructure for this huge assembly, their transportation and stay were largely arranged by the Kalyan Ashram, through months of hard work. The funds were raised from small contributions. But the state government did an excellent job reassuring the local population and being there where governance had a role. The Chief Minister deserves all praise for he once again proved his detractors wrong. When it comes to efficiency, administrative discipline and delivery, Narendra Modi has few rivals.
In the long pilgrim tradition of India, Shabri Kumbh adds a new chapter and opens a new beginning. A renewed hope of a resurgent India.