FOR long, Bharat has been the special target of church worldwide. To church, the Hindus represent the greatest stumbling block in grand design to establish Christ’s kingdom on earth. The poor, illiterate and mild Vanvasi Hindus are an obvious target in this nefarious design. For years, under the garb of social service, the church has been spreading its tentacles in far-flung, Vanvasi regions of the country. The converted Vanvasis become alienated from their customs and traditions. They also get uprooted from their cultural milieu. Conversion to Christianity is invariably associated with separatism and terrorism as is evident in North-East Bharat. There are several areas in our country which have become hotbeds of Christian missionary activities. The Dangs district in Gujarat is one such area. The word Dang is a corruption of Dandakaranya, the legendary forest where Sri Ram and Lakshman spent some time while in exile. It is in this region that Shabari Mata, the immortal devotee of Sri Ram met her Lord and lovingly offered Him sweet berries which she had tasted herself. The spot where this meeting took place is located on Chamak hill in this region. There is a temple of Shabari Mata at this site. The picturesque Pampa Sarovar (lake) is located in this region. Situated on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, this district is pre-dominantly inhabited by Vanvasi Hindus. The district has 352 villages; the district headquarter is Ahwa. The town of Navapur in Maharashtra is close to the Dangs district of Gujarat.
It is pertinent to note that the first church was established in Dangs district in 1904. Since then, conversions to Christianity had been progressing at an alarming rate. In the period 1991-2001, the Christian population grew by a massive 400 per cent! The process of self-alienation and separatism which inevitably accompanies conversion had become visible in Dangs. Makeshift, illegal churches had mushroomed in cowsheds and residential areas. These churches were unregistered and illegal. Such was the terrorism of Christian activists that it had become unsafe for Hindus to move out of their houses after dusk. It was in the midst of such hostile conditions that a Hindu swami descended upon Dangs.
Arrival of Swami Aseemanand
A Bengali by birth, Swami Aseemanand has spent several years in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. His innovative and bold methods in arousing the latent feeling of Hindutva amongst the Vanvasis made him a byword in the field of Hindu awakening. Little wonder than that Christian zealots made many murderous attempts on his life. Deeply concerned by the Christianisation of Dangs, Swamiji resolved to stay in Dangs and foil the designs of Christian missionaries. It was in August 1997 that this saffron-clad sannyasi set foot in Dangs. All that he carried with him in this unfamiliar and hostile terrain were around 500 lockets of Hanuman and an unshakeable resolve! He would knock the door of each house and would ask the inmates one question, “Are you Hindu or Christian?” At the house of one such Hindu, Swamiji asked him, “May I spend the night in your house?” The Hindu gladly welcomed Swamiji. Swamiji kept his luggage, distributed the Hanuman lockets to the children and asked them to bring their Hindu friends in the evening for a Ram katha. That night, Dang witnessed the first ever Dharma Sabha. Sensing danger, Christian missionaries asked Swamiji, “What brings you here?” The Swami posed them the same question. We have come here to serve the people replied the Christian missionaries. “I have come here to drive away those who have come here to serve,” retorted the Swami. That was the beginning of the Hindu awakening in the Dangs.
Hindu awakening in the Dangs
In 1998, 25000 Christians embraced the religion of their forefathers in just two months. The submissive Hindu who had been hitherto terrorised by the Christian missionaries began to assert himself. Hindu jaage, Christi bhaage became a popular slogan of the Vanvasis of Dangs. From 1998-2004, a total of 55 Vishal Hindu Sammelans were organised. These were attended by a total of four lakh Hindus. As Hindus objected to conversion activities of Christian missionaries, clashes broke out.
The so-called mainstream media used this pretext to tarnish the Hindus. In December 2004, press reporters from 40 countries descended upon the Dangs and spread a misinformation campaign. As a result, the court restrained the Hindus from conducting any public ceremony around Christmas in future. Meanwhile, the tide of Hindu awakening only swelled. Today, Christian conversion activities have come to a halt not only in Dangs but also in the surrounding twelve districts.
In 2002, Hindu activists approached the famed Ramayana kathakar Sri Morari Bapu and requested him, “You mesmerise thousands with Ram Katha. We request you to organise Ram Katha in Dangs wher Sri Ram Himself spent some time”. Sri Morari Bapu readily agreed. The tremendous response overwhelmed Sri Morari Bapu. In the course of his speech, he spontaneously expressed the desire that a formal kumbh be organised at the spot where Shabari Mata had met Sri Ram. Sri Morari Bapu’s desire was taken up as an order to be implemented. Thus was born the idea of Shabari Kumbh.
Scale of the Shabari Kumbh
Organising a kumbh in a remote, heavily forested area was a nightmare as far as logistics was concerned. It required steely resolve, meticulous planning and precision to make the programme a grand success. The 352 villages in Dangs district had no electricity, or roads; the town of Ahwa is a good 35 km from the proposed site of the kumbh. There are no medical facilities or eateries in the vicinity. But the famed organisational might of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other like-minded organisations was in full gear. Realising the importance of such a venture to the state of Gujarat, the state government of Shri Narendra Modi extended full co-operation. Planning started atleast one and a half years ago. A 250-200 hectare site was chosen for the kumbh. The state government undertook construction of roads on a war footing. All the 352 villages of Dangs got electrification. A total of 22 check dams were built on the river that feeds the Pampa Sarovar where the holy bath was to take place. A total of 20 lakh Vanvasis resided in an area of 80 km around Dangs. A survey of 5000 villages in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh was completed in the initial phase. Around 30-35 lakh Vanvasis were contacted in this massive exercise. An estimated six lakh Hindus attended the kumbh; of these, around two lakh stayed for all three days. To arrange for their lodging, 40 townships each with a capacity of 5000 people, were erected. Each township had 100 workers to look after various arrangements such as security, food, medical aid etc. Thus a total of 4000 workers were required to look after the arrangements in the townships; an additional 2000 workers were involved in other arrangemets.
About 388 Vanvasi janajatis and 137 urban jatis which were currently facing missionary onslaughts were represented at the kumbh. Further, dharmacharyas from all over the country including 800 Vanvasi saints attended the kumbh and took part in the deliberations.
Each participant was given a locket of his ishtadevata. Around 20 lakh lockets, 5 lakh Hanuman Chalisa and 5 lakh bhagwa dhwaj were distributed.
The success of this campaign like the one led by Swami Laxmanananda in Kandhamal enraged the anti-Hindu forces. The UPA is in the forefront of this conspiracy. Now the saintly person is falsely charged with terror links. An attempt to discredit him and destroy his work.