When he patted on my shoulders and said, “We all will together build the Grand Sri Ram Temple and Hindu Rashtra”, I was just 36, we were already working on many social projects together and it was a peak time of 1992 Sri Ram Temple movement. At his 66 at that time, his hand on my shoulders was firm and confident. Ashokji has always been confident and did what he did with utmost conviction. It is not easy for a professionally trained brilliant Engineer from a business family to give up the worldly materialistic joys for building the nation. Ashokji did it and as a young Pracharak then to the age of over 89, he served the nation to his last breathe.
Tribute from Abroad
End of an Era
Passing away of Ashokji is like the end of an era. His tremendous strength of deep conviction, indomitable energy and his towering leadership was just one of its kind. We could feel it even at his ripe age during his recent visit to the United States.
Grand Sri Ram temple at Bhagwan’s Ram’s birthplace was not just his dream; it was his conviction and his lifetime commitment. Sangh has a great way of inculcating discipline and organising skills in its Swayamsevaks and followers. Ashokji was no exception. His planning for the Ram Temple movement was meticulous and we all saw the impact of it.
Most of the times, unfortunately, tall leaders like Ashokji are perceived the way public communicators like print/electronic media, internet etc project them in modern times. Ashokji was much more than what is today being projected as. Ram Temple movement was not the only grand uprising he conceptualised and led, but also many more other movements were charted out by him. ‘Dharma Sansad’ was Ashokji’s favourite concept. He worked tirelessly on it and re-grouped all Seers in Bharat and abroad under one forwardly moving force called ‘Dharma Sansad’. A word, a resolution by Dharma Sansad later became the direction for all to follow. He always would say, “England’s PM, US President etc take not only oath swearing by the God, their Parish Father is present on the stage at that time and yet these countries are called secular; why Bharat’s polity shouldn’t follow what the Dharma here says?” He thought ahead of times.
More than a decade back Ashokji embarked on ‘Aviral, Nirmal Ganga’ movement. Under his leadership, VHP conducted Kashi to Ganga Sagar Yatra to make people on the banks of river Ganga aware of the ways to keep Ganga clean and Her flow uninterrupted.
In 1995 the separatists in Kashmir threatened to halt Amarnath Yatra. Ashokji got into action. We all together mobilised over 50,000 people who went on the pilgrimage without any fear and the threat vanished in thin air. Bhagwan Amarnath Yatra then became a grand nationally and internationally known pilgrimage. Ashokji worked diligently on saving cow progeny. Apart from the time to time Gou Sewa programmes and a continued plan to make people aware of the issue, he organised Cow Chariots (Gou Raths) at many place in Bharat. It was the milestone in the cow progeny protection movement of VHP.
When there was a proposal by the then Government to break Rameshwaram Ram Sethu, Ashokji was visibly shocked. He was aghast at the very thought that someone in Bharat could even think of such a destructive project. Together with RSS, we planned the Ramesh-waram Ram Sethu Protec-tion Movement. Bharat stood up as one and the Government changed its decision. Some State Govern-ments tried to suppress the movement by using police force on the peaceful protestors. He was angry at the insensitivity of such governments, but he was proud of those Hindus who, despite brutal State force, stood up for Rameshwaram Ram Sethu.
Ashokji led a strict disciplined life. He would wake up at the Braahma Muhurta that is a little before 4 am, take bath even when he was old and would do his daily Pooja that he hardly missed. His eating habits were basic and simple. He was very particular about the cleanliness of his clothes and with his good height and confident stride, he would carry himself with strength. His rallies during Ram Temple movement can never be forgotten.
Ashokji believed that only cohesive social unity (Samarasata) can keep Bharat together and strong. He started and led the movement of opening temples for all classes and castes. It was not easy at that time. He specifically took efforts to hold meetings in towns, villages to convince people, temple trusts and all those who were involved.
It is a work of balance to run and project the organisation like VHP in the modern times when opinions are PR managed and manipulated by media, the so-called intellectuals and even polity many a times. Ashokji never got deterred to put forth his views. He was a born optimist. During 1992 Ram Temple movement, when I was with the Team Gujarat then in Ayodhya, for us young people, he was the inspiration. 1992 was the peak time of his organising skills and social movement planning. He did it so spectacularly well that as per his vision, the Dharma created the path for Bharateeya Polity. He was not only thrilled to see the then Government after 1992 but also was very hopeful that there would soon be a grand Ram Temple at Bhagwan Ram’s birth place. He waited. Millions of Hindus waited. Interestingly, he never lost hope and that was Ashokji’s strength. And his endless optimism was our strength. A youth movement that Ashokji had initiated, now has taken a positive leap in the form of Bajrang Dal and Durga Vaahini. A lot more is in store for social services too…
Past over 10 years the aged and ailing Ashokji worked day and night on many things. It was primarily for the grand Ram Temple at Ayodhya but also for spreading ancient Bharateeya scriptures like Vedas in Bharat and globally. Ashokji had his own way of thinking and his own unique style of working on things. There was a lot to learn from him. He connected with known and unknown people with equal ease and with the same conviction. Inspiring a Cancer Surgeon like me to leave behind a roaring practice and a family was not the only example; he inspired hundreds of people to come forward to serve the nation. Even before he connected with me, I was already a Swayamsevak from the tender age 10 and then as a young man, was rising in Sangh in the State. Ashokji had a knack to spot people and nurture them. When I left behind my practice for being in VHP more than two and a half decades back, my son was just 7 years old. He inspired many youths and today many of them are doing the nation’s work passionately.
Past 2 years despite his falling health, he again had a spark in his eyes. A spark of an untiring hope. A bright ray of hope that now Ram Temple would surely be built at Ayodhya at Bhagwan Ram’s birthplace. He travelled all over Bharat convincing people from many walks of life and sharing with them his hope.
Today, Ashokji may have gone physically. But his inspiration was unending and will remain with all of us eternally. We are sure that Bhagwan Ram will soon move out of His dilapidated tent and give darshan to His devotees from a grand temple. We now have a hope. Fearless, as Ashokji has always been, VHP has a hope, Hindus have a hope now.
Until this hope sees the day’s light, we all have a lot to work on: Cohesive Social Unity through which we have to weave all castes together in a beautifully strong fabric of our society; there are many poor who do not have access to health services / education and it is our duty to provide them with these; Hindus in Bharat and all over the world are looking up to Bharat now with huge expectations to lead the world and we should contribute our bit to it. VHP has a vast social services network now giving education/self-help/health to millions of kids and families and Ashokji’s soul will be glad to see it further grow… The work is vast and surely by the time VHP will complete its 75 years in 2039, a lot from Ashokji’s dreams would be achieved and a lot more would be added. Not only fulfilling Ashokji’s dreams but also taking those dreams ahead into a grand inspirational organisation for youth is our duty. Let us together, do Saashtaang Pranaam to our Inspirational Guru Man. Shri Ashok Singhalji and let us embark on a further inspirational path ahead.
Dr Pravin Togadia, Working President, VHP Contact: [email protected]