Ashok Singhal gave a common platform to different philosophies of Bharat. The way he led the Ayodhya movement, became in reality a movement for national reconstruction of Bharat. He will be remembered as a historical icon, the person who made history, the one who instilled confidence in the scared, confused Hindu society, and also who shook the global Hindu mind.
Those who were present there on that fateful day would imagine and understand how the scene at Nigambodh Ghat of Delhi transforms completely or reverberates when the body is of a Sanyasi Senapati (Saint Commander). This was on 18th November 2015, The Sun was to set. The body of Ashok Singhal arrived much later. People thronged the place much before that standing at places waiting for the body to arrive and have the last glimpse of their leader. Nigambodh Ghat has been witness to grief-stricken family members almost daily. It is this place from where the relatives say goodbye to their near and dear ones who have left for heavenly abode. But that day the scene was different. There was a feeling of peace and satisfaction on the each face present there. Many amongst them were such who had just heard the name of Ashok Singhal. It is well nigh impossible to gauge how enlarged that name was. In that atmosphere one friend asked: “What was so special in Ashok Singhal?”
The word ‘special’ had a number of nuances—extraordinary, and unique having multi-speciality character traits. For a moment I was dumbfound on his query. I was silent. But the next moment I said to him: “This scene at Nigambodh Ghat is enough to make us understand the extraordinary personality of Ashok Singhal.”
Ashes immersed in Prayag, Ganga Sagar and Haridwar
The ashes of the late Ashok Singhal were immersed in the Triveni Sangam of Allahabad on November 23 and also in Ganga Sagar on November 26 by VHP general secretary Shri Champat Rai in the presence of senior saints and local VHP workers. In order to ensure that the people and workers all over the country express their feelings to the departed VHP leader, the VHP has decided to take Ashthi Kalash of Ashokji to all the Prants including the small states like Andamans, Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram and Sikkim. The ashes will be immersed in the local sacred rivers or places as per the programmes to be finalised by local units. In this series, the ashes were immersed in Prayag on November 23, Vrindavan on November 24, Ganga Sagar on November 26, Ayodhya on November 27, Haridwar on November 29, etc. The Ashthi Kalash Yatra proceeded for Haridwar from VHP headquarters in Delhi on November 28 and reached Haridwar visiting Ghaziabad, Muradnagar, Modinagar, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkie, etc. where the local workers paid their tribute.
Then I remembered the incident happened during 1980s. The incident was narrated by the late Bhanu Pratap Shukla, and scripted by Ramkumar Bhramar. “Ashokji would go, address meetings, but police used to be there but could not identify him”. This is essence of that incident. This was considered as a miracle. What was the secret? When asked Ashokji said his Guru had given him a mantra, which he would chant and it was the effect of that mantra that this miracle happened. This is not the only one. There are many more. Some of them I know and I was about to share them with my friend I noticed hundreds of youth marching in a martial style. This was a red letter day for Nigambodh Ghat. They were shouting slogans, one amongst them was Ashok Singhal Amar Rahe (Long live Ashok Singhal!). This was a routine slogan but that day the same slogan became very special because it had the signs and signals of history and future. History that was related to Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Its roots date back to 1528. The slogans were actually salute to the departed soul. But the sound that reverberated was assuring that Ashok Singhal had given an army of youth to the Hindu society in the form of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). This can be deep sentiment also. Why should we delve deep into the past? The scene in front of me was no less historic and with this thought it became almost impossible to be a witness to that event.
The multi-dimensional feeling of Ayodhya Movement engulfed Nigambodh Ghat that day. People from every section of the society representing each strata and interest groups were present there. Famous leaders, saints, Sanyasins, Sadhus of various Akharas were there in large number, but the extensive presence of youth indicated to the future of Ayodhya Movement and it would reach its destination. Nigambodh Ghat is a crematorium. Anyone who comes here is filled, though temporarily, with a feeling of detachment. That is why the saying “Shmashan Vairagya” came into existence. But there were no signs of this detachment. On the contrary there was inspiration of action pervading the atmosphere there because people had come to say goodbye to Ashok Singhal who had left a memory of action-packed life. No one remembers about large screens at Nigambodh Ghat. But this time screen became necessary because of large presence of people and leaders in the cremation of Ashok Singhal.
Ashok Singhal fulfilled three things before he left his mortal frame. Those are his legacy. Did he get a prior warning? This is a matter of perception. His life mission was clear and that is visible in all three of his acts. The importance of 30th September would be underlined in future. That day he took Dr Subramanian Swamy along with him and talked to media. He did less of the talking and allowed Dr Swamy to speak more. The talk was related to Shri Ram Janmabhoomi. That’s why media was called.
Ashok Singhal was well aware with the approach and stand of the respective Central governments and their Prime Ministers on Ram Janmabhoomi issue. He knew everything. His role in making Narendra Modi Prime Minister was important and known to everybody. The way he raised this issue 18 months after the Modi government took over displayed his down to earth thinking and behaviour. He knew the legal hurdles in way of the temple. That is why he took Dr Swamy with him and made an announcement for a national seminar on legal aspects of the movement. The seminar whenever held would influence the public opinion. They will understand that this legal hurdle can be removed by the Parliament. Next day, he was given a rousing public felicitation on his 90th birthday. The song he delivered on the special request from Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat became his last expression. That song was “yeh matribhoomi meri, yeh pitrabhoomi meri…”
The information of his third act was given by Shri Mohan Bhagwat himself in the condolence meeting. This was held on 22nd November at Indira Gandhi Sports Campus auditorium. He described how Ashok Singhal had talked to him on November 10 for an hour. He informed him of two of his life missions. To erect a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya and to spread the Vedas. Informing this to the audience Shri Bhagwat appealed to them to adopt ‘his resolve and work relentlessly to translate them into reality’. Even after a short notice senior saints, social activists, RSS, VHP workers, political leaders, ministers of Government of Bharat, BJP president Amit Shah were present. The proceedings were conducted by Shri Champat Rai. Notable presence was of nanogenarian Dr Bhai Mahavir.
Ashokji left after making these important resolves a milestone of his life. They will guide us on to the correct direction. They will be guiding posts for those who opt to walk on this road. Ashok Singhal resumed his last journey not before he put these milestones on the path. He reached Allahabad where he lived. His home is now a temple. Here he grew with the time. From here he plunged into public life in 1942 at the age of 16. That is the beginning of his public life. His life was full of simplicity, service, pursuit for truth and transforming the society. The seeds later grew into a large banyan tree.
We can look at his life from a number of angles. But he was a ‘satyagrahi’ to the root. He learnt his lessons in this during the August Revolution. It would have been impossible for this Allahabad youth to remain aloof from August Revolution. Ashok Singhal was a soldier of that Revolution and he had all the qualities that would make him a commander. This quality was further nursed during his stay at Banaras Hindu University (BHU). He took the path of nationalism as he joined the RSS. And that made all the difference. Ashok Singhal did not look back since then not even for a moment.
Only once he was in a dilemma. But that did not last long. He searched his way out for himself. That dilemma was about limitations of social service and spiritual pursuit. He was inclined towards spirituality and started pursuing it. But he overcame this dilemma and identified his mission and then whatever responsibility was befallen on his shoulders, he made that a spiritual one. This became the source of his energy. And the one who searches his own source of strength becomes energy source for others and for the society also. Ashok Singhal became one such source. Very few people know, and now their number is even less today, that he was the main driving force behind the student-youth revolution. He inspired the agitations. In Emergency he gave a slip to the police of Indira Gandhi. He assumed the responsibility of underground movement then with great precision and expertise.
The best period of his life came in 1980. Or did he select that period. That was his decision, which was approved by the RSS. He joined the VHP with a youthful mind and transformed it. This became possible because of uniqueness of his efforts and organising skills. Everyone knows of the incident of Meenakshipuram, where hundreds of families were converted into Islam. This incident became a challenge for the entire Hindu society and this would have been allowed to pass had Ashok Singhal not taken it as a challenge. He conceived of “Virat Hindu Samaj” and soon this forum became an all party forum for every sect within the Hindu society. Those nationalists in the Congress Party even thought of Ashok Singhal as emancipator of Hindu society. They too joined with the Forum. People know many such names who joined the Ayodhya movement in the initial days.
Truly a towering Sant Purush
When I was approached to write my feelings about respected Ashok Chachaji, I was really at a loss as to what I can write for a person whose life has been like an open book to thousands of people who interacted with him and to the millions who deeply admired him for his sterling qualities, his courage and his convictions and for his tremendous humility.
Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is right when he recalled how Ashok Singhal possessed a melodious voice and was a composer since his childhood. This composer became the music director of Bharteeyata in the entire world. He gave a common platform to different philosophies of Bharat. The way he conducted the Ayodhya movement, it became in reality a movement of national reconstruction of Bharat. Some people allege that Ashok Singhal was a divisive personality. Dr Murli Manohar Joshi says Ashok Singhal possessed the courage to speak the truth. Divisiveness is a debatable issue and if such a debate takes place it would clear the clouds and make our thoughts clear. Not only in Delhi, but also in other parts of the world Ashok Singhal is remembered as historical icon, the person who made history, the one who instilled confidence in the scared, confused Hindu society, who shook the global Hindu mind. He did not say much about self. He was beyond that self-description. He was a “Atmavilopi”. He became identified with an intellectual movement more so he would be remembered as for his guidance and inspiration. He achieved a perfect balance of thought and trust. Thought breeds revolution and trust gives meaning to it. Ashok Singhal’s life is merged in these two words. (The writer is renowned Hindi journalist)