The latest controversy over the claims of a new Indian dharma guru Bageshwar Dham chief Dhirendra Krishna Shastri is not something new. The Hindu religious leaders, saints, and gurus are always the target of a section of our self-acclaimed ‘secular-liberal’ intelligentsia, a section of the print and electronic media, and rationalists. It is a common pastime of these self-righteous individuals for whom every person who doesn’t agree with them is a fool.
Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen on November 7, 2016, hit the nail on the head when she said: “Why secularists in India were questioning only Hindu fundamentalists while leaving alone Muslim fundamentalists?” She added that a democracy based on pseudo-secularism was not a true democracy at all.
The author, living in exile in India after incurring the wrath of fundamentalists back home in Bangladesh over a novel written by her in 1994, said, “True conflict in India was between secularism and fundamentalism, between innovation and tradition, and between people who value freedom and who do not”.
The facts give credence to the opinion of the Bangladeshi writer. Many must have seen or heard people remember that a non-Hindu preacher had been organising mass gatherings to heal sufferers of natural and accidental calamities. He would announce that God is very much here in the congregation to rid the sufferers of their infirmities. Then some person sitting in the crowd would start shouting, “Oh, I can walk now”. Another, rubbing his forehead against the ground in a different corner, would proclaim, “Thank you, O God, You have restored my eyesight. Now I can see everything”. Such reactions will go on, and many will adopt that religion.
Without going much back, a section of the so-called self-rightist secular electronic media then led by NDTV, owned by Prannov Roy and his wife Radhika Roy, led a tirade against Yoga exercises and some ayurvedic medicines, which were then being propounded by Yog guru Baba Ramdev. NDTV gave a big hand to CPM leader Brinda Karat (who happens to be the sister of Radhika Roy), who was leading a campaign against Baba NDTV by organising live discussions and special reports highlighting the futility of the yogic exercises; in addition, also alleged that Baba’s medicines contained animal and human bones.
Later, the health minister of the then Congress government in Uttarakhand, in a media conference, declared that they had subjected the Baba medicines to laboratory tests to ascertain the presence of bones. The tests had falsified the allegations of the presence of bones in the medicines. But the Roys forgot the journalistic ethics to report the truth to NDTV listeners/viewers in their news bulletins.
Recognising its universal appeal, on December 11 2014, the United Nations proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga on a special appeal made by India’s new Prime Minister Narender Modi. The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practising yoga. Since then, more and more nations are joining the annual celebrations of this day each year.
Thus, in the end, it was not the minority represented by rationalists and so-called ‘secular’ opponents of yoga and Ayurveda but Baba Ramdev and supporters of Yoga and Ayurved who had the last laugh.
Coming again to the latest controversy about Dhirendra Shastri, the blind opponents of whatever is Sanatan dharma and the Hindu way of life. They cast doubts when a Hindu monk or guru is said to have performed miracles. But when miracles are attributed to non-Hindu saintly persons, these very people acquiesce in accepting it with a stoic silence, consigning their logic to the dustbin. Only because tolerance can easily be laughed away, but “sir tan se juda” is a frightening reality.
The critics of Dhirendra Shastri challenged him to perform in public the miracles he claims. He accepted their challenge. In a large gathering live on TV channels, he did so. He asked the person, whose grandfather and father’s name was so and so, to come to him. The person came out to be a TV channel reporter. The same was true of another person. Both said that they had never met Dhirendra earlier.
But his detractors remained still unconvinced. Many came out with their own challenge. They wanted him to perform in their presence; some even went to the extent of challenging him to undo what had happened in Joshimath. It was great of them that they did not challenge him to make them conquer Mount Everest and bring them back home in a minute. Or make either of the two, Russia or Ukraine, win the current war in a day.
Interestingly, a special report headlined “He embraced Christianity while in jail in murder case” appeared in The Tribune, Delhi edition on February 01, 2023, saying that ‘pastor’ Bajinder Singh (40) had a controversial past. He embraced Christianity while in jail for a murder charge. In 2012 he became a self-styled preacher practising ‘miracle healing’ and claimed to cure fatal diseases. In September 2011, a Delhi family alleged that “Bajinder had taken money from them for treating their daughter suffering from cancer through prayers, but failed as she passed away”.
But, the conscience of rationalist Shyam Manav, founder of ‘Akhil Bharatiya Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti’, did not wake up in this case. It is worth noting that Dhirendra Krishna Shastri does not demand or accept any fee or donation from any person who seeks his blessings.
Justice is blind. So is love. So is one’s faith. There is no room for arguments, reason, or logic for or against. For one, a stone may just be a pebble worth nothing, but for some others, it may be a god incarnate. Both are right in their own belief and faith. There cannot be a scope for discrimination against the faith and belief of either of the two.
Days after the anti-superstition crusader Shyam Manav lodged a complaint against Bageshwar Dham chief Dhirendra Krishna Shastri for allegedly promoting superstitious activities in his public programmes in Nagpur, the city police gave a “clean chit” to the latter after an inquiry and examination of the “evidence” submitted by the complainant, stating that nothing was found that could attract action under the Black Magic Act.
There are numerous things that do not stand the test of reason in non-Hindu religions too. But why for our ‘secular-liberal’ intelligentsia, a section of the media, and rationalists some customs and practices prevalent in the Hindu way of life are severe eyesores and similar activities by some in the non-Hindu religions remain soothing to them? They owe an explanation, lest they are dubbed rank hypocrites.