Demo, Women Safety Dom­i­nate Con­ver­sa­tions at Magh Mela

Few tak­ers for Ram Mandir at this yearly con­gre­ga­tion of sad­hus and pil­grims

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - Va­sudha.Venu­gopal @times­group.com

Prayaag: The triveni sangam, where the Ganga meets the Ya­muna, 6 km away from Al­la­habad, one of the holi­est pil­grim spots for Hin­dus found a men­tion in the UP elec­tion nar­ra­tive re­cently, when Rahul Gandhi com­pared the SP-Congress al­liance to the con­flu­ence point of these rivers.

The Congress vice-pres­i­dent had said, “Ganga-Ya­muna ek soch hai, ye ja­han milti hain unko pe­hchana nahi jaata ki ye Ganga hai aur ye Ya­muna, aisa al­liance hoga (where they meet, you can­not dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween Ganga and Ya­muna, that’ll be the na­ture of this al­liance).”

Gandhi's com­par­i­son finds a cri­tique in the mid­dle of the sangam wa­ters. Deepak Mal­lah, who has been fer­ry­ing a boat on the wa­ters of the sangam for last 20 years said it is very clear where the wa­ters meet. "Rang badalta hai, gahrai badalti hai. Even in the pic­tures you can see the wa­ters are dif­fer­ent. Rahulji's great grand­fa­ther was from Al­la­habad. He should come here of­ten to learn these things," said the 42-year-old, who is a fan of PM Naren­dra Modi. Deepak, how­ever, ad­mits he has been hit badly by the note­bandi that he de­scribes as "sys­tem ki galti." "For al­most a month, there was lit­tle money I made. Peo­ple who came for pitrud­haan (rites for dead rel­a­tives) here had to limit their ex­penses too. It was a sad sight." Right at the sangam is a plank made for devo­tees to get off boats and take a dip in the wa­ter. On this sits Jayaku­mar Mishra, a priest, who spe­cialises in telling the pil­grims all about their fam­ily trees and rit­u­als they need to do to keep their an­ces­tors happy. When asked about the Ram Mandir, Mishra said, "Ram mandir ki baat toh sabse pehle Kalyan Singh ne ki thi. Wa- hi chale gaye party chod­kar. Abhi tak nahi bana.( Kalyan Singh promised the Ram tem­ple first. He left the party and went away. There is still no tem­ple).” The Magh Mela held in Prayaag ev­ery year is the largest con­gre­ga­tion of Hindu sad­hus and pil­grims. The re­li­gious rit­ual of the pil­grim­age in­volves early morn­ing dips, stay­ing quiet till sun­set hours on sev­eral days and at­tend­ing var­i­ous shibirs and lis­ten­ing to kathas. The mela is also where Hindu saints from all akha­ras con­gre­gate ev­ery year. Ma­haraj Naren­dra­giri is one of the Ma­hatyagis, who are mainly devo­tees of Lord Ram­from Varanasi, Ay­o­d­hya and Chi­trakoot. These sad­hus wear white clothes and sur­vive on min­i­mum food and per­form Dhuni Pu­jan (puja with ashes) at the mela. Head of the Bhar­itya Akhada Samiti Naren­dra­giri said Ram Mandir was an emo­tive is­sue that is un­nec­es­sar­ily brought up in ev­ery elec­tion. “BJP ka toh yeh hai ki mandir wahi ba­nayenge par tareeq nahi batayenge. (BJP keeps promis­ing a Ram tem­ple. Never tells us the date it will be built). This is a jumla the party has been fol­low­ing for years. Pub­lic won’t fall for it.” Echo­ing a sim­i­lar view is Raghu­vesh­das Vedanti of the Dhar­marth Seva Trust, also part of the Ram­jan­mab­hoomi move­ment who said, “No party can build the tem­ple now till the Supreme Court gives the go ahead. Any­one say­ing he can be­fore that is ly­ing.”

Peo­ple at the mela feel note ban did af­fect them badly but the sit­u­a­tion is much bet­ter now

Coun­ter­ing all this is Su­dar­shan Ma­haraj, who is the VHP co­or­di­na­tor in Al­la­habad, who says it will take only 15 days to build the tem­ple once the SC gives the or­der. “Saara kaam ho gaya hai kar­se­vakpu­ram mein. Bus ab toh per­mis­sion ki der hai. (All ar­range­ments have been made to build the tem­ple. We are only await­ing the per­mis­sion now). "Desh Raam ka hai. Parivesh (en­vi­ron­ment) Ram ka hai. Com­puter bhi Ram hi se toh chalta hai,” he said. With­out openly as­sert­ing he sup­ports the BJP he said, “Is there any other party that Ram would ap­prove of ?”

WHAT DO PIL­GRIMS SAY?

For Leela devi, from Bi­jnore one of the kalp­wa­sis – pil­grims who live in makeshift houses or tents at the Sangam, spend­ing the en­tire month of Magh in prayers – safety is an is­sue. “There is a prob­lem of safety for women. There are many chain snatch­ing in­ci­dents,” she said. Man­chali Devi, who ar­rived at the mela on the day of Makkar Sankranti with her fam­ily of 25 mem­bers from Kunda said the pres­sure cook­ers and Sa­ma­jwadi pen­sions that AkhileshYa­dav of­fers are an at­trac­tion. “Mandir ka kya karna hai, mehangai ka kuch karen to theek hai, (Who wants the tem­ple. They should bring down prices in­stead,)” she said. Peo­ple at the mela feel de­mon­eti­sa­tion did af­fect them badly but the sit­u­a­tion is much bet­ter now. "This year, there has at least been a 30% dip in the crowd be­cause of de­mon­eti­sa­tion. Our bak­shish has mainly suf­fered," said Ra­jku­mar Mal­lah, who heads the as­so­ci­a­tion of boat­men at the sangam. He also makes an ap­peal to PM Modi to come to Al­la­habad and gift the com­mu­nity the elec­tric boats that he pre­sented to the boat­men in Varanasi.

Pil­grims and sad­hus from across the coun­try at Magh Mela in Al­la­habad— ET | PTI Pho­tos

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