The chief of the Akhada Parishad, (groupings of sadhus and sants), 72-year-old Mahant Baba Biram Das, is critical of the manner in which the vhp has been politicising the Ram mandir issue and using it to achieve its own ends. The mahant spoke to Sutapa Mukerjee on the last day of the dharam sansad during the recent Kumbh mela. Excerpts:
Why did you initially boycott the dharam sansad?
The vhp made announcements all over about our participation without consulting us. We understood their selfish motives; they always use us to suit their ends. So, we had all the reasons to decide to keep away from the meeting. Besides, we did not agree with most of the objectives of the meeting as spelt out by the vhp.
Did the vhp members finally approach you to attend the sansad?
When they realised that we were serious about keeping away from the meeting, they visited us and cajoled us to be present on the dais. Ashok Singhal had personally come here (the Naya Udaseen Akhada) on January 19 evening along with Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans. Singhal with folded hands requested all of us to participate.
So you lifted the boycott...
Yes I removed the restriction imposed earlier. Sants at their individual levels were free to attend the meeting.
Do you think it was proper to bring up the mandir construction issue at the Kumbh?
It is yet another political stunt of the vhp. It is sad that these people try to gain mileage out of the religious sentiments of the masses.
Do you mean the vhp is trying to help the bjp government in UP?
Yes, all this noise is aimed at expanding and consolidating the votebank.
How serious is the vhp about building the temple?
I doubt if they will ever build it. Only when the Akhada Parishad and other genuine organisations of saints resolve it will the temple be built.
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