By Sushil Kutty
Murder most foul, or suicide that leaves a stink? The death of a mahant in UP’s Prayagraj is being spoken about in hush-hush tones, both in public and private. The mahant was found hanging by his neck in his “room” in the “akhara” by disciples who broke open the door which was locked from “inside”.
In today’s BJP-ruled India, the suspicious death of a saffron-clad “saint” is more than grist for the mill. It’s like the Pope discovered in similar fashion. The politics it spurs is high voltage. The media go ballistic. In this case, after a weekend of Punjab politics and Jatt CM, and Dalit CM, the cameras have once again returned to Uttar Pradesh.
Hopefully, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi will now be spared the intense scrutiny politicians of his stature are subjected to. Media aligned to the BJP were all set to question Charanjit Singh Channi on his “Christian affiliations”, whether he is “Dalit Sikh” or “Dalit Christian”?
We Indians revel to wallow in religious troughs. For 60 of the 75 years of Independent India, religions stood behind the scene, in secular hiding, so to speak. Not much of religion was played out in the politics of the day. Now, after the BJP came to power, post-2014 general elections, everything has taken a religious tinge, the colour saffron is more than skin deep.
Don’t be surprised if in the next couple of days, and for the duration of at least a week, TV journalists do not rake up enough dirt on the mahant’s unfortunate death to give a religious push to Uttar Pradesh politics, even more than there already is.
Mahant Narendra Giri was the President of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad. He lived and preached from the Baghambari Matt in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj. His “suicide” made instant headlines across the media spectrum. Talking heads took on grim demeanours. Top politicians gave “bites”. It’s a surprise flags aren’t at half-mast!
Now, it’s like the scenes of a TV soap opera playing. There’s the rank whiff of death, suspicion in the air and muffled talk of “succession troubles”, and “land grab”, money in the amounts of crores. The eight-page suicide letter mentions the names of three people, one of them a disciple who is a “person of interest” for the police.
The disciple who has been “detained”, says the mahant was “murdered” for money and other reasons. “Matts” command huge money and this mahant and his matt were top of the notch. The kind of money involved must be humongous. Also, the dead mahant commanded immense power. His one phone call could open the doors to the Prime Minister’s residence, why would such a person commit suicide? Doesn’t make sense.
The Deputy CM of Uttar Pradesh BP Maurya says, if necessary, a CBI investigation would be ordered. Mr. Maurya had met mahant Narendra Giri a couple of days before the nylon rope took the weight off the mahant’s feet. Maurya says Narendra Giri didn’t appear like he was under mental strain, which is like saying it couldn’t be suicide!
So what is it? Murder most foul! Adding to the confusion are statements made by the mahant’s disciples. The “person of interest” disciple insists it is “murder”. He was not in the matt when the death occurred. Both he and the other disciple have their axes to grind, and are pitted with the same levels of ambition.
It’s more than apparent, this matt, like hundreds others, must be riven with petty jealousies and pettier infighting, the inmates squabbling to win the approval and favours of the top seer. Politics not theological discourse must be ruling the corridors of the matt.
The 72-year-old mahant’s death must be probed. The alleged “suicide letter” says, “I lived with dignity, will not be able to live with insult.” Echoes Capt. Amarinder Singh’s statement made to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi before he committed political hara-kiri: “Cannot take the humiliation anymore.”
The seer also wrote that he was upset for various reasons and so decided to end his life. The mahant left behind a “will”. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who symbolises the religion-oriented politics of today’s India, was slated to visit the matt on September 21, adding to the traffic chaos of Prayagraj. (IPA Service)