Lucknow: Acharya Satyendra Das, the chief priest of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, extended his solidarity to the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
In a letter sent on New Year’s eve, Das – who has been the head priest of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple for the past three decades – said that he wishes Gandhi’s mission of “Sarvajan Sukhay Sarvajan Hitaya” (happiness for all, welfare for all) to be successful.
Later, while speaking with The Wire, Das said that when Congress workers informed him about Yatra’s objectives, he decided to send the letter to Gandhi. “I wrote a letter to Rahul to send him my blessings for his mission of uniting all people in the country. The country’s prosperity is only possible if different castes and religions come together,” he said.
Das’s letter also wished for Gandhi’s well-being. “I hope and pray that the mission for which you are fighting may be successful…I bless you for your long life and good health,” Das wrote, adding that he wishes that the deity Ram blesses the Bharat Jodo Yatra as Gandhi was working for a noble cause, that is to bring the country together.
Acharya Das’s solidarity assumes significance against the backdrop of a continuous campaign by the ruling BJP against the Yatra and Gandhi. While supporting the Yatra, the chief priest also had a word of caution for the Congress leader. “If Rahul wants to achieve the objectives of the Yatra, he should refrain from attacking the ruling party but conclude the Yatra every day with new messages of love and unity.” He added that political motives should not be read into his letter.
Speaking to the Indian Express, Ayodhya-based Congress spokesperson Gaurav Tiwari had earlier said that he had invited many temple priests and religious leaders in Ayodhya to join the Yatra. “A printed letter of invite was sent to us by the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, on which we wrote names of dignitaries by hand. Such invites were given to many saints in Ayodhya. We met Satyendra Dasji also, and he said he wanted to bless the Yatra with a letter, which I have forwarded to the party leadership,” Tiwari said, according to the newspaper.
While the letter from the octogenarian priest will come as a morale booster for the Congress, it has ruffled a few feathers in the Sangh parivar.
Responding to Das’s letter, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Sharad Sharma told The Wire that Acharya Satyendra Das wrote a letter to Rahul in the role of a priest. “His blessing is for everyone; people should not use the letter for political motives,” he said.
However, he regretted Das’s decision to extend solidarity to the Yatra, according to the Indian Express. “It is his personal decision to give blessings to someone, but the fact is that blessings help only those with a clear conscience and mind and those who actually want to work for uniting society,” Sharma told Indian Express.
“Being the priest of the Ram temple, he should have first given a thought to the fact that these were the same people who tried to demolish the Ram Setu and questioned the very existence of Ram. He should have thought of these things before giving his blessings. Nonetheless, we are sure that God’s blessings reach only those who do not have a corrupt heart and are genuine in their mission,” Sharma reportedly said.
Dulat and Farooq join Yatra on Tuesday
Gandhi resumed his yatra in Delhi after a nine-day break and entered Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, and has been receiving support and participation from a wide spectrum of voices. On Tuesday, A.S. Dulat, a former intelligence officer who served as an advisor on Jammu and Kashmir in the Prime Minister’s Office during A.B. Vajpayee’s tenure, Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah joined Gandhi in his nation-wide march. On January 2, 2023, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati also sent their “good wishes” to Gandhi for the Yatra but are unlikely to join the march.
— Bharat Jodo (@bharatjodo) January 3, 2023
In the last leg, the Yatra will traverse parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. It will end in Jammu and Kashmir on Republic Day, January 26. Over the last four months, several other prominent personalities like former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, actors Pooja Bhatt, Sushant Singh, Swara Bhaskar, and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan participated in the Yatra.
Commenting on Das’s solidarity with the Yatra, political analyst and Lucknow-based journalist Sharat Pradhan told The Wire that the letter indicates that the people of the country are “now fed up with communal and hatred politics”.
“Many eminent personalities from different walks of life participated in the Yatra over the last few days, as people have started realising that communal politics will surely create a volatile situation like 1947 if the politics of hatred is not curbed immediately,” he said.