Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Meet... Bhanwar Singh-ji

Bhanwarji’s story (as told to me by MKSS activists), is the story of a thousand young Hindu men in this country who were betrayed by the saffron brigade.

Bhanwar - I am told his proper name is Bhanwar Meghwanshi, though fondly, people refer to him as Bhanwarji mostly, (and for fun, Bhanware) - used to be an RSS guy.

Like many others of his generation, he bought the Hindu Rashtra theory, and wanted to help build a temple at Ayodhya; he, perhaps, thought that the RSS and other sister-concerns of the Sangh Parivar wanted to 'rescue' Bharat-mata, from... (oh, don't we know all the usual conspiracy theories?)

Bhanwarji was a valued member of the Sangh. He was not only a well-networked worker, steeped in the saffron ideology since the tender age of 11... he was also a good writer, and wrote on behalf of the Sangh in magazines like Panchjanya, in local papers and so on.

And one fine day, everything fell apart.

Bhanwar and his friends in the Sangh had been performing a kar seva. The event had been chockful of sadhus and other priests.

On their way back, an enthusiastic Bhanwar invited his gurus, his sangh brethren, into his home, in Bhilwara district, for a meal. They agreed, equally enthusiastically.

They stopped at his village, and food was prepared.
Bhanwar's father - an old congress loyalist - shook his head pitifully and told his son that these saffron-clad leaders would never eat in this house - a dalit house.

Bhanwar, of course, refused to believe his father. He continued making preparations. But just as the food was ready, the sangh leaders suddenly discovered that they were in a tearing hurry and needed to leave the village at this very moment. They refused to wait for the food.

Poor innocent Dalit-born Bhanwar, still uncomprehending, offered to have the food packed for them, if they were in such a hurry. The leaders mulled over this and, finally, agreed.

The sadhus left, food in tow. An hour or so later, Bhanwar's friend rode up on his motorbike and asked him all about the sadhu-visit and the grand meal. When he heard all, he quietly took Bhanwar on his bike, and showed him the spot where all the 'Dalit-tainted food' lay, thrown out by the 'pure' Sangh.

The spell broke, and Bhanwar turned on his former mentors with a vengeance.

At first, he converted to christianity, but found no solace within the rigidity of church norms and what remained a heirarchial system of belief. Eventually, he made his peace with faith when he found Senani Sarkar, a fakir and local sufi.

In the meantime, he began to glean away his own friends from the Sangh. He would send dalit boys to demand Trishul-diksha inside temples (with non-casteist upper caste friends to witness the scene), knowing the Sadhus would refuse outright, or find excuses for their refusal.

At the same time, he began exposing the saffron agenda in newspapers and magazine. Being all too familiar with the methods they used to stir trouble, it was not hard for him to uncover the details of this agenda. He investigated riots. He wrote books. He talked to people.

He also publishes a magazine called Diamond India. Many of his financiers withdrew their funds from the magazine, when they realised that he no longer supported the RSS. But he managed to continue, with small support from sympathizers and friends, and some backing from the MKSS.

Now, he has a book out that exposes the RSS/Sangh's role in riots in Rajasthan. The VHP has filed an FIR against him. There are threats against his life, and that of the fakir, Senani Sarkar.

What is happening right now? I don't know... but I just hope Bhanwarji keeps polishing that Diamond and keeps the faith it took him so long to find.


Anurag said...

Ahhh, the subtleties of organized religion.

There was this professor in my college, Prof. A W Date, who was really interested in developing techlologies suited for rural India. He used to offer a course called appropriate technology as part of which we were supposed to go on a walk through rural parts of Maharashtra (from Pen to Khopoli, to be specific) and look at the local industries. During that walk, we came across a hospital with one doctor and one nurse. The hospital got water only once a week, which is when all operations were performed. Prof. Date told us that the hospital was built by German church as part of their missionary services, as part of their duties towards God. Got me thinking why people are so against conversions. If I were that poor, and a religion provided me money and food, I would convert without a thought. Religion is just a man made attribute, and probably our worst invention to date, worse, even, than weapons.

Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

This is great! Can I buy Bhanwar Singhji's book?

Wait, this is a joke isn't it? Such things don't actually happen, right?


Annie Zaidi said...

Suvendra - no joke. Will call up MKSS to find out where Bhanwar's book is available, and you can buy it, I'm sure. You could also subscribe to Diamond India if you wish.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... the only funny thing is that now they acknowledge Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians..so obviously the conversions and other religions also mislead dalits with talks about discrimination. Dalits who convert to Islam and Christianity are also ostracised.

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