With the arrest of swambhu-godman, the 63-year-old Rampal from his Barwala (Hissar) ashram, the curtain falls temporarily upon the significant liberal movement that was challenging the hegemony of Arya Samaj and its fellow traveler RSS in Haryana-Punjab provinces for quite some time.
The big protracted drama was stage managed to tom-tom the efficiency of Haryana police and to glean the scattered brownie points for Mr. Khattar and Co. Ironically, none of the participants has come out in flying colors from that sordid conflagration. Dark days ahead, it seems for Rampal as state administration is going to entrap him in full conceivable net of law and its violation. The simple straight defiance that began with the arrest order of Rampal by the Punjab and Haryana high court in a case of ‘criminal contempt of court’ following his persistent in refusal to appear before the court ballooned up. And it is now leaving behind the wider social-religious divide in its wake. The operation took life of five women and a child, injuring of many others including two dozen media persons covering the event.
The recalcitrance and obstinate resistance of Rampal has likely caused this flare up. Is it the only truth? On the face of it, technically, yes! But there is much to read between the lines. Rampal, as individual, was a small fry. However, what he represented was the tip of iceberg, a stream of fantasy, a congeries of events and a slice of real loaded history. It is much different than what this prejudiced media want us to believe.
In fact, Godman Rampal was challenging the might of Arya Samaj and his abortive defiance was a symbol of resistance against RSS ideology. Media, hand-in-glove with the ruling class, reported what police and official machinery put on silver-platter for them. They failed to educate the masses about the root cause of the controversy which has climaxed to this dramatic tragedy. Police was capable to put its hands on Rampal any time it felt proper.
To look at present crisis with objectivity you can’t shut your eyes to the painful past. History keeps reminding the bitter and sweet narratives, sometimes in books and at other in practice. You have to travel the hoary distance of 150 years to know the roots. It began with the resurgence of Arya Samaj in erstwhile Punjab when Swami Dayananda Saraswati , the founder of the Arya Samaj, came on the Punjab. He was a strong critic of “ heterodox” religious schools like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. He detested “religious impurities.” He was also a staunch votary of Vedas and believed that Sanskrit was the only language that could become the vehicle of spiritual, philosophical and lofty ideas.
In his book ‘Satyarth Prakash’ ( Light of Truth), in 1875, he attacked Guru Nanak whom he addressed as ‘dhurta’, meaning rogue and charlatan. He called the Sikh holy book as ‘mithya’ ( false) and the Sikhism as ‘jaal’ (a snare, a trap). This led to a clash between the Sikhs and followers of Arya Samaj belonging to upper Hindu castes and a elite business and educated section having base in Lahore and Amritsar. The periodic manifestations in various forms of clashes raised its head over a century. The Punjab problem and the Sikh pogrom of 1984 in independent India was the tail ender tableau of that friction.
It is important to note that the holy Sikh scripture includes more than a hundred hymns of Bhagat Kabir, besides carrying the latter’s broad religious concepts as ‘naam’, ‘the creator and unfathomable’. Vedanta and Vaisnavism with all its adjutants like asceticism, caste-system and withdrawal from the life go at the tangent with Kabir’s thoughts.
In the period of 1877 – 78, Swami Dayananda had initiated ‘Shuddhi’ campaign meaning ‘purification movement’ to reclaim converts from the Sikhs back to the Hindu fold. It was Sant Rampal who raked up that old historical religious-cultural conflict by challenging the doctrine of Arya Samaj in his lectures. Everyone knows that Arya Samaj, in Haryana, is now a close ally of RSS. The BJP chief minister Mohan Lal Khattar, and he is an old RSS hand. He is a Hindu Punjabi whose family had migrated in 1947 to Indian Punjab from the core area of Arya Samaj now in Pakistan’s Punjab.
Rampal, in his earlier days, was an ardent devotee of Lord Hanuman and Lord Krishna. To his dismay for 25 years, his meditating for hours and following religious practices, Rampal could not attain spiritual peace that he was searching for. The former junior engineer with Haryana’s irrigation department was a frustrated man. Then he came in contact with Swami Ramdev Anand, a follower of Saint Kabir, a preacher of strict monotheism. His views had undergone a radical change. The new light led to his taking ‘naam’. In 1994, he was ordered by Ramdev Anand to initiate other people into taking ‘naam’, and he quit his government job in 1995. Now, he was ‘godman’ with a message of ‘enlightenment.’ The ‘Kabirpanth’ as he and his master perceived, began sprouting in that area,
It was not a welcome development for Arya Samaj. Rampal’s ashram entered into direct confrontation with Arya Samaj. In a violent clash that ensued between his and Arya Samaj followers a 20-year-old Sonu was killed. And he was implicated into that murder case which witnessed him behind the bars for 18 months. Those murder charges are still sticking to his person. Since than his ‘Kabirpanth’ and Arya Samaj have frequent clashes resulting in pernicious social and religious divide in the area.
Rampal, like Martin Luther, had been criticizing the set- beliefs of Arya Samaj and other religions. He dared to question the origin and ancestry of gods (devi-devtas) and the popular interpretations of Hindu scriptures. Often he used, at his congregations, very aggressive language. According to Rampal, the “real truth” has been hidden from the people by gurus and intellectuals who have interpreted scriptures in the past.
The majority of Rampal followers come from the lower middle-class, dalits, anti-Jaat castes and backward castes.
His website proclaims: “Our race is living being, mankind is our religion, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, there is no separate religion,” he says on website. Commenting on ‘Satyarth Prakash’ Rampal says it is not “Light of Truth’ but a book of ‘mithya’ or myths and should be called ‘ Mithyarth Prakash’.
For every big fire there had been the real reason and more often apparent reasons.
By: Naim Naqvi