New Delhi: It’s a winter morning and at an alleyway of Naraina village in South West Delhi, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) workers are joined by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Saffron scarves and similar hued caps, with Jai Shri Ram engraved on them, bobble around in this concrete landscape.
The contingent, of about 20-25 people, is here on a very specific mission — collecting funds for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. While the VHP is leading the drive, the RSS members are here to bolster their numbers.
“We are going to each door. Every day, morning and evening we are doing only Ram’s work,” says Dinesh Thakur, a VHP functionary leading the contingent here. He says the VHP has set a target of covering 16,500 houses in Naraina by 28 February.
At the alleyway, volunteers start their day with distributing pamphlets that read: “For this temple, society has had to struggle for 492 years and has fought 76 wars. More than 4 lakh bhakts have sacrificed themselves for this.”
A loudspeaker is already in place while some in the crowd hold cymbals. Soon, slogans such as Humme Ayodhya jaana ka, Mandir gazab banaana hai (We have to go to Ayodhya and make a phenomenal temple), Bharat mata ki jai and Jai Shri Ram rend the air.
Leading the singing is Kritesh Rai, an executive engineer at the Delhi Metro who has been part of the RSS since his college days in Gwalior. “It is a matter of great pride that the Ram temple is being built. I am just happy that I am a part of it,” he says.
The contingent then begins to approach the residences.
At the Tanwar household, 14-year-old Aarna Tanwar breaks her gulak (piggybank) to donate Rs 750. “I have been saving up since Rakhi and my birthday. I did not spend any money and now want to give this to the temple,” she says.
Two lanes away, Madhavi Tiwari beams as the contingent enters her home. “My father and brother are part of the RSS, you could say that RSS is in my blood,” she says as she hands over a Rs 500 note.
In a day, VHP’s Thakur says the contingent covers anywhere between five and 20 houses, handing out tokens of Rs 10, 100 and Rs 1,000. Those donating over Rs 1,000 are given a receipt.
Thakur says the money is deposited into designated bank accounts every morning. No one keeps the funds for more than 24 or 48 hours (if it is a holiday). The VHP even has an app to monitor the fund collection, he says.
A VHP drive
The Vishva Hindu Parishad kicked off its fund collection drive in Delhi for the Ram temple on 1 February.
Alok Kumar, international working president of the VHP, tells ThePrint the organisation had launched awareness campaigns for the fund collection on 15 January.
The awareness campaigns saw VHP and Bajrang Dal cadre rally around in bikes, shouting slogans. Kumar says the fund collection drive for the Ram temple would continue until 27 February in India, while the Delhi unit is looking to wrap it up by 20 February.
According to Kumar, each contingent (or toli) has a head collector and depositor, and all funds are deposited only by the head depositor at the nearest branch of either of the three specified banks — State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and Bank of Baroda.
“The enthusiasm is unprecedented and overwhelming,” he says. “No organisation has ever conducted an exercise like this for one single cause and gone to over 13 crore homes.”
To aid with the drive, the VHP has also formed all-women contingents. In Sector 6 of South Delhi’s RK Puram, one such contingent is collecting funds for the temple.
The women are led by Sunita Shukla, the VHP’s Delhi convenor. She also oversees the work of the VHP’s women units — Durga Vahini and Matrishakti.
Shukla says she was in Ayodhya when the mob of kar sevaks demolished the Babri Masjid in 1992.
“It is after so much struggle that we have got to see this day. If we are alive, it is due to Ramji,” she says. “We will go to each house to collect funds for the temple. Everyone should feel that the Ram temple is theirs.”
The all-women contingent comprises young girls, women in their 20s as well as older women.
Sangeeta Singh (23), a beautician who lives in the VHP office as her father is a karyakarta, is one of them. Asked how she manages to juggle work and the fund collection drive, she says, “I can always take out some time for Ramji.”
Local residents are forthcoming with the donations.
A woman, Asha Rani Sharma, hands over a cheque for Rs 11,000 and says she hopes to donate more.
“I am very happy that I can do seva for the mandir,” she says.
Also among the donors here is Delhi Police sub-inspector Poonam Singh. “I am happy I am able to donate to the temple. It is our temple after all.”
Things, however, don’t go entirely to plan. As the contingent moves from door to door, somebody yells ‘Kisan Ekta Zindabad’. Hearing this, the crowd takes a U-turn and to head to other homes. “We don’t need to ask them for money,” Shukla says.
Also read: 3 incidents, 1 pattern — what’s behind the violence during Ram Mandir rallies in MP