Bhopal: Namdev Das Tyagi, known widely as ‘Computer Baba’, a religious figure who enjoyed ‘minister of state’ status in Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s previous government but has since allied with the Congress, was taken into custody Sunday after he resisted a drive to pull down alleged illegal constructions at his ashram near Indore.
Six other ashram functionaries were also charged with obstructing government officials on duty and sent to jail with Computer Baba.
Accusing him of encroaching on a piece of government land meant for a gaushala at Jambudi Hapsi, the Indore administration demolished his ashram and adjacent constructions.
A government official told reporters in Indore that Tyagi had been served a notice in this regard two months ago. However, the Congress said the demolition exercise was “vendetta” — an allegation denied by the ruling BJP.
ThePrint reached Indore collector Manish Singh through phone calls for comment, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
‘Height of vendetta’
In 2018, the BJP government had named ‘Computer Baba’ on a committee to carry out a campaign centred on tree plantation, conservation and cleanliness in designated areas of Madhya Pradesh, especially the Narmada river. He and four other religious figures included on the committee were given the minister-of-state status in April 2018.
The BJP government’s decision had been mired in controversy because it came days after ‘Computer Baba’ threatened to expose alleged corruption in tree plantation along the Narmada and illegal sand mining. After getting MoS status, the self-styled seer claimed he was happy with the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government and announced he would use his official position to rejuvenate rivers.
However, in October that year, ‘Computer Baba’ resigned from his post and campaigned for the Opposition Congress during the 2018 assembly elections. He accused the BJP of doing little to stop cow slaughter, of being irreligious, and went on to campaign against CM Chouhan in his constituency, Budhni.
When it came to power in December 2018, the Congress, which had slammed the BJP for according MoS status to the religious figures, made ‘Computer Baba’ the chairman of a body meant to work on the rejuvenation of the Narmada, Shipra and Mandakini rivers. He campaigned extensively for senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh during the 2019 general elections as he contested against Pragya Singh Thakur of the BJP in Bhopal. Pragya had won the election.
In September 2019, Computer Baba mobilised hundreds of Hindu seers to attend a ‘Sant Sammelan’ organised by the erstwhile Congress government at Bhopal’s Minto Hall.
Organised on a scale the BJP could never manage in its 15-year rule from 2003 to 2018, the gathering saw a huge turnout and rending of slogans like “Jai Shri Ram”, “Jai Bajrang Bali” and “Gaumata Ki Jai”, prompting the then Chief Minister Kamal Nath to remark, “It must have given a stomachache to some people who think religion is their monopoly and who scoff at Congress leaders for visiting temples.’’
In his fifties, ‘Computer Baba’ also campaigned in the recent by-elections.
Condemning Sunday’s demolition, former CM Digvijaya Singh tweeted “it’s height of political vendetta”. He alleged that the ashram was being pulled down without following due procedure.
Congress MLA Vishal Patel told reporters that he had warned the administration against the demolition when the notice was served. He said the ashram housed a temple belonging to the Kalota community, which would take to the streets if the temple was demolished. He accused the BJP of playing dirty politics.
BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said the action followed notices to ‘Computer Baba’ from the administration and the municipal corporation. Refuting the allegations about political vendetta, he said, “The Congress should prove if it was not a case of encroachment and illegal constructions.”