Baba Nagnath, Gokulananda, Nigamananda, Swami Gyanaswaroop Sanand. Do these names ring a bell? Most likely no. These are the names of saffron-clad monks who were either killed or sacrificed their lives while fighting for the cause of the river Ganga.
A major reason why most of you might not be familiar with these names is because their shade of saffron does not exactly match with the saffron preferred by Nagpur. Neither does this shade match with those of the Juna Akhada, whose two monks were recently lynched in Palghar.
The clout of Juna Akhada
Juna Akhada has a clout. It is the most powerful among 13 main akhadas of India and has the largest number of followers among them. The recently formed Kinnar Akhada is also a part of the Juna Akhada. The enormous wealth these akhadas own can be gauged by the fact that the ancient temple in your city, which you may have been seeing since childhood, is sure to belong to one of these akhadas. Politicians often visit the Juna Akhada’s Mahapith Adheeshwar. Most of these akhadas support the Bharatiya Janata Party in the hope that their shade of saffron will be an exact match with that of the ruling establishment.
The outcry on social media over the killing of the sadhus at Palghar erupted not just because Juna is a very powerful akhada, but also because of the blessings of the BJP’s IT cell. The troll army of ‘bhakts’ on WhatsApp and Facebook went on a rampage making it a Hindu-Muslim issue. The Modi government is well aware that the saffron hue of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is fading.
However, the killing of two sadhus in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr largely went unnoticed. Maybe because the saffron shade of these sadhus did not belong to any of the powerful akhadas. Another reason could be the fact that in Uttar Pradesh, a saffron-clad person himself sits in the chief minister’s chair and may well have made sure that the ‘bhakts’ on social media do not create a ruckus so that the reign of peace continues.
Saffron and Ganga
The shades of saffron also vary among those agitating for the Ganga. When G.D. Agarwal retired from public life, his guru renamed him as Swami Gyanaswaroop Sanand. When Sanand started his fast for Ganga, his own guru tried to stop the movement. His guru’s own mentor Swami Swaroopananda is considered as a Congress-backed Shankaracharya. During UPA’s second term, he was engaged in a legal battle with Vasudevanand who is considered a BJP-backed Shankaracharya.
Sanand’s guru kept pressuring him to fight the battle for Ganga, but at the same time not create too much trouble for the UPA government. Sanand could not fully comprehend the subtle variations between different shades of saffron, but he was adamant to his cause. Later, he left his Guru in order to fight for the Ganga and moved to Matri Sadan.
In the same time period, many other saffron-inspired organisations also joined the fight for Ganga, but big names among them, like Ganga Mahasabha and Ganga Action Parivar, wished to fight for the movement even by siding with the government. Later, just like Baba Ramdev, several of these saffron organisations indirectly aligned with the BJP. Today, these people are nowhere to be seen taking part in the battle for the river. But they always put up images of G.D. Agarwal in their programs and functions. Uma Bharti had also waged her own battle for Ganga wearing saffron. But as soon as she ascended to power with the formation of NDA government, the real shade of her saffron was exposed. She has disappeared both from the power play and the movement.
Who cleaned Ganga?
Since the Modi government recognises all shades of saffron and uses them according to its own convenience the BJP is able to take the credit for clean rivers.
In this hurry, they are not able to think of their response when the same rivers start polluting again after the lockdown ends. The ICMR has been ordered to conduct a study whether Gangajal can treat corona? Everyone knows that just like tali and thali, the theory of Gangajal being able to treat corona is a false ploy to make Indians feel proud. If the ‘innocent’ saffron youth is happy, then everyone should be happy. That’s the expectation. Nobody wants to annoy those in power by asking them to ensure uninterrupted flow of the Ganga. Everyone is infatuated seeing the videos of clean rivers circulating on WhatsApp.
Just two years ago, the National Clean Ganga Mission (NMCG) had issued an order to ban mining activities in and around Haridwar. Now, under the garb of post-lockdown rush to resume economic activity, the Haridwar administration has allowed mining leases and stone crushers to operate again. Maybe because several saffron supporters are also involved in the mining and crusher trade. The saffron monks fighting for Ganga and businessmen robed in saffron are once again face-to face. NMCG appears toothless. It cannot stop anyone from violating its own orders.
Why can’t the NMCG direct hydro power companies to release surplus water considering the power consumption in India has decreased drastically since the lockdown? If this is done, the rivers themselves will be able to get into self-purification mode, ensuring an improved environment for a longer duration.
A large chunk of population in this country recognises only two colors- saffron and green. If you are also one of them, now is the time to identify your own shade of saffron.
Abhay Mishra is author and environment expert. Views are personal.