Swami Avimukteshawaranand Saraswati, the Shankaracharya-designate of Dwarkapeeth, is the only prominent religious figure in Varanasi who has been carrying on a campaign against the demolition of temples and idols in the Kashi Vishwanath temple area. He went on a 12-day fast in July and wrote letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath requesting them to stop this act of “adharma”. He is convening a three-day “Dharma Sansad” in Varanasi from November 25 to 27. In all 1,008 religious leaders have been invited to attend the conference. The “sansad” would seek to mobilise Hindus to protest against the demolition of temples in Varanasi.
In an interview to Frontline , Swami Avimukteshawaranand said that senior BJP leaders told him to “keep quiet as this [demolition of temples] was being done to liberate the Vishwanath temple from the clutches of the Gyanvapi mosque.” “They are creating a second Ayodhya in Kashi,” he said without mincing words.
Excerpts from the interview:
The Vishwanath temple area in Varanasi today resembles a city in ruins, with temples demolished, idols scattered, and some ancient temples even razed. Did you try to prevent this?
It hurts to say that, but I tried really hard. I wrote many letters to the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister but they did not even acknowledge the letters. I tried so many times to meet them, they never agreed to give audience. It would have been a lot easier to reach Donald Trump [the United States President]. In July, I sat on a 12-day fast to protest against the tearing down of ancient temples; the government paid no heed. The Prime Minister has visited Varanasi many times, but he never once sought to discuss this issue with us or with any other religious figure. This [Bharatiya Janata Party] government is blind with power today. Power is like mercury, it blinds you; that is why they are not listening to anyone. Like Aurangzeb they are demolishing temples so that they can build toilets in their place.
We will never accept this. They are in power today, so they can do whatever they want. Tomorrow, when we have the power, we will tear everything down, every bit of them and return them back to their original form. What they are doing is against Hindu religion, against our culture.
This is a government that swears by the Hindu religion. Why is it razing temples?
They chanted Hindu-Hindu only to fool people. They never believed in Hindu religion as such. What they are doing now is against the principles of dharma. Our temples and idols of deities inside them are like children who need to be nurtured and cared for. But these children are being tortured by this government. How can we call them religious? They will meet their fate for fooling people in the name of dharma. Look at Modi. He insulted Ganga maiya [mother] when he came to Varanasi with the French President. He did not fold his hands in pranam [salutation] and walked [along the riverbank] with his shoes on.
It is also a fact that despite the large-scale destruction, Hindus have not reacted angrily or protested enough. Why?
That is because people are scared. They have been threatened into submission. People who dare to raise their voice have been warned of consequences. There is another reason for this. Many of those whose houses are being acquired and demolished have been told that this was being done to pave the way for the eventual demolition of the Gyanvapi mosque. Hindus have been fooled into believing this and that is why they are keeping quiet.
But do you think there could be some truth in this? Do you believe that they can try something as sinister as this?
You never know. When I started my campaign some senior BJP leaders, I will not name them, told me to keep quiet for the same reason. They said this would finally lead to demolition of the mosque, so I should not object. This government is evil enough to do anything for the sake of power. They are preparing the ground for another Ayodhya in Kashi because they know they have no achievements to show for getting votes in the next election. They have not done anything about Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and have failed to resolve the Ram temple issue; that is why they are creating yet another emotive issue to fool voters.
Have you thought of seeking the help of Muslims because they have cause to be worried?
I will never take help from Muslims to save our temples. For me, the Gyanvapi mosque is already a temple, and I have told them many times to hand it over to us. See, Hindus are timid people. So many temples have been destroyed but there is no sign of anger anywhere.
If what you say is true, then how can the situation be saved?
Only by awakening the real Hindus to rise and take the matter into their hands. For this purpose, I am organising a three-day “Dharma Sansad” in which 1,008 religious heads will participate. If we don’t stop this adharmi government now, it will push the country into darkness and despair, into death and destruction. It has to be stopped from carrying out its sinister plan.
We are not against creating the corridor or making facilities available to devotees who come to the Vishwanath temple, but it has to be done in consultation with the people here, both Hindus and Muslims. There has to be a plan, which should be discussed with all. They cannot demolish temples and throw away idols. Some of the temples that have been destroyed find mention in purana s.
The State administration says you are opposing the project because of your political affiliation to the Congress?
I do not support any political party. I have nothing to do with any of them. The Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, all these parties are partners in this crime because they have all kept quiet so far. I am doing whatever I can in my personal capacity, and if still this government succeeds in its unholy plans, it will invite the wrath of gods. Inhe dharmadanda milega [they will get due punishment].