THE workers come and go on their bicycles in batches, despite the extreme winter and the fact that R.K. Sudhanshu, the District Magistrate, would never meet them. They have been sitting in a dharna outside his residence since last May. The women workers come long distances on foot, leaving their children behind.
They are committed to a cause, which they feel is worth fighting for. They talk freely of the conditions in which they worked.
Harish Malkoti, a young worker, said he was forced to collect human bones from the Kankhal graveyard. He said: "Billu, Siyaram and Surender, employees of the trust, took me at 5 a.m. one day. Nanhe and I used to work at the brick kilns. They told me it was Muktanand's order that I had to accompany them to get the medicine. I refused as my duty was on the bhatti [brick kiln]. Then Muktanand came and asked me whether I was interested in working or not. I asked him where I had to go. He told me to accompany the three men. The graveyard is not very far from the ashram. Surender gave me polythene sheets and told me to pick up pieces of the human skull. I said I was a Brahmin and I couldn't do that. They threatened to report me to Muktanand. I then collected the matter and brought it back to Kankhal. It was put in the brick kiln and then given to the women to pound. Muktanand prepares all the bhasmas. He supervises the baking process. I was told to go again. This time I refused. I asked them for my dues, for which I was told I wouldn't get any as I was a swayamsevak. I got the skulls on two or three more occasions. Then they got Nanhe, who is a Kashyap by caste, to do the same. The powder was used for Kuliya Bhasm. Everyone involved in the process knew it."
Women workers explained in detail how they prepared the Yeovanamrit Bati. Meena Srivastava, who had put in three years at the Divya Yog Mandir Trust, said that despite working for around 12 hours every day, the management used to accuse them of being indolent. The women were made to do heavy loading work. As a punishment for protesting against the working conditions their wages were slashed, they were sent to work in a storage godown owned formerly by one Yogi Pharmacy, which the Divya Yog Trust bought.