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Chasing a sadhu’s imagination

Chasing a sadhu’s imagination
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Chasing a Sadhu’s Imagination, The Government of India, Bizarre Action, Archaeological Survey. The Government of India has resorted to a bizarre action. Right now, a treasure hunt is on. And, as retrograde as it may sound, the whole exercise is undertaken by officials of the Archaeological Survey of India under express direction of the government.

The Government of India has resorted to a bizarre action. Right now, a treasure hunt is on. And, as retrograde as it may sound, the whole exercise is undertaken by officials of the Archaeological Survey of India under express direction of the government.

That medievalism has a field day in contemporary India is a telling commentary on the current state of affairs. There is presumably search for ‘gold’ near a deserted ancient temple covered by thick foliage in the Daundia Khera village in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh. The temple is supposed to have been built on the ruins of a palace belonging to a 19th century king.
Rao Ram Baksh Singh was a ruler in these parts of the country and was a fierce opponent of the British Raj. He was an active participant in the 1857 rebellion. This resulted in the king’s execution by hanging.
Folklore in the locality suggests that the king, before being executed, hid his treasures in the fort complex adjacent to the palace. But this was just hearsay; nothing substantial in the form of evidence was offered till now to suggest that this folklore had any real or material basis. In many parts of the country, thousands of such local gossips must be doing the rounds provoking storms in tea cups in so many rural chaupals!
Till this point, there is nothing unusual in a country like India where ancient and modern intertwine almost inseparably. But the whole new dimension which was infused in this began with Charandas Mohant, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industry, visiting this area on September 22 and October 7. The Minister shared with the local media that he had come to know from a local Sadhu about hidden treasure in this temple complex.
The Sadhu Sobhan Sarkar is from Mytha block of Kanpur (Dehat) district. He has been building his ashrams in the vicinity. His disciples believe that he has ‘divine powers’ and the ‘dead’ communicate with him in his dreams. Now Sarkar has claimed that Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh met him in his dreams and suggested that 1,000 tonnes of gold was hidden in the temple complex.
Having heard that the Indian government was facing a crisis, he had taken it upon himself to inform the government through Minister Mohant that this gold could be recovered and this could greatly help relieve the difficulty of the government. In fact, he had shot off a letter to the Prime Minister who is also the President of Archaeological Survey of India. And strangest of the strange things happened. After Minister Mohant’s visit to the area, ASI started excavating the area from October 18. The government in New Delhi is attacked by its critics for suffering from ‘paralysis’; but the promptitude with which the ASI has been tasked to act on this question can surely take the wind out of the detractors’ sail!
The sadhu in question, however, has been speaking with a forked tongue! On the one hand, he has been claiming that he has put his credibility on the chopping block by making such a precise prediction. But having seen the mad rush among locals and demands already coming up for sharing the booty once it is ‘recovered’, Sarkar told reporters: “Officials of the Archaeological Survey of India and the Geological Survey of India started working here in the first week of this month (October). Since the area is spread over 60 acres, they failed to locate the point. Then I went with them and pointed out the spot. They made two holes and realised there was a possibility of huge stock of gold buried in the earth.” And, added, “ASI may reach the point where thousand tonnes of gold is buried, but they cannot touch the treasure without the permission of my gurus. If at all they try to ignore my suggestion, the gold will vanish from there.”
A local sadhu making such claims is one thing. But it is totally horrendous that the ASI and the government are drawn to his tunes like the mice in pied piper Hamlin’s anecdote. ASI is an organisation which was envisaged by no less than India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. To develop a modern and scientific temper, he had a vision to uncover the history of the ancient civilization of this Republic. And, to do that, it was so important to promote a scientific study of our history; and archaeology was going to be a crucial instrument in that endeavor.
Having come across this bizarre behaviour of the government, this columnist was compelled to dust an old report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee which was tabled in both Houses on 25th November 2005. The report was on the functioning of the ASI. The unanimous report by the Committee chaired by this columnist had lambasted the then government and particularly the Ministry of Culture for misusing the ASI to perpetuate ‘myths’.
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