Article: When Chief Priest of Ram Janambhoomi (Ayodhya) advocated for Indo-Pak Peace..
by Ravi Nitesh (India)
Acharya Satyendra Das, a chief priest of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple has his own vision about Indo-Pak Peace. During a first of its kind meet, Aaghaz-e-Dosti members met him, presented him the Indo-Pak Peace Calendar that includes selected paintings of students from India and Pakistan and talked about his views on Indo-Pak Peace. Acharya Satyendra Das was made priest of Ram JanamBhoomi in March 1992 by Faizabad District Administration and in Dec 1992, Babri Mosque was demolished by Karsevaks. Being a priest, he has his own views, he did not support this incident and regarded it as an ‘insult to Lord Ram’.
Ayodhya, a place that is infamous for Babri demolition that caused several communal riots after 6 December. When in 1992, the demolition was done by karsevaks, riots broke out throughout the India and even in few other countries. This incident, that was basically a political plot, presented as Hindu-Muslim clash, made Ayodhya, a place with which every progressive thought has a different approach. It was seen as practical field of experimenting communalism and religious extremism with its mixing in politics.
Now, after almost 23 years, still Ayodhya has a stereotype in minds and when you dare to talk about 6 December, or Babri/Ram Janmabhoomi, or communalism, it becomes a serious issue. In a general perception of population that is living outside Ayodhya , it seems a rare thing if any person still exist there who is humane or who has liberal or secular in its approach. With this perception, how dare anyone can talk about Pakistan in this city, how anyone can even dare to talk about friendship with Pakistan.
With this hard to even think approach, a first of its kind approach was done by Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative. Ravi Nitesh (founder member- Aaghaz-e-Dosti), renowned social activist Yugal Kishore Shahstri and Gufran Khan met with Acharya Satyendra, chief priest of Ram Janmabhoomi and presented him the peace calendar.
During this meeting, various issues over Indo-Pak relations were discussed. After receiving the annual peace calendar, he expressed his happiness to see paintings of children of both countries. But then as the television news was running in front of him, he again became serious and said “Dono hi deshon me aatankwaad hai. Yeh kisi bhi tarah ka ho, par eske kaaran ki khoj honi chahiye aur esko door karne ka prayas hona chahiye” (India and Pakistan both are badly affected with terrorism and that both countries must think of eradicating this problem.)
He insisted that “Aaghaz-e-Dosti jaise prayason ko atankwad jaisi samasya ka hal dhundne ki koshish zaroor karni chahiye. Ye chahe yahan ho ya wahan ho, ye kisi bhi desh me ho aur kisi bhi wajah se ho, khatm hona chahiye”. (Efforts like Aaghaz-e-Dosti should address these problems to find out the causes and to contribute in its solution. Terrorism should end from everywhere.)
When we told that your views will be read by many Pakistanis as well and asked what you think about this, he said, “Mujhe khushi hai ki meri baatein Pakistan ke logon tak pahunchein, kyunki wahan toh shayad sab log Ayodhya ko nafrat wali jagah ke roop me dekhte honge, par aisa bilkul nahi hai. Hum logon ko wahan ke logon ke prati prem hai kyunki sab log ek hain aur sabhi dharm prem hi sikhaate hain” (I am happy that my talks will reach Pakistan and it will be meaningful if it will be able to break the stereotype about Ayodhya, that is seen as place of conflict. All religions actually teach about peace and humanity and if we still fight each other or we spread terror on the name of religion, it’s nothing but the ignorance about the real essence of religion).
At the end he told that he will be happy on getting messages of people and even spiritual leaders from Pakistan who can support Indo-Pak Peace.
He also expressed his wish of visiting Pakistan. He said, “halaanki mujhe maloom nahi Pakistan kaisa hai, par mai bhi jaana chahunga aur wahan logon se milna chahunga. Mai wahan ek prayatak ki tarah ghoomna chahunga aur wahan logon ke beech unki upaasna paddhantiyan bhi dekhna chahunga” (Though he don’t know how Pakistan is, but if chance arrives, he would like to visit there as tourist to learn new things, to meet people and specially to see the different kinds of methods of worships.’
He also talked about the media. He said, “Ek aur baat hai ki media hamesh ladai jhagde ki khabron ko badi pramukhta se dikhaata hai. Ye bhi badalna chahiye kyunki dono taraf tamaam log shaanti chah rahe hain aur eske liye kaam kar rahe hain aur ye logon tak pahunchna chahiye”. (He observed that the media does not show positive news these days and that they are busy in sensationalizing negative news. These media houses must show efforts of activities running for peace.)
With such a wonderful talk with this old aged priest who represent a place that is one of the most disputed religious conflict, it seems that people still need to understand a lot. We can understand that how religion or its leaders are not at fault, it is politics and the mixing of politics and religion for purely political benefit which is the culprit.