JAIPUR: The Shankaracharya of Puri, Swami Niranjan Dev Tirth, has said ‘that there was “no need for the Harijans to enter temples”.

The Shankaracharya, addressing a news conference in Jaipur on Wednesday, was answering a question on the issue of the ban on Harijans on entering the famous Sri Nathji Temple in Nathdwara in Udaipur district.

The Acharya launched a scathing attack on Swami Agnivesh and the Arya Samaj for thier anti-sati sand. He said there was not a single person in the hundred year history of the Arya Samaj, who could recite a hymn correctly or interpret a “sastra”. Asked whether this included swami Dayanand Saraswati also, he answered in the affirmative.

Swami Niranjan Tirth alleged that the union government was not protecting the interests of the Hindus. He did not rule out the possibility of this entry into politics. He said “efforts were on to revive the Rama Rajya Parishad (RRP), a political organization which had stood for the rights of Hindus”. He parried questions whether he would contest the elections from Jaipur, where he was a teacher earlier.

The Shankaracharya argued that caste was based on “religious principles”. He challenged anyone to point out a single Harijan who could be rated equal to a Brahmin. When a reporter said Dr. B.R. Ambedkar could be one, the Acharya exploded “the constitution is full of mistakes due to Dr. Ambedkar. One expert has pointed out 540 mistakes in the Constitution.”

Asked whether progressive movements like Arya Samaj and those in Kerala and Kashmir had not ordained Harijans and women as Hindu priests, he commented that they had distorted the Hindu scriptures.

Regarding the Nathdwara Temple issue, the Acharya was initially reluctant to reply as he observed that any comment against the law to check untouchibility would attract penal action. However, on persistent questioning, he said “I am ready to go to jail commenting on this issue “but how many may follow me?” he wondered.

The Shankaracharya said the implementation of family planning should be undertaken for all communities in accordance with the law so that the population of one particular community did not rise fast. Asked what his reaction was to the demand by the women’s organizations of Rajasthan, that the Sati (Prevention) Act should be enforced on all and the Shankaracharya should be arrested for his sati glorification acts, the Acharya said “let them arrest me”.

The Shankaracharya said there was no way for a woman, who becomes a widow, but to commit sati or to continue as a widow. When a woman reporter pointed out that remarriage could solve the widow’s problems, the Acharya asked “what will she do if the second husband also dies”. He said he was ready to conduct a religious debate (sastrarth) on sati with Swami Agnivesh.

Regarding bungling in the Deorala funds, the Acharaya put up an argument —— “yata raja tata praja”. When there was corruption at higher places, there would be bungling at lower levels too, he argued. Swami Niranjan said the Sati (Prevention) Act was a negation of the “right to die”. A government which was not providing food or water to the people, had not right to stop them from ending their lives, he argued.

Asked whether a religious leader like him, should not emphasis on moral power instead of demanding the use of “state power” to remove tension between different communicates, he said that “without the use of might”, no law could be enforced. Asked what he would do if the Government used the “might” against him for his sati glorification activities, he chose to remain silent.

Article extracted from this publication >> July 8, 1988