New Delhi/Prayagraj, Jan 27 : Shanti Devi Poudiyal hails from Dangri sector of mid-western region of Nepal.
The 50-year-old Sanyasini – woman seer – is in Prayagraj for the Kumbh Mela – also often called the pitcher festival.
A widow, whose husband died in a road accident along Kakarbhitta-Pani Tanki – Nepal-West Bengal border – when she was just 22 – moves around from Akharas (temporary camps of devotees) often talking about her agony as her husband actually died due to alcoholism and rash driving.
“I speak against these menaces, everywhere I get a chance,” the 50-year-old Sanyasini told UNI as she came near the Hanuman Temple to interact with the visiting Pravasi Indians who had gathered here as special guests and pilgrims.
Shuttling between Akharas generally on foot and at times in buses put up by the organisers, Shantidevi says she also speaks about the need to promote environmental awareness and better hygiene.
“The Kumbh Mela festival everywhere in Ujjain or in Prayagraj offers a good occasion to share the concerns about the need to protect rivers, other water bodies and the need for improved hygiene and better waste management,” says she.
“Looking back, I was impressed the manner toilets both in public places and for individual families are coming up across India. But the realisation of water conservation is less,” she says.
“I was not educated much but my coming to these Kumbh Melas since 2001 in Prayagraj (earlier Allahabad) has made me well informed. Actually lot of good thoughts are passed on during these 50-55 day long festivals. I have benefitted much and so now I do move around telling people about some problems and how they can face them,” she says.
To a question, she says, “Nepal and India are friends for ages and so every meeting I go and every holy dip I take, I pray for better and harmonious Indo-Nepal relations”.
“Kabhi Kabhi humey (to people from Nepal) are held in suspicion even at the Kumbh festivals. But these are just few instances. In general, Kumbh is casteless and classless affairs and no one bothers either you are from Nepal or Russia,” she says.
There would be few thousand devotees and pilgrims from Nepal at this year’s Kumbh Mela too, she says.
Answering questions, she says – “It is true there is talk about politics in this year’s festival. It is true even Sadhus and others including Gorkhalis (from India) and others discuss about Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.
Some among her compatriots from Nepal also readily admit that this year’s Kumbh has “already courted controversy” with people also talking about the need for building of Ram Temple on the site of ‘ravaged Mosque’ at Ayodhya.
Opinions are divided. But there are many Sadhus – who while interacting with Pravasi Indians – repeatedly raised ‘pro-Ram Temple’ slogans.
“I am not surprised, but I find there is a message. Whenever, I tell some Sadhus to tell something, they scream in unision – Jai Shri Ram,” says Paris-based automobile engineer Poritosh Ranjann Vatsya.
Certainly, an overwhelming number of overseas Indians who had gathered at Varanasi for the three day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Sammelan readily claim that Babri Masjid was built over “an ancient temple” that marked the birthplace of Ram.
But as one interacts with some officials and private security guards; the refrain is - the Sanghparivar and a section of BJP's agenda of Hindu nation is "perhaps no more a hidden agenda”.
“The BJP is certainly being smart. But they are also bold and firm about speaking and acting on it and things are being done slowly,” says one of them. (UNI)