UP police has arrested Narendra Giri’ closest disciple Anand Giri and booked him for abetment to suicide. The shocking incident has put spotlight on a series of mysterious deaths of seers where property has ostensibly emerged as the major motive behind the crime. A report by MUDIT MATHUR
On the runway to launch its glittering campaign for the 2022 assembly elections, the BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh was dealt a blow after one of the top seers of Ayodhya movement and head of All India Akhara Parishad Mahant Narendra Giri, 72, was found mysteriously dead amid controversies over his suicide. Despite being protected with “Y” category security cover round the clock equipped with Commandos, surprisingly, his body was found hanging in his room of Baghambari Math of Niranjani Akhara in Prayagraj district of the state by his disciples after they had broken its doors the afternoon of 20th September. Where his security personnel had gone and what were they doing there on duty?
After the two petitions urging CBI probe came up for hearing before the High Court, the state government suddenly changed its mind pushing away the matter out of state’s domain. On just very next day as most of the prominent saints termed his suicide note as “conspiracy letter,” the state government referred for CBI investigations soon after getting post-mortem report.
The body of the Mahant Giri was taken to Sangam amid heavy police deployment for a holy bath and thereafter according to his wishes his mortal remains were consigned to deep into the earth with chanting of Vaidik hymns following saint traditions. His last rites were performed by his disciple Balbir Giri.
A day earlier, the state government swung into damage control action on Tuesday constituting an 18-member high level Special Investigative Team (SIT) to probe into the unnatural death and motivating factors leading to mysterious death of Mahant Giri and arrested three persons including his all-time favourite a disciple, Anand Giri, popularly known as “Chhote Maharaj,” from his under-construction Haridwar Ashram on the charges of abetment to suicide.
Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Kailashanand Brahmchari of Niranjani Akhara refused to accept the death of Mahant Narendra Giri due to suicide and apprehended deep rooted conspiracy behind it. He doubted hand writing and language with lot of cuttings and overwriting and mentioned, “The signatures and contents of suicide note are in different handwritings using English words.” Amid strong protests over the suicide note, the meeting of “Panch Parmeshvar” to select his nominated predecessor, Balbir Giri has been put on hold until forensic report about the veracity of his suicide note is established.
“This is not a letter written by Maharaj (Mahant Narendra Giri) as he never used to pen anything so elaborate… he only used to put his signature while dictating the content of the letter to someone else. I have closely read the letter many times and it contains some words that seem to have been written by someone else having a good command over the Hindi language. Also, a character — ‘/’ — is used with some words in the letter which Maharaj didn’t even know how and when to use”. “I have been very close to him during his lifetime and knew him well. This letter is fake and part of a larger conspiracy to cover up his murder which has been committed over greed of land,” he pointed out. “Mahant Narendra Giri could never commit suicide as he was a roaring saint, who took a tough stand against fake godmen in the country and stood up to the repercussions,” Kailashanand Giri concluded.
Depressed Mahant left behind unnaturally long suicide note that indicate some sort of complex compromises relating to deep deals of materialistic affairs usurping wealth and costly properties of the Math and alleged blackmail by one of his favourite disciples, former priest and his son beside declaring Balbir Giri to replace him in the Math. Narendra Giri headed the Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad, which is a powerful and influential body consisting of thousands of seers associated with 13 akharas. Later, he and his disciple belonged to Niranjani Akhara–one of the largest bodies among the 13 such institutions.
The shocking incident put spotlight on a series of mysterious deaths of seers where property has ostensibly emerged as the major motive behind the crime. Swami Shivnand, the head of Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, said “It’s high time that the government forms a regulatory body to keep an eye on properties of ashrams and akharas.” In 2012, Sudhir Giri of Mahanirvani Panchayati Akhara was murdered after a sizeable chunk of the Akhara land was sold at a throwaway price despite the seer opposing it. Two years later, the police arrested the culprits from Uttar Pradesh who confessed that they were hired by an akhara staff.
Another case was reported in 2017 where Mahant Mohan Das of Udasin Panchayati Bada Akhara went missing in mysterious circumstances after he boarded a train from Haridwar. So far, there has been no clue about his disappearance even after the UP police formed an SIT to find him. It is apparent with the creation of Uttarakhand as a separate state, the lands of Ashrams turned prime in the real estate market and saw killings or disappearance of many seers.
Many saints have raised suspicion on the nature of death and even questioned the authenticity of the suicide note terming it a “letter of conspiracy.” The religious bodies of saints have come out questioning the nature of death and came up with their apprehensions with conspiracy theories in their mind about unbelievable death of Mahant Narendra Giri, who was considerably brave man of strong willpower.
General Secretary of All India Sant Samiti, Jitendranand Saraswati, had raised suspicions about the authenticity of the suicide note and said, “Mahant Narendra Giri could hardly sign, so how could he write such a long suicide note.” Shankaracharya Raj Rajeshwaram, however, pointed out “There are a handful dubious individuals tarnishing the image of seers.” “It exposed a mad greed among a few seers for materialistic things,” he added.
On the basis of suicide note, the UP police has arrested Mahant’s closest disciple Anand Giri from Haridwar ashram and booked him for abetment to suicide under Section 306 after his differences which appeared in the public that purportedly mentions that the Narendra Giri was upset with one of his disciples. Ram Ratan Giri, secretary of the Niranjani Akhara claimed that Narendra Giri’s disciple Anand was earlier upset after a lease of 1,15,200 square feet of prime land in Prayagraj was later cancelled.
“Maharaj ji (Narendra Giri) treated Anand Giri as his successor but his actions were against the guru-sishya (teacher-disciple) tradition. Anand was suspended from the akhara though he patched up with Maharaji, his suspension was also revoked. But he was not welcomed at the Akhara,” Ram Ratan Giri explained.
The arrested disciple Anand Giri became controversial with his fancy luxurious lifestyle unlike calmly practise of spiritual saints. He had been arrested earlier during his Australia tour from the western suburb of Oxley Park in Sydney over allegation of sexually assaulting two women during prayer meetings. His pictures in glitzy cars at foreign locations went viral on social and media platforms. Mahant Narendra Giri had brought him from a Haridwar Ashram to Prayagraj’s Baghambari Math when he was just 12 years old boy. He was formally taken into Shri Panchayati Akhara Niranjani, the ancient monastic order to which Narendra Giri belonged, in 2007.
Mahant Narendra and Anand Giri embroiled in a bitter property dispute with Anand opposing Giri’s decision to sell land of Baghambari Math and events took worst turn when Giri accused him of financial irregularities. “The Akhara Parishad chief suspected that Anand had used Math’s money to build his own ashram in Haridwar.” This led to a big dispute and Anand Giri was expelled from Math.
The two buried their difference on May 26 after Anand Giri apologised by touching the feet of his guru who largeheartedly pardoned his disciple but did not allow him to return to the Math. This sparked further trouble. Anand Giri had claimed in the past that Narendra Giri had declared him successor in a 2012 will but subsequently he reportedly changed his mind about him.
Akhara Parishad chief Narendra Giri was a hardliner of Hindutva faith and earlier called for demolition of mosques in Kashi and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. “Like the Babri Masjid, temples were also devastated at Kashi and Mathura to build mosques,” said Giri justifying his utterances. He also passed resolutions opposing conversions and called for strict action against Christian missionaries. The Parishad under him also passed a resolution opposing animal slaughter during the Muslim festival of Eid.
Giri always remained in the news for his controversial jibes. Just last month he reacted over the comment of noted Urdu poet Munawwar Rana who said, “I will leave UP if Yogi Adityanath was re-elected chief minister,” Giri promptly advised him to go and live in Afghanistan. Narendra Giri was also known for his political connections. He had a great relationship with the Samajwadi Party (SP) government till 2017. But as soon as the BJP government came to power in the state, the mahant switched alliances to the Yogi Adityanath government.
PM MODI, OTHER POLITICAL LEADERS OFFER CONDOLENCES
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet, “The death of Shri Narendra Giri Ji, President of Akhara Parishad, is extremely sad. While being devoted to spiritual traditions, he played a big role in connecting many streams of Sant Samaj together.”
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the entire life of Narendra Giri was devoted to the promotion, upliftment and human service of spirituality and religion. “We have lost a resplendent constellation of Sanatan culture. I pray to God to give place to the departed soul at his feet. Om Shanti,” Amit Shah wrote on Twitter.
“The death of Mahant Narendra Giri ji, President of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad is extremely sad. My heartfelt tribute to him. He has devoted his whole life to the service of society. May God rest the departed soul and give strength to the followers. Om Shanti,” said Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari in a tweet. “Mahant Narendra Giri had devoted his whole life to the service of society,” he added.
Paying her tributes Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi tweeted, “ The sad news of the death of Mahant Pujya Shri Narendra Giri Ji Maharaj, President of Akhara Parishad is an irreparable loss to the entire society.” “My condolences to the followers of Mahant ji,” she added.
Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala questioned the death of the Akhara Parishad head, calling it “heart-breaking under suspicious circumstances.”
“The death of respected Mahant Narendra Giri ji of Akhara Parishad, the highest body of saints and mahants, is heart-breaking under suspicious circumstances. Is this a suicide or a planned murder? What kind of government of Uttar Pradesh BJP is this? which is not even able to protect the saints and mahants of the country?” Surjewala queried on Twitter.
Expressing grief over Mahant Narendra Giri’s death, the U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath termed it an irreparable loss to the spiritual world.
“The death of Mahant Narendra Giri Ji is an irreparable loss to the spiritual world. Pray to Lord Shri Ram to give peace to the departed soul and give strength to the bereaved followers to bear this grief,” Yogi Adityanath wrote on Twitter.
U.P. Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya added, “The contribution of Pujya Maharaj Ji to the country’s religious culture cannot be forgotten. I offer a tearful humble tribute; I pray to God to give strength to all the devotees and his disciples to bear the sorrow.”
Former UP Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav also offered condolences. “All India Akhara Parishad President Pujya Narendra Giri Ji passed away. It is an irreparable loss. May God grant the virtuous soul peace and strength to his followers to bear this sorrow,” he said in a tweet.
Later after paying flowery tributes in the Math, Akhilesh Yadav told media, “The government should bring the truth to the fore by investigating the entire incident under the supervision of the sitting judges of the High Court.”
The State Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu and veteran leader of its outreached committee Pramod Tiwari said in a press conference, “The death of Mahant Pujya Shri Narendra Giri Ji Maharaj, President of Akhara Parishad, under suspicious circumstances is sad and worrying. Even Sant Samaj is not safe under BJP government.”
“The investigation of such a serious matter should be ensured under the supervision of the Supreme Court or the High Court,” the Congress party leaders demanded.