Swami Shobhan Sarkar’s ashram on the banks of the Ganga in Daudiya Kheda. Pictures by Prem Singh
Daudiya Kheda, Oct. 21: Narendra Modi may be glad to know that sometime ago, Swami Shobhan Sarkar had had another “dream” about buried gold under a temple in Fatehpur which, according to police, prompted local people to go digging in vain.
But if the Gujarat chief minister can laugh at Sarkar, so can the monk at him.
“Modiji knows so little about me that when he heard my name, he must have thought I was a Bengali,” the swami joked today.
It wasn’t clear if he was accusing the BJP leader of the not uncommon view about Bengalis being “dreamers”, but Modi might retort that he can hardly be blamed for not knowing much about a monk who carefully shuns the limelight and rarely meets devotees.
As one sadhu, a member of Sarkar’s ashram here, said: “He knows everyone but no one knows him.”
A Wikipedia entry on Sarkar says he was born in 1949 into a Tiwari family in the village of Shuklan Purva in nearby Kanpur Dehat district and studied at a Kanpur inter-college.
|A part of Raja Rao Ram Bux fort, where the treasure hunt is going on
According to his devotees, he quit his studies to follow his guru, Swami Satsanganandaji, to the village of Shobhan near Shuklan Purva. He later came to be known after the village where he had established his first ashram; the honorific “Sarkar” was conferred by his followers.
Sarkar has rarely let himself be photographed or given an interview. Unlike the usual “godman”, he doesn’t deliver weekly sermons or hold durbars. He meets his followers irregularly — once in two or three months — only when the mood seizes him.
Stories abound about his miraculous powers and swinging moods.
“A few years ago, he bought a plot and built a hospital, which ran for three years and treated patients free of charge,” a sadhu said, narrating a story that village pradhan Ajay Pal Singh corroborated.
“But one day he decided the hospital was not needed; so he had the three-storey building bulldozed and built a Hanuman temple instead.”
Others told of how the swami had turned a mound of peepal leaves into currency notes. Turning “dreams” into gold appears a more difficult proposition, going by the Fatehpur fiasco, though.
Sarkar’s disciple and spokesperson Swami Om Ji Maharaj, however, yesterday boasted that after digging up the 1,000 tonnes of gold under the fort here, the government might do well to excavate the 2,500 tonnes of gold under the temple in Fatehpur, near Allahabad.
With reports about his “dream” setting off a cascade of jokes, however, Sarkar has now claimed he had not had a dream but a real-world “conversation” with the spirit of the dead king who had buried the gold.
“Swamiji is in direct contact with the soul of the late Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh and they talk to each other,” Om Ji said. “All the villagers have seen the Raja’s spirit near his fort till recently.”
|Policemen near the fort on the fourth day of excavation on Monday
Even the police don’t know much about Sarkar’s background. “There have been no adverse reports about him till now. He has only been known as a social worker,” said inspector C.P. Singh at the excavation site.
Sarkar’s elder brother apparently was a policeman but is not in touch with the monk.
“Swamiji never does anything for himself. You will not find any institution run by him carrying his name. He runs an inter-college in a nearby village in the name of Satguru Bhagwan,” said Singh, the pradhan.
If the swami is shy, the spokesperson is the opposite. Outgoing and articulate, Om Ji often peppers his Hindi with a smattering of English to emphasise a point. He is social media-savvy too.
“You may label Swamiji’s dreams as ‘Feku’; we don’t want to get into a Feku (Modi) and Pappu (Rahul Gandhi) battle,” he told reporters, referring to the nicknames thrown up by the Congress-BJP cyber war.
Since the excavation began on Friday, Om Ji has been coming to the site once a day in his Tata Indica to speak to the assembled reporters.
His monologues often last minutes together and are punctuated with slogans and applause from his fans. But ask him about his past and he turns eloquently elusive.
“I have seen everything there is to see. I am a mahatma in the company of gurus; I am a lawyer in the company of good lawyers; I can be a good journalist and at the same time, if I were to be with a gang of criminals, I could surpass them at their trade,” he says, breaking out into a throaty laugh.
He let on, though, that he had studied in Meerut and was involved in the student union. He sat for the civil services exam too.
“But I was an ‘unwanted’ character, as they say in police parlance (the police term is ‘wanted’), so I couldn’t have received an interview call. I sat the exam because my father wanted me to,” he said dismissively.
Om Ji met Sarkar in 1998. “I was trying to help someone with a land deal. He had promised me Rs 5 lakh if the deal came through. I had gone to collect my money the day I met Swamiji,” he recalled from the front seat of his car.
He said he never received the promised sum “but I got more than that”.
“Swamiji is like a magnet; you just get pulled towards him,” he declared, jumping out of his car to give another series of sound bites to the waiting reporters.
The Supreme Court has said it cannot interfere in “every sensational matter” but it did not dismiss a petition seeking a court-monitored gold hunt in Uttar Pradesh.
A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the petitioner was free to approach the court again for any relief later.
“Can we enter into every sensational matter as if the government is unaware of the development? Yes, we have gone through your petition that there is 1,000 tonnes of gold but can we go on presumptions? Is it not too early for the court to go into the matter?” the bench asked petitioner M.L. Sharma, an advocate.