Hanuman temples surge in Purulia

TMC concern over Dalit debate, Bajrang Dal flurry after rural poll sting

By Abhijeet Chatterjee in Purulia
  • Published 6.12.18, 12:57 PM
  • Updated 7.12.18, 2:49 AM
  • 2 mins read
A Bajrang Dal procession during Ram Navami in March this year. Picture by Biswanath Roy

Hanuman’s caste has stirred a debate in national politics but in a remote corner of Bengal, the number of his temples has crept up to over 500 in less than a year and robbed the ruling Trinamul of its sleep.

Purulia has a backward class population of nearly 68 per cent, including those of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Left parties had enjoyed their loyalty before their spell of routs started in 2011.

These sections had switched to Trinamul but this year’s panchayat poll results sent ominous signs: the BJP bagged nine zilla parishad seats out of 38 and got a majority in 48 gram panchayats out of 170, besides winning four panchayat samitis out of 20.

Several Trinamul leaders linked the outcome to the exponential rise in Hanuman temples.

“The Bajrang Dal is very active in the area and the activists of the organisation are behind these temples. They are using religion to penetrate among the backward classes and are doing so silently,” said a senior Trinamul leader.

Sources in the administration saw a method in the temple constructions. “A new trend has started in the area in which local people burn dead monkeys and then bury them. They collect funds and build temples to Hanuman in the area around the buried monkeys. This is a direct fallout of the Bajrang Dal’s presence,” said a source.

According to the sources, the number of temples was around 70-80 till a year ago.

A Hanuman temple at Satra village.
A Hanuman temple at Satra village. Picture by Biswanath Roy
Hanuman shrine at Sindhri in Barabazar.
Hanuman shrine at Sindhri in Barabazar. Picture by Biswanath Roy

Intelligence sources suggest Bajrang Dal’s activities increased since the first unit was set up in Purulia in 2016. The activists of the Bajrang Dal — the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad — have held processions on Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti.

“In most of these rallies, thousands, mostly Dalits, participated. The main Ram Navami rally was organised in Purulia town in March. Around one lakh people took part,” said a source.

The Bajrang Dal’s activities have started giving sleepless nights to Trinamul leaders, more so in the aftermath of the controversy over the recent comments by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath that “Hanuman was a forest-dweller, an underprivileged and a Dalit”.

Some Trinamul leaders fear the temples and the Dalit debate on Hanuman can be a potent tool for the saffron brigade in the Lok Sabha polls.

“There is a distance between the upper class and the Dalits here. We are trying to bring them closer, irrespective of their political affiliations. There is no harm in building temples,” said a Bajrang Dal activist in Purulia.

Asked if the outfit’s efforts are geared to spread the ideology of a particular party, the activist said: “Our effort has yielded results for the BJP in the panchayat elections.”