Lucknow, 16th January 2020. Sunita viswanath and her colleague Sapta Giri, who were on their way from Lucknow to Ayodhya today to visit Ram-Janki temple there were stopped and turned back from Patranga, border of Barabanki and Faizabad.
While giving this information, Magsaysay Award winner and Gandhian social activist Dr. Sandeep Pandey said that he Mahant of the temple Acharya Yugal Kishore Shashtri was forcibly admitted to hospital so that they could not meet him.
Sunita Vishwanath has shared information about the entire incident on her blog, whose text is as follows –
“An Attempt To Reach Ayodhya
January 15, 2020
by Sunita, HfHR Cofounder
India-based Hindus for Human Rights cofounder Giri and I were to travel today by road from Lucknow to Ayodhya with our friend, Gandhian activist Sandeep Pandey. The purpose of the trip was to meet Yugal Kishore Shastri, mahant of the Ram-Janki temple in Ayodhya. Shashtriji and Sandeep ji are working together to create a Multi-Faith Harmony Center in Ayodhya.
This morning, Sandeep ji’s family noticed that there was a police vehicle at the gate of their home. Sandeep ji has been under house arrest three times since August 5th, twice because he wanted to peacefully protest the lockdown of Kashmir and once because he wanted to protest CAA/NRC.
Sandeep ji has been prevented by police from going to Ayodhya twice before. Once they stopped him halfway, and another time he reached Ayodhya on a motorcycle, but was sent back. Since this had happened twice before, it was not a surprise to see the police van at the house gate. We decided to attempt the trip to Ayodhya because it was important for all of us to meet Shashtriji, and also because Giri and I wanted to show solidarity to Sandeep ji, who daily faces surveillance and restrictions on his freedom of movement.
As we left the house, the police van immediately started following us. We received a phone call from Shastriji in Ayodhya. Police had forcibly taken him to the hospital and admitted him there. He was told that the people coming to meet him could go to his temple, but would not be able to meet him.
We picked up a friend, Amit Maurya, along the way. He too wanted to meet Shastriji because he is renovating a Shiva Temple in his village. When we reached a place called Pattranga, as predicted, a group of policemen stopped us.
We were invited to a place by the side of the road where a table and chairs were set up. A crowd gathered. The police told us that they had received orders from above that they were to prevent our group from proceeding. We were told that they had received information that we were organizing a meeting or public event, and that this could not be allowed at such a volatile time. The police invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which gives them the authority to restrict our movements because of apprehended danger or disturbance.
Sandeep ji told the police that we were not going to have any meeting, but were simply going to meet Shashtriji, the mahant of a temple. I also tried to explain that we simply wanted to meet Shastriji, and that a person wanting to visit a temple should not be prevented. One of the policemen said that since God is everywhere, it is okay that I can’t go to Ayodhya. We were served tea and snacks, and a policeman jokingly asked to think of it as prasad. Sandeep ji asked, if God was everywhere, why was the Babari masjid broken, and why do people insist that Lord Ram was born precisely there? He also said, why are you stopping us who pose no danger whereas the people who commit violence are never stopped?
The police were courteous the whole time, but firm. And we ultimately had to turn back. As we left, I said that I am concerned with what is happening in India, and that I am very sad that it was considered dangerous for us to visit a temple to meet a priest. I also said that while India needs desperately someone like Gandhi, I was honored to be with a Gandhian peace activist like Sandeep Pandey. Strangely, everyone posed for a group photo!
The police escort vehicle followed us all the way in order to ensure that we returned home. When we reached Amit Maurya’s village, we asked the police escort to leave us because we were making a stop.
While we could not visit the Ram Janki Temple and lay our eyes on the holy city of Ayodhya, we had a beautiful visit to the small Shiva Temple which Amit ji and fellow villagers are renovating in Aseni Village. in Barabanki District. Since I believe that, in the words of the policemen who detained us today, God is everywhere, my heart’s desire was satisfied when we visited Amit ji’s small Shiva Temple, and mingled with the villagers there. Inspired by Sandeep Pandey, Amit ji is planning to build not only the temple, but also an Anganwadi (children’s creche) and a large hall to serve bhandaras (meals) daily to all the villagers, especially the children.
While Lord Rama’s holy city of Ayodhya ought to welcome everyone, people like Sandeep Pandey (and us, by extension) are not allowed to enter. The current administration seems intent on ensuring there is only one Hindu voice and message coming out from Ayodhya. However, there will always be brave Hindus like Mahant Shashtriji who remains in Ayodhya in spite of the risks to his life, and rejects the nationalism and Hindu supremacy of the RSS and similar entities.”
Who is Sunita viswanath
Sunita viswanath runs a group called Hindus for Human Rights in the U.S. which is opposed to communal politics in India. Sunita Viswanath has worked in women’s and human rights organizations for almost three decades. She is co-founder and active board member of the front-line women’s human rights organization, Women for Afghan Women. Sunita is also co-founder and board member of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, living and building a Hinduism that prioritizes social justice, and upholding the Hindu principles of ekatva (oneness), ahimsa (non-violence) and sadhana (faith in action). Sunita is being honored for her work with Sadhana to encourage Hindus to live out these principles by taking care of the environment.