Saturday, February 11, 2006 (Dangs): The Shabri Kumbh mela is all set to begin and the site has been turned into a virtual fortress.Over 5,000 men of the Gujarat Police, including personnel of the State Reserve Police will be in-charge of security after Christian missionaries in the region said they expected trouble from Hindu hardliners.They also complained of possible re-conversions of tribals during the Kumbh.Over five lakh people are expected to converge at the site from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Sangh ideology – The Sangh Parivar has been packaging mythology as reality and new linkages have been invoked between Hindus gods and Shabri Mata. Shabri Mata was an adivasi woman who fed Lord Ram with berries that she first tasted to ensure they were not bitter.The site of the mela is the place where the Hindu organisations believe Lord Ram had met Shabri Mata but in villages around there are not many takers for this belief.In fact villagers insist that prior to 1998, it was an open plot of land on which the owners used to carry out farming.Work on the Shabri Mata temple at Kangadia Mal began after more than a dozen Churches were vandalised in 1998, following a dharma sabha organised by the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, which has been running gurukuls in the area ostensibly to counter Christian missionaries.Holy dip –The plot was bought from an adivasi farmer and two stones that the Bhil family worshipped as part of tribal tradition were converted into the rock that Ram sat on to taste the berries offered by Shabri."Our family used to worship the two stones as part of our culture but there is no truth in the story that a Shabri Mata temple existed here," said Ramu Gavit, villager, Kangadia Mal.The temple was the first step to reconstruct the past following a Ram katha by Morari Bapu in 2002.The Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad and Hindu Jagran Manch claim to have located the sarovar or lake in which Shabri Mata’s guru bathed.Local villagers, most of whom are adivasis, are skeptical about the claims."They filled up this dried out sarovar with water from 28 check dams which is now being propagated by these organisations as the Pampa Sarovar where the rishi used to take a holy dip," said Shivram Ganghode, Sarpanch, Bhendmal. —- Christians fear trouble
Given the violence of 1998, the Christian community in the region has been feeling insecure.
"We have been attacked earlier in 1998, and since we do not see any change in the attitude of the Sangh Parivar, we feel the kumbh is another attempt to eliminate Christians," said Father M V Anthony, Head, Subir mission.
The organisers of the Shabri Kumbh however, insist that there is no re-conversion on their agenda. "There is no such plan. During the Kumbh we have yagna and dharma sabha. The dharma sabhas are meant for Hindu awakening," said Suresh Kulkarni, Secretary, Shabri Kumbh mela. The Gujarat High Court has asked the state government to ensure fool proof security for the Christian community. With the Home Ministry advising the state government to position rapid action forces in these areas, the three-day mela will hopefully not see a rerun of the violence that was unleashed earlier.