Can PM Modi woo the Dalits by his one-off praise for Kabir?

PM Modi’s visit to Maghar ahead of 2019 elections raises questions about his sudden love for Kabir, whose followers mainly come from the Dalit community

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media
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Supriya Nidhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sant Kabir's Mazar in Maghar on Thursday has become embroiled in controversies. PM Modi visited the place of the saint’s death on his birth anniversary, as visiting his birth place would have been more appropriate.

PM Modi's visit to Maghar ahead of 2019 elections raises questions about his sudden love for Kabir. Followers of Kabir, known as ‘Kabir Panthis’, mostly belong to the Dalit and backward Hindu castes. They reside in large numbers in eastern Uttar Pradesh, mainly in the belt from Varanasi to Gorakhpur. The PM’s visit to Maghar is also being seen as an attempt to woo these Kabir Panthis, particularly after BJP’s defeat in Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha byelections.

Located 200 kilometres away from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh’s Maghar was believed to be ‘gateway to hell’. It is still a strong superstition among the upper caste Hindus that anyone who dies here goes to hell.

The Bhakti saint and poet Kabir chose to breathe his last in Maghar because he wanted to fight against the belief propagated by Brahmins that dying in this town leads a person to hell, while ‘moksha’ can be attained only in Varanasi.

“Kabir's birth anniversary is celebrated in Varanasi, his birthplace, and not in Magahar, where he died. But some BJP leaders who are trying to grab the properties of the math in Magahar (will) organise the Prime Minister's programme to lend legitimacy to their illegal activities," the chief of Kabir’s math in Varanasi and Sant Kabir Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, Acharya Mahant Vivek Das, told The Telegraph ahead of PM’s visit. The chief mahant believes that Modi had been misled by his party leaders.

PM Modi laid the foundation stone of the ₹25 crore proposed Sant Kabir Research Academy. Vivek Das alleged that the central and state governments had not taken permission from him to build the proposed Kabir Academy, a research institute, on the land of the math in Magahar.

"They are free to do whatever they want on government land. But how can they plan to do any activity on a property that is under my control? They don't understand that I will easily get a stay on any activity on our land from the high court," Vivek Das said.

Acharya Mahant Vivek Das also alleges that the local leaders of the BJP are trying to gain control of the Sant Kabir Math in Maghar including its land and other assets with the help of the local mahant, Vichar Das.

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