Reportage

The Swami Aseemanand Interviews

By The Caravan | 8 February 2014

FIRST MEETING: 20 DECEMBER 2011, PANCHKULA DISTRICT COURT, HARYANA

The Caravan journalist Leena Gita Reghunath first met Swami Aseemanand at a court hearing, at Panchkula District Court, on 20 December 2011. She introduced herself to him as a journalist with The Caravan, and told him she wanted to do a series of interviews with him in order to write an extensive profile. Aseemanand spoke to her for roughly five minutes. He told her that he was happy that a journalist had come from Delhi to meet him. He agreed to speak to her one-on-one, but proposed to give the interviews inside Ambala Central Jail, where he was incarcerated. During this conversation on the court premises, Aseemanand also asked a series of questions about the journalist’s background—her home state, her family, her education, and so on. When he learned that the journalist had a law degree, he suggested that would allow them more time to speak inside the jail. Aseemanand appeared pleased by the prospect of a set of long interviews that would form the basis of an extended profile. He asked the journalist to meet him for the first interview the following month.

Over the course of the next two years, the reporter interviewed Aseemanand, in prison, four times—on 10 January 2012, 22 June 2013, 9 January 2014, and 17 January 2014. As the interviews progressed, Aseemanand became increasingly open with the journalist. All four interviews were tape-recorded. Aseemanand consented to the recordings. In total, the recordings run to more than nine hours and 26 minutes.

What follows are English translations of significant portions of the interviews, which were conducted primarily in Hindi. In some instances, we have given the Hindi transliteration.

 

 

 

THE CARAVAN TRANSCRIPTS
File: ASEEMANAND
Writer: Leena Gita Reghunath
Editors: Vinod K Jose (reporting and content) and Alex Blasdel (structure and story)

Associate Editor: Supriya Nair
Copy Editor: Ajay Krishnan
Fact Checker: Manas Roshan

 

 

 

INTERVIEW ONE: 10 JANUARY 2012, AMBALA CENTRAL JAIL, HARYANA

 

The interview began with Aseemanand vetting the journalist again, asking about her background and family. He asked the journalist if she was intimidated by visiting the jail. During the course of this initial interview, Aseemanand was guarded, and took the line that his defence was making in court. The reporter said she wanted to tell his story, and proceeded to ask him about his childhood.

                                                        

Swami Aseemanand: Have you ever been involved with our sangh?

Leena Reghunath: No, I am not. Everyone at home is a person of belief, though.

SA: Well, are they involved in the sangh?

LR: Just opposite of my house there is an RSS shakha, in Kerala.

SA: Kerala? Where in Kerala?

LR: [Place redacted.] Have you ever been to Kerala?

SA: Oh I’ve been to Kerala many times. Been to Sabarimala. I’ve stayed at length at Varkala. [Indistinct.] Have been to Amrithanandamayi ashram. Have been to other places also.

LR: How many languages do you speak?

SA: Bangla, Hindi, my Gujarati is not good. I understand the language of adivasis – they speak Dangi.

I am taking your interview now. Why are you interested in this case?

LR: I got your Panchkula case chargesheet first and was very confused about it. Why do you think you are, with no great evidence to support it, the no. 1 culprit in the chargesheet?

SA: Jo hota hain, theek hi hain. (Whatever has happened is fine.) It’s all right.

LR: I want to know more about the investigation. How it happened.

SA: I will tell you that. I had gone to Cannanore jail. Our people had fought against the communist people, and were in jail. I went to meet them – almost 60 people were in jail and talked to the jailor. I met Jaanu who was leading the adivasi struggle. I have a lot of friends there. It has been long years now. I went as an agent of the Sangh.

So what were you asking about. I thought of Kerala and so talked about it.

LR: Yes. What do you think about the letter you have written to the President now? Do you think anything will happen because of it?

SA: Aap jante hain. Is ke baere mein khulasa kar dete hain. Kis tarah hamare saath behave kiya hain. Torture ke baat rehne dijiye. Woh jo karna chahte the Indresh ji Bhagwat bulvane ke liye. (You know this. Let me explain this to you—how they behaved with me. Let’s leave the torture aside—whatever they did to make me name Indresh ji [and] Bhagwat.)

After the Samjhauta blast happened, three agencies worked on it and arrested three different sets of people. Some even confessed. In 2008, Pragya Singh [Thakur] was arrested. They kept her for 15 days and tortured her a lot.

LR: They didn’t register a case?

SA: No one knew where she was kept. Her father was staying in Surat, 150km from my ashram, Shabari Dham.

Shabari Dham—where Bhagwan Ram met Shabari—I was there for the moment. Pragya had been working with the ABVP [Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad], then came to meet me. I had from my younger days decided to work for the adivasis.

LR: When did you come first to Dang?

SA: In 1997. There quickly the adivasis were being converted to Christians. In a short while, all the tribals became Christians. Christians used to call it “Paschim Bharat ke Nagaland” (Western India’s Nagaland). Full of hills and jungles. Every village had a church. I was a worker of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, a wing of the Sangh. For this work I travelled the whole of India – Nagaland, the Northeast, Andamans, Kerala, and then came to Dang.

If you leave out the Northeast, Dang has the highest Christian population. They wanted to separate from Gujarat and become a separate state. Kerala does not have that. Christians are scattered; they are not concentrated in one district, are they? Ok, yes, they are in Kottayam.

Then I thought I will not roam all of India; will stay in one place, and so I settled in Dang and lived in the homes of the adivasis. Then they started converting to Hinduism.

LR: How did they accept you?

SA: Adivasis are by nature good. There always were some Hindus in every village. Some villages were left untouched and had Hindus. So they accepted me.

LR: How were the facilities in these villages? Roads, schools, water?

SA: It was good because it was Gujarat, not Chhattisgarh, Orissa, MP; in comparison, better developed. I have been to every state where there are adivasis. I have not been to states where there are no adivasis, like Haryana, Punjab and Jammu-Kashmir.

[…]

Do you feel that because you have worked for the poorest – the adivasis and not some wealthy people – that you have ended up with this mess, without any backing? When you went to court there was no lawyer to support you till Manbir Singh Rathi came from legal aid. There are swamis who work for the wealthy and thus have people to support them, but you worked for the poor.

SA: No, I do not think so. I don’t know how much time we have, but let me give you a bit of my background.

I am from Bengal, belong to Kamarpukur, the village of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. From my childhood, I was associated with the Ramakrishna Mission. We were a very poor family. Mother gets the freedom [fighters’] pension. Father left for freedom struggle, came back and couldn’t do much.

LR: Don’t you have any sisters?

SA: We were 7 brothers. The eldest one is a retired teacher. I am second. The third is a doctor. The youngest runs a small business and lives in our house with my mother.

I studied well, studied till B.Sc in Kamarpukur, then came to Burdwan to do my M.Sc. Burdwan was very far from my village. Till then [I had] studied in the village, but had to go out for my higher education. I used to give tuitions to pay fees. Even now I remember the efforts that my parents took to teach me. At that time I had decided that I would help such underprivileged kids to get education. I would not take a job. But I would do service by teaching children – poor children, adivasi children. It is great to help educate such children, even if it’s one child.

When I went to Calcutta, I realized what the scope for education there was. I asked my brother whether he wanted to go for MBBS; I made my brother also give the exam. In the second year of his BSc he cleared the exam and came to Calcutta to do MBBS. He also gave tuitions to pay fees while doing his MBBS. My elder brother was an RSS pracharak. I told him that I wanted to leave home and go for my mission; [I said] if you give permission then I can leave home. I was offered a job in Burdwan University to teach at the intercollegiate level. I was working before my main results came out and they promised to make me permanent after my results were out. But by then I took the permission of my father, my mother, they all gave me permission very happily.

LR: So they gave you permission easily?

SA: Yes.

There is a place in Bengal - Purulia, where the weapons were dropped from the air. It was an adivasi area. I went there first to work with the adivasis. Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is a wing of RSS.

LR: How many years did you work there?

SA: I was there for 3-4 years. In Burdwan there was a Swami Paramanand, who also taught poor kids. I went to his ashram in ’81, and he took me under his guidance and named me Swami Aseemanand.

LR: So you took shiksha  (instruction) under him? Woh hain abhi bhi? (Is he alive?)

SA: He is no more. At that time there were efforts to build a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Andaman-Nicobar. RSS wanted one there because Andaman would be a difficult place to work. But I went there and worked to spread the religion. Achcha kaam hua, bahut hi achcha kaam hua. (We did very good work indeed.)

LR: So you built temples there?

SA: Yes, we built temples. Mandir ke madhyam se hazaro Christian ko Hindu banaya. (With the help of these temples, turned thousands of Christians into Hindus.) Then on, from ’93, I was roaming all over India working for Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram visiting adivasi settlements. Then I thought I should settle at some place and work from there and then I came to Dang.

I came to Dang in ’97. Whenever I travel, I always stay in the houses of adivasis. I eat their food, speak their language, sleep at their place. I would rarely go to a city.

LR: How long did it take for you to learn their language?

SA: I first stayed in one village for two months to learn their culture, habits and language. I also understood how and why they were becoming Christians.

They had no knowledge of Hinduism. No Hindu priests were there. The Christian priests would go and give religious sermons, but I didn’t think that made any effect on them. But then when children fell ill they would say, pray to Jesus and your child will get better; so then people kept in touch with the priests, and then later ended up getting converted. So then I started organising the Hindus, whoever was left.

In ’98, I loaned a tractor and promised that in this village, I would get all converted in 10 days.

LR: 10 days before Christmas?

SA: Yes, that was 10 days from Christmas to January. I had already made all the contacts with them.

LR: In just one village?

SA: Nahi, poore Dang mein. (No, in the whole Dangs.)

In 10 days, 40,000 Christians got converted to Hinduism and 30 churches ko tod ke humnein mandir banaaya. (We destroyed 30 churches and built temples.)

LR: Didn’t the church create problems for you?

SA: Haan. Uske baad thoda hulchul hua. (Yes. There was a little bit of commotion over this.) In the Lok Sabha, the Congress members made a huge hue and cry about it. But at that time Vajpayeeji was the prime minister, Advani was home minister. Even in Gujarat RSS-BJP was in power—not Narendra Modi, but Keshubhai Patel.

Itne Christians ek saath mein Hindu hue, Christian mein bhi hulchul hua (So many Christians became Hindus at once, it caused a commotion among Christians). Christian leaders from the Vatican, US religious leaders started coming to Dang to enquire into this. Sonia Gandhi came down and met Christians and they said that a person of the RSS is here and he is doing this. Lalu Yadav, Paswan, Deve Gowda; all came.

LR: Did you meet any of them?

No, they didn’t meet me. It was said about me that I was a goonda, doing forced conversions and threatening to kill people otherwise. Even Sonia thought so. From that time they started to keep an eye on me. Even Vajpayee, the prime minister, came down.

LR: He came down? So did he meet you?

No, didn’t meet me. I lived in my forest. But everyone knew that I was doing it.

Vajpayee said that it is wrong to convert these people but it was an even bigger wrong converting them to Christians in the first place.

LR: Where did he say this?

He made this statement in the press conference. He said there should be a debate on reconversion at the national level. Things cooled a bit after his statement, but nazar to mere pe pada hi na? Tab se mere pe Sonia ka nazar aa gaya. (Then they started noticing me, no? From that time Sonia started watching me.)

To see my work, Pragya Singh and other RSS people started coming to the ashram. Adivasi ka kaam kaise ho raha hain, kaise yeh sab Hindu kaise ho raha hain? (How was the work of adivasis being done? How are people converting to be Hindus?)

Then we made the Shabari Mandir. It was a very beautiful and peaceful place.

LR: So you made a temple there. Who is the deity there?

Bhagwan Ram ke hain. (The Lord Ram.) There were the stone deities that were already there, on which Ram, Lakshman and Shabari sat. They were worshipped under the open sky.

[An advocate enters the room.]

Advocate: Haanji haanji aap baitho. (Please sit.)

LR: Aap? (You are?)

Advocate: Main advocate. Main bhi tha Ajay Kaushikji [the lawyer who introduced the journalist to Aseemanand] ke saath. (I am an advocate. I was also with Ajay Kaushik)

LR: Nardev [Aseemanand’s lawyer] ji aane wale thhe na? (Nardev was to come, no?)

Adv: Did you talk to him today?

LR: No I wasn’t able to. But I thought he would be visiting. Haven’t vacations started for the court?

Adv: Today was the last working day.

LR: You might want to talk to him [Aseemanand] too, right?

Adv: No, no, please continue.

[...]

SA: We built a temple there, [and] wherever I started travelling. From then on, it became easy to get people converted. By exerting very little pressure I could convert them to Hindus. I was getting an identity as the swami who does the conversions.

Then RSS people were coming down to meet me. Pragya Singh came and Sunil Joshi came down to meet me. She was from Indore. Her father was a doctor in Surat, so whenever she came down to meet him, she used to come to meet me also at Dang, and Sunil Joshi would also come along.

LR: Pragya’s father, who was in Surat, was a doctor?

SA: Yes. Sunil Joshi and people from Indore used to come to meet me. They said that I was doing good work among the Christians. When talking to them I also used to air my views. The biggest issue is Muslims. With Christians we can always stand together and threaten them. Mussalman se nipatne ke liye abhi se tayyar hona padega. (We must be ready from right now to deal with Muslims.) They are multiplying fast. If they become a majority we will be in really bad shape. Kuch karna chahiye. (We ought to do something.) For this from Indore Pragya, Sunil and other people would often come to discuss ways to curb this with me.

I went to Pune, to visit Nathuram Godse’s house, Veer Savarkar’s house. I am in the same cell as Nathuram Godse’s brother, Gopal Godse. He was held in this jail.

LR: This jail?

SA: Yes.

LR: Bahut hi aascharya ki baat hain. (What a wonder.)

SA: In Nathuram Godse’s will there is a line: my bones will not be discharged in the sea until the Sindh river flows through India once again. Nathuram and Narayan Apte were hanged here, and Gopal Godse was put in this jail for life imprisonment.

Adv [interjecting]: People say that Hindu Mahasabha had a hand in Pakistan’s division. But that is not the truth. We say that Pakistan should stay with us. His [Nathuram Godse’s] wish was that his bones should be kept till the time Pakistan and India are one.

SA: Nathuram and Narayan Apte were hanged here, and Gopal Godse was put in this jail for life imprisonment.

There [in Pune] I met Himani Savarkar, daughter of Gopal Godse, who was married to Savarkar’s ladka (son). We all made a group with the plan that we have to do something for this.

I have a friend in Kolkata, Tapan Ghosh, an RSS pracharak. He was also helping us with the work – to do things in a new way. In a meeting in Bhopal I was very worked up and main bahut aggressively bataya ki, abhi aakraman na hone pe hum khatam ho jayenge. (If we don’t attack now, we will be finished.) I don’t know how this reached the NIA and CBI.

LR: So what was it that you said aggressively that led to the NIA making these serious accusations against you? Like they have stated in the chargesheet, did you actually call for “bomb ka badla bomb” (a bomb for a bomb)?

SA: Aisa nahi. I will tell you the actual things. Iske baad mein filter karna, kaise karna, yeh aap dekh lenge. (You can decide how you want to filter this.)

In 2008, the first blast in Malegaon happened. In 2007 February, Samjhauta, in Mecca [Masjid, in Hyderabad] in 2007 May and Ajmer happened in 2007 September. In whatever that happened in 2007, they arrested Muslims. Then in 2008 for the first time they got a motorcycle – of Pragya’s. Then they thought, even Hindus are equally active. Pragya had given her motorcycle to someone 4 years back. Who? Sunil.

In 2007 December, Sunil was murdered. Then they arrested Pragya. They then had this theory that wherever Muslims were murdered, it was because of Hindus. Yeh unka kalpana hain. (So they imagine.)

LR: Achcha?

They released the Muslims they arrested in the Ajmer case. Even in Hyderabad. And then came after us Hindus. They tortured Pragya Singh a lot. She was a female, but 3-4 male officers questioned and tortured her.

[Another accused joins us. Conversation between him and the lawyer goes on in the background.]

Then after Pragya’s arrest in Malegaon, Sunil’s name started appearing in everything. Sunil used to visit my ashram. Sonia, Digvijay [Singh] already had their eyes on me. In 2006 we had a big Sammelan.

LR: Kumbh Sammelan?

SA: Kumbh Sammelan—to which everyone came. In 2008, when everything started coming out in the open, they learnt that this was all being planned in Shabari Dham. Police ka yeh kalpana hain. (The police think this.) Hindutvawaad ka prachar main kartha thha, aur kaam bhi hota thha. Christian Hindu ban rahe thhe. Phir unka ye kalpana hain. (I preached Hindutva, the work happened too. Christians were becoming Hindus. So they think this.)

LR: The police were saying that you were absconding. That they arrested you from Haridwar?

SA: No no, they made up all that. I used to go to Haridwar often.

I had a passport in my original name, Naba Kumar. In Haridwar, people used to say that the Aseemanand name is not very common, it is such a Bengali name. And so they used to call me Omkaranand. The CBI said that I was absconding since 2008.

LR: What was the name then?

SA: Omkaranand.

My name was in the news in 2008, but nobody came to Shabari Dham searching for me; I was there in 2010.

When I went to Haridwar in 2010, they came and arrested me – CBI – and blamed me for absconding. I told them that that was not the case. I was very much in my ashram in Shabari Dham. Even now they claim that I was absconding.

One thing was a mistake. In Haridwar I had nothing in Aseemanand’s name. For a SIM card I needed a voter’s ID. So I made one in Haridwar in Omkaranand’s name. I had a voter’s card and mobile connection in Omkaranand’s name. Then I ended up having some IDs in Aseemanand’s name and some in Omkaranand’s name. So that was a mistake on my part.

I used to go to Maharashtra. When I went there, I could pressurise people a little and they would easily convert. Even by my name – when the information would go out that I would be visiting, people would voluntarily come forward to convert.  I was called Ramdas there – the name of Shivaji’s guru. They said I resembled Ramdas.

I would go to every village, would build Hanuman temples and convert Christians to Hindus.

[…]

There was one Bharat bhai in Gujrat, in Valsad village. He had been working outside India. We had all met at Bharat bhai’s house – me, Pragya, Sunil and Bharat bhai. Also Lokesh [Sharma] was there. They [CBI] made me say that in that meeting we decided to bomb Samjhauta. Even Hyderabad – they made me make this confession. I had no idea when the blast even happened.

It will be good if you know this, but please keep it to yourself.

In Ajmer, and in Hyderabad, the blasts were done through a mobile phone. Mobile se spark hota hain. Battery rahta hain, timing rahta hain, us se vispot hota hain. (The mobile gives a spark. There’s a battery, timing, which leads to an explosion.) There was no one in whose name the SIM card was. But the place of the SIM was Sunil’s parichit jagah (familiar place).

So they then assumed it must be Sunil who procured the SIMs. There was an RSS pracharak, Devendra Gupta—they arrested him from Jharkhand. They blamed him for giving out a SIM on a fake driving license. Purey ke purey galat driving licence ke aadhar par SIM card diyah. Driving licence jiske naam pe hain, woh koi hain hi nahi. Ye jo banane diye Devendra Gupta, Sunil ke dost thhe, RSS ke pracharak thhe. Koi evidence nahi hain. (Completely on the basis of a false driving license, he got a SIM card. The name of the driving license was not a real person. Devendra Gupta was Sunil’s friend, an RSS pracharak. There is no evidence.)

LR: So who said this to them? Did they get it from your confession?

SA: No, they had already arrested everyone connected with this. They had arrested the one involved in Ajmer. And Lokesh they had arrested in connection with Ajmer and Hyderabad. Sunil was in contact with them. They were both from MP. Whoever was connected to Sunil was arrested first. I was the last one.

They had made a story after all these arrests.

LR: So they never arrested Sunil?

SA: No he was murdered. Only in 2008 did they know that Hindus were involved. They got Pragya Singh’s motorbike, and then found out about about Sunil.

[A policeman briefly chats with Aseemanand.]

LR: How do these people [the police] treat you?

SA: Kiya ki nahi kiya, achcha kaam hua, jo hua. Yahan ke jo staff hain, jo kaam hua, achcha hua, theek hua. Isliye hum dono ko alag nazar se dekhte hain. Sabke man mein bhaav he. Isliye alag nazar se dekhte hain. Achcha kaam hain. Hamne kiya ki nahi kiya yeh log sochte bhi nahi. Kiya hoga to achcha kiya. (Did or didn’t do, the work that happened was good. The staff here, the work that happened was good, was correct. So they view us both [he and a fellow accused] with different eyes. They all have feeling in their minds. So they look with different eyes. It’s good work. They don’t even think if we have done it or not. But if we have done it, we did a good thing.)

LR: Why did the Sangh take so long to come forward?

SA: No, no, they didn’t take long at all. From Hyderabad, Raja Balaji of the CBI took me from Haridwar to Delhi and then Delhi to Hyderabad. They told me that BJP’s state secretary Ramchandra ji, who is an advocate at the [Hyderabad] high court, will come to meet you. But [that] I should not apply for bail.

LR: Why?

SA: I was in their custody, right? Bail bilkul nahi lena. (Don’t take bail at all.) The CBI threatened me not to take a lawyer, and forced me to refuse legal help. I had to listen to what they were saying. I have always lived in the jungle, had not seen police up close. They threatened to bring my mother to the prison. Galat galat baat karne laga. (They started to say bad things.) Then I thought that whoever did it did the right thing. Mere man mein bhi aaya, chalo theek hain. Hindu ke liye to achcha hua. Logon mein Hindutva ke upar bhav aajaye. (I thought, this is fine. At least it is a good thing for Hindus. People will feel for Hindutva.) Whatever may happen to me. What is wrong in taking the blame for it. Mera jo hoga so hoga. Phaansi bi ho jaaye to dekha jayega. (What happens to me will happen. Even if I am hanged for it, I will face it.)

But I didn’t take anyone’s name. Lokesh was there at the meeting, so his name slipped out of my mouth. The CBI insisted that I confess that I had planned the Samjhauta blast — you have not gone anywhere, have not done anything, but planned it.

LR: Pura kahani unke paas tha? (They had the whole story?)

SA: They kept me for 20 days and then put me in jail. How it was done I don’t know. I had a meeting with Sunil, Sunil did it, and how he did it I don’t know. Sunil is already murdered. But I did the complete planning. Then NIA took me from the jail. They wanted me to confess this again. Asked me to say the same thing again.

They tortured Lokesh a lot. They arrested him from Rajasthan, and then again took him to Rajasthan.

LR: Were you not afraid that the confessions would go against you?

SA: Yes I was, but I thought it will be good for Hindus. Maine socha Hindutva ke kaam ke liye mera phasi bhi ho jaye to theek hain. Maine nahi kiya. Par Hindu ke logon mein to vichaar aayega ki karna chahiye. (I thought that if for the purpose of Hindutva even if I end up being hanged then it is okay. I didn’t do it. But at least [seeing this] the other Hindus will realise that this should be done.)

[Aseemanand chats with his lawyer about medicines.]

LR: Aapka tabiyat kharab hain? (You are unwell?)

Haan, thoda sa. (Yes, a little.)

[Aseemanand walks out of the room for a chat with the lawyer, then returns.]

LR: Swamiji, do you think that the Indian judiciary will understand your truth?

SA: The law is such that, whatever you say in front of the magistrate, is considered the truth.

LR: How influenced are you by Vivekananda?

That was there from my childhood.

LR: What is your favourite teaching of Vivekananda?

SA: I like his line that when a Hindu converts to Muslim or Christian, it is not just that we have one Hindu less among us, we have one new enemy of the Hindus. I like the line. It is framed with his photo and put up in Dang. I have heard a lot about Savarkar and was greatly influenced by his teachings, and so went to meet his family; and then we all ended up working together on the same goal. We are worried about the increasing number of Muslims. They should have two children only. If they keep multiplying at this rate, in fifty years they will become the majority in this country. We should bring in a movement against this, like the movement against corruption that is happening. That everyone should have one or two kids.

Aap iska kya karenge? (What will you do with this?)

LR: I want to know your true story. The days that you spent with Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. [...] People from NIA who come with you to the court tell me that you are such a calm person. That you are like a saint. Very wrong things happened to you.

They all know about this.

[…]

LR: Swamiji, aap kyon? [Why you?]

SA: To please Muslims. Everyone in the investigation agencies knows I am innocent. But Sonia Gandhi was angry with me from the time of the Dang incident.

[audio unclear]

Did you see on the TV?

LR: No I didn’t

SA: I saw the videos in which Taliban slaughter people. Yes I did talk in meetings about that. I said that if Muslims multiply like this they will make India a Pakistan soon, and Hindus here will have to undergo torture. I used to tell Sunil that we should do something to frighten them off. I did stress that we should do something about it soon. But blaming me for the planning of the blasts is not the truth.

In Hyderabad I was kept in a single cell. There were cells which could hold more than 4-5 people. Everyone was kept locked from 12 – 3. But I was kept under lock up for 24 hours, This was when I was under remand in Hyderabad. Kaleem, the Muslim boy, was also in the same jail; and his brother was connected to Lashkar [Lashkar-e-Taiba] and also in the same jail.

One police officer was always around me, to keep an eye on me, and to see that no one came to meet or interact with me. Kaleem knew that I was in the same jail but I couldn’t meet him. How will I ever say such things to a Muslim boy? Before me, Lokesh Sharma was in the Hyderabad jail; the jail was populated by Muslims; they even threatened to kill him. I don’t know how these stories of confession were cooked up by the police.

My confession has become a weapon for them. The CBI knew how to behave with me, what to get out of me. They had proper information about us. They gave a different treatment to Lokesh.

[…]

So how big a news story was Kaleem? Achcha? Kaleem ka? Don’t they need more evidence than his statement?

LR: I used to meet your lawyers. Always used to wait outside and say namaste to you.

SA: Achcha? Patrakar ke naate aate thhe? (Oh? You came as a journalist?)

LR: Yes.

SA: Achcha. Kabhi mauka mile to Shabari Dham zarur jaana aap. Mansukh is the pujari of the Shabari Mandir. (I see. If you have the opportunity, do go to Shabari Dham some time. Mansukh is the priest at the Shabari temple.) The phone number of the mandir is 026312901XX [last two digits redacted].

[…]

LR: Is work going on fine there in your absence?

SA: The mandir’s work is going fine, but the work of our organisation has been discontinued. It is not working well anymore.

[ENDS]

 

 

 

INTERVIEW TWO: 22 JUNE 2013, AMBALA CENTRAL JAIL, HARYANA

 

Between the first and second interviews, the reporter travelled to the Dangs, in Gujarat, where Aseemanand spent ten years working on behalf of the RSS’s tribal affairs wing, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. Aseemanand told her he was happy that she had visited the Dangs. During this interview, he became more forthcoming. He discussed his work for the VKA, and the terrorist conspiracy in which he has been accused.

                                                         

Leena Gita Reghunath: Kaise hain aap? Ek saal ho gaye. Mujhe laga aapko yaad hi nahi hoga. Nardev ji nahi rahe. (How are you? It’s been a year. I thought you wouldn’t remember. Nardev ji is no more.) So now Ranjan Arora is the person?

[Silence.]

LR: Did you go for the last hearing?

SA: Nahi, 20th ko nahi. The next one is on 4th.

LR: In Jaipur, right?

SA: No, at Ambala.

LR: So as per the story you narrated to me last time. I went to Dang. Mandir gaye. Unai gaye, Phoolchand bhai se mile. (I went to the temple. To Unai. I met Phoolchand bhai.)

SA: Achcha! Aap gaye? Bahut achcha laga mujhe. Main jabse yahan aaya hain kabhi nahi gaya. How are things there? Kaise laga aapko? (Oh! You went? I’m very glad. Since I came here, I’ve not gone. How did you like it?)

[…]

A police man: Kaise swamiji? Sab theek hain? (How are you swamiji? Is everything alright?)

SA [to LR]: Woh log sambhal rahe hain yeh hi bahut badi baat hain. (That they are taking care of things is in itself a great thing.) I am very happy that you went there.

The place is very beautiful in the monsoons. You went in the summer, when the forests are all dry and dead.

[...]

Public ko mile aap? (Did you meet the public?)

LR: No, not public. I met Dasharathbhai and Janubhai.

SA: How did you meet them?

LR: I asked for people who had worked with you, and people guided me to them. For what I have been writing about you I need all the important events of your life.

SA: You must have waited for a long time to get in right?

LR: Yes.

SA: This place will close by 1. Where will you go after that?

LR: I will go back to Delhi. So you’ve told me about your story and I have now met others and heard about your story too, so now if you can talk to me in detail about your entire story. It would be great if you could narrate them like stories for me, in detail.

SA: In 1996 I went once to see the place [the Dangs] and then went back in 1998 to live there. I heard that there were lot of conversions happening, which caused my interest in the place. I am the president of the Dharma Vibhag of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram—we call it Shraddha Jagran [faith awakening]. According to government rules we are not allowed to call it dharma jagran—so we say shraddha.

LR: But for religious organisations—

SA: Our organisation is not religious, it is social.

If we exclude the Northeast this is one place in India where a lot of conversion was happening.

LR: So during which year did you work there?

SA: I have never worked in the Northeast but have travelled all over it.

LR: But there was a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram there?

SA: Yes, there was an ashram there of Vanvasi.

LR: So what did you see there?

SA: In the Northeast, almost everything had gone into the hands of the Christians, everything is under their control. In the ashram there are Hindus, but outside it all are Christians. Nagaland, Mizo, Meghalaya, have all Christians.

LR: You travelled there?

SA: Yes, I did. In Tripura, Muslims are greater in number, and in tribes, Christians. All Northeast tribals are in the hands of Christians. They don’t allow us to even go to the tribes, it’s impossible to even go and work among them. There is some work going on in Nagaland, Tripura, but it doesn’t have the prabhav (impact).

LR: What are these works?

SA: We have hostels, schools, health centres. Some are given education and others health department responsibility. But my work is dharma jagran (religious awakening). It is easy to do social service, but my work, which is dharma jagran, is very difficult, for the reason that they all have become completely Christians.

LR: Who assigns positions in the VKA?

SA: An all-India committee of VKA, based in Jashpur nagar in Chhattisgarh. The president [is] Jagdev Ram Oraon.

LR: But then there must be someone in the committee who looks at your work, appreciates it and tells you that this is where you should go and work, right?

SA: Yes there was. The then organising secretary of the committee, K Bhaskaran from Kerala who asked me to go and work in Andaman. I lived for 7–8 years in Andaman. I was very happy with my work there.

LR: Do you know a Damodaran there?

SA: Yes, how do you know about him? Kaise?

LR: I had read about him somewhere.

SA: Damodaran was the president of the VKA committee. He was secretary to VKA before, once I formed it. Then he went to the BJP, became BJP’s municipal chairman. I think he is still the president of the VKA ashram. The ashram is in Port Blair. Please do visit Andaman once.

LR: It’s too far. Not like Dang. Does Andaman have proper schools and roads?

SA: Yes. I went there for dharma jagran. There were no temples there. Roamed in every village, so I made temples. Made a lot of people Hindus.

LR: Is Bhaskaranji still in Kerala?

SA: Nahin guzar gaye. (No, he is no more.) It was Bhaskaran ji who saw my work and told me that I have to do this all over India. Bahut hi achcha kaam hua. (This is good work.) Bhaskaran ji is no more, was a very good worker, was an RSS pracharak. He was the man who shaped the RSS in Kerala.

LR: So he must have been very senior to you?

SA: Yes, he came in as an organising secretary into the VKA. Somayyajulu took over as secretary after his death.

LR: So Bhaskaranji asked you to go to Dang too.

SA: It was Bhaskaran who told me that I must travel all over India and look after the work being done. I did that for some time, but I like to do fieldwork more. I liked to stay in one place and work from there. I was not confident that I would be able to manage things at an all-India level. I can’t work in the Northeast, because there is no more work possible there. I felt that in Dang the Christian population is increasing at a high pace. So I felt the kind of work that I am good at—staying among the tribals and working with them. You should do the work from which you gain contentment.

LR: How did you convince him?

SA: So I talked to him and asked him to allow me to work from Dang. He liked me a lot, so he ended up saying yes.

LR: So how did you talk to him?

SA: Hindi. He was not originally from Kerala. He had come there from Burma.

Later after seeing my work in Dang he told me, “I was a little upset with you when you told me that you wanted to go and work from Dang. I felt that your work will be limited to one area and won’t be as effective as if you had looked after all-India. But what you have done in Dang will be an example for the nation." He was like an elder in the family to me.

Please make time. It will take you one month to see the place.

LR: One month?

SA: I am so happy about the work at Andaman. Man me bahut santhushti hain. (There is a feeling of contentment in my mind when I think of it.) You have to go to the interiors to see the effect of my work. You should make time, it will only take you a month.

LR: Can you tell me some story of Andaman that makes you very happy?

SA: But that will make this very long.

LR: That’s fine with me.

SA: Okay so you have listened to everything from the Dangs. So you'd like to listen to this part more?

LR: Yes.

SA: I will have to tell you about the Andamans first. Andaman has 400 islands, of it almost in 30 islands people live, others are just filled with forest. It is 50 km from Burma and Indonesia. When the British came in they settled in Nicobar and converted all the people into Christians, who followed the British church, Protestants. Andaman is populated by Jarawa, who still live naked; Dongi, who until recently lived naked; and Andamani – 3 types. Nicobar also has 3 main tribes.

[...]

LR: So you met all the tribals?

SA: Jarawa live in jungle. We cannot go there. They will shoot us with arrows. They hunt and eat. We cannot go. Nowadays there are efforts to bring them into the mainstream.

When the British came to the islands they found these vast unoccupied lands and thought that they should put it to some use. When the Christian missionaries went to these places they were successful in converting almost all Nicobaris into Christians. But the Andamani people lived in jungles and the British were not able to make contact with them.

During the independence movement they used Andaman for their cellular jail. After independence, the Indian government felt that they should put all the land to some use. So they thought of clearing the forests and settling the refugees from Bangladesh into the place. So they started clearing the jungles and building infrastructure in the big islands.

All the development work needed workers. They brought in labourers in thousands from Ranchi—mainly adivasis. But the right to bring these people were given to Christian missionaries. So they brought in all Christians to build the city of Port Blair—to develop all the areas around the cellular jail.

[...]

The community name became Ranchi—because almost all the people were brought in from Ranchi and the places around. Chhattisgarh, Jashpur, and the places nearby. To do the rest of the work—they had to find more people. Businessmen to set up shops came from Tamil Nadu, police and teachers came from UP, people to work in offices came from Kerala, farmers came from Bengal.

Jagdev ji is from Oraon, Ranchi. Some people from those places who were Hindus, started telling their neighbours to tell their pastors that they are Christian so that they could go to the Andamans for work. If the pastors ask for your name, say Johnson or anything similar. They are Hindus, even the pastors know they are Hindus but take them along, thinking that even if they don’t become Christians staying in a Christian colony, at least their children will become Christians. So when these people would return to Ranchi during their vacations they came to know that there was an organisation working among the Hindu tribals, called Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and then came and visited us. They said that when someone was born in their community or someone died or any other functions the pastor would come in to perform the ceremonies. So they requested us to send someone saying that otherwise our community would not be able to exist. So at that time Bhaskaran ji and Jagdev Ram ji decided to send me. Yeh kaam kathin hain. (This work is difficult.)

LR: Bahut hi kathin hoga. (It must be very difficult.) How did you manage to work there?

SA: Jagdev ji went there once and named a committee for name’s sake with some people and came back. By the time I went there was no place, no people to work with.

When I got out of the bus I had decided that I will not go to the place where Bengalis live. Because once you end up with your community you will not be able to work with others.

LR: Kyon?

SA: If I meet the Bengali community then the meeting with the tribals won’t work.

LR: So you wear the same clothes when you went?

SA: Yes, in the same clothes. I asked for the Ranchi basti, so then a person told me that he was also going to Ranchi. Asked me where I am from; I said Jashpur. Immediately a rapport was built between us. He asked me my purpose of visit and I said I am here to propagate Hinduism. He took me to the village. Then he said that everyone there was Christian, he said all the children go to church, there were churches everywhere. When I asked whether all the old people got to church, they said there are some who don’t go to church. So I went and met them. They told me openly that they changed their names and became Christians, but don’t go to church. Pastors don’t force them to become Christians because they know that their children will be Christians and go to church.

I know the names of the festivals, their dances how they are performed, but don’t know to read. So I asked them do you celebrate Jitiya, [unclear]. They said they don’t celebrate, told me that in their hearts they want to celebrate, but their children are all Christians. So I started meeting, one by one, such people and opening conversations. They said they wanted to keep the traditions alive—the festivals, the dance. So I said that is what my work is. I wanted some people to work on this—girls are the best to do this work. So I said give me some girls, I will take them to Jashpur where the ashram is — would teach them dance, bhajans. They will also start believing in Hanuman. In just 2-3 months, I got 6 girls. So I first contacted the Vivekananda Kendra at Kanyakumari. There was a Vivekananda school in Port Blair, I sent the girls through them to train them in bhajan singing. Then I took them to Jashpur, then taught them our culture in 3 months time.

LR: Kya kya sikhaya? (What were they taught?)

SA: Sab sikhaya. (They were taught everything.) Vivekananda’s training of bhajans is great. They train the same way that the Christian pastors do with their songs.

LR: Can you remember some bhajan from this?

SA: No. God has given me a very bad throat – I can never sing.

LR: Could you quote some lines from the bhajan for me?

SA: No I don’t remember any. You can get the book with bhajans from the Vivekananda centre.

When these girls returned, we started visiting the villages one by one, and the people who had not yet become Christians started coming forward and saying that this is our culture and started telling their children that what they were doing so far was not their culture. Slowly these bhajans started spreading from one house to another. The hidden Hindus started coming out.

Then I concentrated on little children. Slowly we started training even younger kids for bhajans — the kids in class 3-4. We married off the girls, as I am a saint and it was not proper to roam around with unmarried girls. We had our Hindu culture and could not do it like the Christian missions. So we asked these girls to train the kids. In every village we made groups of 6 to 7 kids. So I told them that these kids will need temples. The people used to call me “Hindu father”. So they said okay for the Hindu church. They made a prayer hall like that of the church – so that everyone could sit together and pray. This was not like our temples, with the idol of the deity. Everything was done in the Christian way. This was a new learning experience for me.

LR: Did the Christian missionaries not stop you from working?

SA: I will tell you about this also, but later.

I used to roam through the villages like a sadhu. Bus, boat and then I used to walk on foot mainly. The leeches would bite me.

LR: Did you have a vehicle to travel?

SA: Bus and boats were the other means of transport. 2-3 hours on boat would be the travel time between villages. Like how you have it in Kerala. There were leeches all over.

LR: You must have been bitten by them many times?

SA: Yes. But it felt so nice to work with them [the people]. The kind of respect they gave me.

So then we appointed a poojari for the temple purposes. So on day one the poojari came with a register and drew a list of the people in the village who were Hindus. I got to learn from them, how the Christian community organised themselves – because the tribals followed the same for the temple too. Like a church, they insisted that everyone who was Hindu had to come to the temple. All the committees were formed by tribals. In Port Blair the committee president was Damodaran, and the secretary was Bishnu Pada Ray from Bengal. We used to take him around all the places. Then his eyes were on politics; so I told him it’s good for you to go to politics.

LR: So you made him [Ray] an MP?

SA: No no not me. I felt that it would be good for him to be in politics. Unko bataya ki politics mein aaye toh bhi apna hi kaam hain. (I told him, if you join politics, you can still do our work.)

He came to Delhi, met Vajpayee and then became a BJP member and he is now the MP. Being in politics is also our work, so I thought it was good for him to go into politics. I went to Andaman in ’88. He did lose elections once in between, but now is back as an MP.

He just came to meet me. Six months back when the Lok Sabha was on. So he told me that I should not let anyone know about this.

LR: But why is everyone so afraid of letting others know that they are meeting you? Malegaon blast mein kahi bhi aapka naam nahin hain, phir bhi? (Your name is nowhere in the Malegaon blast, and still?)

SA: Yes, true my name does not even appear in it.

So you know what happened in Malegaon no? I am not anywhere in the chargesheet. They knew that Sunil Joshi used to come to the ashram. He was absconding in connection to a murder case in MP. So I told him come to my ashram and stay comfortably. At that point Pragya was involved in the matters of the ashram and used to come often. Sunil Joshi did all the planning, main wahi hain. (He’s the main). Then he was murdered.

LR: Pragya ji aur Sunil Joshi kaafi — unka acchha parichay tha (they were well-acquainted with each other)?

Parichay — koi koi bolte thhe unke bare mein. Par maine nahi dekha. (Acquaintance — some people said so, but I didn’t see anything.) Both used to stay together. It felt good to see them work together.

LR: Please tell me something about Pragya.

SA: Pragya was a full time ABVP member from Bhopal—then she was not a swamini—and came to hear about me. Then she contacted someone and said she wanted to meet me, and then came to meet me in Dang. She later took sanyas.

LR: Was she influenced by you to take sanyas?

SA: She asked me whether I can give her diksha. No, no not by me. I told her that I am not fit to give her sanyaas. Layak nahin hoon main. Kabhi layak banoon tab tak aap intezaar mat karna. (I am hardly worthy. Don’t wait for a time at which I may become so.)

LR: Kyon? Aap layak kyon nahi hain? (Why do you say you are unworthy?)

SA: I don’t work as per the tradition of the sanyasi. It is not my job to start an ashram and live like a sanyasi. I live and work among tribals — that is my mission. Swamiji alag pehchan hain. (Swamiji’s identity is a different one.)

LR: Were there more people like you in VKA?

SA: Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is not for sants (saints).

I used to be involved in the RSS from the time I was a kid. It was the people who went and told Bhaskaran ji that an RSS worker was living as a saint in the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, and he then designated me for the work in Andamans.

LR: Why did you become a sanyasi and not a pracharak then?

SA: So now you want me to leave the Andaman story and tell you about this?

LR: Yes please, but answer it in short for me. I don’t know how much time I have left.

SA: Ok then.

My father Bibhutibhushan Sarkar was a freedom fighter and Gandhian from Kamarpukur. My father wanted me to become a saint with the Ramakrishna Mission, and even I wanted to join. We were very poor, but did our studies well. There was no work, no farming. When I went to Bardhaman to do MSc, then I asked my brother whether he wanted to write for MBBS. I was taking care of my expenses by doing tuitions, same with my brother.

We were very influenced by the pracharaks, chief among them was Basant Rao Bhatt from Nagpur. I was more involved with the Mission’s work. Under Ramakrishna Mission, every religion was equal. We used to celebrate Christmas, Eid, so I used to do the same. Once an RSS local Pracharak at the time, Vijay Adya [Bijoy Adya], told me that Swami Vivekananda has said somewhere that when a Hindu becomes a Muslim or Christian, it is not that one member has decreased, the right meaning of it is that one new enemy of the Hindus has been born. It was a huge shock to me. I said it is not possible that Swami Vivekananda would say such a thing, but then he said that Vivekananda did. In my house there were many books of Vivekanda’s. And then it was pointed out to me that the line was in one of his speeches. Bahut jhatka laga ki shatru ban gaya. Ek dum aakhri baat hain na? (It was a huge shock to me. They have become our enemy. That is like the end of the discussion, right?) I gave it a thought for the next few days. Then I realised that it is not in our capacity to fully analyse Vivekananda’s thoughts, but since he has said it I will follow it zindagi bhar (all my life). Unke baat pe koyi avishwas nahi hain. Dhoondhna nahin hain ki kyon bola hain. (There is no question of doubting his words. I don’t have to question why he said a particular thing.) Whatever he had said is right. I will base my life on his teaching and sayings. Zindagi bhar yahi karenge. (I would do this all my life.)

LR: But did you have any experience that made you feel that these people can never be our friends, that they are all our enemies?

SA: No, I never had any experience that made me think that people from other religions are our enemy. I was always involved with Ramakrishna Mission before, so I never had any such moment.

Vivekananda has also said that if you could teach even one illiterate person two words, then you will find mukti (enlightenment). So I thought this will be the two main things in my life. I will also live with the adivasis and teach them, and will also take care of the fact that no more enemies of Hindus are born, and if anyone has converted then to bring them back to Hinduism. Before I took sanyas I had worked under Basant Rao Bhatt in Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram.

LR: When?

SA: In the end time last days of ’77 – the Emergency days.

Swami Paramanand [whom] I met from Burdwan had also influenced me and I took sanyas from him. I told everyone at home I have completed MSc and taken a job, but now I wanted to take sanyas. Everyone was happy – father, mother and brothers.

LR: Why Paramanand ji?

SA: Paramanand ji used to follow Ramakrishna’s thoughts, but his work was mainly with Dalits and he also used to do the work of propagation of religion. I had by then mentally distanced myself from the Mission because of the words of Vivekananda.

I was always in touch with Basant Rao ji. I was very attached to him.

When we used to go to RSS shakha, we were kids then, once my father said: look, I am a Gandhian and Gandhi is god. Seeing him we left our studies and joined the freedom movement and could complete my studies. After we won independence we didn’t want to join politics as per his vision. And thus we ended up with no jobs and money. [My father told us] RSS is not a good organisation, I will not force you. Even I left the house on the basis of an ideology, so I know that you will also be influenced by ideologies. I was happy when you all became followers of the Mission, but now that all 7 brothers are going to RSS it is my duty to warn you about it. It is not a good organisation since they killed Gandhiji. I will not stop you, you all can continue going, but you should never introduce me to any RSS worker.

LR: So what did you reply?

SA: Kuch nahi. Theek hain. (Nothing. It’s fine.)

The RSS workers used to come home, chat with mother, have food with us. But never talked to father. 2-3 years after, once father asked us: the Basant Rao who comes home – who is he? So we told him that he is an RSS pracharak. He asked, what is a pracharak? We told him. Also that he was an MA pass (older than us brothers), who left his studies, came to Bengal, learnt our language. He used to come home, used to touch his feet and say pranaam and then move away.

Father asked us how many people in the RSS are like Basant. We told him “sabhi aise hain” (they are all like that).  He said that “Basant ko dekhne se nahi lagta ki yeh sangathan kharab ho sakte hain” (Having seen Basant it doesn’t seem like this organisation could be bad.) [Laughs]

Our father’s mentality towards the RSS people had changed by then. We also became part of the shakha. Basant used to stay in the Kolkata karyalaya of RSS. Do go and meet Vijay Adya and Basant Rao Bhatt – people who changed my outlook.

LR: Can you give me their numbers?

SA: You go to the Kolkata RSS office and you can get all their contacts. They are the people who changed my complete outlook to life. I thought I will go to the Mission, be a saint; [that] was what I dreamed. But then it changed.

In the Bengal ashram, my work was noticed, and then they referred to Andamans. So now I think I have told you everything about myself.

LR: No no no. You have to tell me more about Andaman.

SA: But all my personal life is done. Okay? You got to know the turning point in my life.

LR: Yes. So tell me how it was when you met Pragya.

SA: Pragya has a personality. Ladke jaise, chote chote baal the. (She had short hair, like a boy’s). She used to wear shirt and pants.

LR: So what did you address her as?

SA: Pragyaji.

LR: And how did she address you?

SA: Swamiji.

Once when I was in Bhopal in the mid ’90s, I was at the house of Sushilaji of the VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] and Pragya was also there to meet her. The aggressive person that she was, the Hinduism that she spoke of, her dressing was something that I remembered her for.

LR: So what was it about her speech that impressed you?

SA: No at that point we didn’t talk much. Someone introduced us and told her that this is Aseemanand of Vanvasi Ashram. Then later when I heard she was coming to Dang to meet me, I thought that she must have remembered me. But she didn’t and I reminded her of our earlier meeting and told her, my dressing is such that you should have remembered me. It has been 3-4 years since that meeting and she had forgotten it.

LR: So who was there with her when you met her first?

SA: When she first came to Dang she was alone.

LR: So who arranged for this meeting?

SA: It was Jayanti bhai of Navsari who had arranged for our meeting. You should not meet him. He was a trustee of the Dang temple. He became anti-Modi, went to the Keshubhai team. So we all have distanced ourselves from the people.

When my conversion stories made national news and when Sonia Gandhi flew down to make speeches against me, there was a lot of discussion about me in the media. Then Advaniji was the home minister and asked Keshubhai to rein me in. Then he started stopping us from work and even arresting my people.

Then, Keshubhai left and Narendra bhai came into power. Even before he became CM, Narendra bhai used to come and meet me and he told me, “I know that Keshubhai is troubling you. He will soon be out of power and I will become the CM. Phir aapka kaam hum karenge. (Then, I will do your work.)”

I didn’t want to drag any of their names in when I was arrested. Even I had no role in the crimes. The only thing was that I know Joshi and Pragya ji. Woh alag vishay hain. (That’s a different matter.)

In Andaman, slowly one after another temples were slowly built. My main work was to tour these villages, sit through the night at their bhajans. They also performed the adivasi dances. And then go to another village on foot. There was one jeep in Port Blair but it was of no use for me.

The Christians started to reconvert. The Hindus used to say, when your priest comes we have to get chicken and eggs ready, but when our priest comes all he needs is rice and dal. They used to come to the temple, mark their attendance in the register, do bhajans all day, and then would give me rice and money. They are used to giving it to the Christian priest. I asked them to keep the rice and money in one place and use the money to build a temple, and use the rice to cook when they had people from the nearby villages over for bhajans. Slowly Christians also started converting to Hinduism. The work was so good that we even got a BJP MP elected from the place.

LR: But you did the same in Dang. You succeeded in getting a BJP person elected.

SA: Par woh ab hat gaye. (He has been removed, though.) Presently it is not with BJP.

LR: They were saying that from the time you left, all the work has come to a halt.

Hamari galti hain. Theek se bana nahi paye hum. (It is my fault that I didn’t build it properly.)

LR: It’s not your fault. There was no one to further your work. So now we are done with Andaman. Tell me about Dang.

SA: … Sabke ghar ghar me Hanuman ke photo hain. Kaise badlav kiya. (Everyone’s house had a photo of Hanuman. What a change that was.) In every village, Hanuman Jayanti, Shivratri samooh mein manate hain (used to be celebrated together). There was a spot where the river would meet the sea. We had the idea to celebrate a festival there. Every year there would be a mela there. Dang was a very small area, but in Andaman the whole state was changed by me. When they saw my temples, all the Hindus were very happy. The Tamilians, people from Kerala and from UP — police and teachers. Police and teachers helped me a lot. But I never stayed anywhere other than with the Ranchi people. It was only after 2 years that the Bengali crowd found out, the swami who is from Ranchi also knows Bengali! Even then they didn’t realise that I am from Bengal.

LR: Another question for you. You knew that being with Sunil Joshi and Pragya could cause problems for you later?

SA: Isme to samasya koi nahi hain. Kya samasya? (This is not a problem. What problem?) I told them I have my sphere of work. I won’t do any other work. You can do that. Yeh kaam galat nahin hain, achcha hain. Jo kar raha hain woh karna hi chahiye. Mandir pe jo akraman ho raha hain uska badla lena hi chahiye. Aap log karo. Toh woh log karne laga. Ashram ek kendra ban gaya iske liye. (This work is not wrong, it’s good. Whatever you are doing, that is important. We should avenge the attacks on the temples. You all can do it. So then they started doing it. And my ashram became the centre for this.)

Sonia Gandhi jaante the ki ham poore desh mein ghoomne lage.  (Sonia Gandhi knew that I was roaming all around India.)

[audio unclear]

Wherever there were Christians I used to roam all those places. To sabke nazar mein tha hi yeh ek hi vyakti hain, Christian ke virodh main. Mujhe uthane ka mauka mil gaya, toh utha liya. (So I was being watched by all, that this was a person against Christians. When they got the first chance to arrest me they did.) Everyone knows that I am not involved in this, that is why my name is not in Malegaon. But they also wanted to stop my work in some way.

[…]

LR: Now that everyone is behind the bars how does the work that Joshi/Pragya planned go forward?

SA: Ho jayega, samay par ho jayega. (It will happen. It will happen on time.)

LR: Sandeep hain bahar, hain na? (Sandeep is outside, isn’t he?)

SA: Samay badal jayega. Hamesha toh ek hi samay nahi rahta. (The times will change. The time doesn’t stay the same always.)

LR: How did you meet Bharat bhai [Rateshwar]?

SA: Bharat bhai used to stay in Toronto, Canada, also worked in an Arab country. He is from Sindh colony from Maharashtra. He used to know Sunil Joshi. He has a daughter in Valsad. And then he got involved in our work.

LR: So he was closer to Sunil Joshi than to you?

SA: Yes.

LR: But he used to stay with you?

SA: Who?

LR: Bharat bhai?

SA: No, he had his own house and family in Valsad.

LR: So this Sunil Joshi didn’t have anyone?

SA: He was a pracharak.

LR: So how long did he stay with you when he was hiding?

SA: One year before his murder Joshi had started staying in my ashram. It was his centre. He was murdered in Dewas, when he went there on a short visit. He was supposed to come back to the ashram, but news came that he was murdered. He was staying in my ashram. My ashram was the centre.

But I want to tell you something from this. This is not for outsiders. Aap toh hamare sampark mein hain. Aap se toh kuch hone vala nahi hain. (You are linked with us. Nothing will happen because of you.)

LR: Ji.

[Off-record]

[To police] Time ho gaya?

Policeman: It’s time. You should leave.

[…]

Phoolchand [Bablo] is a very good boy. The first time that I met him he was making food at the Waghai hostel. I felt he was special and so took him along. He was an adivasi, and used to travel with me a lot. He is the main person who did the re-conversions there. Logo se aise mil jaate hain. (He interacts well with people.) His father said to me that: yeh bachcha aapka hain. (This boy is yours now.) He became the organising secretary for all of Gujarat, but now he is in charge of the Shabari temple. He does good speeches, and during the peace meetings with the priest he used to give tit-for-tat replies.

LR: Can you repeat any of his dialogues?

SA: Once in a meeting called by the collector the [Christian] priests alleged that we were converting people. Then he stood up and asked them to show in the records who those Christians were. The reality is that the tribals on becoming Hindus, never changed their caste certificates as they did not want to lose the benefits.

He asked the collector why his records did not have a single Christian in Dangs. And asked the pastors “Hinduon ke beech mein aapne church kyon banake rakha hain?” (Why have you built a church among the Hindus?)

LR: Aapko bahut mante hain woh. (He respects you a lot.)

… In every village there is one worker who has brought change. Phoolchand bhai knows each one of them. They are the ones who had no political motivations, the unseen faces behind the whole movement.

LR: Yeh Janubhai sab jo hain. (Janubhai and the others)

SA: Yeh upar upar ke log hain. Man mein political bhi hain. (These were higher ups. Political-minded.) …

I haven’t even seen Surat properly. I never moved much out of Dangs. I only went to Nadiad to meet Guruji.

LR: When Shabari Kumbh was happening, you didn’t come up on stage. You and the leadership had a problem that made you angry?

SA: It was a strategy that we adopted at that time. How we should be working.

LR: Toh aap hat gaye the. (So you left.)

SA: Nahi nahi main tha wahi pe. Poora ka poora … who told you this? (No, I was there, completely.)

LR: Everyone that I met.

SA: Who everyone? Kahan ke? Dang ke? (People from where? From Dang?)

LR: Haan. You were never on stage.

SA: I was never on stage because stage pe bhaashan dene ke liye log stage pe aana tha. (Only who wanted to give a speech came on the stage.)

LR: So I was told that because during Shabari Kumbh you wanted some part of the money to also be spent on tribals, that they be brought to it. And so you were unhappy.

SA: No, no, Phoolchand won’t say that. Kaha kya? (Did he say it?)

LR: I don’t remember exactly who told me. It might be Phoolchand.

SA: Woh hamne tay kiya. Jo bade hain, sab milke tay kiya tha, ki committee banega. (We decided that. Those who were big met and decided to form a committee.)

We had a separate committee for Shabari Kumbh and for the temple.

LR: Why was there a separate committee for this?

SA: The idea of Kumbh was to bring people from all over the country to Dangs. For this the local people of Dang were not of much use. Nor was I involved in that part, because that was what we decided after our meeting. It was the committee who did everything. Sudarshanji was the head of the RSS then. I had very good relations with him. And Mohan ji Bhagwat. So we all sat and decided. It was a programme for the Sangh. RSS aur Kalyan Ashram milke kiya. (RSS and VKA did it together.)

The RSS and Kalyan Ashram’s all-India level leaders sat and decided how many people should be brought from where. That they should invite the CM. How can I do all this? Asaram Bapu came. Many other saints came. It should be someone able. How could I do this?

LR: You were quite famous then? It was only because of you that Morari Bapu came to do the Ram Katha.

SA: No no, it was because of Narayandas ji. Morari Bapu was his disciple. And when I went and told Narayandasji that I saw the place – which was pointed out to me by the adivasis — about the 3 stones at Shabari. So Morari Bapu was there in the Ashram at that time. I didn't even know him. So he told Morari Bapu, that this is Aseemanand and he works in Dangs, and has found this place that was believed to be of the Shabari mata. And you have to do Ram katha there. So Morari bapu said that because you have asked for it, let me know the time, and at whatever time that you fix, I will cancel all other programmes and come for this.

LR: He did this event for free?

SA: Yes, he came and stayed for 9 days with me. And I was very much influenced by his message.

I never went to invite Asaram Bapu and others. Who will come if I invite? It was the Sangh who extended all the invitations [during Kumbh]. Only when the Sangh calls will people come. Who will come if I call? Even the Chief Minister of MP came. Narendrabhai ki toh baat alag hain. (Narendrabhai is a different matter.) He even came when the ashram there was inaugurated. He was the new CM then.

LR: He respects you a lot?

SA: Maante matlab. Main bhi karyakarta, woh bhi karyakarta. Woh bhi pracharak thhe. Ek hi kaam karna hain. (In the sense I am a worker, so is he. We do the same work.)

LR: He is not like Keshubhai.

SA: Keshubhai ka apna vichar hain, jaisa Advani ji ka bhi apna vichar hain. (Keshubhai has his own way of thinking, so does Advani.)

Toh phir ho gaya. Aur kuch? Baad me phir. (So that’s it. What else? The rest later.)

LR: Oh its 2 [pm]!

SA: Theek hain phir. (Ok then.)

[Ends.]

 

 

 

INTERVIEW THREE: 9 JANUARY 2014, AMBALA CENTRAL JAIL, HARYANA

 

Between the second and third interviews, the journalist visited Aseemanand's family home, in West Bengal, and spoke with his family members. She also travelled to Bhopal to meet Aseemanand’s fellow conspirator, Pragya Singh Thakur. The journalist then went back to Ambala. During the third interview, Aseemanand spoke further about the bomb plot, implicating the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, and the RSS national executive council member Indresh Kumar, in the conspiracy. The claims about Mohan Bhagwat in the third interview were off-record, but they were repeated, on-record, in the fourth interview.

                                                       

LR: Namaste. I was meeting all your lawyers yesterday.

SA: You must have met them after I left. Nobody told me about you.

LR: I was there in front of you.

SA: Yes, a lot of people were there. Where did you stay last night?

LR: A hotel nearby. How are you? You have grown such a long beard. It’s been a year since I’ve seen you [since the second interview, on 22 June 2013]. People at the courtroom were calling you Asaram Bapu. So what’s the date for your next hearing?

SA: All the lawyers stay in touch with each other. Ram Kumar [an advocate] keeps track of the dates. Sabhi Sangh ke hain. (All the lawyers are from the Sangh.)

Where did you go in between?

LR: I went to Bengal. I wanted an interview with your mother. But that did not happen … She was ill and at your other brother’s place. I met your youngest brother.

SA: … Please don’t meet anyone from my home. I left it when I was very young …

Have you met Ranaji [Advocate JS Rana] before?

LR: No I have not met him. We always talk over the phone … I tried to meet Bishnu Pada Ray. But he was very upset when I mentioned your name.

SA: Upset?

LR: Yes, he was upset. He said, no no I don’t want to talk about him. So I said, okay, if you don’t want to talk about him I will not.

SA: You did not establish contact properly.

LR: No, I did introduce myself.

SA: No, you should have met him through someone. He must have thought you are a regular reporter. You should take Tulsilal’s number from Rana and then through him go to meet Ray. Then he will talk to you. If he has had the courage to come and meet me here, then he should talk to you, too.

[…]

My name as Aseemanand is not anywhere. If you have to write, then it is N Sarkar. Did you search on the net for the right spelling?

Two months back we were taken to Jaipur — me, Lokesh [Sharma] and Rajinder [another accused]. In the last 3 years they have never taken us before. They took us in the same long vehicle in which they took us to prison. But it was good. We spread out mattresses on the floor, and all the police officers were known to us.

LR: Who — the NIA?

No, the local Haryana police. Felt like a family outing. Aana jana, hotel se khana, net-wala mobile se search kar liya, Facebook, YouTube, sab dekh liye. Unme bhi likha thha mera naam Shabari Dham videos mein. (Travelled, ate in restaurants, searched the internet on a mobile phone to see Facebook, YouTube; I saw everything. My name was there, on the Shabari Dham videos.)

Aapko bata raha hun. Kisiko batata nahi. Vaise theek nahi hain … Policewallah humko achcha respect karte hain. Vajpayee ji ne jo road banaya, sardarji tha driver toh usko bataya ki thoda sa ghoomke jayenge to Gujarat hoke jayenge. (I’m telling you this. I wouldn’t tell anyone. It’s not OK … The police respect me. So I told the Sikh driver that he could take a small diversion via the road that Vajpayee built and go through Gujarat.) We went to Shabari Dham, Nadiad to meet my guruji, met all the saints there. I asked Phoolchandbhai [Singh Bablo] to come to Vyara, also Vijaybhai the MLA, and they got all the young children to assemble/visit us, and then we spent a good time and had a nice feast. It was nice, I met all the people …

My next hearing is on 18th at Jaipur, and Phoolchandbhai will be there to meet me.

LR: Okay I wanted to clarify these dates with you. CBI produced you [in court] on the 19th as per this document. So when did they actually arrest you?

SA: Isme koi gadbad nahi hain. Haridwar ashram se uthaya tha mujhe CBI ne (There’s no problem with that. They picked me up from the Haridwar ashram) and then we came to Delhi.

LR: How did you come?

SA: By road.

LR: Can you tell me about that day?

SA: Baba Ramdev’s ashram is 15 kilometres from Haridwar, and beyond that, almost 13 kilometres to Haridwar, there is a Shani Mata temple. Behind the temple was a field. I made a small house in the middle of it. I never thought that they would be able to find it. In the first months I was very cautious, didn’t keep a mobile. But in two years I moved around a lot. I got hold of a villager, told him that I don’t need any records, but will make a hut in the middle of your field; the land will remain in your name. And once I am done even the house will be yours. So then I spend money and built a badhiya kutiya (a lovely hut).

So it went on for 2 years. I used to go to Shabari Dham too, stay there alone, but no one came there looking for me [from the police]. In 2008, when Pragya was arrested, they came to Shabari … but after that no one came.

LR: So you were not at the ashram then?

SA: No, I’d stayed away for some days then. So then when no one came looking for two years I started living a very open life. I grew overconfident, and started to keep a mobile phone.

Then they found me. They were also waiting for me. I went to Shabari Dham, met guruji [the mahant of Nadiad], and then came back to the ashram at Haridwar. At night, by 11, someone rang the bell, and I thought that someone must have lost their way in the jungle. It had almost slipped my mind that [the police] were searching for me. They told me that they were from the forest department — that was a usual thing. They were all in civilian dress, CBI people. They … told me that they were from the CBI and were arresting me. I asked them what the charges were. The ASP was leading the team and behaved like a gentleman with me, and said he wanted to search. I asked: what do you want? I will give it to you. 80,000 rupees and my phone and passport I gave them. They looked at the books I was reading. When I asked what is the case in which you are arresting me, he said, the Sunil Joshi murder case.

Then they took me to Delhi. In a good vehicle. The ASP chatted izzat se (respectfully) with me. They all behaved with much respect towards me. Andar se natak kar raha hoga. Natak mein bhi achhe se rahta usne. (They might have been acting, but they acted well.) Another sant, Brahmanand, was also living in a house close to me. I knew him from long ago, so I asked him can I stay with you, and he arranged for the land. He used to eat with me and be with me all the time. He used to take care of me — was younger than me. And from Kerala. He had completed a BTech, but had gone the wrong way — used to take every kind of drug; and in Haridwar you can get charas in abundance. Sant samooh mein yeh sab hota hain, koi rok-tok nahi hain. (Saints do this freely; no one stops them.) Some swamis also do the business of this.

LR: Oh, this Brahmanand?

SA: Yes, but since he was from Kerala and also educated, he was good at mingling with people.

LR: So you didn’t have anyone else to take care of you?

SA: No, I lived alone. He was living next to my kutiya. The people of the village would also come in to help. I just wanted a place, so I didn’t mind what he was doing.

[…]

I told Brahmanand that my name was Omkaranand, and that I was from the Nadiad Santram Mandir.

In the two years I lived there I made good contact with the villagers. It wasn’t like I was there all the time. I would visit Shabari Dham also often. At the time when the new voters’ list was being issued, I got a new voter’s ID in the name of Omkaranand. I also got a ration card in the same name. […] The CBI threatened the officers who helped me get the new official records and told them they had to give statements saying that I was hiding, and making bombs here.

LR: How did you make this kutiya? Was it pucca?

The kutiya was a pucca building – two rooms with bedroom and kitchen. The food was prepared by Brahmanand. I wanted to reform him and get him away from drugs. I told him that I would build ten of the same kind of pucca buildings and we could convert them into old-age homes, and he was also interested in it.

LR: So how come you have another name, “Jiten Chatterjee”?

SA: There was another Aseemanand from Bengal, whose old name was Jiten Chatterjee. I used to see that on the internet when I was checking it. Later when my name started appearing in the news, I saw that journalists related me to the other Aseemanand, and were referring to me by the name of Jiten Chatterjee. At that point no one knew my old name. So when the CBI asked me what my original name was, I said it was not “Jiten Chatterjee”.

LR: What’s your date of birth? I shouldn’t be asking you this, but it is an important exercise here…

SA: No one remembers the real birth date. The date in my school records … [unclear] … and using that made a passport. But the date turned out to be different. None of them are true.

LR: You told me that your house was just opposite the Ramakrishna ashram.

SA: Yes.

LR: So the night that you were arrested you were brought to Delhi?

SA: On the 20th all the top officials of the CBI met me, talked to me with a lot of love and respect. No questioning. Offered me tea, coffee, food. Then they told me that I would have to go to Hyderabad, and told me that they had lied to me that they were arresting me in the Sunil Joshi case. They took me to Hyderabad in a five-seater airplane. Three CBI officers accompanied me. They took me out of the airport through a separate entrance, through which a vehicle came in to receive us and then took me to the guesthouse of the CBI at Hyderabad; and then took me to court. They didn’t do any do-numbari [trickery] at the time. The ASP and me used to sleep in the same room in separate cots. They gave me a TV, laptop and mobile — and told me that they will be busy most of the time, so I could use these in the meanwhile, but that it will keep records. I didn’t touch any of this.

LR: So how many days did you spend with the CBI there?

SA: Beech mein do din jail mein gaya, baki ke time CBI walon ke saath hi tha — bees-pachchis din. (I was jailed for two days in between, but spent the rest of the time with the CBI — about 20-25 days.)

LR: So did the confession come about?

SA: Gujarat mein main Hindutva ka kaam ke liye gaya. Aur aap ko kya main bataoon, 2002 mein jo Godhra aaya, Gujarat ke us adivasi area mein jo Mussalmano ka safaya kiya, usmein bhi main bahut active raha. Usme par main samne nahi aaya tha, isi liye me choot gaya. Adivasi area mein jo kaam kiya hain, woh direct adivasi ne hi kiya. Hum saamne nahi aaye. Abhi tak wahaan koi waapas nahi aaya. Baki sab jagah jo gaye woh waapas aaye. Yahaan pe aa hi nahin saktein. Dang mein nahi tha: par Panchmahal se leke uttar tak.

(I went to Gujarat for the work of Hindutva. Let me tell you this, in 2002, when Godhra happened, the cleansing of Muslims from the adivasi areas, I was very active in that. I didn’t reveal myself at the time, so I went free. The work done in adivasi areas was done directly by the adivasis. I did not come forward. And no one [no Muslim] has returned there so far. They’ve returned to all the other places. Here they cannot return. They weren’t in Dang, but from Panchmahal to the north.)

Sunil Joshi and me were very close.

LR: How was Joshi — in his appearance, to talk to?

SA: He had a long beard. He was a nice person, used to do a lot of bhajan-pooja. Sat from morning to evening in the Shabari mandir, while I wandered around in the jungles. We wanted to let the people know through media that we had taken badla (revenge) for what happened to the Sankat Mochan temple and other temples.

We were having discussions on this. Kya naam rakhun? Mussalman ko bhi lage ki hum Hindu log kar rahe hain. (What name to keep? The Muslims ought to know that we Hindus are doing this.)

Iska badla toh lena chahiye aur batana chahiye ki hum Hindu logon ne kiya hain. Aur isliye sanghatan ka kuch naam leke, Hindu ke saath juda hua. Aur media ko bataye ki hum Hindu logon ne badla liya, mandir ke liye badla liya. Baki jagah mein jo hua uske bare mein hum nahin soch rahe hain. Mandir mein lagaya toh badla liya hain, aura aage bhi lenge. Naam koi nahin rakh paye. Aur media ko kabhi bata bhi nahi paaye. Aur beech me Sunil guzar bhi gaya. Isliye kabhi media ko bata nahi paaye. (We had to take revenge for this; we ought to be able to say that we Hindus did this. So we wanted to give the group a name related to Hinduism, and tell the media that we Hindus took revenge; took revenge for the temple. We have thought nothing of blasts that have occurred elsewhere. But for it happening in a temple, we have taken revenge, and will take more. We kept no name. Couldn’t tell the media. Sunil died, in between, so we couldn’t tell the media.)

So when the CBI arrested me, I thought this was a good time to reveal this. I knew that I could be hanged for it. Par mera umar bhi to ho gaya (But I am old, anyway).

Hindu ki taraf se bhi koi bataye: maine kiya. Maine aur Sunil ne milke kiya. Toh maine khud bataya, kya poochna hain? (Someone should speak up for the Hindus, saying, I did this. Sunil and I did it together, so I admitted it myself, and said [to investigators], what do you want to ask?)

They kept asking, so did you do the Hyderabad blasts too? I said yes, Sunil and I did it. But then I didn’t know who went and [planted it] for Sunil. Sunil toh guzar gaya. (Sunil was already dead.) I gave the name of Sandeep [Dange] whom they have not yet arrested. I did not meet Sandeep much. Sunil used to live with me. I told Sunil that we had to blow up Hyderabad and other places. Sahi bhi hua hain, mandir mein lagaya hain toh masjid mein humnein lagaya hain. (It is only right, if they have bombed temples, that we bomb mosques.)

One policewallah who was noting this — he and I had a true friendship — told me, “Swamiji aap itna sab mat likhwaao. Phas jayenge. Mar jayenge. Phaansi milega.” (Swamiji, don’t have so much written down. You’ll be trapped. You’ll die. You will hang.) I asked him, kya taqleef hain (where’s the problem)?

Then the ASP Balaji who arrested me, and stayed with me in a room told me: “Swamiji aap aisa bolenge toh itihaas ban jayega. Baat toh par hamare paas nahi banna, court me jaake bol paayenge?” (He said, Swamiji if you will say all this, it will make history. But don’t just say this here. Will you be able to say the same in court?) I didn’t have a lawyer to advise against it. Aur mere mein bhi tab josh tha. (I was also a bit carried away then.)

At the time, I was away from lawyers and the CBI officers were also smart. So I said yes.

They brought me to Delhi. Then the judge asked me “Kya bata rahein hain aap? Yeh sab sahi hain kya? Main likh ke rakh raha hun yahan — ki aapko phaansi ho sakta hain, yeh aap ko pata hain? Yeh main aapse pooch raha hoon, aap kya jawab denge? So I said, haan main taiyyar hoon. (What are you saying? Is this the truth? I am writing this down here – that I have asked you this, whether you understand that you could be hanged for this. What is your answer to that? I said, I am ready for the consequences.) Then the Sangh’s lawyers told me, aapko hum ab bacha nahin payenge. (We can’t save you now.) Then they said that I should give a statement that I was tortured. I said write whatever you want, and I will sign it. But sahi mein torture nahin hua hain. (But in truth they didn’t torture me.)

LR: And who was your lawyer then?

SA: Sangh ne us waqt jo taey kiya woh. (Whoever the Sangh had deputed at that time.)

Now the lawyers are very worried about my confession statement. But I didn’t give anyone’s name away. The ones that I have named, they were not able to arrest. The two people I named are still absconding. I took only Sunil Joshi’s name, and then since Pragya was also under arrest, took her name, and then Bharatbhai’s.

LR: So who is this Bharat bhai?

SA: Bharat bhai was from Sindh. He was an accountant in Canada. From ’98, my name started appearing in the papers. English papers used to write against me, so the Gujarati papers were really agitated and wrote more and more in my favour: that Christians were doing a lot of wrong, and I saved Gujarat, et cetera.

Dhansukh bhai from Valsad was working in Canada; had a lot of wealth and once asked me whether I could come and meet him. He and his wife were very old. He told me, I am happy that you remade Dang, from 90 percent Christian to 90 percent Hindu. I have a lot of land near the river in Valsad, I want to donate it to your work. I said no, I don’t have any work there, so the land is of no use to me. Where I have work I will find land for it, wahaan le lenge kaise bhi karke. Mil rahe hain, toh humein nahin chahiye. Bekaar ka sardard ho jayega (I will get land somehow where I work. If it’s being offered, I don’t want it. It becomes an unnecessary headache.) I asked him, are you connected to any other organisation. He said yes, he was involved with the Ramakrishna Ashram. So I said, give it to them then. He said no; the mission doesn’t work for the Hindus.

Then he introduced me to Bharat bhai, who he said was working with him abroad and had been known to him for the past few years. Bharatbhai told me that he liked my work and wanted to leave his job in Canada and come and work with me. He said he would buy the plot next to the one offered to me, and build a house there, and then come and stay in it. I said okay, you can come. I didn’t believe he would do it. Dhansukhbhai gave it to Ramakrishna Mission and they made a Sharada ashram there. Bharatbhai, true to his word, then moved to Valsad, built a house and stayed there, and started working with me. He made a good house and a guest house with it.

He used to come to Shabari Dham a lot, and so I introduced him to Sunil Joshi, and Pragya too. So since I lived in the jungle, and this place was near a railway station and it was convenient to reach, they all used to stay there, and then come to visit me. But the CBI was not ready to believe that Bharat bhai had left everything and come to Valsad just to work with me. They said his building [was] in the town and near the railway station, and was a lonely building in the area. So you could do your work conveniently here; this was your hiding place, they alleged. So Bharatbhai was also involved in this, they said. His family is still there, he has a son who was studying in the 10th standard. Please don’t go there. The CBI has tortured the family a lot.

LR: How common or strong is this feeling of Hindutvawaad, like you, in people across India?

SA: Mujhe toh lagta hain ki hain. Agar hum theek dhang se rakhe to hain. Sab jagah toh main akele gaya. Andaman mein, Dang mein. Koi pehchaan leke nahin gaya. Humko yeh karna hain, seedhe bata dethe the, gaon mein jaake. Gaon mein jaake mandir, Hanuman ke photo dete thhe. Ghar ghar mein jaake shyaam tak logon ko ikattha karte the. Christian ke ghar toh hum jaate nahin. Dang mein Christian zyaada ho gaya. Yeh Christian ko agar Dang mein rahna hain toh Hindu banke rahna padega. Agar koi pooche ki aisa kyon, toh hum unko samjhaate nahin the. Jo virodh karte hain, woh khulla virodh kar sakte hain, lekin joh hamare saath aana chahte hain, woh aa sakte hain. Sab ke sab aate the.

(I feel that it certainly exists. If we cultivate it in the right manner, then it does. I went everywhere alone; Andaman, Dang. I took no special identity. Here’s what I want to do, I said straightforwardly, in these villages. In these villages we gave out photos of Hanuman. We went to every home, gathering people until evening fell. We did not go to Christian houses. There were too many Christians in Dang. If these Christians wanted to live in Dang, they would have to do so as Hindus. If someone asked why this was so, I did not attempt to explain. Those who wished to oppose me could do so openly, and those who wished to come along with me could come. Everyone joined me.)

LR: What is the reason that Pragya Singh and Sunil Joshi came in search for you?

SA: Pragya first came to meet me, then Sunil Joshi. They read about me when the 1998 story was written and they felt that someone was doing this from the Sangh, so we should go and visit him.

LR: When did you get the Guruji Samman?

SA: I don’t remember the correct year. The Sangh gave it. The Sangh decided that that year, they would present the Samman to me. I used to visit Andaman often. In each village, when I visited, I would leave after giving them the dates of when I would visit next. There was no other way of communicating this to them. So once I gave them a date, I had to be there on that date.

So this Guruji Samman is presented on the day of Guruji’s [MS Golwalkar’s] birthday. Bhaskaran ji told me that this year, the award is being given to me. But then I told him that I have promised the Andaman people that I will visit them on that date. If I broke that promise to receive this gift, it would be wrong. It is great that the award is in the name of Guruji, but I didn’t want to go against his teachings to receive it. And Bhaskaran ji also agreed and said, you should not break your promise. They asked me to depute someone to collect it on my behalf, and I don’t remember who I sent for it. So it is right that it was given to me, but I never went to collect it.

But then they gave me a cheque in my name, and I had decided in my younger days that I would never have a bank account. I told them, now you have given me a cheque, it would have been easier if it were cash. So then I was forced to open a bank account for a day to encash the cheque and I gave the whole money to Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram.

There is an organisation in Kolkata, Barabazaar library or so – I don’t remember – they gave me an award in the name of Vivekananda.

LR: Yes, Bijoy Adya told me about it.

SA: Oh, so you met him. Basant ji?

LR: No I went shortly after he died. In which year did you start working full time with Basant Rao Bhatt?

SA: When I went to jail during the Emergency and got out. I never went back home. I had already completed my studies, and was working part time. But when my appointment as a teacher was confirmed, I told my family that this was not my path.

LR: So when you first visited Andaman, was Basant Rao Bhatt with you?

SA: Basant Rao first went to Andaman and told the people there that I was coming. I went alone to Andaman after that.

LR: What is your caste?

SA: My caste is Hindu.

LR: Hindu?

SA: When filling up a form on the computer, the officers asks for the caste and I reply, what caste? There is no caste for me.

[…]

LR: You have so many lawyers Swamiji!

SA: Sangh ke hain. (All my lawyers are from the Sangh.) I am very surprised that you take so much effort for this.

LR: But that is the nature of my work. To meet all these people. To follow up on your case for the last two years. For every person another’s work is a thing to wonder about. I will some day write a book on you. You could, by then, come out free.

SA: Koi baat nahin. Aap likh lo koi bhi, yeh sochte hi nahin. (Not an issue. You can write what you want. No one thinks about these things anymore.)

LR: So why did you think that Sunil had a threat on his life, by Indresh ji?

SA: No no. I never said that Sunil had any threat from Indresh. 

LR: But then you did say that Indresh ji had asked you not to do this work. That this was the work of Sunil Joshi.

SA: Indresh never asked me to stay away from this work. Woh to Indresh ji ko bachaane ke liye maine kaha tha. Ulta Indresh ji humko kehte thhe. (I said that to spare Indresh ji. On the contrary, he used to tell me to do just this.)

[Much laughter and small talk with the jail staff in the room and Aseemanand.]

So what where we talking about?

LR: About Indresh ji.

SA: You should not write this. I am a violent one among the Sangh people. Have used violence to establish Hindutva — in Dangs, Andaman, Chattisgarh, Nagaland. Please don’t write it.

Mohan Bhagwat, Indresh and Sunil, they all came to meet me in Shabari Dham. We all four were sitting.

Sunil said to Bhagwat ji: dekhiye, thoda Hindu ka akraman hona hain. Sangh se jude hue log hain, jo yeh vichar rakhte hain. Jo bhi hoga hum tak hi rakhenge. Sangh se inko jodenge bhi nahin. Aap se koi madad nahi lenge. Aap adhikari hain isliye aap ko bata rahe hain. Is liye aapko bata rahein hain, ki hum log soch rahe hain. (Look, we should do some violence in the name of Hindus. There are people in the Sangh who feel so. Whatever happens, it will be between us alone. We will not link the Sangh with this. We won’t take any help from you for this. We are letting you know because you are the top officials, that we are planning to do this.)

Then Mohanji and Indresh, both said: Yeh bahut achcha hain. Zaroori hain. Sangh se nahi jodna. Sangh nahin karenge. [unclear] Hindutva ke liye bhi aisa koi hain. Sangh ka yeh vichar nahi hain. (This is great. It’s very important that it be done. But don’t link it to the Sangh. The Sangh will not do this. [unclear]. Now Hindutva has someone like this on its side. But this is not the ideology of the Sangh.)

Then they told me: Swamiji aap yeh karenge toh hum nishchint hoga. Koi galat nahi hoga. Criminalisation nahi hoga. Aap karenge toh crime karne ke liye kar rahe hain aisa nahin lagega. Ideology ke saath juda rahega. [unclear] Bahut zaruri hain yeh Hindu ke liye. Aap log karo. Aashirwad hain. Isse aage kuch bhi nahi. (If you will do this we will be at ease with this. Nothing wrong will happen then. This will not be criminalised then. If you do it then people won’t say that we committed a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for the Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings. Nothing more than that from us.)

I told them that I will leave the Kalyan Ashram for this work, and you should also not come to Shabari Dham too often. But I have no idea how this thing reached the CBI.

LR: So who told this first to the CBI?

SA: Pata nahin. (I don’t know.) That Indresh and Bhagwat used to meet me is known to them. So when they asked, I told them that Indresh ji asked us not to do this. On the contrary, Indresh ji was the one who asked me to do this. I didn’t want to get Indresh ji involved in this. Sahi bhi hain. Aashirwad diya. Isse aage kuch nahi kaha. Bas yahi kaha ki aap is kaam mein aage rahenge toh hum nishchint rahenge. (It’s the right thing too. He only gave us his blessings. Didn’t tell us anything more than this. Just said that if you do it we would be at ease with it.)

LR: But then almost two years before you were arrested these facts had reached the CBI. How?

[Silence]

LR: Pragya didn’t give any statement. Sunil was not even alive. And even then in the name of Jiten Chatterjee your statements were being printed in the paper. Was it that armyman, Purohit?

[He looks at the clock.]

LR: We have more time.

[Off-record]

SA: I stay in B-class jail. Me and Ram Kumar, the MLA.

LR: In 1999, when all this work in Dang was going on, the posters and other things that Hindu Jagran Manch had brought out, did you oversee all that work?

SA: In Dangs in 1998, we had to do protests, fights; some 200 people went to jail over this. So we couldn’t do all this Sangh’s work through the VKA. We had to make Hindu Jagran Manch for this with tribals. This Janubhai doesn’t know a thing. We made him the president. What plan of action to undertake, what to print in the pamphlets, all those decisions were taken by us. We used to do everything. Usko khali saamne rakhta tha, adivasi hain is liye. (We just put him forward as a front, because he is adivasi.) Adivasis used to do all the Sangh’s work.

Will you go to my ashram?

LR: The ashram again?

SA: Yes my kutiya. Go to Haridwar and see the house I constructed. They didn’t seal it. Go there. Visit the people around, see what happened to the building. If that other swami is there.

Thirteen kilometres to Haridwar, the Shanidev temple is there. I don’t know if it is still there, since the road was widened. The name of the village is Bahadarabad [unclear]. It’s a big village. There was another name for the small village where I lived. If you walk for a quarter kilometre, you should be able to find it …

The land belonged to one Vikram Singh. I am not sure of his name now. I am not sure if I remember his name right. Do go see how everyone is there and let me know.

LR: So in a month, you go to Panchkula and Jaipur. Where else do they take you to for hearing?

SA: We took six days to go and come to Hyderabad. In the last year I travelled almost every month to Panchkula and Jaipur. Hyderabad, I have been to only once in all these years — in November. And then I was supposed to be involved in Malegaon too — but so far haven’t heard anything about it.

LR: So what’s the story of Sunil Joshi’s murder?

SA: Someone had phoned Bharat bhai from Indore. [unclear] Whatever Sunil knew Bharat bhai knew. And whatever Bharat bhai knew, Colonel Purohit also knew.

LR: Did you have any doubts about Col. Purohit, ever?

SA: I had doubts about Purohit from the start. I asked everyone, why we are keeping relations with this man in the intelligence? What good will he do to us? And look that’s exactly what happened. He was good friends with Bharat bhai. When they arrested Purohit, he told the police that I had done everything.

LR: Will it be good for you if the government changes?

SA: Sarkar badle, to kam se kam desh ke liye theekh hoga. Hamaara kuch ho na ho. (If the government changes, at least it will be a good thing for the country, whether or not it affects me.)

LR: Did you ever meet Asaram Bapu while you were in Gujrat?

SA: Yes, he came to my ashram twice.

LR: He is also in jail now. He was very close to Modi ji, right?

SA: Asaram Bapu? I am not sure whether Modi was close to him, but he always wanted to show to everyone that he was very close to Modi. I am still unable to believe that he could do this. I knew about his son, but that he [Asaram] would do the same thing seems unbelievable. He is a natak karne wala, dhong karne wala (a trickster, a cheat) I knew, but that he could do so wrong, I didn’t.

In our programme in 2006, we made a helipad at Shabari Dham to bring all the sants … Don’t write about this either, as it’s not related to my work.

[Off-record]

SA: Which other places are you planning to visit now?

LR: I am going to Delhi now.

SA: No, not in the coming days.

LR: I have no plans yet.

SA: Do go to Andaman and meet Tulsilal.

I have told you all the things. Even about the personal matters of Bharat bhai. You can write everything now. The whole details, how they were kept for two months. Even after that we were in jail together. That’s fine, but what he did with his family is very wrong.

LR: Do you have any news about Dange and Ramji?

SA: It appeared in the paper that Dange was seen in Indore and Ramji near the Nepal border.

LR: Have you met them?

SA: I have never seen Ramji. But I have met Sandeep. In a meeting Sunil had brought Ramji, but I didn’t meet him. Sandeep was a pracharak in Indore, so he used to come and meet me often. Ramji has a family. I never asked anyone their identity, it was not right to know about them.

LR: Wasn’t Devendra Gupta a pracharak of Muzzaffarnagar?

SA: He was pracharak of Jharkhand when he was arrested.

I want to go out on parole for 10 days, so I have asked them to make a certificate, that my mother is ill. I have asked them to make arrangements for this. Make some time. Go and meet Sudhakar Dwivedi, a lawyer in Delhi of the Sangh, who is getting this done.

LR: But an undertrial won’t get parole, no?

SA: On serious grounds they do. Usually they send me with the police. I want to go without the police. You can get his [Dwivedi’s] number from Rana. Do go and ask him what he is doing for Swamiji’s parole.

LR: What time do you get your breakfast here?

SA: The B-class in which I stay has a kitchen and a cook. Lokesh stays separately here. I meet him when we go out together. We are not locked up, but they get locked up around 1. We can have whatever we want, when we want. And they lock us up late in the night. I just applied for it. The lawyers and I felt I would not be granted the B-class prison. I don’t know how they gave it to me. I always used to stay alone. Now I have to share it with this person [the MLA Ram Kumar]. He is a good person. One big room, and we have a partition in between.

I felt really good narrating the Bharat bhai episode to you.

LR: Yes I always used to wonder how all your stories got to them.

SA: They waited for two months with Bharat bhai. They [the CBI] thought that they would get as much out as possible, make the case very strong and then arrest me. Sahi mein mazboot kar liya. Humein pata hi nahi chala. Maine dekha toh sabhi baat jante hain mere baare mein. (They did indeed strengthen the case. I didn’t even realise. Then I saw they knew everything about me.) I used to call from a separate phone to Shabari Dham, but I used to talk to Bharat bhai from it. And he had been once to Haridwar to meet me. Galat ho gaya. (A mistake.) Bharatbhai ke saamne hi baithe thhe CBI wale jab main phone kar raha thha toh. (They were sitting right in front of him when I called.) So I thought I might as well tell them everything.

They promised Bharat bhai that they won’t arrest him. But after getting all the info, they arrested him.

[…]

LR: What’s the news in Sunil Joshi’s case?

SA: First Pragya was the main party in the Sunil Joshi murder case. Harshad Solanki, who was also involved, used to stay with me. Sunil Joshi used to keep Harshad Solanki and Mehul in his house. They both were wanted in the Best Bakery case. Since in Madhya Pradesh no one troubled them much, he used to take them to MP. So after Sunil’s murder, Harshad and Mehul ran away because they were living under a different name, and on enquiring, anyone would come to know of their truth in the other case.

So MP police started to doubt why they had absconded, soon after [Sunil Joshi’s] murder. So then they put the blame on Mehul and another guy Raj, who was also staying with them. Why did they murder? Because Pragya asked them to. And Raj and Mehul, who was arrested in the Jaipur case, were also charged with this. Pragya was also arrested from Bombay and brought and held in Bhopal jail. Then from Bhopal police, NIA took up the case. Then the NIA felt that Harshad had not killed him; from their investigation they surmised that it was Lokesh and Rajinder. Then they took Lokesh to MP. Lokesh is almost charged in every case and has been tortured in almost every case. The kind of torture that I have alleged in my applications, Lokesh was subjected to even more of it.

But when they took him for the Sunil Joshi murder case, they did beat and torture him a lot. They told him that his wife had told them that he has confessed to her about murdering Sunil Joshi … They said that so they would now arrest his wife, too, in the case. The man who had not been broken by all this torture was broken by this thing. Anyone will do it; when it comes to your wife you have to do this. Itna maara hain. Agar tum nahi bataoge toh patni ko layenge. 2007 mein maara hain. Aur 2013 mein woh revolver leke aaya. (How much they beat him. If you don’t tell us, we’ll bring your wife in. He was murdered in 2007. In 2013 they brought in that revolver.) It was from his brother’s house that they recovered it. Jisse murder hua hain (This was the murder weapon). Jitendra Sharma, he was an advocate and used to come here. They arrested him.

LR: Do you know why Sunil Joshi was murdered?

SA: They are making a new story about that now.

Sunil was doing some new business. So he gave Lokesh money and due to that some issues crept up between them, is the new story that they are cooking. [unclear]

Toh theek hai phir. (Okay, then.)

[Ends]

 

 

 

INTERVIEW FOUR: 17 JANUARY 2014, AMBALA CENTRAL JAIL, HARYANA

 

Because of the significance of Aseemanand’s claims about Mohan Bhagwat, The Caravan’s editors asked the journalist to return to Ambala jail to conduct a fourth interview with Aseemanand. During this interview, Aseemanand repeated his claims about Bhagwat and Kumar, and answered several other questions from the journalist. 

                                                       

Leena Reghunath: Kaise chal raha hain? Is baar kuch zyada hi jaldi aa gayi main. Ek do cheez jo humne baat ki hain last time, mujhe uspe clarification chahiye aap se. (How are things? I've come back rather soon this time. I wanted some clarifications about a couple of things we talked about the last time.)

Swamiji, this—

[The reporter shows Aseemanand a page from Organiser, which contains a picture of Aseemanand receiving the Guruji Samman. The reporter asks for clarity about the award. Aseemanand reads from the paper.]

Swami Aseemanand: There is a Jankalyan Samiti of Sangh that gave me the award earlier … This was just given once, to only one person, was a recent event.

LR: So there are two Guruji sammans?

SA: But the other one was during Bhaskara Rao’s time. It must be during 1999 or 2000. It was by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Jankalyan Samiti. RSS is not a registered organisation, but this one, its Jankalyan Samiti, is a registered organisation.

Do you know a Suresh Kulkarni?

LR: Yes.

SA: How do you know him?

LR: I have heard the name.

SA: Suresh Kulkarni, who was also based in Nashik at that time, will know more about this.

This was from Maharashtra in 2001—Balasaheb Dixit went to collect it. He was also an RSS pracharak at the VKA.

LR: What was he doing at the VKA then?

SA: He was also doing something at the shiksha vibhag (education wing) of the VKA at that point, and Nashik was his headquarters.

This was like Aseemanand and Jiten Chatterjee. [smiles]

LR: Yes, two [different] things. But this was you [collecting it] right?

SA: This was 1 lakh from Swami Vishwatheerth Maharaj ji, and the other was for Rs 50,000. So I opened an account immediately from Nashik and gave it to the Kalyan Ashram. Suresh Kulkarni knows everything. This is true. This cheque was not issued in my name, but in Shabari Dham’s name.

Is it written in there that they gave me a cheque?

LR: Yes … where is this Samiti from that gave you this award?

SA: … The Samiti—Shankar Smriti Samiti was from a family who were connected to the Sangh. They made the award in the name of their ancestors. The other one was from the Sangh, which they give out every year.

LR: No you did not remember this last time, and I was trying to remind you about it … Was this a grand programme?

SA: This one was a very huge programme. They rented a huge hall for this. I was received at the Jaipur railway station and they took a person like me out on procession from there to the hall.

LR: Did you give a speech?

SA: I gave a terrific speech too—maine kattar bol diya, hum kattar hi toh bolte hain. (I made a fanatic speech. I always speak fanatically, after all.) Murli Manohar Joshi didn’t like it.

LR: But you always talk so. So he should’ve known this.

SA: Haan. But in front everyone. Baki sabhi Sangh ke yeh pasand karte hain. Kisi ko toh bolna chahiye. Par yeh toh rajneetik he na, political hai na. (Everyone else in the Sangh likes it. Some one should be saying it but this is a political [person], no?)

LR: So what did he say?

SA: He didn’t say anything to me. But I knew from his expressions that he was uncomfortable.

LR: This is the problem with the BJP folks, that they get uncomfortable when they hear the kattarwadis (fundamentalists).

SA: But one gets votes because of that. They win because of that.

LR: Bahut sahi kaha apne. (You’re absolutely right.)

SA: Accha clarity ho gaya na aapke liye? [Now things are clarified for you, right?]

20:41

LR: Swamiji the Guruji from Nadiad, is he from the Santram Mandir?

SA: Yes, my guruji is from Santram Mandir in Nadiad.

LR: What is his name?

SA: My sanyaswala guruji (my guru at the time of my sanyas), Parmanand, was from Bengal. When I was in Gujarat for the VKA’s work, I heard everyone in Gujarat take Santram mandir’s name with a lot of respect. It is a religious organisation and throughout the day they engage in religious activities and hospitals, schools are run free. In 1984, when I first went, it was headed by Narayandas maharaj.

Narayan Das maharaj ji, unko dekh ke main bahut prabhavit ho gaya (I was very influenced by him)—his conduct and the way he used to live.

LR: So you told me last time that he lived a simple life.

SA: So, they don’t publish their photographs once they become the head. Won’t do any pracharan (preaching). Won’t go out of the temple once they become mahant (head priest). Die there. Lead such a simple life. They get a lot of money from all the NRI people. Whatever cash they get is immediately used to work for the betterment of the people. So influenced by him I started staying there. Started treating him as my Guruji. And he too used to call me as one of Santram mandir. He travels all over the country and would introduce me to everyone. He is the one who helps all my work.

When I went to Andaman after the tsunami to distribute 15 quintal medicines, it was all sponsored by Santram mandir. I went to Shabari dham and started staying there in a jhopdi (slum). [unclear] And then he died and then Ramdas maharajji became the head.

LR: Is he also close to you?

SA: Earlier when Narayandas ji was the head, at that time Ramdas guruji used to roam around with me, everywhere. Kahin bhi. (Anywhere.) When a Santram mandir sadhu is with you, whatever I say has a very different effect on the people listening. Now he is a guru and can't go out. But he used to speak very kattar. When the 10 day Ramkatha of Morari Bapu was going on he was there for all the days. [unclear]

LR: There were a lot of sants there, right?

SA: Sant bhi rehte hai, aur public bahut aata hai. (Sants also live there, and a lot of common people visit.) They work like a gurudwara, give free food.

It is very difficult to meet him in private. I can tell them, if you want to go, that such and such person will come, then he will take time out to meet you.

LR: When will you be able to tell them?

SA: When they took me to Hyderabad, we went via Santram mandir and I met everyone there. Police sab achche thhe. (The police were all very good.)

LR: Then, when you go next time, you can talk about me.

SA: I’m not sure whether next time they’ll take me in the same vehicle, with the same staff accompanying me. When I go to Jaipur, someone or other from the Santram mandir would come to meet me. I will send word with them. You should give me your number.

LR: Ranaji (JS Rana) of Jaipur has my number …

SA: Woh toh thoda samajik he. Narayanji was a very adhyaatmik person, sant jaisa hona chahiye waise thhe. Par yeh toh bada samajik hain. Aur bahut kattar bol deta hain. (He is somewhat worldly. Narayanji was very spiritual, as a sant ought to be. But the new person is very worldly indeed, and speaks very fanatically.) The earlier person would distribute whatever money he had to anyone needy who came asking. If Teresa’s people came, he would give them money, if Muslims came he would give them, too. He would say that, Hindu ke sant hain, par sant kaise hona chahiye? (I am a Hindu sant, but how [else] should a sant be?) He was exactly like that. But when Ramdasji became the mahant he put an immediate stop to all that. When the money comes from Hindus why should I give it to someone else?

Yeh bhi sahi hain unke hisaab se, woh bhi sahi he unke hisaab se. (Each is right in their own opinion.)

When the Dangs thing in the 1990’s happened, there was some violence. English newspapers started writing bad things about me, and Gujarati newspapers would write articles in my praise as a reaction. At that time I went to Santram mandir, the senior mahant had been undergoing dialysis for the previous four years. No one was allowed to meet him, but I could go. He would remain bed-ridden, so I would go and meet him often. I would touch his feet and stand aside. But this time—after the Dang violence—when I went in, he got up from his bed and did a pranaam. I was surprised. This is not in the guru tradition. He said it is not a blessing from me, but I am so happy that you have fulfilled my heart’s wish. Then I got a moral boost, that all the fights that I am taking up are not a bad thing. But he was a very secular person for the outside world!

By the time the tsunami came Ramdas maharaj ji was the adhyaksh.

LR: So how do you travel to the Andamans?

SA: When I travelled to Andaman, the first few times I went by ship. But then it is not a service that you get every day, and it takes 3 days; a lot of time is lost. So I take a flight from Chennai to Port Blair.

LR: Who sponsors the tickets?

SA: Kalyan Ashram. Even Santram mandir used to buy me tickets.

LR: Who was this Bhatiaji that you once referred to?

SA: There was a Doctor Bhatia from Agra—MBBS—who I took along with me to Andaman to treat people. He lived there for a month to treat the people in the jungles. Christians were all helping in the greater Andaman and Nicobar. So we went to help the Hindus in Little Andaman.

So have I told you the story about this?

LR: Yes yes, you told me about the way one girl ran a hospital there…

SA: We took everything with us. Medicines, chaawal, daal, nariyal, kapde, bachche ka doodh. (Rice, dal, coconuts, clothes, milk for babies.) And we went by plane. [unclear]

I had given instructions on how things should be distributed, so all the things reached there. And to the workers there I said, now you have to do the distribution. They knew what I wanted to do. But then there was a lady doctor from Chennai, a child specialist who had arrived there. Very smart, short-haired, modern lady, very slim. When she reached the administration, people directed her to me and she came and told me that she wanted to serve and I was happy.

I had told everyone how things are to be distributed.

LR: What was that?

SA: “Hindu ko dena aur Christian ko nahi dena.” (You should give to Hindus and not to Christians.) Then a Christian woman came for milk for her children. My people said no. She said that the child had not had any food for three days. She pleaded that [the child] would die if we don’t give some milk. So please give some. Then they said, go ask swamiji. I told her that what they are doing is right. You won't get any milk here. The lady doctor saw this and was furious. What are you doing, she asked me. Aap aadmi hain? Insaan hain aap? Bachcha mar rahaa hain, usme bhi aap bol rahe ho ki Christian he isliye nahi denge. Aap ye kya sewa kar rahe hain? Aap ke liye dharm pehle ho gaya? (Are you a human being? A child is dying, and even at that you say that we won't give [milk] because it is Christian. What service are you performing here? Does religion come before everything for you?)

I said, maine dharm pehle dekh liya (I did put religion first). That lady whose child was dying, why couldn't she say that she is now a Hindu? Many people were doing it there. They might be just saying it for the sake of it, but they were saying it openly and getting more supplies than the usual lot. Dharm pehle kiska ho gaya? Jiska bachcha mar raha, woh bhhi apna dharm nahi chod raha hain. Toh dharm pehla kiska ho gaya? (Who really put religion first? A person who won't even leave this faith of hers when her child is dying. So who puts religion before everything?) She said, that is right, I didn’t think like this before. I thought that I will not do seva with you, but now I will continue.

Isn't it right? When her child was dying why couldn’t she leave her religion?

LR: Ji ji … How do you maintain records of the reconverts?

SA: In 1998, we had a register that showed that in 10 days we converted 40,000 people.

In Dangs, a huge issue was how we convert this lot of people and then someone pointed us to the springs there. I used to maintain a register for all this, even in Andaman. But now I don’t know where those registers are.

I told you about Andaman. How, to construct [in] Andaman, they had to bring workers in and the pastors used to recruit and they used to bring Christians, and how even the Hindus came to pastors and claimed they were Christians. So the pastors brought them thinking that if not them, their kids will be Christians. In this way a lot of Hindus arrived at Andamans. The kids there didn’t even know what Hindus are, and the old people had also forgotten that they were Hindus …

So slowly Hindus started increasing. Now there are Hindus in every village and temple in every village.

So you know the Sheshadri of Sangh? He was one of the most venerated pracharaks.

LR: Yes. Were you very close to him?

SA: I used to go meet him. He used to say about me, that this is how a person should be. He was the one who took me all over India—Nadiad and Odisha. [unclear] I told him—rather showed him that by service we can’t stop conversion. Seva seva hai—woh alag kaam hain. (Service is service—that is a different kind of work.) It is a very easy thing to stop conversions. You do it not by service, but through dharam (religion).

LR: Can you explain this to me in a few words?

SA: Christian hamare desh mein aaye humko Christian banane ke liye, Hindu ko Christian banane ke liye. Unko malum hain ke Hinduon ko batane se ke Christian banane aaye hain toh log humko accept nahi karega, isliye bole ki hum aapki sewa karne ke liye aaya hoon. Unko maadhyam chahiye: sewa karne ke liye aaya hoon, dawai deke. Sewa ke bahane adivasi se sampark kar lete hain. Sampark karne ke maadhyam se dheere dheere adivasiyo ko ishu bana dete hain. Humko toh Christian desh me jaake Hindu banana nahi hai,  jo Hindu hain, unko kattar banana hai. Toh Hinduki sewa karne kyon jayein? Hindu ki sewa karne ke bahane se kyon jaaoon? Hum Hindu ka kaam karne ke liye aaya hoon, uske liye bahana kyon chahiye?

(Christians have come to our country to convert us into Christians, to turn Hindus into Christians. They know that if they come and tell us that we are here to convert you all into Christianity, then people won't accept them. They need a medium—so they say that we are here to serve you. By distributing medicines and using service as a medium, they make contacts with adivasis. Through this contact, they slowly turn adivasis into Christians. We are not trying to go to a Christian country and make people Hindus. We want to make the remaining Hindus fanatic. So why should we go to do service for Hindus? Why do we need to use service to Hindus as an excuse? Why should we go on the pretense of serving Hindus? We are here to do the work of Hindus, why do we need excuses for it?)

Hindu ko sangathit hona hain, agar Hindu log sangathit ho jata hain to Christian log apne aap khatam ho jaata hain. Humein maadhyam kyon chahiye phir? Videsh mein to Christian ke beech mein kaam karne toh nahi ja rahe hain na. Christian ko Hindu karna, ye bhi mera uttam lakshya nahi hain. Mera uttam lakshya hain jo Hindu bachche hain unko sangathit karna hain. Unko sangathit karenge to dharm ke maadhyam se hi karenge. Seva ke madhyam se karenge to unko bhi bhramit hoga. Hindu ban jayenge tho baki ke Christian ko apne aap Hindu kar lenge. Aur hum Christian ko bolte hain ki aap sewa karte hain to dharm ki baate kyu bolte hain? Seva hi karo. Wo kaam hum bhi kyon kare? Main unka aalochana karta hoon. Woh hum bhi kyon kare? Sewa ke bahane se dharmantaran kyon karate ho? Hum dharmantaran bandh karna chahte hain. Seedhe baat karenge, Hindu ko bolenge, Hindu ikkatthe honge, baaki kaam Hindu kar lenge—yeh karke dikhaya.

(Hindus must be organised. If Hindus organise themselves, then Christians will be automatically finished. Why should we need a medium, then? We are not going to work among Christians in a foreign land, are we? It wasn’t my main aim to convert all the Christians into Hindus. My aim was to organise the Hindus remaining among them. And to organise them I wanted to use religion. If I use the medium of service they will also get carried away with it. And we always ask Christians, if you are doing service then why do you talk about religion? Just do service. Why should we be doing the same? Why should you make conversions on the pretense of service? We want to end the conversions. We will speak directly. We will tell the Hindus and then organise them. The rest, Hindus will themselves do. I proved this by actually doing it.)

Sheshadri ji ko Andaman me gaon gaon leke gaye. Hum madhyam nahin lete hain. Dharm mein hi hamara madhyam hai, seedhe dharm ki baat karte hain. Seva hai to seva karenge, seva ka madhyam leke dharmantaran ka baat nahin karenge. Dharmantaran ko rokna hai, saral kaam hain, dharm ke maarg pe chalo, jo Hindu hain, unko kattar banao. Baaki kaam Hindu kar lenge. Ye ho raha hain. Dang mein hua, Jharkhand mein hua, Assam, Nagaland mein hua aur Andaman mein hua.

(I took Sheshadriji from village to village in the Andamans. We don’t look for mediums. Religion is our medium, we talk about religion. If it’s service, we do service, we don’t use the medium of service to talk about conversion. Conversion has to be stopped; it’s simple, walk on the path of religion. Those who are Hindu, make them fanatic. The rest, Hindu will do. This is happening. Happened in Dang, in Jharkand, Assam, Nagaland, and Andaman.)

Sheshadriji used to say this to me, even Bhaskaran ji. We did a lot of service. We couldn’t do all this by doing service.

I take a challenge and enter places. One year, and then from 90 percent Christians I will turn the place into 90 percent Hindus.

LR: Oh, in the Dangs?

SA: Any place. Be it Jharkhand, Andaman, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh. Jhabua in MP. You know about it right?

LR: No you never told me.

SA: Gazab ka kaam hua Jhabua mein. (I did a great job at Jhabua.)

Jhabua, Gujarat se laga hua, Madhya Pradesh ka hissa hain. Idhar Madhya Pradesh or idhar Gujarat. Abhi to Jhabua jila 4 jila ban gaya hain. (Jhabua is a place on the border of Gujarat, a part of Madhya Pradesh. Here's MP, here's Gujarat. Now Jhabua district is divided into 4 districts.)

While I was in [unclear] I said, “To stop conversion is an easy job. You have been doing service, but you will not achieve anything. To stop conversion all you need is one year.”

Ek Sangh sewak aaye thhe Jhabua se, woh ekal vidyalaya chalata thha, maine bhashan kiya, uske baad log milne aate hain. Mere paas aaya or bola ke, “Dekhiye swami ji aapne jo bataya, baat sahi hain, 10 saal se hum gaon mein kaam kiya kuch nahi hua, aap Jhabua aayenge kya?” Main bola ki main aaunga. (A worker of the Sangh from Jhabua came to meet me. He was running an Ekal vidyalaya. When I gave my speech, after that people used to come and meet me. He came and told me, “Listen swami ji, whatever you said is right. For the last 10 years I have been working in the villages, but nothing happened. Will you come to Jhabua?” I said yes.)

LR: So when was this swami ji?

SA: Yeh 2000 ki baat hai. (This was in 2000.)

Toh 2000 mein Santram mandir mein Narayan das ji se main mila, unko bola ke mujhe Jhabua mein kaam karna hai. Dang ka toh kaam ujjwal raha. Toh bole ki, “Theek hain, kya karna hain?” Main bola ki mujhe photo dijiye Hanuman ji ka. Woh log sab Hanuman ji ko maante hain. Dharm ke madhyam se jaana hain, bada ambulance hota hain na, Tempo Traveller, ambulance bharke, Hanuman chalisa bharke chale. Jhabua jila mein ek gaon mujhe malum ho gaya thha, Amarakunj-aisa kuchch naam thha, andar hain thoda. Wahan ka Jhabua aisa jila hain ki—Dang jaisa jila nahi hain. [unclear] Jhabua mein kya hain hathyar leke ghoomte hain log, loot-paat karte hain, maar daalte hain, chheente hain. Raat ke samay, Jhabua ke andar se jaata hain, wo rasta bandh ho jata hain, police bandh kar dete hain. Jhabua shuru hota hain, wahan police rehta hain, ek saath 40-50 gaadi khada karta hain, phir aage peeche police leke, phir Jahbua cross karta hain. Gaon ke andar to ja hi nahi sakte hain. Din mein jayega to peeche se aayega or chheen lega, agar koi aadmi aise hi jayega to usko pakad lenge. Hamesha lathi leke ghoomte hain, aadmi chahe kitna bol le ki jitna hain lelo, toh bolenge ki hum mehnat karke lete hain toh pehle pitenge fir lenge, toh pitai karenge log to lootenge. [He laughs.]

(So in 2000, I met Narayandasji of Santram mandir and then told him that I wanted to work in Jhabua. Dang was by then a success. He said, alright, what needs to be done? I asked him to give me photos of Hanuman. They [the tribals] all worship the Hanuman. We should approach them using religion. I rented a huge ambulance, Tempo Traveller, filled the ambulance, filled it with Hanuman chalisa. I knew about a village in Jhabua. I think its name was Amarkunj, it was in the interiors. Jhabua is not like Dangs. People roam around with weapons there, to attack others. Then kill you and then rob you. At night, the road that passes through Jhabua is shut; the police shut it down. When [unclear] go through Jhabua, police block the way. The police wait at the point where Jhabua starts. They make 40–50 vehicles wait. Then with police guarding the front and back they cross Jhabua together. It’s impossible to travel through the village. Even in daylight if you go they will come from behind you and then rob you. If you go just like that, they will catch you. They always walk around with a lathi. Even if you plead with them to take whatever you have and leave you, they will say that we will not take anything without working hard for it. So they beat you up first and then rob you. [He laughs.])

Toh aisi jagah pe hum log gaye. Alirajpur ek jila ban gaya hai, Alirajpur ka hi ek gaon hai. Toh driver ko bola ki humko wahan le chalo. Toh ambulance thha, toh kuchch nahi hua. Main wahan pahuncha to wahan ke sarpanch ko bulaya or bola ke yeh hain, rakhna hain aur vitharan karna hain, bechna nahi. Pata chala woh Hindu hain. Gaadi chala jayega aur main yahaan ek raat aapke paas rukunga, toh checking chaalu.

(So that’s the kind of place that we went to. Alirajpur is now a district, there was a village in it. So I asked the driver to take me there. Since it was in an ambulance, we reached there safe. When I reached the place I told the village head that I have to keep things here and distribute them, we are not here to sell them. I learnt he was a Hindu. The vehicle will return, and I will stay one night with you, so the checking began.)

Chai piyenge? (Do you want some tea?)

LR: Nahi nahi, me nahi peeti. (No no. I don’t drink.)

SA: Nahin, rakh ke gaya hain. (No, he’s kept it here.)

LR: Aap ko peena hain? (Do you want to drink?)

SA: Nahin.

Main sarpanch ko bola ke gaonwalon ko bol dijiye ki kal main ghar ghar jaunga, ek din mein main 10 se 15 ghar ja sakta hoon. Agle din main ghar jaane laga, log ghar saaf karke rakha thha, pariwaar ke saath rahna, ye log bhagwan ko maante hain par photo nahin rakhtha thha, toh ye hamare liye mauka hai, to dawain leke kyon chalna, main to sabke ghar ja sakta hu, dawaai to sabke ghar nahi pahuch sakta. Dharm ke madhyam se pahuch sakta hoon, dharm ek pehchaan hai. Doctor banna, phir dharm ka baat karna ye to thagna hota hai.

(So I asked the sarpanch to let the villagers know that I would visit their houses. In a day I can go to 10 to 15 houses. The next day I started going to the houses. People had cleaned their houses, and were with their families. These people believe in gods, but don’t keep a photo. So this was a chance for us. Why go with medicines? I can reach every house. With medicines, I can’t reach every house. Through religion I can reach every house, religion is our identity. To go as a doctor and then talk about religion will be cheating.)

Ek ek pariwar dekhte hain, Hanuman ji hain ke nahi hain. Hanuman ji raksha karte hain. Bachhe ka man nahi karta hain to, ek bar poore pariwar ke saath ek bar sir jhukao, woh theek rahega. Toh logo ko lagaa ke ye to achchi baat hain. Main bola ke jahan main rahunga shaam ko, ikkattha hona, sikhayenge. Unke sath roti khaaya, daal khaaya. Andaaz ho gaya, gaaonwale batate hain ki yahaan tak ho jayega. Toh shaam ko log aaya, toh hanuman chalisa sunaya, main khud nahi gaata tha, tape cassette chalata tha, baaki un logo se bhajan karwate hain, dharm kaisa hai, Christian kya pareshaan kar rahe hain, yahi charcha karte hain.

So I go to each house, see if there is Hanuman or not. Hanuman protects. If the kids are not feeling like it, the entire family just has to bow their heads, they’ll be alright. So people began to think this was a good thing. I said wherever I am in the evening let them assemble and I will teach them. I ate dal and roti with them. I got an idea after talking to the villagers how much area I can cover in that day. So people came in the evenings, I made them listen to the Hanuman chalisa. I didn’t sing it myself, I played a tape. I’d make them sing bhajans, [talk about] what religion is, what harm the Christians are doing. We’d discuss these things.

[A young boy pushes a teacup towards the reporter.]

LR: No, no I just had one with the jailor.

SA: Nahin nahin bada achcha hain. Humko roz pilaata hain. Bada achcha hain. Abhi nikalne wala hain. (No no, he’s really good. He makes tea for me everyday. He’s really good. He will be freed soon.)

LR: Bahut achcha hain. (It’s really good.)

SA: Yeh ladka Narendra Modi ban sakta hain. (This boy can become a Narendra Modi.)

Toh RSS ko pata laga ke swami ji akele ghoom rahe hain, gao gao ghoom rahe hain. Pehchaan leke nahin jaana chahiye. Woh log pehchaan kar lenge ki main kya hoon. Unhone kaha ke ye to itna kattar hai, maar-peet karne wala hai, bataaya ki Christian aisa aisa hai, koi uth ke khada ho gaya, ki swamiji main aata hoon. Maine poocha kaha ja rahe ho? Bola ki aap jab bol rahe thhe to hum soch hi rahe thhe ki ye galat hai. Abhi tod ke athe hain.

(The RSS people came to know that Swami ji was wandering alone, wandering through the villages. You shouldn’t go with any identity. They will come to understand who I am. These people were such fanatics, they beat people up. When I said Christians are doing such and such, someone stood up and said, Swamiji, I’ll be back. I said, where are you going? He said, even as you were saying this, when you’re saying this, I’m thinking it’s wrong. Let me break it right now and come.)

[He laughs.]

The person who is currently in charge of BJP for Rajasthan, [unclear] Singh, he was then [unclear] pracharak for MP and the pranth (provincial) pracharak was Jain. They called me and asked me to come to Indore. I came to Indore on the date that they asked me to.

LR: Who all where there?

SA: All the local leaders were there. They all knew. Pranth pracharak, Bauddhik Pramukh, the local leaders.              

LR: Bhagwatji?

SA: No, only the local leaders.

RSS waalon ne poocha mere se ki Jhabua jila mein 3.5 lakh parivaar hain. Aap kab tak karenge? Main bola ki mere se jitna hota hain karenge, ek gaon mein karenge, 10 gaon mein prabhaav padta hain. 2001 January mein Jhabua mein Sudarshan ji ka karyakram tha. Mujhe tab pata nahi thha. Sanghwale bahut bechain thhe ki aayenge par log kaise jutayenge, aadiwasi log.

(The RSS people said there are 3.5 lakh families in Jhabua district. How long can you go on like this? I said I will do it as much as I can. If I do it one village, the effect is felt in 10 villages. In 2001 January, there was a program of Sudarshan in Jhabua district. I didn’t know about it then, the Sangh people were very worried about the numbers, but how will they gather so many adivasis?

LR: You have met Sudarshanji before, right?

SA: Sudarshanji was earlier the pracharak of Bengal no? He speaks good Bengali. He was really good to me. He was the closest person to me in the Sangh, from the time I was a child. At that time he was in Kolkata, later he became the sarsangchalak. I believe that he was a great sant (saint). But not an organisation person.

LR: Why?

SA: He couldn’t do anything for the organisation. Would say whatever came to his mind. His attitude was that of a saint, not as a person of the organisation. Woh toh Mohanji Bhagwat hain (Mohan Bhagwat is more like that).

Kuchch bhi ho. Vaha ke Sangh vala bechain thhe ki log kaise jutayenge.

Aatmiyata nahi hain aadivasiyo ke saath, seva karne se aatmiyata nahi banti hain. Yeh to seva karne aa rahe hain. Unke dimaag mein woh thha mere ko samajh mein nahi aaya ki kya soch ke bol rahe hain, main socha ki theek hai, hamare kaam mein interest dikha raha hain to theek hai. Woh bole, Swamiji, kitna aadmi dene se aap 3.5 lakh pariwar tak 6 mahine mein pahunch sakenge? Unka kaaryakram hi 6 mahine baad ka tha, na?

(The Sangh was very worried about how they would bring people together. There were no spiritual relations with the adivasis; that doesn’t come about with service. I didn’t understand with what objective they were thinking and saying this, but they were interested in my work so it’s fine. They said, Swamiji, with how many people can you reach 3.5 lakh families in 6 months? Their programme was after 6 months.)

LR: Achcha,achcha. [laughs] 6 mahine aur 3 lakh parivar. (6 months, and 3 lakh families.)

SA: 3.5 lakh.

LR: 3.5 lakh.

SA: Woh log Sudarshanji ko bola thha ki 2 lakh adivasi layenge, toh soche ki kaise karenge. Jitna zyaada log hoga utna jaldi ho jayega. (They had told Sudarshanji that they would bring 2 lakh adivasis to the event and were thinking about how to do it. The more the people, the faster it would happen.)

LR: Par aapke jaise baat kaun karenge? (But who will talk like you?)

SA: Training kaun denge? Main poocha kitna log de sakenge? Bole ki 2000 aadmi kar lete hain, abhi ek camp bula lete hain 15 din mein, young ladka-ladki college ka ayega, aap unko 3 din ka shivir lagaiye. Main socha kuch bhi ho, kaam toh hona hain. Main bola ki chalega ladka-ladki sab chalega. (Who’ll give training? I said how many people can you get me? They said 2000, let’s call a camp in 15 days. Young men and women from colleges will come and you hold a 3-day camp. I thought whatever it is, work has to happen. I said it works for me. Men, women, either will work for me.)

Training mein unko bataya ke kaise karna hain, woh poochte rehte thhe ki kaise karna hai, kyonki unka kaam thha, unka lakshya thha, bahut interest lete thhe. Mere ek ek vachan ko likhte thhe aur uska pustak banate thhe. Turant baantthe thhe. Main unko bataya ke gaon mein jaane ke liye taiyaar hain, bola taiyaar hai. Ek gao ko kam se kam 10 din dena padega, 10 din mein ek gaon or 20 din mein 2 gaon. (Then I trained them in how to do it. They kept on asking how we will do it, because they had to get their work done. They had an aim, so they took a lot of interest. They took down every word I said and made books of it and distributed it immediately. I asked them whether they are ready to go to the villages. They said they were. It will take a minimum of 10 days in a village, I told them. One village in 10 days. In 20 days, 2 villages.

Pehla condition hain, gaon mein jaana hain, akela jayenge. 2 kaaryakarta saath mein jayenge to 24 ghanta aapas mein baat karenge, gaon ke saath interaction hoga nahin, mahila bhi Delhi mein akela nahi ghoom sakti, toh adivasi area mein nischint ghoom sakte hain sochna hi nahi hai. Dimaag se nikaal dijiye. Jawaan ladki akela, koi bhi jayenge ladka-ladki akela jayenge, security ke liye sochna bhi nahi.

(So now you have to go to the villages. But you will go alone. If 2 workers go together, they will talk to each other for 24 hours, and they will not have any interaction with the village. A lady can’t roam around in Delhi alone. But she can do so securely in a tribal area. You won’t even have to give it a thought. Such concerns will disappear from your mind. A young woman can easily travel alone. Whoever goes—man, woman—will go alone. Don’t think about your security at all.)

LR: Toh iske beech mein kabhi kisi ke upar aakraman? (Was ever anyone attacked during any of these tours?)

SA: Nahi nahi kabhi nahi. (No, never.)

LR: Dang mein aap jab ghoom rahe thhe to Maoist log hain to aap pe kabhi koi—? (When you were touring the Dangs, an area with Maoists, were you ever—?)

SA: Koi himmat nahi kiya. Main jab bhi jahan bhi jaata hoon toh akele hi jaata hoon. Nazar nahi aata hoon, dhyaan nahi jaata hai. Jab aata hoon, toh haath se nikal jaata hoon. (Nobody ever had the guts to do it. Whenever, wherever I had gone, I travelled alone. They don’t notice me at first, they don’t pay attention. By the time they notice, I would have slipped out of their hands.)

Doosra ye thha ke gaon mein jayenge to gaon mein na toh teacher, sarpanch ya kisi bhi prabhaavi vyakti hain unke ghar mein raat nahi karni hain. Aap sochenge ki prabhaavit vyakti se sampark kardenge toh kaam aasaan ho jayega. Kyonki prabhaavit vyakti aapko prabhaavit kar dega, woh jo chaahte hain to uss hisaab se aapko guide karega. Isliye prabhaavit vyakti se sampark rakhna par aam aadmi ke saath rehna. Woh kaisa bhi ho, gareeb ho, jo bhi ho. Unse aisa baat nahi karna jis e lage ki doori dikhai de. Jaisa aap bachhe log ko school bhejte hain kya? Iska matlab aap bhejte hain, woh bhi jante hain ki aap apna bachha bhejte hain or wo bhejna chahte hain to woh sharm ho jayega, doori ban jaata hai. Yeh toh alag hi hain. Hospital kyon nahi jaate aur sab toh aisa baat bilkul nahin karna hai. Jis se doori banta hain aisi baat bilkul nahi karna. Jis baat se aap or adivasi ek hote hain woh kya baat hain, aap bhi Hindu hai wo bhi Hindu hai. Ispe charcha karna, dharm pe karna hai, Christian kya gadbad kar rahe hain. Yeh baat chhod ke dusri baat karna hi nahi hain. 10 din, jo denge kha lena. Unko lagega ki hum jaisa banaate vaisa adivasi nahi banaate hain, hum jaisa saaf-suthra karke banaate hain vaisa nahi banaate hain, to unko updesh nahi dena.

(The second thing was, when you go to a village you should not spend the night at the house of any influential person—like a teacher or a sarpanch. You might think that communicating with a very influential person might ease your work. But such a person will also influence you soon. He will guide you according to his plans. So do make contact with such influential person, but always stay with the aam aadmi—however poor or bad his situation might be. Never talk about things that will make them feel that there is a gap/distance between you and him. Like, do you send your kids to school? This means that you are sending your child to school, right? He also knows that you might be sending your kids to school and he wishes to send his kids too, so he might be embarrassed. This will create a distance between you and him. He will consider you as an outsider. Topics like why he doesn’t go to a hospital should be avoided. You should never discuss things that create distance between you. The topic that can make you and the adivasi one is that—you are Hindu and he is Hindu. Discuss this. Talk about religion. The troubles that Christians are creating. Do not discuss any other topic other than this. For 10 days, eat whatever they give you. If you feel that the adivasis do not cook food like you or do not cook it as cleanly as you would do, even then do not go to advise them.

LR: Swamiji agar woh non-veg deta hain to? (But Swamiji what if they serve you non-veg food?)

SA: Woh nahi dega. Woh janta hain. Woh kuchch bhi nahi dega usko pata hain, hum toh kisiko bhi nahi deta hain. Agar khaata hain to maangna bhi nahi. Unko updesh nahi dena, unko lagega ki unko updesh dene ke liye aaya hain, man se sochega ki kab jaye. Woh jaisa hain, woh hamara hain, Hindu hain, dharmantaran ho raha hain toh kya unko koi taqleef nahi hain. Woh toh mera taqleef hain. Woh to jaanta nahi hain Christian kya hain, Mussalaman kya hain. Hum jaante hain, Christian ban raha hain, hamara taqleef hain. Pehle VHP-wale jaate thhe, updesh deke aate thhe. Woh toh kuchch updesh karne ke liye, ghar saaf-suthra rakhne ke liye, bachche ko school bhejna chahiye. Unka udhdhar karne ke liye nahin ja raha hain, hamara kaam ke liye ja raha hain, toh ye soch ke jaana, ke udhdhar karne nahin ja rahe hain, hamaari suraksha ke liye unko jarurat hain. Toh yeh baat dhyaan mein rakhna, updesh nahi dena. Woh jaisa rakhta hain, rehta hain. Prem se rehna.

(They won’t give us. They know. They won’t give any such thing as they know, and we never give anyone. If they are eating it, don’t ask for it. Don’t give them advice, they’ll think you’ve gone just to give exhortations, they’ll think, when will they go? However they are, they are one of us. They are Hindu. Conversion is happening, so what, they should have no trouble, that’s my problem. They don’t know what’s Christian, what’s Muslim. We know. People are becoming Christian, that’s our problem. Earlier the VHP people used to go and give them advice. Advice like keep your house clean, you should send children to school. You’re not going to uplift them, we’re going for our work, so we have to go thinking that we’re not going to uplift them, we need them for our safety.)

So keep this in mind, don’t give advice, the way that they keep you, and live. Stay with love.

So I asked the Sangh to give some really good photos, good lockets and Hanuman chalisa. And a good flag so that we can identify the houses. So then in 2001 we calculated that this will cost us 1 lakh, and it will cost us Rs 50 each. And we had to do this in 6 months. And I had an idea for this. In Indore, in each mohalla we had a person of the organisation there—BJP, Sangh, VHP—either one or the other organisation was there. We called all those people and said they should go to every house there and tell them that they have to donate Rs 50 for each house. If you donate 100 we can cover 2 houses. Don’t leave a single house; raise funds for this. I have to credit them for the wonderful work that they did. All the Sangh people got into this work.

In 2001, the programme happened. And in June, the baithak happened and I reached there, and there was 6 more months to it. We had an organisation built—Jhabua Hindu Sangh. Then we did a programme. We booked a hall and the programme was my speech. Ticket Rs 10,000 for the people who get [unclear].

LR: Was this in Indore?

SA: [unclear] Audience was all the Sangh people. There was a single chair on the stage. No one will do any introductions of me. I will walk in and will sit and talk on the topic. We got some Rs 50,000 from this.

So then before the programme, I went back to the first village I had visited there. If it’s 100 km away from Jhabua, we calculated how much time will it take for us to reach there on foot. Seven days. So then we took a padayatra of seven days from that village. Each village will receive us with food and then they will also join us. The numbers will keep increasing. We walked through each village. Gather people and walk. Sleep in the village where we are at nightfall. Collect people on the way. Two lakh people. The organisers will also work with the people. So then we reached the venue. I led the people and then sat with them in the crowd. More than two lakh people.

Jhabua jila six vidhan sabha seats. Six ki six saari seats hamesha Congress ke paas rahi hain. Par pehli baar BJP ne saari six seats jeeti. Us samay mukhyamantri thhe Digvijay Singh. Is karyakram ke bahut virodh thhe. Digvijay us baar jo gaye, phir wapas nahi aaye.

(Jhabua district’s six then has 6 assembly seats, and all six seats were always with the Congress. But for the first time the BJP won all six seats. At that time Digvijay Singh was the CM. He was very opposed to this programme. After losing power that year, Digvijay Singh was never able to come back to power.)

LR : Shraddha Jagran ke chief jo bane thhe aap, toh kaunse year mein bane thhe? (In which year did you become the chief of Shraddha Jagran?)

SA: 1993.

LR: To yeh kaun appoint karta hain? (So who appoints this?)

SA: Shraddha Jagran vibhag was not there in the VKA. They just had social service departments.

Andaman mein kaam hota thha, Sheshadri ji, Bhaskara Rao-ne dekha ke itne saal se kaam hota hain. (Work used to happen in the Andamans. Sheshadri ji, Bhaskara Rao saw that work had been happening for years.)

LR: What was Sheshadriji’s post then?

SA: Sarkaryavah. Itna aasani se kaam hote hain dharm ke madhyam se? Itne saalo se seva kar rahe hain, dharm shabd use nahi kar sakte toh shradhha jagran. Ab desh mein ghoom kar is kaam ko karna hain, aap poore desh ke adivasi area mein jaiye. Andaman chhodiye.

(Sarkaryavah [a position in the RSS.] Work happens so easily through religion? Having performed service for so long, [we] can’t now use the word “dharm”; hence, “Shraddha Jagran.” Now you should travel the country to do this work, go to all the adivasi areas of the country. You have to leave Andamans.)

[A policeman comes in to chit-chat. Aseemanand asks about the Jaipur hearing. The policeman says that the court didn’t send him the warrant to produce him before the court.]

SA: Oh, a lot of people were supposed to come to meet me this time.

Policeman: You take rest today.

[Policeman leaves. We resume conversation.]

SA: You do one thing. When are you about to leave today [unclear] …

LR: So your warrant is not here.

SA: Yes, Phoolchand must have started [from Dangs]. He was supposed to meet me.

LR: That’s OK, I can call him and let him know that you are not going to be there.

[Aseemanand goes on about adivasi conversion techniques.]

SA: North-east out of Dangs was one area in which the Christian conversions were happening at an alarming pace. The people of Sangh from Surat and elsewhere in Gujarat were at a loss as to how to stop it. Ninty percent Christian in 5 years. VHP and other Sangh organisations were trying their best to stop it but had no success. Bhaskarji considered me as his own kid and so would get very angry at me. When I went with the request he said, “I don’t agree to this.” I said give me just one year and in one year I will do this. He said no. To go to a different village and stay there, to eat whatever they give with love, whatever dirt that they are living in, not to change that, not even to bring thought about that in your mind – is not an easy job. To do official works and paper works was not my [unclear] no results were coming out because of it either. […]

For the next one year none of them should come to Dangs. Because they will come to do service, and will give advice. [laughs] For one year they will let me work. Will stop all their sewa [service].

LR: Who did you say this to?

SA: I called a baithak of all the people at Navsari – all VHP people and swayam sevaks. They all knew that I am coming, so I was confidant that now something good will happen. So I told them to do the 2 things.

[…]

And so I did, by ’97 I reached and by ’98 the work was done.

LR: So was the VKA ashram at Waghai constructed after you came there?

SA: No no, the Waghai hostel – I had visited there before. Ramjibhai Rupera, the Gujarat secretary of VKA, because he is a family man. Maganbhai was the person from the Sangh then – sanghatan mantri. So I told them that I needed a place – a hostel – at Waghai, which is the entry point to Dangs, were the [unclear]

LR: Didn’t Modiji come for its inauguration?

SA: No. He didn’t.

So then I told the hostel in charge that we will take the jeep and tour all the roads of Dang – small, big. We need to understand the geography first.

LR: Achcha.

SA: It was not a day’s work. It took us 3 days to see the length and breadth of Dangs. Leaving one or two villages in Gujarat I toured all the villages and then I selected one village. I had made notes on all the villages.

LR: Did you make a routemap for yourself?

SA: No I just remembered them.

So I picked Savardakasar village in Mahal – maine dekh liya thha, chun liya tha. (I had seen it and had chosen it.) So the jeep left me there. The house next to the road, I got to know that it belonged to the Hindus. One gets to know these things.

LR: So how long did you do the tours before settling down?

SA: I roamed in a jeep, no? Took 3 days. Soon after, I had to understand their culture, their language, rahan sahan (their lifestyle). Sivaji says that you should first understand the people for whom you want to work. Do this, and then you will get to know what work you have to do. If you decide that you have to do so and so work before hand, then no work will get done.

So then I saw this house by the roadside, knew it was of Hindus. And the woman of the house was alone at that time, the husband and children were away. I was wearing saffron so then she knew I was from the Sangh. I introduced myself, said I am a sant, a swami and do dharm prachar (religious preaching). Had come to work for the Hindus. I want to stay in your house for some days. She said it was okay. In adivasi areas women are the owners of the house. She said she is happy to let me stay.

She said that there are 2 rooms in the house. In one she sleeps with her kid and the second one I could use. The husband sleeps on the cot outside. She said, “bhai” – is how you address in Gujarat and “behn” – so she said that I could stay there as her bhai. And asked me when I was moving in.

I said I have already moved in. So for 2 months I studied Dangi language. It is very different from Gujarati. So I told her that in the evening she had to call all the Hindus, especially children to the house.

So then I would also go and eat at the house of anyone who would invite me. So one by one I met all. And in 2 months time I knew everyone. In Christianity there are two divisions – Catholic and Protestant. Catholics will eat our prasad, wear our bindi. Protestants won’t do this, they are the fanatics. Catholics will go to mandir and do the nariyal (coconut) too. At that place the Protestants were more and Catholics less. Catholics do a lot of service and Protestants do only the religious conversions.

One day while staying at her house I met her niece, who was married. There was no one at home when she came visiting, and so I asked her who she was, as by then I knew everyone in the village. She said she was related to Kallubhai. And I asked how far is her village. She said it is a long route by bus. But if you walk on foot there is a direct way over the hills and it’s just 7 kilometres.

Main poocha aapke gao mein Hindu kitne, Christian kitne? Woh bola sabhi Christian hain.

Maine poocha, aap? Main bhi Christian hoon. Kaise Christian bane? Hum sab Hindu thhe, poora gaon Hindu thha. Paanch chhe saal mein sabhi Christian ban gaye or church jaane lage. Mere bagal wala Christian ban gaya. Kaise ban gaya, yeh dhyan nahi diya. Meri saas buddi hai, bimaar pad gayi hai, mere bagal wala aaya bola main kuch karun, wo ishu hain na wo sab theek kar dete hain, padre ko bulau?

(I asked her, how many Hindus and how many Christians are there in your house? She said everyone was a Christian.

I asked, you? I am also a Christian. How did you become Christian? We all were Hindus, the whole village was of Hindus. In the last 5-6 years we have all become Christians and has started going to church. My neighbour became a Christian. I didn’t pay attention to how he became one. My mother-in-law was old and fell sick. My neighbour came and asked whether she should help me? She said, there is Jesus, who can cure everyone. Shall I call a priest?)

The priest is a family man. The priest of the Catholics do not get married – father and sister. But Protestants get married, that too with the villagers. And it is with this family that they go preaching.

So then he said that there is a priest in the nearby village and he will pray to Jesus. So then my neighbour brought the priest from the nearby village and he prayed. But then she did not get well. He said I prayed but it had no effect. Do you know what the reason is?

Adivasis do not keep any photos in their house. I had to make a yojana for this and then distribute photos in every house. They take a stone [unclear] from the village and keep it in their house. It is their “dev” (god). Every house has one. So then once a year they take it to the devsthan (holy spot) and do poojas and then bring it back to their house. They believe that their dev will cure them. They believe in Hanuman too, but never keep his photo.

Phir padri bola ke tumhare ghar mein jo dev hain na uske kaaran Jesu ka kirtan nahi gaya. (Then the priest told me that it is because of the dev in my house that the prayers to Jesus was not heard.)

Dekhiye kitna bada chaal khelte hain, hazaaro saalo ke aastha ko kitna aasani se thodta hai. (See what a big game they are playing. How easily they end up breaking thousand year old beliefs!)

Toh socha saas marne wali hai, jaan toh bache. Toh dev ko janglo mein phek ke aa gaye. [unclear] Maa theek hai, baad mein phir dekh lenge. Pati prarthana mein nahi baitthe. Phir padre bola ki gaon mein jo prarthana hain usme aapko aake baithna padega. Usme bhi gaya. Padri poocha kuch din mein ke abhi tak theek nahi hua? Bola nahi. Woh isliye nahi hua kyunki abhi tak ishu ko theek se swikaar nahi kiya. Woh kya hai? Padri: baptism apnao, toh ishu ka kripa hota hain, [some person] dekho theek ho jayega. Maine baptism liya, gaon ke logo ko pata chal gaya ke main Christian ban gaya. Toh bhi theek nahi hua. Kyunki tumhara pati ne baptism nahi liya. Pati bola, maa ka toh umar ho gaya, main apna dharam kyu bechu? Mein kattar aadmi da, par jagane wala koi nahi tha. Tum le liya. Parivar me bachhe ko de diya, bahut hain. Phir ham sab Christian ho gaya tha. Church mein jaane laga. Kuch din mein saas guzar gaya. Pata chal gaya mujhe ke main thaga gaya hoon. Gaon walo ko pata chal gaya ab main Christian hoon. Alag kar diya.

(Then I thought she is about to die, at least let me try to save her. So I went and disposed the dev in the jungle. [unclear] Let mother get well first, then we will see to things. Husband doesn’t sit for the prayers. Then the priest asked me to attend the prayer service in the village. I went for that too. After some days he asked whether her condition has improved? I said no. He said that it is because I have not accepted Jesus in the right way. I asked how is it done? He said do baptism, then you will have the blessing of Jesus. [some person] recovered because of that.  I took baptism. The people of the village came to know that I have become Christian. Even then she did not recover. He said that it was because my husband has not been baptised. My husband said, mother is old anyway, why should I disown my religion? I was also a fanatic person, but there was no one to energise it.  You and our kids have become Christians, thats enough.  Then we all became Christian. We started going to church.  And in some days mother-in-law passed away. I came to realize that I have been fooled. The villagers knew that we have become Christians and so they distanced us.)

Dil se kya ho? (What are you in your heart?)

Dil se nahi hoon. Samajh gaya ke dhokha hua hai. Karun kya? Sangh mein jaana hi padtha hain. (I don’t follow [Christ] by the heart. I have realized that I have been tricked. But what can I do? I go with everyone [to the church].)

[Recounting what he asked the woman] Aap himmat karenge? Hindu ban ne ke liye? (Will you show courage to become Hindu?)

Toh sabhi log is tarah se Christian ban gaya. Church ban gaya, ab sabhi Christian hain. Bagal wala jo bachha paida hua to apang nikla.  Padri bola bada hoga theek hoga, par woh to apang hi raha. Toh dhokha hua.

(So everyone has become Christian like this. Church has been built now and so everyone is a Christian. When the neighbours kid was born handicapped, the priest said that when he grows up he will be alright. But then he remained handicapped. So they all ended up being cheated.)

Protestant wala aisa hi kartha hain. [unclear] Mujhe tab pata nahin thha ki Hindu kaise kartha hain.  (This is how the Protestants go about. [unclear] At that point I didn’t know how to convert them back into Hindus.)

Even the VHP workers had no idea about it. Some one has to come from outside and do some havan-poojan (rituals). Then I asked the elders in the village, that if you do something wrong, what would you do? They said that they would go to Unai and take a bath in the hot water springs there. So I asked that if someone has become a Christian and wants to become a Hindu, and if he goes and takes a bath in the springs will you consider him as a Hindu?

LR: Who did you ask this to?

SA: The elders in the village. Then I asked her, can I come and stay at your place for some days? I said you can give me anything that you have to eat. She said I will go into the jungles in the day to work. I said that is fine. I will be in the village with any of the kids. So I went for 7 days. And I got the photos. And slowly I started converting the villagers one by one. Then I met Phoolchandbhai – who was making food at the ashram at Waghai. And I realised that he would be of great use to me. He talks well and also sings well. I need some new people to work with me. People who have been working with the Sangh are not fit for this, as this is a new system. Then while touring the village I went to Phoolchand bhai’s house. His father was a mukhiya of a village. Phoolchand was very young then.

LR: How old was he?

SA: He had just completed 12th and then didn’t go to a college. […] So then he gave one of his sons to me. I also got a jeep at that time. I had a licence from ’86. And I had a driver from the Sangh. At that time there was no Naxal trouble there. So I roamed all over the villages. The way I have lived there no one else can live. But then his father expired. I felt bad. I looked after them as my own kids. I got his sisters married off. One of the sisters is Savitha, whom I got married to the poojari at the temple.

LR: Oh yes. You also got Phoolchand posted at some postion in the Sangh. Or was it for the VKA?

SA: Yes, first the district level and then for the Pradesh, he was a sanghatan mantri – organising secretary.

LR: Achcha, Pradesh ka sanghatan mantri.

SA: Then I went to Jarsol village. In whom-so-ever’s house I visit, I give them a photo. Then in the morning I went to take a bath in the river and saw that there is a big pond behind the river – which we call Pampa Sarovar. Isn’t it a huge thing in itself that the adivasis know about Pampa Sarovar? Then I asked more about it and they told me that it is in a nearby hill that Maa Shabri met Ram. I asked how far is it? They said it is 6 kilometres from here. Then I went through this jungles and I climbed up on this hill and then realised that there is no place like this in the whole world.

LR: Yes yes I have been there.

SA: Then I realised that this is the best place. I went and told Narayandas maharajji about this and he asked me to go and stay there in a hut and so I did it. And then I found out who owned that place Mohanti and gave 10,000. [unclear. Ends line abruptly]

Then it was the ’90s and the sangharsh [the fights] had already begun. People were converting from Christianity to Hinduism and then Soniaji, Vajpayeeji had come. At that time I was living in the house of an adivasi at the foot of the Shabri Dham.

LR: Did you ever meet Vajpayeeji?

SA: I have met him many times.

LR: What did he think about you?

SA: When I was in Andamans -  at that time, some samiti was created and he was part of it and had come along with other parliamentarians to Port Blair. The opposition leader had to be the head of that committee.

LR: Was this during the period that you were in Dangs or while you were in Andamans?

SA: Andamans. I had met him before at Sangh’s functions too and so we knew each other. So then all the BJP people went to request him for a meeting, but he said I am here on the government’s work. But then he said this, ask all BJP people to come to Swamiji’s ashram and then we can all meet there. So then we did a good programme there. The meetings also happened on the sidelines. [laughs]

1:59

LR: He didn’t do anything wrong to you, did he? Did he try to stop you?

SA: No, Advanji did. Then Keshubhai did. Advaniji had asked Keshubhi to do so. Since I had given a date to do things right? On this date, this village this church we/I will demolish.

LR: Ok you had given them a date?

SA: Yes I had. But then I didn’t break it. All the Christians became Hindus and then they would demolish the church. And one place I had told that I would myself go to demolish the church and turn it into a temple. [unclear long monologue.]

Then Advanji had asked Keshubhai what is Aseemanand doing?

[unclear part]

We went and met him and told him that you have become Hindu but on your land stands a church. Then he said that I hadn’t given the land in the name of the church. Is it your building officially? It is noted in the village records that it is my land and my building. So then I told him that in some days I will come and demolish your building. I will do it.

LR: Didn’t he say anything to it?

SA: No he had by then become a Hindu. So then I made an announcement. By then Advanji had asked Keshubhai to put an end to this programme of demolishing churches and building temples. So then I had taken a pledge. It is a forest area, so when you build anything there you have to get permission and when you demolish anything you have to get separate permission. But no one followed these rules. But I thought why not do these officially. Without letting anyone know I took the permission of the tahsildar. In his name, he gave an application saying that I want to demolish my building; there was no mention that it was a church. And the tahsildar didn’t know what the building was.

LR: What’s the name of this village?

SA: Halmuri.

LR: And on which date did this take place?

SA: I don’t remember

LR: Was it in the December of ’98?

SA: No, ’99. This was the village next to Phoolchand bhai’s house. On the day we were supposed to demolish Keshubhai put a lot of security in place. Rapid Action Force, senior police officers, ambulance was all there one day before and had surrounded the whole village. On the day before the date that we were to demolish it, the night before it, at 11, I got a phone call from the collector saying that Ashok Bhatt, the health minister of Keshubhai government is coming to meet you. We had passed Ahwa and reached Waghai. I told them that it is very late and it is my time to sleep. The collector said that he [the minister] is just here to meet you. I said no, I can’t meet him now. I will get up at 4, so I can meet him at 5. He asked where to halt the minister at the night? I said that is your problem. There was a lot of tension going on at the time. All the senior leaders of the Sangh, who were close to me, were also there at the Waghai ashram.

He then came to meet me, and told me that I need to talk to you for 2 minutes. Can we go inside to talk? I said there is no need for that. You can tell me whatever you want to say from here. It is Keshubhai’s order – if you go to demolish the church today, then our police will have to fire at you. Some days before this, on the occasion of Ganapati Visarjan…

LR: So where did this meeting happen?

SA: No, there was no meeting.

LR: Where did you meet him? At Waghai? At his guest house?

SA: No, at the Waghai hostel. They bought him to the hostel. I slept at night. In the morning the collector called to ask whether you are ready, and I said I am. So then they came for a 2-minute meeting.

LR: So you went to the hostel at night?

SA: No, I was staying at the ashram then.

LR: Oh ok

SA: What did you think? Am I not clear? Is something wrong in the way I am narrating?

LR: No no. I thought that you had gone to meet the minister.

SA: No I didn’t go. I got a call from the collector saying that he is on the way to the hostel to meet you. Will you be able to meet him? And I said no, I am sleeping.

LR: Oh! So you said no?

SA: Yes, then he asked where will I keep him and I said that is your problem. And then he asked when can I meet and then I said that I will wake up at 4 and you can come at 5.

So he said that the police has surrounded the place and if you go they will fire at you. I am here just to tell you about this. I said, this is really good news. Please inform the police that I am coming. Some days before this at the Ganapati Visarjan in Surat, Keshubhais police had fired at people and killed 10.

LR: What?

SA: Mar dala. (Killed them.) Keshubhai had asked them not to use a particular route and they used it. So this big incident had happened only a few days back. He said that you must remember that only a few days back we had to shoot at people on the Ganapati Visarjan. Maine kaha, bahut brave ke kaam karte he aap log. (I said you people are doing very brave work.) He said this is all that I had to talk to you about. I said good, please let Keshubhai also know. By that time all the reporters from Delhi were also there.

Do you have a mobile on you?

LR: No

SA: So then what is it?

LR: This is a pen and other things.

SA: Does it show the time?

LR: Yes.

SA: What is the time?

LR: 15 minutes to one.

SA: They are not taking me today [discussion on the cancelled Jaipur trip].

So then everyone was ready. All new channels were there. They wanted to enjoy how the BJP government is going to fire at me. All the new channels – Aastha and others, I don’t even know all their names as I don’t watch any. So the collector and all other top officers were there. They had decided that they will open fire. If I demolish the church they will fire. Surat’s collector, the home secretary, IAS was also there. I reached there. I had already told everyone that I will be there.

So then a media person asked: Swamiji will you do [unclear]

I said no, I am not here to do [unclear]. See this is a certificate – we have permission. This belongs to this person here. It is his personal land, and he has permission from the government to demolish.

Mein church kaha thod raha hun? Iska makan yeh thodna chahte hain, main uska madad kar raha hun. Phir unko mazaa aa gaya.

(Where are we demolishing a church? This man wants to demolish his building and I am helping him. So then they thought this was good fun.)

They went to the police officers and asked them how are you going to stop this since they have all the permissions? Then a person from Aaj Tak came. I didn’t even know what Aaj Tak was. They went and asked them how are you going to stop this? So then they came and checked and then they realised that there is no charge against us. We have already got all the permissions. The building was not named a church but marked as a personal property [in the documents]. So from that day Advaniji, Keshubhai turned very angry at me.

By that time we had taken possession of the land for Shabri Dham.

LR: Kharid liya tha? (You bought it?)

SA: Baatchit chal rahe thhe. (The talks were going on.) No one can buy the tribal land, only tribals can buy it. They can buy it but there is a long process for it.

Tab Vaipayee thhe isliye ho gaya. (Then Vajpayee was in power so it happened.) We need the centre’s permission.

LR: Did he help?

SA: No but BJP was in power so it happened. By then everyone knew what Keshubhai was doing to me.

There was a programme in Ahmedabad of the RSS. Rajju bhayya was the sarsanchalak at that time. That was the time when they were about to transfer the post of sarsangchalak to Sudarshanji. It was decided by then that Sudarshanji would be the next sarsangchalak and so Sudarshanji gave the speech. Narendrabhai was also in the camp at that time. I had met Narendrabhai 2-3 times casually before this. I was sitting alone in a corner. So Narendrabhai came near me and I said namaste. He sat next to me and said, “Keshubhai aapke saath kya kar rahe hain yeh mujhe pata hain. Swamiji aap jo kar rahe hain uska tulna nahi hain. Asli kaam aap hi kar rahe hain. Abhi tay ho raha hain ki main mukhya mantri banega. Main aa jaoon toh aapka kaam main karunga. Nishchint rahiye. Karthe rahiye.” Khud aake mila aur baatchit karke chale gaye. (I know what Keshubhai is doing to you. Swamiji there is no comparison to what you are doing. You are doing the true work. Now it is being decided that I will be the chief minister. Let me come and then I will do your work. Be free of worry. Please carry on with your work.)

LR: Was there anyone else with you at that time?

SA: No, I was alone. Advani and all others were also there at that time, but I was sitting in a corner. All others had left by then and I was alone.

LR: How many months before he became the minister did he say that?

SA: One year before.

LR: So Modiji said this to you one year before he became the minister?

SA: When I visited Dangs first this person was the minister – he had left BJP – RSS ka hi hain (he too belongs to the RSS). [Tries to remember name] Shankar Singh Waghela was the CM. Then he was removed and Keshubhai [came]. Then Narendrabhai said that he will become and by then the Shabri land was ours.

Then I told him that you should come inaugurate Shabri Dham and he said I would definitely come and so he came. So for that Morari Bapu had come. Before the temple was built and bhoomi poojan was done. In 2002.

LR: So this was after Morari Bapu’s story telling?

SA: Udhkatan hua, uske baad katha chali. (The inauguration was done and then the katha started.)

LR: So he came in his helicopter?

SA: Yes, he came by helicopter and even Morari Bapu came by his personal helicopter. There was a new helipad constructed by the government for Modi to land. Morari bapu had his personal helicopter, but was not allowed to land there.

LR: Oh, why was that so?

SA: He had to get down at the permanent helipad at Ahwa.

LR: Where in Shabhari temple was this helipad constructed?

SA: It was at 2-3 kms from the temple.

[unclear]

LR: Does Modiji come for darshan often to Shabari dham?

SA: In 2002 the temple was built and then in 2006 the Shabari Kumbh happened. Then he came and others sants came.

LR: After that didn’t he come?

SA: 2006 ke baad main isi jhanjhat mein pad gaya. (Post 2006 I got into all this trouble.)

LR: Have you ever meet Dr Vinod Prakash?

SA: I can’t remember.

LR: He and his wife Sarla Prakash used to fund a lot of VKA’s work.

SA: Where do they stay?

LR: Well they are from Canada or America. Have you never ever heard of them?

SA: I am junglee. How do I know?

LR: When during Emergency after being released from jail, you had told me that you never went back home. You were staying with Basanth, so which place were you staying?

SA: Ghar nahi gaya tha matlab, sampark mein thhe. Emergency ke baad mein vaatavaran banane ke liye humko kaam mein laya gaya thha, Basantji underground thhe. Kolkata mein kahi rehte thhe, milne jaate thhe. Jab main jail se nikla toh Basantji se sampark kiya. Basanti ji ka vaatavaran banane ke liye jagah jagah jaana, toh phir election ki taiyari kiya. 1977 mein to khatam ho gaya, Indira Gandhi ka ban khatam hua.

(I didn’t go home but I was in touch with my family then. I was working for our cause and Basantji was underground. I was staying in Kolkata and used to go and meet him. When I got out of jail, I had got in touch with Basantji. He was getting the preparations done for the next elections. In 1977 it ended and then Indira Gandhi’s ban also ended.)

LR: Woh Pranth Pracharak ban gaya nah? (He then became the Pranth Pracharak, right?)

SA: Praant pracharak thhe. Phir Kalyan Ashram unko diya gaya, toh main bhi Basantji ke sath jud gaya, aap jahan jayenge main wahan jaoonga. Aap Sangh mein rehte toh main Sangh mein, aap Ashram mein jaate toh.

(He was the Prant Pracharak then. Later when he was also given the responsibility of the VKA, I joined Basantji in his work. I told him that I will follow him wherever he went. If you are staying in the Sangh I will stay with it, and if you move to Ashram I will too.)

Us samay main purane naam se jaana jaata tha. (At that time I was known by my old name.)

LR: Kaun se naam se? (By which name?)

SA: Ghar ke naam tha. (By my original name.)

LR: Sarkar?

SA: Aur us samay bhi main guruji ke sampark mein tha, wahan bhi aana jaana tha. (But even then I used be in touch with Guruji. I used to go and meet him often.)

LR: Aap Guruji se mile? Did you ever meet Guruji [Golwalker]?

SA: No this is my Guruji. But yes, I saw Guruji once in Kolkata at a programme. I was a kid then.

LR: Sudarshanji aapke ghar aate thhe? (Did Sudarshanji ever come to your house?)

SA: Aaye hain kayi baar. (Yes, many times.) My family was working to change the image of Sangh at that time.

LR: Aapka bhai, aapke bhai koi pracharak rahe hain? (Your brother, your brother has been a pracharak, right?)

SA: Mere bade bhai rahe hain. Mujhse bada bhai. Abhi shaadi kiye hain. School ka teacher hain.  (Yes, my elder brother was once a Pracharak. Now he is married. He is a school teacher.) We all used to take tutuions then and in all this my elder brother could not become a doctor. So the younger one studied MBBS and became one. Elder brother became teacher, now is retired and has a son and daughter. He has done BTech and is working. I don’t know where he lives.

LR: Sudarshanji ne aapko Mohan Bhagwat se milvaya ya aap khud mile unse? (So did Sudarshanji introduce you to Mohan Bhagwat or did you meet him on your own?)

SA: Mohanji to us samay Prachar pramukh thhe desh ke, mere khayal se. Toh kaaryakram thha Devghar mein, toh Sangh ka koi na koi adhikari aata hain, to Prachar pramukh thhe to Mohanji aaye. (At that time Mohanji was the national level, Prachar Pramukh, I believe. There was a programme in Devgarh and someone or the other from Sangh used to come there for it. So since he was the Prachar Pramukh he came.)

And thus I met him.

Maybe I knew him before it, have met 2-3 times I guess. Bhagwat ji’s father used to work with Doctorsaheb, in a village next to Maharashtra. He used to work along with Doctorsaheb [Hedgewar] in Chandrapur. So I have been there many a times to meet him. So I used to go there for VKA’s programme and then meet him too. They had opened a Shakha.

Us samay Mohanji chotte thhe, par lag raha thha ki bade hoke kuch na kuch banege. (Mohan Bhagwat was young at that time, but we all knew that he would grow up to be someone important.)

LR: Aapko pata hai jab aap jail mein thhe, jab yeh sab chal rahe thhe toh Bhagwatji sabse zyaada aapke liye baat kar rahe thhe? (Do you know that when you were in jail, when all this was happening, Bhagwatji was the person who was speaking the most for you?)

SA: Mere jail aane ke baad? Pata nahi.  (After I came to jail? I don’t know.)

LR: Nahi? (No?)

SA: Kya bolne wale thhe? (What did he say?)

LR  Aapko pareshan na karne ke liye bole. (He asked not to trouble you.)

SA:Kis se baat ki? (Whom did he speak to?)

LR:  Manish Tewari se. (With Manish Tewari.)

SA: Acha, Mohanji? Aur Indresh ji? (Is it? Mohanji? And [what about] Indreshji?)

LR: Indreshji mujhe pata nahi hai. Indresh ji se main ek baar mili. Mujhe aisa lagta hai ki aap se gussa hain kya woh? (I don’t know about Indreshji. I met Indreshji once. I have a feeling he’s angry with you?)

SA: Humse gussa hain? Woh kya galti hua ki aapko toh sab bata diya tha na. (Angry with me? I have told you everything about the blunder that I did.)

[Silence. Searches for words.]

I have told Bharat bhai how I met Bhagwatji and Indreshji at Shabri Dham, and Bharat bhai had told everything to CBI. Also that Indreshji had met Sunil in Nagpur and given him fifty thousand rupees, Bharat bhai knew this.

LR: But then you had said in your statement that Bharat bhai was there when Indreshji gave money?

SA: Bharat bhai ne aise bataya tha. (Bharat Bhai had said so to me.)

LR: Oh so Bharat Bhai told you this?

SA: Bharat bhai told them everything beforehand, main ek bhi shabd naya nahi bola. Bharat bhai ne sab kuch pehle se bhol diya tha. (I didn’t tell them anything new. Bharat bhai had already told them about everything.)

CBI ne mujhko poocha tha. Maine dekha toh sab baat unko maloom hain. (CBI had asked me about this. I realized that they had knowledge of everything before hand.) It was later that I got to know that CBI was sitting in his house for the last 2-3 months and knew everything from him. Maine dekha toh sabhi baat jaante hain. (I realized that they [CBI] knew every detail.)

LR: But Bharat bhai didn’t go there right? You told Bharat bhai about it?

SA: About what?

LR: That Indreshji has given money? Bharat bhai didn’t witness it right?

SA: Bharatbhai had told me about this. Sunil had gone with Pragya to Nagpur. Sunil had taken Bharat bhai along with him and in front of him Indresh had given Sunil money – in front of him. Bharat bhai had come back and told me about this. Bharatbhai told the same thing to CBI too. CBI then told me that, Bharat bhai had told you that when they both were there Indreshji gave fifty thousand rupees. So when they already knew everything what could I do?

So then Mohan ji told me that, “Aap kaam kar sakte hain” (You can do this).  Indresh told me “Aap kaam kar sakte hain. Sunil ko leke aap kaam kar sakte hain. Par hum log nahin rahenge. Aap hain toh hum log aap ke saath hain yeh aap maan lena. Aap jo karenge galat nahi hoga. Disha theek rahega.” (You can do this. You can do this with Sunil. But we won’t be a part of it. If you are there, believe that we too are with you. What you are going to do will not be wrong. The course will be right.)

This I had told Bharat and Bharat had told this to the CBI. I was surprised how the CBI got to know all these things. That only me, Sunil, Bhagwat ji and Indresh had met in a camp at the Shabari Dham. Yeh yeh baat hua tha (the things we had talked about),

LR: This was before the Shabri Kumbh right?

SA: Usse pehle. (Before that.)

LR: There was some national executive of RSS then?

SA: Yes at that time.

LR: 2006?

SA: Yes 2006. Surat se. 2005 mein - Diwali ke aas paas. (In 2005, [this happened] close to Diwali.)

LR: Diwali ke aas paas.

SA: It was very surprising to me. At that point I didn’t know that the CBI was sitting at [Bharat’s] home. I thought, fine. I will try and keep Indresh ji out of this as much as possible.

Indresh ji bola, karenge karenge. Par maine kaha ki Indresh ji ne humko roka. (Indresh ji said we’ll do it, we’ll do it. But I said that Indresh ji stopped us.) They knew everything. But whatever little bit I did it from my end.

Indresh ji bola karne ke liye. Par hum naam kyon le? Apne pe naam le lete hain. (Indresh told us to do it. But why should I take his name? I’ll take it upon myself.) The police asked me why you did it when Indresh asked you not to. So I said he is from the Sangh and I am not part of the Sangh. I am from the VKA. Even when the Kalyan Ashram heads ask me to do specific things, I don’t do it. I do things according to my wish.

[unclear part]

CBI knew that Sunil had left Shabri Dham before his death. Unko patha tha ki Sunil ne bomb se udaya tha. Maloom tha. Bharat bhai ne sab bataa diya tha. (They knew that Sunil had done all the bomb blasts. The CBI knew everything. Bharat bhai had told them about everything.)

Then they told me that since Sunil knew about Indresh, you had told him that he has threat to his life from Indresh. I said, no. What you are saying? This is wrong.

Yeh sahi main galat baat hain. Maine Sunil ko poocha. (This was a truly a wrong statement. I had asked Sunil.)

So what happened was that when the Ajmer blast happened I asked Sunil who all were there with him? He said it was two Muslim boys. This is in my confession.

LR: Yes it is.

SA: Two Muslim boys. I asked where the Muslims boys came from and he said Indresh was heading an organisation and had given him the Muslim boys. Dekhiye aapne mussalman se kaam karvaya hain. Aur mussalman kabhi sahi nahi hote. (Look you have made Muslims work for you and they are never good to deal with.)

When they know about you, they will try to finish you. I had told Sunil that he has to be careful about the Muslims. That you have taken their help and that is wrong. They will try to murder you. Aur aise hi hua. Maara na? Mussalman ne hi maara hoga. (And that’s exactly what happened. Murdered him, right? It must be the Muslims who killed him.)

So this is what I told him. I never said he had threat from Indresh, all I said is that since Indresh gave him Muslims, he has a threat from those Muslims. So that is how the parts about Indreshji came in my statements. In whatever way I could save him I did. But then Bharatbhai had already told CBI everything about him. So I couldn’t do much.

LR: So this murder of Sunil Joshi – did Muslims do it? Didn’t Mehul and others do it?

SA: I had told you about Mehul and Raj. When Sunil was murdered they knew that police would enquire about all living there and then the police may come to know that they are absconding from the Best Bakery case and they would end up being arrested. So they ran away and the police thought they have committed it [Sunil’s murder]. So till the time the case was with ATS, they blamed Mehul and Raj for this. Mehul was not arrested then, but Raj was under arrest. [unclear]

So they said that unless you admit to this we will not stop torturing you. So then this became ATS’s chargesheet. Then NIA took over the case. They had from the start said that what ATS was doing was wrong. Then ATS took them on remand. They doubted that Raj and Mehul did do it. They ran away just to escape arrest. When the case came to NIA – Mehul was arrested in Ajmer case. NIA’s charge sheet doesn’t have his name. [Corrects himself] No, the chargesheet is not out yet, it will come soon, and now the case is now that Lokesh killed Sunil. They tortured Lokesh a lot, but he didn’t say anything. By then they were in touch with his wife. After that Lokesh accepted it.

His wife admitted that she knew that he [Lokesh] was planning to murder [Sunil] and even after murdering he had admitted about it to her. NIA had not arrested the wife, but had kept her in custody. This could be a crime under Sec 120, as she knew about it before, as she is accepting that she knew about it. So when he got to know that his wife will be arrested, he confessed – a man whom they could not break by all the beating. They told him that you will have to help us retrieve the revolver – otherwise we will arrest your wife. If you don’t help us retrieve the revolver then case under 120 can be lodged against your wife – technically that’s possible. So then after 6 years they recovered the revolver – 2007 he was murdered and in 2013 it was recovered.  Even after 6 years the revolver was found at the same place. And his brother Jiten Sharma knew everything – so he had to say everything to save his wife.

LR: Can I ask you something? When you made the statement you and Sunil Joshi took all the credits.

SA: Yes, I thought why to get anyone else involved. I will take all the punishment for it. Sunil was dead. I was also in josh (excitement), no?

LR: But then you knew that Pragya Singh and all others were already in jail?

SA: They were in jail. But from the conversations of the CBI I got an idea that they would not arrest Pragya and others or even Bharat bhai. From their conversations I had got this idea. But then when I started confessing they changed the way they treated me. [They told me that] If you tell us everything we promise you that we won’t arrest Bharat bhai and Pragya. At that point I had no clue that Bharat had done this. [I asked] You will not arrest them? They said, they wouldn’t.

LR: So you wanted to save them all?

SA: [They asked] So whatever Bharatbhai had said they were all true? Yes they are all true.

So Pragya had no role in all this? I said she had no role.

But then Bharatbhai has told them about Pragya before - that Pragya was there.

LR: Sudhakar Dwidevi?

SA: I didn’t even know the names of all who were there.

LR: Oh you didn’t know their names?

SA: He [Bhratbhai] kept a track of them, and identified them through their photos. I only knew Sunil and then Sandeep Dange. I even did not know Lokesh’s name. Of course Lokesh was in the meeting.

LR: Oh so you didn’t know their identity?

SA: No I didn’t and also we were never introduced by our true names. And shouldn’t be too.

LR: Yes that’s right.

SA: I never asked them too. These many people have come, good. What use is it to know their names? But Bharat bhai told them all the names. They said that Lokesh was there. I didn’t know that. They started taking all the names. [unclear name] was there, Pragya was there.

Aap log is jagah baithke baath kar rahe thhe, sabhi baat. (That you all were sitting at this place and talking, all those details.)

That behind the [unclear] of Bharatbhai’s house, me, Sunil, Pragya and Bharat had sat and talked. When they know about all this, then I should [unclear].  

Yeh sab kaun kiya? Maine kiya. (Who did it at all places? I did it.)

[unclear] udaneka? Maine kiya. (Who bombed [unclear]? I did it.)

Train udaneka? Maine kiya. [Corrects himself] Train ke khali Sunil ko diya. (Bombing the train? I did it. [Corrects himself]  For just the train, I said that Sunil did it.)

LR: Why so?

SA: Well I thought anyway Sunil is already dead. And then police will suspect if I take credit for all. They will feel that I am lying about it, hiding something.

LR: So you saved everyone?

SA: Kisko bachaya? (Whom did I save?)

LR: Pragyaji and others.

SA: Jab mujhe pata laga ki Pragya kuch nahin kahne wale thhe. Bharatbhai ne bata ke rakha tha. Tab maine socha ki decision mein Pragya hain main kyu bataoon? Haan woh thhe. Jagah bataya ki yahi mein baitha hain, sahi mein nikla. Aur bolthe ki aap nahin bolenge nah toh Bharatbhai ko arrest nahi karenge, aapke khilaf witness karadenge. Woh witness denge. Uske patni ko witness khada kar denge. Patni toh thhe hi. 2 witness khada ho jayenga. Aisa saboot ho jayenga.

(But I got to know that Pragya did not say anything. It was Bharat who told them. Then I thought that why should I tell them that Pragya was involved in the decision-making? They already knew where we sat and talked. So the CBI told me that if you don’t take all the names, we will not arrest Bharat bhai but make him a witness against you. We will also bring his wife as a witness. His wife was also there. So they will be the 2 witnesses against you.)

Toh… Pragya decision me nahin thhe main bol raha hoon. Theek hain maan leta hoon. Lekin aap ke jagah me baithe the. Baithe toh thhe, lekin sun raha ke nahin sun raha yeh maloom nahi hain. Maine Sunil ko bataya thha. Theek hain Pragya ko arrest nahi karenge, Bharat ko bhi arrest nahi karenge. CBI Bharat ko bhi arrest karna nahi chahtha tha. (Then… I insisted that Pragya was not part of the decision. Ok we will believe you [the officers said]. But she was sitting at the same place. Yes, she was sitting there but I am not sure whether she was listening to the conversation or not. I was talking to Sunil. Ok then we will not arrest Pragya or Bharat. The CBI actually never wanted to arrest Bharat.)

[Off the record portion deleted.]

LR: When you first came under police custody, Sangh had told you through its lawyer that you should not say anything, right?

SA: Yes he did tell me, but then I didn’t have to tell them anything, no? Bharat bhai has already told them everything about us beforehand. Even they did not know that Bharatbhai had already told everything. It was my name. Everything was coming out in my name. That Swamiji said this. Swamiji has said this. But that was not the truth. Bharatbhai has already told everything about us before hand. There was no way that I could escape from it. They [CBI] were saying everything with evidence.

LR: But then why didn’t you keep a Sanghs lawyer?

SA: At that time? I have told you this right? I thought I will do penance and take whatever punishment that comes to me. So why should I keep a lawyer?

LR: Really was that what you were thinking?

SA: Socha ki woh sab jaante hi hain. Main bhi sab jaanta hun. Baat toh sahi hain. Jo hota hain woh le lenge. Isme kya hain? Phir vakil leke pahunchne ki kya zaroorat hain? (I thought they knew everything. I also knew everything. It’s after all true. I will accept whatever that happens because of it. What is the big deal about it? Then why should you take a lawyer along with you?)

LR: Phir vichar kaise change ho gaya? Phir vakil kyu rakha? (Then why did you change your mind? Why did you engage a lawyer?)

SA: I didn’t keep a lawyer in Panchkula and in Jaipur. I said I didn’t need a lawyer. Here they said you have to keep one, we will allot from legal aid. So in Hyderabad too I had said give me one from legal aid. But in Jaipur when I was produced, the judge was of a totally different kind – the CJM to whom you are taken after arrest. He was a complete kattar Hindutwadi. When I was first brought there, I had already confessed. They had also asked me what if you are hanged? And I had said that I was ready, right? They had written all this down, right?

[Portion removed where he discusses the judge.]

LR: The retraction statement.

SA: I said that Ranaji had come to visit me and he is a lawyer. Even then the journalists asked whether he has become your lawyer? I said he was ready to be my lawyer. So retraction happened. Then came to know that once you get a bail you can’t become an approver. So then he got a bail from Hyderabad.

LR: Who got bail?

SA: Bharatbhai. In Hyderabad he was arrested by CBI. So when NIA got the case he was already under arrest and they kept him in remand in Hyderabad. And then he was given a bail. And so after he got a bail he can’t be made approver.

So what else do you have now? Let me tell you what you have to do otherwise they will suddenly say you have to leave. So you have the number of Phoolchandbhai?

LR: Yes yes I have it.

SA: [Dictates the number. Corrects me when I write it down wrong.]

I am now going to tell you something that no one else knows.

[Aseemanand side steps from the interview to see if I could help him with passing information to the people who send him money, not to come to Jaipur, since he won’t be taken there anytime soon. I simply listen to him without giving any commitment whatsoever.]

LR: Aapka vision kya hain? Kya vichaar rakhte hain aap Bharat ke baare mein, jeevan ke baare mein, kya karna chahte hain, kaise dekhna chahte hain aap Bharat ko? (What is your vision? What are your dreams and hopes for Bharat, life? What do you want to do? How do you want to see Bharat in the future?)

SA: Bharat ko nahi, Hindu samaj ko. Mera jo apna vision hain, main Sangh ko bhi batata hun, adhikari ko. Dekhiye Bharat ab woh purana bharat nahi reh gaya, poora duniya ek gaon ban gaya hain. Purana Bharat nahi raha. Toh Bharat ko bhi alag se sochenge to nahi kar payenge, poori duniya ke sath taal mel karke sochenge to kar payenge. Toh hamara vichar hona chahiye poore bharat ko Hindu rashtra Sangh ka, abhi bhi hai. Main chahta hoon ki poora vishva Hindu rashtra ho jaaye. Poore vishwa mein Hindu raj aaye.

([My vision] is not about Bharat, it is about Hindu samaj. I even share this with people from the Sangh, the authorities. Listen now Bharat is not that same old Bharat. The whole world has become a village. So if we still go on thinking about Bharat, we won’t be able to achieve anything. We should think about the whole world now. So Sangh still thinks about making Bharat a Hindu nation and is taking efforts for it. But I wish that the whole world should become a Hindu nation. Let the whole world have Hindu rule.)

LR: Woh kaise? (How will that be?)

SA: Kaise? Musalmaan chahte hain ki poore vishwa mein Musalmaan bane, Chahte ki nahin?  Christian chahte he ki poora Jesu ki raaj aaye, chahte ki nahin? Chahte toh hain. Gao ki andar mein ek anpadh musalmaan mahila ko bhi poochenge to woh jante hain ki ek na ek din poora duniya Mussalman banenge. Christian aadiwasi mahila ko poochenge, woh chahte hain ki ishu raaj ho poore vishwa mein. Vishwas to hain. Hamare Hindu mein vishwas nahi hai ki poore vishwa me Hindu raj aaye, isko lane mein kya takleef hai? Sankalp ko lane me kya takleef hai? Poore duniya mein Hindu raj karenge, Hindu mein kya takleef hain?

(How? The Muslims wants the whole world to be of Muslims? Do they or not? Christians wish that the whole world be under the rule of Jesus. Do they wish or not? They do. Ask the illiterate Muslim woman in any village she will tell you that one day the whole world will be of Muslims.  Even ask the Christian tribal lady in a village, she will tell you this. They have a belief that the rule of Jesus will be on earth. But we Hindus don’t have the belief that our rule can come in this world. What is the difficulty in believing in this? What is the difficulty in believing? Hindu raj will be established in the whole world. What’s the difficulty for Hindus in this?)

Musalman jab soch sakte hain or kar rahe hain. Pehle socha thha Mohammad ne. Woh akela thha. Duniya aur koyi Mussalman nahi thha. 1400 saal pehle. Poore duniya ko musalmaan banayenge, ban rahe hain! Sankalp karne mein takleef kya hain? Jesu socha thha poori duniya ko Baptist layenge, soch rahe hain Christian. Toh poori duniya ko Hindu bana ke Hindu nahi soch sakte, pehle sochna to shuru kare, kaise banega? Sochna toh shuru karo. Pehle socho. Kaisa banega sankalp lena. Toh hamne sankalp ka ek card banaya. “Poore vishwa mein Hindu raj laayenge, dharmantaran aur jehaad ke vichar ko vishva se nirmool karenge.” Islam ka bhi naam nahi liya. Jehaad galat hain, dharmantaran galat hain. Jehaad or dharmantaran ke vichaar ko vishw se khatam karenge. Toh Hindu ko sankalp lene mein kya takleef hai? Poora vishwa mein Hinduvaad layenge. Jehaad aur dharmantaran ke vichar ko khatam karenge. Ye aadmi ko khatam karne ke baat nahi kar rahe hain, vichar ko. Yeh koi gair kanooni baat nahi hain, ye mera vichaar hain. Jai hamara sunischit hain kyunki hum dharm ke saath hain.”

(When Muslims are thinking and doing things in this direction. Mohammad was the first person to think so. He was alone then. Some 1400 years back. I will make the whole world into Muslims and they are doing it now. What is the difficulty in imagining this? Jesus wanted the whole world to be baptised. Christians are thinking for it. So then why can’t we work for making the whole world into Hindus? First start thinking in that direction. At least start thinking in that direction. How will it become one, you will have to start imagining for that. So we make a card for the mission with the words, “We will establish Hindu raj in the world. We will wipe out the thoughts of conversion and jihad from this world.” We will establish the Hinduvaad in the whole world. We will end conversion and jihad in this world. We are not talking of finishing off the people, but of eliminating these thoughts. There is nothing wrong in it. Its not illegal. Victory will be ours because dharm is on our side.

What is the difficulty to imagine this? We didn’t type Christian or Muslim in it. Everyone agrees that conversion and jihad is bad, so we just kept those words in. We printed and distributed it. My wish was that everyone in every Hindu house when they light the lamp for pooja would think this line as their sankalp/mission.

So we should print this. On one side of the card Om and on the other side the sankalp/mission statement. We will not print anyone’s or any organisation’s name on it. Hamara jai hoga yeh vishwas hain. (We believe victory will be ours.) Got it printed – 1 lakh copies. Didn’t take money from anyone for this.

Musalmaan kar sakte hain, Christian kar sakte hain to hum kyu nahi kar sakte hain, vichaar rakho ek din ho jayega, vichaar hi nahi rakhte hain. Kyon nahi hoga?  Jehaad poore manav samaaj ko khatam kar dega, Christian aayega, sanskriti khatam ho jayegi. Manav ka jo sanskriti hain woh Hindu dharm mein hi hai. Manav ko manav banake rakhna woh Hindu hi hain, toh poori duniya mein Hindu raj rahega to manav zinda rahega, manav ka jo manavta woh zinda rahega. Isliye Hindu raaj hona manav ke liye zaruri hai, ye sankalp hum le ki poore vishwa me Hindu ho. Hoga.

(If Muslims can do it and Christians can do it, then why can’t we do it? Imagine it, and then one day it will happen. The problem is that we don’t even dream for it. What is the difficulty in dreaming about this? Jihad will wipe off all the human civilisation from this world. If Christians come in they will end our culture. The civilisation of man is only rooted in Hindu religion. The religion that preserves humans as humans is Hindu religion. If in the whole world Hindu rule comes in only then will humans be able to remain alive. The humanity of humans will be alive only then. For this reason it is very important to have Hindu raj. Let us have this belief that in this whole world there will be Hindu raj.)

LR: Toh Hindu samaaj mein hain himsa or ahimsa. Toh hum ahinsa pe zyaada vichaar karte hain? (We have these concepts of violence and non-violence in Hinduism and we believe more in non-violence?)

SA: Iske liye humne Gita se 33 shlok liya, or vichaar ko sthapit karne ke liye Gita ko aadhar banaya. (So for this we took 33 shlokas from Gita. We used Gita to establish our thoughts.)

Everyone is using their text for this, so let us use Gita.

Toh naam rakha “yugdharma,” ye hamara dharm hai. Is yug mein hamara dharm kya hai, Shri Krishna, Arjun ko updesh kyon diya? Hinsa, ahinsa ye baat kahaan se aaya? Bhagwan Shri Krishna Arjun ko updesh isliye diya kyonki woh bola yudh nahi karega, bhai ko guru ko marna yeh to galat baat hai, ladai nahi karenge, bheekh maang ke zinda rahenge. Yeh aap jo bol raha hain woh Hindu ka vichar hain. To Arjun ka jo vichaar hain, vahi abhi Hindu ka vichaar hain. Abhi Hindu yahi sochta hai ki hinsa nahi karenge. Yeh Hindu ka kahan hai? Gita kahe ke liye likha gaya hai, ladai karne ke liye likha gaya hain na? Phir aakhri mein Shri Krishna bhagwaan ne kaha hain ki, Arjun bolte hain ki ab jo tum bologe woh main karunga. Bhagwan Krishna ne kya kaha, ladai ke liye. Hamne Gita ko hi bhool gaya. Arjun ne jab aisa baat kiya to bhagwaan Shri Krishna jo pehla shlok bole ki “tum jo aisa hijda ke jaisa napunsak nahi hai.” Gaali diya.

So we named this book as “yugdharma” – the dharam of this yug. What is our dharm in this yug? What did Lord Krishna tell Arjun? Where did all this arguments of himsa and ahimsa come from? He gave it because Arjun was saying that I can’t fight, that he can’t fight against his brothers and teachers. That it is wrong to fight, he would rather live his life begging. So this thought of Arjun is what is the current thought of Hindus. Now Hindus are thinking that we should not use violence. Where is this thought comingfrom? How is it Hindu’s thought? Why was Gita written? It was written to do war, right? Then in the end Arjuna says to Krishna that I will do whatever you ask me to. So then Krishna’s first shloka was that Arjuna you are talking as a hijda here. He abused him, right?

When others are coming for a fight, if you don’t fight that is adharm/sin. Then your dharm is to fight. Muslim ladayi kar raha hain, Christian ladayi kar raha hain? (Muslims are fighting. Christians are fighting.) So now our duty is to fight them back.

Policeman: Please don’t sit for such a long period. Actually we only allow 20 minutes time and you have been sitting for the last 3 hours. Please.

[Aseemanand and I promise to wrap up the conversation and he leaves.]

Abhi hamara Hindu kya hai Arjun ke jaisa hain ke ladai nahi karna hain, to hamara dharm kya hai jo Krishna bola ladai karna. Doosre jo pooja path hain unka ladai karna hain, ye dharm hain. Krishna ne kaha hai ladai karo, yahi hamare yug ka dharm hain. Hinsa ahinsa ye to Budhha aane ke baad Jain aane ke baad hua hain. Sahi dharm kya hai Hindu hai, ladai karna dharm hain Gita ke anusaar.

(So now what we are doing now is to think like Arjun saying that we should not fight. What our true dharam is what Krishna has advised us. The worshipping is all different from this. That is also part of dharam. Krishna has asked us to fight and that is our duty in this yug/era. We didn’t go to them fighting. They brought the fight in, so now we have to do our dharam and fight back. All this ahimsa thing was brought in by Buddha and then the Jains. What is the true dharam of Hindus. According to Gita, it is to fight..

Theek hain phir. Aapka number nahin liya maine. (OK then. I haven’t taken your number.)

[Takes down my phone number on a piece of paper, and we walk out of the waiting room.]

 

 

Aseemanand’s interviews were conducted and tape-recorded with his full consent. Since several of his claims are of national importance, The Caravan has decided to place them before the public.

FIRST MEETING: 20 DECEMBER 2011, PANCHKULA DISTRICT COURT, HARYANA

The Caravan journalist Leena Gita Reghunath first met Swami Aseemanand at a court hearing, at Panchkula District Court, on 20 December 2011. She introduced herself to him as a journalist with The Caravan, and told him she wanted to do a series of interviews with him in order to write an extensive profile. Aseemanand spoke to her for roughly five minutes. He told her that he was happy that a journalist had come from Delhi to meet him. He agreed to speak to her one-on-one, but proposed to give the interviews inside Ambala Central Jail, where he was incarcerated. During this conversation on the court premises, Aseemanand also asked a series of questions about the journalist’s background—her home state, her family, her education, and so on. When he learned that the journalist had a law degree, he suggested that would allow them more time to speak inside the jail. Aseemanand appeared pleased by the prospect of a set of long interviews that would form the basis of an extended profile. He asked the journalist to meet him for the first interview the following month.

Over the course of the next two years, the reporter interviewed Aseemanand, in prison, four times—on 10 January 2012, 22 June 2013, 9 January 2014, and 17 January 2014. As the interviews progressed, Aseemanand became increasingly open with the journalist. All four interviews were tape-recorded. Aseemanand consented to the recordings. In total, the recordings run to more than nine hours and 26 minutes.

What follows are English translations of significant portions of the interviews, which were conducted primarily in Hindi. In some instances, we have given the Hindi transliteration.

 

 

 

THE CARAVAN TRANSCRIPTS
File: ASEEMANAND
Writer: Leena Gita Reghunath
Editors: Vinod K Jose (reporting and content) and Alex Blasdel (structure and story)

Associate Editor: Supriya Nair
Copy Editor: Ajay Krishnan
Fact Checker: Manas Roshan

 

 

 

INTERVIEW ONE: 10 JANUARY 2012, AMBALA CENTRAL JAIL, HARYANA

 

The interview began with Aseemanand vetting the journalist again, asking about her background and family. He asked the journalist if she was intimidated by visiting the jail. During the course of this initial interview, Aseemanand was guarded, and took the line that his defence was making in court. The reporter said she wanted to tell his story, and proceeded to ask him about his childhood.

                                                        

Swami Aseemanand: Have you ever been involved with our sangh?

Leena Reghunath: No, I am not. Everyone at home is a person of belief, though.

SA: Well, are they involved in the sangh?

LR: Just opposite of my house there is an RSS shakha, in Kerala.

SA: Kerala? Where in Kerala?

LR: [Place redacted.] Have you ever been to Kerala?

SA: Oh I’ve been to Kerala many times. Been to Sabarimala. I’ve stayed at length at Varkala. [Indistinct.] Have been to Amrithanandamayi ashram. Have been to other places also.

LR: How many languages do you speak?

SA: Bangla, Hindi, my Gujarati is not good. I understand the language of adivasis – they speak Dangi.

I am taking your interview now. Why are you interested in this case?

LR: I got your Panchkula case chargesheet first and was very confused about it. Why do you think you are, with no great evidence to support it, the no. 1 culprit in the chargesheet?

SA: Jo hota hain, theek hi hain. (Whatever has happened is fine.) It’s all right.

LR: I want to know more about the investigation. How it happened.

SA: I will tell you that. I had gone to Cannanore jail. Our people had fought against the communist people, and were in jail. I went to meet them – almost 60 people were in jail and talked to the jailor. I met Jaanu who was leading the adivasi struggle. I have a lot of friends there. It has been long years now. I went as an agent of the Sangh.

So what were you asking about. I thought of Kerala and so talked about it.

LR: Yes. What do you think about the letter you have written to the President now? Do you think anything will happen because of it?

SA: Aap jante hain. Is ke baere mein khulasa kar dete hain. Kis tarah hamare saath behave kiya hain. Torture ke baat rehne dijiye. Woh jo karna chahte the Indresh ji Bhagwat bulvane ke liye. (You know this. Let me explain this to you—how they behaved with me. Let’s leave the torture aside—whatever they did to make me name Indresh ji [and] Bhagwat.)

After the Samjhauta blast happened, three agencies worked on it and arrested three different sets of people. Some even confessed. In 2008, Pragya Singh [Thakur] was arrested. They kept her for 15 days and tortured her a lot.

LR: They didn’t register a case?

SA: No one knew where she was kept. Her father was staying in Surat, 150km from my ashram, Shabari Dham.

Shabari Dham—where Bhagwan Ram met Shabari—I was there for the moment. Pragya had been working with the ABVP [Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad], then came to meet me. I had from my younger days decided to work for the adivasis.

LR: When did you come first to Dang?

SA: In 1997. There quickly the adivasis were being converted to Christians. In a short while, all the tribals became Christians. Christians used to call it “Paschim Bharat ke Nagaland” (Western India’s Nagaland). Full of hills and jungles. Every village had a church. I was a worker of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, a wing of the Sangh. For this work I travelled the whole of India – Nagaland, the Northeast, Andamans, Kerala, and then came to Dang.

If you leave out the Northeast, Dang has the highest Christian population. They wanted to separate from Gujarat and become a separate state. Kerala does not have that. Christians are scattered; they are not concentrated in one district, are they? Ok, yes, they are in Kottayam.

Then I thought I will not roam all of India; will stay in one place, and so I settled in Dang and lived in the homes of the adivasis. Then they started converting to Hinduism.

LR: How did they accept you?

SA: Adivasis are by nature good. There always were some Hindus in every village. Some villages were left untouched and had Hindus. So they accepted me.

LR: How were the facilities in these villages? Roads, schools, water?

SA: It was good because it was Gujarat, not Chhattisgarh, Orissa, MP; in comparison, better developed. I have been to every state where there are adivasis. I have not been to states where there are no adivasis, like Haryana, Punjab and Jammu-Kashmir.

[…]

Do you feel that because you have worked for the poorest – the adivasis and not some wealthy people – that you have ended up with this mess, without any backing? When you went to court there was no lawyer to support you till Manbir Singh Rathi came from legal aid. There are swamis who work for the wealthy and thus have people to support them, but you worked for the poor.

SA: No, I do not think so. I don’t know how much time we have, but let me give you a bit of my background.

I am from Bengal, belong to Kamarpukur, the village of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. From my childhood, I was associated with the Ramakrishna Mission. We were a very poor family. Mother gets the freedom [fighters’] pension. Father left for freedom struggle, came back and couldn’t do much.

LR: Don’t you have any sisters?

SA: We were 7 brothers. The eldest one is a retired teacher. I am second. The third is a doctor. The youngest runs a small business and lives in our house with my mother.

I studied well, studied till B.Sc in Kamarpukur, then came to Burdwan to do my M.Sc. Burdwan was very far from my village. Till then [I had] studied in the village, but had to go out for my higher education. I used to give tuitions to pay fees. Even now I remember the efforts that my parents took to teach me. At that time I had decided that I would help such underprivileged kids to get education. I would not take a job. But I would do service by teaching children – poor children, adivasi children. It is great to help educate such children, even if it’s one child.

When I went to Calcutta, I realized what the scope for education there was. I asked my brother whether he wanted to go for MBBS; I made my brother also give the exam. In the second year of his BSc he cleared the exam and came to Calcutta to do MBBS. He also gave tuitions to pay fees while doing his MBBS. My elder brother was an RSS pracharak. I told him that I wanted to leave home and go for my mission; [I said] if you give permission then I can leave home. I was offered a job in Burdwan University to teach at the intercollegiate level. I was working before my main results came out and they promised to make me permanent after my results were out. But by then I took the permission of my father, my mother, they all gave me permission very happily.

LR: So they gave you permission easily?

SA: Yes.

There is a place in Bengal - Purulia, where the weapons were dropped from the air. It was an adivasi area. I went there first to work with the adivasis. Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is a wing of RSS.

LR: How many years did you work there?

SA: I was there for 3-4 years. In Burdwan there was a Swami Paramanand, who also taught poor kids. I went to his ashram in ’81, and he took me under his guidance and named me Swami Aseemanand.

LR: So you took shiksha  (instruction) under him? Woh hain abhi bhi? (Is he alive?)

SA: He is no more. At that time there were efforts to build a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Andaman-Nicobar. RSS wanted one there because Andaman would be a difficult place to work. But I went there and worked to spread the religion. Achcha kaam hua, bahut hi achcha kaam hua. (We did very good work indeed.)

LR: So you built temples there?

SA: Yes, we built temples. Mandir ke madhyam se hazaro Christian ko Hindu banaya. (With the help of these temples, turned thousands of Christians into Hindus.) Then on, from ’93, I was roaming all over India working for Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram visiting adivasi settlements. Then I thought I should settle at some place and work from there and then I came to Dang.

I came to Dang in ’97. Whenever I travel, I always stay in the houses of adivasis. I eat their food, speak their language, sleep at their place. I would rarely go to a city.

LR: How long did it take for you to learn their language?

SA: I first stayed in one village for two months to learn their culture, habits and language. I also understood how and why they were becoming Christians.

They had no knowledge of Hinduism. No Hindu priests were there. The Christian priests would go and give religious sermons, but I didn’t think that made any effect on them. But then when children fell ill they would say, pray to Jesus and your child will get better; so then people kept in touch with the priests, and then later ended up getting converted. So then I started organising the Hindus, whoever was left.

In ’98, I loaned a tractor and promised that in this village, I would get all converted in 10 days.

LR: 10 days before Christmas?

SA: Yes, that was 10 days from Christmas to January. I had already made all the contacts with them.

LR: In just one village?

SA: Nahi, poore Dang mein. (No, in the whole Dangs.)

In 10 days, 40,000 Christians got converted to Hinduism and 30 churches ko tod ke humnein mandir banaaya. (We destroyed 30 churches and built temples.)

LR: Didn’t the church create problems for you?

SA: Haan. Uske baad thoda hulchul hua. (Yes. There was a little bit of commotion over this.) In the Lok Sabha, the Congress members made a huge hue and cry about it. But at that time Vajpayeeji was the prime minister, Advani was home minister. Even in Gujarat RSS-BJP was in power—not Narendra Modi, but Keshubhai Patel.

Itne Christians ek saath mein Hindu hue, Christian mein bhi hulchul hua (So many Christians became Hindus at once, it caused a commotion among Christians). Christian leaders from the Vatican, US religious leaders started coming to Dang to enquire into this. Sonia Gandhi came down and met Christians and they said that a person of the RSS is here and he is doing this. Lalu Yadav, Paswan, Deve Gowda; all came.

LR: Did you meet any of them?

No, they didn’t meet me. It was said about me that I was a goonda, doing forced conversions and threatening to kill people otherwise. Even Sonia thought so. From that time they started to keep an eye on me. Even Vajpayee, the prime minister, came down.

LR: He came down? So did he meet you?

No, didn’t meet me. I lived in my forest. But everyone knew that I was doing it.

Vajpayee said that it is wrong to convert these people but it was an even bigger wrong converting them to Christians in the first place.

LR: Where did he say this?

He made this statement in the press conference. He said there should be a debate on reconversion at the national level. Things cooled a bit after his statement, but nazar to mere pe pada hi na? Tab se mere pe Sonia ka nazar aa gaya. (Then they started noticing me, no? From that time Sonia started watching me.)

To see my work, Pragya Singh and other RSS people started coming to the ashram. Adivasi ka kaam kaise ho raha hain, kaise yeh sab Hindu kaise ho raha hain? (How was the work of adivasis being done? How are people converting to be Hindus?)

Then we made the Shabari Mandir. It was a very beautiful and peaceful place.

LR: So you made a temple there. Who is the deity there?

Bhagwan Ram ke hain. (The Lord Ram.) There were the stone deities that were already there, on which Ram, Lakshman and Shabari sat. They were worshipped under the open sky.

[An advocate enters the room.]

Advocate: Haanji haanji aap baitho. (Please sit.)

LR: Aap? (You are?)

Advocate: Main advocate. Main bhi tha Ajay Kaushikji [the lawyer who introduced the journalist to Aseemanand] ke saath. (I am an advocate. I was also with Ajay Kaushik)

LR: Nardev [Aseemanand’s lawyer] ji aane wale thhe na? (Nardev was to come, no?)

Adv: Did you talk to him today?

LR: No I wasn’t able to. But I thought he would be visiting. Haven’t vacations started for the court?

Adv: Today was the last working day.

LR: You might want to talk to him [Aseemanand] too, right?

Adv: No, no, please continue.

[...]

SA: We built a temple there, [and] wherever I started travelling. From then on, it became easy to get people converted. By exerting very little pressure I could convert them to Hindus. I was getting an identity as the swami who does the conversions.

Then RSS people were coming down to meet me. Pragya Singh came and Sunil Joshi came down to meet me. She was from Indore. Her father was a doctor in Surat, so whenever she came down to meet him, she used to come to meet me also at Dang, and Sunil Joshi would also come along.

LR: Pragya’s father, who was in Surat, was a doctor?

SA: Yes. Sunil Joshi and people from Indore used to come to meet me. They said that I was doing good work among the Christians. When talking to them I also used to air my views. The biggest issue is Muslims. With Christians we can always stand together and threaten them. Mussalman se nipatne ke liye abhi se tayyar hona padega. (We must be ready from right now to deal with Muslims.) They are multiplying fast. If they become a majority we will be in really bad shape. Kuch karna chahiye. (We ought to do something.) For this from Indore Pragya, Sunil and other people would often come to discuss ways to curb this with me.

I went to Pune, to visit Nathuram Godse’s house, Veer Savarkar’s house. I am in the same cell as Nathuram Godse’s brother, Gopal Godse. He was held in this jail.

LR: This jail?

SA: Yes.

LR: Bahut hi aascharya ki baat hain. (What a wonder.)

SA: In Nathuram Godse’s will there is a line: my bones will not be discharged in the sea until the Sindh river flows through India once again. Nathuram and Narayan Apte were hanged here, and Gopal Godse was put in this jail for life imprisonment.

Adv [interjecting]: People say that Hindu Mahasabha had a hand in Pakistan’s division. But that is not the truth. We say that Pakistan should stay with us. His [Nathuram Godse’s] wish was that his bones should be kept till the time Pakistan and India are one.

SA: Nathuram and Narayan Apte were hanged here, and Gopal Godse was put in this jail for life imprisonment.

There [in Pune] I met Himani Savarkar, daughter of Gopal Godse, who was married to Savarkar’s ladka (son). We all made a group with the plan that we have to do something for this.

I have a friend in Kolkata, Tapan Ghosh, an RSS pracharak. He was also helping us with the work – to do things in a new way. In a meeting in Bhopal I was very worked up and main bahut aggressively bataya ki, abhi aakraman na hone pe hum khatam ho jayenge. (If we don’t attack now, we will be finished.) I don’t know how this reached the NIA and CBI.

LR: So what was it that you said aggressively that led to the NIA making these serious accusations against you? Like they have stated in the chargesheet, did you actually call for “bomb ka badla bomb” (a bomb for a bomb)?

SA: Aisa nahi. I will tell you the actual things. Iske baad mein filter karna, kaise karna, yeh aap dekh lenge. (You can decide how you want to filter this.)

In 2008, the first blast in Malegaon happened. In 2007 February, Samjhauta, in Mecca [Masjid, in Hyderabad] in 2007 May and Ajmer happened in 2007 September. In whatever that happened in 2007, they arrested Muslims. Then in 2008 for the first time they got a motorcycle – of Pragya’s. Then they thought, even Hindus are equally active. Pragya had given her motorcycle to someone 4 years back. Who? Sunil.

In 2007 December, Sunil was murdered. Then they arrested Pragya. They then had this theory that wherever Muslims were murdered, it was because of Hindus. Yeh unka kalpana hain. (So they imagine.)

LR: Achcha?

They released the Muslims they arrested in the Ajmer case. Even in Hyderabad. And then came after us Hindus. They tortured Pragya Singh a lot. She was a female, but 3-4 male officers questioned and tortured her.

[Another accused joins us. Conversation between him and the lawyer goes on in the background.]

Then after Pragya’s arrest in Malegaon, Sunil’s name started appearing in everything. Sunil used to visit my ashram. Sonia, Digvijay [Singh] already had their eyes on me. In 2006 we had a big Sammelan.

LR: Kumbh Sammelan?

SA: Kumbh Sammelan—to which everyone came. In 2008, when everything started coming out in the open, they learnt that this was all being planned in Shabari Dham. Police ka yeh kalpana hain. (The police think this.) Hindutvawaad ka prachar main kartha thha, aur kaam bhi hota thha. Christian Hindu ban rahe thhe. Phir unka ye kalpana hain. (I preached Hindutva, the work happened too. Christians were becoming Hindus. So they think this.)

LR: The police were saying that you were absconding. That they arrested you from Haridwar?

SA: No no, they made up all that. I used to go to Haridwar often.

I had a passport in my original name, Naba Kumar. In Haridwar, people used to say that the Aseemanand name is not very common, it is such a Bengali name. And so they used to call me Omkaranand. The CBI said that I was absconding since 2008.

LR: What was the name then?

SA: Omkaranand.

My name was in the news in 2008, but nobody came to Shabari Dham searching for me; I was there in 2010.

When I went to Haridwar in 2010, they came and arrested me – CBI – and blamed me for absconding. I told them that that was not the case. I was very much in my ashram in Shabari Dham. Even now they claim that I was absconding.

One thing was a mistake. In Haridwar I had nothing in Aseemanand’s name. For a SIM card I needed a voter’s ID. So I made one in Haridwar in Omkaranand’s name. I had a voter’s card and mobile connection in Omkaranand’s name. Then I ended up having some IDs in Aseemanand’s name and some in Omkaranand’s name. So that was a mistake on my part.

I used to go to Maharashtra. When I went there, I could pressurise people a little and they would easily convert. Even by my name – when the information would go out that I would be visiting, people would voluntarily come forward to convert.  I was called Ramdas there – the name of Shivaji’s guru. They said I resembled Ramdas.

I would go to every village, would build Hanuman temples and convert Christians to Hindus.

[…]

There was one Bharat bhai in Gujrat, in Valsad village. He had been working outside India. We had all met at Bharat bhai’s house – me, Pragya, Sunil and Bharat bhai. Also Lokesh [Sharma] was there. They [CBI] made me say that in that meeting we decided to bomb Samjhauta. Even Hyderabad – they made me make this confession. I had no idea when the blast even happened.

It will be good if you know this, but please keep it to yourself.

In Ajmer, and in Hyderabad, the blasts were done through a mobile phone. Mobile se spark hota hain. Battery rahta hain, timing rahta hain, us se vispot hota hain. (The mobile gives a spark. There’s a battery, timing, which leads to an explosion.) There was no one in whose name the SIM card was. But the place of the SIM was Sunil’s parichit jagah (familiar place).

So they then assumed it must be Sunil who procured the SIMs. There was an RSS pracharak, Devendra Gupta—they arrested him from Jharkhand. They blamed him for giving out a SIM on a fake driving license. Purey ke purey galat driving licence ke aadhar par SIM card diyah. Driving licence jiske naam pe hain, woh koi hain hi nahi. Ye jo banane diye Devendra Gupta, Sunil ke dost thhe, RSS ke pracharak thhe. Koi evidence nahi hain. (Completely on the basis of a false driving license, he got a SIM card. The name of the driving license was not a real person. Devendra Gupta was Sunil’s friend, an RSS pracharak. There is no evidence.)

LR: So who said this to them? Did they get it from your confession?

SA: No, they had already arrested everyone connected with this. They had arrested the one involved in Ajmer. And Lokesh they had arrested in connection with Ajmer and Hyderabad. Sunil was in contact with them. They were both from MP. Whoever was connected to Sunil was arrested first. I was the last one.

They had made a story after all these arrests.

LR: So they never arrested Sunil?

SA: No he was murdered. Only in 2008 did they know that Hindus were involved. They got Pragya Singh’s motorbike, and then found out about about Sunil.

[A policeman briefly chats with Aseemanand.]

LR: How do these people [the police] treat you?

SA: Kiya ki nahi kiya, achcha kaam hua, jo hua. Yahan ke jo staff hain, jo kaam hua, achcha hua, theek hua. Isliye hum dono ko alag nazar se dekhte hain. Sabke man mein bhaav he. Isliye alag nazar se dekhte hain. Achcha kaam hain. Hamne kiya ki nahi kiya yeh log sochte bhi nahi. Kiya hoga to achcha kiya. (Did or didn’t do, the work that happened was good. The staff here, the work that happened was good, was correct. So they view us both [he and a fellow accused] with different eyes. They all have feeling in their minds. So they look with different eyes. It’s good work. They don’t even think if we have done it or not. But if we have done it, we did a good thing.)

LR: Why did the Sangh take so long to come forward?

SA: No, no, they didn’t take long at all. From Hyderabad, Raja Balaji of the CBI took me from Haridwar to Delhi and then Delhi to Hyderabad. They told me that BJP’s state secretary Ramchandra ji, who is an advocate at the [Hyderabad] high court, will come to meet you. But [that] I should not apply for bail.

LR: Why?

SA: I was in their custody, right? Bail bilkul nahi lena. (Don’t take bail at all.) The CBI threatened me not to take a lawyer, and forced me to refuse legal help. I had to listen to what they were saying. I have always lived in the jungle, had not seen police up close. They threatened to bring my mother to the prison. Galat galat baat karne laga. (They started to say bad things.) Then I thought that whoever did it did the right thing. Mere man mein bhi aaya, chalo theek hain. Hindu ke liye to achcha hua. Logon mein Hindutva ke upar bhav aajaye. (I thought, this is fine. At least it is a good thing for Hindus. People will feel for Hindutva.) Whatever may happen to me. What is wrong in taking the blame for it. Mera jo hoga so hoga. Phaansi bi ho jaaye to dekha jayega. (What happens to me will happen. Even if I am hanged for it, I will face it.)

But I didn’t take anyone’s name. Lokesh was there at the meeting, so his name slipped out of my mouth. The CBI insisted that I confess that I had planned the Samjhauta blast — you have not gone anywhere, have not done anything, but planned it.

LR: Pura kahani unke paas tha? (They had the whole story?)

SA: They kept me for 20 days and then put me in jail. How it was done I don’t know. I had a meeting with Sunil, Sunil did it, and how he did it I don’t know. Sunil is already murdered. But I did the complete planning. Then NIA took me from the jail. They wanted me to confess this again. Asked me to say the same thing again.

They tortured Lokesh a lot. They arrested him from Rajasthan, and then again took him to Rajasthan.

LR: Were you not afraid that the confessions would go against you?

SA: Yes I was, but I thought it will be good for Hindus. Maine socha Hindutva ke kaam ke liye mera phasi bhi ho jaye to theek hain. Maine nahi kiya. Par Hindu ke logon mein to vichaar aayega ki karna chahiye. (I thought that if for the purpose of Hindutva even if I end up being hanged then it is okay. I didn’t do it. But at least [seeing this] the other Hindus will realise that this should be done.)

[Aseemanand chats with his lawyer about medicines.]

LR: Aapka tabiyat kharab hain? (You are unwell?)

Haan, thoda sa. (Yes, a little.)

[Aseemanand walks out of the room for a chat with the lawyer, then returns.]

LR: Swamiji, do you think that the Indian judiciary will understand your truth?

SA: The law is such that, whatever you say in front of the magistrate, is considered the truth.

LR: How influenced are you by Vivekananda?

That was there from my childhood.

LR: What is your favourite teaching of Vivekananda?

SA: I like his line that when a Hindu converts to Muslim or Christian, it is not just that we have one Hindu less among us, we have one new enemy of the Hindus. I like the line. It is framed with his photo and put up in Dang. I have heard a lot about Savarkar and was greatly influenced by his teachings, and so went to meet his family; and then we all ended up working together on the same goal. We are worried about the increasing number of Muslims. They should have two children only. If they keep multiplying at this rate, in fifty years they will become the majority in this country. We should bring in a movement against this, like the movement against corruption that is happening. That everyone should have one or two kids.

Aap iska kya karenge? (What will you do with this?)

LR: I want to know your true story. The days that you spent with Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. [...] People from NIA who come with you to the court tell me that you are such a calm person. That you are like a saint. Very wrong things happened to you.

They all know about this.

[…]

LR: Swamiji, aap kyon? [Why you?]

SA: To please Muslims. Everyone in the investigation agencies knows I am innocent. But Sonia Gandhi was angry with me from the time of the Dang incident.

[audio unclear]

Did you see on the TV?

LR: No I didn’t

SA: I saw the videos in which Taliban slaughter people. Yes I did talk in meetings about that. I said that if Muslims multiply like this they will make India a Pakistan soon, and Hindus here will have to undergo torture. I used to tell Sunil that we should do something to frighten them off. I did stress that we should do something about it soon. But blaming me for the planning of the blasts is not the truth.

In Hyderabad I was kept in a single cell. There were cells which could hold more than 4-5 people. Everyone was kept locked from 12 – 3. But I was kept under lock up for 24 hours, This was when I was under remand in Hyderabad. Kaleem, the Muslim boy, was also in the same jail; and his brother was connected to Lashkar [Lashkar-e-Taiba] and also in the same jail.

One police officer was always around me, to keep an eye on me, and to see that no one came to meet or interact with me. Kaleem knew that I was in the same jail but I couldn’t meet him. How will I ever say such things to a Muslim boy? Before me, Lokesh Sharma was in the Hyderabad jail; the jail was populated by Muslims; they even threatened to kill him. I don’t know how these stories of confession were cooked up by the police.

My confession has become a weapon for them. The CBI knew how to behave with me, what to get out of me. They had proper information about us. They gave a different treatment to Lokesh.

[…]

So how big a news story was Kaleem? Achcha? Kaleem ka? Don’t they need more evidence than his statement?

LR: I used to meet your lawyers. Always used to wait outside and say namaste to you.

SA: Achcha? Patrakar ke naate aate thhe? (Oh? You came as a journalist?)

LR: Yes.

SA: Achcha. Kabhi mauka mile to Shabari Dham zarur jaana aap. Mansukh is the pujari of the Shabari Mandir. (I see. If you have the opportunity, do go to Shabari Dham some time. Mansukh is the priest at the Shabari temple.) The phone number of the mandir is 026312901XX [last two digits redacted].

[…]

LR: Is work going on fine there in your absence?

SA: The mandir’s work is going fine, but the work of our organisation has been discontinued. It is not working well anymore.

[ENDS]

 

 

 

INTERVIEW TWO: 22 JUNE 2013, AMBALA CENTRAL JAIL, HARYANA

 

Between the first and second interviews, the reporter travelled to the Dangs, in Gujarat, where Aseemanand spent ten years working on behalf of the RSS’s tribal affairs wing, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. Aseemanand told her he was happy that she had visited the Dangs. During this interview, he became more forthcoming. He discussed his work for the VKA, and the terrorist conspiracy in which he has been accused.

                                                         

Leena Gita Reghunath: Kaise hain aap? Ek saal ho gaye. Mujhe laga aapko yaad hi nahi hoga. Nardev ji nahi rahe. (How are you? It’s been a year. I thought you wouldn’t remember. Nardev ji is no more.) So now Ranjan Arora is the person?

[Silence.]

LR: Did you go for the last hearing?

SA: Nahi, 20th ko nahi. The next one is on 4th.

LR: In Jaipur, right?

SA: No, at Ambala.

LR: So as per the story you narrated to me last time. I went to Dang. Mandir gaye. Unai gaye, Phoolchand bhai se mile. (I went to the temple. To Unai. I met Phoolchand bhai.)

SA: Achcha! Aap gaye? Bahut achcha laga mujhe. Main jabse yahan aaya hain kabhi nahi gaya. How are things there? Kaise laga aapko? (Oh! You went? I’m very glad. Since I came here, I’ve not gone. How did you like it?)

[…]

A police man: Kaise swamiji? Sab theek hain? (How are you swamiji? Is everything alright?)

SA [to LR]: Woh log sambhal rahe hain yeh hi bahut badi baat hain. (That they are taking care of things is in itself a great thing.) I am very happy that you went there.

The place is very beautiful in the monsoons. You went in the summer, when the forests are all dry and dead.

[...]

Public ko mile aap? (Did you meet the public?)

LR: No, not public. I met Dasharathbhai and Janubhai.

SA: How did you meet them?

LR: I asked for people who had worked with you, and people guided me to them. For what I have been writing about you I need all the important events of your life.

SA: You must have waited for a long time to get in right?

LR: Yes.

SA: This place will close by 1. Where will you go after that?

LR: I will go back to Delhi. So you’ve told me about your story and I have now met others and heard about your story too, so now if you can talk to me in detail about your entire story. It would be great if you could narrate them like stories for me, in detail.

SA: In 1996 I went once to see the place [the Dangs] and then went back in 1998 to live there. I heard that there were lot of conversions happening, which caused my interest in the place. I am the president of the Dharma Vibhag of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram—we call it Shraddha Jagran [faith awakening]. According to government rules we are not allowed to call it dharma jagran—so we say shraddha.

LR: But for religious organisations—

SA: Our organisation is not religious, it is social.

If we exclude the Northeast this is one place in India where a lot of conversion was happening.

LR: So during which year did you work there?

SA: I have never worked in the Northeast but have travelled all over it.

LR: But there was a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram there?

SA: Yes, there was an ashram there of Vanvasi.

LR: So what did you see there?

SA: In the Northeast, almost everything had gone into the hands of the Christians, everything is under their control. In the ashram there are Hindus, but outside it all are Christians. Nagaland, Mizo, Meghalaya, have all Christians.

LR: You travelled there?

SA: Yes, I did. In Tripura, Muslims are greater in number, and in tribes, Christians. All Northeast tribals are in the hands of Christians. They don’t allow us to even go to the tribes, it’s impossible to even go and work among them. There is some work going on in Nagaland, Tripura, but it doesn’t have the prabhav (impact).

LR: What are these works?

SA: We have hostels, schools, health centres. Some are given education and others health department responsibility. But my work is dharma jagran (religious awakening). It is easy to do social service, but my work, which is dharma jagran, is very difficult, for the reason that they all have become completely Christians.

LR: Who assigns positions in the VKA?

SA: An all-India committee of VKA, based in Jashpur nagar in Chhattisgarh. The president [is] Jagdev Ram Oraon.

LR: But then there must be someone in the committee who looks at your work, appreciates it and tells you that this is where you should go and work, right?

SA: Yes there was. The then organising secretary of the committee, K Bhaskaran from Kerala who asked me to go and work in Andaman. I lived for 7–8 years in Andaman. I was very happy with my work there.

LR: Do you know a Damodaran there?

SA: Yes, how do you know about him? Kaise?

LR: I had read about him somewhere.

SA: Damodaran was the president of the VKA committee. He was secretary to VKA before, once I formed it. Then he went to the BJP, became BJP’s municipal chairman. I think he is still the president of the VKA ashram. The ashram is in Port Blair. Please do visit Andaman once.

LR: It’s too far. Not like Dang. Does Andaman have proper schools and roads?

SA: Yes. I went there for dharma jagran. There were no temples there. Roamed in every village, so I made temples. Made a lot of people Hindus.

LR: Is Bhaskaranji still in Kerala?

SA: Nahin guzar gaye. (No, he is no more.) It was Bhaskaran ji who saw my work and told me that I have to do this all over India. Bahut hi achcha kaam hua. (This is good work.) Bhaskaran ji is no more, was a very good worker, was an RSS pracharak. He was the man who shaped the RSS in Kerala.

LR: So he must have been very senior to you?

SA: Yes, he came in as an organising secretary into the VKA. Somayyajulu took over as secretary after his death.

LR: So Bhaskaranji asked you to go to Dang too.

SA: It was Bhaskaran who told me that I must travel all over India and look after the work being done. I did that for some time, but I like to do fieldwork more. I liked to stay in one place and work from there. I was not confident that I would be able to manage things at an all-India level. I can’t work in the Northeast, because there is no more work possible there. I felt that in Dang the Christian population is increasing at a high pace. So I felt the kind of work that I am good at—staying among the tribals and working with them. You should do the work from which you gain contentment.

LR: How did you convince him?

SA: So I talked to him and asked him to allow me to work from Dang. He liked me a lot, so he ended up saying yes.

LR: So how did you talk to him?

SA: Hindi. He was not originally from Kerala. He had come there from Burma.

Later after seeing my work in Dang he told me, “I was a little upset with you when you told me that you wanted to go and work from Dang. I felt that your work will be limited to one area and won’t be as effective as if you had looked after all-India. But what you have done in Dang will be an example for the nation." He was like an elder in the family to me.

Please make time. It will take you one month to see the place.

LR: One month?

SA: I am so happy about the work at Andaman. Man me bahut santhushti hain. (There is a feeling of contentment in my mind when I think of it.) You have to go to the interiors to see the effect of my work. You should make time, it will only take you a month.

LR: Can you tell me some story of Andaman that makes you very happy?

SA: But that will make this very long.

LR: That’s fine with me.

SA: Okay so you have listened to everything from the Dangs. So you'd like to listen to this part more?

LR: Yes.

SA: I will have to tell you about the Andamans first. Andaman has 400 islands, of it almost in 30 islands people live, others are just filled with forest. It is 50 km from Burma and Indonesia. When the British came in they settled in Nicobar and converted all the people into Christians, who followed the British church, Protestants. Andaman is populated by Jarawa, who still live naked; Dongi, who until recently lived naked; and Andamani – 3 types. Nicobar also has 3 main tribes.

[...]

LR: So you met all the tribals?

SA: Jarawa live in jungle. We cannot go there. They will shoot us with arrows. They hunt and eat. We cannot go. Nowadays there are efforts to bring them into the mainstream.

When the British came to the islands they found these vast unoccupied lands and thought that they should put it to some use. When the Christian missionaries went to these places they were successful in converting almost all Nicobaris into Christians. But the Andamani people lived in jungles and the British were not able to make contact with them.

During the independence movement they used Andaman for their cellular jail. After independence, the Indian government felt that they should put all the land to some use. So they thought of clearing the forests and settling the refugees from Bangladesh into the place. So they started clearing the jungles and building infrastructure in the big islands.

All the development work needed workers. They brought in labourers in thousands from Ranchi—mainly adivasis. But the right to bring these people were given to Christian missionaries. So they brought in all Christians to build the city of Port Blair—to develop all the areas around the cellular jail.

[...]

The community name became Ranchi—because almost all the people were brought in from Ranchi and the places around. Chhattisgarh, Jashpur, and the places nearby. To do the rest of the work—they had to find more people. Businessmen to set up shops came from Tamil Nadu, police and teachers came from UP, people to work in offices came from Kerala, farmers came from Bengal.

Jagdev ji is from Oraon, Ranchi. Some people from those places who were Hindus, started telling their neighbours to tell their pastors that they are Christian so that they could go to the Andamans for work. If the pastors ask for your name, say Johnson or anything similar. They are Hindus, even the pastors know they are Hindus but take them along, thinking that even if they don’t become Christians staying in a Christian colony, at least their children will become Christians. So when these people would return to Ranchi during their vacations they came to know that there was an organisation working among the Hindu tribals, called Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and then came and visited us. They said that when someone was born in their community or someone died or any other functions the pastor would come in to perform the ceremonies. So they requested us to send someone saying that otherwise our community would not be able to exist. So at that time Bhaskaran ji and Jagdev Ram ji decided to send me. Yeh kaam kathin hain. (This work is difficult.)

LR: Bahut hi kathin hoga. (It must be very difficult.) How did you manage to work there?

SA: Jagdev ji went there once and named a committee for name’s sake with some people and came back. By the time I went there was no place, no people to work with.

When I got out of the bus I had decided that I will not go to the place where Bengalis live. Because once you end up with your community you will not be able to work with others.

LR: Kyon?

SA: If I meet the Bengali community then the meeting with the tribals won’t work.

LR: So you wear the same clothes when you went?

SA: Yes, in the same clothes. I asked for the Ranchi basti, so then a person told me that he was also going to Ranchi. Asked me where I am from; I said Jashpur. Immediately a rapport was built between us. He asked me my purpose of visit and I said I am here to propagate Hinduism. He took me to the village. Then he said that everyone there was Christian, he said all the children go to church, there were churches everywhere. When I asked whether all the old people got to church, they said there are some who don’t go to church. So I went and met them. They told me openly that they changed their names and became Christians, but don’t go to church. Pastors don’t force them to become Christians because they know that their children will be Christians and go to church.

I know the names of the festivals, their dances how they are performed, but don’t know to read. So I asked them do you celebrate Jitiya, [unclear]. They said they don’t celebrate, told me that in their hearts they want to celebrate, but their children are all Christians. So I started meeting, one by one, such people and opening conversations. They said they wanted to keep the traditions alive—the festivals, the dance. So I said that is what my work is. I wanted some people to work on this—girls are the best to do this work. So I said give me some girls, I will take them to Jashpur where the ashram is — would teach them dance, bhajans. They will also start believing in Hanuman. In just 2-3 months, I got 6 girls. So I first contacted the Vivekananda Kendra at Kanyakumari. There was a Vivekananda school in Port Blair, I sent the girls through them to train them in bhajan singing. Then I took them to Jashpur, then taught them our culture in 3 months time.

LR: Kya kya sikhaya? (What were they taught?)

SA: Sab sikhaya. (They were taught everything.) Vivekananda’s training of bhajans is great. They train the same way that the Christian pastors do with their songs.

LR: Can you remember some bhajan from this?

SA: No. God has given me a very bad throat – I can never sing.

LR: Could you quote some lines from the bhajan for me?

SA: No I don’t remember any. You can get the book with bhajans from the Vivekananda centre.

When these girls returned, we started visiting the villages one by one, and the people who had not yet become Christians started coming forward and saying that this is our culture and started telling their children that what they were doing so far was not their culture. Slowly these bhajans started spreading from one house to another. The hidden Hindus started coming out.

Then I concentrated on little children. Slowly we started training even younger kids for bhajans — the kids in class 3-4. We married off the girls, as I am a saint and it was not proper to roam around with unmarried girls. We had our Hindu culture and could not do it like the Christian missions. So we asked these girls to train the kids. In every village we made groups of 6 to 7 kids. So I told them that these kids will need temples. The people used to call me “Hindu father”. So they said okay for the Hindu church. They made a prayer hall like that of the church – so that everyone could sit together and pray. This was not like our temples, with the idol of the deity. Everything was done in the Christian way. This was a new learning experience for me.

LR: Did the Christian missionaries not stop you from working?

SA: I will tell you about this also, but later.

I used to roam through the villages like a sadhu. Bus, boat and then I used to walk on foot mainly. The leeches would bite me.

LR: Did you have a vehicle to travel?

SA: Bus and boats were the other means of transport. 2-3 hours on boat would be the travel time between villages. Like how you have it in Kerala. There were leeches all over.

LR: You must have been bitten by them many times?

SA: Yes. But it felt so nice to work with them [the people]. The kind of respect they gave me.

So then we appointed a poojari for the temple purposes. So on day one the poojari came with a register and drew a list of the people in the village who were Hindus. I got to learn from them, how the Christian community organised themselves – because the tribals followed the same for the temple too. Like a church, they insisted that everyone who was Hindu had to come to the temple. All the committees were formed by tribals. In Port Blair the committee president was Damodaran, and the secretary was Bishnu Pada Ray from Bengal. We used to take him around all the places. Then his eyes were on politics; so I told him it’s good for you to go to politics.

LR: So you made him [Ray] an MP?

SA: No no not me. I felt that it would be good for him to be in politics. Unko bataya ki politics mein aaye toh bhi apna hi kaam hain. (I told him, if you join politics, you can still do our work.)

He came to Delhi, met Vajpayee and then became a BJP member and he is now the MP. Being in politics is also our work, so I thought it was good for him to go into politics. I went to Andaman in ’88. He did lose elections once in between, but now is back as an MP.

He just came to meet me. Six months back when the Lok Sabha was on. So he told me that I should not let anyone know about this.

LR: But why is everyone so afraid of letting others know that they are meeting you? Malegaon blast mein kahi bhi aapka naam nahin hain, phir bhi? (Your name is nowhere in the Malegaon blast, and still?)

SA: Yes, true my name does not even appear in it.

So you know what happened in Malegaon no? I am not anywhere in the chargesheet. They knew that Sunil Joshi used to come to the ashram. He was absconding in connection to a murder case in MP. So I told him come to my ashram and stay comfortably. At that point Pragya was involved in the matters of the ashram and used to come often. Sunil Joshi did all the planning, main wahi hain. (He’s the main). Then he was murdered.

LR: Pragya ji aur Sunil Joshi kaafi — unka acchha parichay tha (they were well-acquainted with each other)?

Parichay — koi koi bolte thhe unke bare mein. Par maine nahi dekha. (Acquaintance — some people said so, but I didn’t see anything.) Both used to stay together. It felt good to see them work together.

LR: Please tell me something about Pragya.

SA: Pragya was a full time ABVP member from Bhopal—then she was not a swamini—and came to hear about me. Then she contacted someone and said she wanted to meet me, and then came to meet me in Dang. She later took sanyas.

LR: Was she influenced by you to take sanyas?

SA: She asked me whether I can give her diksha. No, no not by me. I told her that I am not fit to give her sanyaas. Layak nahin hoon main. Kabhi layak banoon tab tak aap intezaar mat karna. (I am hardly worthy. Don’t wait for a time at which I may become so.)

LR: Kyon? Aap layak kyon nahi hain? (Why do you say you are unworthy?)

SA: I don’t work as per the tradition of the sanyasi. It is not my job to start an ashram and live like a sanyasi. I live and work among tribals — that is my mission. Swamiji alag pehchan hain. (Swamiji’s identity is a different one.)

LR: Were there more people like you in VKA?

SA: Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is not for sants (saints).

I used to be involved in the RSS from the time I was a kid. It was the people who went and told Bhaskaran ji that an RSS worker was living as a saint in the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, and he then designated me for the work in Andamans.

LR: Why did you become a sanyasi and not a pracharak then?

SA: So now you want me to leave the Andaman story and tell you about this?

LR: Yes please, but answer it in short for me. I don’t know how much time I have left.

SA: Ok then.

My father Bibhutibhushan Sarkar was a freedom fighter and Gandhian from Kamarpukur. My father wanted me to become a saint with the Ramakrishna Mission, and even I wanted to join. We were very poor, but did our studies well. There was no work, no farming. When I went to Bardhaman to do MSc, then I asked my brother whether he wanted to write for MBBS. I was taking care of my expenses by doing tuitions, same with my brother.

We were very influenced by the pracharaks, chief among them was Basant Rao Bhatt from Nagpur. I was more involved with the Mission’s work. Under Ramakrishna Mission, every religion was equal. We used to celebrate Christmas, Eid, so I used to do the same. Once an RSS local Pracharak at the time, Vijay Adya [Bijoy Adya], told me that Swami Vivekananda has said somewhere that when a Hindu becomes a Muslim or Christian, it is not that one member has decreased, the right meaning of it is that one new enemy of the Hindus has been born. It was a huge shock to me. I said it is not possible that Swami Vivekananda would say such a thing, but then he said that Vivekananda did. In my house there were many books of Vivekanda’s. And then it was pointed out to me that the line was in one of his speeches. Bahut jhatka laga ki shatru ban gaya. Ek dum aakhri baat hain na? (It was a huge shock to me. They have become our enemy. That is like the end of the discussion, right?) I gave it a thought for the next few days. Then I realised that it is not in our capacity to fully analyse Vivekananda’s thoughts, but since he has said it I will follow it zindagi bhar (all my life). Unke baat pe koyi avishwas nahi hain. Dhoondhna nahin hain ki kyon bola hain. (There is no question of doubting his words. I don’t have to question why he said a particular thing.) Whatever he had said is right. I will base my life on his teaching and sayings. Zindagi bhar yahi karenge. (I would do this all my life.)

LR: But did you have any experience that made you feel that these people can never be our friends, that they are all our enemies?

SA: No, I never had any experience that made me think that people from other religions are our enemy. I was always involved with Ramakrishna Mission before, so I never had any such moment.

Vivekananda has also said that if you could teach even one illiterate person two words, then you will find mukti (enlightenment). So I thought this will be the two main things in my life. I will also live with the adivasis and teach them, and will also take care of the fact that no more enemies of Hindus are born, and if anyone has converted then to bring them back to Hinduism. Before I took sanyas I had worked under Basant Rao Bhatt in Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram.

LR: When?

SA: In the end time last days of ’77 – the Emergency days.

Swami Paramanand [whom] I met from Burdwan had also influenced me and I took sanyas from him. I told everyone at home I have completed MSc and taken a job, but now I wanted to take sanyas. Everyone was happy – father, mother and brothers.

LR: Why Paramanand ji?

SA: Paramanand ji used to follow Ramakrishna’s thoughts, but his work was mainly with Dalits and he also used to do the work of propagation of religion. I had by then mentally distanced myself from the Mission because of the words of Vivekananda.

I was always in touch with Basant Rao ji. I was very attached to him.

When we used to go to RSS shakha, we were kids then, once my father said: look, I am a Gandhian and Gandhi is god. Seeing him we left our studies and joined the freedom movement and could complete my studies. After we won independence we didn’t want to join politics as per his vision. And thus we ended up with no jobs and money. [My father told us] RSS is not a good organisation, I will not force you. Even I left the house on the basis of an ideology, so I know that you will also be influenced by ideologies. I was happy when you all became followers of the Mission, but now that all 7 brothers are going to RSS it is my duty to warn you about it. It is not a good organisation since they killed Gandhiji. I will not stop you, you all can continue going, but you should never introduce me to any RSS worker.

LR: So what did you reply?

SA: Kuch nahi. Theek hain. (Nothing. It’s fine.)

The RSS workers used to come home, chat with mother, have food with us. But never talked to father. 2-3 years after, once father asked us: the Basant Rao who comes home – who is he? So we told him that he is an RSS pracharak. He asked, what is a pracharak? We told him. Also that he was an MA pass (older than us brothers), who left his studies, came to Bengal, learnt our language. He used to come home, used to touch his feet and say pranaam and then move away.

Father asked us how many people in the RSS are like Basant. We told him “sabhi aise hain” (they are all like that).  He said that “Basant ko dekhne se nahi lagta ki yeh sangathan kharab ho sakte hain” (Having seen Basant it doesn’t seem like this organisation could be bad.) [Laughs]

Our father’s mentality towards the RSS people had changed by then. We also became part of the shakha. Basant used to stay in the Kolkata karyalaya of RSS. Do go and meet Vijay Adya and Basant Rao Bhatt – people who changed my outlook.

LR: Can you give me their numbers?

SA: You go to the Kolkata RSS office and you can get all their contacts. They are the people who changed my complete outlook to life. I thought I will go to the Mission, be a saint; [that] was what I dreamed. But then it changed.

In the Bengal ashram, my work was noticed, and then they referred to Andamans. So now I think I have told you everything about myself.

LR: No no no. You have to tell me more about Andaman.

SA: But all my personal life is done. Okay? You got to know the turning point in my life.

LR: Yes. So tell me how it was when you met Pragya.

SA: Pragya has a personality. Ladke jaise, chote chote baal the. (She had short hair, like a boy’s). She used to wear shirt and pants.

LR: So what did you address her as?

SA: Pragyaji.

LR: And how did she address you?

SA: Swamiji.

Once when I was in Bhopal in the mid ’90s, I was at the house of Sushilaji of the VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] and Pragya was also there to meet her. The aggressive person that she was, the Hinduism that she spoke of, her dressing was something that I remembered her for.

LR: So what was it about her speech that impressed you?

SA: No at that point we didn’t talk much. Someone introduced us and told her that this is Aseemanand of Vanvasi Ashram. Then later when I heard she was coming to Dang to meet me, I thought that she must have remembered me. But she didn’t and I reminded her of our earlier meeting and told her, my dressing is such that you should have remembered me. It has been 3-4 years since that meeting and she had forgotten it.

LR: So who was there with her when you met her first?

SA: When she first came to Dang she was alone.

LR: So who arranged for this meeting?

SA: It was Jayanti bhai of Navsari who had arranged for our meeting. You should not meet him. He was a trustee of the Dang temple. He became anti-Modi, went to the Keshubhai team. So we all have distanced ourselves from the people.

When my conversion stories made national news and when Sonia Gandhi flew down to make speeches against me, there was a lot of discussion about me in the media. Then Advaniji was the home minister and asked Keshubhai to rein me in. Then he started stopping us from work and even arresting my people.

Then, Keshubhai left and Narendra bhai came into power. Even before he became CM, Narendra bhai used to come and meet me and he told me, “I know that Keshubhai is troubling you. He will soon be out of power and I will become the CM. Phir aapka kaam hum karenge. (Then, I will do your work.)”

I didn’t want to drag any of their names in when I was arrested. Even I had no role in the crimes. The only thing was that I know Joshi and Pragya ji. Woh alag vishay hain. (That’s a different matter.)

In Andaman, slowly one after another temples were slowly built. My main work was to tour these villages, sit through the night at their bhajans. They also performed the adivasi dances. And then go to another village on foot. There was one jeep in Port Blair but it was of no use for me.

The Christians started to reconvert. The Hindus used to say, when your priest comes we have to get chicken and eggs ready, but when our priest comes all he needs is rice and dal. They used to come to the temple, mark their attendance in the register, do bhajans all day, and then would give me rice and money. They are used to giving it to the Christian priest. I asked them to keep the rice and money in one place and use the money to build a temple, and use the rice to cook when they had people from the nearby villages over for bhajans. Slowly Christians also started converting to Hinduism. The work was so good that we even got a BJP MP elected from the place.

LR: But you did the same in Dang. You succeeded in getting a BJP person elected.

SA: Par woh ab hat gaye. (He has been removed, though.) Presently it is not with BJP.

LR: They were saying that from the time you left, all the work has come to a halt.

Hamari galti hain. Theek se bana nahi paye hum. (It is my fault that I didn’t build it properly.)

LR: It’s not your fault. There was no one to further your work. So now we are done with Andaman. Tell me about Dang.

SA: … Sabke ghar ghar me Hanuman ke photo hain. Kaise badlav kiya. (Everyone’s house had a photo of Hanuman. What a change that was.) In every village, Hanuman Jayanti, Shivratri samooh mein manate hain (used to be celebrated together). There was a spot where the river would meet the sea. We had the idea to celebrate a festival there. Every year there would be a mela there. Dang was a very small area, but in Andaman the whole state was changed by me. When they saw my temples, all the Hindus were very happy. The Tamilians, people from Kerala and from UP — police and teachers. Police and teachers helped me a lot. But I never stayed anywhere other than with the Ranchi people. It was only after 2 years that the Bengali crowd found out, the swami who is from Ranchi also knows Bengali! Even then they didn’t realise that I am from Bengal.

LR: Another question for you. You knew that being with Sunil Joshi and Pragya could cause problems for you later?

SA: Isme to samasya koi nahi hain. Kya samasya? (This is not a problem. What problem?) I told them I have my sphere of work. I won’t do any other work. You can do that. Yeh kaam galat nahin hain, achcha hain. Jo kar raha hain woh karna hi chahiye. Mandir pe jo akraman ho raha hain uska badla lena hi chahiye. Aap log karo. Toh woh log karne laga. Ashram ek kendra ban gaya iske liye. (This work is not wrong, it’s good. Whatever you are doing, that is important. We should avenge the attacks on the temples. You all can do it. So then they started doing it. And my ashram became the centre for this.)

Sonia Gandhi jaante the ki ham poore desh mein ghoomne lage.  (Sonia Gandhi knew that I was roaming all around India.)

[audio unclear]

Wherever there were Christians I used to roam all those places. To sabke nazar mein tha hi yeh ek hi vyakti hain, Christian ke virodh main. Mujhe uthane ka mauka mil gaya, toh utha liya. (So I was being watched by all, that this was a person against Christians. When they got the first chance to arrest me they did.) Everyone knows that I am not involved in this, that is why my name is not in Malegaon. But they also wanted to stop my work in some way.

[…]

LR: Now that everyone is behind the bars how does the work that Joshi/Pragya planned go forward?

SA: Ho jayega, samay par ho jayega. (It will happen. It will happen on time.)

LR: Sandeep hain bahar, hain na? (Sandeep is outside, isn’t he?)

SA: Samay badal jayega. Hamesha toh ek hi samay nahi rahta. (The times will change. The time doesn’t stay the same always.)

LR: How did you meet Bharat bhai [Rateshwar]?

SA: Bharat bhai used to stay in Toronto, Canada, also worked in an Arab country. He is from Sindh colony from Maharashtra. He used to know Sunil Joshi. He has a daughter in Valsad. And then he got involved in our work.

LR: So he was closer to Sunil Joshi than to you?

SA: Yes.

LR: But he used to stay with you?

SA: Who?

LR: Bharat bhai?

SA: No, he had his own house and family in Valsad.

LR: So this Sunil Joshi didn’t have anyone?

SA: He was a pracharak.

LR: So how long did he stay with you when he was hiding?

SA: One year before his murder Joshi had started staying in my ashram. It was his centre. He was murdered in Dewas, when he went there on a short visit. He was supposed to come back to the ashram, but news came that he was murdered. He was staying in my ashram. My ashram was the centre.

But I want to tell you something from this. This is not for outsiders. Aap toh hamare sampark mein hain. Aap se toh kuch hone vala nahi hain. (You are linked with us. Nothing will happen because of you.)

LR: Ji.

[Off-record]

[To police] Time ho gaya?

Policeman: It’s time. You should leave.

[…]

Phoolchand [Bablo] is a very good boy. The first time that I met him he was making food at the Waghai hostel. I felt he was special and so took him along. He was an adivasi, and used to travel with me a lot. He is the main person who did the re-conversions there. Logo se aise mil jaate hain. (He interacts well with people.) His father said to me that: yeh bachcha aapka hain. (This boy is yours now.) He became the organising secretary for all of Gujarat, but now he is in charge of the Shabari temple. He does good speeches, and during the peace meetings with the priest he used to give tit-for-tat replies.

LR: Can you repeat any of his dialogues?

SA: Once in a meeting called by the collector the [Christian] priests alleged that we were converting people. Then he stood up and asked them to show in the records who those Christians were. The reality is that the tribals on becoming Hindus, never changed their caste certificates as they did not want to lose the benefits.

He asked the collector why his records did not have a single Christian in Dangs. And asked the pastors “Hinduon ke beech mein aapne church kyon banake rakha hain?” (Why have you built a church among the Hindus?)

LR: Aapko bahut mante hain woh. (He respects you a lot.)

… In every village there is one worker who has brought change. Phoolchand bhai knows each one of them. They are the ones who had no political motivations, the unseen faces behind the whole movement.

LR: Yeh Janubhai sab jo hain. (Janubhai and the others)

SA: Yeh upar upar ke log hain. Man mein political bhi hain. (These were higher ups. Political-minded.) …

I haven’t even seen Surat properly. I never moved much out of Dangs. I only went to Nadiad to meet Guruji.

LR: When Shabari Kumbh was happening, you didn’t come up on stage. You and the leadership had a problem that made you angry?

SA: It was a strategy that we adopted at that time. How we should be working.

LR: Toh aap hat gaye the. (So you left.)

SA: Nahi nahi main tha wahi pe. Poora ka poora … who told you this? (No, I was there, completely.)

LR: Everyone that I met.

SA: Who everyone? Kahan ke? Dang ke? (People from where? From Dang?)

LR: Haan. You were never on stage.

SA: I was never on stage because stage pe bhaashan dene ke liye log stage pe aana tha. (Only who wanted to give a speech came on the stage.)

LR: So I was told that because during Shabari Kumbh you wanted some part of the money to also be spent on tribals, that they be brought to it. And so you were unhappy.

SA: No, no, Phoolchand won’t say that. Kaha kya? (Did he say it?)

LR: I don’t remember exactly who told me. It might be Phoolchand.

SA: Woh hamne tay kiya. Jo bade hain, sab milke tay kiya tha, ki committee banega. (We decided that. Those who were big met and decided to form a committee.)

We had a separate committee for Shabari Kumbh and for the temple.

LR: Why was there a separate committee for this?

SA: The idea of Kumbh was to bring people from all over the country to Dangs. For this the local people of Dang were not of much use. Nor was I involved in that part, because that was what we decided after our meeting. It was the committee who did everything. Sudarshanji was the head of the RSS then. I had very good relations with him. And Mohan ji Bhagwat. So we all sat and decided. It was a programme for the Sangh. RSS aur Kalyan Ashram milke kiya. (RSS and VKA did it together.)

The RSS and Kalyan Ashram’s all-India level leaders sat and decided how many people should be brought from where. That they should invite the CM. How can I do all this? Asaram Bapu came. Many other saints came. It should be someone able. How could I do this?

LR: You were quite famous then? It was only because of you that Morari Bapu came to do the Ram Katha.

SA: No no, it was because of Narayandas ji. Morari Bapu was his disciple. And when I went and told Narayandasji that I saw the place – which was pointed out to me by the adivasis — about the 3 stones at Shabari. So Morari Bapu was there in the Ashram at that time. I didn't even know him. So he told Morari Bapu, that this is Aseemanand and he works in Dangs, and has found this place that was believed to be of the Shabari mata. And you have to do Ram katha there. So Morari bapu said that because you have asked for it, let me know the time, and at whatever time that you fix, I will cancel all other programmes and come for this.

LR: He did this event for free?

SA: Yes, he came and stayed for 9 days with me. And I was very much influenced by his message.

I never went to invite Asaram Bapu and others. Who will come if I invite? It was the Sangh who extended all the invitations [during Kumbh]. Only when the Sangh calls will people come. Who will come if I call? Even the Chief Minister of MP came. Narendrabhai ki toh baat alag hain. (Narendrabhai is a different matter.) He even came when the ashram there was inaugurated. He was the new CM then.

LR: He respects you a lot?

SA: Maante matlab. Main bhi karyakarta, woh bhi karyakarta. Woh bhi pracharak thhe. Ek hi kaam karna hain. (In the sense I am a worker, so is he. We do the same work.)

LR: He is not like Keshubhai.

SA: Keshubhai ka apna vichar hain, jaisa Advani ji ka bhi apna vichar hain. (Keshubhai has his own way of thinking, so does Advani.)

Toh phir ho gaya. Aur kuch? Baad me phir. (So that’s it. What else? The rest later.)

LR: Oh its 2 [pm]!

SA: Theek hain phir. (Ok then.)

[Ends.]

 

 

 

INTERVIEW THREE: 9 JANUARY 2014, AMBALA CENTRAL JAIL, HARYANA

 

Between the second and third interviews, the journalist visited Aseemanand's family home, in West Bengal, and spoke with his family members. She also travelled to Bhopal to meet Aseemanand’s fellow conspirator, Pragya Singh Thakur. The journalist then went back to Ambala. During the third interview, Aseemanand spoke further about the bomb plot, implicating the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, and the RSS national executive council member Indresh Kumar, in the conspiracy. The claims about Mohan Bhagwat in the third interview were off-record, but they were repeated, on-record, in the fourth interview.

                                                       

LR: Namaste. I was meeting all your lawyers yesterday.

SA: You must have met them after I left. Nobody told me about you.

LR: I was there in front of you.

SA: Yes, a lot of people were there. Where did you stay last night?

LR: A hotel nearby. How are you? You have grown such a long beard. It’s been a year since I’ve seen you [since the second interview, on 22 June 2013]. People at the courtroom were calling you Asaram Bapu. So what’s the date for your next hearing?

SA: All the lawyers stay in touch with each other. Ram Kumar [an advocate] keeps track of the dates. Sabhi Sangh ke hain. (All the lawyers are from the Sangh.)

Where did you go in between?

LR: I went to Bengal. I wanted an interview with your mother. But that did not happen … She was ill and at your other brother’s place. I met your youngest brother.

SA: … Please don’t meet anyone from my home. I left it when I was very young …

Have you met Ranaji [Advocate JS Rana] before?

LR: No I have not met him. We always talk over the phone … I tried to meet Bishnu Pada Ray. But he was very upset when I mentioned your name.

SA: Upset?

LR: Yes, he was upset. He said, no no I don’t want to talk about him. So I said, okay, if you don’t want to talk about him I will not.

SA: You did not establish contact properly.

LR: No, I did introduce myself.

SA: No, you should have met him through someone. He must have thought you are a regular reporter. You should take Tulsilal’s number from Rana and then through him go to meet Ray. Then he will talk to you. If he has had the courage to come and meet me here, then he should talk to you, too.

[…]

My name as Aseemanand is not anywhere. If you have to write, then it is N Sarkar. Did you search on the net for the right spelling?

Two months back we were taken to Jaipur — me, Lokesh [Sharma] and Rajinder [another accused]. In the last 3 years they have never taken us before. They took us in the same long vehicle in which they took us to prison. But it was good. We spread out mattresses on the floor, and all the police officers were known to us.

LR: Who — the NIA?

No, the local Haryana police. Felt like a family outing. Aana jana, hotel se khana, net-wala mobile se search kar liya, Facebook, YouTube, sab dekh liye. Unme bhi likha thha mera naam Shabari Dham videos mein. (Travelled, ate in restaurants, searched the internet on a mobile phone to see Facebook, YouTube; I saw everything. My name was there, on the Shabari Dham videos.)

Aapko bata raha hun. Kisiko batata nahi. Vaise theek nahi hain … Policewallah humko achcha respect karte hain. Vajpayee ji ne jo road banaya, sardarji tha driver toh usko bataya ki thoda sa ghoomke jayenge to Gujarat hoke jayenge. (I’m telling you this. I wouldn’t tell anyone. It’s not OK … The police respect me. So I told the Sikh driver that he could take a small diversion via the road that Vajpayee built and go through Gujarat.) We went to Shabari Dham, Nadiad to meet my guruji, met all the saints there. I asked Phoolchandbhai [Singh Bablo] to come to Vyara, also Vijaybhai the MLA, and they got all the young children to assemble/visit us, and then we spent a good time and had a nice feast. It was nice, I met all the people …

My next hearing is on 18th at Jaipur, and Phoolchandbhai will be there to meet me.

LR: Okay I wanted to clarify these dates with you. CBI produced you [in court] on the 19th as per this document. So when did they actually arrest you?

SA: Isme koi gadbad nahi hain. Haridwar ashram se uthaya tha mujhe CBI ne (There’s no problem with that. They picked me up from the Haridwar ashram) and then we came to Delhi.

LR: How did you come?

SA: By road.

LR: Can you tell me about that day?

SA: Baba Ramdev’s ashram is 15 kilometres from Haridwar, and beyond that, almost 13 kilometres to Haridwar, there is a Shani Mata temple. Behind the temple was a field. I made a small house in the middle of it. I never thought that they would be able to find it. In the first months I was very cautious, didn’t keep a mobile. But in two years I moved around a lot. I got hold of a villager, told him that I don’t need any records, but will make a hut in the middle of your field; the land will remain in your name. And once I am done even the house will be yours. So then I spend money and built a badhiya kutiya (a lovely hut).

So it went on for 2 years. I used to go to Shabari Dham too, stay there alone, but no one came there looking for me [from the police]. In 2008, when Pragya was arrested, they came to Shabari … but after that no one came.

LR: So you were not at the ashram then?

SA: No, I’d stayed away for some days then. So then when no one came looking for two years I started living a very open life. I grew overconfident, and started to keep a mobile phone.

Then they found me. They were also waiting for me. I went to Shabari Dham, met guruji [the mahant of Nadiad], and then came back to the ashram at Haridwar. At night, by 11, someone rang the bell, and I thought that someone must have lost their way in the jungle. It had almost slipped my mind that [the police] were searching for me. They told me that they were from the forest department — that was a usual thing. They were all in civilian dress, CBI people. They … told me that they were from the CBI and were arresting me. I asked them what the charges were. The ASP was leading the team and behaved like a gentleman with me, and said he wanted to search. I asked: what do you want? I will give it to you. 80,000 rupees and my phone and passport I gave them. They looked at the books I was reading. When I asked what is the case in which you are arresting me, he said, the Sunil Joshi murder case.

Then they took me to Delhi. In a good vehicle. The ASP chatted izzat se (respectfully) with me. They all behaved with much respect towards me. Andar se natak kar raha hoga. Natak mein bhi achhe se rahta usne. (They might have been acting, but they acted well.) Another sant, Brahmanand, was also living in a house close to me. I knew him from long ago, so I asked him can I stay with you, and he arranged for the land. He used to eat with me and be with me all the time. He used to take care of me — was younger than me. And from Kerala. He had completed a BTech, but had gone the wrong way — used to take every kind of drug; and in Haridwar you can get charas in abundance. Sant samooh mein yeh sab hota hain, koi rok-tok nahi hain. (Saints do this freely; no one stops them.) Some swamis also do the business of this.

LR: Oh, this Brahmanand?

SA: Yes, but since he was from Kerala and also educated, he was good at mingling with people.

LR: So you didn’t have anyone else to take care of you?

SA: No, I lived alone. He was living next to my kutiya. The people of the village would also come in to help. I just wanted a place, so I didn’t mind what he was doing.

[…]

I told Brahmanand that my name was Omkaranand, and that I was from the Nadiad Santram Mandir.

In the two years I lived there I made good contact with the villagers. It wasn’t like I was there all the time. I would visit Shabari Dham also often. At the time when the new voters’ list was being issued, I got a new voter’s ID in the name of Omkaranand. I also got a ration card in the same name. […] The CBI threatened the officers who helped me get the new official records and told them they had to give statements saying that I was hiding, and making bombs here.

LR: How did you make this kutiya? Was it pucca?

The kutiya was a pucca building – two rooms with bedroom and kitchen. The food was prepared by Brahmanand. I wanted to reform him and get him away from drugs. I told him that I would build ten of the same kind of pucca buildings and we could convert them into old-age homes, and he was also interested in it.

LR: So how come you have another name, “Jiten Chatterjee”?

SA: There was another Aseemanand from Bengal, whose old name was Jiten Chatterjee. I used to see that on the internet when I was checking it. Later when my name started appearing in the news, I saw that journalists related me to the other Aseemanand, and were referring to me by the name of Jiten Chatterjee. At that point no one knew my old name. So when the CBI asked me what my original name was, I said it was not “Jiten Chatterjee”.

LR: What’s your date of birth? I shouldn’t be asking you this, but it is an important exercise here…

SA: No one remembers the real birth date. The date in my school records … [unclear] … and using that made a passport. But the date turned out to be different. None of them are true.

LR: You told me that your house was just opposite the Ramakrishna ashram.

SA: Yes.

LR: So the night that you were arrested you were brought to Delhi?

SA: On the 20th all the top officials of the CBI met me, talked to me with a lot of love and respect. No questioning. Offered me tea, coffee, food. Then they told me that I would have to go to Hyderabad, and told me that they had lied to me that they were arresting me in the Sunil Joshi case. They took me to Hyderabad in a five-seater airplane. Three CBI officers accompanied me. They took me out of the airport through a separate entrance, through which a vehicle came in to receive us and then took me to the guesthouse of the CBI at Hyderabad; and then took me to court. They didn’t do any do-numbari [trickery] at the time. The ASP and me used to sleep in the same room in separate cots. They gave me a TV, laptop and mobile — and told me that they will be busy most of the time, so I could use these in the meanwhile, but that it will keep records. I didn’t touch any of this.

LR: So how many days did you spend with the CBI there?

SA: Beech mein do din jail mein gaya, baki ke time CBI walon ke saath hi tha — bees-pachchis din. (I was jailed for two days in between, but spent the rest of the time with the CBI — about 20-25 days.)

LR: So did the confession come about?

SA: Gujarat mein main Hindutva ka kaam ke liye gaya. Aur aap ko kya main bataoon, 2002 mein jo Godhra aaya, Gujarat ke us adivasi area mein jo Mussalmano ka safaya kiya, usmein bhi main bahut active raha. Usme par main samne nahi aaya tha, isi liye me choot gaya. Adivasi area mein jo kaam kiya hain, woh direct adivasi ne hi kiya. Hum saamne nahi aaye. Abhi tak wahaan koi waapas nahi aaya. Baki sab jagah jo gaye woh waapas aaye. Yahaan pe aa hi nahin saktein. Dang mein nahi tha: par Panchmahal se leke uttar tak.

(I went to Gujarat for the work of Hindutva. Let me tell you this, in 2002, when Godhra happened, the cleansing of Muslims from the adivasi areas, I was very active in that. I didn’t reveal myself at the time, so I went free. The work done in adivasi areas was done directly by the adivasis. I did not come forward. And no one [no Muslim] has returned there so far. They’ve returned to all the other places. Here they cannot return. They weren’t in Dang, but from Panchmahal to the north.)

Sunil Joshi and me were very close.

LR: How was Joshi — in his appearance, to talk to?

SA: He had a long beard. He was a nice person, used to do a lot of bhajan-pooja. Sat from morning to evening in the Shabari mandir, while I wandered around in the jungles. We wanted to let the people know through media that we had taken badla (revenge) for what happened to the Sankat Mochan temple and other temples.

We were having discussions on this. Kya naam rakhun? Mussalman ko bhi lage ki hum Hindu log kar rahe hain. (What name to keep? The Muslims ought to know that we Hindus are doing this.)

Iska badla toh lena chahiye aur batana chahiye ki hum Hindu logon ne kiya hain. Aur isliye sanghatan ka kuch naam leke, Hindu ke saath juda hua. Aur media ko bataye ki hum Hindu logon ne badla liya, mandir ke liye badla liya. Baki jagah mein jo hua uske bare mein hum nahin soch rahe hain. Mandir mein lagaya toh badla liya hain, aura aage bhi lenge. Naam koi nahin rakh paye. Aur media ko kabhi bata bhi nahi paaye. Aur beech me Sunil guzar bhi gaya. Isliye kabhi media ko bata nahi paaye. (We had to take revenge for this; we ought to be able to say that we Hindus did this. So we wanted to give the group a name related to Hinduism, and tell the media that we Hindus took revenge; took revenge for the temple. We have thought nothing of blasts that have occurred elsewhere. But for it happening in a temple, we have taken revenge, and will take more. We kept no name. Couldn’t tell the media. Sunil died, in between, so we couldn’t tell the media.)

So when the CBI arrested me, I thought this was a good time to reveal this. I knew that I could be hanged for it. Par mera umar bhi to ho gaya (But I am old, anyway).

Hindu ki taraf se bhi koi bataye: maine kiya. Maine aur Sunil ne milke kiya. Toh maine khud bataya, kya poochna hain? (Someone should speak up for the Hindus, saying, I did this. Sunil and I did it together, so I admitted it myself, and said [to investigators], what do you want to ask?)

They kept asking, so did you do the Hyderabad blasts too? I said yes, Sunil and I did it. But then I didn’t know who went and [planted it] for Sunil. Sunil toh guzar gaya. (Sunil was already dead.) I gave the name of Sandeep [Dange] whom they have not yet arrested. I did not meet Sandeep much. Sunil used to live with me. I told Sunil that we had to blow up Hyderabad and other places. Sahi bhi hua hain, mandir mein lagaya hain toh masjid mein humnein lagaya hain. (It is only right, if they have bombed temples, that we bomb mosques.)

One policewallah who was noting this — he and I had a true friendship — told me, “Swamiji aap itna sab mat likhwaao. Phas jayenge. Mar jayenge. Phaansi milega.” (Swamiji, don’t have so much written down. You’ll be trapped. You’ll die. You will hang.) I asked him, kya taqleef hain (where’s the problem)?

Then the ASP Balaji who arrested me, and stayed with me in a room told me: “Swamiji aap aisa bolenge toh itihaas ban jayega. Baat toh par hamare paas nahi banna, court me jaake bol paayenge?” (He said, Swamiji if you will say all this, it will make history. But don’t just say this here. Will you be able to say the same in court?) I didn’t have a lawyer to advise against it. Aur mere mein bhi tab josh tha. (I was also a bit carried away then.)

At the time, I was away from lawyers and the CBI officers were also smart. So I said yes.

They brought me to Delhi. Then the judge asked me “Kya bata rahein hain aap? Yeh sab sahi hain kya? Main likh ke rakh raha hun yahan — ki aapko phaansi ho sakta hain, yeh aap ko pata hain? Yeh main aapse pooch raha hoon, aap kya jawab denge? So I said, haan main taiyyar hoon. (What are you saying? Is this the truth? I am writing this down here – that I have asked you this, whether you understand that you could be hanged for this. What is your answer to that? I said, I am ready for the consequences.) Then the Sangh’s lawyers told me, aapko hum ab bacha nahin payenge. (We can’t save you now.) Then they said that I should give a statement that I was tortured. I said write whatever you want, and I will sign it. But sahi mein torture nahin hua hain. (But in truth they didn’t torture me.)

LR: And who was your lawyer then?

SA: Sangh ne us waqt jo taey kiya woh. (Whoever the Sangh had deputed at that time.)

Now the lawyers are very worried about my confession statement. But I didn’t give anyone’s name away. The ones that I have named, they were not able to arrest. The two people I named are still absconding. I took only Sunil Joshi’s name, and then since Pragya was also under arrest, took her name, and then Bharatbhai’s.

LR: So who is this Bharat bhai?

SA: Bharat bhai was from Sindh. He was an accountant in Canada. From ’98, my name started appearing in the papers. English papers used to write against me, so the Gujarati papers were really agitated and wrote more and more in my favour: that Christians were doing a lot of wrong, and I saved Gujarat, et cetera.

Dhansukh bhai from Valsad was working in Canada; had a lot of wealth and once asked me whether I could come and meet him. He and his wife were very old. He told me, I am happy that you remade Dang, from 90 percent Christian to 90 percent Hindu. I have a lot of land near the river in Valsad, I want to donate it to your work. I said no, I don’t have any work there, so the land is of no use to me. Where I have work I will find land for it, wahaan le lenge kaise bhi karke. Mil rahe hain, toh humein nahin chahiye. Bekaar ka sardard ho jayega (I will get land somehow where I work. If it’s being offered, I don’t want it. It becomes an unnecessary headache.) I asked him, are you connected to any other organisation. He said yes, he was involved with the Ramakrishna Ashram. So I said, give it to them then. He said no; the mission doesn’t work for the Hindus.

Then he introduced me to Bharat bhai, who he said was working with him abroad and had been known to him for the past few years. Bharatbhai told me that he liked my work and wanted to leave his job in Canada and come and work with me. He said he would buy the plot next to the one offered to me, and build a house there, and then come and stay in it. I said okay, you can come. I didn’t believe he would do it. Dhansukhbhai gave it to Ramakrishna Mission and they made a Sharada ashram there. Bharatbhai, true to his word, then moved to Valsad, built a house and stayed there, and started working with me. He made a good house and a guest house with it.

He used to come to Shabari Dham a lot, and so I introduced him to Sunil Joshi, and Pragya too. So since I lived in the jungle, and this place was near a railway station and it was convenient to reach, they all used to stay there, and then come to visit me. But the CBI was not ready to believe that Bharat bhai had left everything and come to Valsad just to work with me. They said his building [was] in the town and near the railway station, and was a lonely building in the area. So you could do your work conveniently here; this was your hiding place, they alleged. So Bharatbhai was also involved in this, they said. His family is still there, he has a son who was studying in the 10th standard. Please don’t go there. The CBI has tortured the family a lot.

LR: How common or strong is this feeling of Hindutvawaad, like you, in people across India?

SA: Mujhe toh lagta hain ki hain. Agar hum theek dhang se rakhe to hain. Sab jagah toh main akele gaya. Andaman mein, Dang mein. Koi pehchaan leke nahin gaya. Humko yeh karna hain, seedhe bata dethe the, gaon mein jaake. Gaon mein jaake mandir, Hanuman ke photo dete thhe. Ghar ghar mein jaake shyaam tak logon ko ikattha karte the. Christian ke ghar toh hum jaate nahin. Dang mein Christian zyaada ho gaya. Yeh Christian ko agar Dang mein rahna hain toh Hindu banke rahna padega. Agar koi pooche ki aisa kyon, toh hum unko samjhaate nahin the. Jo virodh karte hain, woh khulla virodh kar sakte hain, lekin joh hamare saath aana chahte hain, woh aa sakte hain. Sab ke sab aate the.

(I feel that it certainly exists. If we cultivate it in the right manner, then it does. I went everywhere alone; Andaman, Dang. I took no special identity. Here’s what I want to do, I said straightforwardly, in these villages. In these villages we gave out photos of Hanuman. We went to every home, gathering people until evening fell. We did not go to Christian houses. There were too many Christians in Dang. If these Christians wanted to live in Dang, they would have to do so as Hindus. If someone asked why this was so, I did not attempt to explain. Those who wished to oppose me could do so openly, and those who wished to come along with me could come. Everyone joined me.)

LR: What is the reason that Pragya Singh and Sunil Joshi came in search for you?

SA: Pragya first came to meet me, then Sunil Joshi. They read about me when the 1998 story was written and they felt that someone was doing this from the Sangh, so we should go and visit him.

LR: When did you get the Guruji Samman?

SA: I don’t remember the correct year. The Sangh gave it. The Sangh decided that that year, they would present the Samman to me. I used to visit Andaman often. In each village, when I visited, I would leave after giving them the dates of when I would visit next. There was no other way of communicating this to them. So once I gave them a date, I had to be there on that date.

So this Guruji Samman is presented on the day of Guruji’s [MS Golwalkar’s] birthday. Bhaskaran ji told me that this year, the award is being given to me. But then I told him that I have promised the Andaman people that I will visit them on that date. If I broke that promise to receive this gift, it would be wrong. It is great that the award is in the name of Guruji, but I didn’t want to go against his teachings to receive it. And Bhaskaran ji also agreed and said, you should not break your promise. They asked me to depute someone to collect it on my behalf, and I don’t remember who I sent for it. So it is right that it was given to me, but I never went to collect it.

But then they gave me a cheque in my name, and I had decided in my younger days that I would never have a bank account. I told them, now you have given me a cheque, it would have been easier if it were cash. So then I was forced to open a bank account for a day to encash the cheque and I gave the whole money to Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram.

There is an organisation in Kolkata, Barabazaar library or so – I don’t remember – they gave me an award in the name of Vivekananda.

LR: Yes, Bijoy Adya told me about it.

SA: Oh, so you met him. Basant ji?

LR: No I went shortly after he died. In which year did you start working full time with Basant Rao Bhatt?

SA: When I went to jail during the Emergency and got out. I never went back home. I had already completed my studies, and was working part time. But when my appointment as a teacher was confirmed, I told my family that this was not my path.

LR: So when you first visited Andaman, was Basant Rao Bhatt with you?

SA: Basant Rao first went to Andaman and told the people there that I was coming. I went alone to Andaman after that.

LR: What is your caste?

SA: My caste is Hindu.

LR: Hindu?

SA: When filling up a form on the computer, the officers asks for the caste and I reply, what caste? There is no caste for me.

[…]

LR: You have so many lawyers Swamiji!

SA: Sangh ke hain. (All my lawyers are from the Sangh.) I am very surprised that you take so much effort for this.

LR: But that is the nature of my work. To meet all these people. To follow up on your case for the last two years. For every person another’s work is a thing to wonder about. I will some day write a book on you. You could, by then, come out free.

SA: Koi baat nahin. Aap likh lo koi bhi, yeh sochte hi nahin. (Not an issue. You can write what you want. No one thinks about these things anymore.)

LR: So why did you think that Sunil had a threat on his life, by Indresh ji?

SA: No no. I never said that Sunil had any threat from Indresh. 

LR: But then you did say that Indresh ji had asked you not to do this work. That this was the work of Sunil Joshi.

SA: Indresh never asked me to stay away from this work. Woh to Indresh ji ko bachaane ke liye maine kaha tha. Ulta Indresh ji humko kehte thhe. (I said that to spare Indresh ji. On the contrary, he used to tell me to do just this.)

[Much laughter and small talk with the jail staff in the room and Aseemanand.]

So what where we talking about?

LR: About Indresh ji.

SA: You should not write this. I am a violent one among the Sangh people. Have used violence to establish Hindutva — in Dangs, Andaman, Chattisgarh, Nagaland. Please don’t write it.

Mohan Bhagwat, Indresh and Sunil, they all came to meet me in Shabari Dham. We all four were sitting.

Sunil said to Bhagwat ji: dekhiye, thoda Hindu ka akraman hona hain. Sangh se jude hue log hain, jo yeh vichar rakhte hain. Jo bhi hoga hum tak hi rakhenge. Sangh se inko jodenge bhi nahin. Aap se koi madad nahi lenge. Aap adhikari hain isliye aap ko bata rahe hain. Is liye aapko bata rahein hain, ki hum log soch rahe hain. (Look, we should do some violence in the name of Hindus. There are people in the Sangh who feel so. Whatever happens, it will be between us alone. We will not link the Sangh with this. We won’t take any help from you for this. We are letting you know because you are the top officials, that we are planning to do this.)

Then Mohanji and Indresh, both said: Yeh bahut achcha hain. Zaroori hain. Sangh se nahi jodna. Sangh nahin karenge. [unclear] Hindutva ke liye bhi aisa koi hain. Sangh ka yeh vichar nahi hain. (This is great. It’s very important that it be done. But don’t link it to the Sangh. The Sangh will not do this. [unclear]. Now Hindutva has someone like this on its side. But this is not the ideology of the Sangh.)

Then they told me: Swamiji aap yeh karenge toh hum nishchint hoga. Koi galat nahi hoga. Criminalisation nahi hoga. Aap karenge toh crime karne ke liye kar rahe hain aisa nahin lagega. Ideology ke saath juda rahega. [unclear] Bahut zaruri hain yeh Hindu ke liye. Aap log karo. Aashirwad hain. Isse aage kuch bhi nahi. (If you will do this we will be at ease with this. Nothing wrong will happen then. This will not be criminalised then. If you do it then people won’t say that we committed a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for the Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings. Nothing more than that from us.)

I told them that I will leave the Kalyan Ashram for this work, and you should also not come to Shabari Dham too often. But I have no idea how this thing reached the CBI.

LR: So who told this first to the CBI?

SA: Pata nahin. (I don’t know.) That Indresh and Bhagwat used to meet me is known to them. So when they asked, I told them that Indresh ji asked us not to do this. On the contrary, Indresh ji was the one who asked me to do this. I didn’t want to get Indresh ji involved in this. Sahi bhi hain. Aashirwad diya. Isse aage kuch nahi kaha. Bas yahi kaha ki aap is kaam mein aage rahenge toh hum nishchint rahenge. (It’s the right thing too. He only gave us his blessings. Didn’t tell us anything more than this. Just said that if you do it we would be at ease with it.)

LR: But then almost two years before you were arrested these facts had reached the CBI. How?

[Silence]

LR: Pragya didn’t give any statement. Sunil was not even alive. And even then in the name of Jiten Chatterjee your statements were being printed in the paper. Was it that armyman, Purohit?

[He looks at the clock.]

LR: We have more time.

[Off-record]

SA: I stay in B-class jail. Me and Ram Kumar, the MLA.

LR: In 1999, when all this work in Dang was going on, the posters and other things that Hindu Jagran Manch had brought out, did you oversee all that work?

SA: In Dangs in 1998, we had to do protests, fights; some 200 people went to jail over this. So we couldn’t do all this Sangh’s work through the VKA. We had to make Hindu Jagran Manch for this with tribals. This Janubhai doesn’t know a thing. We made him the president. What plan of action to undertake, what to print in the pamphlets, all those decisions were taken by us. We used to do everything. Usko khali saamne rakhta tha, adivasi hain is liye. (We just put him forward as a front, because he is adivasi.) Adivasis used to do all the Sangh’s work.

Will you go to my ashram?

LR: The ashram again?

SA: Yes my kutiya. Go to Haridwar and see the house I constructed. They didn’t seal it. Go there. Visit the people around, see what happened to the building. If that other swami is there.

Thirteen kilometres to Haridwar, the Shanidev temple is there. I don’t know if it is still there, since the road was widened. The name of the village is Bahadarabad [unclear]. It’s a big village. There was another name for the small village where I lived. If you walk for a quarter kilometre, you should be able to find it …

The land belonged to one Vikram Singh. I am not sure of his name now. I am not sure if I remember his name right. Do go see how everyone is there and let me know.

LR: So in a month, you go to Panchkula and Jaipur. Where else do they take you to for hearing?

SA: We took six days to go and come to Hyderabad. In the last year I travelled almost every month to Panchkula and Jaipur. Hyderabad, I have been to only once in all these years — in November. And then I was supposed to be involved in Malegaon too — but so far haven’t heard anything about it.

LR: So what’s the story of Sunil Joshi’s murder?

SA: Someone had phoned Bharat bhai from Indore. [unclear] Whatever Sunil knew Bharat bhai knew. And whatever Bharat bhai knew, Colonel Purohit also knew.

LR: Did you have any doubts about Col. Purohit, ever?

SA: I had doubts about Purohit from the start. I asked everyone, why we are keeping relations with this man in the intelligence? What good will he do to us? And look that’s exactly what happened. He was good friends with Bharat bhai. When they arrested Purohit, he told the police that I had done everything.

LR: Will it be good for you if the government changes?

SA: Sarkar badle, to kam se kam desh ke liye theekh hoga. Hamaara kuch ho na ho. (If the government changes, at least it will be a good thing for the country, whether or not it affects me.)

LR: Did you ever meet Asaram Bapu while you were in Gujrat?

SA: Yes, he came to my ashram twice.

LR: He is also in jail now. He was very close to Modi ji, right?

SA: Asaram Bapu? I am not sure whether Modi was close to him, but he always wanted to show to everyone that he was very close to Modi. I am still unable to believe that he could do this. I knew about his son, but that he [Asaram] would do the same thing seems unbelievable. He is a natak karne wala, dhong karne wala (a trickster, a cheat) I knew, but that he could do so wrong, I didn’t.

In our programme in 2006, we made a helipad at Shabari Dham to bring all the sants … Don’t write about this either, as it’s not related to my work.

[Off-record]

SA: Which other places are you planning to visit now?

LR: I am going to Delhi now.

SA: No, not in the coming days.

LR: I have no plans yet.

SA: Do go to Andaman and meet Tulsilal.

I have told you all the things. Even about the personal matters of Bharat bhai. You can write everything now. The whole details, how they were kept for two months. Even after that we were in jail together. That’s fine, but what he did with his family is very wrong.

LR: Do you have any news about Dange and Ramji?

SA: It appeared in the paper that Dange was seen in Indore and Ramji near the Nepal border.

LR: Have you met them?

SA: I have never seen Ramji. But I have met Sandeep. In a meeting Sunil had brought Ramji, but I didn’t meet him. Sandeep was a pracharak in Indore, so he used to come and meet me often. Ramji has a family. I never asked anyone their identity, it was not right to know about them.

LR: Wasn’t Devendra Gupta a pracharak of Muzzaffarnagar?

SA: He was pracharak of Jharkhand when he was arrested.

I want to go out on parole for 10 days, so I have asked them to make a certificate, that my mother is ill. I have asked them to make arrangements for this. Make some time. Go and meet Sudhakar Dwivedi, a lawyer in Delhi of the Sangh, who is getting this done.

LR: But an undertrial won’t get parole, no?

SA: On serious grounds they do. Usually they send me with the police. I want to go without the police. You can get his [Dwivedi’s] number from Rana. Do go and ask him what he is doing for Swamiji’s parole.

LR: What time do you get your breakfast here?

SA: The B-class in which I stay has a kitchen and a cook. Lokesh stays separately here. I meet him when we go out together. We are not locked up, but they get locked up around 1. We can have whatever we want, when we want. And they lock us up late in the night. I just applied for it. The lawyers and I felt I would not be granted the B-class prison. I don’t know how they gave it to me. I always used to stay alone. Now I have to share it with this person [the MLA Ram Kumar]. He is a good person. One big room, and we have a partition in between.

I felt really good narrating the Bharat bhai episode to you.

LR: Yes I always used to wonder how all your stories got to them.

SA: They waited for two months with Bharat bhai. They [the CBI] thought that they would get as much out as possible, make the case very strong and then arrest me. Sahi mein mazboot kar liya. Humein pata hi nahi chala. Maine dekha toh sabhi baat jante hain mere baare mein. (They did indeed strengthen the case. I didn’t even realise. Then I saw they knew everything about me.) I used to call from a separate phone to Shabari Dham, but I used to talk to Bharat bhai from it. And he had been once to Haridwar to meet me. Galat ho gaya. (A mistake.) Bharatbhai ke saamne hi baithe thhe CBI wale jab main phone kar raha thha toh. (They were sitting right in front of him when I called.) So I thought I might as well tell them everything.

They promised Bharat bhai that they won’t arrest him. But after getting all the info, they arrested him.

[…]

LR: What’s the news in Sunil Joshi’s case?

SA: First Pragya was the main party in the Sunil Joshi murder case. Harshad Solanki, who was also involved, used to stay with me. Sunil Joshi used to keep Harshad Solanki and Mehul in his house. They both were wanted in the Best Bakery case. Since in Madhya Pradesh no one troubled them much, he used to take them to MP. So after Sunil’s murder, Harshad and Mehul ran away because they were living under a different name, and on enquiring, anyone would come to know of their truth in the other case.

So MP police started to doubt why they had absconded, soon after [Sunil Joshi’s] murder. So then they put the blame on Mehul and another guy Raj, who was also staying with them. Why did they murder? Because Pragya asked them to. And Raj and Mehul, who was arrested in the Jaipur case, were also charged with this. Pragya was also arrested from Bombay and brought and held in Bhopal jail. Then from Bhopal police, NIA took up the case. Then the NIA felt that Harshad had not killed him; from their investigation they surmised that it was Lokesh and Rajinder. Then they took Lokesh to MP. Lokesh is almost charged in every case and has been tortured in almost every case. The kind of torture that I have alleged in my applications, Lokesh was subjected to even more of it.

But when they took him for the Sunil Joshi murder case, they did beat and torture him a lot. They told him that his wife had told them that he has confessed to her about murdering Sunil Joshi … They said that so they would now arrest his wife, too, in the case. The man who had not been broken by all this torture was broken by this thing. Anyone will do it; when it comes to your wife you have to do this. Itna maara hain. Agar tum nahi bataoge toh patni ko layenge. 2007 mein maara hain. Aur 2013 mein woh revolver leke aaya. (How much they beat him. If you don’t tell us, we’ll bring your wife in. He was murdered in 2007. In 2013 they brought in that revolver.) It was from his brother’s house that they recovered it. Jisse murder hua hain (This was the murder weapon). Jitendra Sharma, he was an advocate and used to come here. They arrested him.

LR: Do you know why Sunil Joshi was murdered?

SA: They are making a new story about that now.

Sunil was doing some new business. So he gave Lokesh money and due to that some issues crept up between them, is the new story that they are cooking. [unclear]

Toh theek hai phir. (Okay, then.)

[Ends]

 

 

 

INTERVIEW FOUR: 17 JANUARY 2014, AMBALA CENTRAL JAIL, HARYANA

 

Because of the significance of Aseemanand’s claims about Mohan Bhagwat, The Caravan’s editors asked the journalist to return to Ambala jail to conduct a fourth interview with Aseemanand. During this interview, Aseemanand repeated his claims about Bhagwat and Kumar, and answered several other questions from the journalist. 

                                                       

Leena Reghunath: Kaise chal raha hain? Is baar kuch zyada hi jaldi aa gayi main. Ek do cheez jo humne baat ki hain last time, mujhe uspe clarification chahiye aap se. (How are things? I've come back rather soon this time. I wanted some clarifications about a couple of things we talked about the last time.)

Swamiji, this—

[The reporter shows Aseemanand a page from Organiser, which contains a picture of Aseemanand receiving the Guruji Samman. The reporter asks for clarity about the award. Aseemanand reads from the paper.]

Swami Aseemanand: There is a Jankalyan Samiti of Sangh that gave me the award earlier … This was just given once, to only one person, was a recent event.

LR: So there are two Guruji sammans?

SA: But the other one was during Bhaskara Rao’s time. It must be during 1999 or 2000. It was by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Jankalyan Samiti. RSS is not a registered organisation, but this one, its Jankalyan Samiti, is a registered organisation.

Do you know a Suresh Kulkarni?

LR: Yes.

SA: How do you know him?

LR: I have heard the name.

SA: Suresh Kulkarni, who was also based in Nashik at that time, will know more about this.

This was from Maharashtra in 2001—Balasaheb Dixit went to collect it. He was also an RSS pracharak at the VKA.

LR: What was he doing at the VKA then?

SA: He was also doing something at the shiksha vibhag (education wing) of the VKA at that point, and Nashik was his headquarters.

This was like Aseemanand and Jiten Chatterjee. [smiles]

LR: Yes, two [different] things. But this was you [collecting it] right?

SA: This was 1 lakh from Swami Vishwatheerth Maharaj ji, and the other was for Rs 50,000. So I opened an account immediately from Nashik and gave it to the Kalyan Ashram. Suresh Kulkarni knows everything. This is true. This cheque was not issued in my name, but in Shabari Dham’s name.

Is it written in there that they gave me a cheque?

LR: Yes … where is this Samiti from that gave you this award?

SA: … The Samiti—Shankar Smriti Samiti was from a family who were connected to the Sangh. They made the award in the name of their ancestors. The other one was from the Sangh, which they give out every year.

LR: No you did not remember this last time, and I was trying to remind you about it … Was this a grand programme?

SA: This one was a very huge programme. They rented a huge hall for this. I was received at the Jaipur railway station and they took a person like me out on procession from there to the hall.

LR: Did you give a speech?

SA: I gave a terrific speech too—maine kattar bol diya, hum kattar hi toh bolte hain. (I made a fanatic speech. I always speak fanatically, after all.) Murli Manohar Joshi didn’t like it.

LR: But you always talk so. So he should’ve known this.

SA: Haan. But in front everyone. Baki sabhi Sangh ke yeh pasand karte hain. Kisi ko toh bolna chahiye. Par yeh toh rajneetik he na, political hai na. (Everyone else in the Sangh likes it. Some one should be saying it but this is a political [person], no?)

LR: So what did he say?

SA: He didn’t say anything to me. But I knew from his expressions that he was uncomfortable.

LR: This is the problem with the BJP folks, that they get uncomfortable when they hear the kattarwadis (fundamentalists).

SA: But one gets votes because of that. They win because of that.

LR: Bahut sahi kaha apne. (You’re absolutely right.)

SA: Accha clarity ho gaya na aapke liye? [Now things are clarified for you, right?]

20:41

LR: Swamiji the Guruji from Nadiad, is he from the Santram Mandir?

SA: Yes, my guruji is from Santram Mandir in Nadiad.

LR: What is his name?

SA: My sanyaswala guruji (my guru at the time of my sanyas), Parmanand, was from Bengal. When I was in Gujarat for the VKA’s work, I heard everyone in Gujarat take Santram mandir’s name with a lot of respect. It is a religious organisation and throughout the day they engage in religious activities and hospitals, schools are run free. In 1984, when I first went, it was headed by Narayandas maharaj.

Narayan Das maharaj ji, unko dekh ke main bahut prabhavit ho gaya (I was very influenced by him)—his conduct and the way he used to live.

LR: So you told me last time that he lived a simple life.

SA: So, they don’t publish their photographs once they become the head. Won’t do any pracharan (preaching). Won’t go out of the temple once they become mahant (head priest). Die there. Lead such a simple life. They get a lot of money from all the NRI people. Whatever cash they get is immediately used to work for the betterment of the people. So influenced by him I started staying there. Started treating him as my Guruji. And he too used to call me as one of Santram mandir. He travels all over the country and would introduce me to everyone. He is the one who helps all my work.

When I went to Andaman after the tsunami to distribute 15 quintal medicines, it was all sponsored by Santram mandir. I went to Shabari dham and started staying there in a jhopdi (slum). [unclear] And then he died and then Ramdas maharajji became the head.

LR: Is he also close to you?

SA: Earlier when Narayandas ji was the head, at that time Ramdas guruji used to roam around with me, everywhere. Kahin bhi. (Anywhere.) When a Santram mandir sadhu is with you, whatever I say has a very different effect on the people listening. Now he is a guru and can't go out. But he used to speak very kattar. When the 10 day Ramkatha of Morari Bapu was going on he was there for all the days. [unclear]

LR: There were a lot of sants there, right?

SA: Sant bhi rehte hai, aur public bahut aata hai. (Sants also live there, and a lot of common people visit.) They work like a gurudwara, give free food.

It is very difficult to meet him in private. I can tell them, if you want to go, that such and such person will come, then he will take time out to meet you.

LR: When will you be able to tell them?

SA: When they took me to Hyderabad, we went via Santram mandir and I met everyone there. Police sab achche thhe. (The police were all very good.)

LR: Then, when you go next time, you can talk about me.

SA: I’m not sure whether next time they’ll take me in the same vehicle, with the same staff accompanying me. When I go to Jaipur, someone or other from the Santram mandir would come to meet me. I will send word with them. You should give me your number.

LR: Ranaji (JS Rana) of Jaipur has my number …

SA: Woh toh thoda samajik he. Narayanji was a very adhyaatmik person, sant jaisa hona chahiye waise thhe. Par yeh toh bada samajik hain. Aur bahut kattar bol deta hain. (He is somewhat worldly. Narayanji was very spiritual, as a sant ought to be. But the new person is very worldly indeed, and speaks very fanatically.) The earlier person would distribute whatever money he had to anyone needy who came asking. If Teresa’s people came, he would give them money, if Muslims came he would give them, too. He would say that, Hindu ke sant hain, par sant kaise hona chahiye? (I am a Hindu sant, but how [else] should a sant be?) He was exactly like that. But when Ramdasji became the mahant he put an immediate stop to all that. When the money comes from Hindus why should I give it to someone else?

Yeh bhi sahi hain unke hisaab se, woh bhi sahi he unke hisaab se. (Each is right in their own opinion.)

When the Dangs thing in the 1990’s happened, there was some violence. English newspapers started writing bad things about me, and Gujarati newspapers would write articles in my praise as a reaction. At that time I went to Santram mandir, the senior mahant had been undergoing dialysis for the previous four years. No one was allowed to meet him, but I could go. He would remain bed-ridden, so I would go and meet him often. I would touch his feet and stand aside. But this time—after the Dang violence—when I went in, he got up from his bed and did a pranaam. I was surprised. This is not in the guru tradition. He said it is not a blessing from me, but I am so happy that you have fulfilled my heart’s wish. Then I got a moral boost, that all the fights that I am taking up are not a bad thing. But he was a very secular person for the outside world!

By the time the tsunami came Ramdas maharaj ji was the adhyaksh.

LR: So how do you travel to the Andamans?

SA: When I travelled to Andaman, the first few times I went by ship. But then it is not a service that you get every day, and it takes 3 days; a lot of time is lost. So I take a flight from Chennai to Port Blair.

LR: Who sponsors the tickets?

SA: Kalyan Ashram. Even Santram mandir used to buy me tickets.

LR: Who was this Bhatiaji that you once referred to?

SA: There was a Doctor Bhatia from Agra—MBBS—who I took along with me to Andaman to treat people. He lived there for a month to treat the people in the jungles. Christians were all helping in the greater Andaman and Nicobar. So we went to help the Hindus in Little Andaman.

So have I told you the story about this?

LR: Yes yes, you told me about the way one girl ran a hospital there…

SA: We took everything with us. Medicines, chaawal, daal, nariyal, kapde, bachche ka doodh. (Rice, dal, coconuts, clothes, milk for babies.) And we went by plane. [unclear]

I had given instructions on how things should be distributed, so all the things reached there. And to the workers there I said, now you have to do the distribution. They knew what I wanted to do. But then there was a lady doctor from Chennai, a child specialist who had arrived there. Very smart, short-haired, modern lady, very slim. When she reached the administration, people directed her to me and she came and told me that she wanted to serve and I was happy.

I had told everyone how things are to be distributed.

LR: What was that?

SA: “Hindu ko dena aur Christian ko nahi dena.” (You should give to Hindus and not to Christians.) Then a Christian woman came for milk for her children. My people said no. She said that the child had not had any food for three days. She pleaded that [the child] would die if we don’t give some milk. So please give some. Then they said, go ask swamiji. I told her that what they are doing is right. You won't get any milk here. The lady doctor saw this and was furious. What are you doing, she asked me. Aap aadmi hain? Insaan hain aap? Bachcha mar rahaa hain, usme bhi aap bol rahe ho ki Christian he isliye nahi denge. Aap ye kya sewa kar rahe hain? Aap ke liye dharm pehle ho gaya? (Are you a human being? A child is dying, and even at that you say that we won't give [milk] because it is Christian. What service are you performing here? Does religion come before everything for you?)

I said, maine dharm pehle dekh liya (I did put religion first). That lady whose child was dying, why couldn't she say that she is now a Hindu? Many people were doing it there. They might be just saying it for the sake of it, but they were saying it openly and getting more supplies than the usual lot. Dharm pehle kiska ho gaya? Jiska bachcha mar raha, woh bhhi apna dharm nahi chod raha hain. Toh dharm pehla kiska ho gaya? (Who really put religion first? A person who won't even leave this faith of hers when her child is dying. So who puts religion before everything?) She said, that is right, I didn’t think like this before. I thought that I will not do seva with you, but now I will continue.

Isn't it right? When her child was dying why couldn’t she leave her religion?

LR: Ji ji … How do you maintain records of the reconverts?

SA: In 1998, we had a register that showed that in 10 days we converted 40,000 people.

In Dangs, a huge issue was how we convert this lot of people and then someone pointed us to the springs there. I used to maintain a register for all this, even in Andaman. But now I don’t know where those registers are.

I told you about Andaman. How, to construct [in] Andaman, they had to bring workers in and the pastors used to recruit and they used to bring Christians, and how even the Hindus came to pastors and claimed they were Christians. So the pastors brought them thinking that if not them, their kids will be Christians. In this way a lot of Hindus arrived at Andamans. The kids there didn’t even know what Hindus are, and the old people had also forgotten that they were Hindus …

So slowly Hindus started increasing. Now there are Hindus in every village and temple in every village.

So you know the Sheshadri of Sangh? He was one of the most venerated pracharaks.

LR: Yes. Were you very close to him?

SA: I used to go meet him. He used to say about me, that this is how a person should be. He was the one who took me all over India—Nadiad and Odisha. [unclear] I told him—rather showed him that by service we can’t stop conversion. Seva seva hai—woh alag kaam hain. (Service is service—that is a different kind of work.) It is a very easy thing to stop conversions. You do it not by service, but through dharam (religion).

LR: Can you explain this to me in a few words?

SA: Christian hamare desh mein aaye humko Christian banane ke liye, Hindu ko Christian banane ke liye. Unko malum hain ke Hinduon ko batane se ke Christian banane aaye hain toh log humko accept nahi karega, isliye bole ki hum aapki sewa karne ke liye aaya hoon. Unko maadhyam chahiye: sewa karne ke liye aaya hoon, dawai deke. Sewa ke bahane adivasi se sampark kar lete hain. Sampark karne ke maadhyam se dheere dheere adivasiyo ko ishu bana dete hain. Humko toh Christian desh me jaake Hindu banana nahi hai,  jo Hindu hain, unko kattar banana hai. Toh Hinduki sewa karne kyon jayein? Hindu ki sewa karne ke bahane se kyon jaaoon? Hum Hindu ka kaam karne ke liye aaya hoon, uske liye bahana kyon chahiye?

(Christians have come to our country to convert us into Christians, to turn Hindus into Christians. They know that if they come and tell us that we are here to convert you all into Christianity, then people won't accept them. They need a medium—so they say that we are here to serve you. By distributing medicines and using service as a medium, they make contacts with adivasis. Through this contact, they slowly turn adivasis into Christians. We are not trying to go to a Christian country and make people Hindus. We want to make the remaining Hindus fanatic. So why should we go to do service for Hindus? Why do we need to use service to Hindus as an excuse? Why should we go on the pretense of serving Hindus? We are here to do the work of Hindus, why do we need excuses for it?)

Hindu ko sangathit hona hain, agar Hindu log sangathit ho jata hain to Christian log apne aap khatam ho jaata hain. Humein maadhyam kyon chahiye phir? Videsh mein to Christian ke beech mein kaam karne toh nahi ja rahe hain na. Christian ko Hindu karna, ye bhi mera uttam lakshya nahi hain. Mera uttam lakshya hain jo Hindu bachche hain unko sangathit karna hain. Unko sangathit karenge to dharm ke maadhyam se hi karenge. Seva ke madhyam se karenge to unko bhi bhramit hoga. Hindu ban jayenge tho baki ke Christian ko apne aap Hindu kar lenge. Aur hum Christian ko bolte hain ki aap sewa karte hain to dharm ki baate kyu bolte hain? Seva hi karo. Wo kaam hum bhi kyon kare? Main unka aalochana karta hoon. Woh hum bhi kyon kare? Sewa ke bahane se dharmantaran kyon karate ho? Hum dharmantaran bandh karna chahte hain. Seedhe baat karenge, Hindu ko bolenge, Hindu ikkatthe honge, baaki kaam Hindu kar lenge—yeh karke dikhaya.

(Hindus must be organised. If Hindus organise themselves, then Christians will be automatically finished. Why should we need a medium, then? We are not going to work among Christians in a foreign land, are we? It wasn’t my main aim to convert all the Christians into Hindus. My aim was to organise the Hindus remaining among them. And to organise them I wanted to use religion. If I use the medium of service they will also get carried away with it. And we always ask Christians, if you are doing service then why do you talk about religion? Just do service. Why should we be doing the same? Why should you make conversions on the pretense of service? We want to end the conversions. We will speak directly. We will tell the Hindus and then organise them. The rest, Hindus will themselves do. I proved this by actually doing it.)

Sheshadri ji ko Andaman me gaon gaon leke gaye. Hum madhyam nahin lete hain. Dharm mein hi hamara madhyam hai, seedhe dharm ki baat karte hain. Seva hai to seva karenge, seva ka madhyam leke dharmantaran ka baat nahin karenge. Dharmantaran ko rokna hai, saral kaam hain, dharm ke maarg pe chalo, jo Hindu hain, unko kattar banao. Baaki kaam Hindu kar lenge. Ye ho raha hain. Dang mein hua, Jharkhand mein hua, Assam, Nagaland mein hua aur Andaman mein hua.

(I took Sheshadriji from village to village in the Andamans. We don’t look for mediums. Religion is our medium, we talk about religion. If it’s service, we do service, we don’t use the medium of service to talk about conversion. Conversion has to be stopped; it’s simple, walk on the path of religion. Those who are Hindu, make them fanatic. The rest, Hindu will do. This is happening. Happened in Dang, in Jharkand, Assam, Nagaland, and Andaman.)

Sheshadriji used to say this to me, even Bhaskaran ji. We did a lot of service. We couldn’t do all this by doing service.

I take a challenge and enter places. One year, and then from 90 percent Christians I will turn the place into 90 percent Hindus.

LR: Oh, in the Dangs?

SA: Any place. Be it Jharkhand, Andaman, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh. Jhabua in MP. You know about it right?

LR: No you never told me.

SA: Gazab ka kaam hua Jhabua mein. (I did a great job at Jhabua.)

Jhabua, Gujarat se laga hua, Madhya Pradesh ka hissa hain. Idhar Madhya Pradesh or idhar Gujarat. Abhi to Jhabua jila 4 jila ban gaya hain. (Jhabua is a place on the border of Gujarat, a part of Madhya Pradesh. Here's MP, here's Gujarat. Now Jhabua district is divided into 4 districts.)

While I was in [unclear] I said, “To stop conversion is an easy job. You have been doing service, but you will not achieve anything. To stop conversion all you need is one year.”

Ek Sangh sewak aaye thhe Jhabua se, woh ekal vidyalaya chalata thha, maine bhashan kiya, uske baad log milne aate hain. Mere paas aaya or bola ke, “Dekhiye swami ji aapne jo bataya, baat sahi hain, 10 saal se hum gaon mein kaam kiya kuch nahi hua, aap Jhabua aayenge kya?” Main bola ki main aaunga. (A worker of the Sangh from Jhabua came to meet me. He was running an Ekal vidyalaya. When I gave my speech, after that people used to come and meet me. He came and told me, “Listen swami ji, whatever you said is right. For the last 10 years I have been working in the villages, but nothing happened. Will you come to Jhabua?” I said yes.)

LR: So when was this swami ji?

SA: Yeh 2000 ki baat hai. (This was in 2000.)

Toh 2000 mein Santram mandir mein Narayan das ji se main mila, unko bola ke mujhe Jhabua mein kaam karna hai. Dang ka toh kaam ujjwal raha. Toh bole ki, “Theek hain, kya karna hain?” Main bola ki mujhe photo dijiye Hanuman ji ka. Woh log sab Hanuman ji ko maante hain. Dharm ke madhyam se jaana hain, bada ambulance hota hain na, Tempo Traveller, ambulance bharke, Hanuman chalisa bharke chale. Jhabua jila mein ek gaon mujhe malum ho gaya thha, Amarakunj-aisa kuchch naam thha, andar hain thoda. Wahan ka Jhabua aisa jila hain ki—Dang jaisa jila nahi hain. [unclear] Jhabua mein kya hain hathyar leke ghoomte hain log, loot-paat karte hain, maar daalte hain, chheente hain. Raat ke samay, Jhabua ke andar se jaata hain, wo rasta bandh ho jata hain, police bandh kar dete hain. Jhabua shuru hota hain, wahan police rehta hain, ek saath 40-50 gaadi khada karta hain, phir aage peeche police leke, phir Jahbua cross karta hain. Gaon ke andar to ja hi nahi sakte hain. Din mein jayega to peeche se aayega or chheen lega, agar koi aadmi aise hi jayega to usko pakad lenge. Hamesha lathi leke ghoomte hain, aadmi chahe kitna bol le ki jitna hain lelo, toh bolenge ki hum mehnat karke lete hain toh pehle pitenge fir lenge, toh pitai karenge log to lootenge. [He laughs.]

(So in 2000, I met Narayandasji of Santram mandir and then told him that I wanted to work in Jhabua. Dang was by then a success. He said, alright, what needs to be done? I asked him to give me photos of Hanuman. They [the tribals] all worship the Hanuman. We should approach them using religion. I rented a huge ambulance, Tempo Traveller, filled the ambulance, filled it with Hanuman chalisa. I knew about a village in Jhabua. I think its name was Amarkunj, it was in the interiors. Jhabua is not like Dangs. People roam around with weapons there, to attack others. Then kill you and then rob you. At night, the road that passes through Jhabua is shut; the police shut it down. When [unclear] go through Jhabua, police block the way. The police wait at the point where Jhabua starts. They make 40–50 vehicles wait. Then with police guarding the front and back they cross Jhabua together. It’s impossible to travel through the village. Even in daylight if you go they will come from behind you and then rob you. If you go just like that, they will catch you. They always walk around with a lathi. Even if you plead with them to take whatever you have and leave you, they will say that we will not take anything without working hard for it. So they beat you up first and then rob you. [He laughs.])

Toh aisi jagah pe hum log gaye. Alirajpur ek jila ban gaya hai, Alirajpur ka hi ek gaon hai. Toh driver ko bola ki humko wahan le chalo. Toh ambulance thha, toh kuchch nahi hua. Main wahan pahuncha to wahan ke sarpanch ko bulaya or bola ke yeh hain, rakhna hain aur vitharan karna hain, bechna nahi. Pata chala woh Hindu hain. Gaadi chala jayega aur main yahaan ek raat aapke paas rukunga, toh checking chaalu.

(So that’s the kind of place that we went to. Alirajpur is now a district, there was a village in it. So I asked the driver to take me there. Since it was in an ambulance, we reached there safe. When I reached the place I told the village head that I have to keep things here and distribute them, we are not here to sell them. I learnt he was a Hindu. The vehicle will return, and I will stay one night with you, so the checking began.)

Chai piyenge? (Do you want some tea?)

LR: Nahi nahi, me nahi peeti. (No no. I don’t drink.)

SA: Nahin, rakh ke gaya hain. (No, he’s kept it here.)

LR: Aap ko peena hain? (Do you want to drink?)

SA: Nahin.

Main sarpanch ko bola ke gaonwalon ko bol dijiye ki kal main ghar ghar jaunga, ek din mein main 10 se 15 ghar ja sakta hoon. Agle din main ghar jaane laga, log ghar saaf karke rakha thha, pariwaar ke saath rahna, ye log bhagwan ko maante hain par photo nahin rakhtha thha, toh ye hamare liye mauka hai, to dawain leke kyon chalna, main to sabke ghar ja sakta hu, dawaai to sabke ghar nahi pahuch sakta. Dharm ke madhyam se pahuch sakta hoon, dharm ek pehchaan hai. Doctor banna, phir dharm ka baat karna ye to thagna hota hai.

(So I asked the sarpanch to let the villagers know that I would visit their houses. In a day I can go to 10 to 15 houses. The next day I started going to the houses. People had cleaned their houses, and were with their families. These people believe in gods, but don’t keep a photo. So this was a chance for us. Why go with medicines? I can reach every house. With medicines, I can’t reach every house. Through religion I can reach every house, religion is our identity. To go as a doctor and then talk about religion will be cheating.)

Ek ek pariwar dekhte hain, Hanuman ji hain ke nahi hain. Hanuman ji raksha karte hain. Bachhe ka man nahi karta hain to, ek bar poore pariwar ke saath ek bar sir jhukao, woh theek rahega. Toh logo ko lagaa ke ye to achchi baat hain. Main bola ke jahan main rahunga shaam ko, ikkattha hona, sikhayenge. Unke sath roti khaaya, daal khaaya. Andaaz ho gaya, gaaonwale batate hain ki yahaan tak ho jayega. Toh shaam ko log aaya, toh hanuman chalisa sunaya, main khud nahi gaata tha, tape cassette chalata tha, baaki un logo se bhajan karwate hain, dharm kaisa hai, Christian kya pareshaan kar rahe hain, yahi charcha karte hain.

So I go to each house, see if there is Hanuman or not. Hanuman protects. If the kids are not feeling like it, the entire family just has to bow their heads, they’ll be alright. So people began to think this was a good thing. I said wherever I am in the evening let them assemble and I will teach them. I ate dal and roti with them. I got an idea after talking to the villagers how much area I can cover in that day. So people came in the evenings, I made them listen to the Hanuman chalisa. I didn’t sing it myself, I played a tape. I’d make them sing bhajans, [talk about] what religion is, what harm the Christians are doing. We’d discuss these things.

[A young boy pushes a teacup towards the reporter.]

LR: No, no I just had one with the jailor.

SA: Nahin nahin bada achcha hain. Humko roz pilaata hain. Bada achcha hain. Abhi nikalne wala hain. (No no, he’s really good. He makes tea for me everyday. He’s really good. He will be freed soon.)

LR: Bahut achcha hain. (It’s really good.)

SA: Yeh ladka Narendra Modi ban sakta hain. (This boy can become a Narendra Modi.)

Toh RSS ko pata laga ke swami ji akele ghoom rahe hain, gao gao ghoom rahe hain. Pehchaan leke nahin jaana chahiye. Woh log pehchaan kar lenge ki main kya hoon. Unhone kaha ke ye to itna kattar hai, maar-peet karne wala hai, bataaya ki Christian aisa aisa hai, koi uth ke khada ho gaya, ki swamiji main aata hoon. Maine poocha kaha ja rahe ho? Bola ki aap jab bol rahe thhe to hum soch hi rahe thhe ki ye galat hai. Abhi tod ke athe hain.

(The RSS people came to know that Swami ji was wandering alone, wandering through the villages. You shouldn’t go with any identity. They will come to understand who I am. These people were such fanatics, they beat people up. When I said Christians are doing such and such, someone stood up and said, Swamiji, I’ll be back. I said, where are you going? He said, even as you were saying this, when you’re saying this, I’m thinking it’s wrong. Let me break it right now and come.)

[He laughs.]

The person who is currently in charge of BJP for Rajasthan, [unclear] Singh, he was then [unclear] pracharak for MP and the pranth (provincial) pracharak was Jain. They called me and asked me to come to Indore. I came to Indore on the date that they asked me to.

LR: Who all where there?

SA: All the local leaders were there. They all knew. Pranth pracharak, Bauddhik Pramukh, the local leaders.              

LR: Bhagwatji?

SA: No, only the local leaders.

RSS waalon ne poocha mere se ki Jhabua jila mein 3.5 lakh parivaar hain. Aap kab tak karenge? Main bola ki mere se jitna hota hain karenge, ek gaon mein karenge, 10 gaon mein prabhaav padta hain. 2001 January mein Jhabua mein Sudarshan ji ka karyakram tha. Mujhe tab pata nahi thha. Sanghwale bahut bechain thhe ki aayenge par log kaise jutayenge, aadiwasi log.

(The RSS people said there are 3.5 lakh families in Jhabua district. How long can you go on like this? I said I will do it as much as I can. If I do it one village, the effect is felt in 10 villages. In 2001 January, there was a program of Sudarshan in Jhabua district. I didn’t know about it then, the Sangh people were very worried about the numbers, but how will they gather so many adivasis?

LR: You have met Sudarshanji before, right?

SA: Sudarshanji was earlier the pracharak of Bengal no? He speaks good Bengali. He was really good to me. He was the closest person to me in the Sangh, from the time I was a child. At that time he was in Kolkata, later he became the sarsangchalak. I believe that he was a great sant (saint). But not an organisation person.

LR: Why?

SA: He couldn’t do anything for the organisation. Would say whatever came to his mind. His attitude was that of a saint, not as a person of the organisation. Woh toh Mohanji Bhagwat hain (Mohan Bhagwat is more like that).

Kuchch bhi ho. Vaha ke Sangh vala bechain thhe ki log kaise jutayenge.

Aatmiyata nahi hain aadivasiyo ke saath, seva karne se aatmiyata nahi banti hain. Yeh to seva karne aa rahe hain. Unke dimaag mein woh thha mere ko samajh mein nahi aaya ki kya soch ke bol rahe hain, main socha ki theek hai, hamare kaam mein interest dikha raha hain to theek hai. Woh bole, Swamiji, kitna aadmi dene se aap 3.5 lakh pariwar tak 6 mahine mein pahunch sakenge? Unka kaaryakram hi 6 mahine baad ka tha, na?

(The Sangh was very worried about how they would bring people together. There were no spiritual relations with the adivasis; that doesn’t come about with service. I didn’t understand with what objective they were thinking and saying this, but they were interested in my work so it’s fine. They said, Swamiji, with how many people can you reach 3.5 lakh families in 6 months? Their programme was after 6 months.)

LR: Achcha,achcha. [laughs] 6 mahine aur 3 lakh parivar. (6 months, and 3 lakh families.)

SA: 3.5 lakh.

LR: 3.5 lakh.

SA: Woh log Sudarshanji ko bola thha ki 2 lakh adivasi layenge, toh soche ki kaise karenge. Jitna zyaada log hoga utna jaldi ho jayega. (They had told Sudarshanji that they would bring 2 lakh adivasis to the event and were thinking about how to do it. The more the people, the faster it would happen.)

LR: Par aapke jaise baat kaun karenge? (But who will talk like you?)

SA: Training kaun denge? Main poocha kitna log de sakenge? Bole ki 2000 aadmi kar lete hain, abhi ek camp bula lete hain 15 din mein, young ladka-ladki college ka ayega, aap unko 3 din ka shivir lagaiye. Main socha kuch bhi ho, kaam toh hona hain. Main bola ki chalega ladka-ladki sab chalega. (Who’ll give training? I said how many people can you get me? They said 2000, let’s call a camp in 15 days. Young men and women from colleges will come and you hold a 3-day camp. I thought whatever it is, work has to happen. I said it works for me. Men, women, either will work for me.)

Training mein unko bataya ke kaise karna hain, woh poochte rehte thhe ki kaise karna hai, kyonki unka kaam thha, unka lakshya thha, bahut interest lete thhe. Mere ek ek vachan ko likhte thhe aur uska pustak banate thhe. Turant baantthe thhe. Main unko bataya ke gaon mein jaane ke liye taiyaar hain, bola taiyaar hai. Ek gao ko kam se kam 10 din dena padega, 10 din mein ek gaon or 20 din mein 2 gaon. (Then I trained them in how to do it. They kept on asking how we will do it, because they had to get their work done. They had an aim, so they took a lot of interest. They took down every word I said and made books of it and distributed it immediately. I asked them whether they are ready to go to the villages. They said they were. It will take a minimum of 10 days in a village, I told them. One village in 10 days. In 20 days, 2 villages.

Pehla condition hain, gaon mein jaana hain, akela jayenge. 2 kaaryakarta saath mein jayenge to 24 ghanta aapas mein baat karenge, gaon ke saath interaction hoga nahin, mahila bhi Delhi mein akela nahi ghoom sakti, toh adivasi area mein nischint ghoom sakte hain sochna hi nahi hai. Dimaag se nikaal dijiye. Jawaan ladki akela, koi bhi jayenge ladka-ladki akela jayenge, security ke liye sochna bhi nahi.

(So now you have to go to the villages. But you will go alone. If 2 workers go together, they will talk to each other for 24 hours, and they will not have any interaction with the village. A lady can’t roam around in Delhi alone. But she can do so securely in a tribal area. You won’t even have to give it a thought. Such concerns will disappear from your mind. A young woman can easily travel alone. Whoever goes—man, woman—will go alone. Don’t think about your security at all.)

LR: Toh iske beech mein kabhi kisi ke upar aakraman? (Was ever anyone attacked during any of these tours?)

SA: Nahi nahi kabhi nahi. (No, never.)

LR: Dang mein aap jab ghoom rahe thhe to Maoist log hain to aap pe kabhi koi—? (When you were touring the Dangs, an area with Maoists, were you ever—?)

SA: Koi himmat nahi kiya. Main jab bhi jahan bhi jaata hoon toh akele hi jaata hoon. Nazar nahi aata hoon, dhyaan nahi jaata hai. Jab aata hoon, toh haath se nikal jaata hoon. (Nobody ever had the guts to do it. Whenever, wherever I had gone, I travelled alone. They don’t notice me at first, they don’t pay attention. By the time they notice, I would have slipped out of their hands.)

Doosra ye thha ke gaon mein jayenge to gaon mein na toh teacher, sarpanch ya kisi bhi prabhaavi vyakti hain unke ghar mein raat nahi karni hain. Aap sochenge ki prabhaavit vyakti se sampark kardenge toh kaam aasaan ho jayega. Kyonki prabhaavit vyakti aapko prabhaavit kar dega, woh jo chaahte hain to uss hisaab se aapko guide karega. Isliye prabhaavit vyakti se sampark rakhna par aam aadmi ke saath rehna. Woh kaisa bhi ho, gareeb ho, jo bhi ho. Unse aisa baat nahi karna jis e lage ki doori dikhai de. Jaisa aap bachhe log ko school bhejte hain kya? Iska matlab aap bhejte hain, woh bhi jante hain ki aap apna bachha bhejte hain or wo bhejna chahte hain to woh sharm ho jayega, doori ban jaata hai. Yeh toh alag hi hain. Hospital kyon nahi jaate aur sab toh aisa baat bilkul nahin karna hai. Jis se doori banta hain aisi baat bilkul nahi karna. Jis baat se aap or adivasi ek hote hain woh kya baat hain, aap bhi Hindu hai wo bhi Hindu hai. Ispe charcha karna, dharm pe karna hai, Christian kya gadbad kar rahe hain. Yeh baat chhod ke dusri baat karna hi nahi hain. 10 din, jo denge kha lena. Unko lagega ki hum jaisa banaate vaisa adivasi nahi banaate hain, hum jaisa saaf-suthra karke banaate hain vaisa nahi banaate hain, to unko updesh nahi dena.

(The second thing was, when you go to a village you should not spend the night at the house of any influential person—like a teacher or a sarpanch. You might think that communicating with a very influential person might ease your work. But such a person will also influence you soon. He will guide you according to his plans. So do make contact with such influential person, but always stay with the aam aadmi—however poor or bad his situation might be. Never talk about things that will make them feel that there is a gap/distance between you and him. Like, do you send your kids to school? This means that you are sending your child to school, right? He also knows that you might be sending your kids to school and he wishes to send his kids too, so he might be embarrassed. This will create a distance between you and him. He will consider you as an outsider. Topics like why he doesn’t go to a hospital should be avoided. You should never discuss things that create distance between you. The topic that can make you and the adivasi one is that—you are Hindu and he is Hindu. Discuss this. Talk about religion. The troubles that Christians are creating. Do not discuss any other topic other than this. For 10 days, eat whatever they give you. If you feel that the adivasis do not cook food like you or do not cook it as cleanly as you would do, even then do not go to advise them.

LR: Swamiji agar woh non-veg deta hain to? (But Swamiji what if they serve you non-veg food?)

SA: Woh nahi dega. Woh janta hain. Woh kuchch bhi nahi dega usko pata hain, hum toh kisiko bhi nahi deta hain. Agar khaata hain to maangna bhi nahi. Unko updesh nahi dena, unko lagega ki unko updesh dene ke liye aaya hain, man se sochega ki kab jaye. Woh jaisa hain, woh hamara hain, Hindu hain, dharmantaran ho raha hain toh kya unko koi taqleef nahi hain. Woh toh mera taqleef hain. Woh to jaanta nahi hain Christian kya hain, Mussalaman kya hain. Hum jaante hain, Christian ban raha hain, hamara taqleef hain. Pehle VHP-wale jaate thhe, updesh deke aate thhe. Woh toh kuchch updesh karne ke liye, ghar saaf-suthra rakhne ke liye, bachche ko school bhejna chahiye. Unka udhdhar karne ke liye nahin ja raha hain, hamara kaam ke liye ja raha hain, toh ye soch ke jaana, ke udhdhar karne nahin ja rahe hain, hamaari suraksha ke liye unko jarurat hain. Toh yeh baat dhyaan mein rakhna, updesh nahi dena. Woh jaisa rakhta hain, rehta hain. Prem se rehna.

(They won’t give us. They know. They won’t give any such thing as they know, and we never give anyone. If they are eating it, don’t ask for it. Don’t give them advice, they’ll think you’ve gone just to give exhortations, they’ll think, when will they go? However they are, they are one of us. They are Hindu. Conversion is happening, so what, they should have no trouble, that’s my problem. They don’t know what’s Christian, what’s Muslim. We know. People are becoming Christian, that’s our problem. Earlier the VHP people used to go and give them advice. Advice like keep your house clean, you should send children to school. You’re not going to uplift them, we’re going for our work, so we have to go thinking that we’re not going to uplift them, we need them for our safety.)

So keep this in mind, don’t give advice, the way that they keep you, and live. Stay with love.

So I asked the Sangh to give some really good photos, good lockets and Hanuman chalisa. And a good flag so that we can identify the houses. So then in 2001 we calculated that this will cost us 1 lakh, and it will cost us Rs 50 each. And we had to do this in 6 months. And I had an idea for this. In Indore, in each mohalla we had a person of the organisation there—BJP, Sangh, VHP—either one or the other organisation was there. We called all those people and said they should go to every house there and tell them that they have to donate Rs 50 for each house. If you donate 100 we can cover 2 houses. Don’t leave a single house; raise funds for this. I have to credit them for the wonderful work that they did. All the Sangh people got into this work.

In 2001, the programme happened. And in June, the baithak happened and I reached there, and there was 6 more months to it. We had an organisation built—Jhabua Hindu Sangh. Then we did a programme. We booked a hall and the programme was my speech. Ticket Rs 10,000 for the people who get [unclear].

LR: Was this in Indore?

SA: [unclear] Audience was all the Sangh people. There was a single chair on the stage. No one will do any introductions of me. I will walk in and will sit and talk on the topic. We got some Rs 50,000 from this.

So then before the programme, I went back to the first village I had visited there. If it’s 100 km away from Jhabua, we calculated how much time will it take for us to reach there on foot. Seven days. So then we took a padayatra of seven days from that village. Each village will receive us with food and then they will also join us. The numbers will keep increasing. We walked through each village. Gather people and walk. Sleep in the village where we are at nightfall. Collect people on the way. Two lakh people. The organisers will also work with the people. So then we reached the venue. I led the people and then sat with them in the crowd. More than two lakh people.

Jhabua jila six vidhan sabha seats. Six ki six saari seats hamesha Congress ke paas rahi hain. Par pehli baar BJP ne saari six seats jeeti. Us samay mukhyamantri thhe Digvijay Singh. Is karyakram ke bahut virodh thhe. Digvijay us baar jo gaye, phir wapas nahi aaye.

(Jhabua district’s six then has 6 assembly seats, and all six seats were always with the Congress. But for the first time the BJP won all six seats. At that time Digvijay Singh was the CM. He was very opposed to this programme. After losing power that year, Digvijay Singh was never able to come back to power.)

LR : Shraddha Jagran ke chief jo bane thhe aap, toh kaunse year mein bane thhe? (In which year did you become the chief of Shraddha Jagran?)

SA: 1993.

LR: To yeh kaun appoint karta hain? (So who appoints this?)

SA: Shraddha Jagran vibhag was not there in the VKA. They just had social service departments.

Andaman mein kaam hota thha, Sheshadri ji, Bhaskara Rao-ne dekha ke itne saal se kaam hota hain. (Work used to happen in the Andamans. Sheshadri ji, Bhaskara Rao saw that work had been happening for years.)

LR: What was Sheshadriji’s post then?

SA: Sarkaryavah. Itna aasani se kaam hote hain dharm ke madhyam se? Itne saalo se seva kar rahe hain, dharm shabd use nahi kar sakte toh shradhha jagran. Ab desh mein ghoom kar is kaam ko karna hain, aap poore desh ke adivasi area mein jaiye. Andaman chhodiye.

(Sarkaryavah [a position in the RSS.] Work happens so easily through religion? Having performed service for so long, [we] can’t now use the word “dharm”; hence, “Shraddha Jagran.” Now you should travel the country to do this work, go to all the adivasi areas of the country. You have to leave Andamans.)

[A policeman comes in to chit-chat. Aseemanand asks about the Jaipur hearing. The policeman says that the court didn’t send him the warrant to produce him before the court.]

SA: Oh, a lot of people were supposed to come to meet me this time.

Policeman: You take rest today.

[Policeman leaves. We resume conversation.]

SA: You do one thing. When are you about to leave today [unclear] …

LR: So your warrant is not here.

SA: Yes, Phoolchand must have started [from Dangs]. He was supposed to meet me.

LR: That’s OK, I can call him and let him know that you are not going to be there.

[Aseemanand goes on about adivasi conversion techniques.]

SA: North-east out of Dangs was one area in which the Christian conversions were happening at an alarming pace. The people of Sangh from Surat and elsewhere in Gujarat were at a loss as to how to stop it. Ninty percent Christian in 5 years. VHP and other Sangh organisations were trying their best to stop it but had no success. Bhaskarji considered me as his own kid and so would get very angry at me. When I went with the request he said, “I don’t agree to this.” I said give me just one year and in one year I will do this. He said no. To go to a different village and stay there, to eat whatever they give with love, whatever dirt that they are living in, not to change that, not even to bring thought about that in your mind – is not an easy job. To do official works and paper works was not my [unclear] no results were coming out because of it either. […]

For the next one year none of them should come to Dangs. Because they will come to do service, and will give advice. [laughs] For one year they will let me work. Will stop all their sewa [service].

LR: Who did you say this to?

SA: I called a baithak of all the people at Navsari – all VHP people and swayam sevaks. They all knew that I am coming, so I was confidant that now something good will happen. So I told them to do the 2 things.

[…]

And so I did, by ’97 I reached and by ’98 the work was done.

LR: So was the VKA ashram at Waghai constructed after you came there?

SA: No no, the Waghai hostel – I had visited there before. Ramjibhai Rupera, the Gujarat secretary of VKA, because he is a family man. Maganbhai was the person from the Sangh then – sanghatan mantri. So I told them that I needed a place – a hostel – at Waghai, which is the entry point to Dangs, were the [unclear]

LR: Didn’t Modiji come for its inauguration?

SA: No. He didn’t.

So then I told the hostel in charge that we will take the jeep and tour all the roads of Dang – small, big. We need to understand the geography first.

LR: Achcha.

SA: It was not a day’s work. It took us 3 days to see the length and breadth of Dangs. Leaving one or two villages in Gujarat I toured all the villages and then I selected one village. I had made notes on all the villages.

LR: Did you make a routemap for yourself?

SA: No I just remembered them.

So I picked Savardakasar village in Mahal – maine dekh liya thha, chun liya tha. (I had seen it and had chosen it.) So the jeep left me there. The house next to the road, I got to know that it belonged to the Hindus. One gets to know these things.

LR: So how long did you do the tours before settling down?

SA: I roamed in a jeep, no? Took 3 days. Soon after, I had to understand their culture, their language, rahan sahan (their lifestyle). Sivaji says that you should first understand the people for whom you want to work. Do this, and then you will get to know what work you have to do. If you decide that you have to do so and so work before hand, then no work will get done.

So then I saw this house by the roadside, knew it was of Hindus. And the woman of the house was alone at that time, the husband and children were away. I was wearing saffron so then she knew I was from the Sangh. I introduced myself, said I am a sant, a swami and do dharm prachar (religious preaching). Had come to work for the Hindus. I want to stay in your house for some days. She said it was okay. In adivasi areas women are the owners of the house. She said she is happy to let me stay.

She said that there are 2 rooms in the house. In one she sleeps with her kid and the second one I could use. The husband sleeps on the cot outside. She said, “bhai” – is how you address in Gujarat and “behn” – so she said that I could stay there as her bhai. And asked me when I was moving in.

I said I have already moved in. So for 2 months I studied Dangi language. It is very different from Gujarati. So I told her that in the evening she had to call all the Hindus, especially children to the house.

So then I would also go and eat at the house of anyone who would invite me. So one by one I met all. And in 2 months time I knew everyone. In Christianity there are two divisions – Catholic and Protestant. Catholics will eat our prasad, wear our bindi. Protestants won’t do this, they are the fanatics. Catholics will go to mandir and do the nariyal (coconut) too. At that place the Protestants were more and Catholics less. Catholics do a lot of service and Protestants do only the religious conversions.

One day while staying at her house I met her niece, who was married. There was no one at home when she came visiting, and so I asked her who she was, as by then I knew everyone in the village. She said she was related to Kallubhai. And I asked how far is her village. She said it is a long route by bus. But if you walk on foot there is a direct way over the hills and it’s just 7 kilometres.

Main poocha aapke gao mein Hindu kitne, Christian kitne? Woh bola sabhi Christian hain.

Maine poocha, aap? Main bhi Christian hoon. Kaise Christian bane? Hum sab Hindu thhe, poora gaon Hindu thha. Paanch chhe saal mein sabhi Christian ban gaye or church jaane lage. Mere bagal wala Christian ban gaya. Kaise ban gaya, yeh dhyan nahi diya. Meri saas buddi hai, bimaar pad gayi hai, mere bagal wala aaya bola main kuch karun, wo ishu hain na wo sab theek kar dete hain, padre ko bulau?

(I asked her, how many Hindus and how many Christians are there in your house? She said everyone was a Christian.

I asked, you? I am also a Christian. How did you become Christian? We all were Hindus, the whole village was of Hindus. In the last 5-6 years we have all become Christians and has started going to church. My neighbour became a Christian. I didn’t pay attention to how he became one. My mother-in-law was old and fell sick. My neighbour came and asked whether she should help me? She said, there is Jesus, who can cure everyone. Shall I call a priest?)

The priest is a family man. The priest of the Catholics do not get married – father and sister. But Protestants get married, that too with the villagers. And it is with this family that they go preaching.

So then he said that there is a priest in the nearby village and he will pray to Jesus. So then my neighbour brought the priest from the nearby village and he prayed. But then she did not get well. He said I prayed but it had no effect. Do you know what the reason is?

Adivasis do not keep any photos in their house. I had to make a yojana for this and then distribute photos in every house. They take a stone [unclear] from the village and keep it in their house. It is their “dev” (god). Every house has one. So then once a year they take it to the devsthan (holy spot) and do poojas and then bring it back to their house. They believe that their dev will cure them. They believe in Hanuman too, but never keep his photo.

Phir padri bola ke tumhare ghar mein jo dev hain na uske kaaran Jesu ka kirtan nahi gaya. (Then the priest told me that it is because of the dev in my house that the prayers to Jesus was not heard.)

Dekhiye kitna bada chaal khelte hain, hazaaro saalo ke aastha ko kitna aasani se thodta hai. (See what a big game they are playing. How easily they end up breaking thousand year old beliefs!)

Toh socha saas marne wali hai, jaan toh bache. Toh dev ko janglo mein phek ke aa gaye. [unclear] Maa theek hai, baad mein phir dekh lenge. Pati prarthana mein nahi baitthe. Phir padre bola ki gaon mein jo prarthana hain usme aapko aake baithna padega. Usme bhi gaya. Padri poocha kuch din mein ke abhi tak theek nahi hua? Bola nahi. Woh isliye nahi hua kyunki abhi tak ishu ko theek se swikaar nahi kiya. Woh kya hai? Padri: baptism apnao, toh ishu ka kripa hota hain, [some person] dekho theek ho jayega. Maine baptism liya, gaon ke logo ko pata chal gaya ke main Christian ban gaya. Toh bhi theek nahi hua. Kyunki tumhara pati ne baptism nahi liya. Pati bola, maa ka toh umar ho gaya, main apna dharam kyu bechu? Mein kattar aadmi da, par jagane wala koi nahi tha. Tum le liya. Parivar me bachhe ko de diya, bahut hain. Phir ham sab Christian ho gaya tha. Church mein jaane laga. Kuch din mein saas guzar gaya. Pata chal gaya mujhe ke main thaga gaya hoon. Gaon walo ko pata chal gaya ab main Christian hoon. Alag kar diya.

(Then I thought she is about to die, at least let me try to save her. So I went and disposed the dev in the jungle. [unclear] Let mother get well first, then we will see to things. Husband doesn’t sit for the prayers. Then the priest asked me to attend the prayer service in the village. I went for that too. After some days he asked whether her condition has improved? I said no. He said that it is because I have not accepted Jesus in the right way. I asked how is it done? He said do baptism, then you will have the blessing of Jesus. [some person] recovered because of that.  I took baptism. The people of the village came to know that I have become Christian. Even then she did not recover. He said that it was because my husband has not been baptised. My husband said, mother is old anyway, why should I disown my religion? I was also a fanatic person, but there was no one to energise it.  You and our kids have become Christians, thats enough.  Then we all became Christian. We started going to church.  And in some days mother-in-law passed away. I came to realize that I have been fooled. The villagers knew that we have become Christians and so they distanced us.)

Dil se kya ho? (What are you in your heart?)

Dil se nahi hoon. Samajh gaya ke dhokha hua hai. Karun kya? Sangh mein jaana hi padtha hain. (I don’t follow [Christ] by the heart. I have realized that I have been tricked. But what can I do? I go with everyone [to the church].)

[Recounting what he asked the woman] Aap himmat karenge? Hindu ban ne ke liye? (Will you show courage to become Hindu?)

Toh sabhi log is tarah se Christian ban gaya. Church ban gaya, ab sabhi Christian hain. Bagal wala jo bachha paida hua to apang nikla.  Padri bola bada hoga theek hoga, par woh to apang hi raha. Toh dhokha hua.

(So everyone has become Christian like this. Church has been built now and so everyone is a Christian. When the neighbours kid was born handicapped, the priest said that when he grows up he will be alright. But then he remained handicapped. So they all ended up being cheated.)

Protestant wala aisa hi kartha hain. [unclear] Mujhe tab pata nahin thha ki Hindu kaise kartha hain.  (This is how the Protestants go about. [unclear] At that point I didn’t know how to convert them back into Hindus.)

Even the VHP workers had no idea about it. Some one has to come from outside and do some havan-poojan (rituals). Then I asked the elders in the village, that if you do something wrong, what would you do? They said that they would go to Unai and take a bath in the hot water springs there. So I asked that if someone has become a Christian and wants to become a Hindu, and if he goes and takes a bath in the springs will you consider him as a Hindu?

LR: Who did you ask this to?

SA: The elders in the village. Then I asked her, can I come and stay at your place for some days? I said you can give me anything that you have to eat. She said I will go into the jungles in the day to work. I said that is fine. I will be in the village with any of the kids. So I went for 7 days. And I got the photos. And slowly I started converting the villagers one by one. Then I met Phoolchandbhai – who was making food at the ashram at Waghai. And I realised that he would be of great use to me. He talks well and also sings well. I need some new people to work with me. People who have been working with the Sangh are not fit for this, as this is a new system. Then while touring the village I went to Phoolchand bhai’s house. His father was a mukhiya of a village. Phoolchand was very young then.

LR: How old was he?

SA: He had just completed 12th and then didn’t go to a college. […] So then he gave one of his sons to me. I also got a jeep at that time. I had a licence from ’86. And I had a driver from the Sangh. At that time there was no Naxal trouble there. So I roamed all over the villages. The way I have lived there no one else can live. But then his father expired. I felt bad. I looked after them as my own kids. I got his sisters married off. One of the sisters is Savitha, whom I got married to the poojari at the temple.

LR: Oh yes. You also got Phoolchand posted at some postion in the Sangh. Or was it for the VKA?

SA: Yes, first the district level and then for the Pradesh, he was a sanghatan mantri – organising secretary.

LR: Achcha, Pradesh ka sanghatan mantri.

SA: Then I went to Jarsol village. In whom-so-ever’s house I visit, I give them a photo. Then in the morning I went to take a bath in the river and saw that there is a big pond behind the river – which we call Pampa Sarovar. Isn’t it a huge thing in itself that the adivasis know about Pampa Sarovar? Then I asked more about it and they told me that it is in a nearby hill that Maa Shabri met Ram. I asked how far is it? They said it is 6 kilometres from here. Then I went through this jungles and I climbed up on this hill and then realised that there is no place like this in the whole world.

LR: Yes yes I have been there.

SA: Then I realised that this is the best place. I went and told Narayandas maharajji about this and he asked me to go and stay there in a hut and so I did it. And then I found out who owned that place Mohanti and gave 10,000. [unclear. Ends line abruptly]

Then it was the ’90s and the sangharsh [the fights] had already begun. People were converting from Christianity to Hinduism and then Soniaji, Vajpayeeji had come. At that time I was living in the house of an adivasi at the foot of the Shabri Dham.

LR: Did you ever meet Vajpayeeji?

SA: I have met him many times.

LR: What did he think about you?

SA: When I was in Andamans -  at that time, some samiti was created and he was part of it and had come along with other parliamentarians to Port Blair. The opposition leader had to be the head of that committee.

LR: Was this during the period that you were in Dangs or while you were in Andamans?

SA: Andamans. I had met him before at Sangh’s functions too and so we knew each other. So then all the BJP people went to request him for a meeting, but he said I am here on the government’s work. But then he said this, ask all BJP people to come to Swamiji’s ashram and then we can all meet there. So then we did a good programme there. The meetings also happened on the sidelines. [laughs]

1:59

LR: He didn’t do anything wrong to you, did he? Did he try to stop you?

SA: No, Advanji did. Then Keshubhai did. Advaniji had asked Keshubhi to do so. Since I had given a date to do things right? On this date, this village this church we/I will demolish.

LR: Ok you had given them a date?

SA: Yes I had. But then I didn’t break it. All the Christians became Hindus and then they would demolish the church. And one place I had told that I would myself go to demolish the church and turn it into a temple. [unclear long monologue.]

Then Advanji had asked Keshubhai what is Aseemanand doing?

[unclear part]

We went and met him and told him that you have become Hindu but on your land stands a church. Then he said that I hadn’t given the land in the name of the church. Is it your building officially? It is noted in the village records that it is my land and my building. So then I told him that in some days I will come and demolish your building. I will do it.

LR: Didn’t he say anything to it?

SA: No he had by then become a Hindu. So then I made an announcement. By then Advanji had asked Keshubhai to put an end to this programme of demolishing churches and building temples. So then I had taken a pledge. It is a forest area, so when you build anything there you have to get permission and when you demolish anything you have to get separate permission. But no one followed these rules. But I thought why not do these officially. Without letting anyone know I took the permission of the tahsildar. In his name, he gave an application saying that I want to demolish my building; there was no mention that it was a church. And the tahsildar didn’t know what the building was.

LR: What’s the name of this village?

SA: Halmuri.

LR: And on which date did this take place?

SA: I don’t remember

LR: Was it in the December of ’98?

SA: No, ’99. This was the village next to Phoolchand bhai’s house. On the day we were supposed to demolish Keshubhai put a lot of security in place. Rapid Action Force, senior police officers, ambulance was all there one day before and had surrounded the whole village. On the day before the date that we were to demolish it, the night before it, at 11, I got a phone call from the collector saying that Ashok Bhatt, the health minister of Keshubhai government is coming to meet you. We had passed Ahwa and reached Waghai. I told them that it is very late and it is my time to sleep. The collector said that he [the minister] is just here to meet you. I said no, I can’t meet him now. I will get up at 4, so I can meet him at 5. He asked where to halt the minister at the night? I said that is your problem. There was a lot of tension going on at the time. All the senior leaders of the Sangh, who were close to me, were also there at the Waghai ashram.

He then came to meet me, and told me that I need to talk to you for 2 minutes. Can we go inside to talk? I said there is no need for that. You can tell me whatever you want to say from here. It is Keshubhai’s order – if you go to demolish the church today, then our police will have to fire at you. Some days before this, on the occasion of Ganapati Visarjan…

LR: So where did this meeting happen?

SA: No, there was no meeting.

LR: Where did you meet him? At Waghai? At his guest house?

SA: No, at the Waghai hostel. They bought him to the hostel. I slept at night. In the morning the collector called to ask whether you are ready, and I said I am. So then they came for a 2-minute meeting.

LR: So you went to the hostel at night?

SA: No, I was staying at the ashram then.

LR: Oh ok

SA: What did you think? Am I not clear? Is something wrong in the way I am narrating?

LR: No no. I thought that you had gone to meet the minister.

SA: No I didn’t go. I got a call from the collector saying that he is on the way to the hostel to meet you. Will you be able to meet him? And I said no, I am sleeping.

LR: Oh! So you said no?

SA: Yes, then he asked where will I keep him and I said that is your problem. And then he asked when can I meet and then I said that I will wake up at 4 and you can come at 5.

So he said that the police has surrounded the place and if you go they will fire at you. I am here just to tell you about this. I said, this is really good news. Please inform the police that I am coming. Some days before this at the Ganapati Visarjan in Surat, Keshubhais police had fired at people and killed 10.

LR: What?

SA: Mar dala. (Killed them.) Keshubhai had asked them not to use a particular route and they used it. So this big incident had happened only a few days back. He said that you must remember that only a few days back we had to shoot at people on the Ganapati Visarjan. Maine kaha, bahut brave ke kaam karte he aap log. (I said you people are doing very brave work.) He said this is all that I had to talk to you about. I said good, please let Keshubhai also know. By that time all the reporters from Delhi were also there.

Do you have a mobile on you?

LR: No

SA: So then what is it?

LR: This is a pen and other things.

SA: Does it show the time?

LR: Yes.

SA: What is the time?

LR: 15 minutes to one.

SA: They are not taking me today [discussion on the cancelled Jaipur trip].

So then everyone was ready. All new channels were there. They wanted to enjoy how the BJP government is going to fire at me. All the new channels – Aastha and others, I don’t even know all their names as I don’t watch any. So the collector and all other top officers were there. They had decided that they will open fire. If I demolish the church they will fire. Surat’s collector, the home secretary, IAS was also there. I reached there. I had already told everyone that I will be there.

So then a media person asked: Swamiji will you do [unclear]

I said no, I am not here to do [unclear]. See this is a certificate – we have permission. This belongs to this person here. It is his personal land, and he has permission from the government to demolish.

Mein church kaha thod raha hun? Iska makan yeh thodna chahte hain, main uska madad kar raha hun. Phir unko mazaa aa gaya.

(Where are we demolishing a church? This man wants to demolish his building and I am helping him. So then they thought this was good fun.)

They went to the police officers and asked them how are you going to stop this since they have all the permissions? Then a person from Aaj Tak came. I didn’t even know what Aaj Tak was. They went and asked them how are you going to stop this? So then they came and checked and then they realised that there is no charge against us. We have already got all the permissions. The building was not named a church but marked as a personal property [in the documents]. So from that day Advaniji, Keshubhai turned very angry at me.

By that time we had taken possession of the land for Shabri Dham.

LR: Kharid liya tha? (You bought it?)

SA: Baatchit chal rahe thhe. (The talks were going on.) No one can buy the tribal land, only tribals can buy it. They can buy it but there is a long process for it.

Tab Vaipayee thhe isliye ho gaya. (Then Vajpayee was in power so it happened.) We need the centre’s permission.

LR: Did he help?

SA: No but BJP was in power so it happened. By then everyone knew what Keshubhai was doing to me.

There was a programme in Ahmedabad of the RSS. Rajju bhayya was the sarsanchalak at that time. That was the time when they were about to transfer the post of sarsangchalak to Sudarshanji. It was decided by then that Sudarshanji would be the next sarsangchalak and so Sudarshanji gave the speech. Narendrabhai was also in the camp at that time. I had met Narendrabhai 2-3 times casually before this. I was sitting alone in a corner. So Narendrabhai came near me and I said namaste. He sat next to me and said, “Keshubhai aapke saath kya kar rahe hain yeh mujhe pata hain. Swamiji aap jo kar rahe hain uska tulna nahi hain. Asli kaam aap hi kar rahe hain. Abhi tay ho raha hain ki main mukhya mantri banega. Main aa jaoon toh aapka kaam main karunga. Nishchint rahiye. Karthe rahiye.” Khud aake mila aur baatchit karke chale gaye. (I know what Keshubhai is doing to you. Swamiji there is no comparison to what you are doing. You are doing the true work. Now it is being decided that I will be the chief minister. Let me come and then I will do your work. Be free of worry. Please carry on with your work.)

LR: Was there anyone else with you at that time?

SA: No, I was alone. Advani and all others were also there at that time, but I was sitting in a corner. All others had left by then and I was alone.

LR: How many months before he became the minister did he say that?

SA: One year before.

LR: So Modiji said this to you one year before he became the minister?

SA: When I visited Dangs first this person was the minister – he had left BJP – RSS ka hi hain (he too belongs to the RSS). [Tries to remember name] Shankar Singh Waghela was the CM. Then he was removed and Keshubhai [came]. Then Narendrabhai said that he will become and by then the Shabri land was ours.

Then I told him that you should come inaugurate Shabri Dham and he said I would definitely come and so he came. So for that Morari Bapu had come. Before the temple was built and bhoomi poojan was done. In 2002.

LR: So this was after Morari Bapu’s story telling?

SA: Udhkatan hua, uske baad katha chali. (The inauguration was done and then the katha started.)

LR: So he came in his helicopter?

SA: Yes, he came by helicopter and even Morari Bapu came by his personal helicopter. There was a new helipad constructed by the government for Modi to land. Morari bapu had his personal helicopter, but was not allowed to land there.

LR: Oh, why was that so?

SA: He had to get down at the permanent helipad at Ahwa.

LR: Where in Shabhari temple was this helipad constructed?

SA: It was at 2-3 kms from the temple.

[unclear]

LR: Does Modiji come for darshan often to Shabari dham?

SA: In 2002 the temple was built and then in 2006 the Shabari Kumbh happened. Then he came and others sants came.

LR: After that didn’t he come?

SA: 2006 ke baad main isi jhanjhat mein pad gaya. (Post 2006 I got into all this trouble.)

LR: Have you ever meet Dr Vinod Prakash?

SA: I can’t remember.

LR: He and his wife Sarla Prakash used to fund a lot of VKA’s work.

SA: Where do they stay?

LR: Well they are from Canada or America. Have you never ever heard of them?

SA: I am junglee. How do I know?

LR: When during Emergency after being released from jail, you had told me that you never went back home. You were staying with Basanth, so which place were you staying?

SA: Ghar nahi gaya tha matlab, sampark mein thhe. Emergency ke baad mein vaatavaran banane ke liye humko kaam mein laya gaya thha, Basantji underground thhe. Kolkata mein kahi rehte thhe, milne jaate thhe. Jab main jail se nikla toh Basantji se sampark kiya. Basanti ji ka vaatavaran banane ke liye jagah jagah jaana, toh phir election ki taiyari kiya. 1977 mein to khatam ho gaya, Indira Gandhi ka ban khatam hua.

(I didn’t go home but I was in touch with my family then. I was working for our cause and Basantji was underground. I was staying in Kolkata and used to go and meet him. When I got out of jail, I had got in touch with Basantji. He was getting the preparations done for the next elections. In 1977 it ended and then Indira Gandhi’s ban also ended.)

LR: Woh Pranth Pracharak ban gaya nah? (He then became the Pranth Pracharak, right?)

SA: Praant pracharak thhe. Phir Kalyan Ashram unko diya gaya, toh main bhi Basantji ke sath jud gaya, aap jahan jayenge main wahan jaoonga. Aap Sangh mein rehte toh main Sangh mein, aap Ashram mein jaate toh.

(He was the Prant Pracharak then. Later when he was also given the responsibility of the VKA, I joined Basantji in his work. I told him that I will follow him wherever he went. If you are staying in the Sangh I will stay with it, and if you move to Ashram I will too.)

Us samay main purane naam se jaana jaata tha. (At that time I was known by my old name.)

LR: Kaun se naam se? (By which name?)

SA: Ghar ke naam tha. (By my original name.)

LR: Sarkar?

SA: Aur us samay bhi main guruji ke sampark mein tha, wahan bhi aana jaana tha. (But even then I used be in touch with Guruji. I used to go and meet him often.)

LR: Aap Guruji se mile? Did you ever meet Guruji [Golwalker]?

SA: No this is my Guruji. But yes, I saw Guruji once in Kolkata at a programme. I was a kid then.

LR: Sudarshanji aapke ghar aate thhe? (Did Sudarshanji ever come to your house?)

SA: Aaye hain kayi baar. (Yes, many times.) My family was working to change the image of Sangh at that time.

LR: Aapka bhai, aapke bhai koi pracharak rahe hain? (Your brother, your brother has been a pracharak, right?)

SA: Mere bade bhai rahe hain. Mujhse bada bhai. Abhi shaadi kiye hain. School ka teacher hain.  (Yes, my elder brother was once a Pracharak. Now he is married. He is a school teacher.) We all used to take tutuions then and in all this my elder brother could not become a doctor. So the younger one studied MBBS and became one. Elder brother became teacher, now is retired and has a son and daughter. He has done BTech and is working. I don’t know where he lives.

LR: Sudarshanji ne aapko Mohan Bhagwat se milvaya ya aap khud mile unse? (So did Sudarshanji introduce you to Mohan Bhagwat or did you meet him on your own?)

SA: Mohanji to us samay Prachar pramukh thhe desh ke, mere khayal se. Toh kaaryakram thha Devghar mein, toh Sangh ka koi na koi adhikari aata hain, to Prachar pramukh thhe to Mohanji aaye. (At that time Mohanji was the national level, Prachar Pramukh, I believe. There was a programme in Devgarh and someone or the other from Sangh used to come there for it. So since he was the Prachar Pramukh he came.)

And thus I met him.

Maybe I knew him before it, have met 2-3 times I guess. Bhagwat ji’s father used to work with Doctorsaheb, in a village next to Maharashtra. He used to work along with Doctorsaheb [Hedgewar] in Chandrapur. So I have been there many a times to meet him. So I used to go there for VKA’s programme and then meet him too. They had opened a Shakha.

Us samay Mohanji chotte thhe, par lag raha thha ki bade hoke kuch na kuch banege. (Mohan Bhagwat was young at that time, but we all knew that he would grow up to be someone important.)

LR: Aapko pata hai jab aap jail mein thhe, jab yeh sab chal rahe thhe toh Bhagwatji sabse zyaada aapke liye baat kar rahe thhe? (Do you know that when you were in jail, when all this was happening, Bhagwatji was the person who was speaking the most for you?)

SA: Mere jail aane ke baad? Pata nahi.  (After I came to jail? I don’t know.)

LR: Nahi? (No?)

SA: Kya bolne wale thhe? (What did he say?)

LR  Aapko pareshan na karne ke liye bole. (He asked not to trouble you.)

SA:Kis se baat ki? (Whom did he speak to?)

LR:  Manish Tewari se. (With Manish Tewari.)

SA: Acha, Mohanji? Aur Indresh ji? (Is it? Mohanji? And [what about] Indreshji?)

LR: Indreshji mujhe pata nahi hai. Indresh ji se main ek baar mili. Mujhe aisa lagta hai ki aap se gussa hain kya woh? (I don’t know about Indreshji. I met Indreshji once. I have a feeling he’s angry with you?)

SA: Humse gussa hain? Woh kya galti hua ki aapko toh sab bata diya tha na. (Angry with me? I have told you everything about the blunder that I did.)

[Silence. Searches for words.]

I have told Bharat bhai how I met Bhagwatji and Indreshji at Shabri Dham, and Bharat bhai had told everything to CBI. Also that Indreshji had met Sunil in Nagpur and given him fifty thousand rupees, Bharat bhai knew this.

LR: But then you had said in your statement that Bharat bhai was there when Indreshji gave money?

SA: Bharat bhai ne aise bataya tha. (Bharat Bhai had said so to me.)

LR: Oh so Bharat Bhai told you this?

SA: Bharat bhai told them everything beforehand, main ek bhi shabd naya nahi bola. Bharat bhai ne sab kuch pehle se bhol diya tha. (I didn’t tell them anything new. Bharat bhai had already told them about everything.)

CBI ne mujhko poocha tha. Maine dekha toh sab baat unko maloom hain. (CBI had asked me about this. I realized that they had knowledge of everything before hand.) It was later that I got to know that CBI was sitting in his house for the last 2-3 months and knew everything from him. Maine dekha toh sabhi baat jaante hain. (I realized that they [CBI] knew every detail.)

LR: But Bharat bhai didn’t go there right? You told Bharat bhai about it?

SA: About what?

LR: That Indreshji has given money? Bharat bhai didn’t witness it right?

SA: Bharatbhai had told me about this. Sunil had gone with Pragya to Nagpur. Sunil had taken Bharat bhai along with him and in front of him Indresh had given Sunil money – in front of him. Bharat bhai had come back and told me about this. Bharatbhai told the same thing to CBI too. CBI then told me that, Bharat bhai had told you that when they both were there Indreshji gave fifty thousand rupees. So when they already knew everything what could I do?

So then Mohan ji told me that, “Aap kaam kar sakte hain” (You can do this).  Indresh told me “Aap kaam kar sakte hain. Sunil ko leke aap kaam kar sakte hain. Par hum log nahin rahenge. Aap hain toh hum log aap ke saath hain yeh aap maan lena. Aap jo karenge galat nahi hoga. Disha theek rahega.” (You can do this. You can do this with Sunil. But we won’t be a part of it. If you are there, believe that we too are with you. What you are going to do will not be wrong. The course will be right.)

This I had told Bharat and Bharat had told this to the CBI. I was surprised how the CBI got to know all these things. That only me, Sunil, Bhagwat ji and Indresh had met in a camp at the Shabari Dham. Yeh yeh baat hua tha (the things we had talked about),

LR: This was before the Shabri Kumbh right?

SA: Usse pehle. (Before that.)

LR: There was some national executive of RSS then?

SA: Yes at that time.

LR: 2006?

SA: Yes 2006. Surat se. 2005 mein - Diwali ke aas paas. (In 2005, [this happened] close to Diwali.)

LR: Diwali ke aas paas.

SA: It was very surprising to me. At that point I didn’t know that the CBI was sitting at [Bharat’s] home. I thought, fine. I will try and keep Indresh ji out of this as much as possible.

Indresh ji bola, karenge karenge. Par maine kaha ki Indresh ji ne humko roka. (Indresh ji said we’ll do it, we’ll do it. But I said that Indresh ji stopped us.) They knew everything. But whatever little bit I did it from my end.

Indresh ji bola karne ke liye. Par hum naam kyon le? Apne pe naam le lete hain. (Indresh told us to do it. But why should I take his name? I’ll take it upon myself.) The police asked me why you did it when Indresh asked you not to. So I said he is from the Sangh and I am not part of the Sangh. I am from the VKA. Even when the Kalyan Ashram heads ask me to do specific things, I don’t do it. I do things according to my wish.

[unclear part]

CBI knew that Sunil had left Shabri Dham before his death. Unko patha tha ki Sunil ne bomb se udaya tha. Maloom tha. Bharat bhai ne sab bataa diya tha. (They knew that Sunil had done all the bomb blasts. The CBI knew everything. Bharat bhai had told them about everything.)

Then they told me that since Sunil knew about Indresh, you had told him that he has threat to his life from Indresh. I said, no. What you are saying? This is wrong.

Yeh sahi main galat baat hain. Maine Sunil ko poocha. (This was a truly a wrong statement. I had asked Sunil.)

So what happened was that when the Ajmer blast happened I asked Sunil who all were there with him? He said it was two Muslim boys. This is in my confession.

LR: Yes it is.

SA: Two Muslim boys. I asked where the Muslims boys came from and he said Indresh was heading an organisation and had given him the Muslim boys. Dekhiye aapne mussalman se kaam karvaya hain. Aur mussalman kabhi sahi nahi hote. (Look you have made Muslims work for you and they are never good to deal with.)

When they know about you, they will try to finish you. I had told Sunil that he has to be careful about the Muslims. That you have taken their help and that is wrong. They will try to murder you. Aur aise hi hua. Maara na? Mussalman ne hi maara hoga. (And that’s exactly what happened. Murdered him, right? It must be the Muslims who killed him.)

So this is what I told him. I never said he had threat from Indresh, all I said is that since Indresh gave him Muslims, he has a threat from those Muslims. So that is how the parts about Indreshji came in my statements. In whatever way I could save him I did. But then Bharatbhai had already told CBI everything about him. So I couldn’t do much.

LR: So this murder of Sunil Joshi – did Muslims do it? Didn’t Mehul and others do it?

SA: I had told you about Mehul and Raj. When Sunil was murdered they knew that police would enquire about all living there and then the police may come to know that they are absconding from the Best Bakery case and they would end up being arrested. So they ran away and the police thought they have committed it [Sunil’s murder]. So till the time the case was with ATS, they blamed Mehul and Raj for this. Mehul was not arrested then, but Raj was under arrest. [unclear]

So they said that unless you admit to this we will not stop torturing you. So then this became ATS’s chargesheet. Then NIA took over the case. They had from the start said that what ATS was doing was wrong. Then ATS took them on remand. They doubted that Raj and Mehul did do it. They ran away just to escape arrest. When the case came to NIA – Mehul was arrested in Ajmer case. NIA’s charge sheet doesn’t have his name. [Corrects himself] No, the chargesheet is not out yet, it will come soon, and now the case is now that Lokesh killed Sunil. They tortured Lokesh a lot, but he didn’t say anything. By then they were in touch with his wife. After that Lokesh accepted it.

His wife admitted that she knew that he [Lokesh] was planning to murder [Sunil] and even after murdering he had admitted about it to her. NIA had not arrested the wife, but had kept her in custody. This could be a crime under Sec 120, as she knew about it before, as she is accepting that she knew about it. So when he got to know that his wife will be arrested, he confessed – a man whom they could not break by all the beating. They told him that you will have to help us retrieve the revolver – otherwise we will arrest your wife. If you don’t help us retrieve the revolver then case under 120 can be lodged against your wife – technically that’s possible. So then after 6 years they recovered the revolver – 2007 he was murdered and in 2013 it was recovered.  Even after 6 years the revolver was found at the same place. And his brother Jiten Sharma knew everything – so he had to say everything to save his wife.

LR: Can I ask you something? When you made the statement you and Sunil Joshi took all the credits.

SA: Yes, I thought why to get anyone else involved. I will take all the punishment for it. Sunil was dead. I was also in josh (excitement), no?

LR: But then you knew that Pragya Singh and all others were already in jail?

SA: They were in jail. But from the conversations of the CBI I got an idea that they would not arrest Pragya and others or even Bharat bhai. From their conversations I had got this idea. But then when I started confessing they changed the way they treated me. [They told me that] If you tell us everything we promise you that we won’t arrest Bharat bhai and Pragya. At that point I had no clue that Bharat had done this. [I asked] You will not arrest them? They said, they wouldn’t.

LR: So you wanted to save them all?

SA: [They asked] So whatever Bharatbhai had said they were all true? Yes they are all true.

So Pragya had no role in all this? I said she had no role.

But then Bharatbhai has told them about Pragya before - that Pragya was there.

LR: Sudhakar Dwidevi?

SA: I didn’t even know the names of all who were there.

LR: Oh you didn’t know their names?

SA: He [Bhratbhai] kept a track of them, and identified them through their photos. I only knew Sunil and then Sandeep Dange. I even did not know Lokesh’s name. Of course Lokesh was in the meeting.

LR: Oh so you didn’t know their identity?

SA: No I didn’t and also we were never introduced by our true names. And shouldn’t be too.

LR: Yes that’s right.

SA: I never asked them too. These many people have come, good. What use is it to know their names? But Bharat bhai told them all the names. They said that Lokesh was there. I didn’t know that. They started taking all the names. [unclear name] was there, Pragya was there.

Aap log is jagah baithke baath kar rahe thhe, sabhi baat. (That you all were sitting at this place and talking, all those details.)

That behind the [unclear] of Bharatbhai’s house, me, Sunil, Pragya and Bharat had sat and talked. When they know about all this, then I should [unclear].  

Yeh sab kaun kiya? Maine kiya. (Who did it at all places? I did it.)

[unclear] udaneka? Maine kiya. (Who bombed [unclear]? I did it.)

Train udaneka? Maine kiya. [Corrects himself] Train ke khali Sunil ko diya. (Bombing the train? I did it. [Corrects himself]  For just the train, I said that Sunil did it.)

LR: Why so?

SA: Well I thought anyway Sunil is already dead. And then police will suspect if I take credit for all. They will feel that I am lying about it, hiding something.

LR: So you saved everyone?

SA: Kisko bachaya? (Whom did I save?)

LR: Pragyaji and others.

SA: Jab mujhe pata laga ki Pragya kuch nahin kahne wale thhe. Bharatbhai ne bata ke rakha tha. Tab maine socha ki decision mein Pragya hain main kyu bataoon? Haan woh thhe. Jagah bataya ki yahi mein baitha hain, sahi mein nikla. Aur bolthe ki aap nahin bolenge nah toh Bharatbhai ko arrest nahi karenge, aapke khilaf witness karadenge. Woh witness denge. Uske patni ko witness khada kar denge. Patni toh thhe hi. 2 witness khada ho jayenga. Aisa saboot ho jayenga.

(But I got to know that Pragya did not say anything. It was Bharat who told them. Then I thought that why should I tell them that Pragya was involved in the decision-making? They already knew where we sat and talked. So the CBI told me that if you don’t take all the names, we will not arrest Bharat bhai but make him a witness against you. We will also bring his wife as a witness. His wife was also there. So they will be the 2 witnesses against you.)

Toh… Pragya decision me nahin thhe main bol raha hoon. Theek hain maan leta hoon. Lekin aap ke jagah me baithe the. Baithe toh thhe, lekin sun raha ke nahin sun raha yeh maloom nahi hain. Maine Sunil ko bataya thha. Theek hain Pragya ko arrest nahi karenge, Bharat ko bhi arrest nahi karenge. CBI Bharat ko bhi arrest karna nahi chahtha tha. (Then… I insisted that Pragya was not part of the decision. Ok we will believe you [the officers said]. But she was sitting at the same place. Yes, she was sitting there but I am not sure whether she was listening to the conversation or not. I was talking to Sunil. Ok then we will not arrest Pragya or Bharat. The CBI actually never wanted to arrest Bharat.)

[Off the record portion deleted.]

LR: When you first came under police custody, Sangh had told you through its lawyer that you should not say anything, right?

SA: Yes he did tell me, but then I didn’t have to tell them anything, no? Bharat bhai has already told them everything about us beforehand. Even they did not know that Bharatbhai had already told everything. It was my name. Everything was coming out in my name. That Swamiji said this. Swamiji has said this. But that was not the truth. Bharatbhai has already told everything about us before hand. There was no way that I could escape from it. They [CBI] were saying everything with evidence.

LR: But then why didn’t you keep a Sanghs lawyer?

SA: At that time? I have told you this right? I thought I will do penance and take whatever punishment that comes to me. So why should I keep a lawyer?

LR: Really was that what you were thinking?

SA: Socha ki woh sab jaante hi hain. Main bhi sab jaanta hun. Baat toh sahi hain. Jo hota hain woh le lenge. Isme kya hain? Phir vakil leke pahunchne ki kya zaroorat hain? (I thought they knew everything. I also knew everything. It’s after all true. I will accept whatever that happens because of it. What is the big deal about it? Then why should you take a lawyer along with you?)

LR: Phir vichar kaise change ho gaya? Phir vakil kyu rakha? (Then why did you change your mind? Why did you engage a lawyer?)

SA: I didn’t keep a lawyer in Panchkula and in Jaipur. I said I didn’t need a lawyer. Here they said you have to keep one, we will allot from legal aid. So in Hyderabad too I had said give me one from legal aid. But in Jaipur when I was produced, the judge was of a totally different kind – the CJM to whom you are taken after arrest. He was a complete kattar Hindutwadi. When I was first brought there, I had already confessed. They had also asked me what if you are hanged? And I had said that I was ready, right? They had written all this down, right?

[Portion removed where he discusses the judge.]

LR: The retraction statement.

SA: I said that Ranaji had come to visit me and he is a lawyer. Even then the journalists asked whether he has become your lawyer? I said he was ready to be my lawyer. So retraction happened. Then came to know that once you get a bail you can’t become an approver. So then he got a bail from Hyderabad.

LR: Who got bail?

SA: Bharatbhai. In Hyderabad he was arrested by CBI. So when NIA got the case he was already under arrest and they kept him in remand in Hyderabad. And then he was given a bail. And so after he got a bail he can’t be made approver.

So what else do you have now? Let me tell you what you have to do otherwise they will suddenly say you have to leave. So you have the number of Phoolchandbhai?

LR: Yes yes I have it.

SA: [Dictates the number. Corrects me when I write it down wrong.]

I am now going to tell you something that no one else knows.

[Aseemanand side steps from the interview to see if I could help him with passing information to the people who send him money, not to come to Jaipur, since he won’t be taken there anytime soon. I simply listen to him without giving any commitment whatsoever.]

LR: Aapka vision kya hain? Kya vichaar rakhte hain aap Bharat ke baare mein, jeevan ke baare mein, kya karna chahte hain, kaise dekhna chahte hain aap Bharat ko? (What is your vision? What are your dreams and hopes for Bharat, life? What do you want to do? How do you want to see Bharat in the future?)

SA: Bharat ko nahi, Hindu samaj ko. Mera jo apna vision hain, main Sangh ko bhi batata hun, adhikari ko. Dekhiye Bharat ab woh purana bharat nahi reh gaya, poora duniya ek gaon ban gaya hain. Purana Bharat nahi raha. Toh Bharat ko bhi alag se sochenge to nahi kar payenge, poori duniya ke sath taal mel karke sochenge to kar payenge. Toh hamara vichar hona chahiye poore bharat ko Hindu rashtra Sangh ka, abhi bhi hai. Main chahta hoon ki poora vishva Hindu rashtra ho jaaye. Poore vishwa mein Hindu raj aaye.

([My vision] is not about Bharat, it is about Hindu samaj. I even share this with people from the Sangh, the authorities. Listen now Bharat is not that same old Bharat. The whole world has become a village. So if we still go on thinking about Bharat, we won’t be able to achieve anything. We should think about the whole world now. So Sangh still thinks about making Bharat a Hindu nation and is taking efforts for it. But I wish that the whole world should become a Hindu nation. Let the whole world have Hindu rule.)

LR: Woh kaise? (How will that be?)

SA: Kaise? Musalmaan chahte hain ki poore vishwa mein Musalmaan bane, Chahte ki nahin?  Christian chahte he ki poora Jesu ki raaj aaye, chahte ki nahin? Chahte toh hain. Gao ki andar mein ek anpadh musalmaan mahila ko bhi poochenge to woh jante hain ki ek na ek din poora duniya Mussalman banenge. Christian aadiwasi mahila ko poochenge, woh chahte hain ki ishu raaj ho poore vishwa mein. Vishwas to hain. Hamare Hindu mein vishwas nahi hai ki poore vishwa me Hindu raj aaye, isko lane mein kya takleef hai? Sankalp ko lane me kya takleef hai? Poore duniya mein Hindu raj karenge, Hindu mein kya takleef hain?

(How? The Muslims wants the whole world to be of Muslims? Do they or not? Christians wish that the whole world be under the rule of Jesus. Do they wish or not? They do. Ask the illiterate Muslim woman in any village she will tell you that one day the whole world will be of Muslims.  Even ask the Christian tribal lady in a village, she will tell you this. They have a belief that the rule of Jesus will be on earth. But we Hindus don’t have the belief that our rule can come in this world. What is the difficulty in believing in this? What is the difficulty in believing? Hindu raj will be established in the whole world. What’s the difficulty for Hindus in this?)

Musalman jab soch sakte hain or kar rahe hain. Pehle socha thha Mohammad ne. Woh akela thha. Duniya aur koyi Mussalman nahi thha. 1400 saal pehle. Poore duniya ko musalmaan banayenge, ban rahe hain! Sankalp karne mein takleef kya hain? Jesu socha thha poori duniya ko Baptist layenge, soch rahe hain Christian. Toh poori duniya ko Hindu bana ke Hindu nahi soch sakte, pehle sochna to shuru kare, kaise banega? Sochna toh shuru karo. Pehle socho. Kaisa banega sankalp lena. Toh hamne sankalp ka ek card banaya. “Poore vishwa mein Hindu raj laayenge, dharmantaran aur jehaad ke vichar ko vishva se nirmool karenge.” Islam ka bhi naam nahi liya. Jehaad galat hain, dharmantaran galat hain. Jehaad or dharmantaran ke vichaar ko vishw se khatam karenge. Toh Hindu ko sankalp lene mein kya takleef hai? Poora vishwa mein Hinduvaad layenge. Jehaad aur dharmantaran ke vichar ko khatam karenge. Ye aadmi ko khatam karne ke baat nahi kar rahe hain, vichar ko. Yeh koi gair kanooni baat nahi hain, ye mera vichaar hain. Jai hamara sunischit hain kyunki hum dharm ke saath hain.”

(When Muslims are thinking and doing things in this direction. Mohammad was the first person to think so. He was alone then. Some 1400 years back. I will make the whole world into Muslims and they are doing it now. What is the difficulty in imagining this? Jesus wanted the whole world to be baptised. Christians are thinking for it. So then why can’t we work for making the whole world into Hindus? First start thinking in that direction. At least start thinking in that direction. How will it become one, you will have to start imagining for that. So we make a card for the mission with the words, “We will establish Hindu raj in the world. We will wipe out the thoughts of conversion and jihad from this world.” We will establish the Hinduvaad in the whole world. We will end conversion and jihad in this world. We are not talking of finishing off the people, but of eliminating these thoughts. There is nothing wrong in it. Its not illegal. Victory will be ours because dharm is on our side.

What is the difficulty to imagine this? We didn’t type Christian or Muslim in it. Everyone agrees that conversion and jihad is bad, so we just kept those words in. We printed and distributed it. My wish was that everyone in every Hindu house when they light the lamp for pooja would think this line as their sankalp/mission.

So we should print this. On one side of the card Om and on the other side the sankalp/mission statement. We will not print anyone’s or any organisation’s name on it. Hamara jai hoga yeh vishwas hain. (We believe victory will be ours.) Got it printed – 1 lakh copies. Didn’t take money from anyone for this.

Musalmaan kar sakte hain, Christian kar sakte hain to hum kyu nahi kar sakte hain, vichaar rakho ek din ho jayega, vichaar hi nahi rakhte hain. Kyon nahi hoga?  Jehaad poore manav samaaj ko khatam kar dega, Christian aayega, sanskriti khatam ho jayegi. Manav ka jo sanskriti hain woh Hindu dharm mein hi hai. Manav ko manav banake rakhna woh Hindu hi hain, toh poori duniya mein Hindu raj rahega to manav zinda rahega, manav ka jo manavta woh zinda rahega. Isliye Hindu raaj hona manav ke liye zaruri hai, ye sankalp hum le ki poore vishwa me Hindu ho. Hoga.

(If Muslims can do it and Christians can do it, then why can’t we do it? Imagine it, and then one day it will happen. The problem is that we don’t even dream for it. What is the difficulty in dreaming about this? Jihad will wipe off all the human civilisation from this world. If Christians come in they will end our culture. The civilisation of man is only rooted in Hindu religion. The religion that preserves humans as humans is Hindu religion. If in the whole world Hindu rule comes in only then will humans be able to remain alive. The humanity of humans will be alive only then. For this reason it is very important to have Hindu raj. Let us have this belief that in this whole world there will be Hindu raj.)

LR: Toh Hindu samaaj mein hain himsa or ahimsa. Toh hum ahinsa pe zyaada vichaar karte hain? (We have these concepts of violence and non-violence in Hinduism and we believe more in non-violence?)

SA: Iske liye humne Gita se 33 shlok liya, or vichaar ko sthapit karne ke liye Gita ko aadhar banaya. (So for this we took 33 shlokas from Gita. We used Gita to establish our thoughts.)

Everyone is using their text for this, so let us use Gita.

Toh naam rakha “yugdharma,” ye hamara dharm hai. Is yug mein hamara dharm kya hai, Shri Krishna, Arjun ko updesh kyon diya? Hinsa, ahinsa ye baat kahaan se aaya? Bhagwan Shri Krishna Arjun ko updesh isliye diya kyonki woh bola yudh nahi karega, bhai ko guru ko marna yeh to galat baat hai, ladai nahi karenge, bheekh maang ke zinda rahenge. Yeh aap jo bol raha hain woh Hindu ka vichar hain. To Arjun ka jo vichaar hain, vahi abhi Hindu ka vichaar hain. Abhi Hindu yahi sochta hai ki hinsa nahi karenge. Yeh Hindu ka kahan hai? Gita kahe ke liye likha gaya hai, ladai karne ke liye likha gaya hain na? Phir aakhri mein Shri Krishna bhagwaan ne kaha hain ki, Arjun bolte hain ki ab jo tum bologe woh main karunga. Bhagwan Krishna ne kya kaha, ladai ke liye. Hamne Gita ko hi bhool gaya. Arjun ne jab aisa baat kiya to bhagwaan Shri Krishna jo pehla shlok bole ki “tum jo aisa hijda ke jaisa napunsak nahi hai.” Gaali diya.

So we named this book as “yugdharma” – the dharam of this yug. What is our dharm in this yug? What did Lord Krishna tell Arjun? Where did all this arguments of himsa and ahimsa come from? He gave it because Arjun was saying that I can’t fight, that he can’t fight against his brothers and teachers. That it is wrong to fight, he would rather live his life begging. So this thought of Arjun is what is the current thought of Hindus. Now Hindus are thinking that we should not use violence. Where is this thought comingfrom? How is it Hindu’s thought? Why was Gita written? It was written to do war, right? Then in the end Arjuna says to Krishna that I will do whatever you ask me to. So then Krishna’s first shloka was that Arjuna you are talking as a hijda here. He abused him, right?

When others are coming for a fight, if you don’t fight that is adharm/sin. Then your dharm is to fight. Muslim ladayi kar raha hain, Christian ladayi kar raha hain? (Muslims are fighting. Christians are fighting.) So now our duty is to fight them back.

Policeman: Please don’t sit for such a long period. Actually we only allow 20 minutes time and you have been sitting for the last 3 hours. Please.

[Aseemanand and I promise to wrap up the conversation and he leaves.]

Abhi hamara Hindu kya hai Arjun ke jaisa hain ke ladai nahi karna hain, to hamara dharm kya hai jo Krishna bola ladai karna. Doosre jo pooja path hain unka ladai karna hain, ye dharm hain. Krishna ne kaha hai ladai karo, yahi hamare yug ka dharm hain. Hinsa ahinsa ye to Budhha aane ke baad Jain aane ke baad hua hain. Sahi dharm kya hai Hindu hai, ladai karna dharm hain Gita ke anusaar.

(So now what we are doing now is to think like Arjun saying that we should not fight. What our true dharam is what Krishna has advised us. The worshipping is all different from this. That is also part of dharam. Krishna has asked us to fight and that is our duty in this yug/era. We didn’t go to them fighting. They brought the fight in, so now we have to do our dharam and fight back. All this ahimsa thing was brought in by Buddha and then the Jains. What is the true dharam of Hindus. According to Gita, it is to fight..

Theek hain phir. Aapka number nahin liya maine. (OK then. I haven’t taken your number.)

[Takes down my phone number on a piece of paper, and we walk out of the waiting room.]

 

 

Aseemanand’s interviews were conducted and tape-recorded with his full consent. Since several of his claims are of national importance, The Caravan has decided to place them before the public.

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READER'S COMMENTS [11]

God save the country. Terrosists are treated like saints. Another terrorist is on his way to become the Prime Minister. That's why BJP talks about minority appeasement to make all the Hindus hate All the Muslims and Christians!

Excellent work by journalist Leena Gita Reghunath.

Thanx to Caravan Mg. Now the nation knows what`s happening in India.

Ashimanada claims he visited in kerala jail to visit his people who fought against covmmunists. As far as we know, no Sanathan Sanstha terrorists operated in kerala and fought against communists. Its obvious his claim clearly refers his peoples are RSS/BJP cadres who have been fighting with communists in Kerala. So it implies whichever the names they refers for their outfits, all are the masks of RSS . So the mother of Saffron terrorism is RSS.

This is the era of repent and apology.

excellent work you have done, our nation is in danger from such terrorist who takes the life's of innocent people. No religion teaches the violence but the people (aseemanand and his groups) with sick mentality used to do such devil act, it is very important to bring the facts in front to show the nation about such terrorists and its supporting organization, truth shall revel and devils shall destroy. i salute you and your team for bringing the reality and truth in public. hope to see continues work from your end.

Yeah right, official transcript right? Answer two questions: 1] do you have the tapes? 2] How did you get access to the accused. What a shame to journalistic profession. Every tom dick and harry is now a newspaper

CONSPIRATORS TO DEFAME RSS BY CONGRESS AGENTS IAM SURE TRUTH WILL COME OUT THEN CARVAN CONGIS WIL BE SLAPPED.

Baseless allegations. All media systematically divert to issue Augusta and congi involvement in 84 Riot. So they raise RSS issue.

are you being funded by those who funded Tehelka? Scroll & Caravan getting the bucks & support jointly?

Firstly, I want to make an off-topic observation about this site of Caravan Magazine. Few weeks back when i checked the site, there used to be quotes of congress politicians endorsing Caravan, and the Magazine use to flash it on the sites as a "Badge of Honor" received from some third rate politicians like Mani Shankar Iyer and Kapil Sibal. Now after Swami Aseemanand Interview got published and many people raised questions about Caravan's credibility and raised suspicion of its political affiliation, it seems they got nervous and removed those quotes, Now I can see quotes of Suhasini Haider, Rahul Bose etc. I hope the quotes were not removed out of Guilty consciousness! On the Topic, Whether the Interview happened or Not, whether the Tapes are Genuine or Doctored, These tapes have no legal significance. During Election season, even congress is wary of taking this issue up as it fears Polarization of Hindu votes to BJP, It is not that Congress is hoping to win elections anyways, but taking this issue up andcasting aspersions on Nationalist org like RSS will only reduce their tally further. Congress knows it very well, thats why they are wary of even discussing it beyond a point.

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