The Believer

Swami Aseemanand’s radical service to the Sangh

01 February 2014
VIVEK SINGH FOR THE CARAVAN

[I]

"SWAMIJI KO BULAO,” the jailer ordered. Call the Swami. Two police constables scurried out of the jailer’s office and onto the grounds of the prison. A deafening noise reverberated through the room, as if a hundred men outside the walls were howling at the same time. It was visiting hours in early January 2011 at Ambala’s Central Jail.

After a few minutes, Swami Aseemanand, the Hindu firebrand accused of plotting several terrorist attacks on civilian targets across the country between 2006 and 2008, stepped into the doorway of the jailer’s office. He wore a saffron dhoti and a saffron kurta that hung down to his knees. The clothes were freshly ironed. A woollen monkey cap was pulled down over his forehead, and a saffron shawl was wrapped around his neck. He looked bemused to see me. We exchanged namastes, then he ushered me through a door into an adjoining room, where clerks in white dhoti-kurtas were poring over titanic ledgers. He sat on a large wooden trunk behind the door, and instructed me to pull a chair from a nearby desk. He was informal, like a good host, and asked me about my visit. “Somebody has to tell your story,” I said.

leena reghunath  is a freelancer based in the US. She was formerly the editorial manager at The Caravan, and has written for the New Indian Express, TheHindu, the Times of India and the Hindustan Times. She has a law degree and a master’s in English literature. Reghunath also had a brief stint as a public prosecutor and civil lawyer. She received the Mumbai Press Club's RedInk award for her reporting in 2015 and 2018.

Keywords: nationalism Aseemanand BJP Narendra Modi RSS Hindutva conversion Mohan Bhagwat Pragya Singh Thakur
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