Panchur has 16 families, most of the houses situated away from each other in this hilly village on the Kotdwar-Rishikesh road. Yogi’s house is surrounded by three or four houses, mostly of his brothers and cousins.
His father, Anand Singh, who inherited some land from his father, had it divided among his brothers. He then built two houses for his sons, Manendra and Mahendra. They live next door. Manendra also got some cows, and he gives some milk to his parents. But the family has one kitchen. Anand Singh’s third son is a subedar in the CRPF and posted in Joshimath.
Yogi’s sisters live in Delhi, Roorkee and Kothar village. Their mother, Savitri Devi, 79, is unaffected by the attention the family is getting. While three policemen guard her husband, who deals with visitors, she goes about doing household chores. She does not speak much. “He used to cry a lot when he wanted to go to school,” she said about Yogi. The painful chapter of his renunciation seems to have blurred her memories.
The family is involved in the running of Mahayogi Guru Gorakhnath Mahavidyalaya, a degree college set up by the Gorakhnath Math. Anand Singh is its manager, Manendra its computer operator and Mahendra a political science teacher. Mahendra is also a part-time journalist. “Earlier I used to send several stories a day to my newspaper, but the number has almost halved, because of the calls and visitors I have been receiving since Mahant ji became chief minister,” he said.
The college became a government-aided institution after the BJP came to power in Uttarakhand. The principal, Aftab Ahmed, has been here for two years but has not met Yogi yet. “Can anyone expect Adityanath ji to not know that a Muslim is a principal here. There has not been any interference or questions over my faith,” Ahmed said. He belongs to Varanasi, and had been director in management institutes near Delhi.
This is the only degree college between Kotdwar and Rishikesh, which are more than 200km apart. It offers seven subjects and has a few classrooms in the single-storey building.
The principal’s room has photos of Yogi, Guru Gorakhnath, Mahatma Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Swami Vivekananda. Said Ahmed: “The college lays emphasis on cultural education, and events are held to inculcate the philosophy of our leaders.”