Mamata fears that I will take Hindu votes to BJP: Bharat Sevashram Sangha leader

'She fears because of Kartik Maharaj Hindu votes would go to BJP, which is true'

24-Kartik-Maharaj Kartik Maharaj | Salil Bera

Interview/ Kartik Maharaj, head, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Beldanga branch

Everyone was surprised when Mamata Banerjee accused Kartik Maharaj, a monk associated with the Bharat Sevashram Sangha, of not allowing Trinamool Congress’s agents to sit in some polling booths during the Lok Sabha elections and of inciting communal violence in Murshidabad.

Kartik Maharaj, formally Swami Pradiptananda, heads the Bharat Sevashram Sangha’s branch in Beldanga in Murshidabad. The socioreligious charitable organisation founded by Acharya Swami Pranavanandaji in 1917 educates disadvantaged children, provides health care services, conducts tribal welfare and rural development programmes, and spreads spiritual awareness.

Pradiptananda joined the Bharat Sevashram Sangha as a teenager. As the chief of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha’s Beldanga branch, he runs 12 schools, a hostel for tribal children and a hospital. He has been a flag-bearer of aggressive hindutva in Bengal and has a close relationship with the RSS and the Vishva Hindu Parishad. In an interview, he explains why Mamata attacked him and why he wants Hindus to take up arms. Excerpts:

Q/ Why did Mamata Banerjee suddenly attack you?

A/ It was not sudden. It was calculated. We organised India’s first Lokkho Kanthe Gita Path [one lakh people reading the Gita] in Kolkata and I was the president [of the organising committee]. The response was huge, and more than a lakh people registered. She was against it. We invited her to the event. We invited the prime minister as well.

I also organised two kumbh melas in Nadia district. I have organised several protests as well. One at the Raj Bhavan against [Trinamool leader] Mahua Moitra for insulting our gods and goddesses. Another was against putting the Trinamool flag in the hands of a Durga idol. [BJP leader] Suvendu Adhikari was also present at the protest.

Also, when MLA Humayun Kabir said, ‘We [Muslims] are 70 per cent [in Murshidabad district] and there are 30 per cent Hindus, so we can kill and throw them in the Bhagirathi’, I called for a protest. (Kabir, Trinamool leader and Bharatpur MLA, said if he could not throw BJP supporters into the Bhagirathi in two hours, he would leave politics). Thousands of people of Baharampur [in Murshidabad], especially the youth, walked with me. There I asked why he had not been asked to apologise. For these reasons Mamata Banerjee attacked me. She thinks that given my identity and the respect I command among Hindus, I could be a contender in West Bengal. She fears that because of Kartik Maharaj Hindu votes would go to the BJP, which is true.

Q/ Did you force Trinamool agents out of any booth in Baharampur during the polling?

A/ It is laughable that Mamata said that. She is a chief minister. The police is under her control. If any person in any booth complained against me, then she could have sent the police. She didn’t do that because it is a lie.

Q/ Mamata has accused you of inciting riots in Rejinagar in Murshidabad during the election.

A/ I have been staying in the Murshidabad district for 40 years. The police must have had notes about me if I were a rioter. If I was a communal person, the social work that I have been doing irrespective of caste, class, religion and political parties would have been affected, and Muslims would have complained against me. If the chief minister has reports against me, she can arrest me.

Q/ You have worked with the Trinamool as well, especially with Suvendu Adhikari, who is now a BJP leader. Do you share a rapport with other Trinamool leaders?

A/ Suvendu Adhikari still visits my ashram. Trinamool's Shaoni Singha Roy [former Murshidabad MLA] visits. Apurba Sarkar [Trinamool MLA from Kandi] is associated with me and visits the ashram.

Q/ Do you have association with any other political leaders?

A/ The Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is a visitor. He has given donation to the ashram from his MPLAD fund. Adhikari, when he was with the Trinamool and minister of irrigation, had given money. Sukanta Majumdar and Dilip Ghosh have also visited. During the time of the CPI(M), Benoy Chowdhury allotted 10 bigha land adjacent to the ashram.

Q/ You often praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi. What do you like about him?

A/ We have got a prime minister who had only water for 11 days during the inauguration of the Ram Mandir [in Ayodhya]. He slept on the floor like a tapaswi. He is like Rajarshi Janak. Someone can call him a 420 (referring to Mamata’s statement against Modi ki guarantee) and may want to arrest him. But it is embarrassing that a chief minister can say this about the prime minister. That is her education and mentality. I am an Indian monk and I like those who contribute to India’s welfare, tradition and religion.

Q/ There are videos of many of your provocative speeches. You have called Hindus to pick up arms against a minority community. Don’t you think these speeches hurt your image as a monk and social worker?

A/ I have not said anything like that. The speech is there on YouTube, please see it. I said that [Hindu] idols were being destroyed at several places. An idol of Buri Maa was broken in Beldanga [in Murshidabad]. I asked, ‘Would you remain silent if they break our idols? As a son what would you do if your mother is attacked? If we are not hypocrites, we must behead those who destroy the idols we worship like our mothers.'

Q/ Are you associated with the RSS or any of its offshoots?

A/ Bharat Sevashram Sangha is for Bharatiya tradition and Bharatiya religion. Some events of the RSS take place here, such as training programmes where school teachers participate. They hire our hall. There is also Vishva Hindu Parishad. It is normal that Hindu organisations come to me.