Millennium Post

Sarkar Raj

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) may have become the butt of all jokes in the country and may be drawing in vitriolic criticism from all quarters for its ‘treasure hunt’, but one man who clearly seems to have gained in the process is the seer himself whose dream led to a frenzy that sent ASI digging for gold.

Had it not been for the ‘blind faith’ practised by some and supported by ASI, Shobhan Sarkar might have not become a household name across the country.

ASI may have decided that there isn’t any treasure buried at the temple site the ‘seer’ had pointed at, but Sarkar still seems to be living in his world of dreams. He still believes that the nation’s economic miseries were destined to end through the ‘historic findings’, which of course, could never be found.

In a conversation which lasted over an hour at his ashram in Shobhan, some 35 kilometre from Kanpur city, Sarkar, at no point, expressed any doubt about the existence of gold.

His popularity could be outlined from the fact that people inscribe his name on their vehicles. His devotees have a staunch belief in him. A follower working in IIT Kanpur visits the ashram to have Sarkar’s darshan. His followers include ministers, IAS officers, IPS officials and businessmen among others.

Despite the popularity he enjoys, Sarkar’s life remains shrouded in mystery.  There is no written record of him. After he renounced worldly life and took sanyas, he vowed to never get his pictures clicked or get anything written about himself.

‘The Intermediate pass (Class XII) Shobhan Sarkar was born to Kashinath Tewari in the village of Shuklanpurva in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh,’ reveals his contemporary Ram Prakash, who hails from the nearby village of Sambalpur. His real name is Surajbhan and after taking sanyas he was anointed as Swamy Viraktanand.

He became Shobhan Sarkar after getting control over Shobhan temple. Shobhan is the village where Sarkar’s ashram is situated and Sarkar is the term used for the ruler of the temple. Sarkar had his primary education at a government school in Baghpur district. During school days, the gold-gaze monk was very humble and obedient, added Ram Prakash, who claims to have spent childhood days with now world-famous Sarkar.

The seer has two brothers and a sister. One of his brother’s is a retired primary school teacher. He gets his pension from a nationalised bank in Shibli, says the bank official working over there. While Baba’s other brother is a sapatni saint (a person whose wife has also taken sanyas).

Sources close to the ashram also revealed that Sarkar’s father is still alive. When asked about his family members, Sarkar claimed that he doesn’t remember anything about the family he renounced years back.

Despite the huge embarrassment that the gold-hunt caused, Sarkar answers every all questions related to the gold hunt confidently.

Talking about the recent downslide of the Indian rupee against the dollar (when the value of the Indian currency against its US counterpart had crossed the 65 mark), Sarkar says he was shocked to see the expression of disappointment on the face of Indian finance minister P Chidambaram at a time when the US president Barack Obama’s face was glowing both in the same newspaper.

Saddened over the gloomy picture of the Rupee, Sarkar recalled his gurus, who include, Swami Bhaskaranand and Raghunandan Swamy. After some days of sadhna and adhyatm, Sarkar claims his gurus enlightened him and told him about the existence of a huge treasure buried in Daundiya Kheda.

But why in Daundiya Kheda only and that too beneath the small fort of a lesser known Raja – Rao Ram Bux Singh, who may have enjoyed the control over just 10 villages? In answer to this question, he relates the incident as the subject of adhyatm (spirituality).

It is noteworthy that Sarkar has some ashrams in nearby areas of Daundiya Kheda under the Unnao district. His followers claim that Sarkar is a devotee of Hanuman and has the blessings of the god, who had destroyed the Lanka of Ravana. His Hanuman Bhakti is endorsed by the establishment of temples of Hanuman at his Shobhan ashram as well as at the newly-constructed Giddhikagar ashram in Unnao district. Apart from Hanuman temple, he also looks after a shrine of Chandrika Devi, an avatar of goddess Durga, at Buxar.

Sarkar is unfazed by the criticism leveled against him for misleading the nation. He says he isn’t worried about the demands made by the likes of Sharad Yadav, the JD(U) chief, for filing of an FIR against him and his followers Omji and union minister Charandas Mahanth.

Sarkar said he is not afraid of getting respect or facing disrespect. ‘I have become a mahatma not to harvest respect or disrespect of followers. I have opted for this life to work for the welfare of mother earth and her people,’ Sarkar said.

He still believes that gold would be dug out from the site. Despite the fact that no gold was found from the  exact place that he had pointed at, Sarkar claims that thanks to the spiritual powers and blessings of his gurus he was able to calculate the exact quantity of gold buried below the temple. In the same breadth he questions the scientists working for Geological Survey of India (GSI) and asked them to explain the method adopted to calculate quantity of gold.

He related the treasure hunt with mother earth’s ‘pregnancy’. Sarkar says, ‘Mother earth is in ‘prasav’ (labour) and she has to deliver the gold… wait for some days… she will ‘deliver’ gold, which will be used for the welfare and upliftment of people of the country.

Completely oblivious to the ridicule that his claims and ASI’s gold-hunt have caused, Sarkar is busy explaining the uses of the ‘non-existent’ gold. He said after the gold is found the value of Indian rupee will come to match US dollar. ‘We wouldn’t have to reach out to other countries seeking financial help. They (USA) will come to us’, Sarkar added. He elaborated a huge plan for the development of the country like a real policy makers or economist.

Sarkar has also taken a decision over the ownership rights of the non-existent yellow metal. On being asked in case of the gold being found, it will be taken into custody by government, then how he will execute his projects? He said with some authority that they government will have to ask him before depositing it into the exchequer.

Sarkar says it is not he who wants this, but it is the gurus who want this. He claims his gurus are speaking through him. ‘Swamiji gets divine messages,’ claims a senior police officer, whom this correspondent met at Daundiya Kheda.

‘Swamy Viraktanand, who has a huge fan following across the state, looks be above 60 years of age. He must have joined the ashram in 1966-67 at the age of 20,’ says Ram Prakash, his contemporary.

‘He uses sharp words to disperse the crowd of his followers. His anger is considered as very propitious among his bhakts,’ says Govind Kushwaha, a devotee of Sarkar, who has been visiting the Shobhan ashram for the last 18 years.

Sarkar meets his followers from behind an iron grill whose design bears a astonishing resemblance to a zoo cage. Only VIP guests are allowed into the inner sanctum, where Sarkar sits on a low asana of woven kusha grass. Volunteers at Sarkar’s ashram keep a hawk eye on every follower. If they notice someone fiddling with their mobile phones, then without wasting even a second, they pounce on the follower and take away the cellphone to ensure that Sarkar has been not clicked.
No one is allowed to carry mobile phones, pens, notepads or any ‘suspicious’ item through which Swamy’s physical appearance could be ‘captured’.

Sarkar’s empire in Shobhan is spread in over 5 square km surrounded by canal-type ponds. Followers of Sarkar say that water from the Ganges is stored in the ponds for irrigation purposes.
On the question of joining politics, Sarkar says that there is no such plan. He is an old person and doesn’t know when he will get a call from his gurus to leave the sharir (body).

Sarkar’s reputation grew quickly around 1980s onwards. Sightings of him have been unpredictable, as he travels without an entourage, reportedly by a motor boat that takes him to his many ashrams lining the banks of Ganga.

His following is restricted largely to central UP, and his popularity is reportedly due to the public welfare schemes he has undertaken in and around his district.

However, the other side of Sarkar’s story is very distasteful. According to the general secretary of Swamy Bhaskaranad Saraswati Research Organisation, Sarkar is not a disciple of Bhaskaranand as the digambar saint had died in the year 1899 and the birth year of Sobhan Sarkar alias Swamy Viraktanad is around 1946.

Swamy Bhaskaranand, who was also from Maitha, had laid the foundation stone of Maitha Talab in the year 1868. Now, the Maitha pound is under the control of Shobhan Sarkar and entry of villagers is prohibited in the area close to the pond. The pond is now being used as the breeding centre of a special tortoise that has 20 nails, and is used for practicing tantrik vidya, says Pawan Pandey, who is also a lecturer at PDDUSD College, Kanpur.

He further alleged that the Maitha ashram was under the control of Chhote Lal Gaya Prasad Trust, but now it’s Shobhan Sarkar who has the full right over this ashram. How it became a part of the Sarkar empire is a matter of a long debate, Pandey added.

At present a retired Judge AH Ansari has been appointed as the receiver of the trust, Pandey informed.

Sarkar is said to be the disciple of Raghunandan Swamy who had inaugurated the Shobhan temple in the year 1905. Citing an incidence of dreaming by Sarkar, Pandey said it was in the year 2006 that Shobhan Sarkar dreamt of Swamy Bhaskaranand, who came in his dream and directed him to establish his statue beside the Hanuman temple, which Shobhan Sarkar uses for offering prayers.

Most followers of Sarkar say that he can make or break a politician. He had predicted several things which came out to be true such as crowning of Akhilesh Yadav following the 2012 assembly elections. Several politicians are known to seek his blessings before filing nomination papers, and his political followers cut across party lines.

Charandas Mahanth, union minister of state for agriculture and food processing and Annu Tandon, sitting Congress MP from Unnao; BJP national president Rajnath Singh, firebrand leader Uma Bharti, BSP MP Brajesh Pathak and SP stalwart Shiv Pal Yadav are among his followers.
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