Just recently Uttarakhand has seen ravaging floods and the resulting human-loss. We have been watching all these news through newspaper and news channels. Bapu mentioned this catastrophe during his yesterday’s discourse. An article has been published in today’s Pratyaksha related to this; the English translation of which is been furnished as under.
Popular belief has it that the Dhari-devi (the Goddess Dhari) protects the bhaktas who are on the pilgrimage of the Chardham. It is precisely for this reason that over the last two years, the government has been receiving continual appeals requesting it not to demolish the temple of the Dhari-devi, located on the banks of the river Alaknanda in the Shreenagar region of Uttarakhand. The local residents firmly trust that it is She, the Dhari-devi who controls and regulates the flow of the Alaknanda and it is her regulation that maintains a calm and placid stream. So everyone, right from the local religious bodies to the populace kept requesting the government to reconsider its decision about the Dhari-devi temple. However, the government turned a deaf ear to the plea saying progress is the need of the hour and electricity, its basic necessity. On 16th June at 6 in the evening the Dhari-devi temple was demolished. The idol of the Dhari-devi was moved.
At precisely this time, there was a cloudburst in Kedarnath and the two hours that followed were marked by heavy showers and consequent disarray. Thousands of bhaktas on the Chardham pilgrimage suddenly found themselves stuck in that area. The heavy rain showers and the landslide aggravated the disaster making the rescue work increasingly difficult. Whenever such a disaster occurs, the media voluntarily takes on the responsibility of tracing the cause, the one factor at the root of it all. The disaster at Uttarakhand was no exception to this. The media, while conveying information about the victims and about the plight of the bhaktas stuck in the disaster-struck regions, kept lashing out at the government by communicating simultaneously, about plans and projects chalked out mindless of environmental welfare. However, over and above these plausible factors, the local population persisted in pointing a finger at the demolished Dhara-devi temple while voicing their discontent.
It was 800 years that the Dhari-devi temple had stood in its place. It is believed that this is an ancient ‘siddha-peeth’ (a base or location equipped with certain capacities and powers) and the Dhari-devi, a form of Mother Kali (Goddess Kali). The Shreemadbhagvat too mentions about this ‘siddha-peeth’. The Dhari-devi temple located in the Kaliyasur region near about Shrinagar in Uttarakhand (not the Shrinagar in Jammu-Kashmir) has been a sacred place for the local residents. May her form seem fierce and aggressive, a mother that she is, she assumes this form only for the protection of her bhaktas, is what tradition affirms.History too endorses this belief through stories.
In 1882 an eccentric king had indulged in tampering with this temple. This too invited the scorn of nature leading to terrible natural disasters. So little wonder then that the locals should have such intense and deep-rooted sentiments about the temple of Dhari-devi.
Should the government really demolish the temple, the people were bound to suffer some horrific aftermath, so the locals were convinced. That within a few hours of the demolition of the Dhari-devi temple there are heavy rain showers – so heavy that there is a massive deluge and that the Alaknanda, a tributary of the Ganga manifests its ferocious and furious form just cannot be shrugged off as a mere coincidence, say the shraddhavaans. The local media has published these claims made by the common man. The religious organizations and the Dharmacharya of this region too have rebuked the government severely for choosing to knock down the Dhari-devi temple. Totally uncaring and unmindful of environmental welfare, the central government has sanctioned hundreds of projects to be housed in Uttarakhand. Knocking down the Dhari-devi temple to erect a dam across the river Alaknanda is but one of these.
It is quite common that developmental projects should meet with opposition from the local inhabitants. So the government conveniently construed the local opposition to the demolition of the Dhari-devi temple in order to build a dam, as ‘just one of them’. Having dismissed it thus, the government did not feel the need to give a thought to the faith and trust that the people associate with the temple. But the executors of the project ended up oblivious to the fact that their project was an assault on the faith, on the very sentiment that inspires and fulfills the pilgrimage of Chardham.The locals are of the opinion that this is exactly what they are being made to pay a horrible price for. It is to be noted that environmentalists who do not think much of faith and dharma too were against building this dam. This leads us to conclude that the government chose to walk over both faith and environmental welfare in deciding to erect a dam across the Alaknanda.
Even those who believe that the cause of the present disaster has to do with the environment and not with the demolition of the temple, strongly condemn the utter lack of sensitivity and consideration exhibited by the government in razing to the ground, this 800 year old sacred place of worship. Moreover, even if this disaster had not occurred, it was in any case unjustified on the government’s part to show blatant indifference towards popular sentiment. Also, if we turn our attention to the arbitrary and domineering decisions implemented under the garb of generation of electric power in the Himalayan region considered to be ‘the land of the gods’, we will realize that the central and the state government have been disregarding both faith and environment.
The dams erected across the stream of the Ganga are essential for the generation of electricity, so the government claims. But this has adverse affects on the stream of the Ganga leading to increased pollution of its waters, which fact the government just refuses to acknowledge. Do we actually need to convince the government that this entire issue is not merely a matter of faith, the very life of Indians depends on the rivers of the Himalayas! In the course of expressing concern about the degradation of the environment and in view of the current disaster in Uttarakhand, the question that we face is, ‘how in the world can this machinery called the government be so uncaring and callous about the rivers that are vital beyond doubt in all fields ranging from religion and culture to economics?’ The internet, a totally democratic platform has recorded reactions that attack this unfeeling attitude of the government.
The social networking sites too have become platforms for expression of fervent criticism against the insensitivity of the government.On the one hand are seen relevant write-ups with headlines that ask a question like ‘Did the demolition of the Dhari-devi temple cause the deluge?’ and on the other appeals for the nationalization of the river Ganga make their way to the President, Shri. Pranav Mukherjee‘s Office. The Himalayan rivers occupy a unique position in the Indian culture and that they be protected and along with them the environment, is the wish not only of those who have trust in the dharma but also of the environmental experts. Therefore nobody can or should ignore the issue.
Neither the government at the centre nor the government at the state level need be under the misapprehension that it can take decisions disregarding the sentiment of the people and then successfully distance itself from the consequences. The declaration of aid and funds for the relatives of victims or that of the execution of new projects can in no way compensate for the devastation that followed the knocking down of the Dhari-devi temple. May the government not lose sight of the fact that an assault on the faith or pure sentiment of the people will necessarily end up inviting reactions in one way or the other. Measures that restrain wild and ferocious rivers or hold back the fury of nature elude technology even today. The government therefore requires to stop promoting right now, this progress which is by no means a journey forwards and that in fact invites devastation. Instead of debating whether the disaster was super-natural or natural, what the government actually ought to do is, admit its mistake and take steps to make amends. If it does so, this will prove that it still harbours some sensitivity and consideration for the people’s sentiments apart from saving its credibility and trust; if not in addition to the horrifying series of disasters the government will be compelled to face the disgrace of not just the super-natural and the natural but that of the people too.
Published at Mumbai, Maharashtra – India