Mathura cult movement traces back to UP godman, battles over his legacy

Hindustan Times/June 8, 2016

By S Raju

The violent clashes in Mathura last week has opened an ugly can of worms, centering around Jai Gurudev – a spiritual leader whose death four years ago led to a war of succession.

Police identified Ramvriksh Yadav, the leader of Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena that occupied Jawahar Bagh in Mathura, as the perpetrator behind the violence that killed 30 people. However, his ideological past traces back to Jai Gurudev and his cult.

Born Tulsidas, Gurudev became known as a spiritual leader in the 1950s, opening his first ashram in Krishnanagar, Mathura, in 1952.

He died in 2012, allegedly at the age of 116. He is believed to have left behind an empire worth over Rs 10,000 crore, apart from 250 luxury cars – all supposedly gifted by his devotees. His assets also include a palatial ashram in Mathura and properties in several cities in northern India.

Tulsidas sought a spiritual life after he lost his parents in his childhood. Born in 1896 in Khitaura village of Etawah district, Uttar Pradesh, he met many with religious gurus in his early life.

He finally followed Baba Ghurelal Sharma, better known as Budhau Baba, of Chirauli village in Iglas (Aligarh). “Tulsidas stayed in Iglas till Sharma’s death in 1948. Later, he moved to Mathura where he became famous as Jai Gurudev,” said Rajesh Agarwal, a disciple of Budhau Baba.

In 1961, he moved to Delhi-Agra highway.

Jai Gurudev eventually forayed into politics, forming the Doordarshi Party in 1980. Following his call to his disciples to contest both assembly and Lok Sabha elections, several of them stood for elections, including Ramvriksh Yadav who lost.

Another disciple, Gajendra Singh, also contested the elections the year the party formed, and won 1,000 votes.

Singh claimed Jai Gurudev was regularly visited by senior politicians such as Rajnath Singh, Babu Jagjivan Ram, LK Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mulayam Singh Yadav to seek his blessings.

He also claimed that Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay came to the ashram to meet the baba in 1979.

However, during Emergency, Gurudev was apparently lodged in Agra and Bareilly jails and later shifted to Bangalore Central Jail to keep him away from his followers.

After being released, he formed the Jai Gurudev Dharm Pracharak Sangh Trust in Mathura in 1977. Two years later, he founded the Jai Gurudev Dharm Pracharak and set up another trust with the same name in his native town. Under the aegis of these trusts, he set up more than 250 ashrams across the country.

Ramvriksh and Jai Gurudev

The ideologies of Ramvriksh’s and Gurudev’s following do not appear to exactly align, given Ramvriksh’s emphasis on Netaju Subhash Chandra Bose. However, Gurudev had once claimed he was Bose and received much flak for it.
The spiritual leader was addressing a public meeting in Kanpur in 1978 when he made the claims.

Ramvriksh, on the other hand, has stated that his people were true followers of the late freedom fighter. Aside from occupying Jawahar Park, Ramvriksh’s Sena was demanding a set of bizarre socialist reforms, including scrapping the positions of Prime Minister and President, and replacing the Indian currency with an ‘Azad Hind’ currency.

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