As one enters the Janata Darbar, which is adjacent to the main Gorakhnath Mutt, a seat remains vacant in the absence of the chief priest, and yet people pour in with folded hands.
One among the lots waiting outside the Janata Darbar is summoned by Dwarika Tiwari, the temple administrator and a close associate of the temple chief priest-cum-CM of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath.
A young man has come to “Yogi Maharaj” with a purpose. He appears disturbed. He has a land dispute to solve. Tiwari makes an abrupt call and summons the perpetrator to the temple, and he appears in hours.
This shows people’s respect and fear for the temple which is an institution. “This is the biggest court, and there is no question of people not obeying the diktats of the temple,” Tiwari told UNI here.
The USP of the mutt is that it does not make any distinction on the basis of religion. People of all faiths flock to the temple to get their problems solved. It includes problems pertaining to pension, ration card, train ticket bookings and civil disputes. “Even the Muslims visit us to seek justice. We are a nyay peeth. The atmosphere inside the temple is anything but communal,” he said.
Among the karyakartas, there are some Muslims too who played a stellar role in mutt administration. Yasin Ansari had supervised all construction work on the temple premises for over three decades. A number of shops in the temple precincts are run by Muslims.
For some Muslims, Yogi is a real saint who also visits the marriage functions of Muslims rendering services at the temple.
Nisar Ahmad was the first engineer of Gorakhnath temple who became the principal of Maharana Pratap Polytechnic.
He had designed Sadhna Bhawan, Yatri Niwas, Hindu Sevashram, temple shops, Gorakhnath hospital, Sanskriti Vidyalaya, Radha Krishna Mandir, Shankar Mandir, Vishnu Mandir, Hanuman Mandir and many other temples associated with Gorakhnath temple. Maan Mohammad Ansari, another Muslim, is a chief caretaker of cows and bovines in the temple.
The tradition of providing justice to the people started during Mahant Digvijaynath’s time and assumed a greater role during Mahant Avaidyanath’s tenure. The implementing agency is the Hindu Yuva Vahini which solves problems quickly. It is not only popular for it, but also feared throughout the region.
The Yuva Vahini came into existence to solve a Dalit man’s problem. The victim was denied justice by the police who refused to register a case regarding the rape and eventual death of his minor sister.
“The mutt has a democratic way of putting pressure on the law enforcement agencies to give justice to the oppressed,” he said.
The mutt has been a hotbed of politics since the time of Mahant Digvijaynath.
Digvijaynath joined the Congress in 1921 and was arrested for taking an “active part” in the Chauri Chaura incident, thereby putting a brake on Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement.
However, the temple thereafter became associated with right wing organisations. Digvijaynath joined the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937 and soon became the head of the party’s unit in United Provinces. He strongly opposed Gandhi’s non-violent movement.
Soon after independence, he was arrested for inflaming passions against Gandhi that led to his assassination and imprisoned for 9 months.
After release, he spearheaded the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of 1949, organising a 9-day long recitation of Ramcharit Manas, at the end of which the idols of Rama and Sita were placed inside the Babri Masjid.
The Babri Masjid was locked down as a result, but it led to Digvijaynath’s rise in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was appointed the General Secretary at the national level and won the election for the MP of Gorakhpur in 1967.
His successor, Mahant Avaidyanath got elected as an MLA for Maniram as an independent in 1962, 1967, 1969, 1974 and 1977 and also as an MP from Gorakhpur in 1970 and 1989.
Soon after the Sangh Parivar started its own Ram Janmabhoomi movement, he joined the BJP and got elected as MP of Gorakhpur on a BJP ticket in 1991 and 1996.
Yogi has also been active in the BJP, he has been the MP from Gorakhpur since 1998. He founded the Hindu Yuva Vahini (Hindu Youth Force).
The group has been involved in many religious activities, including the defence of Hindus in Mau riots of October 2005 and in Gorakhpur of January 2007.
In the general elections of 2007, the Hindu Yuva Vahini was at one point contemplating running for the elections on its own under the Hindu Mahasabha, but finally reached a compromise with the BJP. Since March 19, 2017 Yogi is UP CM.
“This is the history of the mutt. It is a politically vibrant institution. The requests sent from here carry weight,” Tiwari said. “We are here to restore honour to the victims,” he added.
As one begins to exit the mutt premises, the archetypal perception of Yogi as a Hindutva rabble-rouser tends to wither away.