Watch: Inside RSS’ Ram Mandir Donation Drive in Northeast Delhi
We recorded how RSS members introduced themselves, how money was collected and how they were received by locals.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pushottam
Cameraperson: Aishwarya S Iyer
As chants of Jai Sri Ram reverberate across the country in the Ram Mandir Teertha Kshetra Trust’s campaign for nidhi samarpan (surrendering of money) to build the temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya, The Quint accompanied Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh members to see how the campaign was unfolding in Delhi’s northeast district.
Over a day we accompanied the members who went to the home of people in Welcome area of Seelampur district. We saw how they introduced themselves, how money was collected, how they were received by locals. We also tried to speak to local Muslims in the same area, to understand if the campaign, which has lasted from 1 to 27 February in Delhi, has been a cause of tension at all. The area is surrounded by places like Jafrabad, Seelampur and Maujpur, that saw communal violence in February 2020 leading to the death of at least 53 people and the loss of property worth crores.
On the second floor of this temple, called Sri Ram Mandir, the RSS has their local office. Inside the office the members often have meetings and discuss their campaign. Inside the hall there are photos of Dr Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, and MS Golwalkar, the second sanghsarchalak who is referred to as Guruji. Their campaign starts everyone morning at 7:30 am and continues till 10:30 am to 11:00 am.
‘We Collect Rs 15-20 Lakh a Day from NE Delhi District’
Explaining how their day begins, 32-year-old Shravan said, “We decide a place, make a group (toli) of 4-6 people and decide who will go to which street. Of the group, two people are the ones who keep ringing bells or knocking on doors while those at the back do the talking. Everyday one group will cover 150 homes on average.”
Designated to do the talking this day was 17-year-old Sangh member, Raghav. He is currently pursuing his BA in Political Honors in his first year. When asked how he manages both things, he said, he studied diligently every day after the drive ended and that all his friends are involved in the same campaign. The youngest in the group is a ten-year-old and two other twelve-year-old boys.
The coupons to take money are in three denominations, Rs 10, Rs 100 and Rs 1,000. Above this anyone who wants to pay has to give a cheque on the bank account of the Ram Mandir Trust. Raghav explains how the signature of the Ram Mandir’s Trust is also in the coupon. “There is also the signature of Govind Dev Giri Maharaj, the treasurer of the Ram Mandir. Other than that, on the left here we note the names, then address and then the phone numbers of the people.” The members then leave a image of the Ram Mandir and one of Lord Ram with the people. “So they can worship it in their homes,” they explained.
Shravan said that on an average Rs 15 to 20 lakh rupees are collected in northeast district alone, everyday.
‘Violence Not Nature and Culture of Hindu Community’
In an interview to this reporter, Vishwa Hindu Parishad spokesperson Vinod Bansal explained the reach of the campaign. “This is a 44-day campaign to reach 65 crore people, it will be the largest campaign in the world. In today's history, it has never happened in the world that something reached such a large number of people in such a short span of time,” Bansal said. While said the Ram Mandir Trust had given the VHP the mandate to implement the campaign on the ground, “The trust is running this campaign, and apart from the trust, they have given VHP the responsibility as we have volunteers and a huge network. So, on behalf of the trust, VHP is working towards the consolidation of this campaign.”
When asked if there was fear of violence as the drive to collect money in northeast district continued over the month of February, Bansal said ‘violence was not the nature or culture of the Hindu community’. While we spoke about the northeast Delhi communal riots of February 2020, Bansal promptly said, “See, first thing, that was not a riot. I consider it violence against Hindus which happened like a conspiracy. It was a planned conspiracy to attack Hindus and defame the country. But now it has become an old thing. Now we are doing the work of Ram Ji. When we leave for Ram's work, we go out together with society.”
When asked if certain sensitive areas were not being visited intentionally or avoided, he said there was nothing like that. “I don’t understand that from the last 60-70 years it is an odd thing, that the place where Muslims live is called a sensitive area and Hindus cannot go there, and where the Hindu lives, everyone can enter comfortably. I believe that people on one side provoke the other side. People try to provoke another. People who say that why did you read Hanuman Chalisa in front of the mosque? What will I do when I am prevented from coming in front of the mosque? I will sit there and read Hanuman Chalisa. Now I do not know if there is a mosque in front of me. If by chance there is a Mosque in front of me, Is reading Hanuman Chalisa prohibited in front of the mosque?”
There was violence in MP’s Indore after Hindutva groups taking out an awareness rally for the Ram Mandir stopped and recited the Hanuman Chalisa outside a mosque in the end of December 2019.
“I think this thing has to be understood by today's state power and the Muslim community both that stay in harmony with each other. You cannot live isolated,” Bansal continued.
‘Jai Sri Ram Slogans Scare Us’
Local Muslims were reluctant to talk on camera, or even on an audio recording, about the impact of this Ram Mandir campaign. Finally Rizwan Khan, a 30-year-old businessman from the area said that this drive seemed like a mockery of faith. “Ram Mandir is being constructed, that is a good thing. This is their faith but the fact that for a place of worship that is being constructed, they keep raising slogans of Jai Sri Ram, is not correct according to me. Ram was a deity, but to scare someone on the deity's name is not right according to me. When someone chants Jai Sri Ram, there is a fear in people as they worry this could be the onset of a riot,” he said. 70-year-old Mohammad Ilyas who is the president of the local Mustafa Masjid said there are no problems about the Ram Mandir drive, only if the feelings of the people are pure. “When we see the situation worsening, we ourselves stand outside to ensure nothing wrong happens. Some people want the situation to get worse here, but some in Hindus and Muslims do not want any issue whatsoever,” he said.
Rafiq said all Muslims go into their homes as soon as a group chanting Jai Sri Ram can be heard. “People are scared and stay in their homes, that is what is happening. It is their agenda to scare us. When someone says Jai Sri Ram and goes into lanes, we all move and go into our homes,” he explains. When asked why he does not say anything, he says, “If we say anything then we are afraid there may be violence again.”
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