Dalip Kumar Jha of Lakhnaur village in Bihar's Madhubani district, who claims to be son of Ashutosh Maharaj, is not the only person from past Nurmahal dera leader used to call in routine.
During his stint as a "sanyaasi" (hermit) since he left a year-old Dalip and his mother, Aanandi Devi, Ashutosh was also in regular touch with younger brother Bhavendra Jha, a former vice-chancellor of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in New Delhi.
The retired V-C, one of the country's leading Sanskrit scholars, has accepted that Ashutosh used to call him in routine. "He eloped for few years but after establishing a dera in Nurmahal, would call me to know about my wellbeing," Jha told HT on telephone from Delhi. He retired this year, and last met Ashutosh about five months ago during a dera function in Delhi.
"Since I also live in Delhi, I met him there twice or thrice after he left his Bihar house in 1972. A true sanyaasi, he never enquired about his family," said Bhavendra, disclosing that from the college days, Mahesh Jha (Ashutosh's original name) was influenced by theological science.
Ashutosh dead, believe kin
Confirming that Dalip Kumar Jha, who is on a fast in Bihar to claim Ashutosh's body, is son of the dera head, Bhavendra also requested the management of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) to hand over the body to Dalip for the Hindu last rites. "The management claims its leader is in samadhi (deep meditation) because it cannot match his charisma," he said.
The former V-C's son, Pawan Kumar, confirmed picking up a call from Ashutosh to the family's landline number at Katwaria Sarai. "We think he is dead," he said. Asked why Ashutosh had left family, Pawan said the family did not want to rake up the past.
Meanwhile, the chorus to claim the body of Ashutosh on got louder Saturday in his native village, with many local organisations joining Dalip Jha on fast. The sect's management still claims he had no family.