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5 years on,’clinically dead’ Nurmahal dera head Ashutosh Maharaj’s body ‘lives’ in freezer

Every six months, a panel of three doctors, formed on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court, inspects the body to check for decomposition.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2019 10:01 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva  and Parampreet Singh Narula
Ravinder Vasudeva and Parampreet Singh Narula
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh / Jalandhar
nurmahal,ashutosh maharaj,DJJS
File photo of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan founder Ashutosh Maharaj. His followers claim the dera head is in ‘samadhi’ and continue to preserve his body at -22 degree celsius five years after he was declared ‘clinically dead’. (HTFile Photo )

Five years after Nurmahal-based Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) head, Ashutosh Maharaj, was declared ‘clinically dead’, his body continues to be preserved in a freezer at -22°C. On January 28, 2014, after he complained of chest congestion, an ambulance was called from Ludhiana-based Satguru Partap Singh Apollo Hospital and doctors pronounced him ‘no more’. Today, 20 followers guard his room round the clock.

Every six months, a panel of three doctors, formed on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court, inspects the body to check for decomposition.

The panel comprises Dr Ajay Goyal from anatomy department of the Dayanand Medical College, Ludhiana, Dr Gautam Vishvash from forensic medicine department of the same college, and the Jalandhar civil surgeon. The last inspection was done in December 2018.

The DJJS has also tasked its own team, including a few specialists from Delhi, to check the body every fortnight, claimed dera sources.

Who was Ashutosh Maharaj?

Mahesh Jha, aka Ashutosh Maharaj was born in 1946 at Nakhlor village in Darbanga district of Bihar, as per his passport.

After leaving his wife and son, around 18 months after marriage, Ashutosh became a disciple of Satpal Maharaj, founder of Manav Uthhaan Sewa Samiti (MUSS). He started his own sect in 1983.

Initially, he organised programmes in villages, before purchased a 16-marla house in Nurmahal city and formed the DJJS, which was registered in 1991 with New Delhi as headquarters. Today, the DJJS has a 40-acre campus on the Jalandhar-Nakodar road and more than 100 centres in the country.

A view of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan near Nurmahal, Punjab, Wednesday, January 29, 2014. ( Pradeep Pandit / HT Photo )

Succession war behind preserving body?

Tongues started wagging within hours of the death of Ashutosh Maharaj about a possible explanation for the dera deciding to preserve the body. Initially, followers and politicians were sent messages announcing his death with the information that the last rites would follow. However, within hours, the dera contradicted itself, claiming that Ashutosh was ‘clinically dead’, and was in ‘samadhi’ (deep meditation). It was also claimed that he would be normal ‘very soon’. This claim coincided with the arrival of DJJS men from Delhi.

In hushed voices, dera insiders claim that a war of succession over dera property, valued at crores and spread across the country, dictated this move. However, there is no authentication. The DJJS, whose properties were in the name of the trust till Ashutosh was alive, has never seen any issue on who will run the show. The management from Delhi, however, has an increased say in the affairs now. An annual show of the DJJS, held on each Guru Purnima Puja, continues to witness rush of followers but the presence of pPolitical leaders has decreased.

The past five years have also seen the case play out in court. A 2014 order of a single-judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court on cremating the body was overturned by a division bench that on July 5, 2017, also allowed preserving his body.

A Bihar native, Dalip Jha, had moved court seeking permission for the last rites of Ashutosh, claiming that the DJJS head was his father.

‘No change in body’: Civil Surgeon

Jalandhar civil surgeon Dr Rajesh Kumar Bugga said, “There are no signs of decomposition of the body. A bacteria culture test on the body has come out negative.”

When asked specifically if any chemical had been injected or used to preserve the body, he added nothing of this sort had been done.

First Published: Jan 28, 2019 10:00 IST