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Yogi Adityanath’s mentor Mahant Avaidyanath introduced ‘dining with Dalits’ in 1980s

While politicians of all hues have indulged in such photo sessions, not many know that it was Mahant Avaidyanath, the mentor of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who had launched a social campaign of ‘dining with Dalits’ across the country way back in 1980s.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 18, 2019 10:51 IST
Abdul Jadid
Abdul Jadid
Hindustan Times, Gorakhpur
Mahant Avaidyanath, the mentor of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, had launched a social campaign of ‘dining with Dalits’ across the country way back in 1980s.
Mahant Avaidyanath, the mentor of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, had launched a social campaign of ‘dining with Dalits’ across the country way back in 1980s.(HT FIle )
         

Politicians visiting the homes of Dalits and sharing meal is a common sight during election season. The exercise is aimed at wooing the community, which comprise a major chunk of electorate in majority of constituencies.

While politicians of all hues have indulged in such photo sessions, not many know that it was Mahant Avaidyanath, the mentor of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who had launched a social campaign of ‘dining with Dalits’ across the country way back in 1980s.

In fact, Avaidyanath, who was a four-time MP, had taken a nine-year break from active politics, between 1981 and 1989, to undertake this campaign, aimed at ending the prevalent practice of untouchability amongst the followers of Hinduism.

And what was the trigger?

“An incident of mass conversion of 150 Dalit Hindus in Orissa’s Minakshipuram village in 1981 had shaken the former MP. He was so upset that he chose to retire from active politics and pushed hard to ensure social amity by ending untouchability against Dalit,” said Dwarika Tiwari, secretary, Gorakhnath Temple.

Tiwari, who is associated with temple since last 70 years, recalls, “For nine years, he distanced himself from politics and travelled across country to take part in Sahbhoj (dining with Dalits).” “He also undertook Sahbhoj at the residence of Kashi’s Dalit king, along with saints and seers. The move was hailed countrywide,” claimed Tiwari.

According to Tiwari, Avaidyanath returned to active politics in 1989 when a Dharam Sabha in Ayodhya passed a proposal seeking his return. “Saints were of the view that the Mahant’s presence in politics was necessary for the protection of rights of Hindus,” said Tiwari, who had been his aide during Ram Janambhoomi movement. Soon after his return, Avaidyanath contested the 1989 election from Gorakhpur and secured a whopping 1,93,821 votes. He defeated Janata Dal’s Ram Pal Singh. Avaidyanath died in 2014. He was first elected as MP in 1970 (independent), 1989 (Hindu Mahasabha ) and in 1991 and 1996 (BJP). He had earlier represented Manram assembly seat five times in 1962, 1967, 1968, 1971 and 1977.

First Published: Mar 18, 2019 10:50 IST

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