Since the controversy erupted, the Dhirendra Krishna Shastri or the Bageshwar Dham Sarkar has been trending on social media platforms and his videos have also gone viral on Twitter. He reportedly fled from Ramkatha in Nagpur when the anti-superstition committee challenged him.
Associated with Bageshwar Dham temple dedicated to Lord Balaji in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, Dhriendra Shastri has a huge fan base and conducts regular Satsang (religious sermons) for his followers who believe that he has miraculous powers.
Bageshwar Dham Sarkar, alias Dhirendra Krishna Shastri has been in the news for the wrong reasons. The ‘Ram Katha vachak’ is known for predicting the happenings in others’ lives. The baba gained a great deal of popularity through social media, where he earned followers of millions, which helped him expand his ‘business’.
Shastri was recently targeted by Shyam Manav, founder of ‘Akhil Bharatiya Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti’ – ABANS. The website claims that the organisation is the country’s biggest and longest-running Anti -Superstition Movement.
Shyam Manav was born into a family of farmers. His father Dnyandev was a social worker who worked with Vinoba Bhave, as his assistant. Growing up around Bhave, Shyam Manav had an opportunity to see several Gandhians at work.
After completing his post-graduation in English Literature, Manav worked as a lecturer for English Literature at Ner. Manav is not new to protests. He was associated with the ‘Tarun Shanti Sena’ which played a role in the ‘Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Wahini’, a movement which was led by Jayprakash Narayan. Manav was even jailed for nine months during the emergency.
Manav even served as a journalist. He wrote columns for several publications, including the likes of Lokmat, Nagpur Patrika, ‘Kirlosker magazine, and Tarun Bharat.
Shyam Manav and Superstitions
Shyam Manav was an extremely superstitious person while growing up. His conservative background did not help him grow out of the shell either. Even after having worked with a learned scholar like Bhave, Manav’s father was very much a believer in Fake Babas and would start following them as per his will.
It was in his college days that Manav grew out of the superstitious phase in his life. His interactions with thinkers, fellow students, and professors opened his mind to a new, and more rational way of thinking.
While working as a columnist, Manav came across rationalists such as B. Premanand and Dr. Abraham Kovoor. Their works and written pieces helped Manav broaden this thinking.
Shyam Manav, along with a few of his associates established the Akhil Bharatiya Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti in 1982. Spread across the states of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, and Maharashtra, the goal of the samiti is to promote critical and rational thinking.
Manav draws a clear distinction between religion and superstitions. He considers the likes of Tukadoji Maharaj, Dnyaneshwar, Namdeo, Tukaram, and Kabeer to be his inspirations, many of whom were religious people.
The organisation along with several other scholars from the state of Maharashtra had been trying to get the anti-superstitions law passed in the state assembly. The Anti-Black Magic Act in Maharashtra was pending since 2005. However, it was the death of reformer Narendra Dabholkar which triggered the events, and the bill was eventually passed in the December 2013.