What really happened at Barpeta Satra when Rahul Gandhi went there – A local reveals

On 14th December 2015 Rahul Gandhi made a statement that he wanted to go to a temple in Barpeta, Assam, but RSS people stopped him from entering the temple, he said that women members of RSS blocked his way to the temple so he had to go back. Assam CM Tarun Gogoi and his son and Loksabha MP Gaurav Gogoi also echoed those comments.

But the real incident is totally different. I am from Assam, and hail originally from the very same Barpeta town which Rahul Gandhi visited and this is what really happened:

Rahul Gandhi was on a 2 day visit of Assam, on 11th he attended several programs in Guwahati. On 12th he was scheduled to go to Barpeta, a historical town about 80 km west of Guwahati. He was to start a padyatra from Barpeta Satra, a Vaishnav Monastery established in 16th century, to a minority dominated place called Medhirtari around 4 km away, where a rally was organised. He was to visit the one of holiest and most revered Satra in Assam, offer his prayers and then start the padyatra, as told by the local organisers of Congress party.

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Hearing this, hundreds of people had gathered outside the satra to have a glimpse of ‘yuvraj’, which included many women who were excited in anticipation of seeing Rahul Gandhi in person. The Burha Satradhikar (literally the Old Head of Monastery, means the senior head) Sri Basishtha Sarma was also waiting there to receive the VVIP guest, along with other people associated with the Satra. It was a normal festive mood we can see in small towns and villages hosting a VVIP guest.

This preparation was shown live on all the local TV channels, reporters were asking the mandatory ‘how are you feeling?’ question to people and everyone said they were there to see Rahul Gandhi, and were feeling proud that yuvraj will visit the satra in their town. No channel showed any dissenting voice. And no channel showed anyone blocking Rahul Gandhi, despite all channels being well prepared to cover the event.

But suddenly it was learned that Rahul Gandhi has already started the padyatra from one of the batsaraa (gateway located on all the approach roads to the satra, around 100 meters away) of the Satra, without entering the satra. The explanation given at that time was that Rahul Gandhi had not taken bath in the morning (yes, seriously they said this!!), he was not wearing a dhoti, and they were already late, and hence he didn’t enter the Satra. This was said by Congress MLA Chandan Sarkar. At that moment nobody said that anyone prevented them from going inside the satra. (wearing dhoti is not mandatory in the satra, people regularly go there wearing normal day to day dress, I have gone numerous times in shirt and trousers.)

But the real reason was that he was already late, as due to bad weather his helicopter was delayed from Guwahati, one of the two choppers was not available at last moment, and people had already gathered at the rally venue. Just two weeks ago, in a Congress rally people started leaving the ground even as CM Tarun Gogoi was giving his speech. He pleaded people to stop, offered to distribute blankets and yarns, in case the people had come in anticipation of that only as it is the norm of Congress rallies these days, but people still didn’t stay back. Obviously State leadership of Congress didn’t want a repeat of this in front of Rahul Gandhi, hence they avoided further delay by skipping this visit. This was confirmed by Assam Congress president Anjan Dutta in a press conference, where he mentioned that as they were already late and 50,000 people were waiting at rally, hence they decided to postpone the satra visit from morning to evening. But somehow they decided not to inform about this decision to people waiting at the satra. Obviously people waiting at rally were more important than people waiting at the satra.

Anyway, people waiting at the satra were visibly upset with this, and the vocal among them used the opportunity of already present TV crew. They said they felt the Satra, the Satradhikar and the people were insulted by Congress and Rahul Gandhi. It became a hot topic for TV channels also during the day. During the whole day nobody mentioned anything about Rahul Gandhi being blocked by anyone; instead people were outraging on his non visit. Later in the evening Rahul Gandhi along with CM Gogoi and Assam Congress president Anjan Dutta visited the satra on their way back, minus the enthusiastic crowd present in the morning.

But the criticism remained, and Congress realised that bath and delay theory didn’t work, after that Tarun Gogoi said that RSS people had stopped Rahul Gandhi. He added that satradhikaar Basishtha Sarma also informed him that he knows some RSS people are against the visit but from Satra everyone is welcome to visit. But speaking to media, Mr Basishta Sarma denied saying any such thing. He expressed dissatisfaction over CM lying about him and dragging him to politics congress party is trying to play over the incident. He also confirmed that nobody prevented Rahul Gandhi from entering the satra. The women who were present also denied association with RSS and reiterated they were there to see Rahul Gandhi only.

Going by all these, it is certain that the RSS blocking theory was invented later to deflect criticism of insult of Satra by Rahul Gandhi, and also trying to turn it into an opportunity to attack RSS. But chance of people buying into it is very low.

Note: An agenda of Rahul Gandhi’s Assam visit is circulating on Twitter which does not feature any temple visit. Actually this agenda was made days ago where even the venue of padyatra and the rally is also not mentioned. As there were 2-3 options for padyatra and evidently this agenda was prepared before finalising the venue. But once Barpeta was chosen for it, the Satra visit was included. It was well published in local media and there is no denying it.

Corporate Dropout, Freelance Translator

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