Profile: Pandit Dhirendra Krishna Shastri, The 26 Year Old 'Hindu Tiger' Who Has Rattled Conversion Mafia

Profile: Pandit Dhirendra Krishna Shastri, The 26-Year-Old 'Hindu Tiger' Battling Conversion Mafia

by Aaina - Thursday, January 26, 2023 07:06 PM IST
Profile: Pandit Dhirendra Krishna Shastri, The 26-Year-Old 'Hindu Tiger' Battling Conversion MafiaPeethadheeshwar of Bageshwar Dham Balaji, Dhirendra Krishna Shastri (Source: Official Page of Bageshwar Dham Sarkar on Facebook)
  • Shastri has been adamant in pushing back the attempts of evangelists to convert Hindus to Christianity.

    He had even opposed the practice of offering ‘Chadar’ at ‘dargahs’ by practising Hindus.

Dhirendra Krishna Shastri is not a typical 26-year-old. He is Peethadheeshwar of Bageshwar Dham Balaji in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh and takes pride in calling himself a staunch ‘Sanatani’.  

A Brief Background

The followers of Shastri, also popularly known as Bageshwar Dham Sarkar, believe in his miraculous powers to lift them off their miseries. In his well-attended ‘darbars’, Shastri recites ‘kathas’, conducts religious and moral sermons and sometimes, 'reads the minds' of those visiting him while also providing solutions to their problems.

Born on 4 July, 1996, Dhirendra Krishan Shastri saw poverty from close quarters as a young boy. He succeeded his grandfather, Shri Dada Guruji Maharaj, and came to accept the mantle of the head priest of the Dham. He is known for his social welfare activities, spiritual sadhana, and ‘ghar-wapsi’ campaigns.

Run-in With Proselytising Forces

He made news when he was visiting Nagpur to conduct a public gathering. During his visit, Shyam Manav, founder president of All India Superstition Eradication Committee, alleged that his "Shree Ram Katha" event promoted superstition and filed a police complaint demanding action under the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013 and the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

Subsequently, the Nagpur Police dismissed the allegations and gave a clean chit to the priest. Shastri has called it a conspiracy against him since he had started reconverting people to Sanatan Dharma or doing ‘ghar wapsi’. He has gone on record stating that he would continue bringing people back into the Hindu fold until he is alive.

'Miracles' and 'healing' are a common aspect of India's religious landscape, common even among a vast number of babas, tantriks, Christian faith healers and Muslim miracle men.

However, the attention that Bageshwar Dham Baba has caught raises suspicion of the agenda behind those jumping to label him as a “fraud”. In fact, the level of scrutiny that Shastri has received has been missing when ‘priests’ or ‘maulvis’ indulge in similar practices.

Chhattisgarh government uncomfortable with Shastri’s popularity?

Shastri has been adamant in pushing back the attempts of evangelists to convert Hindus to Christianity. He had even opposed the practice of offering ‘Chadar’ at ‘dargahs’ by practising Hindus. Not known to mince his words, Shastri has been openly urging Hindus to organise themselves to safeguard their faith from missionaries or proponents of selective secularism.

However, a certain section of the political class seems to be agitated by the young priest. On his recent visit to Raipur, Chief Minister of Chhatisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel insinuated that Shastri is “doing magic”.

According to a news report, Baghel said, “There are several accomplishments in the field of meditation (by monks) but you should not display magic. This (magic) is the work of magicians. This is not appropriate. All the sage monks have tried to stop this and have said magic should not be shown. Accomplishments are there. No doubt about it. But magic should be avoided. In Muslim communities, the ‘sants’ give amulets and magic happens. Some Christians do Changai Sabhas and do magic. Because of all this magic, inertia is created in society. it does not allow society to grow. So, it must be avoided..."

It is to be noted that the topic of religious conversion has been a contentious political issue in Chhattisgarh, where almost 30 per cent of the population belongs to tribal communities. The BJP, in the state, has accused the Congress government of being a mute spectator to the activities of evangelists.

There have been multiple instances of tribal communities resisting efforts by Christian missionaries and churches to convert them. At the beginning of January 2023, a protest meeting by tribal groups over religious conversions reportedly turned violent in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh.

With elections due this year, the Congress government could be feeling threatened by Shastri’s assertive voice against forceful conversions and is, therefore, quick to dismiss him as a “godman” or a “magician”.

Samajwadi Party leader, Swami Prasad Maurya faced heavy criticism for his call to ban certain portions of Ramacharitmanas for 'promoting hatred'. Even he has recently accused Dhirendra Krishna Shastri of promoting superstition and called for him to be jailed.

Despite facing heavy media and even political scrutiny, Dhirendra Krishna Shastri has maintained his stance on matters of faith. In this context, it is his resistance to the conversion mafia backed by politicians, that has led to a massive jump in his popularity.

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