He is a sadhu with a brave heart—taking on Praveen Togadia and the Sangh parivar on their own turf. Mahant Gyan Das, head priest of the 200-year-old Hanumangarhi temple in Ayodhya, stood up against the VHP as it marched to the town earlier this month to lay yet another siege.
What makes Gyan Das a formidable opponent for the VHP is not just his personal popularity in Ayodhya but the fact that he is the mahant of a prestigious, historic temple. Much before the Ramjanmabhoomi site attracted devotees to Ayodhya, the Hanumangarhi and Nageshwarnath temples were the chief destinations in the revered Ramkot area of Ayodhya.
The mahant has been a consistent critic of the VHP over the last 10 years and is mainly responsible for the opposition to the "Ayodhya movement" within the temple town. With him is Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Dwarka, and heads of three of the four Hindu akharas in Ayodhya. They are all opposed to the politicisation of the mandir issue and against the methods the VHP employs in its temple campaign.
Thus, the Parishad's...