The Supreme Court, the Geological Society, the Archeological Survey of India are all following the orders of a godman. This is India of the 21st century.
King Rao Ram Baksh Singh, a local ruler who fought in the first war of independence against the British, had built a fort in a part of his little kingdom. He was executed and over a century later a memorial was built to commemorate him.
Today his Uttar Pradesh village Daundia Khera is in the news because of a dream.
The dead king appeared in a god Swami Shobhan Sarkar's dream. He asked the good sadhu to go forth and dig for the gold beneath the fort. Like all ancient structures and oral traditions surrounding them, there were whispers about the hidden metal.
Is it not possible that stories that have been repeated can recur in dreams, or that some dreams are mere hallucinations? Was it the dream that has sparked off a search? Or is it something else?
The something else:
The news of the dream reached the world. This is the India so beloved of the west — of dead kings, loot, hidden treasure, superstition. Quite naturally, their media will want to be a witness to it. And why not when our own government is willing to give it a shot? As The Independent reported:
The godman was apparently concerned by reports about India’s flagging economy and plunging rupee. He said there could be as much as 1,000 tonnes of gold here and more nearby, which government could use to boost its gold reserves and help tackle its account deficit.
“People treat the swami like a god,” said Mr Ajay Singh, the headman. “I am 100 per cent certain.”
There is a difference between a village headman and the government. The local and state government were taken in, but why did the Centre depend on one of its ministers and get the geological survey done? What does its initial finding that there could be some metal mean?
Was the government taken in by a dream or does it really believe in a sadhu's concern for the economy? What is his knowledge about the plunging rupee?
If some gold is found, this could well be attributed to some remnants of an era and not a trove. What if, indeed, there is a huge amount? The ASI will need to first check how old it is. The possibility of ill-gotten wealth being dug up later cannot be ruled out, and of the swami being used to do a whitewash job.
Interestingly, the villagers who, according to this report, met with bad luck if they chanced upon random gold coins nearby, have demanded 20 percent of the gold for their development. Heirs had started making an appearance as a prelude. This should raise eyebrows.
The other questions:
Is the Congress government so desperate? The godman's spokesman has been quoted as saying, “He said ‘ask the prime minister how much gold he requires’."
Where does the swami's certainty come from, if some deny the dream theory? He has even said, “If there is nothing there, send us to jail.”
Who is the 'us'? Only the godman is in the news; it is his belief. Does anybody know who else is involved? And, worse, does it make sense to expedite this search as an 'economic recovery' measure? Forget the world, what do we convey to our own people?
The excavation costs money. Do we not have modern means to check? Or is this to add to the 'mythology'?
The secular question:
We do remember another such ASI expedition. It was at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid to ascertain the existence of a temple underneath. That issue has been taken over by the BJP. They have not hidden — they flaunt it, in fact — their agenda to use it as an election plank.
Is the Congress now trying to find something akin, but of a secular nature to respond to that? We have a seer, a dream, an old fort, a village, a king who died fighting the outside forces. And then we have gold, the national metal of India. It is said to this day that if you have a little gold it can help you in any crisis. For all its place in tradition, the Indian is also pragmatic. All those jewels are investments.
The government will not as easily raid ashrams and other quasi religious places where hoarding of gold is fairly common. The government will not consider digging parts of rich mansions where secret chambers might hold unaccounted for wealth.
What the economy needs is smart thinking, and not these magic brush initiatives. The problem is most of us are fascinated by all of this. No questions asked.
Think about how this 'find', or just the idea of it, helping our economy can work on upwardly mobile but conservative minds. Or, those who merely like some such fantasy.
© Farzana Versey
Image: The Indian Express