It must be noticed that from 1937 to 1939, the Bhaibands in Hyderabad and Sindh, and even the Amils, believed that girls and women who have attended Om Mandli’s Satsang, the Om Nivas School or even met with Dada Lekhraj were still under the spell of black magic. Thus, their parents resolved to reverse Dada Lekhraj’s alleged magic spells. Some of them applied conventional methods which included inhuman and unethical means.
Some of the Bhupas and Bavas popularized the idea that eating pork was the only way to spell off Dada’s magic. Parents and guardians tricked or forced Om Mandli-influenced girls and women to eat pork. As a result, eating pork as a ‘remedy’ became popular. A considerable number of Bhiaband women became victims of this forced feeding of meat. A lot of women stopped eating meat altogether and started cooking separately for themselves. In this context, on the 13th of February 1939, Nankram P. Bherwani’s letter published in Swatantra newspaper highlighted that compelling girls and women to eat pork was an inhuman method for curing Om Mandli magic. It must be noted that he was a member of the anti-Om Mandli party and the newspaper was sympathetic to the opponents of this reform movement.
Interestingly, the opinion of Muslim politicians about Om Mandli was quite different. G. M. Syed, one of the most outspoken voices from Sindh in those times, has mentioned in his book Naeen Sindh Lae Jido Jahid (Struggle for New Sindh) that Om Mandli was a reform organization which worked for the welfare of women. On the other hand, on the 23rd of February 1939, a huge number of Sindh Legislative Assembly’s Azad Hindu members and Indian National Congress members wrote to the Chief Minister Sindh that the present disclosure of Om Radhe in the court of law and news stories in the press have agitated the public. Therefore, Om Mandli’s ‘evil’ should be put to an end.
Parents and guardians tricked or forced Om Mandli-influenced girls and women to eat pork. As a result, eating pork as a ‘remedy’ became popular
Another parallel strategy that the anti-Om Mandli party successfully applied was to involve opinion-makers. On the 27th of February 1939, a petition reached the office the Chief Secretary, Government of Sindh, Karachi. It prayed that Om Mandli and its leaders be prosecuted under Section 16 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. The petitioners stated 15 points to substantiate their demands. Their arguments were not new: most were repetitions of the anti-Om Mandli rumours already in circulation, and selected sentences from Om Radhe’s statement. The petitioners, in support of their application, attached the statements of six people. An analysis of their profile reveals that they were already against Om Mandli, and they were in a position to influence public opinion. Three of them were editors of popular dailies. However, the statements of Dada Lekhraj’s former business partner and a merchant from Hyderabad were very interesting. Dada’s partner submitted that Dada Lekhraj was not a pious man, and that he had learned some ‘secrets’ from a Sadhu in exchange for handsome payment. The Hyderabadi merchant revealed that his wife named Gopibai had refused to “render conjugal rights” to him. The situation took a serious turn when on the 6th of March 1939, the Sind Work Merchants Association, Hyderabad, sent a telegram to the Chief Minister denouncing Om Mandli leaders and demanding the immediately abolition of the reform movement. It must be understood that the Association was one of the powerful bodies of the Bhaibands. It gained power and legitimacy due to its joint ventures and global network. In the meantime, Sadhu Vaswani appeared on the scene and on the 7th of March 1939 he led an uncontrolled mob towards the Om Mandli premises. The mob damaged Om Mandli’s wall. Again, on the 10th of March 1939 he announced his march towards Sindh Assembly’s Secretariat. Although he had violated section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the government instead of taking a legal action dispatched its two Hindu ministers for negotiation. The settlement included a clause that male and female members of Om Mandli and Om Nivas would be separated. However, it was not realized that some of them were families and blood relatives. Om Mandli, however, honoured the government’s decision and rented a separate house.
The opinion of Muslim politicians about Om Mandli was quite different. G. M. Syed, one of the most outspoken voices from Sindh in those times, has mentioned in his book that Om Mandli was a reform organization which worked for the welfare of women
On the 23rd of March 1939 at 11:00 pm, the Om Mandli people awoke to an unpleasant new surprise: they were served an order under the Criminal Procedure Code 114. The order indicated that none of the male members would be permitted to enter Om Mandli’s premises. On the same day, a tribunal was also announced to look into the matter. For his part, on the 24th of March 1939 Sadhu Vaswani again threatened that he along with his companions would march towards the Secretariat despite the fact that one day earlier, the matter had been ‘settled’ between him and the government. The same day, Om Radhe wrote to the Secretary to the Governor of Sindh and the Chief Secretary Sindh. The letter stated that Om Mandli would agree to be part of the tribunal, but objected to the induction of Dewan Bahadur Kalumal Pahlurnal as a member of the tribunal, as well as the ‘in camera’ proceedings. On the same day, Om Radhe received a letter from I.H. Tauton, Chief Secretary to Government of Sindh. The letter intimated her that the tribunal had been formulated to inquire into the affairs of Om Mandli. It also stated that the first meeting would take place on the 27th of March, 1939. Om Radhe wrote eight letters to the Chief Secretary and tribunal members from the 24th og March 1939 to the 31st of March 1939. But her objections were ignored, and the tribunal went into its execution.
On the other hand, on the 24th of March 1939, Sindh’s premier Allah Bux Soomro and Minister for Law and Order Sir Ghulam Hussain debated in the Sindh Assembly on an adjournment motion tabled by R. S. Gokaldas Mewaldas. These two Muslim leaders noted how some Hindu members compelled their government to interfere into peoples’ liberties and civil rights. On the 25th of March 1939, Sadhu Vaswani took out a procession and headed towards the Secretariat. He, along with his companions, including women, were arrested. Later, some of them were unconditionally freed.
The anti-Om Mandli movement entered into a mindset of ‘do or die’ – which could be witnessed from the list of persons who went to jail in the Satyagraha against Om Mandli. These included Professor Persram Jethmal (educationist, social reformer and writer), Dr.Chimandas Isardas (President, Hyderabad Congress Committee), Maharaj Vishu Sharma (Daily Hindu) and Bapo Kishinchand (a prominent worker of Indian National Congress).
For her part, Om Radhe, being the president of Om Mandli, didn’t attend the tribunal’s proceedings. She stood by the position that propaganda, picketing, Sadhu Vaswani’s Satayagraha, the imposition of Criminal Procedure Code 144, and the induction of a Bhaiband as a tribunal member were all factors that had conditioned Om Mandli’s leadership to take a dim view of the tribunal’s proceedings. On the 14th of May 1939, Om Radhe added that tribunal’s decision couldn’t be neutral in the present environment.
Tragically, she was right.
The tribunal concluded that “the garb of religion” was used to cover Dada Lekhraj’s activities. Furthermore, the tribunal’s conclusion was that the institutions Om Mandli and Om Nivas were not only useless but were a “cancer in the society.” Consequently, Om Mandli was banned.
However, the Government didn’t enforce the ban. Om Mandli carried out its activities quietly. Around this time Allah Bux Soomro, the Chief Minister of Sindh, suggested Dada Lekhraj change the name to avoid further legal actions. As a result, Om Mandli adopted new name: Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya (Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University).
After the Partition of India on the 14th of August 1947, migrants from what became India arrived in Karachi. Riots started and it forced the eviction of Hindus. On the 30th of April 1950, Dada Lekhraj moved Om Mandli to Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India. However, before that he directed the inmates to leave behind all personal records. Brahma Kumaris spread to more than 120 countries. In fact, the movement is considered an international NGO. However, it has retained its spiritual identity. Thus it has become one of the largest spiritual organizations in the world led by women.
Various aspects of BK World Spiritual University have been studied and multi-dimensional research has been conducted by the academia from 1970s onwards. In fact, its culture has fascinated scholars. Deeper analysis of its cultural and spiritual practices and rituals show that till now the organization seems tilted towards “Sindhian feminism based on cultural spiritualism” despite that fact that its overall culture was framed under Hindu religion.
Dr. Zaffar Junejo has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Malaya. His areas of interest are post-colonial history, social history and peasants’ history. Presently, he is associated with Sohail University and Institute of Historical and Social Research, Karachi