Dream Girl Missing In Action In Mathura

Dream Girl Missing In Action In Mathura

Rashme SehgalUpdated: Wednesday, April 24, 2024, 11:11 AM IST
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Hema Malini |

Vrindavan brings to mind lush green landscapes with forests along the Yamuna where Krishna performed his ‘leelas’. Today, the 48 ‘ghats’ of Vrindavan built by Raja Himmat Bahadur 600 years ago in the classical Braj-Rajasthan tradition along the river front are all but destroyed through governmental indifference and by a group of builders determined to take over this prime property.

Bollywood actress-turnedpolitician Hema Malini, instead of getting herself photographed wearing an expensive Kanjeevaram sari with ripe wheat stalks in her hand as she did in 2014 and then again in 2024, could have used these ten precious years she has represented the Mathura Lok Sabha constituency to restore and preserve this unique heritage.

She describes herself as a Krishna devotee whose dream for her constituency of Mathura, which includes Vrindavan, remains incomplete. She is seeking re-election citing divine intervention, as Krishna wants her to complete the tasks’ set into motion ten years ago.

One day before filing her nomination, Hema Malini performed Yamuna puja at Vishram Ghat. The Yamuna she paid homage to is a dark, stinking body of water, just as it was ten years ago when she performed similar pujas in 2014 and 2019, insisting even then that her top priority would be have the Yamuna cleaned. Those in Vrindavan and Mathura believe Krishna’s legacy would have been much better served if she had worked to have the waters of the Yamuna cleaned.

As someone who claims to visit Mathura every fortnight, she must be aware that Vrindavan’s Sewage Treatment Plants aren't working.

Local activist Madhu Mangal Shukla asks, "Our leaders should not forget that the Yamuna is the main source of drinking water for lakhs of people. If we destroy the river, what are we left with?" Residents under the banner of the Yamuna Muktikaran Abhiyan were to hold a threeday fast from March 22 - World Water Day - but called it off under pressure from the local administration.

Brijvasis got together some years ago and formed a larger umbrella organisation called Braj Vrindavan Heritage Alliance (BVHA) to oppose the wanton destruction of their heritage but so powerful is the builder nexus that they have gone ahead and filed 250 affidavits against the BVHA in the Allahabad High Court. `Why has Hema Malini not stood by us? asked a member on condition of anonymity.

Women farmers are busy harvesting wheat in the villages around the town of Kosi Kalan. They scoff when asked about Hema Malini's contribution. "She has brought no development. This is such a historic region being the birth place of Radha Rani in Barsanna and the place where Krishna grew up in Nandagaon but see the condition of both these villages. They are pathetic."

In a recent video clip that has gone viral, Hema Malini was asked what she had done for her constituency. To this query, she replied, "I have done so much; I do not remember all that I have done." A Mathura resident remembers "when in 2016, violent riots ripped through the city, Hema Malini was busy at a film shoot at Madh island in Mumbai and when asked about her absence she remarked that it was for the Akhilesh Yadav government to handle the situation."

A local political analyst, who is close to her, pointed out, "Hema Malini enjoys a good equation with both PM Modi and Amit Shah and has direct access to them. Also, she does not interfere with the local power equations and is seen to be less corrupt than the other politicians in this region.’’

Environmentalists point to her failure to take any initiative to stop the drying up of the 1000 or so water bodies or kunds considered sacred by Hindus and which provided water for irrigation, cattle and domestic use along the entire Brajbhoomi belt. This area covers Barsana, Nandgaon, Goverdhan, Gokul and Mathura. Rapid urbanisation and negligence has seen these being converted largely into garbage dumps.

Vineet Narain, anti corruption activist and heritage conservator had founded the Braj Foundation focused on reviving these kunds. Unfortunately, Narain crossed swords with the chief minister Yogi Adityanath over inflated bills being given to him (over the revival of these kunds) by some of his appointees. This saw his Foundation being eased out despite having personally supervised the revival of over 50 kunds in the last two decades. Worse is Hema Malini's failure to intervene in the growing pressure Muslim and Hindu families are feeling for acquisition of the land around the Krishna Janambhoomi to build a grand temple. Muslims in Mathura now face a plethora of problems from the ban on the sale of meat to abrupt demolition of Muslim homes to now their place of worship falling prey to Hindu Rashtra politics. Doing away with the Shahi Idgah Masjid has become the next project of the Sangh Parivaar.

Hema Malini has refused to concern herself with these undercurrents. For Hema Malini's critics in Mathura, her absence is reminiscent of the lines in her famous song 'Dream girl': 'Kabhi toh milegi, kahin toh milegi, aaj nahin toh kal...'

Mathura goes to the polls on April 26.

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