Sadhvi Rithambara (also transliterated as Sadhvi Ritambhara, Sadhvi Rithambhara or Sadhvi Rithambra) is a sadhvi, Hindu political activist, social worker and religious preacher. She achieved prominence for her participation in the movement that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, for which she was later indicted by the Liberhan Commission. She is also a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. She was the founding chairperson of Durga Vahini (Army of Durga), the women's wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. She is particularly known for her narration of the Ram Katha and other Hindu scriptures in India and abroad. She has been accused many times of delivering speeches inciting hatred against Muslims. She is an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
At the age of sixteen, she is said to have attained Nirvana when her village was visited by Yug Purush Maha Mandaleshwar Swami Paramanand Giri Ji Maharaj. She became his disciple and followed him to his ashram in Haridwar and in tours across India, while gaining lessons in oratory. She was conferred the title of Sadhvi (ascetic).
Sadhvi Rithambara entered public life and the Sangh Parivar as a trainee and member of the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, which is the women's arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but gained prominence as a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Role in the Ramjanmabhoomi movement
The Liberhan Commission that probed the Babri Masjid demolition held Sadhvi Ritambhara along with sixty-eight others of being individually culpable for leading the country "to the brink of communal discord" for their role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992. She was one of the three key women leaders of the movement, the other two being Uma Bharati and Vijayaraje Scindia; their leadership was largely responsible for the involvement of women in the movement and the form it took.
Sadhvi Rithambara retreated from her prominent public role and kept a relatively low profile following the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
Sadhvi Rithambara was arrested in Indore, Madhya Pradesh in April, 1995 on the charge of inciting communal passions, after giving a speech in which she called Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu ("Mother" Theresa) a "magician" and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, a "man-eater". Her speech was a denouncement of Christian missionaries who she alleged were converting Hindus and was given in a district where a Christian nun had been murdered by three men a couple of months earlier. Rithambara's address sparked off a strike and several arson attacks leading to the arrest of 169 arsonists.
In 1993, Sadhvi Rithambara attempted to establish an ashram near Vrindavan and Mathura on land that the Uttar Pradesh BJP government had granted her for a minimal fee. However, the proposal fell through as the Kalyan Singh-led government was dismissed, and she was not allowed to take possession of the land by the subsequent Mulayam Singh Yadav led state government. In 2002, the state government led by Chief Minister Ram Prakash Gupta granted 17 hectares of land in the area, valued at Rupee 200 million, to her Paramshaktipeth trust for 99 years for an annual fee of one rupee for this philanthropic cause. Besides cultivating devotion in women, the Vrindavan Ashram has also imparted training in karate, horse-riding, handling air guns and pistols, with the stated aim of relieving the women from their traditional societal roles and making them confident and self-reliant. Sadhvi Rithambara also runs ashrams for unwanted infants, ladies and widows in Indore, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.
Sadhvi Rithambara is the co-founder of the Param Shakti Peeth, under the auspices of which the Vatsalyagram project runs. Vatsalyagram is a unique concept which is a combination of an orphanage, an old-age home and a widow-shelter, where orphaned children, the widowed and elders live as family.
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