VHP founder Ashok Singhal: Engineer turned Hindutva warrior
A metallurgy engineer, Ashok Singhal metamorphosed into a Hindutva warrior who as VHP chief played an adequate foil in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement when the BJP led the political campaign in the late eighties and later.
The 89-year-old right-wing firebrand leader dedicated his life for the Hindutva cause adopting an aggressive style and played a key role in mobilising support for the Ram Janambhoomi as well as the Ram Setu movements.
It was under his stewardship that the international branding of VHP was conceptualised for which he recruited supporters and established offices abroad. The VHP got immense contribution from outside India for its campaign.
Singhal was instrumental in the "kar sewak" campaign that led to the bringing down of the 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.
Born in Agra on October 2 in 1926, Singhal has a Bachelor's degree in Metallurgical Engineering from Banaras Hindu University Institute of Technology in 1950.
Having been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since 1942, he became a full-time pracharak after his graduation. He worked in various locations around Uttar Pradesh, becoming a prant pracharak for Delhi and Haryana.
In 1980, he was deputed to VHP and became its Joint General Secretary. In 1984, he became its General Secretary and later elevated to the post of its working President, a role in which he continued till December 2011.
Attached to the RSS he was inspired by its ideology throughout his life and was a prominent member of the Sangh Parivar.
VHP leaders considered him their "guide and visionary" as he led many a movement during his lifetime. He was instrumental in playing a key role in launching an Andolan in Uttar Pradesh against the Emergency and also the 'Gau-Raksha Andolan' for the protection of cows.
Singhal continued to play an active role in VHP and remained its patron till the end. Incidentally, a few days prior to being admitted to the hospital, Singhal undertook a 30-day tour of various countries to oversee the VHP activities.
Entrusted to work for VHP in 1980, Singhal turned active after the Meenakshipuram conversions in 1981 in Tamil Nadu when VHP built 200 temples for Dalits specifically and claimed that conversions stopped thereafter.
Singhal played the role of a key organiser of VHP's first 'Dharma Sansad' in 1984 in Delhi that attracted hundreds of Sadhus and Hindu Saints to discuss the rejuvenating of Hinduism.
It was here that the movement for reclaiming the Ramjanambhoomi temple at Ayodhya was born and Singhal soon emerged as the chief architect of the Ramjanambhoomi movement.
The VHP opened branches in 40 nations from east to to west, including in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to Indonesia and Japan among other countries under Singhal's leadership.
The VHP leader was also a trained vocalist in Hindustani music, who had his training from the legendary Pandit Omkarnath Thakur.
As RSS Pracharak, he remained a bachelor.