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The ghost of Ashoka the Great, the Indian Emperor who ruled the subcontinents from 273 BCE to 232 BCE, is alleged to have disrupted the annual convention of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Ahmedabad, India. Several members of BJP, India's Hindutva and centre-right party, reported to the media yesterday that the apparition of Ashoka the Great had made numerous overtures unleashing panic and fear among the convention attendees.
Several segments of the Indian media interpreted the news as an appeal by Ashoka the Great towards religious tolerance and multiculturalism. "It appears to be a fulfillment of a prophecy,"said Nikhil Ojha, the editorial columnist of Ranchi Tribune, a news daily with wide circulation in the eastern state of Jharkhand, "Ashoka's visitation was preordained by karma." Ojha was referring to a prediction earlier this year by Jyotish Kumarmangalam, a renowned astrologer, that the "spirit of Ashoka" would make itself "available" to curb Hindu nationalism in India. Kumarmangalam could not be reached for comment.
Joseph Kutty, news reporter for India Now, one of India's premier news-weekly, explained Ashoka's apparition as "long time coming" while pointing out that Ashoka the Great, a Buddhist Emperor, was India's foremost regent. "You can see Ashoka's legacy everywhere," he noted, "in Indian currency, in dharma chakra, in our national flag, and in the great Buddhist stupas throughout the nation." Kutty feels that Ashoka's appearance at the BJP annual convention is not a coincidence. "It's a reminder to all the Hindu, right-wing, nationalists in BJP that India is not a Hindu nation despite what BJP might claim," he added, "The greatest ruler of India, in our rich and diverse history, was a Buddhist and his message was one of non-violence and religious tolerance."
The organizing committee of the annual BJP convention branded Ashoka's ghost as an "unwelcome distraction." "If he appears again, we will be ready for him,"said, Lalu Advani, a BJP functionary, adding that the party had several professional exorcists among its rank and file."We'll make sure that Ashoka thinks twice before disrupting our proceedings again." Advani remarked that, owing to the recent events, involving the ghost of Ashoka, the party is considering moving its headquarters from Ashoka Road, New Delhi to another "suitable" location.