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Rid India of the Exploitation by Self-Styled Godmen

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By Dr. Sulekh C. Jain

HOUSTON: Three weeks ago, a self-styled seller of Bhagwan (the media calls him and others like him Godman) by the name of Ram Rahim was convicted of a rape crime. As soon as the verdict was announced, he and several hundred thousand of his followers went on a rampage and created absolute mayhem, anarchy, lawlessness and chaos in the town of Panchkula in Haryana Pradesh, near Chandigarh. Private and public properties worth millions of dollars were burnt and looted, more than 40 people died and many hundred injured.

Two years ago, another marketer of Bhagwan by the name of Rampal also in Haryana Pradesh had created similar scenes. Rampal was arrested after a two-week tense standoff between his supporters and the police after close to 15,000 of his followers were evacuated from the sprawling premises. The massive operation to locate and arrest Rampal cost the exchequer over Rs. 26 crore ($4 million). During the standoff between Rampal’s followers and the police, five women and a child died, while more than 200 people were injured in the clashes. At both places, the Special Investigating Team seized arms, ammunition, pregnancy test kits and petrol bombs.

Another godman by the name of AsaRam is in jail for sex and related charges for the past several years.

The name of Ram is common in all these 3 names. I wonder how many more such Godmen with the name of Ram are still roaming in India and selling their wares. Does even one of these swindlers and charlatans with the name Ram imbibe the qualities, character, virtues, peace, aura, bliss and perfection of the real bhagwan Ram of Ramayana or do they simply exploit his name to cheat people?

It’s puzzling why Godmen do so extraordinarily well in India than in most countries. Is our society more vulnerable? It is hardly surprising that some Godmen behave like magicians because many of their followers are miracle seekers. People everywhere are prone to mystics, but what makes our Godmen so powerful is that our politicians use them as baits to catch votes.

Modern gurus gain mass following through technologies such as the internet, satellite television and social media. Some of them initially start out as charismatic orators and then add miracle powers to woo the gullible. All Godmen are flush with funds too.  Asaram, Nithyanand, Ram Rahim, Rampal and so many more own a vast empire of hundreds of very lavishly furnished ashrams, thousands of followers, bullet proof enclosures and a large contingent of armed commandos to protect them.

These Godmen hold their supporters in thrall, mostly confine them to fortified ashrams and like most cults, have deviant sexual practices (rape, incest, polygamy, orgies), miracles and a religious mumbo-jumbo which is often a variation of known religious texts. Their half-baked philosophies are then sold to the gullible. In all such deras and ashrams, the magnetism and healing powers of the leader is basic to its success. But violence is a cult characteristic. Every deviant cult leader displays a streak of violence. Rampal and Ram Rahim are no exception. They have an army of highly-trained commandos at their beck and call and use them to the hilt. The “commandos” use bullets, stones, acid and petrol to send the police scurrying.

With the ever increasing affluence of people in India, the number and the pomp and show of Godmen is significantly increasing not just in direct proportion but may be in geometric proportion too.

My brothers and sisters, how we remain vigilant and reduce this disease in society is up to us. It is not entirely possible to completely wipe out fraud and deception by these Godmen. It is a fact that, as long as there is greed and a desire to get something for nothing, the increasing wealth and affluence of people, coupled with the effective use of the power of the media, internet and social sites like Facebook, this disease and menace will continue to spread.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has launched a campaign of Swachh Bharat (Clean India) by 2019. These self-styled Godmen and their exploitation are filth, disease and a cancer in Indian society. I hope by 2019, when the world will celebrate the150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India will be cleansed to some extent of this malady.

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