Godmen like him have merely exploited the gaps left by a withered welfare state
Ajay Singh | August 26, 2017
The conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a rape case by a CBI court on Friday must be seen as a positive step towards the evolution of a “scientific and rational” social order in India.
Those who have not seen him from close would tend to believe that Gurmeet Ram Rahim is a maverick in the garb of a spiritual leader who exploits people’s gullibility. But that will definitely be a wrong description.
He is certainly an extraordinary man who thrives on people’s fear of the known as unknown. In the process he has spawned a huge economy around his ashram and activities that involve lakhs of people wholeheartedly devoted to him. In essence, he fills the gap where the state has practically abdicated its responsibility.
During my visit to his opulent ashram at Sirsa on a winter evening two years back, I found him the most amazing personality I have ever met. He was quite candid in his conversation, talking about how he did stunts in his movie himself, and about his penchant for composing and singing rap songs himself. “Why should I not do it if any actor could do it?,” he asked me quite nonchalantly. When asked about criminal charges against him including of rape, he would keep mum but such a query used to make his supporters within the ashram angry. Such questions are better not posed before Gurmeet Ram Rahim who carefully cultivated his image as that of a saviour for the teeming oppressed and the poor living in Haryana and Punjab.
But that’s just one side of his story. Few know that Gurmeet Ram Rahim is immensely popular among doctors. A score of the country’s top ophthalmologists, including those belong to the prestigious RP Centre of the AIIMS, are his disciples. They experience “divine bliss” in the presence of Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who is known as “pitaji” among his devotees.
Take the case of Dr Aditya who used to work as a liaison man for the Baba. He is known to be a very good ophthalmologist, having graduated from the AIIMS. Dr Aditya could speak for hours on end in praise of the Baba and would not hesitate to point out that though his past was unsavoury he corrected himself after associating with “Pitaji”. There are several others like Dr Aditya who can swear their lives in the name of Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
And the reasons for Baba’s burgeoning following are not far to seek. He presides over a veritable empire in Sirsa and other places in Haryana and Punjab where he runs charitable hospitals. With the collapse of the health system all across the country, his disciples in millions find it quite reassuring to avail best medical facilities in Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s ashrams. His myth not only perpetuates but gets multiplied in exponential proportion.
But what really legitimises his ways is the endorsement from politics. Since the Dera Sacha Sauda could boast of millions of followers who are ready to do anything at the Baba’s bidding, politicians flock to his ashram before elections. Just before Haryana assembly elections, there were reports of BJP president Amit Shah approaching Gurmeet Ram Rahim to secure support for the party. And the Baba did not disappoint him as he openly endorsed the BJP. The BJP’s significant gains in co-opting the marginalized sections of society in Haryana were attributed to the Dera Sacha Sauda’s open endorsement of the BJP. There is little doubt that Gurmeet Ram Rahim has always been much sought after man before every election. Political leaders either secretly or openly make deals with him in order to get votes.
In the religious domain, Gurmeet Ram Rahim is without doubt the worst manifestation of Indian spirituality. He wears outrageous outfits and comes across as a not-so-pleasing character to the sophisticated urban elites. Yet his sermons and his uncouth rendition of raps attract devotees. The apparent reason is that he appeals to an audience, particularly social underdogs, who are left out of upper-caste dominated Hinduism and Jat-dominated Sikhism. That is the precise reason that though his spiritualism does not conform to the elites’ perception of it, his wayward ways find resonance among the poor and unwashed masses of Haryana and Punjab villages.
It would therefore be naïve – even wrong – to see Gurmeet Ram Rahim in black and white. His appeal, emergence and subsequent conviction fall into a grey area which needs an intense scrutiny. However, the best part of the court’s decision on Friday is that it will give a fillip to a progressive understanding in the society and instil a “scientific temper”. This will reaffirm people’s faith in saying “even gods have feet of clay”. Godmen like Gurmeet Ram Rahim are not exceptions.
This article first appeared on FirstPost.com.
Real estate is among the priciest investments around. More so for the common man who has to live with the burden of monthly EMIs. Yet, it is an art to discover the real owner of any property. Government and revenue records, which are easily accessible to the public, are not properly maintained. Individual
The election commission of India (ECI) has been working on a series of electoral reforms, and the agenda includes linking Aadhaar with the electoral roll, considering paid news and false affidavit as electoral offence/corrupt practice, better monitoring the role of print media and social media intermediari
To protect the fast depleting wetlands against being used as landfill and for development activities in Mumbai metropolitan region (MMR), environmentalists have asked the centre to declare the 289-hectare Panje wetlands in Uran tehsil of Raigarh district as a ‘Ramsar site’ and preserve its ecol
Mumbai is building a coastal road to cut through traffic snarls and make life easier for commuters. The ambitious project, part of the city’s Development Plan (DP) 2035, is the second major initiative after the Bandra-Worli sea link, and should become a reality in 2023. Here are the key facts
The party that came into existence on the intangible timeworn issue of corruption, transparency and increasing public investment through public savings is going on winning elections in Delhi with huge margins, consistently rowing the boat between doldrums and high tides. Somewhere between the doldr
Mumbai, the second largest city in the country, is not very inclusive when it comes to the easy access to the disabled, but it is learning and is in the process of making the life of Divyangs easier. Also, it aims to rehabilitate all slums in five years. Stakeholders came together to discuss