In the times of pervasive deceitfulness, it is dangerous that fake godmen are flourishing and occupying positions of power
Politics, power, and crime have come to define many godmen in our country these days. God and religion being subjects of awe for the common man, godmen exploit their blind faith and gullibility to build empires and indulge in frauds and murders, and not infrequently, sex. Although such instances have become common, the case of Swami Chinmayanand is a sad commentary of the strong alliance of the present political dispensation with such godmen, rendering not only the laws but also all the knowledge of Vedas, and all the penance and worships ineffective in protecting women.
The Yogi government and its police did not act on their own even after a video of the law-student against Swami Chinmayanand revealing her year-long trauma of sexual abuse went viral. In fact, the district administration only chided her when she approached them earlier for justice against the powerful BJP leader who was thrice MP, a former minister, and is heading educational institutions and ashrams, and importantly, is known to be very close to the Uttar Pradesh CM. It was only after the Supreme Court constituted an SIT that matters began moving. Even then, when the allegation is of rape, FIR only speaks of sexual assault not amounting to rape, implying that instead of paying heed to the complaint of the victim, they have gone by the public admission of the accused of only calling her for massage and denying rape. Two hundred mobile conversations with the girl only add credence to her complaint, since if it was only for a massage, several calls were not needed and a young student, a ward of his own college, was not necessary for this task. The allegation of attempt to extort Rs five crores, even if it is true, appears to be her desperation to prove her case against a powerful accused who had been blackmailing her with a video shot while she was bathing and used it to rape her repeatedly, as alleged. Until he was confronted by the SIT with the 16 videos that went viral and he was arrested, the septuagenarian only snubbed it all as a conspiracy against him.
This man appears to be a serial offender. That there are many other such victims who remain mute because of intimidations is a fact not only stated by the law student but also by another victim who had lodged a similar complaint earlier in 2011, in which charge-sheet was filed without even arresting him. In this case, a young sadhvi, an inmate of Shahjahanpur ashram was kept captive and was sexually violated regularly and even her pregnancy was terminated. She managed to escape and lodged the complaint of rape, kidnapping, and criminal intimidation. She was then slapped with a counter-complaint of theft of jewellery and cash from the ashram.
In spite of the seriousness of the complaints, Yogi has been soft to him. The case of the sadhvi has been withdrawn by him which was, however, not agreed to by the court. Now, after a year, in spite of knowing his evil credentials, no action was taken in the present case either until the SC came in picture. Yogi has to answer why he was so soft on him when the entire country is too well aware that such fake and powerful godmen are a danger to society.
One can draw a long list of illustrious peers of Swamy Chinmayanand who are all connected to power or crime behind the facade of religion. Chandraswamy's power-games in the past are too well-known. Asaram Bapu, who had exploited many girls and even eliminated witnesses, is now undergoing life-sentence for the rape of a minor girl on the pretext of exorcising her. With his son also convicted for similar charges, his huge empire of 400 ashrams in India and abroad, built through dubious methods of forgeries and encroachments, is also crumbling. Then, we have the saga of Ram Rahim who also rose from doing odd jobs to become a "sant" and head of Dera Sacha Sauda, and one of the 100 most powerful Indians in 2015. He commanded such a political clout that leaders queued up to meet him for the votes of his large dalit followers. He was even given a Z+ class of security when he antagonised the Sikhs and a Khalistan Liberation Force. And his blind-followers are so devoted to him that when he was arrested after his conviction for 20 years in two rape cases, they indulged in violence with police, leaving several dead and injured. He also got 10 years imprisonment for the murder of a journalist who had exposed his crimes in his most modern, fortified ashram, in which he was using imported aphrodisiacs for his amoral activities. It was perhaps due to his fear of competition that he got many male followers castrated!
Such fake godmen with lofty titles are everywhere. Karnataka is a haven for them. One such person goes to Goa and rapes a woman after his accomplices give her a spiked soft drink. A man in this state, in the belief that it would solve his financial problems, ensures that Sri Vidyahamsa Bharathi Swamiji of Thridhama Kshetra rapes his unwilling wife. A video exposed another godman, Nanjeshwar Swamiji, being in an objectionable position with an actress, while people say that it is just one of the many instances. Then, there is Swami Nithyananda, who claims to be an avatar of God, and even fools his devotees saying that the Sun-god obeys his orders for rising and setting; he unsuccessfully used every legal means to skirt the trial of the rape case against him. Like Asaram Bapu, he too tried in vain to use a fake report of his impotency. However, a video showed him having sex with a South Indian actress. There are myriad such people across the country.
Ichchadari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj Chitrakoot Wale ran sex-rackets in Delhi and Mumbai and received stolen properties in the nineties. Dead bodies of five women and an 18-month-old were found in Rohtak ashram, one of the many of Sant Rampal. One Swami Amrita Chaitanya, with his ashram in Kochi, was not only wanted in financial frauds in UAE, but has been convicted for 16 years for raping 2 minor girls, and also for making videos of him molesting underage girls.
In spite of having several such incidents in public knowledge, many bow their head instantly when coming across a godman. In fact, pandits and godmen are revered in our culture, because both of them deal with god and religion–either by acting as intermediaries in conducting rituals or in guiding people about God. They are considered inspirational, presuming that they are virtuous and voluntarily follow certain Yamas and Niyamas. But, while the pundits use their knowledge of Vedas, etc., to affirm their superiority, the godmen use their discourses on God to exert their influence. Both overawe the devotees with their uniforms–frills of religion. A Brahmin leads a mundane life while a godman, who chooses to become a Sanyasi, builds religious empires and hypocritically enjoys worldly-pleasures. Some even have inbuilt hide-outs for their amorous activities and use the facade of religion and rituals to prey on credulous devotees. Ashrams resplendent with immoral activities and use of sedatives therein, being run in the Himalayas, are not unknown.
These are days of retrograde Hindutva mindset although people consume the benefits of science and technology. Irrational statements – like, Ganesha's trunk being cosmetic surgery, Kauravas were test-tube babies, and men are children of rishis, etc., keep emanating from leaders who go gaga about our ancient sages. Such people, however, forget that our wise ancestors were indeed rational since, by using several rational ideas – be it the rituals to preoccupy people or faith in re-birth, or worshipping the rivers, etc., they strove to guide our society on the path of righteousness and truthfulness.
But, now, truthfulness in India is close to godliness since it is an extreme rarity. In the present state of pervasive deceitfulness, political parties surviving on falsities, and leaders in the government eulogising men of religion, fake godmen are flourishing. They are not only controlling power-centres but are even occupying the positions of power. They commit crimes, not only against individuals but also against groups like killing people in hundreds of police encounters and encouraging mob-lynching. Fake godmen in power are dangerous, since, instead of providing justice to the victim and deter crime by taking exemplary action, they can go soft on their tribe and drop criminal cases against them, knowingly conspiring with them and abusing their authority.
Sexual crimes by godmen and those in authority are much more serious than the crime of passion by the common man because they are committed with deceit, taking advantage of the vulnerability and faith of the victims, and consciously abusing their position of authority and resources. They are
not mistakes as they claim, but are carefully planned and executed criminal misdeeds, laced with intimidation for dire consequences. It is thus necessary that the present law that prescribes death for rape in case of a minor, is extended to the worms of the society, like Swamy Chinmayanand, MJ Akbar, and others.
(Dr N Dilip Kumar is a retired IPS officer and a former Member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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