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Asaram devotees plough lonely furrow at Jantar Mantar

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Image: Sapan Kapoor/NewsGram

New Delhi: Self-styled Godman Asaram has been lodged in a Jodhpur jail since September 1, 2013 for allegedly sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in his ashram. There is little chance that he would be released anytime soon. However, his supporters camped at Jantar Mantar – the officially designated protest site in the national capital – see a ray of hope in actor Salman Khan’s acquittal in the hit-and-run case.

Kishan Murari, a saint from Ayodhya, has been camping out at Jantar Mantar – along with a dozen other devotees – so as to press his demand for Asaram’s release. He has also been counting the days his Bapu has been incarcerated.

“838 days,” Murari points out towards the number scribed on a white board, as he hands over a booklet to me in defense of Asaram and excoriates the media for working on an “agenda” against the latter.

Asaram was arrested from his ashram at Indore in Madhya Pradesh and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013 on a complaint by a 16-year-old girl, accusing him of sexually assaulting her at his ashram near Jodhpur.

Image: Sapan Kapoor/NewsGram
Image: Sapan Kapoor/NewsGram

In her complaint, she alleged that Asaram’s aides sent her to his Jodhpur ashram on the pretext that she was under the influence of an “evil spirit” and he could perform an exorcism. The Godman has been in jail since then, and hearing of rape case is going on a day to day basis.

“Look at these hundreds of people who have been hungry for the past three days demanding Cooch Behar. Yet nobody from the media has bothered to report on them. All you journalists are crooks. Tum sab bikey hue ho (You all are sold out)”, the Asaram devotee thunders, as he asks me to read the booklet and work towards securing Bapu’s release.

“But isn’t it the prerogative of courts? How can we secure his freedom? It’s ultimately the judiciary that will decide his fate,” I try to educate him.

“The judiciary is corrupt; the government is corrupt; you are a crook too. You’re not even an Indian. All you media persons want is nothing but money. If we threw money at you, you’ll start dancing on our tunes as well,” he says in an angry vein.

The charges against the septuagenarian saint are serious and need to be investigated. However, he is innocent until proven guilty, I try to assure him.

“Where’s the country’s judiciary? In the police complaint filed by the girl, there’s no mention of rape. It’s not mentioned in the FIR and the medical report. As per the medical report her virginity was intact. No marks of injuries were found on her body. Yet, a conspiracy has been hatched against an innocent saint like Asaram and in a well-planned manner he has been incriminated by the media. An actor like Salman Khan can be acquitted of serious charges like murder but not Bapu,” Murari rues as he waves his fists in the air.

“Is there anything you want to add?”

“No, you may leave now. It’s time for our evening prayer in which we shall pray for Bapu’s release. Only God can help us now.”

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Rapist Ram Rahim Case: What Draws Millions of Indians towards Self Styled Godmen Even after their Conviction in Rape to Fraud and Murder Charges

There are an estimated three thousand big and small "deras" headed by gurus in the northern states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, where "godmen" are popular

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Rapist Ram Rahim
Unidentified persons sit outside the store belonging to Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, after it was closed down by authorities near Sonipat, India, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
  • Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was handed a 20-year prison sentence this week for raping two of his followers
  • Ram Rahim, who positioned himself as the reincarnation of “the Supreme Creator,” acquired rock star popularity
  • Although Singh is now in jail, a number of his devotees continue to believe that he has been framed

Sep 02, 2014: Quirky spiritualism? Solace? The assurance of food and healthcare? What draws millions of Indians towards gurus whose allure has not dimmed even after some high-profile “godmen” landed behind bars in recent years for crimes ranging from rape to fraud and murder?

The latest guru to be discredited is 50-year-old Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was handed a 20-year prison sentence this week for raping two of his followers. The judge who ruled in the case said he acted “like a wild beast.”

Asaram Bapu, a controversial spiritual guru who was arrested on Sept.1 on a rape charge filed by a teenage girl is brought to a hospital for a medical check up in Jodhpur, India, Sept. 9, 2013.
Asaram Bapu, a controversial spiritual guru who was arrested on Sept.1 on a rape charge filed by a teenage girl is brought to a hospital for a medical check up in Jodhpur, India, Sept. 9, 2013. VOA

At least two more gurus who once had big followings are in jail. Asaram Bapu is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl and Sant Rampal is accused of committing murder.

Scholars say the growing clout of Indian gurus is fueled by poverty, illiteracy and the failure of government to meet such basic needs as education and healthcare.

Also Read: Quick View on Dera Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Case: 20 Years of Imprisonment enough for a Rapist in India? 

The power of ‘deras’

Rahim Singh’s sprawling 75-acre campus in Sirsa town did not offer itself as just a spiritual center. It ran schools, colleges, a hospital and virtually functioned as a parallel administration. The “godman” boasted of ridding thousands of drug and alcohol addiction.

“These ‘deras’ [facilities] have somehow managed to give this impression that there is a world altogether different,” said Sukhdev Singh Sohal, history professor at Guru Nanak Dev University in Punjab state.

He said they offer an escape route in a country where blind faith is part of the culture. “They go there, they see that infrastructure and they get infatuated. How they are exploited, they are not aware in the long run.”

There are an estimated three thousand big and small “deras” headed by gurus in the northern states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, where “godmen” are popular. Not all are under a cloud. Many do charitable work and offer spiritual sustenance. And in a country where traditional religion has long marginalized the lower castes, they also offer a sense of community and equality.

But increasingly many gurus are tapping into India’s illiterate millions to build a mass following, with some even offering magical powers of healing.

Komal Ghodiwal, who works as a housemaid in Gurugram, has twice traveled with her alcoholic husband to a guru in Rajasthan state. She can barely explain what he does but is convinced that his supernatural powers help her husband get rid of his addiction, at least temporarily.

“He stays away from drinking for a year, but then he starts again,” she said.

The illiterate woman, who donates about $25 at a temple where the guru presides during each visit, does not know where else to go. There are no government-run addiction centers close to where she works. She said many in her slum go to him believing he can cure sick people or help childless couples.

FILE - Sikh protesters hold a poster of Indian religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim Singh's debut film “MSG: The Messenger of God” in Jammu, India, Feb. 13, 2015.
FILE – Sikh protesters hold a poster of Indian religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim Singh’s debut film “MSG: The Messenger of God” in Jammu, India, Feb. 13, 2015. VOA

“The spiritual component of these “deras” is very wonky and people are looking for some kind of a superman who will solve their problems,” said M. Rajivlochan, history professor at Punjab University. “In the case of Baba Rahim, he posed himself as that superman, dressing weirdly, demonstrating that he could do close to everything.”

Rahim Singh, who positioned himself as the reincarnation of “the Supreme Creator,” acquired rock star popularity because he was not just a cult leader. He made films, he was a singer, he dressed flamboyantly and lived opulently. And although the rape charges against him surfaced 15 years ago, they did little to diminish the faith among his followers.

FILE - An Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, attends the premiere of the movie 'Jattu Engineer' in New Delhi, India, May 17, 2017.
FILE – An Indian spiritual guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, attends the premiere of the movie ‘Jattu Engineer’ in New Delhi, India, May 17, 2017. VOA

The larger-than-life image of gurus like Rahim Singh is reinforced by political leaders cutting across party lines who pay them obeisance and sometimes make donations to these centers hoping to plug into a voter bloc during elections. Several ministers had visited Rahim Singh. Some legislators even defended him after his conviction, saying he had done good work.

The rich are not immune from the culture. Several high profile gurus count the wealthy among their followers.

Also Read: Criminal Babas in India- Rapist Ram Rahim and Rapist Asaram: Why Delay in Justice of these Godmen? 

Political clout

With their political clout, the gurus also escape close financial scrutiny, making it difficult to assess how some accumulate vast wealth.

Although Singh is now in jail, a number of his devotees continue to believe that he has been framed. Such emotions led his followers to go on a rampage after his conviction. The rioting killed 38 people as government buildings and vehicles were set on fire.

Still, his flock might slowly disperse, given the massive coverage he received on national television, the sealing of his centers, and the swirl of murky stories since his conviction. Among them, stories that he made 400 men undergo castration “to come closer to god.”

But the phenomenon of the “godman” is not about to go away. “There is no end,” said Professor Sohal. “Such tragic things would happen time and again and they [the devotees] think that God is there to rectify them.” (VOA)

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Criminal Babas in India- Rapist Ram Rahim and Rapist Asaram : Why Delay in Justice of these Godmen ?

What kept the case pending for 15 years? Was it the power and political connections of Ram Rahim?

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Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh convicted of rape. Wikimedia
  • Gurmeet Ram Rahim was sentenced to 20 years in jail on Monday, but what took the case 15 years is the question that needs consideration
  • He’s not the only self-styled godman to have been involved in sexual assault controversies
  • One of the most controversial ‘guru’ to make it to the list is Asaram

New Delhi, August 29, 2017: Self-proclaimed godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, now known as Khaidi no. 1997, was sentenced to 20 years in jail in a rape case, on Monday. The Dera Sacha Sauda chief has been convicted of raping two women followers in a case that dates back to 2002.

It was in 2002 that a rape survivor, who was also a Sadhvi anonymously wrote a letter that, eventually, led to the downfall of the empire of Gurmeet Ram Rahim. The letter was addressed to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and described how the sect chief sexually exploited several women. It was later in 2003 that the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered CBI probe into the rape and sexual exploitation of the Sadhvis by the so called “Guru.”

The long wait for justice finally ended on Monday, but the question that arises is: What kept the case pending for 15 years? Was it the power and political connections of Ram Rahim? Could he be a major contributor to the vote banks be the reason for the unconscionable delay? To find the solution to this riddle is a tough job, and keeping in mind how our system works, might take another 15 years, but why was the justice delayed is a question that certainly deserves an answer.

 

One amongst myriads of the reason for the delay in justice was the horror of being threatened by Dera Chief and the co-conspirator. Many victims preferred to keep close mouthed than exposing the wrong doings at the Dera. Often those who opposed the Dera Chief were either murdered or menaced for doing so.

Not to forget the infamous murder of Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, the courageous journalist who exposed the debauched Ram Rahim. His son Anshul Chhatrapati has been fighting for justice for past 15 years, however, the case is still unresolved in the same CBI court which sentenced Dera chief 20 years of jail. Anshul called the sentence, the first tribute to his dead father.

He was merely 21 years old when his father was shot dead on October 24. Helpless Anshul wandered here and there to save his father who battled death for 28 days in the hospital. Policemen refused to lodge FIR against Dera chief back then, recalls Anshul while speaking to wionews.

Anshul also explained what kept justice for more than a decade:

“The CBI investigation was perpetually being thwarted by Congress and other local political parties. I give all the credit of bringing this case to justice to the CBI investigating officer who, against all odds and pressure from various political parties, did his work diligently. It is because of his work that today we have been able to seek justice” 

When CBI probed into the matter back then, 17 sadhvis showed up but only two of them agreed to present in the court.

The official system of government should work upon instilling the confidence amongst the sufferers of torment the Dera Chief inflicted upon them. Many people have come forward to confront their plight openly, however, there are also many of them who live in constant suspicion and fear.

The fact that he’s not the only self styled godman to add to the list of those who have been involved in sexual assault controversies is not pleasing to know. According to The Indian Express report, a woman in Kerala chopped off the genitals of one of the ‘godman’ to defend herself from sexual assault. The minor attacker claimed that the attacker, who goes by the name of Ganga Shashwatapada Swamy, had repeatedly been raping her since past few years.

Also read: Quick View on Dera Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Case: 20 Years of Imprisonment enough for a Rapist in India?

One of the most controversial ‘guru’ that makes it to the list is Asaram. About the complaint that lodged on August 20, 2013, Asaram on the pretext of giving the 16-year-old girl his blessings, raped her at his ashram in Jodhpur. After his arrest and the girl and her family’s willingness to speak out against Asaram, many more victims started to come out, reporting similar incidents against him. According to the reports, Asaram allegedly assaulted many victims, including both the ‘sevikas’ and minors from his ashram. The case is pending with the Supreme Court.

Asaram’s son, Narayan Sai has also been accused of rape and sexual assault. He’s currently in jail for the rape of a woman at one of Asaram’s ashrams.

The judgment against Ram Rahim, however, has given the people hope that Justice could be delayed, but would not be denied.

 – by Samiksha Goel and Naina Mishra of NewsGram


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

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Uttar Pradesh: Prime witness against Asaram Bapu shot at

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asaram bapu

Lucknow: Kripal Singh, a prime witness in the ongoing case against self-styled god-man Asaram was shot at and critically injured in Uttar Pradesh, police said on Saturday.

Singh, 35, was on Friday night shot at in the high-security cantonment area in Shahjahanpur town. He was returning from work and was intercepted by an unidentified motorcyle-borne youth near Imli Road.

The bullet pierced Singh’s spinal chord near his waist. He was rushed to the district hospital where considering his critical condition, doctors referred him to a hospital in Bareilly.

Singh worked with the father of the girl victim who has accused Asaram of sexually abusing her in his ashram, police said.

He has also testified against Asaram in the past and had one time been a disciple of the seer. He was a close confidante of Asaram and was counted as one of his closest.

In the past too, there have been attacks on the witnesses in the case where Asaram is accused of sexually abusing a minor in his Jodhpur Ashram in Rajasthan.

(IANS)