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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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Haryana Police Summons 45 Dera Sacha Sauda Committee Members Accused of Plotting Violence Following Conviction of Dera Chief

Dera Sacha Sauda followers had indulged in large-scale violence in Panchkula and Sirsa after the CBI court on August 25 convicted the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of rape

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DERA SACHA SAUDA
Dera Sacha Sauda followers had indulged in large-scale violence in Panchkula and Sirsa after the CBI court on August 25 convicted the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of rape. IANS

Chandigarh, October 6, 2017 : Haryana police have issued summons to 45 members of a committee of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect to appear before it regarding the violence that erupted following the rape conviction of the Dera chief on August 25, police sources said on Friday.

Police sources said a hard disk, which reportedly contains details of transactions worth Rs 700 crore, including property and hawala deals, of the Dera has been recovered and sent for detailed examination.

The 45-member committee, which included the Dera’s headquarters campus (near Sirsa) chairman Vipassana and vice chairman P.R. Nain, is being accused of planning the violence in Panchkula and other places that left at least 38 people dead and 264 injured.

Dera Sacha Sauda followers had indulged in large-scale violence in Panchkula and Sirsa after the CBI court on August 25 convicted the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of rape.

The Haryana Police had last month issued a list of 43 ‘Most Wanted’ people of the sect, including top functionaries Honeypreet Insan and Aditya Insan, who are the closest aides of Ram Rahim, for their role in the violence.

Honeypreet was arrested from neighbouring Punjab on Tuesday after being fugitive for 38 days. She was booked for sedition and inciting violence.

The disgraced sect chief, who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, is now lodged in the District Jail in Sunaria near Rohtak. (IANS)

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UN Invites Gurmeet Ram Rahim and Honeypreet to Join ‘World Toilet Day’ Campaign

The official account of UN Water tweeted to Ram Rahim and Honeypreet, inviting the two to join their campaign on World Toilet Day

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honeypreet & gurmeet singh ram rahim insaan
Image: ians

Oct 05, 2017: Self-styled godman and rapist Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is again in the headlines for a reason that left twitterati scratching their head. In an unexpected tweet on Wednesday, the United Nations tagged Ram Rahim and his controversial daughter Honeypreet to join them in their campaign on ‘World Toilet Day’ on November 19.

Honeypreet was held under police custody on Tuesday after evading the arrest for 38 days.

Also Read: Honeypreet Insan Arrested, to be produced in Court on Wednesday 

The tweet posted by the UN-Water account on Wednesday “Dear @insan_honey, we hope you & @Gurmeetramrahim will lend your voice and support #WorldToiletDay (sic)”.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94

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Rape Victims Seek Life Imprisonment for Gurmeet Ram Rahim

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Sacha Sauda Dera Chief Ram Rahim
Gurmeet Ram Rahim, gestures during the premiere of movie ‘Jattu Engineer’ in New Delhi. voa

Chandigarh, Oct 4: Two female disciples who were raped by self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, have moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking life imprisonment for him as the 20-year jail term given was not enough.

In their petition filed before the High Court here, the two girls, who were raped by the godman in 1999, said the 10-year jail term to the Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, in each case of rape was not enough for the heinous crime he committed.

The court had said the 10-year prison term will run consecutively (one after another).

Ram Rahim was sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment and finef over Rs 30 lakh after being convicted by the CBI special court in Panchkula on two counts of rape of female disciples.

The victims pointed out in their petition that in rape cases where a person in a position of authority or power misuses that position to commit rape, he should be given maximum punishment – which is life imprisonment.

They pointed out that a lesser punishment would not achieve “the ends of justice”.

“Gurmeet is head of religious organisation known as Dera and had committed a grave breach of trust and he was called Pitaji (father),” the petition stated.

“Abusing his position as religious head, in whom the followers had blind faith, he committed rape,” it added.

Under new provisions introduced after the 2012 gang rape and murder of Nirbhaya in Delhi, a person in position of power and trust faces a maximum of life imprisonment for rape.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s rape conviction led to violence in Panchkula and Sirsa in Haryana, leaving 38 people dead and another 264 injured. Isolated incidents of violence were also reported from Delhi and several places in Punjab. (IANS)