India's Godmen seem to be falling a little short of godliness. Asaram Bapu has had his bail plea in rape cases dismissed by Supreme Court. In the meanwhile, the FOURTH witness against him to be attacked, his ex-doctor (Ayurveda) Amrit Prajapati has died. Three others were attacked a month ago in separate incidents. With Amrit dead, the cases against Asaram weaken considerably. You can look forward to worshiping Asaram Bapu again if you wish. (This is the same Asaram, whose arrest demoralized Vanzara of the fake encounters to resign after losing faith in the government for whom he was doing his duty in the form of fake encounters.)
Dwaraka Peeth Shankaracharya Swaroopananda Saraswati has taken an issue with worship of Sai Baba by Hindus because he is "Muslim". Ironically, on the other side is Hindutva-max, BJP's Cabinet Minister for Water Resources,River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti (also accused in Babri Masjid demolition).
Not to be left behind, the Naga sadhus have rallied behind Shankaracharya Swaroopananda's call and are determined to prevent Sai Baba devotees from bathing in holy places.
Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati has stayed away from Odisha’s largest and most important religious gathering (where he has an important formal role normally) after his ruling that devotees would not be allowed on the chariots (for safety) axed the massive loot the daitapatis engage in by charging devotees money to come aboard. The daitapatis retaliated by playing on the words of his ruling and limiting the Shankaracharya's own disciples allowed on the chariot to two as well (he had seven last year). Justifiably outraged by the insult, the Shankaracharya stayed away from the rath yatra.
Also in Odisha, self-proclaimed godman Rama Chandra Sahu of Simulia Maidipur village was arrested for outraging the modesty (whatever that means) of a minor girl.
In other news, Basava Prabhu Swamiji (59) of the Vishwa Lingayat Dharma Parishat Trust, Belgaum was arrested for allegedly raping a 47 year old cook in his mutt.
Kishore Mandalik alias Dada Maharaj (45), head of the Shiv Goraksha Ashram of Ambegaon tried to get away from paying monthly support to his divorced second wife (who had filed a case for cheating against him after he abandoned her after one week of their wedding and 4 lakh rupees). Court squashed it.
In still other news, BJP MP Babul Supriyo claimed that he got a ticket on recommendation of Baba Ramdev when on February 28 that he found himself travelling in the same flight as Ramdev and overheard the yoga guru discuss ticket distribution with someone else. He joked that he wanted a ticket or would reveal to media that Ramdev was distributing tickets to people. Three days later he got a call from an RSS pracharak, and the rest is history. But then Ramdev had made headlines earlier as well when BJP Alwar candidate Mahent Chandnath told him just before a press conference started (and the cameras and mics were on) "paise le aane mein badi dikat ho rahi hai (there is great difficulty in bringing the money)" and Baba Ramdev admonished him, "yahan baat karna bandh karo, bhole ho kya? (Stop talking here. Are you a fool?)"
Asaram bapu and his fanatical followers are a snapshot of how irrelevant moral behavior is to worship. In the recent past, Asaram Bapu has made headlines for holding the victim of a brutal rape jointly responsible for being raped. He has celebrated a mass holi wasting water in the middle of the worst drought Maharashtra saw in decades. And he was accused of raping a minor daughter of a devotee and threatening her to be silent.
This is hardly a new phenomenon. Asaram Bapu has always has disturbing whispers of illegal dealings from land grabs to tantric rituals. Rising into the religion business after one selling alcohol, he had a formidable reputation of power. Famous politicians and stars have been associated with him. Disturbing reports of threats from his followers (who apparently double up as his henchmen) abound.
So why is it that this person continues to be considered a saint in this country? How is it that in a religious community with an overabundance of Gods, where no two homes have completely similar practices or spiritual leaders, politicians end up so overwhelmingly flocked around the same few messiahs? As I write this post, another God man's dream has sent the Archaeological Survey of India on a wild goose dig for thousands of tons of gold with the blessings of the state.
[Tweet "Why is India so gullible to any conman who claims to know God better than others?"] Why is it that we fail to question God men when their actions are demonish? How is it that we don't question when peddlers of morality break laws and grab land? And how is it that we do not take exception to a "Gurugita" religious book written by a self-acclaimed Godman who speaks of giving your body, senses, life, money, family, kin and even wife to your Guru?
The common man is a blinkered beast of burden, set on a looping track by whoever claims to be superior. Religions in particular are full of endless advice. Eat this, don't eat this, follow these timings for whatever, wear such, don't act such.... and the advice is not only obeyed, it is spread by word of mouth to more unwary blinkered beasts, who will see it as the words of a holy man and act on them.
And yet, there are countless holy men, working tirelessly to better the lives of the people, to nurture our planet and to enrich mankind. They are also Godmen, but they are too humble to advertise their Godmanship in your face and tell you what to do. They die unlamented like the respected Swami Nigamananda, who died fasting to save the Ganga from pollution at the hands of those who were supported by money and power and thought nothing of raping the sacred river.
Unless we value ourselves enough to understand that our respect must be deserved - even by Godmen, we will remain falling prey to fraudsters strutting their fakery and exploiting our brain for their glory (and profit), while those truly reflecting ideals needed more in the world lie discarded for lack of bling.
I am atheist, but I respect a sadhu with the courage to stand up to the sand mafia to protect a river. I am continually perplexed by how far the religion of my birth continues to fall with these pop gurus popping up and teaching values to lead us to ruin.
[Tweet "Unless we value ourselves enough to understand that our respect must be deserved - even by Godmen, we will remain falling prey to fraudsters strutting their fakery"]
Worse, the unquestioning adoration is a direct factor in the escalating influence of such fraudsters. We even have a police officer, in jail for fake encounters suffering silence for years, but the straw that broke his back was apparently a rapist Godman being arrested for rape. The state abandoned him to facing his crimes, but he is outraged that the Godman has to face his crimes too. Apparently the idea that perhaps a Godman should not do crimes did not occur to anyone in the process.
This reminds me of Gandhi's treatment of women around him. The "Mahatma" had a very public sexual life or the lack of it. His vow of celibacy did not consult his wife. Testing that vow with temptation did not consider his wife as "tempting". He slept naked with young girls to test his own celibacy in whatever way, without any consideration for the impact of such actions on the girls, who had not taken vows of celibacy, had they? Yet, he is the Mahatma and God forbid anyone question his character. Whatever else was good or bad about Gandhi (and I agree there was plenty to admire too), it is pathetic that thee wasn't enough objection to what was clearly exploitative behavior. [Tweet "What does it say about India that Gandhi's extremely public perversions were never a deterrent to his stardom?"]
There is hardly a dearth of Godmen engaging in sexual explotation. Nor is it limited to any single religion. It appears that morality flies out of the window when the victim does not have the power to be a threat. The example of Mahatma Gandhi was simply to demonstrate how child sexual abuse can go completely uncriticized if the spiritual guide claims a big enough halo.
Coming back to Asaram, the dirt just keeps piling on Asaram Bapu, with an MMS being recovered from his henchman, hsi son Narayan being a fugitive, changing phones to evade arrest, more complainants coming out of the woodwork now that there is hope for the wrongs to be brought to justice.
The government that prides itself on relegating religious violence to the past, was apparently hesitant to bring him to the state for fear of unrest. On one hand they claim innocence, on the other they unleash the nuisance value of followers.
All I can hope for is that he is hounded down and brought whimpering to the courts and made such a clear example of, that the next time people see a Godman behave in a manner that is not "godly", they do not for a minute hesitate to denounce it. This isn't religion, this isn't holy guidance. Morality cannot be upheld by allowing injustice. Regardless of who the perpetrator is.
As in the case of the Mumbai Gang Rape, the arrest of the gang rapists led to another of their victims coming to the front, so is it that Jodhpur police are claiming that more victims of the godman Asaram Bapu are filing complaints. Superficially, they may seem entirely different issues, but fundamentally, they appear to be cases where the victims held grudges but no hope for justice. It took visible examples of their violator being arrested before others made their complaint known.
In both cases, what is stunning is that the rapists had protectors, including women. In the case of the Mumbai gang rape, it was the mother of one of the accused who informed her son about police movements to help him evade arrest. Those who would unhesitatingly condemn this crime and hijacked the protests in Delhi after the Delhi Gang Rape were among those calling the accusations against Asaram Bapu politically motivated and false, while claiming his innocence.
While it is not impossible that accusations are false or politically motivated, what was astonishing was the virulence of the political activists who went forth with the assumption with such confidence that they did not seem to entertain the slightest doubt. Most of them had likely never seen Asaram Bapu, but all that was needed for him to be innocent was for him to be "People Like Us".
This was seen earlier in the case of the accusations against Dr. Soonawala, a high profile Mumbai doctor accused of rape. Upper class patients endorsed his character and claimed that it was impossible that he could rape.
Of course, all these defenses see humans as linear creatures, who can either be wholly good or wholly bad. If they liked someone, they considered it impossible for them to be guilty. Decades of awareness about crime against women gone down the drain. Countless examples of how otherwise admirable people can turn demons with women. Or is it that they get admired in a male society because of their domination of women somehow adding to a traditional charisma of "man-liness"?
Closer to my home home in Virar East, a tragic story unfolded, when unable to bear harassment, Sonali Garud self-immolated. The Garuds had moved to Virar East recently and Sonali was being harassed by her neighbour, Raju Badodiya with lewd comments and molestation repeatedly. Sonali's husband, Macchindra asked Badodiya to stay away from Sonali without any result. DNA reports the Investigation officer's assessment of the situation:
Investigation officer YK Chaure said, “The woman was worried about trouble in her marriage as Badodiya used to frequently harass and eve-tease her.
Sonali approached Badodiya's wife, Purnima, who "shockingly" (according to Mumbai Mirror) told her to handle it herself.
Initially the couple thought the harassment would soon stop. But it went on even after Machindra warned Badodiya. Sonali then approached Badodiya's wife, Purnima, who, shockingly, told Sonali to deal with it herself.
Machindra had told Sonali to speak to Badodia's wife about restraining her husband, but she told her to stop complaining and deal with the situation on her own.
The use of language and allocation of blame are both interesting. Our police force is clearly unable to see women as capable of suffering trauma directly, and repeated molestations don't provoke suicide, but "trouble in her marriage" because of them would. Because, of course, there would be trouble between a couple if the woman suffered unwanted sexual harassment - the man's possession got vandalized, right?
I am still trying to decide which of the two is the greater insult - the woman being spoken of as a mindless possession, or the man being spoken of as so wholly devoid of human compassion for his life partner that her harassment would trigger marital discord between the two. Alas, either could be true.
Another astonishing aspect is the "shocking" reaction of the molester's wife. How exactly was she supposed to control the actions of the man who is clearly repeatedly sexually harassing a woman despite of her clear rejection as well as her husband's warnings. What is the woman supposed to do? Follow him around? Forcibly stop his actions? Does anyone seriously believe that a man who could repeatedly molest a neighbour was doing this either for the first time or gave a damn about what another woman - his wife thought? Would he be going around molesting neighbours if he gave a damn what his wife thought?
In such a situation, one would imagine the best course of action would have been for Sonali to approach the police for help. However, the crowning glory of this farce lays this assumption to rest.
The man has been arrested for outraging the modesty of a woman, namely Sonali. It is a bailable offense and contains a punishment of a year *if* and *when* the person gets punished. We may have passed rape laws, but the definition of sexual assault has clearly not reached the local cops who seem to think repeated molestation is merely outraged modesty. And this is after the woman attempted self-immolation and eventually died of it. Guess what the response of cops were if she approached them before the self-immolation? I'd hazard a guess it would really *shockingly* not be all that different from the creep's wife. Now that the woman is dead, the couple also get arrested for abetting suicide.
"We have registered a case under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the IPC against Badodiya and his wife Purnima," said Senior PI Chandrakant Jadhav, Virar police. "We produced them before the Vasai court, which remanded both of them to police custody till September 7. We are recording the statements of the neighbours to make a watertight case."
Still, no sign of words like assault, bullying, sexual harassment in the mouths of the police. This is on top of our area being horrendously understaffed and under patrolled by police anyway. Plain reluctance to call it a crime, one would imagine. Hardly surprising that sex crimes are on the rise in our area.
But why look at the police alone? Check out some of the titles reporters have given their reports of this incident:
Virar woman sets self ablaze over eve-teasing
Virar woman who set herself on fire over lewd comments dies
The curse of eve-teasing is yet to vacate the journalistic templates and editorial brains. The two headlines actually sound like the woman over reacted to something minor, yes?
This nonsense needs to be shredded. Till people don't risk their necks out and confront, there will not be examples in society of prejudice and hate crimes against women being defeated.
Do everyone a favor. The next time you get a chance to head butt a wrong, don't worry about your head and butt hard and damn the consequences for a bit.
And no, I'm not asking you to do something I wouldn't. I'm going to find a way to get someone to babysit my son while I go and find out what the heck is going on in our area with this case and meet cops and whoever else seems relevant.
Asaram Bapu stands accused of raping a minor girl, daughter of his followers, in the name of treating her. This is not the first time his name has come up with warped sexual rites and even dead bodies. His supporters on the other and are determined to see no wrong.
BJP politicians have embarrassed the party with their bizarre endorsements of his character, leading Modi to call for sanity, which got promptly ignored.
Staunch belief in the godman appears to have rotted the brains of many people. The latest is accusations that he isn't missing, but media is pretending he is, to foul his name.
Let us see. The man goes missing in Bhopal after asking Jodhpur police for an extension on his deadline to present himself in the police station. He had apparently booked tickets on various flights to Delhi and Ahmedabad, all of which he missed when he arrived too late for the last one. His supporters attack media in two cities. He went missing and police had no idea where he was.
Now he is found in Indore, with his son pretending that he hadn't gone missing at all. One really has to wonder why he isn't in a police station in Jodhpur if he wasn't evading arrest.
Time to wake up folks, even in respect, in blind worship, in stubborn support of a fanatic whose vision you like, in political loyalty, or in plain belief that the accused is innocent, there has to be a line of logic below which you will not fall.
Simple logic of matter is that if he was supposed to turn himself in to police, missed all flights to arrive there, went out of sight while followers distracted attention from him and surfaced in another city, it is called evading arrest.