Why is India worshiping false gods? (P.V. Thomas)

Article published in India Life and Times magazine

‘My God died young. Theolatry I found degrading, and its premises unsound. No free man needs a God; but was I free?’ (Vladmir Nabokov -‘Pale Fire’).

Yes, one is free as long as one prefers not to be and willfully gets enslaved. In the current context, the freedom is lost to human gods or the so-called godmen or godwomen. India has a plethora of fake gurus who rape, kill and defraud their devotees while they themselves flourish.

The latest case is that of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh who was accused of murder and convicted in two rape cases for 20 years. The ‘rape Baba’ is behind the bars and his spiritual empire worth millions of dollars is in tatters. His adopted daughter-cum-concubine who presided over a regime of sexual anarchy at Dera Sacha Sauda cult headquarters in Hissar, Haryana, is accused of engineering a riot after his conviction in which several people were killed. She is also under arrest. Can one imagine such a thing happening in today’s India at a stone’s throw from the national capital? Can one imagine that this rapist godman got over 4,200 Padma Bhushan award recommendations? Can one imagine that he and his concubine had VIP access at India’s airports? Can one imagine that his vast spiritual empire spread over hundreds of acres of land in Hissar had secret tunnels leading to a women’s hostel, an escape opening, a hospital mainly for abortion of illegitimate children, and explosives manufacturing factories. Yes, this is what the police, under the court’s order, discovered in this hitherto prohibited spiritual territory of the rapist godman. How could this all happen without the political patronage of the powers-that-be and the blind faith of the devotees?

This is not an isolated case of a fraud godman thriving on India’s ignorance, illiteracy and superstition. There are hundreds of them mushrooming in every nook and corner of India. On October 7, national newspapers published a picture of a so-called godwoman sitting in a police officer’s chair at a police station in New Delhi. The officer was standing near her. The guru was Radhe Maa aka Sukhvinder Kaur.

Imagine the clout these fake gurus enjoy in government departments. They are influential enough to get anything done in the administration! The appointment of a yogi as the chief minister of the most populous state in India, though one cannot include him in this category of fakes, is a telling example. In Radhe Maa’s case, the government was forced to crack down on the police officer and the constables concerned and grounded them following media exposure.

India has a long history of rulers and politicians patronizing babas and yogis. Some of them were genuine yogis. But many of them were imposters and fakes. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and a host of politicians were ardent devotees of some babas and yogis. Dhirendra Brahmachari was patronized by Indira Gandhi. He was her spiritual guru and yoga teacher. He had a gun factory, Shiva gun factory, in Jammu. He became very controversial when he started wielding influence in the corridors of power in South and North Blocks. Chandra Swamy was very close to P. V. Narasimha Rao, then prime minister of India. He was a known practitioner of black magic. He is said to have helped Rao become prime minister. These all may be fables, but the truth of the matter is that both were very close and helped each other. There are many other godmen and godwomen in the post-independent history of India who were rich and famous. They were sanyasis with air-conditioned ashrams with helicopter pads on the terrace. One had a fleet of 99 Rolls-Royce cars, 44 helicopters and diamond-studded rings and jewelry. They had rich and influential followers. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Acharya Rajneesh (Osho), and others are a few gurus who yield or have in the past yielded considerable influence.

Some of them were mighty magicians who could produce gold chains, Rolex watches and ash from thin air. They attracted a huge following. There was a Machhan Baba in Uttar Pradesh who sat on a tree branch. Devotees could go to him and get his blessing, which was a kick on the head. Indira Gandhi, Narain Dutt Tiwari and former Lok Sabha speaker Balram Jakhar are believed to be among those who queued up under his tree to receive the kick/blessing. Not only do illiterate and poor people lay prostrate before these so-called godmen but also the educated, intellectual and mighty ruling class. No wonder that fake gurus like Ram Rahim thrive.

There is no dearth of stories of such crooks who commanded influence over blind followers. Many of the followers were more than willing to be cheated and spiritually raped. Several of the fake gurus are now in jail facing charges of rape, cheating, murder and other crimes. Still people are rushing to them get salvation. One of them, Asaram Bapu, is in jail on rape charges. A spiritual preacher who used to ride on Delhi’s roads on a high-end BMW luxury car has been in jail for more than a year. Ram Rahim had a rock star status notwithstanding his humble origin and lack of formal education. He had produced two feature films in Hindi. His cult followers believed in him. Another commune leader in Mathura last year set out to wage a war against the state in the name of Subhas Chandra Bose and led many of his followers to death. Women are easy prey to these thuggish godmen who rape and subjugate them.

There are a large number of them across the length and breadth of India. Shobha Sarkar (Uttar Pradesh), Sarathi Baba (Odisha), Pastor D’souza (Goa), Lal Sai (Madhya Pradesh), Gulzar Peer (J & K), Nithyananda (Karnataka), are among those facing criminal charges.

Of late, religious authorities have started to crack the whip on these fake sadhus.

After the Ram Rahim episode shook the nation, 14 sadhus were declared fake by the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, the top-most regulatory authority of India’s 13 groups of ascetics. These include Ram Rahim, Asaram Bapu and Radhe maa.

It is evident that these fake gurus cannot be stopped unless people become aware of their nefarious intentions. Who will enlighten these people? The media and social action groups can do a lot. Politicians and power elite may do little in this regard as theirs seems to be a mutual admiration club.

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