Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Godless "God-men"

An increasing number of so-called "spiritual" gurus or "godmen" in India are implicated in crimes ranging from sexual abuse to murder. 

A 23-year-old law student in the southern state of Kerala chopped off the genitals of a self-proclaimed holy man who tried to rape her and who she alleged has been sexually assaulting her for the past eight years. The young woman  attacked by Gangeshananda Theerthapada, also known as Sree Hari, who claimed to be a spiritual healer and visited their home frequently to cure her bed-ridden father.

Millions of Indians seem to be in thrall of these smooth-talking "godmen" who have built vast empires preying on their gullibility.

Three years ago, police had to battle the supporters of Rampal Singh Jatin, a controversial guru from the northern state of Haryana before they could arrest him. Their investigations uncovered sordid details about the supposedly holy man's sex life -
a world of abuse and excess that was just as remarkable as his sprawling abode. He preferred "hostesses," whom he called "sadhikayaen" 
Another self-styled spiritual godman, Asaram Bapu, was arrested in 2013 after a teenage girl accused him of rape. She claimed that the guru lured her by promising to cleanse her of evil spirits. It wasn't the first time criminal charges were leveled against him. In 2008, two young boys died in his retreat in the western state of Gujarat. 
Mahendra Giri, 65, was also arrested in 2013 for illegally confining and repeatedly raping a 24-year-old woman at his ashram over four months. 
In 2010, controversial Hindu godman Swami Nityananda  was arrested after a leaked video showed him engaging in sexual activities with an actress from southern India.
Bhavdeep Kang, author of "Gurus: Stories of India's Leading Babas" believes that godmen are rarely held accountable, least of all by their devotees. "The centrality of the godman in the lives of their flock - as spiritual preceptor, family confidante and business advisor - creates a dependency syndrome, making the devotee as invested in the purity of the guru as the guru himself," Kang told DW. She reckons the self-styled gurus assume the role of counselor, offering an answer to the dissonance and stresses of modern life, triggered by high-speed socio-economic transformation, dislocation of communities and the atomization of society.
Starting out as small time preachers from villages and towns in the country's rural hinterland, these so-called holy men cultivate a relationship with poor locals and over time, they acquire cult status commanding a huge following (and sometimes even political connections) to camouflage their nefarious activities. Despite the scandals and the fall from grace, there is no dearth of self-styled godmen operating in the country. Faith in the unreasonable and irrational remains firm.
Prabir Ghosh, general secretary of the Science and Rationalists' Association of India, believes devotees are beholden to these holy men by becoming part of the faithful. "We Indians are great believers in miracles and feel that somebody can get us out of our miseries. This is the prime reason we fall for these godmen," says Ghosh.
"People everywhere in India are prone to mystics. Many fall prey to the saffron robes these godmen wear believing they are true saviors, and afterwards blind faith takes over," Pradeep Singh, a sociologist, explained.
End superstition:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

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