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Asaram Bapu the controversial godman

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n August 11, the apex court had denied interim bail to Asaram in a rape case and directed AIIMS to set up a medical board to ascertain his health condition before taking up his regular bail plea. All India Institute of Medical Sciences told the Supreme Court that the health condition of self-styled religious figure Asaram Bapu was stable. Asaram, accused of rape, had refused to undergo several tests, the seven-member board also said in its report filed before the bench of Justices A K Sikri and N V Ramana. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on October 17. Asaram was arrested by Jodhpur Police on August 31, 2013 and has been in jail since then. On August 9, the High Court had rejected his bail application in the rape case. A teenage girl had accused Asaram of sexual assault at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur.

In January last year, a witness in a rape case against spiritual guru Asaram Bapu was shot dead in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar. Police said Akhil Gupta, 35, was shot by unknown persons on his way to home. He is the second witness to be killed in the case after Amrut Prajapati, a former Asaram aide who was shot dead in June last year in Gujarat. Gupta was a cook and personal aide of Asaram Bapu, who has been in jail since August, 2013, for allegedly sexually assaulting a schoolgirl. Since then, he has been booked, along with his son, for the alleged rape of two sisters in Surat, Gujarat. Gupta had been questioned by the Gujarat Police in 2013 and had reportedly given a statement against the self-styled godman who runs over 400 ashrams across India.

The women had filed a police complaint and accused Asaram Bapu of sexual assault between 1997 and 2006 when she was staying in his ashram on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in 2013. Her younger sister had filed a separate complaint against 76-year-old Asaram’s son Narayan Sai, accusing him of repeated sexual assault between 2002 and 2005 when she was living in his Surat ashram. One of the women had approached the court for permission to change her earlier statement, raising speculation that there was pressure on the complainants and witnesses. The court rejected her request.

The Surat-based sisters have accused Asaram and his son Narayan Sai of raping them when they stayed at his ashrams in Ahmedabad and Surat between 1997 and 2006. Asaram and his son would have been convicted months ago. Obviously, these types of incidents will continue till the case becomes weak and afterwards these alleged criminals will be set free. Justice delayed is justice denied. If two witnesses are shot dead, one does not need rocket science to know who is behind these killings and this cannot be termed as ‘mere rivalry’ with someone else because two things can’t be a co-incidence. Alas! The court needs proof because its eyes are blind-folded. God only knows how this maniac would be controlled.

Narayan Sai was earlier accused by a married woman of trying to sexually assault her. There are thousands of woman followers these father-son duo have. It is really surprising that suddenly cases were rained against father-son and then stopped. Why these cases were not reported earlier? Is it that the ex-employees (female) those were thrown out from Ashram for their misconduct are framing this son and father with the intention of revenge or is it a way to bargain for some settlement? I don’t want to go harsh making all irrelevant comments as other media houses are doing, waiting for judiciary to decide the duo’s fates.

Today, the great heritage of Indian Sadhvis, Sadhus and saffron cult are in question. Their integrity is under suspension. Their involvement in terror, economic offences, sex scandals, murders, crime is on the rise. Millions of Hindu pilgrims are witnesses to an unusual sight: scores of saffron-clad swamis exhorting people. People are attending them believing that they will wash away their sins by being a follower of one of these spiritual leaders. They think they will be purified and the path to salvation will be cleared. Hindus have been made to believe this nonsense by the so-called swamis, sadhus and other religious leaders.

Saffron is lured in perversion and scandals. Being spiritual guru is nothing but a commercial gain. Hinduism can be proud that, though there has been so much perversion and distortion, there is always room for reform. We have a history of powerful reform movements happening in this country. Unfortunately, such movements last for some period. Also, the way the international media glamorised the Saffron Sadhus and Sadhvis in recent time, made the situation awkward for us Indians. All this is very embarrassing and I felt we needed to challenge it. Indian society needs to change; it needs to inculcate the values of doubt and dissent. There must be debate and society should question the authority of religious leaders. Nowhere in the world would you find the kind of abominable caste system that still persists in India, and the indignities that are heaped on humanity. Yet, such issues are very cleverly skirted by organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. VHP even tried to hijack and politicise these issues. Actually, these Sadhus are very obscurant; they have no role whatsoever. A large number of naked Naga Sadhus are criminals on the run. They chose to become sadhu to protect themselves from the law. If you visit their camps, you’ll find pitchers full of alcohol and lots of narcotics. It’s all a part of their religious rituals. The naga sadhus are discrediting the great spiritual traditions of this country. They should be totally disowned by the so-called mainstream religious leaders. They should be told to change their ways and not go naked. Because of all this, Hinduism is facing a crisis today. The basic crisis is one of social injustice that emanates from the caste system, from gender inequality and so on. The majorities are going to these Sadhus with the idea of personal salvation or to get rid of their poverty.

In the past, Asaram had come under sharp criticism when he made controversial remarks about the December 16 gangrape case, when he said that the girl would have escaped the ordeal had she called her attackers brothers and pleaded them for mercy. Then he ran in trouble with the Serious Fraud Investigating Office (SFIO) seeking his prosecution in a Rs. 700-crore land grab case in Madhya Pradesh. The case pertains to 200 acres of land in Ratlam and the SFIO, which wants to prosecute Asaram and his son under the provisions of Indian Penal Code and Companies Act 1956. For spreading water on the occasion of Holi, he was targeted by many politicians in Maharashtra. Bapu is always in news for all the wrong reasons. There are many controversies revolving against him. However, none has been proven yet.

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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