By Lata Jha:
The sadhu bana shaitan is our favourite kind of tale. It makes for dinner table conversations, heated, classroom discussions and not to forget, prime time news. There’s very little spicier and juicier than the dent on the halo. If there’s more to the person than the chadar, tika and beard can conceal, it’s more than enough reason to probe.
As news of yet another self proclaimed godman, Asaram Bapu’s alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Jodhpur does the rounds, it tends to ring bells of a lot of wrongs that have not managed to be skirted under the crisp, saffron cloth. About the fact that he was in the news not too long ago with regards to his opinion that the Delhi gang rape victim could have averted the incident by calling the rapists her brothers, the less said the better. We’ve paid him more than his share of attention for the ridiculousness. But he has also been involved in land scams and murder cases in the past.
Bapu (ironic, yes) is not the only godman to have been in the news for the wrong reasons. Popular for his spiritual courses and meditation programmes, Swami Nithyananda landed in controversy not too long ago thanks to a video that showed him in compromising positions with a female actor. An Indian born American citizen had also accused him of rape.Â Rajneesh, or Osho as he was known, was allegedly involved in the 1984 bio terror attacks in the United States where about 751 individuals were poisoned to rig the Wasco County elections.Â Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthy, also despite his eulogised status after passing away, had fielded allegations of sexual assault, paedophilia and questions about the veracity of his many miracles.
And who can forget Baba Ramdev, the most fascinating of them all? His biography could put any Bollywood screenplay to shame. From scurrying out of the Ramlila maidan in a salwar kameez to battling allegations of tax evasion, to facing flak over his belief that homosexuality is a disease that yoga can cure, he seems to have seen it all. In true blue motion picture fashion.
There’s something more to a godman going wrong than everyday news. I think it has a lot to do with the kind of people we are ourselves. As a God fearing nation, we like to believe in the force and in the fact that there are people amongst us who advocate and propagate His messages. If and when we realise that these people are in fact just as fallible as the rest of us, it’s understandably a little too much to take. It’s got to do with our sensitivities more than our sensibilities. It’s too stark a reminder of ugly, harsh realities. And probably of the fact that we’re living in not the best of times. Where, while not everyone is bad, the good has to be really hunted down even among ordinary mortals.
Without doubt, these self styled godmen should be put to shame as criminals of a different kind altogether. But shouldn’t we also give a little more thought to how easily and inevitably we tend to repose our faith in them? That is my question.