Being the most diverse country in the world comes with its own riders. I believe India has become the largest producers and suppliers of Godmen and Godwomen in the world. This phenomenon is not restricted to any single religion.
Before comprehending who these Godmen and Godwomen are, we need to understand why they exist. India has the tradition of glorifying heroes as Gods, maybe that’s how we ended up having 33 million Gods. Even people who have done good deeds in their life have temples in their names. Many of them were genuinely good people, like the Sai Baba of Shirdi and Sankaracharya. But this eulogizing trend has reached preposterous levels.
Even movie actors and politicians have temples dedicated to them now. India does not have social benefits, unlike the North American and Western European countries. Religion plays a very significant and intimate role in people’s lives. When lives become difficult due to different circumstances, people become vulnerable and flock to religious places in search of answers. Commonsense often goes south when our minds are confused and clouded. When people do not find answers, they automatically turn to the next possible alternative. These Godmen and Godwomen are feeding on people’s vulnerability and have positioned themselves precisely for people to turn to them.
What do people really get from them that they cannot find on their own? The best they can do is to engage people’s minds with meditation, yoga and reading ancient texts, which people can easily do on their own. Do they have any higher powers or abilities to communicate with God? None of them have displayed any such ability. They can make predictions, but that is based on astrology, palmistry, numerology, face reading and many different methods.
Then, why do people flock to them?
Two reasons. One, humanity has always been enslaved throughout our existence. That is why we look up to Gods, because we have been slaves to higher powers. Two, we are bound by our herd mentality. How people flock to the Godmen and Godwomen is like the Great Migration at Masai Mara every year. Thousands of wild buffaloes converge to the bank of the river. Then one buffalo takes a blind leap of faith and jumps into the water and all other buffaloes follow in a frenzy. This is how people have become.
What makes the situation worse is, these Godmen and Godwomen start vying to become representatives of the religions they belong to. In India, religion and politics are two sides of the same coin. Politicians and political parties use religions to divide people and this is how they maintain their vote banks. Politicians are taking the colonial legacy of divide and rule forward. This naturally created the nexus between politicians and these Godmen and Godwomen. They exist and function for mutual benefits.
All of this has assisted communal disturbances in the society. Political parties incite violence to divert people’s attention from issues plaguing governance and administration. The mobs that incite violence are mostly goons of political parties, who are paid and hired to kill, loot and burn.
This is exactly what happened when high profile Godman, Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of rape. The fact that the rape happened 15 years ago tells a story in itself. The story of how a Godman used his influence to keep himself from getting convicted. How the rioting spread so quickly to different states in north India clearly indicates the complacency of the state governments and their role in the saga. The reaction of the state governments to the situation is a sure shot confirmation of their silent participation. This is not anything new after all. Riots and violence in 1984, 1992 and 2002 are all stark reminders of the malicious games being played out time and again by the politico-religious nexus with the lives of people and destruction of public property.
But, I wonder how many people think through why all these politicians, businessmen and influential people flock to these Godmen and Godwomen. These are places for meeting people and making deals. The Godmen and Godwomen act as intermediaries and make connections and deals happen and thus get to exert and extend their sphere of influence on people. These are also hubs where money laundering happens. Ever wondered why certain cringe worthy movies are made? It’s because they are also outlets for using unaccounted money.
What makes me wonder is, when people can themselves read ancient Indian texts where Kal Yuga is written about in such detail, why do they need to go to Godmen and Godwomen? Because in Kal Yuga ignorance rules and enlightenment is suppressed and ignored. This is why such a system has come into place and anyone who raises questions is ridiculed and marginalized. People have short term memories; they live through the ordeal each time and vote for the same people back to power expecting things to become better. Maybe hope, humanity’s greatest strength is turning out to be our greatest nemesis.