It is not just Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, many ‘godmen’ in India have been mired in controversies and scandals.
Controversy can perhaps be the middle name of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who is awaiting the court’s verdict in a 16-year-old case of alleged sexual exploitation of two sadhvis, or women followers.
In 2002, a sadhvi had written an anonymous letter to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, accusing the Dera chief of sexual abuse.
Fifty year-old Gurmeet Ram Rahim also faces murder charges–he is accused of murdering Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati for his writings against Dera Sacha Sauda.
In December 2014, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered a CBI probe into allegations of forced castration of 400 dera followers inside an ashram. A former Dera follower Hans Raj Chauhan in his petition said that the followers were told that those who would get castrated would be able to meet God through the Dera chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
It is not just Gurmeet Ram Rahim, many ‘godmen’ in India have been mired in controversies and scandals.
Asaram Bapu: Known as Bapuji among his followerws, Asaram Bapu is accused of allegedly raping a minor girl in 2013. The girl alleged that Asaram had asked her to perform oral sex on him, an act she declined.
Following the brutal Delhi gang-rape on December 16, 2012, the self-styled godman had sparked a controversy with his comments, blaming the victim for the ordeal. “Only five-six people are not culprits. The girl is as guilty as her rapists… She should have called the culprits brothers and begged them to stop… This could have saved her dignity and life. Can you clap with one hand?” Asaram Bapu reportedly said.
Rape accused and self-styled godman Asaram Bapu. Photo: PTI.
Chandraswami: The controversial ‘godman’ who died in May this year was considered an influential power broker when P V Narasimha Rao was the prime minister. It is said that Chandraswami gave ‘spiritual advice’ to actor Elizabeth Taylor, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and even underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
His fall-from-grace moment came when his name cropped up in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. In 1996, he was arrested on charges of duping a London-based businessman.
Chandraswami was considered close to former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao.
Swami Nithyanand: The self-styled godman found himself in the eye of a storm after a news channel showed a video footage of Swami Nithyanand in an alleged sexual act with an actress.
One of his followers accused Nithyanand of repeatedly raping her and threatening her with dire consequences if she approached anyone for help. On searching his ashram in Bengaluru, police found condoms and ganja from the compound.
It was also alleged that some of his followers were forced into signing non-disclosure agreements to experiment with ‘tantric sex’.
Swami Nithyanand was caught in an alleged sexual act, which was telecast by a news channel.
Sant Rampal: This self-styled godman had a rags to riches story, who worked as a junior engineer in the Haryana irrigation department before becoming Sant Rampal.
The controversial godman was arrested by police in November 2014 following a 30-hour standoff wherein Rampal’s militia allegedly tried to stop paramilitary forces from entering the Satlok ashram. Subsequently, sedition charge was slapped on him and some of his followers.
Sant Rampal following his arrest from Satlok Ashram. Photo: Reuters.
It was alleged that Maharishi made sexual advances towards Mia Farrow, which eventually led to the Beatles’ disillusionment with him. However, the other side of the story is that Maharishi found out the Beatles were allegedly doing drugs and therefore severed ties with the group.
The Beatles’ Sexy Sadie song, written by John Lennon, is believed to be an attack on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The ‘spiritual guru’ died in 2008.
And then, there were some like Sarathi Baba and Nirmal Baba who were arrested on charges of fraud and cheating. While probing charges against Sarathi Baba in Bhubaneshwar, the police also found evidence against him for blackmailing young women with their nude photos, which were taken by hidden cameras in bathrooms of his ashram.
Swami Sadachari: The once influential ‘Godman’ who was known closely associated with those in power was arrested for running a brothel. Shiv Murat Dwivedi: Better known as Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand was arrested in 1997 for running a prostitution racket. He was released on bail only to be arrested again 2010 for running a multi-crore sex racket. Swami Premananda: An immensely popular self-styled Godman who had ashrams all over the world, was arrested and fined on charges of rape. He was sentenced to life in imprison for 13 rapes, along with molestations and murder.
Gyanachaitanya: Having spent 14 years in jail after being convicted in three murder cases, Gyanachaitanya after his release sexually tortured and assaulted a British woman who he claimed was his wife in the previous birth, he was arrested again by the police after the woman escaped.
Swami Amrita Chaitanya: The Indian Godman’s real name is Santosh Madhavan, he was accused of pedophilia and producing pornographic films of underage girls, he was sentenced to 16 years in jail for molesting minor girls.
Jayendra Saraswathi: The 69th Shankaracharya Guru of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham was accused of ordering a murderous assault on a temple auditor who questioned the disappearance of 83 kg gold meant for Kamakshi Temple, in 2002. In 2004, he was accused of murdering a temple manager and former devotee of the Kanchi Mutth. With so many cases against these self-styled ‘Godmen’, it’s time people question their wrongdoings.