Angiography

Gurmeet Ram Rahim guilty of rape. Violence in Haryana exposes political incompetence

Though judiciary has held its fort, India’s cultural schizophrenia is once again out in the open.

 |  Angiography  |  6-minute read |   25-08-2017
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Indian judiciary has once again done its job well. In the high-profile rape trial of Dera Sacha Sauda godman Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insaan, a Chandigarh CBI court has found him guilty and convicted him of rape.

This is the glaring irony of a 70-year-old democratic republic. A godman gets a rockstar reception and holds two states to ransom, bring North India to a grinding halt. Section 144 has been imposed on Haryana, and August 24/25 have been declared gazette holidays because the rape trial verdict was due of Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insaan, the government has been caught napping once again.

cult_082517041459.jpgCult fear has brought Haryana and Punjab to a standstill for two days.

Exactly as his followers threatened to wipe out India and unleash havoc in case the verdict goes against him, we have ministers appealing for calm, but not asking the followers to leave, or even accuse them of sedition, as has been the case whenever there’s been a seminar in JNU or any other university on issues pertaining to the fundamentals of the country.

A convoy of hundreds of cars was allowed to pass in its flashy best, showing off the godman to his devotees many of whom “fainted” at the mere sight. The militant cult of Dera Sacha Sauda and its close ties with the ruling BJP have ensured that television channels give the godman 24X7 coverage, oscillating between fawning admiration at his ability to command a massive following, to derision at his gaudy fashion quotient.

Even as liberal sections of the media wondered why the cult could bring half of the country to a grinding halt, there were little impact on the devotees, also known as “premis”, who vouched for their leader’s innocence, and held on to superstition and blind faith of the sect over scientific temper and rationalism. Who’d have thought that the fundamental right to privacy was reinstated by the highest court of the country only a day back, as the followers encamped all along the route from Sirsa to Panchkula, where the court verdict was read out a little while back.

It’s extremely nauseating how the militant cults are allowed to run amok in this country even as individual rights and freedoms are trampled by an ever more authoritarian state. The DGP of Punjab had issued a warning earlier than the Dera followers were storing petrol diesel, sharp objects and other weapons to wreak havoc on the two states of Punjab and Haryana, in case the verdict goes against the goadman. Now that it has, the fear of violence is looming large on North India. Army and paramilitary deployment is at its maximum.

But we need to reflect why does it always come to this? Why do political parties develop ententes with godmen as a vote-catching exercise even though the leader of the cult might be a rape accused? How can the Prime Minister of India justify the following tweet or his meetings with Gurmeet Ram Rahim, even though the latter had been accused of heinous crimes, including murder for which investigations are ongoing?

How the Dera – for the first time in history – allowed open political support for a party, the BJP, has been documented in great detail. A meeting on October 7, 2014 between 44 BJP candidates and Ram Rahim at the Sirsa-based Dera took place, and the BJP contingent was led by Kailash Vijayvargiya, then BJP’s campaign in-charge for the poll-bound Haryana. In fact, after Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh cast his vote on October 15 in Sirsa, he flaunted his democratic exercise on Twitter. Reports say, six days before the big delegate meeting, the Dear chief had a meeting with BJP’s national president, Amit Shah himself.

As reports suggest, the journalist who first “broke” the story of Dera Sacha Sauda chief’s inglorious past, was “shot dead” at point blank range in 2002. Another journalist who had done a sting on cult, says that his video report, aired on India TV, has been missing since 2014, after the BJP came to power and the godman was brought into the party’s good books.

It’s ironical that the guru, in a video appeal, had asked his followers to “remain calm” last evening, as if the facts of the case and now his conviction, are insignificant little hiccups in his stellar career as a sectarian showman, whose colourful messages of austerity are lapped up by his followers as gospel truth. In fact, the cult following that Dera Sacha Sauda chief has, vouches for the leader having a “healing touch”, curing medical ailments, having a paramilitia for “disaster relief”, helping in rehabilitation of women and sex workers, poor and needy. But in return, the bad and blind faith of uncritical repose in the Dera cult are expected in a spiritual and material bargain.

The round-the-clock coverage of the Dera chief’s rape trial, however, says something about India 2017. We are caught between parallel worlds, frankly. On the one hand, technology and superstition go hand in hand to create entities and phenomenon such as Gurmeet Ram Rahim, of course, aided by excellent PR. On the other, relentless and tireless struggle for civil rights, enshrining constitutional values and other indices of progressiveness are worked at, selflessly by many.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been convicted of rape, but would that impact his swarm of devotees who have parked themselves in makeshift tents and flocked to get a fleeting glimpse of their now guilty guru? Is the guilt under the eyes of law irrelevant to these bands of men and women held in sway by a bearded godman peddling purity and bad faith?

Do the devotees not see the contradiction between Ram Rahim’s message of simplicity and his own flashiness, his ostentatious display of ill-gotten wealth? Do the rape charges and now the conviction not bother them? The possible warzone that Haryana and Punjab have now become has been precipitated by incremental allowance given to merchants of madness such as Gurmeet Ram Rahim.

Though judiciary has held its fort, India’s cultural schizophrenia is once again out in the open.

Also read: Why Sikhs can't be exonerated for rise of Ram Rahims in and around Punjab

Writer

Angshukanta Chakraborty Angshukanta Chakraborty @angshukanta

Former assistant editor, DailyO

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