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Other rape tainted babas like Asaram you should know of

One can only assume that in the coming years, this number will only go up further.

 |  5-minute read |   25-04-2018
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Godmen in India come dime a dozen and they are all eerily similar. At least, most of them are. They have their own cults. They have massive financial and political capital. And one can be fairly certain that they are involved in something illegal, unethical and problematic. And more often than not, among the slew of illegal activities these godmen participate in, sexual exploitation, assault and rape make the cut.

The year 2017 saw the fall of the rapist-cum-godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan of Dera Sacha Sauda. Today, April 25, saw self-styled godman Asaram being sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2013 rape of a minor girl. For Asaram, this might just be the beginning. He has more cases filed against him — a rape case in Gujarat as well, where two Surat-based sisters have lodged separate complaints against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape and illegal confinement, among other charges. But for now, the country can heave a momentary sigh of relief that another phoney will most likely never see the light of day again.

But that relief is a short one when one takes a look at all the other self-styled godmen (or conmen) who are yet to be brought to justice. Some of them, of course, thanks to their clout and connections, will avoid their day in court.

1) The first one that fits the bill of will-probably-walk-scot-free is Swami Chinmayanand of Uttar Pradesh. This former Union minister and still-member of the Bharatiya Janata Party was accused of illegally confining and raping a woman at his ashram in Haridwar in 2011.

The victim also alleged that the former minister had threatened to kill her if she approached the police. Of course, the allegations were brushed off by the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in UP, when it recently decided to withdraw the rape and kidnapping case against the former minister.

2) But not all of them have managed to escape the long arms of law. Another godman waiting for his day in court in jail right now is Swami Kaushlendra Prapannachari, also known as Falahari Maharaj or Baba. The 70-year-old godman was arrested by Alwar police on September 21, 2017, for allegedly raping a 21-year-old law student from Chhattisgarh.

The woman in question is the daughter of the godman’s devotees, as they have been for over 15 years. According to her, she was assaulted by the baba at his lavish ashram in Alwar, Rajasthan on August 7, 2017. More recently, in April, 2018, the Rajasthan High Court dismissed the second bail plea of the rape accused baba.

3) Self-styled godman Nithyananda is yet another, waiting to be served justice. In 2010, Lenin Karuppan, a former disciple of the Swami, registered a complaint with Chennai police, accusing Nithyananda of raping a former female disciple in the garb of religious practice. A case under sections 295A, 420, 376, 377, 506(i) and 120B of the Indian Penal Code was registered against Nithyananda in 2010 by the Ramanagara police after the case was transferred to them.

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Sadly, in March 2018, the Karnataka high court stayed the proceedings against Nithyananda and his associates in the trial court till it hears a discharge petition filed by him. The court also directed the whistle-blower and the victim in the rape case that they can no longer “implead [sic] in the case and will only remain as witnesses”.

4) Narayan Sai, Asaram’s son, too is one of those glorious godmen accused of rape. Like father, like son, Sai too is behind bars right now. Sai was arrested in 2013 for allegedly raping a Surat-based woman disciple of his father between 2002 and 2005. The woman accused Sai of repeatedly sexually assaulting her when she lived at Asaram’s ashram in Surat.

5) Jails in India, at this point, have more high-profile babas inside than out. And one of the most famous ones in this list is Baba Parmanand of Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. This self-styled godman, who was arrested in 2016, allegedly sexually abused childless women on the pretext of curing their infertility. He even made videos of his acts and used them to blackmail the victims.

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6) Not to be confused with Baba Parmanand, Swami Premananda of Premananda Ashram in Tiruchirapally, Tamil Nadu, was accused of raping as many as 13 inmates and molesting two followers. He was also accused of murdering a disciple on the ashram premises in 1994. Unlike Parmanand, this one was sentenced to life by the Supreme Court in 2005. He, however, passed away in February 2011 owing to ill health, rendering the life imprisonment a little redundant.

The babas and their affinity for sex, rape and violence was somewhat explained by Mihir Srivastava who in his 2013 essay for the Open magazine noted that the rockstar godmen form only the top slice of an elaborate and many-tiered system, in which "yogis, maulvis, fakirs, gurus, swamis, pastors and priests who make mystical claims and hold devotees in awe… operate as sexual predators".

Srivastava noted that voyeurism, paraphilia and sexual gratification through elaborate rituals, paedophilia and rape become standard operating procedure for the godmen. In fact, much in the loose Indian esoteric tradition of tantra is coopted to exploit gullible women from families all too keen to believe in the guru, having developed a strong dependency and trust syndrome bordering on the irrational.

Many godmen have been accused of abuse. Some have been caught. Others have escaped persecution. Any casual observer would be able to tell that the high number of babas engaged in sexual assult is not a coincidence. It's a pattern. One can only assume that in the coming years, one will see this number go up further.

Also read: What support for rape convict Asaram says about our obsession with babas

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