Unravelling of 'sex addict' Ram Rahim Singh also exposes what's wrong with us

For three long decades we never questioned the man who spun an empire of piety, erotica, rackets and coercion from inside his Dera.

 |  It Could Happen to You  |  6-minute read |   11-09-2017
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"He had acted like a wild beast.” That’s what special CBI judge, Jagdeep Singh, said about Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on August 28. A bad simile for sure. Wild beasts have a code: they attack only if threatened or provoked, they don’t lie, steal, cheat, torture or exploit and they do not pretend to be benign. 

As more and more reports come out, it’s obvious now that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was much more dangerous than wild beasts: he abided by no moral codes, was a master of psychological manipulation, knew absolutely no bounds of fear and made his own rules to satisfy man’s most carnal instincts. 

Qaidi number 8647

As qaidi number 8647 in Rohtak's Sunaria jail, the “Love Charger” is showing withdrawal symptoms - depression, restlessness, irritability, confusion - of what doctors believe to be sex addiction. He has requested the jail authorities to allow Honeypreet, his adopted daughter and closest aide, to stay with him in the jail as his attendant. He insists that she was his physiotherapist.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has also been a regular user of stimulant drinks. Energy and sex tonics can cause intoxication, enhance mood and performance in the short-term, but chronic use tends to be associated with undesirable mental health effects: stress, anxiety, depression, nervousness, insomnia, fidgetiness, irritability, difficulties concentrating, even paranoia and delusion. He has a history of alcohol and (possibly) drug abuse, too.  

In the meantime, investigators at his Dera have found a Disneyland look-alike, comparable to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, with replicas of Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Kremlin, secret chambers and tunnels. But how does he explain the presence of unaccounted human skeletons, the unlicensed skin bank (needed primarily for burn victims), the huge stash of unlabelled medicines, pregnancy termination kits, the illegal explosives factory, tonnes of firecrackers, AK-47 magazine covers, luxury cars without number plate and  separate currencies? 

Hinduism alert

So, now, the apex body of Hindu saints, Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad has requested the government to bring in laws against self-styled cult leaders, possibly for the first time in the history of Hinduism. It has also listed up 14 “fake” gurus (which features Gurmeet along with Asaram, son Narayan Sai, Radhe Maa, Om baba, Nirmal Baba, Rampal et al) warning people to beware “of such charlatans who belong to no tradition and by their questionable acts, bring disrepute to sadhus and sanyasis".

India does not have specific laws to deal with spiritual cheats. The Indian Penal Code has sections on general crimes of cheating (for instance sections 415, 417, 419, 420, 508). But they are more to do with property and contracts. Punishments under most of those are not more than a year. It’s hard to approach spiritual cheating with these laws: followers never get into a contract with a guru. Moreover, a lot of devotees lavish wealth on a guru on their own, or listen to their words unquestioningly. How would one prove that the guru cheated? Unless the guru commits rape, murder or some such heinous crimes, it is very difficult to nab gurus in the courts of law. 

dera_091117081315.jpgAs qaidi number 8647 in Rohtak's Sunaria jail, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is showing withdrawal symptoms - depression, restlessness, irritability, confusion. 

In 2012, justice Kailash Gambhir of Delhi High Court had commented on the difficulty of bringing fraud gurus to justice: “The whole edifice of this God market and its nuances is based on the belief system of people. This court cannot help but sound a word of caution that this sudden resurgence of the babas, who claim to have mystical powers and give all kind of illogical solutions to overcome the miseries of people… has turned the clock back of development in our country.” 

Planning all along

It’s also evident that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was planning to secure wider recognition and respectability for the past 15 years - possibly, to escape incarceration.

Every time, he committed some heinous crime, he got into "social work". In 2000, there were whispers of forced castration of 400 of his followers. By 2001, Gurmeet set up special disaster-relief and welfare teams, working in Odisha cyclone and the Gujarat earthquake. If in 2002, he was accused of rape and murders of a journalist and a Dera manager, by 2003 he set a Guinness World Record for holding the largest blood donation camp ever. This is the pattern that kept repeating.

So much so that his lawyer could produce a booklet in the CBI court in Panchkula, making a case that he should be let off because he worked for the “welfare of society”: 133 social work projects - the maximum in Haryana - which the government had failed to do: from tree plantation, hospitals, educational institutes, drug de-addiction centres to inspiring followers to marry sex workers. There was yet another submission of the awards and recognition he had received for his “social work” and even a doctorate. Thankfully, the judge saw through all that. 

Our fault

It’s our fault, really. India has been laughing at him all these years: for his flashy buffoonery, his vulgar show of wealth, his frantic effort to proclaim his godliness and his terrible, terrible songs and films. We found everything about him so grotesque that he became an instant delight. 

Of course, there was always an undercurrent of silent worry: how come so many people call such an idiotic man a god-cum-guru? Is he really that stupid? How has he made so much wealth? But we just chose to ignore the danger signs. 

In the past one month, we have blamed Punjab’s violent Dera culture, talked about discrimination within Sikhism, condemned cynical politicians from every party who used Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s resources to win elections, called India “a failed state”. 

But for three long decades we never questioned the man who spun an empire of piety, erotica, rackets and coercion from inside his Dera, enriching himself and his mob partners with absolute guile and ruthlessness. 

Where were all the lawyers who file public interest litigations at the drop of a hat? Nobody came forward. 

Sociologist Benjamin Zablocki of Rutgers University, who has worked extensively on religious cults and sects, pointed out that cults always run the risk of becoming abusive to members, because the adulation of members corrupt their charismatic leaders “with the power they seek and are accorded”, often resulting in "social harm and the undermining of democratic values".

India has just witnessed one such moment, when a sex-obsessed, self-indulgent man made fun of everyone for far too long.

Also read: Ram Rahim Singh is a sex addict and other things we got to know since his arrest


Damayanti Datta Damayanti Datta @dattadamayanti

The writer is Executive Editor, India Today.

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