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  • Avika Shree

GURU DECEPTION: LEGAL CHALLENGES IN SPIRITUAL EXPLOITATION

Avika Shree 

Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi


This article is solely made for educational purpose and not to harm any personal or religious sentiment.

 

“I would rather see you people as staunch atheists than as superstitious fools. An atheist is alive; he can be of some use. But when superstition takes hold, the brain is almost dead.”

~Swami Vivekananda

It is said a guru is a person who leads to awakening of a person and direct people to their correct path but what if that guru turns out to be a conman? Do web series like Prakash Jha’s Aashram depict the harsh reality of people’s faith and belief or its just a well- woven fiction?

This article delves into the intricacies involved with the mindset of people who approach these spiritual gurus and how these conman use the lamenting of these people to their advantage to exploit naive and gullible devotees.

Both in Indian jails and throughout India, there is no shortage of godmen. A new selfproclaimed Messiah pops up every few weeks, and naive people flock to him or her to force their money and prayers into his or her hands. News about godmen like like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Asaram Bapu and their wicked deeds have taken over primetime television spots for the past ten years. And despite evidence emerging linking these gurus to crimes like rape, murder, tax evasion, and fraud, India's unhealthy fixation with these babas persists.[i] 

What are the possible reasons people approach Spiritual guru ?

We all have our share of ups and downs in life but sometimes it may happen that your nice good life just gets completely destroyed. The person in such cases gets completely shattered, helpless, desperate and then asks “why me?” Then the person approach to God and asks the same question. Most of the times, it’s a one way conversation where the person is just asking but does not receive a ‘reply’ as such which renders the Person even more desperate and helpless. All battered and lost he comes to visit gurus who promises to help them. This gives them hope, a ray of light amidst the dark clouds of hopelessness. Cherry on the cake is that the said Gurujis also deduces the root cause for the problem.Earlier the person was just not able to pin point as to just why all this was happening but now somebody has given him a reason and a goal to tackle. Next step is the solution that guruji advices and this gives the person relief along with hope.  A helpless person all shattered by fighting with life thus gets some support in the form of guruji. And if this guru turns out to be a conman then he invents creative ways to exploit and trap them into a vicious circle of false belief and hope.

It should be noted that these gurus not always create a religion of their own but sometimes showcases themselves as the ‘messengers’ of God, descended with a purpose to ‘help’ the children of his God. This purposeful act is not just limited to one religion or community, fraud knows no boundaries.  

No one can be against religious belief or other forms of worship, prayers, or rituals; yet, some babas use ‘magic’ or the name of Dharma to deceive people and amass wealth. It would be an understatement to assume that only illiterate or rural people get trapped into this sham-show but the appalling reality is that even the urban, literate and elite class often blindly follow these Godmen, although usually the initial target test audience are the marginalised people coming from lower strata of the society. Furthermore, when political officials begin to believe the questionable Babas as well, things get dangerous. In addition to seeking the godmen's blessings for electoral success, many politicians also contact them to determine the proper timing, or muhurat, for all significant official and private undertakings.[ii] 

1. Gurmeet Ram Rahim vs Central Bureau Of Investigation[iii] 

Beneath the guru's self-fabulism and the flock of 'millions'' delusions, there's a more nuanced narrative.

When Singh made his big screen debut as The Messenger of God in January 2015, it was intended to serve as a sobering warning to everyone who opposed him. The message was clear: it would be difficult to defeat him. He wasn't entirely off. After all, it sought fifteen years, more than two hundred court appearances, and the unwavering persistence of the two young sadhvis, one of whom was a minor, to initially accuse Singh of rape.

In the murder of his manager Ranjit Singh, Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh received a life sentence. On top of accusations concerning his involvement in the 2002 killings of journalist Chhatrapati and Ranjit Singh, the CBI has been looking into claims that Singh gave the order for 400 of his followers to be castrated against their will. Although Gurmeet Singh's dramatic ascent and fall from grace may seem particularly dramatic, his tale is intricately linked to a more significant and unsettling social phenomenon.

2.  Saint Shri Asharam Bapu vs State[iv] 

The 81-year-old self-described godman, who has hundreds of ashrams and a large following, is currently serving a life sentence in a Jodhpur jail for the 2013 rape of a young girl on the pretext of ridding her of evil spirits at his Motera ashram in Rajasthan. In the proceedings concerning the appropriate sentence, the prosecution presented evidence that Asaram Bapu was a ‘habitual offender’[v]. 

3.  Rampal Petitioner vs State of Haryana[vi] 

Prior to becoming a godman and founding Satlok Ashram, the ITI-trained engineer worked for the state irrigation department.

When police arrived to arrest the murder suspect in 2014, his followers built a human wall around the ashram and blocked all traffic on the roads and trains for more than a week.Between 2010 and 2014, he had disregarded 42 court summonses. Rampal's supporters stopped police from arresting him. To finally break through the wall, earthmovers were brought in. Inside his Hisar ashram, the bodies of five women and an eighteen-month-old infant were discovered.[vii] 

4.  Ichadhari Bhimanand baba

In 1988, Shreemurath Dwivedi (or Shiv Murti Dwivedi) began his career as a guard at a Delhi hotel before assuming the alias Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj Chitrakoot wale, popularly known as ‘Ichadhaari Baba’ among his followers.[viii] 

After promising several women a job worth Rs 30 lakh, the baba, who has come a long way in the last thirty years, was arrested. Contextually, godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim was found guilty of raping two female devotees by the Special CBI Court, and this is the same court that sentenced Icchadhari Baba to 20 years in prison. .He was arrested in 2010 for operating a high-profile sex racket in the national capital along with his accomplices near PVR cinema in Saket. In addition to this, the Enforcement Directorate slapped criminal charges on this ‘saint’ under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).[ix] 

CONCLUSION

The cases examined, which include court cases involving these self-proclaimed gurus, highlight how India's unhealthy obsession with these individuals persists in spite of proof of their illicit activity. Political officials' involvement adds another level of complexity, highlighting the possible risks associated with those in positions of authority endorsing dubious babas.

These are just a handful of con-artists whose cover blew up, the grim reality of our society is that it is full of swindlers like these who have mastered the art of escaping the law. It is not wrong to be a believer but wrong to be a blind follower who these scammers see as an open invitation to exploit as per their whims. This also raises the need to impart awareness among people regarding subjects like mental health, marriage, conceiving a baby, family planning, education, etc.

REFERENCES

[i] Why are Indians so Obsessed With Godmen? By Navin Noronha

[ii] Needed: Awareness of, protection from controversial babas by Alok Mehta

[iii] AIR 2018 Punjab & Haryana High Court

[iv] AIR 2013 Rajasthan High Court

[v] Asaram Bapu sentenced to life imprisonment by Gujarat court in 2013 rape case by Saeed Khan

[vi] AIR 2016 Punjab & Haryana High Court

[viii] Ibid 

[ix] Ichadhari Baba, Running High Profile Sex Racket in South Delhi, Gets Arrested by India.com News Desk

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