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Mainstream, VOL LV No 41 New Delhi September 30, 2017

Ugly Side of God Men

Friday 29 September 2017, by Kuldip Nayar

Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim was a Bhindran-wale in the making. He, too, saw to it that nobody dared him. But he turned out to be a paper tiger. When CBI court judge Jagdeep Singh pronounced his verdict, the Baba wept openly in the court and implored him not to give severe punishment. His followers, too, were reportedly surprised over the manner in which the Baba capsized.

But there is no doubting about the Baba’s vast following. It did not bother that he was being punished for raping two sadhvis, who were his followers at the Dera. It shows how ignorant and gullible can the followers be as they always looked up to him for leadership and guidance blindly! Bhindranwale, too, had become so powerful because of the vast following and the government turned a blind eye towards whatever he did.

Now that the verdict is out with the quantum of punishment pronounced on rape cases, there is a likelihood of more skeletons tumbling out of the Dera cupboards. The CBI court is already hearing murder charges against the Baba and it will be sooner than later that the court will give its verdict on them, too. There are other cases of castration of male followers in the Dera which are being pursued. All these clearly indicate the mindset of the Baba and the connivance of the authorities.

There are some similarities between Bhindra-wale and Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim. If the former was the creation of the Congress party, the latter has had the support of a plethora of parties in the State of Haryana, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Baba may not be a militant like Bhindranwale, but his motivation was very clear as he used political benevolence to further his own interests. Otherwise, he could not have amassed huge wealth and built as many as 132 deras around the world, including in the UK and the US.

The Akalis were gaining the upper hand and slowly eroding the base of the Congress in Punjab after the Akali-Janata Party Government came to power in 1977. That was when the Congress under Sanjay Gandhi and Zail Singh selected and supported Bhindranwale to take on the Akalis. He became so powerful that by the time Indira Gandhi realised that a Frankenstein had been created and it was time for him to go, nothing less than the Indian Army would do to flush him out of the Akal Takht inside the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. Before using the tanks the Army sought the permission of Mrs Gandhi and woke her up at midnight. Mrs Gandhi ended up committing a costly mistake by sending in the Army into the sanctum sanctorum in June 1984. Bhindranwale was killed but the anger over ‘Operation Bluestar’ cost Mrs Gandhi her life four months later.

Similarly, Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim was encouraged by the leaders of the BJP because it suited the party’s vote-bank politics. The Baba endorsed the BJP in both the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the Haryana Assembly elections in the same year. He also supported the saffron party in Punjab against Captain Amarinder Singh’s Congress but that was not good enough to make it win. There are rumours that the entire Manohar Lal Khatter’s Cabinet, minus the Chief Minister, visited Baba’s Dera Sachcha Souda in Sirsa after the swearing-in ceremony to pay obeisance to him.

But it is not as if the other parties are not complicit. In 2009, the Dera chief extended his support to the Congress which was his return gift for the Z plus security cover the UPA provided to him in 2007. It was palpable how the Baba had become so powerful that the state went weak in its knees when challenged by his private army. That the State of Haryana deliberately bungled in imposing Section 144 before the verdict, and thus sent a cold invitation to the murderers, asking them to take over.

Apparently, there were intelligence reports before the verdict and both the states of Punjab and Haryana, including the Chandigarh adminis-tration, were warned of the trouble brewing as the Dera followers were gathering in Panchkula and preparing themselves for the show of strength if the verdict went against the Baba. Punjab, however, did safeguard its interests taking all necessary measures while Haryana, despite assuring that they were well prepared to meet any situation, failed to stop the followers from the public destroying property and killing people. Only after the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order did the Haryana Government wake up and make preparations to stall any further damage.

When history repeats itself, it is basically mocking at our system of not learning any lessons. Who will account for the loss of 30 lives and damage to public property? But the BJP leadership has not done anything to touch Chief Minister Khattar because of the backing he has from the RSS. But then the problem in India is how to curb the god men and stop the government from supporting them? Maybe, they provide the vote-bank but they do an irreparable damage to the polity.

Democracy demands a direct contact between the voter and the party. The Babas come in the way and try to become a parallel authority. When the ballot box is stalled by another force, democracy gets weakened. Therefore the god men have no place in a system which runs with the consent of the people. They are only like the mahants in temples. The more they are allowed to have a say, the less would the expressions be free. Religion is a private affair. There are no problems with the Asarams, Nithyanandas and Ram Rahims as long as they pursue and preach spiritual thoughts. The problem arises when they indulge in fraudulent and illegal activity, going to the extent of committing rapes and murders. What gives the whole thing an ugly shape is the support of the political parties for their own gains.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com

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