The conviction of Ram Rahim and the judgement to put him behind bars should ideally be welcomed by all sections of Society. But what cause worry are the incidents of violence which took place in support of Ram Rahim when he was convicted of the crime.
These do raise questions as to whether Society finds it acceptable if crime is undertaken by a so called Godmen. Crime related incidents involving Godmen are nothing new in the country. Godmen of all varieties have at some or the other stages have been caught in acts of crime. Sant Rampal of Satlok Ashram has cases related to assault, rioting and murder. Asaram has been charged with allegations of rape and the court case continues. Nityananda has allegations of rape, criminal intimidation and cheating made against him. Bimanand was arrested for running a sex racket in his ashram. Vikasanand was arrested for sexually abusing minor girls and making pornographic films. Premananda was put through two consecutive life sentences for involvement in rape of minor girls. Amrita Chaitanya was accused of cheating, raping and producing pornographic films. Sadachari was caught running an underground brothel. Yet despite the long list of evidence, Godmen only keep continue to thrive and only grow.
The violence following Ram Rahim’s conviction, while on the one hand shows the intolerance towards the judgement implicating the self-styled godmen, on the other hand shows the tolerance to accept a crime committed by him. It seems to show a deeper social psyche of having godmen who need to be venerated, glorified and worshipped but never questioned. Godmen accordingly can never be wrong. Even if they do an act of crime, blind faith only leads to the belief that they are only acts of ‘Ashirvaad’.
The superhuman association to Godmen with features which are extraordinary and beyond the understanding of human mind goes on to create such figures. Can the thesis of rationalism provide full explanation to the phenomenon of Godmen? Can rationalism by itself prevent and address the growing phenomenon of Godmen?
Godmen seems to be society’s shortcut to find immediate relief and solution to day to day challenges and problems. An association with a religious cult, an ashram, godmen seems to provide a temporary relief. While it does liberate the human mind by taking it away from the current pressures and challenges of the real world and create illusions of relief from the same, it never liberates from the real day to day life and social issues. A feeling of other-worldliness which is away from the real world creates this temporary sense of relief. A sense of hope also gets created. While a feeling from hopelessness to hope creates temporary relief to the human mind, it is in reality not real. Hence it acts like alcohol or a drug intoxicating and slowing down the brain temporarily and creating a sense of calmness and feeling of a sense of other-worldliness.
While rationalism and scientific temper can be a means which can prevent people from joining or coming away from such religious cults, does non-redressal of the deeper social problems arising from economic structures really prevent emergence of such religious cults.
The Scandinavian countries namely Denmark and Sweden continue to be the least religious. They are also known to be countries where life expectancy, child welfare, literacy, schooling, economic equality and standard of living continue to be among the top. On the other hand, aren’t the countries with largest concentrations of wealth, but with deeper social problems yet in need of such Godmen? Isn’t it a Mahesh Yogi becomes a needed figure in countries with large concentration of wealth such as US? Isn’t the Godmen wanted equally in a wealthier but unequal society in the same way as in a poor society? Doesn’t the shift towards a more just society undo a need for having Godmen at all? Doesn’t a movement towards a more egalitarian and just society by itself create a movement towards rationalism?
A system driven by the need for perpetuation of interests of the elite, the political, economic and religious come together and form an unholy nexus. Nexus between political and religious elite is well known. Political Parties have an inherent interest in perpetuating Godmen in Society. They patronize the same from time to time. The Prime Minister praising Dera Sacha Sauda chief with the motive of his influence over follower’s positively effecting electoral results for BJP is known. Similarly, leaders of all political parties Congress, SAD-BJP and AAP visiting Ashram to seek blessings from Ram Rahim are true. Instances of Indian Prime Ministers, Presidents, Ministers, Supreme and High Court Judges falling at the feet of Sathya Sai Baba and benefiting from the same are well known.
Any attempt in eradicating issues of superstition and blind faith and exploitation of people by the Godmen, needs to expose the unholy alliance that has come to be formed between the elite – economic, political, bureaucratic and how each of them perpetuate and support each other. Prevalence, existence and acceptance of Godmen only point that there is a deeper problem confronting society, which is caught in between the need for movement from illusionary liberated mind to a really liberated society based on idea of justice which creates actual conditions for liberation of human mind.
T. Navin is a writer and works with an NGO as a Researcher.