Fraud men and blind faith

Kashmir Times. Dated: 9/2/2013 10:54:13 PM

Asaram’s case is a symptom of a deeper malaise; it needs justice for rape victim and also a concerted campaign against superstition

The horrifying shock of the Asaram incident goes beyond the sexual exploitation of young girls at the hands of self-styled godmen; the street protests and open defence by a major political formation in support of the man accused of rapes also painfully demonstrates the country’s renewed passion for superstition and blind faith. The self styled Godman’s meteoric rise in less than last two decades symbolises much that is ill with Indian society today. His unchallenged hate speeches, his hobnobbing with land mafia and influential circles for amassing wealth and properties is not entirely unknown though have been kept well under the garbs for a long time. The fishy incidents of mysterious deaths and sexual abuse made it to limelight for a short while some time ago before they were finally hushed up to pave way for the man’s unhindered success. Asaram, however, may not have been as lucky this time, now cooling heels in prison, though there is every possibility that with the kind of pressures and influence he has on his side, he might eventually pull it through and go back to his ways. His present bit of infamy stems from a complaint lodged by a devotee couple accusing him of raping their daughter. The testimonies of the couple mention the probability of sexual exploitation of young girls from the schools run by Asaram’s ashram as a routine affair. There are few such allegations that surface against him in the previous records but were hushed up at the very initial stages. So plainly, Asaram this time may have been plain unlucky having assaulted the wrong girl at the wrong time, whose family has decided to go full throttle against his doings, leading to his arrest, effected after much efforts and chase.
At the centre of this sexual exploitation racket lies a man who has become kind of cult figure among his followers from across the country and a patron saint for many powerful political elite, making his arrest difficult and even opposed. Ironically, many of those defending him have been strong votaries of capital punishment for the slum dwellers accused in the Delhi bus gang rape. Given the differing nationwide response to cases of rape, shaped by class and caste hierarchies, it has been evident for sometime that this new found awakening against the culture of rapes has little to do with gender concerns. The Asaram case goes a bit further, revealing the far uglier side of the country, where some rapes are sought to be strongly legitimised and the right of some privileged men to rape minor girls sought to be endorsed, manifesting the dangerous levels to which the increasing blind faith and superstition can lead this nation to.
The issue at stake is thus not simply justice for the girl and her family, left completely shattered and scarred by the rape incident. The issue is also about introspecting this increasing culture of phenomenal rise of self styled Gurus, their shady doings – from accumulation of wealth and their patronage of criminal elements within the powerful elite lobbies to their alleged involvement in murders and sexual exploitation. Why is it that a country that began shunning superstitions and blind faith post-independence has reverted back to these with a much greater gusto after the 80s, though signs of the trend had started to show during that decade itself? The improving lifestyles of the great Indian middle class and the elite, the increasing disparities, deprivations and frustrations in a backdrop of institutionalised culture of corruption had started becoming a congenial background for a disillusioned population to revert back to faith, unmindful of who lead them – not the knowledgeable philosophers and spiritually awakened men but ignorant self styled messiahs who used superstitions as an easy ploy, coupled with their oratory skills, to woo the gullible public.
In the face of such a downfall of societal fabric, the absence of statesmen like approach of political leadership, which either turned a blind eye to the trend or went with the flow, the success rate of such fraud men masquerading as Godmen was absolute. Their proximity with the powerfully elite classes including political bigwigs completely wiped out the scope of a policy to reverse the trend which started getting more and more popularised after the advent of the satellite channels. Gone were days of Doordarshan and those immemorable programmes that sought to argue against superstitions through scientific tempering and rational debates, gone were the days of men like Prof Yashpal appearing on television to tell the nation the scientific aspects of phenomenon like solar and lunar eclipses for creating awareness. What took over instead were a horde of television news channels repulsively glamourising the lives of self styled tantriks and black magic, and also a multiplication of channels preaching hate and superstition in the name of religion. This unchecked growth of such mediums propagating ignorance is what feeds into this blind faith that the nation finds itself steeped in today. It needs a statesman like approach to challenge the trend and bring out the masses from the morass of ignorance. Not only must the government be committed to deliver justice to those who suffered at the hands of Asaram and other such self styled Gurus. It must also come up with a policy to oppose such brazen propagation of ignorance and replace it with propagation of meaningful education and awareness instead.



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