The conviction of self-styled godman Asaram “Bapu’ in the rape of a minor girl in Rajasthan brings the curtains down in one sordid episode involving the religious leader. He will obviously appeal to the higher courts for relief and we have to see what the outcome will be.
For now, he is a convict in a heinous crime. His conviction has demonstrated, at a time when the judiciary itself has been embroiled in a controversy, that the law of the land is above every one — however influential, high and mighty. Asaram’s travails are not over yet; he faces another trial for rape in a court in Ahmedabad, in which his son is a co-accused.
Asaram’s conviction has lessons for millions of people in the country who tend to blindly put their faith in godmen of all sorts. He is not the only in having duped people; the powerful Dera Sacha Sauda chief too was convicted recently. The common thread running through such cases is the enormous amount of political influence these godmen had gathered over the decades, which they exploited when in trouble.
That said, it is wrong to see the issue through the religious prism, though these godmen misused religion to further their nefarious causes. Those like Asaram should not be considered as representatives of the religion they promoted but as exploiters of that religion. It is also not fair to target a specific religion by saying it allowed leeway for such godmen to flourish. Sexual predators come from all religious faith. Only recently, a 11-year old girl has given a statement before a magistrate in Ghaziabad that she had been raped by a Muslim cleric. There have also been incidents of Christian priests allegedly involved in such horrible acts. The Church across the world has been tainted by charges of sodomy levelled against very senior clerics.
The bottom line is: Various religious leaders, based on the trust and blind faith they enjoy among the masses, have gone astray and need to be locked up. The larger question is: How is it that these religious heads, who have gone through the tough process of religious initiation, succumb to such crimes? There could not have been something wrong with the initiation process itself, because that very process has also produced some sterling religious and spiritual gurus.
The fault lies with the individuals who apparently had a sick mindset and who saw in the initiation a means to employ their dubious designs on the unsuspecting public. Meanwhile, it appears that in public imagination, pop gurus have replaced the genuine ones who cared little for personal comforts and material wealth and made it their lives’ mission to spread the word of god and goodness among society.