From Asaram to Radhe Maa: Five reasons why godmen thrive
You can call them godmen, self-styled gurus or new-age babas but a majority of them are nothing but scheming fraudsters.
In the last few years, several of them – Asaram Babu, Nirmal Baba, Rampal, Ram Rahim Singh – have faced serious charges ranging from sexual exploitation of women to financial fraud.
Two more names were added to the ignominious gallery in the past week: Sarathi Baba and Radhe Maa.
On August 4, a news channel in Odisha aired a report that alleged Sarathi Baba went to Hyderabad by air with a young woman in the first week of July and spent time in a five-star hotel there. The channel beamed images of the 48-year-old baba in the hotel clad in jeans, T-shirt and sunglasses.
Like his illustrious counterparts, Sarathi Baba, who is based in Kendrapara in Odisha, too has built an empire.
The same week, godwoman Radhe Maa was seen clad in a red miniskirt with a cap and high-knee boots, a la Madonna, in photos posted on social media. This was after she was accused by a woman in Mumbai of inciting her husband and his parents to demand dowry from her.
If you ask me, there is nothing wrong for the gurus to dress the way they like but their secretive ways only shows their duplicity.
Obviously, these un-sadhu ways did not go down well with their followers, who want their “spiritual” leaders to maintain a certain “standard” that matches the wares they promise to deliver.
Here are five reasons why godmen and gurus thrive:
* While the earlier generation of gurus wanted their followers to be spiritual, the contemporary godmen says it’s possible, even desirable, to be both spiritually and materially rich. “This fits in well with contemporary ideas of well-being,” explained Sanjay Srivastava, professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
* Political patronage. Instead of keeping a close watch on them from their initial rise, politicians and bureaucrats allow them to build empires and indulge in criminal activities. And then when something major happens, all hell breaks loose.
* Our society is rapidly changing and so are our aspirations. Many of these aspirations go unrealised and breed insecurities. “These insecurities make people especially vulnerable to godmen. People get superstitious when they believe their good fortune is not because of what they deserve but is a stroke of luck and those things could go wrong. That’s why speculators, contractors, builders, even cricketers have become very prone to this kind of stuff,” sociologist Dipankar Gupta told Hindustan Times.
* Media support. Thanks to television, these people have extended their reach; from local, they have now gone pan-India. This extended reach has helped the commercial arm of their religious businesses.
* Last but not the least, they thrive because they are a convenient cross between a (self-styled) shrink and a (self-styled) spiritual leader.