ANAND TELTUMBDE | 30 AUGUST, 2017
NEW DELHI: That self-styled godman, the messenger of God, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, is now in jail hopefully for 20 years.
His followers who unleashed mayhem on August 25, after he was pronounced guilty of rape, burning Panchkula and devouring 36 lives have retreated to their homes.
His Dera Sacha Sauda, until the previous day was such a happening place, now wears a desolate look with uncertain future. His incarceration has emboldened people to come out and tell the tales of horror that they witnessed but never spoken about for fear of their life. Yes, they now say that anyone falling from grace of this baba would be simply done to death.
At least, a few hundred were allegedly killed in the dera at Singh’s orders. Rapes, they say were common, 90 per cent of 300 odd sadhvis in the dera having suffered it repeatedly. The judge of the CBI court, Jagdeep Singh is rightly commended by one and all for remaining unfazed by over 200,000 Singh-followers who had gathered at Panchkula. India thus could flaunt a feather in her cap about the rule of law, and that no one, howsoever, powerful he/she may be can escape the clutches of law. All has ended so well.
But to think a little the other way around. Does putting this monster into jail for 20 years cure the trauma his victims suffered? And they were not only those two who came out and stood their stead through the 15 year long gruelling trial.
Does it bring back the many who were murdered without any trace by this criminal fraudster? It is said that he has castrated hundreds of youth and made them impotent so as to bind them to his dera as slaves. Will they get their lost selves back?
Will those 36 people who lost their lives because of him in the recent violence come back? The punishment in law just serves as a deterrent and never as reparation of the loss the victims suffer. Moreover, the criminal justice system is blind to the root cause of the crime. It is supposed to rely on evidence and in effect on just the apparent cause, not the real cause that engenders it and sustains it.
Take for instance the much discussed criminal conduct of the state machinery in Haryana in allowing thousands of the dera followers to collect in Panchkula. It did not require intelligence to recognise that the numbers could cause trouble, irrespective of the nature of the judgement.
It was not negligence and hence innocent, it was clear complicity with the rapist, an actual assurance to him that the BJP government was with him. There was a huge deployment of police and security personnel to create a scene in favour of a petty rapist. Whatever happened was just the natural fall out.
For 3-4 days it was a veritable tamasha that stunned the country with this naked impunity of the Haryana government but also the central government. For, even the latter watched and contributed by cancelling trains, planes, etc. It was all meant to faze the judge when they failed to manage the withdrawal of the case as promised to Singh.
When the upright judge pronounced him guilty of the rapes, mayhem broke out. The police became bystanders, and only when it became clear that the inaction would boomerang that the cops were permitted to act. But by then the damage was done; public property worth crores of rupees was destroyed, over 270 people were injured and as many as 36 people had lost their lives.
Who but the Harayana government duly supported by central government was directly responsible for this? Can CM Khattar and PM Modi not be tried for this abominable crime—the mayhem, murders, and the worst, breach of public trust?
Despite the scathing criticism of the Punjab and Haryana High Court of the Chief Minister and even the Prime Minister, they ignored the countrywide public outrage over their shameful conduct, they did not feel the need to salvage the situation and haughtily kept claiming that the government had acted prudently.
As a matter of fact, it was clear that it was entirely a government-prompted show. After everything was done and anybody could imagine that nothing would happen thereafter another act of drama in impunity was enacted. A normal alert and imposition of Section 144 could have been good enough but the government dramatized it with huge mobilization of the police and the Army in and around Panchkula, Sirsa, Rohtak and many other places as preparation for pronouncement of sentence on Monday. It, of course, patted its back for controlling the situation. Crores of rupees were thus wasted over a rapist’s trial.
There is no institution to judge such impropriety of governments and hold them accountable for blatant waste of public resources. Kudos to the judiciary in this entire episode, the CBI judge and the high court of Haryana and Punjab, who did their duty, as an example for others. They deserve salute of this country for reassuring that all is indeed not over. The recent conduct of judiciary (privacy judgement) has really restored the dwindling confidence of people in that institution.
The larger question is not to be forgotten, which is what and who creates and promotes these godmen at the first place. When the directive principles of state policy in the Constitution mandate the governments to promote rational and scientific outlook in people, how are these babas allowed to build their empires?
Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s case is no exception; before him there were scores of them: Asaram (rapes and murders), Rampal (rapes and murders), Nithyananda Swami (caught in a sex romp with an actress), Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal (arrested on charge of murdering a temple manager, Sankararaman), Swami Premananda of Tiruchirapally ashram, Swami Sadachari (in jail for running a brothel), Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj of Chitrakoot (jailed for running a prostitution racket), Gnyanachaitanya (spent 14 years in jail for committing three murders), just to list relatively the more infamous ones. Making it apparent that all these fraudsters are seasonsed criminals. And their grip over their empire is so tight, and ties with the powers so strong that it is very rarely that something leaks to the outside world, and is pursued to the logical end. As in the current case where the rapist has been found guilty and jailed.
At the root of this menace of godmen (and godwomen) lies the genre of politics in the country. These people serve multiple interests of politicians. They consolidate vote blocks, they act as laundry for their black money, they blind people from seeing the reality, they provide a makeover for criminal acts of politicians, and so on.
Therefore, all politicians except perhaps for the Communist parties, are seen hobnobbing with these godmen and godwomen, that in turn boosts their market. All the prominent babas are patronized by politicians especially the top ones.
While all parties are involved in this game, the BJP has an ideological affinity with them because they are taken as the ambassadors of their hindu culture. Asaram who is cooling his heels in a Rajasthan jail since August 2013 for the charge of raping a 16 year school girl early that year was a favourite of the Gujarat BJP politicians who today control the country’s political establishment.
Sri Sri Ravishankar’s exploits in the World Cultural Festival last year are fresh in memory. While the National Green Tribunal (NGT) was against the idea of holding this gigantic festival on the Yamuna floodplains in New Delhi, it was allowed because PM Narendra Modi was to attend its inaugural ceremony. The expert panel estimated the cost of damage to the floodplains at Rs 42 crores and time required at 10 years, which the godman dismissed and had the temerity to counter charge the government and NGT for causing it.
In the dera episode, despite the trial of Gurmeet Ram Rahim for as serious a charge as rape of teenage girls, PM Modi and all BJP politicians had visited him and paid their respect. As per his adopted daughter Honeypreet Kaur, he felt cheated because during the last elections the BJP had promised him that the case would be managed.
The BJP not only supports these babas, but also has all sadhus and sadhvis as its MPs, MLAs, ministers and even chief minister. One of them, Sakshi Maharaj, an MP, brazenly defended the rapist Singh and blamed the judge for the mayhem in Panchkula on August 25.
Baba Ramdev, who doubles as the head of the FMCG behemoth Patanjali Ayurved, a Rs 10,561 crores company, came out in defence of the baba community. Ramdev himself is the biggest beneficiary of the BJP’s scandalous support to his controversial venture. Babas remain saintly souls only until skeletons begin to tumble out of their chests.
If we dig still deeper, we may find our brand of secularism and the election system, to be at its root. The post-colonial rulers shrewdly avoided secularism –the firewall between religion and politics--in the Constitution and adopted this weird dharmanirapekshata (State treating all religions equally), which by default inevitably meant capitulating to the majority religion, which is what the State has been doing.
Contrary to the impression that Indian Constitution is secular, there is no such word in the Constitution, except for the Preamble in which it was inserted during the Emergency. In any case, Preamble is the vision of the Constitution and not its operative part.
If real secularism had been adopted then, the rise of the communal forces would not have been possible. Another instrument is the adoption of the first-past-the-post type of election system, arguably the most unsuitable system for a country like India, a cauldron of deep drawn identities based on castes, religions, races, ethnicities, languages, etc. intersecting each other.
It is a system that guarantees perpetuation of class rule. The menace of the so called ‘vote bank’ politics that political parties accuse each other of, is verily due to it. There was an alternative in the form of proportional representation system (PR system), that could be customized to suit our specific requirement. But it is scarcely even spoken abou, even after we experience the monumental failure of Indian democracy.
Are we going to deal with the disease or just treat the symptoms?
(Anand Teltumbde is a writer, political analyst and civil rights activist with CPDR, Maharashtra)