Self-styled Godmen

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Sep 2017 11:24:55


 

“India has a long tradition of self-styled spiritual and religious gurus duping people in the name of guidance and spiritual uplift. From Chandraswamy to Ram Rahim, all have been embroiled in controversies, yet people continue to flock to such godmen.”


“How do the self-styled godmen like Baba Ram Rahim thrive so rampantly in India? First, India is a land of spiritualism and religion. Spiritualism, real or perceived, attracts people and religion guides our actions and beliefs. These self-proclaimed gurus cash in on this weakness of the people.”

THE recent mayhem, arson and deaths on the streets of an otherwise quiet and peaceful town of Panchkula in Haryana following the rape conviction of a Baba not only point towards administrative lapses but more dangerously, raise concerns about rising mob fury in the country and India’s continued fad for self-styled godmen and babas.


India has a long tradition of these self-styled spiritual and religious gurus duping people in the name of guidance and spiritual uplift. From Chandraswamy to Ram Rahim, all have been embroiled in crimes and controversies, yet people continue to flock to such godmen.


These godmen have such an overpowering influence on their followers that no charge of a felony is admitted and any effort at exposing the misdeeds of these babas is greeted with derision or violence, including murders. The ire and vitriol that rent the air during earlier self-styled godmen’s conviction and arrest et al are well known. Ram Rahim being a more flamboyant and modern baba, the followers and their reactions had to be different.


But the purpose and direction are same— i.e to uphold the baba concerned as an epitome of righteousness who has been wrongly implicated and takes to the streets to protest any such move to malign to arraign the baba. The issue can be separated into three compartments as there are three operatives in play— one is the godman, other is the mob while the third is the administration.


Now, how do the self-styled godmen like Baba Ram Rahim thrive so rampantly in India? First, India is a land of spiritualism and religion. Spiritualism, real or perceived, attracts people and religion guides our actions and beliefs. These self-proclaimed gurus cash in on this weakness of the people.


They often use religion and spiritualism as garbs to hide their mischievous intentions and in the process makes a lot of money and garners political patronage for a happy and secure life.


One such self-styled godman learn some tricks of the trade, influences people, (mostly lower middle class and middle class people who are not always that worldly wise and feel fettered and frustrated with life’s daily chores) with nice peppy talks, blinds them with his show, glitter and heft and cows them down to subjugation and servility in blind devotion in exchange for things like spiritual guidance and blessings.


Once political influence starts mingling with the already established social clout and reputation of the baba, things become more complex and convoluted and the baba then enjoys indisputable power because he is immune from both sides. Neither will people go against him nor will the administration or police do anything to destabilise his position or situation.


Thus these self-styled godmen ‘babas’ continue to rule the roost. Once this status quo is disturbed, things go haywire. The babas are ready to unleash mayhem to maintain their royal lifestyle. Who wants to lose such luxury?
This is one side of the story. Then comes the mob mentality, which also is detrimental to civilisation and social health. Is the Indian mob getting more impatient and intolerant? If we go by recent instances of heightened mob activity, we may be led to believe so.


Perhaps with better mobile telephony, internet communication and roads and transport, leading to instant connect and rapid mobilisation, mobs are getting united easily and giving shape to more planned and orchestrated attacks, which was earlier not so evident.
There is a growing class of a furious and violent section of youth who dare to take law in their hands and go to any extent to assert their ideological position. They are more aggressive, perhaps more misguided because of an easy spread of misinformation through social media and bolder today.
The mob in itself is a rowdy concept because a mob doesn’t behave logically— its guiding principles are passion and intense emotional outbursts. It is always difficult to predict mob behaviour in particular situations and to what extent it can go berserk.
The police have limited powers and are supposed to tackle such situations with tact and patience because the first purpose is to tame violence and any drastic or stringent move can turn the situation more aggressive and volatile. This is what often encourages the mob. Here comes the role of the administration.
It too is a precarious situation. If the administration goes all out to stem violence, it is blamed of suppression and dictatorship. If it allows some leniency, it is blamed for lapses and laxity. However, having said that we have to accept that the ultimate blame has to fall on the one who is responsible for law and order and administration of the state. It is true that mob control is a tough job and things can always go out of hand if the mob is not disciplined or decent.
The only way for an able and efficient administration is to envision the possible developments and outcomes of certain situations and prepare accordingly. Prevention is always better than cure.
In India, the police are not specifically adept in mob handling and we have so often come across the situation where they have miserably failed in controlling crowd. Such efforts often end up in shootings and deaths.
The Government in Haryana needed to take some precautionary and preventive measures, sensing the possible chances of violence by Ram Rahim’s followers, which it could not predict and hence led the situation go out of control.
But in all the unfortunate series of incidents, the biggest winner is the court, whose role is being appreciated for not only bringing to book a profane baba but also for another reason. It has asked Dera to pay up for the losses to Government property accrued due to the vandalism unleashed by it. This is a landmark judgement and something which can work as a deterrent for future mob actions.
By the way, the assets of Dera are to be seized to compensate the losses caused to public assets by Dera’s followers. This is a very logical move and should serve as a template for all such future incidents, should they happen.
Such a rule should have already been in place for long. However, better late than never as it is, we expect when the wrongdoers have to end up paying huge sums for their actions, they will at least think twice before giving a free run to
their emotions.