Fifty shades of godmen

 The Telegraph, 08.09.2013

Asaram Bapu's arrest on the charge of raping a minor girl is the latest in a series of sex scandals involving India's sadhus and godmen. V. Kumara Swamy and Sonia Sarkar on why gurus often get away with their sexcapades
Asaram Bapu has never shied away from talking about sex. There are YouTube videos that show him dispensing sex advice to his devotees. "Don't have sex during amavasya, purnima, Shivaratri or Holi. A child conceived on these days will be born handicapped," he warns. "Even if a child is not conceived, intercourse on this day will lead to impotence and the man could face several other problems," he adds helpfully. But lest his devotees should despair, he tells them that there is also a right time to do it. "If a child is conceived between 12.30 and 2.30 during the day, he or she will go on to become a very intelligent person." There's more. A booklet meant for his followers says that masturbation or homosexuality in men leads to wastage of energy, thus making them physically and mentally weak. Unfortunately, the man who gave out such "valuable" sex advice is now embroiled in an unsavoury sex case — arrested by the Jodhpur police for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl in his ashram. Of course, this isn't the first time criminal charges have been levelled at Asaram Bapu. In 2008, two young boys died in his ashram in Motera in Gujarat. But his trusted lieutenants say the charges against him are all fabricated.untitled "There has been a conspiracy to malign him for many years," says Asaram Bapu's media manager Sunil Wankhede. According to him, Asaram doesn't have any sexual desires as he is not a "common man". "He is a sant (saint). And saints don't have sexual desires," he asserts. Though gurus or godmen in India have huge followings and are usually considered holy and utterly blameless, allegations of sexual misconduct and depravity on their part crop up with regularity. Take Swami Nithyananda of the Dhyanapeeta Charitable Trust in Bidadi, near Bangalore. In 2010, local television channels aired footage that showed the swami in a compromising position with a Tamil actress. The same year, Aarthi Rao, a former follower of Swami Nithyananda, filed a complaint with the criminal investigation department, Bangalore, alleging sexual harassment by him. Nithyananda was arrested but freed in 53 days. The case is now before the court. "In India, godmen wield a lot of power over their devotees, which is a heady feeling. They have the money power and influence. So they begin to believe they can get away with anything," says Rao. Rao, an engineering graduate of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, and a software engineer, joined Swami Nithyananda's ashram and even changed her name to Ma Nithyananda Trineshwari Nayi.
  • SEX AND THE SWAMI: Asaram Bapu

    SEX AND THE SWAMI: Asaram Bapu

    • Nithyananda

      Illustration: Onkarnath Bhattacharya

She also signed a "non-disclosure agreement" that had a clause saying that the existence of such an agreement could not be revealed to anybody. It went on to state that the programme could involve tantric secrets associated with male and female ecstasy, nudity, access to visual images, graphic visual depictions, and descriptions of nudity and sexual activity. Followers being sworn to secrecy is a common practice of godmen. In 2006, Vikas Joshi alias Swami Vikasanand was arrested with more than 60 CDs full of sleaze material. An influential guru in the Jabalpur area, he was with three women, one of them a teenager, when he was picked up from a city hotel. "He had told the women who were close to him that any revelation of their sexual activities could have adverse consequences for their families or themselves," says a Madhya Pradesh police official who investigated the case. Called "Saahab" by his followers, Vikasanand used to give pravachans (sayings) and bless his devotees wearing Ray-Ban glasses. "He claimed that he had tantric powers to cure every human misery. And his devotees, many of them well-educated, believed that," recalls the official. Though most of his women followers refused to testify in court, Vikasanand was convicted by a Jabalpur fast track court in 2010 and is now in jail. In another case involving Delhi-based Shreemurath Dwivedi alias Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Maharaj Chitrakoot Wale, six women, including two airhostesses, were arrested for allegedly running a prostitution racket from his ashram.

So why do so many "godmen" get embroiled in sex scandals?

Experts say that it is the blind faith of their devotees that enables these "gurus" to influence them. "We Indians are great believers in miracles and feel that somebody can get us out of our miseries. This is the prime reason we fall for these godmen," says Prabir Ghosh, general secretary, Science and Rationalists' Association of India, Calcutta.

Sociologist Dipankar Gupta agrees that godmen prey upon the vulnerability of their followers, especially women. "Once the women are drawn in, it is easy for these godmen to force themselves upon them," he says. But he adds that sometimes, these sexual relationships are "consensual". Naturally, the devotees dismiss all such allegations. Wankhede, for one, claims that Asaram Bapu never had sexual desires even when he was young. He also insists that Asaram's ashram is absolutely safe for women. "Men and women don't even sit together here," he says. Then why did Asaram call the 15-year-old girl to his room? "Don't fathers meet their daughters?" he retorts. "To him, all younger women are his daughters and older women his mothers." Asaram's devotees are equally insistent that the guru has been falsely accused. Take Rukmini Devi, who has come all the way from Kurukshetra in Haryana to pick up ayurvedic medicines for her ailing husband from Asaram's sprawling ashram on Vande Mataram Marg in Delhi's ridge reserve forest. She says all allegations against her beloved "Bapuji" are baseless. "Bapuji has been trapped by his enemies who are jealous of his popularity," says Devi. Experts say, however, the belief that so-called godmen are above sexual impulses is totally false. "Their sexual desire is no less than that of an ordinary man," says andrologist Sudhakar Krishnamurti. Others say that so many incidents of rape or sexual assault by godmen happen because they deprive themselves of a natural sex life. "Since they don't engage in self-stimulation or masturbation, they are left with no alternative but to molest or rape women to satisfy their sexual urge," says Mumbai-based sexologist Prakash Kothari. Not only that, many godmen visit andrologists to deal with their sexual problems. Krishnamurti, who is also a member of the Sexual Health Committee, World Health Organization, says that the most common problem with godmen is erectile dysfunction. He also says that many come to him wanting to know how they can "perform better" with multiple partners. Kothari asserts that some of these godmen also take drugs to enhance their sexual prowess. "Many of them confess that they want drugs to be able to perform better at sex," he says. Shantum Seth, who had once accused a godman (who died a few years ago) of indulging in sexual misconduct, says that there is nothing wrong with them having a sexual urge, but that they should have a responsible sexual life. "Godmen should set an example by behaving responsibly as there are millions who follow them," Seth asserts. Some godmen get away with their unpleasant acts simply because they enjoy political clout. "With the support of politicians, these godmen get a space to play. That's the irony," says sociologist Gupta. It will be interesting to see if Asaram Bapu's case grinds on and fades into irrelevance. But one thing is certain, as long as these "holy" men enjoy the blind faith of thousands of followers, it will always be easy for them to indulge in unholy practices. Scandal sheet 2013, Sehore (MP) Mahendra Giri alias Tunnu Baba,65, arrested on charges of raping a 24-year-old woman. 2013, Jodhpur Asaram Bapu arrested on charges of rape. 2010, Delhi Shreemurath Dwivedi alias Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Maharaj Chitrakoot Wale arrested for running a prostitution racket from his ashram. 2010, Bangalore Swami Nithyananda arrested on charges of sexual abuse. 2009, Chennai Kanchipuram Devanathan of Machaesa Perumal temple accused of sexually exploiting devotees. Arrested. 2006, Jabalpur Vikas Joshi alias Swami Vikasanand arrested for sexual abuse of young girls and making obscene films. Serving jail sentence. 2005, Junagadh Priest of Swaminarayan temple Bhaktiswarup and three others arrested for role in alleged sex scandal. 1994, Tiruchirapalli Swami Premananda sentenced to life imprisonment for rape of 13 inmates of ashram and a murder.
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8 Responses to “Fifty shades of godmen”

  1. biplab das 12 September 2013 at 7:26 PM #

    “We Indians are great believers in miracles and feel that somebody can get us out of our miseries. – yes… this is the reason.

  2. Madhusudan Mahato 13 September 2013 at 1:47 PM #

    India is the country of Blind Faith. Unauthorised Sex is continued in the name of ” Tantra”(Religion}.

  3. santosh sharma 14 September 2013 at 1:19 PM #

    भूत- प्रेत हो या जादू- टोना , बाधा , गुप्त रोग , संतान प्राप्ति की समस्या से छूटकारा दिलाने का दावा करने वाले बाबाओं की कमी नहीं है। चाहे कोई भी बीमारी हो हर मर्ज का इलाज इन तथा कथित बाबाओं पास हैं। यहां तक कि वशीकरण मंत्र भी कुछ मिनटों में मिल जाएगा और हर बीमारी का रामबाण इलाज गंडे – ताबीज से करने वाले कथित तांत्रिक , बाबा , मौलवियों की मासिक कमाई लाखों रूपए है जबकि ज्यादातर कथित बाबा आठवीं पास भी नहीं होते। ऐसे बाबाओं का अवैध धंधा राज्य के ग्रामीण अंचलों में फल – फूल रहा है। पुलिस प्रशासन को स्थिति की जानकारी होने के बाद भी स्थिति ढाक के तीन पट ही है। ऐसे कथित बाबाओं के कारण हर रोज सैकड़ों लोग प्रत्यक्ष रूप से लूटे जा रहे हैं। अंध विश्वास का आलम यह है कि लोगों की कतार इनके यहां लगाती है।

    इस विषय पर जब तर्कशास्त्री यानि भारतीय विज्ञान व युक्तिवादी समिति के महासचिव प्रवीर घोष से बातचीत की गई तो उन्होंने इसका विरोध करते हुए कहा कि यह अंधविश्वास के सिवा और कुछ नहीं है। श्री घोष के अनुसार ड्रग्स एण्ड कॉस्मेटिक्स एक्ट , १९४० के तहत ‘ बाबाओं ‘ धंधा अवैध है। उपभोक्ताओं के स्वास्थ्य व मरीज के सुरक्षा हित के दृष्टिकोण से कानून दे दण्डनीय प्रावधानों को और सख्त कर इसे २००९ में लागू किया गया। ऐसे में कोई भी बीमारी से मुक्ति दिलाने के नाम पर दी गई ताबीज , कवच , पत्थर , जड़ी – बूटी आदि दवा के रूप में मान्य होगा। ऐसे में कथित ‘ दवा ‘ से मरीज स्वास्थ्य नहीं होता है या फिर उसकी मृत्यु होती है तो भारतीय दण्ड विधान की धारा ३२० के तहत सजा का प्रावधान है।

  4. asok kumar das 14 September 2013 at 8:08 PM #

    Sexual crimes of godmen is not a news. But arrest of such a criminal is surely a news. There are thousands of such criminals in our society and the sex hungry godmen are freely enjoying all meterial pleasures including sex. Let all such godmen be arrested and punished. People who are addicted to the godmen should be careful in future. When gods themselves are sexual criminals , how can be the godmen like Bapu be innocent? Such criminals are pious criminals.
    Asokdas Charbak

  5. Dr.Basavaraj Modi 29 November 2014 at 4:10 PM #

    We being in ‘computer age’ should not be carried away by conception of God or powers of Godmen. God as such can not exist in physical form & can not be confined to time & place. He is love, He is energy.He is light. He is cause for this world’s genesis,its sustenance & desturuction. So worshiping him in the form of idols is not ideal.It is to be noted that so far no body has ‘seen’
    him. Some people might have just experienced him.So self purification,love affection & compassion towards every living & non-living being will take us to experience the God.And naturally we need not go to so called Godmen,Babas for this.

  6. Breanne 26 September 2015 at 8:08 PM #

    trampshining: I do not think you should lump all men tohgeetr as rapists. As I have stated above, I have never engaged in such conduct; nor, I believe, have the vast majority of men. It can be and is used as a weapon of power and of war in some circumstances. The horrendous conduct of poorly trained and poorly disciplined toops in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and other war fronts reveals that rape is a deliberate military tactic, which is disgusting and to be completely condemned. In these theatres there are also cases of male upon male rape too. Please do not think that all men are rapists or potential rapists. That is to assume that all men are criminals or potential criminals, which is clearly not true either. It is the cowards and the bullies who abuse their powers and abuse others whether men or women, children or adults who need to be confronted. Overall, I have a fairly tolerant attitude towards occasional breaches of the law but one area I believe we should be intolerant towards is physical assault, particularly of a sexual nature. The offenders, in my honest opinion, should be jailed for life after conviction and never ever allowed out into normal society ever again. They are just too much of a risk to normal society.

  7. 11 November 2015 at 6:21 PM #

    That’s way more clever than I was expecting. Thanks!

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