The day court pronounced justice on juvenile accused in Nirbhaya case, another news was making headline. This one involved rape of another juvenile, this time 16 year old, by a popular saintly figure, Sant Asaram Bapu. When the news surfaced, supporters of Asaram bapu beat up television and news reporters outside his Ashram. Never mind, intense media pressure had forced police to arrest Asaram. I was bemused. Is there no difference between six individuals that raped Nirbhaya, and this so called Sant Asaram?
Growing up in the sixties and seventies, I was not particularly religious. Neither was my family. We would bow down before gods, do our silent prayers and move on. My mother taught me not to ask for material gifts from the lord. Instead pray for gift of conscience, blessing of education and generally pray to become a good human being.
As I grew older, I became familiar with Hindu belief that we are traveller through life. In this journey, key objective is to understand the purpose of our stay in this world. We can learn this as a house holder by doing our duties as per our dharma. We can also renounce the world and become a sannyasin, a monk in English. I also learnt that sannyasin can be a state of mind. One does not necessarily has to done a saffron robe and leave the society. One can withdraw his mind, remain in society, yet not be affected by her virtues and vices. Like a duck that floats on water, yet does not get wet.
Then came economic liberatisation. Everyone seized the opportunity to make money. Sannyasins were not different. Men of god became god men. Different babas emerged and started advising general masses on the virtues of god, virtues of goodness and virtues of Hinduism. These people bought slots on television for their discourse. Later, as they became richer, they created their own channels. Devotees would flock to their channels, to their ashramas to hear the god men speak.
One such god man was Asaram Bapu. Before becoming Asaram bapu, he was Asumal of Ajmer. He became a god man worth many hundred crores of rupees from a humble horse driven coach, tonga, driver and/or a tea seller outside magistrates office. Asumal was married, had son and a daughter from his wife. Asumal left society and went in search of his inner quest. In Vrindaban, Asaram found his guru, and Sant Asaram Bapu emerged. Some Sant he was, with properties, worth hundreds of crores, spanning in four hundred cities and towns all over India, including one in each in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Indore, Jodhpur among other places. Asaram Bapu, has suffered the ignominy of being charged with rape of a sixteen year old girl. Prior to that, few young boys, from different schools run by his trust, were found missing and later dead around his ashrama. Reports state that internal organs of some of the kids were missing. There also exists insinuation that Asaram Bapu was responsible for encroachment of government land in more than one state.
Sri Rama Krishan could not bear touch of money. He used to say “Taka Maati, Maati Taka”. Meaning there is no difference between money and dirt. Hinduism, nevertheless, does not discourage people to amass wealth. As long as one remains detached. Question your motive, is it for personal greed or for public benefit? Like a duck that swims in water but never wets her feathers, similarly one can acquire wealth without getting attached to it. Only Asaram Bapu can tell what was his reason to acquire so much property.
There is a possibility that, if not Asaram Bapu, some of his close associates may be practicing black magic. Missing organs from young boys may only point towards that direction. No charge, however, could be proven against Asaram Bapu.
Hinduism does not frown upon people seeking god while passing his journey through life as a householder. Many of our Vedic seers were married. More recently, Sri Rama Krishna was married to holy mother Sri Sarada Devi. Unlike Asaram, Sri Rama Krishna did not engage in physical relationship with mother. Sri Rama Krishna, however, frowned upon practice of Tantra. He considered Tantra to be akin to entering spiritual dimension through back door. However, there is no proof exists to suggest Asaram Bapu and his followers were engaged in the practice of Tantra.
I think Asaram crossed the rubicon when he mesmerized / seduced the 16 year old girl. Sexual association with young girl may suggest pure lust or practice of Tantric rituals. I think the last may be more plausible, because a Tantric worships mother goddess as wife. So sexual intercourse with a virgin may be a form of worship towards his spiritual quest. In the end, this may be the only charge that is likely to stick on Asaram Bapu, provided only witness, or her family, is not induced or initimidated to withdraw the case.
Obviously, Asaram Bapu has acquired power, spiritual or magical or otherwise. How else, he is be able to influence so many people, including the rich and powerful. Question is should Asaram be treated as a Sant, and considered above the law? Or Asaram should be treated like any other common Indian citizens, and subjected punishment if proven guilty. I think Asaram did not evolve in his spiritual quest. Unlike a research scholar who seeks the truth and takes his quest to a logical conclusion, Asaram dropped out. He was more enamored by trappings of wealth and power over people. In that sense, Asaram is no different from any ordinary Indians. So Asaram cannot be above rule of law of Indian state. He must be arrested, jailed, interrogated and put behind bars if prosecution can prove their case.