Modern Rasputins!

Dera Chief arrest & protest
Photo: Financial Express

On 25th August 2017 afternoon, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Panchkula, Haryana – delivered its verdict in a 2002 sexual assault case of two female disciples of Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS). The religious leader of the Dera – Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was convicted of rape. The aftermath of the judgement triggered massive rioting across North India in which around 38 people were killed, 300 injured and 500 arrested. Obviously the tremors of this incident could be felt a lot earlier. But it was the utter shameful and callous administration of the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar – that failed miserably to take sufficient precautionary measures to contain the rioting by the Dera followers and to safeguard the public.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is still facing serious other charges including murder and the allegations of imposing castration over the 400 Dera followers inside the ashram. The Dera chief, now in prison serving a 20 years sentence is still having an extensive network of followers across Harayana, Punjab and around the world. Over the years with music videos, social network and with few movies – this pompous god man successfully created a larger than life personality of himself and has a huge cult following. Both the major political parties the Congress and the BJP had forged alliances with the controversial leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which claims to have 60 million followers across the world. The political clout enjoyed by the god man would have without any doubt help him gain undue influence in the affairs of the state which can be seen from the unscrupulous steering of public resources and welfare schemes to favour the DSS. The Haryana sports minister Anil Vij has gone to the extent of announcing donation of Rs. 50 lakh from state funds to the Dera chief! Cruising across with his fleet of imported cars – the so called ‘rock star Baba’ was provisioned with Z+ security, the highest level of protection in the country. 

During 1990 Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh become the third leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect. By organising numerous large-scale cleanliness, sanitation, and blood donation drives, diabetes and cholesterol – healthcare campaigns etc., the Dera chief has earned himself the reputation of a social reformer amongst his followers. The Dera followers are mostly from the Dalit and backward class background. The Dalit communities particularly were attracted from the egalitarian teachings of the Dera which was in fact challenging the authority of the conservative traditions existing among the higher authorities of the Sikh faith and the caste divisions seen in practice among the Sikh communities. It’s largely with this base of oppressed people that the Dera chief was able to mobilise on a large scale to all the volunteering activities. The energy and the commitment of the youth who are otherwise disillusioned by the corrupt system was galvanised by the Dera. Through the faith based community centres, Dera had deep roots among the people from its early days – in terms of promoting egalitarian values etc. But like most religious cults, the undemocratic and unaccountable leadership with the added mystique surrounding the cult leader only ended up squandering the beliefs of millions and millions of people!

These modern day Rasputins like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Baba Ramdev, Swami Nithyananda etc., are having there own palaces and with their notorious networks have raised enormous wealth for themselves. But what these god men want from the governments and the prevailing political system is nothing but ‘impunity’ from the civil society over the ‘worldly crimes’ committed as a part of the so-called divine duty!! The god men – politicians – corporate nexus exposes the rottenness in this system and this must not be allowed to go on. The medieval attires, the bankrupt spiritual practices and the corporate levels of wealth accumulation of these modern gurus do find a fertile ground in the contradictions facing underdeveloped capitalist societies like India which constantly exploit people and destabilizing their lives. Insecure lives and large sections of people being disenchanted with the present system puts many people at risk of falling pray towards the likes of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The present political vacuum that exists amongst millions and millions of young minds must be oriented towards political ideas and alternatives such as socialism. By building popular movements, it is nevertheless possible to side line the Rasputins and god-men, and put the masses on the forefront of social progress and change. The political campaigners and activists must put forward a socialist alternative that will positively tap a lot of young spirited people to fight against poverty and want!

Sajith Attepuram