New Delhi: Another year, another godman found guilty and convicted. Self-styled godman Asaram was on Wednesday convicted by a Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe court in Jodhpur for raping a teenager at his ashram in 2013. Special Judge (SC/ST court) Madhusudhan Sharma delivered the verdict in the Jodhpur Central jail premises.
According to the complaint lodged on August 20, 2013, Asaram had raped the then 16-year-old girl on the pretext of giving her his blessings at his ashram in Jodhpur.
After his arrest and emboldened by the girl and her family daring to speak out against Asaram, other victims started coming out and reporting similar incidents against him.
Asaram allegedly assaulted many victims, including minors as well as ‘sevikas’ from his ashram, initial News18 reports had found out. Since that time, many complaints have been lodged, however, a host of victims and witnesses have either been silenced forever or have been threatened with dire consequences in case of unfavorable disposition, allegedly by followers of Asaram.
But is Asaram a lone case of a godman accused of a crime against a woman? Not at all, India with its many godmen and followers is not new to this phenomenon. News18 charts down all ‘Babas’ who have, till now, faced the music of law due to either crime committed against women or are charged with other criminal charges.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim
In August, 2017, a CBI court sentenced self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 20 years in jail and fined him Rs 30 lakh for raping two disciples, saying he acted like a “wild beast” and didn’t even spare his “pious” followers. “The convict did not even spare his own pious disciples and acted like a wild beast,” the judge said. “Both the victims put the accused on the pedestal of God and revered him like that only. However, the convict committed breach of gravest nature by sexually assaulting such gullible and blind followers.”
The flamboyant Dera Sacha Sauda leader, who was known for making films, was in tears and pleaded with folded hands for mercy as the judge read out the verdict. There was even large scale violence which rocked Haryana post his arrest.
Well if you think it’s only Asaram, then you may be wrong. Asaram’s son, Narayan Sai, was also accused of rape and sexual assault. Sai is currently lodged in jail for the rape and assault of a woman at one of Asaram’s ashrams between 2002 and 2005.
He is also accused of sexually assaulting eight other girls, some of whom were his followers. The lid was blown in November 2016 when a scribe lodged a case against Narayan for sexually assaulting her when she went to interview him for a local TV channel at the former’s Karol Bagh ashram in New Delhi. The woman claimed that the chief of the channel had then advised her against complaining about the issue.
Sant Rampal had been wanted in a murder case for which he had been evading appearance in the court as well as impending custody. It has also been alleged that he shared sexual relationships with select female followers whom he called ‘sadhikayaen’. The report claimed that one of the women, a 27-year-old, used to live in Rampal’s son’s room and was one of the few persons to have access to Rampal’s personal chamber.
However in August 2017, self-styled godman Rampal was acquitted by a local court at Hisar in two cases related to rioting, unlawful assembly and use of force. He, however, will continue to be in jail as he is facing several other charges including murder.
Judicial Magistrate Mukesh Kumar, citing lack of evidence, acquitted the 66-year-old head of Satlok Ashram in Barwala and his followers.
This revered godman is a Hindu spiritual leader, and is believed by his disciples to be an avatar – a reincarnated deity. He is the founder of Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, which is based in India but has devotees on a broader international scale.
Swami was seen in a video where he was seen engaged in sexual acts with a television actress sometime around March 2010. Nithyananda in his defence had stated that he was merely ‘practising the shavasana’ at the time and that he was impotent and hence unable to achieve an erection, rendering him unable to have intercourse with the woman.
That is not all, he was also accused of rape by a former disciple at his premises. Reports suggest that on search of his premises, the team had found condoms, drugs as well as other contrabands at his ashram.
Later, the authenticity of the CD was verified by a forensic lab. But his ashram later refuted the forensic report and submitted an American lab’s report on the CD. The self-styled Godman had to spend 52 days in jail in connection with the matter.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became a disciple and assistant of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya (spiritual leader) of Jyotirmath in the Indian Himalayas. The Maharishi credits Brahmananda Saraswati with inspiring his teachings.
He was the guru who had made the famous band, The Beatles, his fanbase. The musicians even visited India in the 60’s and stayed at his ashram in Rishikesh.
However, later there were reports that sexual advances were made by the Guru towards Mia Farrow. Their relationship reached an endpoint with John Lennon later saying, “There is no guru. You have to believe in yourself. You’ve got to get down to your own God in your own temple. It’s all down to you, mate.”
This swami from Jabalpur was arrested in 2006 for sexually abusing minor girls and making pornographic films. Around 60 such films were found in his possession at the time of arrest. He was subsequently jailed. Later he was also given bail by the Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Shreemurath Dwivedi, known as Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Maharaj Chitrakoot Wale, was arrested in 2010 for running a 500-crore sex racket at his ashram.