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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2396

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh – Rockstar Baba

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

The tumultuous journey of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, popularly known as Rockstar Baba, from a sprawling ashram in the state of Haryana to a notorious jail along a road less travelled on Friday, was neither meant to be easy nor short of fireworks throughout.

The rate at which troubles broke out in the State of Haryana that later on spilled over to the neighbouring states of Punjab and Delhi showed the influence of Guru Ram Rahim Singh among millions of his followers, mainly from the battered lower castes and poorer backgrounds.

At the time of writing this piece, the death toll stood at 31 with over 300 injured. Over 16,000 security personnel were deployed in order to bring the situation under control in three major states, when over 1.5 million supporters/followers went on rampage over the rape conviction of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is the head of DSS – Dera Sacha Sauda -, a spiritual cult and a non-profit welfare organization founded by Mastana Balochistani, an ascetic in 1948, when a spiritual journey that he embarked upon in search of ‘Truth’ while being a teenager, reached its zenith’.

Although, it was established in Haryana, in northern India, it quickly spread across the other states resulting in the formation over 48 ashrams in India with their corresponding branches in the UK, US and even in United Arab Emirates.

Since the Indian Baba phenomenon is quite popular in Sri Lanka too, I will be surprised if we haven’t got one on our soil, even if they don’t necessarily turn violent in the current circumstances. Due to close proximity and the frequency of the visits by popular figures in search of solace, we need the courage of Himalayan magnitude not to be caught on one.

The movement was taken over by Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in 1990, at the age of just 23. Dera Sacha Sauda since saw a phenomenal growth and Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has never been short of ideas in turning things around; in fact, never in the recent history of Indian spiritual gurus, has been a figure like Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, especially, when it comes to pomp and pageantry.

He dismantled the notion that a spiritual leader has to go Gandhian in order to promote the ideals or gain spiritual enlighhment; on the contrary, Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, time and again, proved that glamour and spirituality can co-exist in the increasingly complex modern world.

In this context, his appearances on a mesmerizingly-decorated quad bike to one of his ashrams or appearing on a masala movie – written, directed and edited by himself – or releasing an album with his favourites hits, is all part of a grand spiritual exercise, more precisely a spiritual game, that sold well to an ever growing audience, both at home and abroad.

As the popularity of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh rocketed, in direct proportion to it, he became magnetic and more and more followers decided to take the next step in somewhat chaotic progress of spirituality in these circumstances – becoming devoted disciples in his ashrams.

There was no room for discrimination in this form of magnetism; the women, especially the young, were allowed to be close disciples in his ashrams too and there were knows as sadhviss.

Unfortunately, the very move eventually brought about the downfall of the godman on the planet Earth. It was the complaint made by two of the sadhvis that triggered off the whole drama that spanned almost over a decade, which eventually reached the ‘climax’ on Friday.

The sadhvis accused Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of raping one of them, while sexually assaulting the other inside the main ashram, while watching spiritually-calamitous pornography in 2002. One of the victims, a university graduate, had joined the ashram on the insistence of her parents.

A leaked letter had already highlighted in enviable detail the way female followers were being sexually exploited in ashrams. The manner in which Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was caught reminds us of the saying among our pheasants about the fate of a proverbial woodpecker – until it tried its luck on a banana tree:

ashram trouble

On Friday, a CBI High Court in Haryana convicted Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of rape and decided to sentence him on Monday – against all odds, given his significant influence in three northern Indian states.

Adding insult to injury, there are going to be charges against murder and castration of male disciples in the ashrams too.

Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has initiated a collective process of castration of 400 males in the ‘noble’ hope of keeping the females safe from more dominant, uncontrollable male counterparts; the plan, however, was sold by saying that it was to bring them closer to God; the victims, meanwhile, have been saying the less spiritual side of the story, which is physical – the pain they suffered during and after the operations.

Perhaps, Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh knew better than anyone else how important this was and how best to deal with the challenge of male attracting females in closed quarters.

On Monday, Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh will be sent to jail and the length of the term, at this stage, can only be guessed, because the judges are furious the way his followers unleashed horror in the aftermath of the verdict. The High Court has already directed the state officials to take over the properties of the ashram to recover the damages done to the government properties.

Of course, we will not see Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in jumpsuit while in jail. He may live in a lap of relative luxury in jail too. With his movements severely restricted, inability to release any more albums in public and inability to star in anymore masala movies, however, he may be compelled to accept a diminishing aura around him before his followers in the years to come; as far as Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is concerned, it may be as painful as the castrated victims of his ashrams.

With the latest conviction, the Indian judges in question, once again proved that they are prepared to take on the mighty regardless of the mass support they enjoyed. They already showed their mettle in jailing Jayalalitha, Sasikala and even Lalu Prasad Yadv in the past and the trend continues to grow stronger, especially in the light of the exponential growth of social media.

Convictions of this kind in India and the way Navaz Sharif was removed from power, show an encouraging sign for the whole region; the well-hackneyed phrase, no one is above the law, is not going to ring hollow anymore.

- Asian Tribune -

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh – Rockstar Baba
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