In a country where a black cat can do what a traffic light can’t and where time is auspicious and not precious it’s natural to have your very own “customized” “Godman”, promising you salvation,and mercifully at cheap rates too. But with cheap rates – sleaze, avarice and crime also come cheap;sadly at the expense of the hapless victims of this Ungodly Man!
In late November, Satlok Ashram (hermitage) of self-styled “Godman” Sant Rampal, witnessed a pitched battle between his “private” army (Army of God? Mujahideen?) and the Police. Rampal, an erstwhile engineer, calls himself the “avatar” or reincarnation of a mystic poet Kabir. His stand off with the Police took place as he had been defying court orders to appear in relation to a case of inciting violence and murder ,dating back to 2006.
Rampal used 15000 disciples as “human shields” and caused the death of six people before finaly being arrested. Search revealed ostentatious opulence, sex literature, porn CDs and pregnancy kits from the “Godman’s” personal chamber and records of transfer of funds running into crores of rupees while the standoff was in progress. Rampal now stands accused of treason and sedition also . Definitely a first for a God!
There are others too in this Roll of “Honour”.
Asaram “Bapu” (father), preached the “existence of one supreme conscious”, but stood accused of murder and sex crimes while creating a Rupees 5000 crore empire. He and son Narayan Sai were arrested on charges of rape based on the complaint by a former disciple.The Police had to conduct a paternity test on the septugenarian “Godman” to get the charges to stick.Asaram passed with flying colours and the duo are still behind bars.
Please welcome Nirmal Baba- a failed businessman, who prescribes bizarre solutions for ushering in “kripa” (blessings),such as changing the “lal chutney” (red dip) for the “hari chutney” (green dip) while partaking the Indian snack “samosa” (???) and promises uninterrupted blessings for as less as Rupees 2000 (USD 30) to those who are gullible enough to believe him.He is presently facing charges of fraud leveled by some of his “now enlightened” followers.
“Freezer” Baba or Ashutosh Maharaj of the Divya Jyoti Jagran Samiti died on 29 January 14 but his body is still kept in a deep freezer by his disciples as they say he will awake again from “spiritual Samadhi”! His death is shrouded in mystery owing to land and wealth related issues.
“Kissing Baba” who hugged and kissed his devotees to remove their afflictions and problems, was recently arrested in Kaddapa.
We also had “Godman” Chandraswami who could supposedly “read minds” but was “famously” accused of gun running and of being involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s murder. And Swami Premanand who produced “lingams” (male phallus) for select devotees (??), but only until he was arrested and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for raping 13 girls!!
But its Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ek Insaan-spiritual head of the Dera Sachcha Sauda takes the cake. He drives a Range Rover, wears rockstar clothes, has Z plus security status and is a “spiritual Mika” who has crooned Punjabi pop numbers such as “Love Charger” and “Atom Bomb” ! He is making his directorial and acting debut in the film MSG-The Messenger of God in which amongst other stunts he plays rugby to save the world! To round up the impressive CV, Rahim is accused of blasphemy, two rapes and two murders also!
The movie -MSG-The Messenger of God,starring Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim has run into serious trouble in Punjabi and has stoked communal embers as it portrays him as an apostle of God. And also God himself!. It’s release is being opposed vehemently by the predominantly upper caste Sikhs and the ruling Akali Dal.The Censor Board chief ,Leela Samson resigned citing political interference in by the ruling dispensation in according clearances to the movie which the board had denied on grounds of communal harmony.The matter went to the tribunal and is presently subjudice with the movie yet to be released.Meanwhile the opposing camps have only been becoming more belligerent and threatening violence against each other..all in the name of God.
The Amul ad on the movie MSG-The Messenger of God captures the controversy regarding the Censor board certification.It shows a caricature depicting Ram Rahim in a costume worn by him in the movie and looking surprised at the cuts made by the Censor Board.It also shows a caricature depicting Leela Samson angrily walking out and a pen thrown on the ground showcasing the fiasco surrounding her sudden resignation . .The Amul Girl is witness to it all while a raging fire depicts the violence that has erupted because of the controversial movie.
The Tag Line…Sab Godmal Hai. ..is a play on the Hindi word “golmaal” implying that everything is murky about the incident and also hints at the entire controversy being in the name of God – and in this case the Godman of Dera Sachcha Sauda.
The Punch Line..Messenger of Taste..is a play on the name of the controversial movie and suggests that Amul is spreading a simpler message unlike others around us.
Getting back to the main theme.
The Amul Ad on Sant Rampal depicts the carnage and fiasco at Satlok Ashram. It shows Rampal with his trademark hand gesture being nabbed by the Police. The battle gear of the Police, an upturned ashram and shadowy figures of the trapped disciples round off the scene,with the Amul Girl shown as a bystander.
The Tag Line…Sharampal Baba?….is a take on the name “Rampal” and the urdu word “Sharam” meaning shame. It asks the simple question that isn’t this “Godman” ashamed of all that he has indulged in?
The Punch Line…Spread Amity and Amulity…is a message for these “Godmen” as also the society to spread peace and amity and a subtle play on the name Amul.
Religion in India is characterised by elitist rituals,schisms,exclusivity and “Godmen” who have held sway over the minds of the excluded as well as the so called “privileged” groups.The “Deras” are a result of the former where the excluded classes have found a semblance of acceptability and also a sense of strength in numbers.Even the, affluent and the privileged get sucked into this whirlpool of religiosity.Since our childhood we are fed on a staple of “miracles” by saints and Gods we get drawn to modern day “super healers” and “Godmen”.These then conjure fake miracles and prey on our need to lean on a superior power.
Once the “Godman” has sufficient following he is then a mascot for the politicians who intend exploiting the crowd pulling power of these “saints” for their electoral gains. And the “Godman” then perpetuates more power and wealth. A self-sustaining cycle is thus in place and includes the most demeaning aspect of sexual exploitation of the disciples.
The misdeeds and ungodly conduct of the “Godmen” are well documented yet we allow this charade to continue.It is because of the “disciples”; they are the biggest perpetrators of this misery.Seeking redemption and solace these mindless herds flock in thousands to any new wonder magician claiming to be the reincarnation of any deity under the sun.These disciples allow themselves to be fooled and start believing in their “Gods” and their machinations and contribute to the perpetuation of various myths surrounding the “Godman”; the most common being some wonder “vibhuthi” (holy ash) or concoction or potion which cures all ils except superstition !
Superstition and lack of rationality perpetuate undying loyalty to the chosen “Godman”.Its an amazingly successful “business model” and all that is required is to master a few scriptures, voice modulation,a PR agency,handful of congregations and a sleight of hand for tricks packaged as miracles.Of course a pliant section of the media too.Then in 2 to 3 years anyone can become a “Godman” and then carry on with his legacy and whence the politco-religious nexus is complete he can unleash his perversion on the hapless yet culpable devotees.
Why is this phenomenon successful in India?Well, when the mere ability to sign ones name is considered a benchmark for literacy then true knowledge and rationality will surely give way to robed charlatans and their antics. QED!
The negative manifestations of the “Godman phenomenon” are also and undeniable result of the mixing up of politics, religion and democracy and its exploitation by the politicians. This prevents our government of the day from taking resolute action against frauds and charlatans and encourages them to inflict misery and chicanery on the hapless (yet culpable) disciples.
To round up, I suggest that the next “Godman” should name himself “Frauddy Baba” as the name itself would be a disclaimer and he could then indulge in all that he desires!
Related to the subject is the recently released Raj Kumar Hirani directed and Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma starrer “PK” which is a satire on the business of “Godmen”.The movie has become the highest grossing Bollywood flick but has run into serious trouble with right wing Hindu organisations protesting the supposed denigration of the religion in the movie.
A previous Amul ad on “PK” depicted a controversial nude poster of Aamir Khan for the promotion of the movie and the Amul Girl is shown wearing an attire which was worn by Aamir Khan in one of the scenes of the movie. The tag line and the punch line are a play on the name of the movie and the fact that Aamir bared all in this venture.
The protests against the movie inspired another Amul ad.The ad shows a caricature depicting Aamir Khan as PK and borrows from a scene in the movie wherein PK shows the contents of his briefcase to his friend Jaggu, played by Anushka Sharma. Here Amul butter blocks are shown in the briefcase with the Amul girl depicting Jaggu in a similar attire as in the movie.
The Tag Line… Don’t Bhaste It,Taste it…has borrowed the word “bhaste” from a song in the movie which is but a demented pronunciation of the word “waste”.It subtly implores people to watch the movie and not to ruin it by baying for its banning.
The Punch Line… Tarray it ,Please…is an oblique exhortation to the public to try the Amul butter as also a clever play on the heavily accented eastern dialect of the central character PK and it obliquely exhorts the people to at least watch the movie and to give it a try before dismissing it out rightly.
The controversy was needless and most on ground were protesting without having watched the movie itself.And if there was anything to be protested about then it was he blatant misuse of a gullible man’s faith to perpetuate practices and superstitions as highlighted in the movie.