A land of fakirs, snake-charmers, rope-tricks, turbaned maharajas, holy cows... over seven decades of Indian independence, we are still struggling with the same rudimentary mindset that once Rudyard Kipling called "The White Man's Burden" to ‘civilize’.
These are still the most disparaging, scathing and venomous remarks for any Indian. Boasting the state-of-the-art technology, especially in space science, we, Indians are in no mood of even having a mumble of these scornful words on our ears. However, doesn't the recent rampage following the verdict of self-styled godman in Panchkula (Haryana) point towards a different reality?
Indian sociology says that India is a land of contrasts and paradoxes.
The paradox of world-class education co-existing with illiteracy and superstitions, democratic institutions with primordial institutions like khap panchyats, some of the world's richest and poorest in one country, goddess worship and women fighting for equality and respect... I can go on and on... And I shudder everytime I write a word.
On 25 August, a CBI court held guilty Dera Sacha Sauda (Camp True-Deal) Chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh 'Insan' of raping his two sadhvis (female followers) in 2002. The victims wrote anonymously to Indian Prime Minister, state Chief Ministers and only then CBI investigations were initiated against the flamboyant Baba, who has five movies to his name; actor, director, songwriter, singer, music composer everything he does for his movies. (And please let me tell you his movies in north India give neck-to-neck competition to India’s heart-throb Shah Rukh Khan and popularity of songs will make even Justin Beiber shy.)
Finally, the Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been convicted and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and fined INR 3 million, of which INR 1.4 million will go to each rape victim.
Yes, rejoice. It's the ultimate victory of Indian judiciary; justice has been done, law has prevailed.
But, do you think it's the end of it?
One baba goes, ten rise to fill in his void.
LET's play hard ball now!
The real questions we must be pondering here are:
WHY baba culture is still so rampant here?
HOW the babas turn into a messiah, godman for millions of people?
Before I move on, you must know that this sect boast over 60 million loyal followers around the world, maximum being from Punjab and Haryana, a number any politician would envy!
Who are the followers?
Do these followers wear any branded clothes or swanky hot wheels?
NO. They are the poor, uneducated, unprivileged section of our society. They are those who have been forced to live a life of destitution over the generations.
Punjab and Haryana are the fulcrum of deep casteism in the country.
Let's dissect Punjab first.
Though Punjab boasts being the most prosperous state in the country, with major chunk of Indian foreign exchange coming into the state; again here is the paradox of prosperity and poverty living next to each other. Sikhism preaches egalitarianism, but most sadly, over the centuries, it has become more of a text-book concept. The low caste Hindus who took refuge into the fold of Sikhism looking for equality and dignity were still rejected by the political nexus of 'regal better-off classes and castes’.
Same is the case in Haryana.
The higher castes of Jats in Haryana jealously own the monopoly over all the privileges in the society.
And what's left for the lowest rung? Nothing.
No education, no employment. Born as poor peasants and labourers and die the same.
Many sociological researches have pointed to the flip-side of the flourishing green revolution in the region- the deepening gulf, economic inequities among people and resultingly deprivations and disadvantaged status of the poor peasants. This section is rich classes' unannounced bonded labour, politicians vote bank, drug peddlers' market and seasonal NGO’s and social activists' lab.
These are disillusioned, disenchanted, dejected, disgruntled and alienated people.
If anyone give such a dejected lot a hope of better and dignified life, do you think they would shirk off? If anyone offer them a place in the world where they are equal, will they give up such a haven? Won't he/she be any less than a messiah for them? Won't these people blindly follow his/her directions as word from their God?
It is even reported that to whomsoever Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had asked his millions of followers to cast their votes, they have blindly obliged.
Baba’s deciding the fate of Indian democracy!
The Hard Reality
The mammoth number of followers that these babas boast only points to the simmering discontent in the society. More than anything else it warrants the exigency of guaranteeing them the most basic right of a respectable living. Laws may abolish casteism, but agree or not, it still prevails in the most gory form and these deras are malicious manifestations of them turning into the sanctum for the excluded ones.
I'm, in no way, trying to rationalise the violence by the Dera followers in my city, but it pained me when reports came that out of those over hundred thousand thronged the city, majority were senile and were misled and brought to the town on the pretext of attending a sermon by Pitaji (father), as Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was called by his followers.
As I close my article...
History has many lessons for us to teach. New ideas, new cults, new sects have always arisen out of the heinous wounds of the downtrodden, but it's upto us, the privileged ones, to decide whether we want to let these innocent souls taken for a ride by these unscrupulous people. Had every person given an equal chance to earn his/her living and live a dignified life, no godman could have toyed and exploited anyone’s sentiments.