Controversial godmen of India: A list of self-styled ‘gurus’ and their sexual assault controversieshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/predators-in-the-guise-of-godmen-a-list-of-self-styled-gurus-and-their-sexual-assault-controversies-4665328/

Controversial godmen of India: A list of self-styled ‘gurus’ and their sexual assault controversies

Several notable self-styled gurus have faced criminal action or are presently lodged in various jails across the country in numerous sexual assault cases.

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Clockwise from top left: Swami Nithyananda, Asaram Bapu, Sant Rampal and Narayan Sai (File photos)

A woman in Kerala on Saturday chopped off the genitals of a ‘godman’ in a bid to save herself from sexual assault. The minor victim claims the attacker, identified as 54-year-old Sreehari, who also goes by the name of Ganga Shashwatapada Swamy, had been raping her repeatedly since the past few years. The victim managed to secure a knife when she got wind that Sreehari would repeat the assault again on Friday. She then cut off his private parts when he approached her. He was later shifted to Thiruvananthapuram Medical College by the girl’s family for treatment.

This instance of sexual assault by a godman is, however, not the only one.

Several notable self-styled gurus have faced criminal action or are presently lodged in various jails across the country in numerous sexual assault cases.

Here’s a list of some babas with their respective criminal cases:  

Asaram Bapu (2013):

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The godman’s regressive views came to light first after the December 16 2012 Delhi gangrape case, when Asaram Bapu said that the victim should have pleaded with the rapists to let her go, should have regarded them as her “bhaiya (brother)”, instead of resisting rape.

Delivering a sermon, Asaram said that the victim should have “called them bhaiya, begged them to stop..to save her life.” He later added, “Galti ek taraf se nahi hoti hai (mistakes do not happen from one side).”

In 2013, however, the ‘godman’ made national headlines as he was arrested in connection with a sexual assault case on a minor.

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, reports say. Since the 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 unfavourable disposition, allegedly by followers of Asaram.

The matter is pending with the Supreme Court.

Narayan Sai (2013):

Asaram Bapu’s son Narayan Sai was 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 having physical relations with eight other girls, some of whom were his followers.

In early November of 2016, a journalist 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 (2014):

A fortification and escape bid amid high drama at an ashram, wherein followers were not allowed to leave for days on end and were even reportedly told to act as ‘shields’ so as to obstruct the police trying to gain entry, this saga unfolded in November 2014.

A standoff between the police and an ‘army’, allegedly trained by retired army and police officers, took place outside Sant Rampal’s ashram in Haryana. When the standoff finally ended, thousands of followers were seen exiting the ashram where they claimed to have been held hostage since several days.

Rampal had been wanted in a murder case for which he had been evading appearance in the court as well as impending custody. That is not all, however, as according to a report in Mail Today, 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.

Swami Nithyananda (2010):

A video of this self-styled godman surfaced on local news channels wherein Nithyananda was seen engaged in sexual acts with a television actress sometime around March 2010. Nithyananda had defended himself at the time saying 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.

He was also accused of rape by a former disciple at his premises. Reports claim that when they searched his premises, they found condoms, drugs as well as other contrabands at his ashram.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (late 1960’s):

The guru of The Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had the band smitten and enthralled by his antics and his preachings. The musicians visited India in the 60’s and stayed at his ashram in Rishikesh, an experience which they later claimed influenced their music for years.

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The two parted ways, however, as there were reports that the Yogi engaged in perverse actions and made sexual advances towards Mia Farrow. Their relationship soured 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.”