There are several things that rule India’s mindscape: Politics, scams, cricket and Bollywood. And then there is a full range of self-styled-godmen who have made insecurities and aspirations of people/followers the working capital of their thriving business across the country.
One such is Rampal Maharaj, an engineer-turned-godman, who has battled the police at his Satlok Ashram in Hisar, Haryana.
More than 200 people have been injured and six killed in the fracas between the godman’s 5,000-strong ‘troops’ and the state police. Rampal who was hiding in the ashram has now been arrested. The Haryana Police were forced to act against the godman after the Punjab and Haryana High Court issued non-bailable warrants against Rampal since November 5 after he failed to honour 44 warrants in a murder case in which he is an accused.
In Punjab and Haryana, there have been several ‘Rampals’: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the late Ashutosh Maharaj, Piara Singh Bhaniarawale, Baljit Singh Daduwal and Sant Niranjan Dass.
They flourish because they command vote-banks and their supporters are those who lived on the fringes — the economically, socially and politically backward classes. These men exploit the political and social aspirations of these people to build their own base.
Whichever ways events pan out, the questions that need to be asked are: How did this man evade arrest for so long and how did he and his followers construct and fortify the ashram so well that today they can even take on the state’s forces without fear? Further, how did they obtain petrol bombs and acid pouches in such large numbers?
Surely, this build-up must have been happening for some time now, which means the previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda government is guilty of gross apathy, to say the very least. What is equally condemnable is the complete non-reaction of the new chief minister on the issue.
Reportedly, Rampal held out for so long been by using women and children as human shields. Instead of fearing a public backlash, the administration and the police should have taken on the godman and his followers without any second thoughts.
Further, the authorities should launch a clean-up campaign of these groups and find out their source of political support and funding patterns.
Shying away from biting the bullet would mean further trouble in future.