Is God’s Own Country turning into godmen’s own country? Scandals involving self-styled godmen are surfacing almost every day in the most literate state. Intelligence sources say the ‘spiritual business’ is worth roughly Rs 2000 crore. Almost 36 such gurus are under police scanner and many are absconding.
The CPM’s youth outfit, DYFI, has called for a 'second renaissance' to rein in the so-called ‘godmen’. Senior Congress leader Aryadan Muhamed’s son's statement that fake Thangals (Muslim spiritual leaders) would also be targeted had almost wrecked the Congress-Muslim League tie-up. Finally, the Congress president had to intervene to cool frayed tempers of the ally.
The campaign against ‘godmen’ began with the arrest of Santosh Madhavan alias Amrutha Chaitanya, a temple priest-turned small-time astrologer. A couple of days after his arrest, gun-toting Himaval Bhadrananda Swamy created a scare after firing two rounds at a police station.
The police raided many ashrams across the state. In most cases, including Santosh’s, it is a rags to riches story. Born in a poor family in Idukki district, Santosh started his career as a temple priest, learnt astrology and occult and went to the Gulf in the late 90s.
He developed close links with one Serafin Edwin and asked for money to buy a hotel in her name. Once he got the money he returned to Kerala without informing her. Then he founded a trust called 'Shanthitheeram' and built a palatial ashram in Kochi. He soon started cultivating politicians, businessmen and police officers using his new name Swami Amritha Chaitanya.