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Strict monitoring of ashrams and spiritual trusts can save victims from falling prey to fake godmen

The deplorable state of these ashrams and the disturbing regularity with which their “godmen” are revealed to be sexual predators is alarming. People turn to these spiritual leaders for guidance in times of trouble and end up as victims of charlatans. Several followers of these sects come from difficult circumstances, poverty, and, marginalised communities.

editorials Updated: Dec 25, 2017 18:02 IST
Hindustan Times
Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya,Gurmeet Singh,Ram Rahim
Local residents gathered in front of Virender Dev Dixit 's Ashram at Mohan Garden, Uttam Nagar in New Delhi on Saturday, December 23, 2017 (Rajeev Tyagi / Hindustan Times)

In yet another allegation about an ashram of a purported “godman”, the Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya has been found to have been a front for confining women. In the name of preaching about God, the ashram and the guru have been accused of illegally confining, even raping women. Five minor girls were rescued by a team comprising members of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), and a Delhi Police contingent in southwest Delhi this past week. DCW chief Swati Maliwal after the raid wrote on social media about the “prison like” conditions in which these children had been kept.

The deplorable state of these ashrams and the disturbing regularity with which their “godmen” are revealed to be sexual predators is alarming. People turn to these spiritual leaders for guidance in times of trouble and end up as victims of charlatans. Several followers of these sects come from difficult circumstances. Many are from poor households and marginalised communities. In seeking spiritual guidance, they are seeking acceptance and the idea of a community. what they encounter is something entirely different -- and often horrifying.

The cults of some of these ‘babas’ become so powerful as to even wield influence in political circles; this was seen in the case of Gurmeet Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda. We need to encourage a strong rationalist movement in the country and ensure awareness campaigns to protect those seeking spiritual solace from these dubious godmen . Many times because of the clout and power wielded by the head of these sects, it becomes very difficult to take them on. Most people who are victims of such sects do not have the wherewithal for legal recourse. Worse, some become victims of the so-called Stockholm Syndrome and start entertaining positive thoughts about their captors.

Ashrams and trusts run in the name of spirituality must be strictly monitored and the welfare of women and children who fall prey to the whims and perversions of fake godmen must be ensured. Organisations registered as benevolent trusts and organisations of religious propagation must be subject to rigorous checks, scrutiny, and be brought within the tax radar. A quick and concerted action is needed to ensure that rapists and charlatans do not get away with preying on the weak and vulnerable.

First Published: Dec 25, 2017 18:02 IST