State must look after the safety of women, children in ‘spiritual’ communes
I really refuse to believe that the authorities thought Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was pure as the driven snow when it came to his conduct with women. They did not think it worth their while to keep a more stringent check on this man even though a few women did escape over the years and live to tell the taleopinion Updated: Sep 02, 2017 18:29 IST
Fifteen years seems an agonisingly long time for a rape victim to get justice. Today, we are revelling in the fact that justice has been done but if you look back at how long it took for the complaints of the two victims to bring Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to his knees, you can imagine the fear and horror they must have lived in all these years. And what happened to all the other young women whom he preyed on and whose voices either could not be raised against him or were disregarded by the very people who should have protected them and taken them out of harm’s way.
In so many cases, these so-called godmen usually target the young and vulnerable, in most cases children and women, as part of their efforts to consolidate their grip on their empires. In the Asaram Bapu case, young boys mysteriously vanished from his ashram, a few were found murdered and the fate of many others is still unknown even though the charlatan was caught eventually. I found it particularly heart-rending that the young woman whose case got the most attention in the Singh case spoke of his depredations to her family but no one either believed her or were too scared to take on the might of the rapist.
Most of these spiritual leaders seem to, if nothing else, understand the human psyche, especially that of women, much more than we give them credit for. If a marginalised community finds validation in these cults, within the marginalised, the very lowest tend to be women. Illiteracy and irrelevance is what often leads them to believe in the fakery and chicanery of these people.
In a world where they are voiceless, they often come to these cults in the hopes of a better life for their families, some safety for their children and menial jobs for their husbands. In this illusory world, they believe that the spiritual leader will give them the crumbs that society cannot or will not afford them. This creates a dependency syndrome which very often turns into a hostage like situation. So pervasive is the fear of the so-called guru that, as the woman in the Singh case said, she feared that she would be hunted down and killed if she tried to escape. In many cases, their lack of education and awareness leads to a situation where the spiritual leader’s ugly advances are cleverly marketed as the women being chosen for special favours. The ruse that women were being purified by Singh’s sexual assaults was actually the opening gambit for his sexual predation.
The sacrifice of women is also part of the payback to the provider and families are complicit in willingly or otherwise think that this is a price worth paying for financial and social security. And I really refuse to believe that the state authorities thought that Singh was pure as the driven snow when it came to his conduct with women. They simply did not think it worth their while to keep a more stringent check on this man even though a few women did escape over the years and told their harrowing stories.
I cannot imagine the plight of the countless women trapped in these sects who have been brainwashed into believing that their tormentors cannot be touched by the law or indeed that a great favour is being bestowed on them through sexual violence.
I think it is incumbent upon the authorities to conduct periodic checks on the health and welfare of women in these cults. Even in ashrams presided over by women; other women are victims of the sexual advances of powerful men in the inner coteries which is often accompanied by violence. Given the numerous instances which have come to light, the least that state authorities and the police can do is to ensure greater vigilance over these deras and ashrams where a number of women live in close proximity with men who are in powerful positions and on whom they are dependent for their sustenance. Singh’s dera is just one of the thousands of cults that exist across India. Now there is no excuse to overlook the safety of women and children who live in them.
First Published: Sep 02, 2017 16:20 IST