There will be more Gurmeet Ram Rahims, it’s a question of demand and supply | opinion | Hindustan Times
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There will be more Gurmeet Ram Rahims, it’s a question of demand and supply

Freeing India of the menace of charlatans -- the likes of Ram Rahims -- is a far stiffer challenge than cleaning up India through the ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

opinion Updated: Aug 29, 2017 21:11 IST
Ruben Banerjee
The ‘godmen’ and ‘godwomen’ give people a false sense of identity and bonding, burnished by the charities such as free medicare and education that they run with their ill-gotten wealth.
The ‘godmen’ and ‘godwomen’ give people a false sense of identity and bonding, burnished by the charities such as free medicare and education that they run with their ill-gotten wealth. (HT file photo)

One mighty figure has fallen, but make no mistake: The jailing of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is not the end of the road for self-styled ‘godmen’ and ‘godwomen’ in the country.

A country as large as India is a huge catchment for unscrupulous people to prey on. No matter how much we are repelled by the exploits – or rather misdeeds – of Ram Rahim and his fanatical followers who rampaged across states last week, this is definitely not the last time the unholy deeds of so-called ‘holy men’ will outrage us.

Our memory is short and we are more likely to forget the Ram Rahim episode the moment the next big news story breaks. Life will move on and it is likely to be business as usual until some other Baba or Mata somewhere in the country hits the headlines with his or her misdemeanours. There will expectedly be a replay of last week’s collective revulsion before it gets back to normal again.

Freeing India of the menace of charlatans -- the likes of Ram Rahims -- is a far stiffer challenge than cleaning up India through the ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. There is no broom readily available to sweep them away and the cocktail of poverty, ignorance, superstition, insecurities and caste hierarchies will unmistakably continue to breed more godmen and godwomen in the times to come. Some of them are continuing to flourish in various parts of the country under the radar. Their ranks will undoubtedly swell as more join in.

It is easy to take the high moral ground and argue that Indians should stop investing in such fake holy men and women marketing synthetic spirituality. But such platitudes have little meaning where back-breaking poverty, discrimination, inequalities and resultant frustration force millions of people to flock to such holy men and women for succor. The ‘godmen’ and ‘godwomen’ give people a false sense of identity and bonding, burnished by the charities such as free medicare and education that they run with their ill-gotten wealth. Coming under their spell gives the vulnerable masses a false sense of security and an illusion of dignity.

Since the ground realities are unlikely to change, it is prudent for us to brace ourselves for more ‘unholy’ scandals in the future as in the past. There can be no law to ban people from reposing their blind faith in someone and there will neither be a dearth of gullible people or those ready to exploit them in this country of billion-plus people.

If the 1970s was dominated by Dhirendra Brahmachari, the following decades threw up equally disputable characters such as Chandraswami, Balak Brahmachari, Asaram Bapu and others. It finally boils down to a business of demand and supply and as long as demand exists, fed by inequalities and ignorance, we will never run out of supply. We may therefore cry hoarse as much as we may like over the unscrupulousness of someone like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, but there actually is no respite from them. The Dera Sacha Sauda head was only the latest to shame us, but certainly not the last.