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Saints Give Marching Orders to the Shahjahanpur Swami

Chianmayanand may no longer be able to call himself ‘Swami’ or a ‘saint’ if an association of his peer saints sticks to its decision at the October 10 session of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad in Hardwar. It has been nearly a month that the allegation of him raping a 23-year-old woman in his Shahjahanpur (UP) ashram surfaced. Since then the police in UP has seemed more interested in harassing the victim, with the SIT questioning her for nearly 12 hours, while showing no interest in arresting or even questioning the ‘Swami’ till the other day.

Is it because he is not only a former junior union home minister (in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government) and a BJP leader who was among the stalwarts of the Ayodhya movement that led to the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992? His proximity to another fellow ‘saint’ who is now the chief minister of UP, ‘Yogi’ Adityanath alias Ajay Singh Bisht, guaranteed that his moment of suffering was prolonged as far as possible and he gets away with small punishment when if it was becoming difficult to go on shielding him long.

The shock effect of the brazen manner in which ‘men of god’ are shielded by people in power may be spreading quietly among the ordinary citizens, which will be bad news for politicians if not for the sadhus and swamis. But the resentment that it brews is sought to be weakened by the publicity blitz of the ruling party with a special emphasis on jingoism that has spread almost across the entire spectrum of society. A law has been suitably amended to make it possible to arrest anyone critical of the present day rulers by framing ‘treason’ charges on him or her!

The ruling dispensation has discovered a unique panacea to cover all its failings with the help of a brand of ‘nationalism’ that has seen all allegations of corruption, crony capitalism and favouratism buried as soon as they are made. Does anyone remember the controversies around the Rafale fighter deal that figured prominently during the Lok Sabha polls? On the other hand, the Bofors gun deal continues to be milked for political gains even more than three decades after it erupted and years after the courts failed to uphold the charges of corruption against politicians who were the main targets.

At this moment, Chinmayanand, earlier known as Krishna Pal Singh, finds himself in a spot of bother but perhaps not for long. He was arrested and sent to judicial custody for two weeks on September 20; and now this threat of his expulsion from the very privileged and august class of ‘saints’.

But he could well have been in bigger and real trouble had he been charged with rape at the time of his arrest on September 20. A lesser mortal would have been lodged in jail post haste after being named by a victim. Chinmayanand was arrested on a charge that speaks of ‘misuse of authority for sexual intercourse NOT amounting to rape’. This clumsy definition, however, makes it clear that Chinmayanand is not accused of rape, for which the punishment ranges from 7 years to 10 years in jail, or even life imprisonment, while the section under which he has been actually charged carries a maximum of five years of imprisonment—and bail provision.

It goes without saying that had the allegations against him not been aired by the social media and digital news portals, Chinmayanand would not have faced the embarrassment of being taken into custody. Before him another BJP stalwart of UP, Kuldip Singh Sengar, had successfully delayed his arrest in a rape case which was of an even more serious nature in that he was not only accused of a serious crime but he was also allegedly involved in the murder of some members of the family of the victim, including her father.

For the BJP-ruled UP the allegations of rape against its top leaders should be a matter of worry because the record of the administration run by Yogi Adityanath has been found wanting in providing safety and security to women, particularly when the perpetrators belong to the ruling party.

The state administration in UP goes on denying and challenging all that is said about its poor record of women’s safety because the saffron party is under a spell of invincibility. The Chinmayanands and Kuldip Singh Sengars will continue to crop up and benefit from the ‘immunity’ they enjoy by virtue of belonging to the saffron party.

But we should expect better sense from the class of ‘saints’ who need to do some introspection. There have been many instances of ‘saints’ facing accusations of sexual assaults and other crimes including murder. Two years ago, a Panchkula (Haryana) special court held a cult guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, guilty on two counts of rape. Asumal Surimalani Harapalani, better known as Asaram Bapu, once a Tongawala in Ajmer who established 400 ashrams in India and abroad, was awarded life sentence by a court in Jodhpur in 2018 on charges of raping a minor girl.

There have been others who faced allegations ranging from rape to murder and financial embezzlement. An interesting coincidence in the case of almost all the controversial ‘saints’ is their association with political parties which helps in diluting serious criminal charges and reducing or eliminating chances of just punishment.

The politicians court them because of their large following, nay fanatical following. At the time Gurmeet Ram Rahim hit the headlines, a common refrain in the media was that the state government in Haryana was lenient towards him because he was the head of a large vote bank—his followers.

A fact not taken into much consideration is that saints and swamis, especially the self-styled ones, are unable to behave differently from ordinary human beings. Their libido is no different from that of other men. But the Indian society does not expect them to behave in any fashion that violates the ‘saintly’ code they are supposed to follow. They are expected to observe the rules of celibacy and lead a ‘clean’ way of life.

Political parties that flock to the sadhus, swamis and god men do so purely to enlarge their following and vote share. The fact that in today’s politics winning is considered everything makes it difficult to believe that we will be able to get rid of unholy men even in a regime that has vowed to promote ‘culture’ and ‘sanskar’ allegedly neglected since 1947.