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The harsh truth about India’s ‘godmen’

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12.09.2017

NEW DELHI – Late last month, when two Indian states and the national capital were held to ransom by rioting mobs protesting their spiritual leader’s conviction on two counts of raping minor girls, many Indians found themselves confronting several painful truths about their country.

The leader who spurred these protests is Gurmeet Singh, one of the more prominent of several “godmen,” or self-proclaimed spiritual leaders, who flourish across India. The flamboyant, jewelry-bedecked Singh calls himself Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan — a compound of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh names, followed by the word for “Human” in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. And he has a reputation for sexually exploiting his female followers.

In 2002, two of those followers mustered the courage to press charges. In the 15 years and 200 sittings of the court it took to get to a conviction, Singh’s devotees made numerous efforts to pressure investigators, police, judges, and the complainants to withdraw the case. But they did not surrender, and last month, Singh was given a 20-year prison sentence.

Singh was always a peculiar godman, eschewing spiritual asceticism for gaudy showmanship and ostentatious living. He liked his hair long, his motorcycles powerful, his cars expensive, his attire sequined and his women clingy. He performed in popular music videos of his own composition — his biggest hit is called “Love Charger” — and had a feature film made about himself called “MSG: The Messenger of God.”

It is estimated that this unlikely “Rockstar Baba” attracted tens of millions of fanatical worshippers to his........

© The Japan Times