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The saga of India’s “fake godmen”


Active member
There are con people all around the globe. These predators can fool rational and smart people. But in India, there are so many and every day brings a new crooked person claiming to have superpowers. Unfortunately, society allows them to victimize ordinary people of their life savings. Sometimes the Judicial system catches them, but they still do not get punished. This ambivalence by the law and order created more of these charlatans.

Despite convictions of several “fake Gurus” for violent crimes like murder and rape, many Indians continue to believe in the promises of Nirvana peddled by self-styled godmen across the country.
India has seen a number of cases of self-styled godmen sexually assaulting people under the pretext of ‘showing the way’. They have been known to mislead people into thinking their miseries will end if they follow the orders given to them and in a lot of instances that hasn’t ended well.

For example, in a heart-wrenching case that emerged from Amritsar yesterday, 2 women were held captive and raped by a couple of men at Ram Tirath Temple. And when they went to complain about this to the head priests, they also sexually assaulted them. For now, the latter two have been arrested while the police searches for the other accused.

Sadly, there are many such tainted Indian ‘gurus’ who have or are facing charges of sexual assault against them. Here is a brief list of men of religion who used their piety to sexually abuse women, in recent times.

1. Girdhari Nath and Varinder Nath

The two priests from Ram Tirath Temple in Amritsar were accused of holding 2 women captive and raping them. They were aided in the crime by two other men who fled from the scene and are currently being looked for by the police.

2. Asaram Bapu

The self-styled godman with around 400 ashrams across the country and millions of followers, was convicted by a Jodhpur court in a case that dated back to 2013. He was handed life imprisonment till death.
3. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

The founder of Dera Sacha Sauda, Gurmeet Ram Rahim was given a punishment of 20 years in jail after the allegations of him raping 2 women were proven correct in 2017. He also faces charges for forced castrations and murder.

4. Virender Dev Dixit

Former follower of Brahma Kumari and the founder of Adhyatmik Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya was absconding for a year when CBI placed the charges against him (in 2018). The bureau also announced a bounty of ₹5 lakhs for anyone who could give them leads regarding his whereabouts.

5. Nithyananda

Nithyananda was accused of sexual assault by an ex-aide. It also claimed that he used to abuse children as young as 10 years of age. Nithyananda now lives in a ‘new country’ named Kailaasa, which has its own passport and a flag.

6. Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj Chitrakootwale

Ichchadhari Sant Maharaj allegedly organised a sex racket in Delhi and the case blew up 2010.

7. Swami Vikasanand

The ‘swami‘ was arrested in 2006 in connection with making obscene movies. He had some 60 CDs with vulgar footage. He was convicted by a fast track court in Jabalpur in 2010.

8. Falahari Baba

Falahari Maharaj was accused of raping a 21-year-old woman, who was the daughter of one of his devotees. Following which he was given life imprisonment by Additional District court of Alwar in 2018.

9. Baba Parmanand

In 2016, Shankar Tiwari alias Parmanand Maharaj was accused of sexually exploiting women who couldn’t bear a child and then blackmailing them with videos. He was also accused of attempt to murder and fraud.

10. Swami Premananda

Based out of Tiruchirapally, Tamil Nadu, Swami Premananda was accused of raping 13 women while molesting 2 others. He was sentenced to life in 2005 but ended up passing away in 2011 due to prolonged illness.

11. Swami Amrita Chaitnya

Swami Amrita Chaitnya was arrested in 2008 on account of raping 4 minor girls. He was also accused of cheating an NRI woman.

12. Father Robin Vadkumcherry

Robin Vadkumcherry was given a punishment of 20 years in jail in connection with sexually assaulting a girl for more than 4 years. He was also handed a fine of ₹3 lakh.

Hinduism has morphed into a superstition laden culture. People are told not to think by these gurus and people are happily ready to let these gurus do their thinking.

A fool can claim spiritual power giving bad name to the word spirituality. The fool will find several believers. Delusion gets more deluded people. I hope India will come out of this coma.

The practice of religion is based on appeal to greed and insecurities. So godmen of all varieties exploit these traits. Plus there is profound belief in astrology that is viewed as science making things more complicated

Why are Indians so Obsessed With Godmen?​

Despite many gurus and babas implicated for crimes including murder, rape, tax evasion, and fraud, Indians continue to flock to self-styled godmen.

There’s no shortage of godmen in India, and in Indian jails. Every few weeks, a new self-proclaimed Messiah appears, and gullible individuals throng to them to shove their prayers and money into their hands. Over the last decade, news of godmen like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Asaram Bapu, and their nefarious activities, have captured primetime television slots. And even though reports of such gurus being implicated in crimes like murder, rape, tax evasion, and fraud are uncovered, India’s unhealthy obsession with these babas continues.

When I was a kid, religiosity was a way of life for my family. My mother would often drag me to evangelical retreats, where full-grown adults screamed and shouted God’s name, and where “healing” sessions involved the priest driving evil spirits out of people. As a young boy, I’d witness this in absolute terror because these seemingly normal people were suddenly speaking incomprehensibly and bouncing all over the place. For me, it was the stuff of nightmares. It’s only in retrospect that I realize I was exposed to cults in the guise of religion.

The various scriptures read by the people in India speak of men and women who could perform unspeakable miracles. Humans who were better than others in every way were put on a pedestal by helpless herds looking for a savior. Finding solace and togetherness in cults is decidedly human. But in India where a sprawling network of these gurus and babas exists—often with deep political connections—it’s the fact that even the vile ones can get away that makes this breed of demigods thrive.

“We Indians are great believers in miracles and feel that somebody can get us out of our miseries,” Prabir Ghosh, general secretary of the Science and Rationalists’ Association of India, told DW. “This is the prime reason we fall for these godmen.”

With shows like the just released Aashram focused on such cults today, one would assume people would be wiser by now. Yet in a nation marred with economic troubles and a million gods to pick from, we still hear cases of people being duped or physically harmed by the organizations they put their trust in. One such Baba was Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, a man whose popularity was as difficult to comprehend as his name.

However, at the height of his fame, Baba Gurmeet Singh was brought to court by two of his former female disciples, who accused him of rape. It took them 15 years to get the case rolling. Horrifyingly, Gurmeet Singh was also accused of the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati, the man who first tried to break the news of sexual assault within the Dera Sacha Sauda, the organization then helmed by Singh in Sirsa, Haryana. In 2019, he was convicted and charged with life imprisonment, bringing an end to the Dera Sacha Sauda’s three-decades-long run.

When the movie PK made fun of a fictitious Godman, the majority of the Hindu community trashed it as an attack on Hinduism, and tarnished the actor who dared it, Amir Khan.


Amid India’s Mental Health Crisis, Godmen Conflate Depression With Lack of Spirituality​

#BeatDepression is trending on Twitter today. Reportedly, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan (MSG) — a godman convicted of rape and murder and prosecuted for the castration of his followers — doled out mental health advice, announcing that one can beat depression through meditation. MSG’s lack of expertise on the subject notwithstanding, his followers took it upon themselves to educate their fellow Indians about the unproven efficacy of the discipline, backing it up with unfounded statistics.

The internet is replete with thousands of unwarranted bits of advice to “cure” depression — ranging from sniffing essential oils, drinking more water, going for nature walks every morning, doing yoga and allowing religion into one’s life. But what makes the present advice more dangerous is the fact that it is attributed to a godman with a global following of over 60 million. It isn’t, however, the first time an Indian godman has conflated depression with a lack of spirituality. Following the death of celebrated comedian and actor Robin Williams by suicide in 2014, godman Sri Sri Ravishankar also touted meditation as the “long-term cure” for depression, stating that the “perennial disorder affecting most western countries can be overcome by spirituality.” Going one step further, Swami Nithyananda believes depression is a “luxury” that can only be overcome through “inner expansion” (whatever that means).

During the pandemic in 2020, the website of yet another godman, Sadhguru, went further in suggesting that in order to boost their immunity against the deadly strain of coronavirus, one must rid themselves of depression through exuberance that might “find expression” in “love, meditation or ultimate stillness.” Naturally, in 2022, Sadhguru’s appearance on a podcast with an Indian comedian — who has a strong base of millennial and Gen Z followers, and had been criticized in the past for using his mental health to garner sympathy from audiences after his involvement in certain #MeToo allegations — drew the ire of people who had lost loved ones to the pandemic.

Their anger is, perhaps, triggered not only by the misinformation peddled about serious health conditions, but also by spiritual speak putting the onus of not being able to cope on individuals, rather than on systemic issues. As such, unsubstantiated health advice from self-styled godmen veers eerily close to the territory of the manifestation trend, which has been critiqued for steering individuals away from seeking medical treatment by inspiring the idea that they can heal by simply willing their ailments away.

To make matters worse, a meta-analysis of 83 studies — conducted between 1975 and 2019, with a total of 6,703 participants — had shown that despite being a practice hailed by many, meditation and mindfulness can trigger adverse effects, including depression and anxiety, in some people.

Given how much power and influence godmen enjoy in India, discourses like these inevitably add to the invisible barrier to seeking help — a rather grim prospect given that 2016’s National Mental Health Survey in India had found that 80% of people suffering from mental disorders, here, had not sought treatment.
Sukhdev Singh Sohal, a professor of history at Guru Nanak Dev University, told Reuters in 2020 that nearly 2.5 million people follow godmen in the states of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana alone. This shows just how much havoc uncorroborated health advice can wreak on a country, where 56 million people are struggling with depression, and 38 million, with anxiety disorders. In a country that witnessed a 27% rise in suicides among Indian students between 2016 to 2021 — with more than 13,000 students dying by suicide in 2020 alone — advice like that of MSG’s is actively harmful.

It’s not only the blind faith alone of followers that can prove perilous to our collective mental health. It’s also the fact that this blind faith makes it exceedingly difficult to debunk careless advice meted out by godmen, because followers perceive it as a challenge to their authority. Earlier this year, an anti-superstition activist who challenged the self-proclaimed healing powers of another godman, Dhirendra Krishna Shastri, began receiving death threats.

Further, implying that one’s inability to heal is because they’re not meditating enough, serves merely to invalidate their struggle. And, as past research has shown, invalidation of people’s pain propels them further toward depression. In peddling spirituality as the answer to mental illness, India’s godmen become complicit in the country’s mental health crisis.
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India is a democratic country with freedom of religion i.e. secularism. Contemporary India looks like a modern country with all scientific establishments but also believes in superstitions like faith in godmen. Godmen are charismatic gurus. It would not be wrong in saying that ‘godmen are holy men with unholy acts.’

There is an increase in the number of godmen day by day and also hold places in government offices and corporate board meetings, educational institutions, and all other important places. They are not spiritual men but ambitious con artists who purvey deception, falsehood, and religiosity in the name of god.

People of our society had tremendous faith and belief in these godmen. They treat them equally as gods and submit themselves to godmen without any condition. Public obey their dictates like an obedient child. This is the reason that such people get an opportunity to commit heinous crimes like rape, murder, etc. In the last 10-15 years, there are many people who get convicted by courts.

Now it’s not about the incarnation of God and serving mankind. There are self-proclaimed godmen who live a lavish life and commit illegal acts and money frauds as their business in the name of god. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Swami Premananda, and Asaram Bapu are some examples.

There is a need to enact special legislation regarding these godmen so as to regulate their conduct. We know that evil and superstitious activities have become a flourishing industry in the state and to deal with questions of blind faith from regulating funding to legal action against Godmen, there is a dire need for comprehensive legislation.

There are certain legislations already prevailing for preventing superstitious activities like Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil, and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.


There is a need to draft a law that clearly defines faith and blind faith. It is necessary to enact a law to protect the poor, uneducated, and ignorant people from the exploitation of the godmen so as to provide a healthy and safe social environment. People trust the godmen and they take an unfair advantage by using them physically, mentally as well as financially. There is a feeling of immense trust and respect from the public towards godmen due to which they follow them blindly in return.

The situation has reached an alarming stage where almost every godman is either accused of charges or convicted of serious offenses. It has become necessary for the government to take appropriate, urgent, stringent, legal action against such people to curtail the evil effects and harmful practices of such godmen in our society. A proper law against such offenses will give teeth to the organizations that are working against the such menace.

It should be considered that the mere enactment of laws will not be sufficient to be free from such criminals because they get power from their bhakts who trust them and support them. We saw in the case of Ram Rahim, his followers created mass destruction and protested against the legal action taken. Therefore, in order to be free from them, it is important to create awareness among the public and show their real faces who carry on their illegal acts in the name of god. People should make aware of the difference between faith and blind faith. In the last few years, many babas & swamis are convicted by courts which helped a bit to spread awareness among people and show the reality behind such godmen.

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