Followers of God man Asaram Bapu are refusing to apologise over a comment he made, saying that the 23-year-old Delhi gangrape victim was also to blame for what happened to her.
Neelam Dube, a devotee of Asaram Bapu said, "This comment was made at a religious satsang on 28 December. Bapuji said that the girl should not have got into any bus at that point of time. He had also suggested that she should have chanted some mantra which would have opened up her mind for some practical solution."
She also said, "Bapuji did not blame the girl. But he said that she should have appealed to the boys with her inner conscience and if she would have taken spiritual guidance then this could have been avoided."
But Shoma Chaudhury, Managing Editor of Tehelka, said that such claims of inner conscience are bogus. She said, "Thousands of people die in pilgrimages. Does their inner conscience not tell them that they are going to die?"
But what explains the fact that despite such outrageous views the self-styled godman still has a huge following among the common people?
According Columnist Aakar Patel the answer lies in the environment in which he operates. "He comes out of Gujarat. where CNBC-TV18 (a business news channel) and Aastha (a religious programming channel) have the highest viewership simultaneously. They want to preserve ancient family values and the place of women in the family." Due to this, he says he has huge fan following who believe in such ideals.
But how do we confront this wave of regressive ideals given that these leaders are often backed by a lot of devotees?
According to Shoma Chaudhury, "This is a cultural clash and large parts of people believe them. We have to doggedly fight it and there cannot be any peaceful reconciliation. It will change by internal revolution by their own daughters and women."