What is the reason behind the massive fan following of a self-proclaimed godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh? Blind faith certainly is one of the reasons. But the social status, sense of power and financial security his organisation Dera Sacha Sauda provided to the followers seem to have had caused a multiplying affect in his following.
Many of the followers rampaged across Haryana destroying properties, both public and private, causing a total break-down of the state government's administrative mechanism. The police had to carry out flag march to re-prove the state's dominance over the town of Sirsa.
There is no denying the fact that blind faith on Ram Rahim binds most of the followers with the Dera. A powerful publicity machinery wielded by the Dera had constantly published stories of Ram Rahim's superhuman feats through films, digital platforms and word of mouth. The impact of this machinery on his follower's mind was felt on the streets of Haryana, hours after pitaji, as he is popularly known as among his followers, was convicted of rape.
However, recovery of AK-47 rifles and pistols from the followers indicate the reality that behind curtains of faith exists another set of factors which have given Dera's popularity a boost and made it what it is now. Status, power and financial security seems to be the few of them.
India, through ages, has seen rise of godmen. Most of the sects and that these godmen propounded, deny the caste system prevalent in Indian society aiming at providing the followers from the lower rungs of the caste hierarchy with a sense of liberation.
Ram Rahim, who is seen as a new age guru, too crafted his so-called spirituality to fit among the people disgruntled with the caste hierarchy. Vikram Khatri, who was a follower of the Dera Sacha Sauda till before the conviction of it's chief , said that in some mainstream religions, people from the so-called lower castes are not given due respect as devotees in places of worship which becomes the reason for their search for another source of spiritual solace.
"In many temples, people from these so-called lower castes are told to wait outside, until the others have offered their pujas. Sometimes they have to wait for hours. But this is not the case with Dera. Everyone was seen as an equal in the religious programmes. In Dera, we would all sit in the same place for satsang or to listen to the guru. There was always a sense of equality in it," he says.
The Dera also insisted the followers to change their surnames to 'insan'. It was seen as a rule devised to spread across the message that the 'Dera' was more respectful of humanity than any other quality. No wonder then that the Dera had a substantial following among the people from the lower rungs of the much abhorred caste hierarchy. Apart from a liberal atmosphere, the Dera also seemed to have the promise of a new social status to its followers.
"A follower who successfully convinces a good number of followers from his caste or village was seen as their leader. That enhances his social status to a spiritual leader in a group of 400 to 500 people. Many came to the Dera to attain this status" he said. The leader would be the contact person between the Dera and the followers. He would pass all the messages of the Dera to its followers and would also ensure that the followers meet the guru in their time of need.
The Dera chief's kinship with political leaders also seemed to have helped him increase his number of following. Political leaders from across all the parties stooped before him in public places.
It was only possible for the long-ignored masses to deem Ram Rahim as a power centre only parallel to the state government in Haryana. It is likely that many saw him as the route to the power structure. Another Dera follower, who requested anonymity, said that 'pitaji' was seen as an all powerful man in Haryana because of his proximity with politicians. This particular follower told Firstpost that his interests in the organisation soared after several followers said that being part of Dera can get work done.
"It was often said in Dera that a phone call from 'Pitaji' was enough to get a work done in any of the government offices in Haryana. Many flocked around him only to get their official work done," he said. Apart from this, the Dera is said to have provided best medical facilities to its devotees. In India, where out-of-pocket expenditure on health is as high as 89.2%, any help extended in this front is seen as a big relief for the poor.
Like this Firstpost article argues the Dera chief fills the gap where the state has practically abdicated it's responsibility. "With the collapse of the health system all across the country, his disciples in millions find it quite reassuring to avail best medical facilities in Gurmeet Ram Rahim's ashram," the article noted.
Updated Date: Aug 29, 2017 09:32 AM