If there is anyone that most Indians will hear no ill about, apart from Narendra Modi and Sachin Tendulkar, it has anyone from the tribe of Indian 'godmen'. In the latest incident that demonstrates India's obsessive engagement with self-styled 'godmen', the police in Hisar were up against an army of people who decided to prevent a godman from being arrested.
The siege was curiously reminiscent of one that took place in Waco, Texas. A gun battle had ensued between military and Texas law enforcement forces and a religious group called the Branch Dravidians in a ranch in Texas. The latter were charged with weapons violations.
The Times of India reports, "Though armed with the high court's non-bailable warrant, the district police were apparently deterred by the presence of thousands of godman's followers who stood guard outside the ashram. Haryana police personnel and paramilitary forces were not seen in the vicinity."
According to reports, Sant Rampal and one his aides was due to be arrested for contempt of court. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had issued a warrant against the duo for days back. However, the day he was supposed to be arrested, Sant Rampal's men created a 'commando protection force' to guard their favourite godman.
The Indian Express reports that, the day Rampal was supposed to be arrested, more than 200 men wielding sticks etc decided to form a team to stop the police at the gates of the Satlok Ashram in Barwala.
IE quotes a supporter saying, “We have formed a commando protection force, and will not allow anyone inside the ashram. We have formed two human chains, and have been given helmets to protect ourselves. Everyone will be deployed in shifts,” said one person, carrying a flag which said ‘Sat Sena’.
Apart from that, close to a lakh supporters turned up inside the ashram and pledged to protect their 'guru'. TOI reports that 35 companies of police and paramilitary - close to 3,000 personnel - were deployed, but failed to make the arrest.
Rampal had been arrested in 2006 on charges of murder, attempt to murder and several other charges. IE quotes a supporter saying: "Sant Rampal pointed out scientific problems with the teachings of the Arya Samaj and there was a clash between the two groups, in which one person was shot. Without any proof, Sant Rampal was named, and spent 21 months in prison with 51 others. He was later granted relief and exempted from appearing in person in February."
However, his supporters, don't seem much swayed by the grievous charges against him. After all, one should note that Rampal is as Gen Y as a godman can get. For example his swanky website says that his satsangs (prayer meetings) can be live streamed, you can download videos of his satsang sessions and also get mp3 versions of the same if you fancy listening to them on the go.
And joining his tribe of disciples is no mean feat. His official website lists 22 points with which a prospective disciple should familiarise himself or herself with before applying for disciplehood. While it has the usual suspects - no meat, alcohols, weed and cigarettes - it has some rather mindboggling ones too.
For example, he says, 'unnecessary charity' is prohibited. He says, "Do not have to give anything in form of charity anywhere and to anyone. Neither money, nor unstitched cloth etc, nothing. If someone comes asking for any charity then feed him and give something to drink like tea, milk, lassi, water etc, but do not have to give anything else. Who knows that beggar might misuse that money." Now, how wonderful would that sound to average middle class Indians?
Among the other things banned are untouchability, adultery and 'vulgar' singing and dancing.
Then again, he strictly prohibits people from criticising the 'guru'. "Do not criticize your Guru even by mistake, nor hear it. To hear means if someone says false things about your Guru Ji, then you do not have to fight, rather should think that he is speaking without thinking i.e. is telling a lie." Obviously, the Haryana Police didn't read this bit. Else, they would have been better prepared!
Updated Date: Nov 10, 2014 16:02:51 IST