Blind followers of babasIndian mythology, as well as history, list numerous instances where noble souls have guided people on the path of righteousness. Saints such as Kabir, Guru Nanak and others gave a meaning to the lives of people through their teachings. They alleviated the sufferings of people and worked for the betterment of society.

Today, numerous godmen can be found across the length and breadth of India. But just a few of them have any desire to serve humanity. These godmen live in swanky ashrams, are surrounded by burly bodyguards, have powerful political connections and millions of followers who pay thousands of rupees just to hear their Godmen speak at satsangs or congregations. But underneath all this talk of spirituality lies a sinister world where murky dealings, rapes, land grabbing, murders and other such nefarious activities reign supreme. Nevertheless for their blind followers, these Godmen are saintly figures who can do no wrong. A case in point is Ram Rahim who has been convicted for rape cases. Just as the verdict came out his followers went on a rampage in Haryana and some parts of Delhi setting fire to whatever came their way. Here we present five controversial Godmen who have indulged in unlawful activities and still have a huge blind following.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

Among the many Godmen who have been convicted over the years for wrongdoings, Ram Rahim is the latest. Ram Rahim has been the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda since 1990. The self-style Godman has been embroiled in various criminal cases. On August 25, 2017, he was convicted by a CBI court for raping a female follower in 2002. In the same year, charges were also leveled against Ram Rahim for the murder of a journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati, and Ranjit Singh, the manager of Dera Sacha Sauda. Following the August 25 verdict his followers resorted to violent protests in which over 30 people were killed and around 80 injured.

Asaram Bapu

Born in 1941, Asaram today has more than 400 ashrams in India as well as abroad and a large number of followers. Asaram is a highly controversial figure and is embroiled in many cases. In 2013, a 16-year-old girl accused Asaram of sexually assaulting her. Asaram, along with his son, is also accused of killing two boys in 2008. He is also involved in a land grabbing case. His controversial statements regarding the 2012 Delhi rape case were widely condemned. He has commented that the girl was also responsible for her plight and suggested that she should have called the attackers brothers and pleaded them to stop.

Nirmal Baba

Nirmal Baba is well known across India for his highly popular public discourses. His discourses which are shown by various channels in India and many other countries have enabled him to get a wide following. He has been accused of cheating and fraud. He has also been accused of spreading superstition and blind faith. Following allegations that his TV programs were encouraging superstition, in May 2017, the Allahbad High Court had ordered the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to investigate the matter. Earlier, in 2014, Nirmal Baba was charged with evading service tax to the tune of Rs 3.5 crore.

Satya Sai Baba

Satya Sai Baba, who passed away in 2011, was highly revered by his followers. The baba who was also a philanthropists achieved fame for doing things that were impossible for ordinary people to perform. He would produce ash and other items such as rings, necklaces, watches etc from thin air; miraculously heal people, among others earned him both devotees as well as opponents. For his devotees this was a sign of his Godly power but for skeptics nothing more than plain tricks. Over the years several allegations have been leveled against the baba ranging from fake miracles, paedophilia and sexual abuse to misappropriation of funds. He was even involved in a murder case.

Rampal Das

Rampal, an engineer turned baba, is a self-styled Godman and the leader of Kabir panth. His belief is that Kabir is the supreme god and his sect is opposed to idol worship, adultery, untouchability etc. However, Rampal is a controversial figure and in 2014 was arrested on charges of murder, sedition, attempt to murder, hoarding illegal weapons, etc. In 2006, he clashed with the followers of Arya Samaj in which one person was killed.

Why do people continue to believe in babas even after their conviction?

Babas are not only smooth talkers but they are also competent magicians and tricksters. People always get enamored by those who have the craft to perform miracles. These godmen, who are apt at performing tricks, are able to influence a gullible population. People usually come to these babas to seek solace and are in turn obliged by the Godmen who perform tricks. If something good happens, the people feel that it is due to the blessing of the baba. People who are socially and economically insecure also fall prey to the charm of babas who in turn take advantage. For example, a baba on TV even gave advice to a devotee to stop eating red chutney and instead take green chutney with samosas. This the baba assured would alleviate the person’s sufferings. People are so deeply influenced by these babas that when these self-styled godmen get embroiled in a serious case, people tend to disbelieve it. After all, these babas can do no wrong.

So, long as ignorance and superstition continues to exist in India, the trade of these bogus babas will continue to flourish.