Prof Pratima Pardeshi
Self-proclaimed ‘God-men’, convicted rapists., Asaram and Gurmeet Singh
The Jodhpur Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Court on Wednesday sentenced 77-year-old religious leader Asaram to life imprisonment in a rape case, ANI reported. Two others were sentenced to 20 years each in prison, Rajasthan Director General of Police OP Gahlotra told News18.
The court had convicted the three accused earlier in the day in connection with the rape of a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur in 2013.
Previously, around thirty people had lost their lives in Haryana on August 25 and 26, 2017, after Dera Sacha Sauda followers went on a rampage following the conviction of their sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in a rape case. While Punjab, Haryana were burning, multiple private vehicles, railways, and other public vehicles were set on fire along with many individuals losing their lives, we were hopelessly watching and wondering what’s all this violent rampage for?
We’ve witnessed the fear when the violence, in Gujarat, where our pregnant Muslim sisters were stabbed with tridents in their stomachs along with the casteist hysteria. We’ve seen Behrampadha, burning and crying in pain. The foremost victims of any such violence have always been the women. Their respect, their morality, their shame, their dignity and much more has been taken under their ownership by the self-proclaimed thekedars of culture. The question has always troubled my mind, whether culture is meant to be kept in chains or if it is meant to keep the entire women brethren bound in chains.
Daughters of Nirhuti, under the name of religion, social norms, social mores, customs, and traditions, what all do we have to tolerate Under Nirhuti’sgynocratic society, the dignity that the system held for the women has now unfortunately collapsed. After globalization, everything along with a woman’s efforts and dignity, are valued into the market, everything including a mother’s womb. The daughters of Nirhuti have lost their say in their work as well as their body. Furthermore, nobody seems to have the time to wonder what thought process takes place in our minds, or even worse, no-one seems to care. Our efforts, mind, and body are now owned by men. May the man be of any caste, religion, family, clan, unknown, known or whoever. Nirhuti’s daughters are being dragged into the vicious trap of globalization that the process is shaming humanity, openly. This exploitative trap has thrown us out of farming, employment and even out of our own homes.
Despite these conscious efforts to exploit the women socially and financially, I Salute those Sadhvi sisters who fought bravely and testified in the court with utmost courage. Salute to those Nirhuti’s daughters who saw the pistol beside Gurmeet Ramrahim Singh’s pillow, in his private quarters, but did not stumble. I salute them because they have given the courage to many of their female companions along with the will to live. Their actions have put aside the ‘It’s okay, it was going to happen, what’s there to create such a fuss’ kind of an attitude and to rest and have butchered the social norm that a woman must keep quiet to prevent her public humiliation and shaming. I salute them because they took the decision, to seek help from the judiciary, and did not turn back on their decision despite facing several vulgar abuses and humiliating gibes from Gurmeet’s bhakts, while the Haryana Government were themselves scared of Gurmeet Singh and kept on providing all the facilities and the security to him. The fear of losing the political backing from the Deraestablished control over the Rajasthan Government. The Mohanlal Khattar Government with its newly appointed ministers had even paid a visit to one of the Deras, after freshly forming the state government to get ‘blessings’ from Gurmeet Singh. Despite having the physical force and the power, the Government feared the Dera and I salute you for standing up against that devil which even the Government feared. Your actions have even belittled the Government.
Bravo! daughters of Nirhuti, for you, have exposed that the Deras were nothing but religious brothels, where thesethekedars of cultural capital are exploiting women sexually. We are already slaying their false and patriarchal culture. The shackles of caste and patriarchy are working to weaken the society mentally. Instead of finding ways to help women out of the trap set up via globalization, a religious route opted for. Family members slightly and subtly pushed us towards these hermitages, ashrams, and Deras.
Culture, religion, and norms would become a part of daily conversations, the mind would stabilize, and good traditions could be inculcated and what not was why were sent to these Ashrams in the first place, but only we know how vulnerable we were in these Ashrams and Deras, hiding under the garb of religion. Some of us even tried to blow the whistle, one way or another, but we were only told that the women-folk should not speak up and must keep quiet. Either we were harassed sexually in the Ashrams-Deras or if it ever came to public knowledge, we were only humiliated in return. Some women were even thrown out of their homes, just like Sita. They were told that the home is not theirs if they speak ill about Babaji. The daughter’s dignity did not find its place before the misplaced pride and honor for Babaji.
In mythology, Parshuram did not hesitate before separating our heads from our torsos, Ram did not think twice before disowning Sita and similarly, the likes of Asaram-Ramrahim did not care, as they thought of women only as objects to fulfill their sexual desires. From Parshuram to Asaram-Ramrahim, these Deras are nothing but strongholds of patriarchy. In these holds of patriarchy, women are only reduced to sexual objects, and this resonates as the loudest cheers for Manu, as the system itself is exploiting the women in these Deras. The Judiciary has also now declared both, Asaram and Ramrahim, guilty of multiple rape charges against women, and now Asaram sits rotting in jail and was soon joined by Ramrahim. Both of them had set up a system interwoven with religion, which we had always spoken against, but only due to the valiant efforts of those daughters who testified we can uproot and discard this entire monster.
Religious Institutions have now become a center for systematic sexual exploitation. The fundamental religion that they belong to, is itself a patriarchal institution, who only view women through an exploitative gaze. This is exactly why the Ashram-Deras and its followers can be seen standing for the oppression of women. Asaram to used rape and harass women in his Ashram, while his followers kept screaming that our godman is being framed, this is a ploy being set up to frame him. This was also a big similarity between the two. When news regarding Asaram’s sexual harassment broke out, what did his followers say? They said that Asaram is an avatar of Krishna, he is Lord Krishna reincarnated, so he is bound to commit a blunder of this sort and what’s wrong in that.
Gurmeet and Asaram both had their private own private quarters while religion, culture, norms, traditions, and customs remained public, only these godmen needed their private quarters. Their private rooms were nothing but venues meant for sexual harassment. Two Sadhvis from DeraSacchaSauda bravely stood up and fought against Gurmeet Singh said, “Gurmeet Singh used to call women from 30 to 40-years-of-age to his room. The innocent women thought that there would be a new direction in her life, with the same naïve belief that they joined to serve in the Dera, would get filled with gratification as Pitaji had himself summoned her. When she visited his quarters, as per she was told, only to find Gurmeet Singh engrossed in pornography. Women would be scared to their bone when they realized that this was only his way to express his sexual desires. Then he would pull the women over, force her into his arms and…”
Whenever a woman protested against or tried to resist Gurmeet Singh’s advances, he would give examples of either Krishna or Asaram. His attitude remained carefree and he did whatever he pleased, no matter how much the woman complained. However, Gurmeet Singh dismissed all charges against him, claiming “I have never had any physical relations with anyone.” Initially he tried to suppress the complaining women by force or threats, otherwise, he would paint the picture that he controlled the Government, the police as well as the judiciary, which also holds true to a certain extent.
On this background, salute to those two daughters of Nirhuti, who despite knowing the violence and harassment to come, demonstrated the courage to lodge a police complaint against the vicious, violent, influential, wealthy and popular chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda. I salute their courage because, the journalist who brought their letters to public information, Ramchandra Chatrapatti, was shot dead along with the brother of one of the Sadhvis, who only tried to fight against his sister’s harassment.