Metrolife: Asaram group in Banashankari says it continues to believe him

Metrolife: Asaram group in Banashankari says it continues to believe him

Asaram Bapu was convicted on Wednesday to a life term for the rape of a 16-year-old girl. PTI Photo

Trust to continue as before

After a Jodhpur court sentenced godman Asaram Bapu to life imprisonment, Metrolife spoke to the spokesperson of the Asaram Trust, Neelam Dubey, to get a glimpse of the way ahead for his disciples in Bengaluru. She initially refused to speak, giving a host of flimsy excuses, but finally gave in.

Who will take care of the trust in Banashankari now?

Bapuji never took part in any of the Ashram’s activities. There are trustees to take care of the affairs here. They are the same trustees who were running the ashrams before he went to the jail in 2013. 

How will you take his work forward?

Bapuji has inspired us through spiritual discourse and gatherings. He believes that it is important to keep humanity and Hinduism alive, both of which are essential for society.  He had started a number of initiatives, which we intend to continue. Like during Deepavali, the ashram distributes sweets, clothes and money to slums dwellers and the needy. Bapuji also started the practice of observing ‘Parents’ Worship Day’ on February 14; a day where people worship their parents and respect the sacrifices they have made. This started as a small practice but now it is getting popular among other religions too. 

‘Seva Divas’, where we visit hospitals and give fruits and money to the patients there, and ‘Bhajan Karo, Bhojan Karo’, a programme where unemployed people can meditate and get food for themselves and their families from the ashram, are two other ideas introduced by him.For villagers from the hinterlands, we have provided ration cards. These have details like number of members in the family and what they do for a living. The card can be used to get monthly rations from us.   He also started a programme called ‘Nari Tu Narayani’ against female foeticide and has helped a lot of people overcome their addiction to alcohol and smoking.  We will be continuing all these programmes.

How many devotees does he have? 

He has more than six crore devotees around the world. 

Have they lost faith in him after the conviction? 

The ‘guru-shishya’ relationship is like that of a mother and child. The mother’s love is irreplaceable. Even if an outsider says anything against her, you can not forget the care and love which she gave you. It is the same with Bapuji and his disciples. They are attached to him by heart, soul and conscience. This devotion can’t lessen or grow because of what is happening now.

‘Metrolife’ spoke to a cross-section of Bengalureans about the growing popularity of godmen and what happens when they are discredited. Many believe godmen are just up to marketing gimmicks.

Raag Malhotra, marketing officer

“I have been following a baba, whose name I don’t want to reveal, ever since I can remember. This is something we have been following as a family and it is true that some unfortunate events are being brought to light now. However, one shouldn’t generalise and say that all godmen are the same. I am quite positive about the person that I am following, especially since I’ve seen how he has been a counsellor in our lives all these years.” 

Michael Mathew, programme analyst and atheist.

“Most of these people who go to godmen have faced tough times in life. They probably tried to fix it and failed. So they want to find someone who will help them fix that. Unfortunately, they think that these godmen will pray and do whatever it is they can to sort it out. But in reality there would have been an external factor that was responsible for what went wrong in the first place. I think people should just start believing in themselves more.”

Nakul Shenoy, mentalist

“I would define godmen as somebody who essentially has climbing powers or claiming to do something that normal people can’t. If I look at most of the gurus we come across, the primary factor that makes people go to them is the religious aspect and then the emotional connect. People want answers to things in life, so they find someone who can make a difference and make life easier for them. But having said that, my perspective on this is that while people have the right to believe in others, they also have the innate right to not be fooled. To me, most of these babas are using magic tricks to fool people into believing them. They are misusing their fans and followers. I have taken on some of them personally, and continue to look at them, perhaps with a pinch of salt. I advise people who follow these gurus to be aware of what is going on and take care of your wives and children. Don’t be blinded just because you think it’s alright.”

Yogita Dakshina, freelance writer

“Religion being taken for granted is one thing, but I think the other really important thing is that people don’t see through ‘sadhu-sants’, who have 400 crore empires built for themselves. It’s particularly annoying when the educated go to the self-styled godmen for their health and spiritual peace. Each of them, whether Asaram or Ravishankar, have taken religion for granted because powerful social and political rightwingers have given them a leeway to take religion for granted. It is translated to power and needless to say, patriarchal power at that. I don’t even know where to begin with this power play. Asaram’s verdict is definitely a positive step in light of the current circumstances of rape in the country - but what its effect on the increased rape culture of the nation will be I do not know. For the victim, this is great but is this the way forward to the prevention of sexual violence by religious leaders? I don’t think so. There is much to be addressed - in terms of class, religious supremacy, education, patriarchy, political power, caste, lack of implementable law, social structures in general - and we just aren’t doing it.”