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Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s flamboyant lifestyle, outlandish designer clothes, and the “miracles” he performed, have simply mesmerised his gullible followers (“Goddamn”, September 11). Religion is the opiate of the masses, especially of the neglected classes in India. Thus, it is no wonder that spiritual cults like the Deras attract marginalised groups, like Dalits, that are largely neglected by mainstream gurdwaras and temples, and no less by the state. Godmen are not peculiar to India. In the US, Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh claimed that he was the voice of God, and used his power to indulge in illicit sexual relations with his female followers in his fortress-like compound outside Waco, Texas. But it is bizarre and far-fetched to compare self-styled gurus like Nithyananda and overdressed charlatans like Singh to such highly enlightened saints as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharishi. Paramahamsa made a fine distinction between ananda and paramanada. Stating that ananda comes from possession of worldly goods and paramananda from absolute devotion to God, Paramahamsa conscientiously embraced the latter. Ramana clad himself in nothing more than a loincloth, and chose the path of self-enquiry.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Finally, justice has been delivered to the two women who have been relentlessly fighting to expose Gurmeet Ram Rahim since 2002, despite facing grave risk to life. Unfortunately, the wheels of justice turn at an excruciatingly slow pace in our country. It took 15 years for Ram Rahim to be put behind bars. In this period, a journalist from Sirsa, who was working on exposing the megalomaniac, was murdered. Reports of other crimes are also flying in by the day. All this while, Ram Rahim was being wooed and patronised by political leaders of various parties for electoral gains. Now that he has been exposed, his politician friends are looking the other way, as if they were completely unaware of the charges against him in the past.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan Ji’s (longer the name, it seems, holier the guru) conviction is a bold example of the power of the judiciary. The fraud godman has been sent to prison for 20 years despite having visible political contacts and the support of millions of obsessive people. In the brouhaha around his conviction, another thing has become amply clear—the Haryana government’s miserable administrative capacity. The massive build-up to Baba Ram Rahim’s verdict should have been cue enough for the Haryana administration to place proper checks to pre-empt the situation. But the state government completely mishandled it. And this is not the first time things have gone out of hand in Haryana. The rule of law had completely collapsed in Haryana last year as well during the Jat quota stir.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
The late Nani Palkhiwala had recounted what veteran politician C. Subramanian once said in a lecture that, according to our ancient culture, the man of god came first, while man who gained worldly distinction later. Seen in the light of such hoary guru-revering traditions, the likes of Ram Rahim are a disgrace to the term ‘guru’—one who is supposed to be an embodiment of righteousness in an age of empty material longing. Actually, many swamis from our country have had exemplary lives, and have guided millions towards the path of dharma. Didn’t Swami Vivekananda say: “Shall India die? Then all spirituality, all moral perfection will be extinct from the world...”? Luminaries like Kanchi Paramacharya, even at the ripe old age of 90, epitomised the title of ‘acharya’, that is, one who sets an example to others by duly practising what he preaches. Hence, it’s up to the public to be judicious in their choice of gurus, and not throw the baby out along with the bath water.
C.V. Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
Now, since Ram Rahim has been “goddamned”, the law must go after the other godmen listed in your magazine. And although the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order authorising the “sanitisation” of the Dera Sacha Sauda complex under the supervision of a retired judge is welcome, far too much time was lost before this vital decision was made. A great deal of incriminating material might already have been removed from the Dera. A more efficient approach would have seen Ram Rahim’s well-equipped private army disbanded and their lethal armaments disposed of shortly after their leader’s arrest on August 25. The delay in action against him may be due to the fact that the Haryana government had previously given a clean chit to the Dera, and any prompt action could have caused some embarrassment for CM Khattar. Also, according to media reports, a former follower of the Dera has alleged that the remains of many ‘missing’ followers could be buried under trees in the Dera gardens. It will be prudent on the part of the appointed sanitisation team not to overlook such possibilities during the search operations, as there may be some substance to such claims, however bizarre they may appear, in the case of Ram Rahim.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
More than the ‘babas’ it’s the followers who are exposed for their eternal idiocy.
Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi
This is about Krishna Sobti’s 15 August, 1947 Diary (Aug 21) in Outlook’s Independence Day special issue. Ms Sobti’s memory brought back my own fleeting memories of the day. I had already listened to Pandit Nehru’s ‘Tryst With Destiny’ speech on the radio past midnight. When the day dawned there was a new lightness, a feeling of hope in the air, a sensation never before experienced by me in my 17 years. Flags were hoisted all over Muzaffarnagar, and they all congregated in the Company Garden. I don’t recall the VIP who presided over the celebration, but what is clearly etched in my mind is the vision of three girls singing the national anthem under a tricolour swaying gently in the breeze. As it happened, I promptly fell in love with all three of them—they appeared so special, so unapproachable and, clad in their white cotton sarees, so ethereal. Years later, I did happen to see, though from a distance, one of my Independence Day loves in Lucknow University, where I was now a senior student and she a ‘fresher’. It was just as well that I did not approach her, for it certainly would have marred the magic that the three singers had created that day on that elevated stage.
Lakshman Singh, On E-Mail
I want to object to Outlook’s cover story segment on Swami Nithyananda (Tantric Rites In The Bed, Sep 11). I am an ordinary Indian who is well-educated, happily married and mother of two kids. I am morally upright, hard-working, spiritually inclined and a disciple of Swamiji. Your article alludes that female devotees of Swamiji are “sex objects”. That way, you insult my character and integrity for no fault on my part. Swami Nithyananda has taught me to be in constant love and awareness of God. He has taught me to be in a state of peace and happiness. Infinite good has happened to me by just attending one of Swamiji’s discourse; I have seen and heard about the same happening to thousands who flock to him. I feel the divine vibration that he radiates. Thus, I feel this article to be in bad taste,and wish you were more responsible in reporting on the matter.
Anupama Menon, On E-Mail
This article on Swami Nithyananda is but a sensationalist ploy to gain publicity. Several rebuttals given by the swami and his disciples to the allegations of sexual exploitation against him go on to show that the truth is not so simple. Every godman is not a Ram Rahim or an Asaram. Swami Nithyananda is being framed. If any readers are interested in actual facts, they can log on to www.nithyanandatruth.org, a much credible website run by well-meaning disciples of the swami.
Clearly, the purpose of your article was to tarnish the name and credibility of Hindu gurus and the Hindu religion.
Kavea Panneerselvam, On E-Mail
Regarding the alleged crimes of Paramahamsa Nithyananda, who also happens to be my guru, I would like to see the evidence. All cases against him, but one, have been dropped. In 2012, the Ohio Federal Court fined Aarthi Rao half-a-million US dollars for filing a false case against swamiji and defaming him. Similarly, a man called Vinay Bharadwaj was also fined for filing another frivolous case. I would advise you to do more homework before putting the name of Swami Nithyananda alongside godmen who have proven to be crooks and criminals. No matter what a Bangalore hospital certified, tests done elsewhere have conclusively proved that swamiji is incapable of sexual intercourse. And contrary to the Forensic Science Laboratory’s claim, the video allegedly showing the swami with an actress in bed is morphed.
I would urge you to do some in-depth research into the case. You will be surprised by what you find.
Ma Nithya Nirantarananda, On E-Mail
This refers to the cover story article A scary sort of bliss by Dola Mitra. I have a serious objection to the piece on Ananda Marga. The intro—”The Anand Margis ‘path of bliss’ was strewn with a frightening trail of blood and crime”—holds true, but the bloodshed was done by supporters of the CPIM government in 1982 when 17 Ananda Margis were massacred in broad daylight. The article doesn’t even care to mention this.
B.K. Sarangi, Mumbai
Apropos your comment, Homicidal Railwaymen (Sep 11), a fat bureaucracy must be held culpable for criminal negligence under the IPC for fatal accidents on the track. Senior officers must periodically be made to do tasks like checking platelayers on their trolleys, tracking the rails irrespective of the weather and terrain. Refresher sessions should be a must for station masters, signal operators, gateman, PWIs and allied personnel. They are to be regularly reminded, maybe through television and mobiles, of standard operating procedures for different situations. There should be a micro checklist to verify the timely performance and execution of ground level-routine jobs. On their side, the authorities must take care of the basic needs of the operating staff. Lower-level staff is the real strength of any operational establishment.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
This is apropos C. Udhay Bhaskar’s opinion piece on the Doklam crisis (Long Night’s Ride Into Dawn, Sep 11). Indeed, it’s a big relief that better sense has prevailed and India and China have defused the prolonged tension at the border. So close indeed, were we to a conflict, especially helped along by fiery comments from China’s state-run media, that diplomats deserve our gratitude for tenaciously clinging on to hope for a peaceful resolution. China should have in mind that India won’t be a push-over in border matters, and all future border negotiations must have Doklam as a starting point.
Bal Govind, Noida
Your lead comment (I-Day fever, Aug 28) spoke for privatising the entire health sector in India. I feel that all hospitals in India should come under the purview of the National Health Scheme, where the diagnostics done should be scrutinised and all doctors receive a fixed payment instead of commissions based on tests requested. The fee for service concept must be banned. Only then will doctors be happy and contented so as to provide a safe service.
Sujoy, On E-Mail
This refers to Grab It By the Grassroots (September 11). The BJP is delighted after coming a distant second in the West Bengal civic polls. Now it aims at sweeping the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, followed by the Bengal assembly election in 2021. However, the BJP’s tricks to impress voters by promising them the moon and dividing them on the lines of religion may not work all that well in this eastern state that has seen long years of Left Front rule. The Trinamool, too, is no party to be taken lightly. Bengal is not Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra or Haryana where the BJP is well-entrenched, nor does it have the specific factors that helped the party turn the popular mood in Assam, Goa or Manipur. The BJP has been trying to fish in the troubled waters of the Gorkhaland demand even though the Centre is not for it. Winning a couple of assembly seats and a few in the civic bodies makes little difference. The BJP’s performance at the Centre, and nothing else, will be judged by people in all the elections to come.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
Once in his Delhi Diary (June 24, 2013), Vinod Mehta had declared himself a pseudo-secularist. That’s a great admission, which he never made in any TV debate. Mehta had given much editorial space to the problems in the BJP and Advani’s absence from Modi’s swearing in. He wrote that the BJP would be wishing they had a ‘first family’, whose word would be law. This singular absence in the BJP had made it the permanent Opposition of India in those days. What a soothsayer he was. No matter what the opinion polls say today, the country can be ruled only by the Congress, which has born leaders who can steer the national ship in all adverse seasons. They have experience, management skills, faith in one family or leader and pan-India acceptance. The people want someone to periodically highlight the negatives of the government, for which they need the BJP, but they will always prefer to elect a Congress government as they want good governance and not internal squabbles. The soothsayer, late dear friend Vinod Mehta, will be proved right in times to come—one day for sure. RIP Vinod bhai...Viva dynasty!
Rajiv Jain, New Delhi
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