A special CBI court on Friday held the Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of raping two female disciples. The conviction was followed by widespread violence in Haryana and Punjab perpetrated by Dera followers, which resulted in at least 31 deaths and scores of injuries.
This is not the first time a religious guru has gone to jail or landed in controversy, these self-proclaimed ‘godmen’ have become notorious for indulging in heinous crimes and yet their followers’ blind faith refuses to shake.
We take a look at some of these controversial ‘babas’ who forget to practice what they preach:
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh: The flamboyant chief of Dera Sacha Sauda was convicted of rape by a special CBI court on Friday. Often spotted in shiny, colourful clothes, the ‘Rockstar Baba’ is no stranger to controversy and has been charged with involvement in murder cases as well. The ‘King of Bling’ also faces allegations of castration of followers inside the Dera HQ.
Asaram: Asaram, who enjoys great popularity across India and abroad, was accused of raping a 16-year-old at his Ashram on the pretext of exorcising her from evil spirit. He is currently lodged in Jodhpur jail and has been denied bail multiple times. The controversial guru and his son have also been investigated in the mysterious deaths of two boys whose decomposed bodies were found from the banks of Sabarmati River near his ashram in 2008.
Nithyananda: Popular for his meditation programmes and spiritual books, Nithyananda landed in controversy after a purported video footage showing him in a compromising position with an actress was telecast by local TV channels. He was also accused of rape by an Indian-American citizen who claimed Nithyananda molested her for several years.
Rampal: Founder of Satlok Ashram, Rampal is leader of a religious sect called Kabir Panth. He was embroiled in a controversy in 2006 when he criticised central text of Arya Samaj triggering clashes between the two sects in which one person was killed and several injured. Rampal was charged with murder and spent almost 2 years in jail before getting a bail in 2008.
After obtaining bail, Rampal did not appear in court regularly and skipped the hearing 42 times. In 2014, Punjab and Haryana HC issued a non-bailable warrant against him which lead to protests by his followers. His ashram was protected by scores of his followers with lathis and arms to prevent police from detaining him. He was finally arrested on November 19, 2014 along with 492 followers on charges of sedition, murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy, hoarding illegal weapons and aiding and abetting suicide-monger.
Radhe Maa: Sukhvinder Kaur aka Radhe maa is believed to be an ‘avatar’ of Goddess Durga by his followers. She was accused of dowry harassment by a Mumbai woman. In 2015, videos of devotees carrying Radhe Maa around during ‘satsangs’created a storm. Activist-lawyer Falguni Brahmbhatt lodged a police complaint against her for obscenity, running a business disguised as religion, fraud and cheating.