Remember Asaram Bapu and the ShahJahanpur (UP) case – Whatever his ardent followers might have done to the media last year when they went to cover his arrest, the great Saint seems to have made life easier for journalists covering his beat.
Yes, Asaram Bapu has become such as important a beat as say environment, education, cinema and theatre for some newspapers and channels, especially the Hindi ones because any news regarding him finds enough readers and TRP.
So why should the reporter covering Asaram be obliged to the One who is showering his ‘blessings’ from behind the bars (because the Supreme Court feels there is no urgency to grant him bail)? For one, his website offers daily updates on the various cases against him in various parts of the country. With a man (sorry Godman) like his majesty, who by his own admission, has 425 branches in India and abroad and millions of followers there are bound to be cases in many places and how can one channel or reporter keep track of them on day to day basis?
In addition to this there is a Facebook page which tells us that Param Pujya Sant Shri Asaramji, endearingly called ‘Bapu’, is a Self-Realized Saint from India. Pujya Bapuji preaches the existence of One Supreme Being”. This page officially has 21,295 likes and tells those who go to it “So many false allegations but not a single strong proof yet…” though I don’t understand that, what the last word ‘yet’ is doing there. Do they have some other trick up their sleeve when that strong proof comes up?
And then there is a dharna going on continuously at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi telling all the passers by how the government is against Godmen and saints. Surprisingly they did not think of changing their stand even after the ‘Achche Din’ government was sworn in. Even die-hard journalists who had been opposed to the RSS ideology all their life seem to have sobered down, but that is another story.
Here his strategy seems to have misfired because when our dear Bapu was arrested on charges of sexual assault by a 16 year old girl who had gone to him for exorcising her of evil spirits in August last year, he had cried foul alleging that no less a person than Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were behind the conspiracy to frame him. But there are no takers for that theory because none of the present set of ministers has even overtly or covertly tried to save the victim of this international conspiracy.
Not that he does not have followers in the higher echelons of power. In January 2012 he had published a booklet calling for celebrating the Valentine Day as a day to worship parents. This idea, reportedly found favour with topmost personalities from all shades of public opinion including President Pranab Mukherjee, today’s ministers like Rajnath Singh, and Nitin Gadkari, former Railway Minister Pawan Bansal, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. This was even celebrated in some places in Jammu and Chhattisgarh.
But the same year end he got into trouble with the national media when he criticized the Delhi rape victim of December 2012 for being responsible for her own fate. He told the media that she should have asked her assaulters to spare her by making them her brothers. Later he went back on his words and offered Rs.50,000 to anyone who could prove that he had blamed the girl.
Since then he has constantly been in trouble beginning with his arrest in September 2013, even though he is out of the news for some time.The fact of the matter is that Asaram is not out of the woods even though he has been overshadowed by another Goddam’n I mean Godman from Haryana for a few days. In fact the list of charges against him and his son Narayan Sai is on the rise.
Only about a fortnight back his massive ashram on the ridge road in Delhi got into trouble with the National Green Tribunal (NGT). A Bench headed by the Chairman of NGT Justice Swanterkumar gave an order to demolish the illegal construction and encroachments made by the Ashram spread over 4,312 square yards since 1996 when the Ashram came up. It has ordered the Ashram to demolish the encroachments at its own cost and also plant 1000 trees to compensate for this.
Is there any hope for Bapu after the stringent new laws on rape passed by Parliament last year? If you remember the new law was enacted after a pain-staking review of the existing laws which were found thoroughly inadequate and archaic by the Justice Verma committee.
If the campaign by Asaram Bapu supporters on Facebook and on its own website is an indication it is hoping that the rape laws of the country will be changed. But how this will benefit the 72 year old Bapu languishing in jail for more than a year will remain a mystery till he reveals his cards.
By: Amitabh Srivastava