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‘Godman’ Asaram Gets Life Sentence For Rape But Women Still Support Him. Why?

People do not want to believe that the person who has given them such a sense of comfort and belonging could be a criminal – so they don’t.

Godmen in India such as Ram Rahim ‘Insan’, ‘Sant’ Rampal, Asaram ‘Bapu’ etc. wield power enough to make a politician green with envy, and do it while in jail

In yesterday’s news, Asaram ‘Bapu’ has been convicted of rape and sentenced to life in jail for a ‘very serious’ crime like rape, but for some, his halo remains undimmed. What accounts for this blind, unwavering faith, this unswerving loyalty – even from women?

‘Innocent’ even after being proved guilty

A Gandhinagar Court recently sentenced Asaram to life in prison for a 2013 rape case. There are also other matters against the godman and those connected to him relating to murder, land grabs, attacks against witness etc. However, his devotees are absolutely steadfast in their faith… faith that is as unwavering as it is unreasonable.

Each time Asaram is denied bail or is found guilty and sentenced in any of these matters, his followers rush to his defence. “Asaram is innocent”, they say. “All charges are trumped up, all evidence fabricated” they assert. Apparently this is all a “conspiracy against Hinduism”. If you see all the tweets supporting him today, you’ll see the words ‘Height of INJUSTICE’ in every tweet in the same format, which makes one wonder if these aren’t trolls.

These are all attempts to defame a ‘saint’ based on ‘fake documents’ or a corrupt/incompetent judiciary. So everyone is wrong except the godman in question; in this case Asaram.

What accounts for this faith?

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“Are you following a ‘fake’ baba?” asks this Rediff piece. Followers are convinced that they are not.

These godmen become famous based on some ‘miracle’ or on the basis of offering a modicum of comfort or succour to people. They give sage advice or monetary assistance or even just offer a sense of belonging. People do not want to believe that the person who has given them such a sense of comfort and belonging could be a criminal – so they don’t.

Faith is central to our ethos. We have faith not just in our deities but in our teachers, people in positions of authority, even our politicians. Witness how we respect elders not because of any wisdom or maturity they may display, but because… well because they are older.

Reason tapers off where faith begins. In the case of these godmen, that faith is constant, unshakable and central to the world-view of their devotees. Bizarrely, the more evidence there is that the faith is unjustified, the more the faithful double down on their faith.

Women support him too – why?

Women rushing to the defence of these godmen – this is a common feature in most of these cases. Though these men have been convicted of heinous crimes like rape and/or murder, numerous women rally around and defend them stoutly.

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I used to find this truly befuddling and I thought long and hard about the cause for this dogged, misplaced loyalty and credulousness. Soon I realised that this is just one more instance of how women are co-opted into the patriarchy. It is every mother in law who is cruel to her daughter in law, it is every mother who prioritises her son’s welfare and his very existence over a daughter’s.

Being op-opted into the patriarchy — the Patriarchal Bargain

What is this Patriarchal Bargain?

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It is the Patriarchal Bargain – where women must compete for whatever modicum of power they can wrest within an oppressive patriarchal system. This even when it comes at the cost of other women. It is based on human nature where we look to align with authority that is in charge of dispensing resources: economic or social or emotional.

Women are often reluctant to align with other women in favour of the dribs and drabs of male approval they get, or for fear of the reprisal that such an alignment would cost them.

In the end, it is about survival – we use what strategies we can to survive. Sometimes those strategies work to the benefit of heinous criminals that call themselves godmen – and accrue to the benefit of men like Asaram.

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About the Author

Reena Daruwalla

A former lawyer, now freelance writer, fauji wife, mother, singer, knitter and lover of my own cooking, I have altogether too many opinions and too few convictions. The more I learn the more I am read more...

24 Posts | 5,446 Views

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