I wrote a few days ago about the Indian ‘holy man’ Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh whose followers went on a rampage killing over 30 people after he was convicted of raping two women. He has just been sentenced to 20 years in prison and authorities are bracing themselves for a further round of rioting.
The rape is not the only crime that he has been accused of. According to the above Al Jazeera report, “He is awaiting trial on a murder charge over the death of a journalist, and is also under investigation by the CBI over allegations of forcing several male followers to undergo castrations to bring them closer to God.”
The guru is reported to have an incredible 60 million followers despite (or perhaps because of) his lavish lifestyle and ostentation displays of wealth, as this Al Jazeera report shows.
The journalist who was killed was the one who published the letter from the woman alleging the rapes. Here are more lurid tales about him and how the size of his followers enabled him to wield considerable political clout. This struck me as similar to the Donald Trump phenomenon in the US where his followers seem mesmerized by his wealth to the extent that they are willing to support him whatever he does and attack those who dare to criticize him.
In 2007, he supported Congress, but in recent years, he has thrown his lot behind the BJP and in the run up to the 2014 Haryana state assembly elections, he issued a statement asking his followers to vote for the BJP.
Since the party’s win, he’s been photographed with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on a number of occasions and in October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised him at an election rally in Sirsa, the town where his campus is headquartered.
A few days later, Mr Modi followed it up with a tweet praising him for taking part in a campaign to clean up India.
The extent of Singh’s political influence can be gauged from the fact that he was provided what is known as the “Z-plus security” – a category reserved only for the most prominent politicians in the country.
But on Monday, reports coming in from the court described Singh as a broken man who begged for forgiveness and wept profusely.
These phony tough guys always collapse completely when their façade is penetrated. His supporters will likely dismiss his blubbering as ‘fake news’.
BBC reporter Justin Rowlatt managed to get inside the guru’s complex. It is a sprawling affair of about 1,000 acres and has about 40,000 people. It is a city within a city that has its own hospital, hotel, and resort area. You can see the video here.