Of Babas and Deras in India
| 30 Aug 2017
| Onkareshwar Pandey, Editor In Chief, NOP

Of Babas and Deras in India


Now that Baba Gurmeet ram Rahim the cult head of Dera Sacha Sauda has been jailed for 20 years for committing the crime of rape on two of his disciples, serious question arises over credibility and existence of such ‘Deras”.

There is a village Ballan near Jallandhar in Punjab. There is huge Gurudwara like Palace here on a sprawling campus running into hundreds of acres. Hundreds of people assemble here to listen to their Guru every day. From their appearance it seems they are from the lower strata of the society. It is a gathering of men, women, children from all walks of religion; Hndus, Christians, Muslims etc.

People from lower income group mostly from Punjab and Harayana are followers of the Dera. Why they come, from where the Deras get funds? These are questions that people want to know. Of many reasons one is these people get some sort of spiritual feeing in the Dera. Besides, the people are not abused, insulted or humiliated on the basis of their caste, religion and financial standing. In Punjab and Harayana, in addition to Hinduism, the Arya Samaj and Sikh Panth are century old religions. Yet, the caste divide is entrenched deep in the society like a poison.

In Tem;ples and Gurudearas. Dalits and Weaker sections are still looked down upon by high caste people. It is a fact even now that the Dalits and extremely backward caste people are hated by the upper caste people across the country.

Large numbers of people go to Babas and Gurus at their doors to seek blessings for employment, for getting a son in thee family, for good wedding relation for their daughters, for getting their kins rid of addiction from liquor and drugs et hoping that the Babas would help them to fulfill their wishes.

It is a well known fact that in Punjab and harayana there is strong desire of getting a boy child; hence these two states are notorious for female feticide.

Caste No Factor for Becoming Baba

It is not necessary that the cult head or Baba come from Dalit or backward community. Take for example, the convict Baba Ram Rahim is a Jat from Rajasthan.
Dera Sacha Sauda has been exercising influence in the electoral process of Punjab and Harayana. And it is for this reason that politicians of all hudes including the Akalis who are opposed to the Dera have been visiting Ram Rahim in the past for support in elections.

In the past 70 years Punjab underwent changes in its geo-political form. At the time of independence in 1947, a large part of Punjab went to Pakistan. In 1966, Harayana was carved out of Punjab as a new State. The rise and growth of Babas and their Dras continued in these two states. People be it politicians businessmen and others desirous of achieving a new status in the society began thronging these Babas for blessings.

Dera of Bhindrawale
Most of the Deras are run on the pattern of Gurudwaras. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was also at one time follower of a Dera. He later became a terrotist, Bibi Jagir Kaur, former chief of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandakh Committee also run a Dera.

Flow of Funds
Hundreds people are fed daily in these Deras free of cost. After all, where the money comes from?. Who gives funds. These are the questions ;eople want to know.

Even in the Dera of Sant Rampal who is also serving jail term, hundreds of people use to be provided free meals. The money comes from highly rich disciples and politicians, the latter give money to seek support during elections.

Recently Balbir Singh and I visited two Deras of Gurudaspur in Punhab. These Deras have huge campus spreading over 400 to 600 acres of land. The Deras have huge assets including fixed deposits in banks running into several crores of rupees. They grow vegetables, wheat and rice beside running dairies that produce some 50 quintals of milk daily.

Recently I was in village Murar in Buxar of Bihar. It is the village of one of the makers of the Indian Constitution Dr Sachidanand Sinha. I am constructing a road there. I noticed a long boundary running along the road. I took it that it must be some factory. But I was told it is Ashram of Radha Swami. Someone told me that I can buy some basmati rice of high quality from the Ashram. It is not correct to accuse that all Ashrams and Deras have dubious source of income or funding.

The Satsang of Thakur Anukilchand in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and in Eastern part of India are one example where funding is not suspect. Likewise Gayatri Mahaparivar in Haridwar, Ramkrishna Mission in Belurmath in Kolkata, Sarswat Math in Assam, Bharatseva Ashram, Chaturbhuj Sahay and Satsang of Sakaldev Maharas also run in this country.

But it is also a fact that from time to time, some Babas and Gurus appear on the horizon giving shelters to criminals and mafias, running dens of sexual exploitation of women and other criminal activities.

In erly 1970s, when I was a working journalist I exposed some criminal Babas as Investigating Reporter and created atmosphere of agitation and movement against these fraud Babas. As a result one Sant Baba was sentenced to serve life imprisonment and another Baba fled to the United States of America.

On the whole if you look at the cult of Babas, Deras, Ashrams and Gurus, you will find that even Government at the Centre and in the States are hesitant in taking action or probing the dubious activities of the demi Gods for the wider appeal of these demi Gods in the Indian society.

Jawaharlal Nehru, though he always maintained distance from reliwent to take a dip in the Kumbh at Allahabad in 1953. There was stampede, Elephants of Maths ran amok killing more than hundred pilgrims at the Kumbh.

Indira Gandhi was known to cultivate Gurus and used to visit Temples. She used to seek blessings from Deoraha Baba who would put his feet on her head to bless. That his style of blessing people. Indira Gandhi was also a disciple of Dhirendra Brahmchari.

Deoraha Baba used to visit Patna also. When Dr Zakir Hussain was Governor of Bihar, he would visit Deoraha Baba at the bank of Ganga. Baba used to sit on a machan. Once when Deoraha Baba was pleased with Dr Zakir Hussainm, he blessed the Governor by kicking him.

So much for the Babas and Gurus in India.
(The writer is a Member of Rajya Sabha)

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