Chandigarh, August 26: Who would have thought a powerful and larger-than-life godman, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of the Dera Sacha Sauda, from Haryana, could be one day convicted for rape? Nobody.
After all, in a country where rich and powerful always get away even after committing most heinous of crimes like rape and murder, a godman, who is also a film actor, singer, director, activist, philanthropist, philosopher and much more, and enjoys the support of crores of people, is almost "untouchable" by the law enforcing machineries.
Thankfully, the officials of the Crime Branch of Investigation (CBI), the CBI special court and the Punjab and Haryana High Court did not succumb to the political pressure and conducted a free and fair trial which led to Ram Rahim's conviction for raping his two female followers on Friday.
All hell broke loose as the godman's die-hard fans created riot in Haryana, Punjab and neighbouring areas of the national capital after the judge of the CBI special court convicted Ram Rahim.
So, before his conviction, in spite of being probed for several rape and murder charges against him, all (read politicians from all parties) openly praised the rockstar godman and gleefully shared public spaces with him. The list included Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
During the election campaign for the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, PM Modi, then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, praised the Dera chief from a public stage in Haryana. After becoming the PM of the country, Modi once again praised Ram Rahim for participating in his pet project--Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India campaign). In fact, a tweet by the PM is a testimony to that.
"Appreciable effort by Baba Ram Rahim ji & his team. Will motivate people across India to join Swachh Bharat Mission!," tweeted Modi on October 28, 2014.
This tweet is going to haunt Modi for long, as it clearly shows his admiration for the godman who has always been a controversial figure. In today's digital world, if a tweet could help a person to win elections, it could in equal measure lay the foundation for one's political debacle too.
It's not just Modi who had shown his support to the godman in the past. In fact, almost all leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were seen to have close-ties with the controversial religious figure who claims to have treated thousands from drug abuse.
Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP president Amit Shah met Ram Rahim to seek his support for the saffron party. Haryana BJP Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar was photographed with the godman on several occasions.
Recently, the Haryana government gave Rs 50 lakh to the dera (camp) run by Ram Rahim in Sirsa, Haryana, for development of sports activities.
After his conviction on Friday, BJP member of Parliament (MP) Sakshi Maharaj came out in support of the Dera chief calling him a "noble soul" and said the entire episode was to malign the reputation of Indian culture.
The saffron-clad leader also went ahead saying that the court should not have ignored the huge support enjoyed by Ram Rahim. "One person alleging sexual exploitation but crores stand with him today. Who is correct? One crore people who are supporting Baba or that girl who was raped?" he questioned.
For several hours after mayhem and violence unfolded across Haryana and Punjab, following the conviction of Ram Rahim on Friday, almost all BJP leaders remained mum about the issue.
When the media questioned about the BJP's silence surrounding the entire horrific episode of riot, the PM finally tweeted a couple of tweets. But he tactically refrained from naming the godman, the reason behind the deaths of more than 31 people in the northern states of India.
The instances of violence today are deeply distressing. I strongly condemn the violence & urge everyone to maintain peace.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 25, 2017
The law & order situation is being closely monitored. I reviewed the situation with the NSA & Home Secretary.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 25, 2017
Urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 25, 2017
Much have changed since Modi tweeted in awe of Ram Rahim in 2014 to Friday's tweets of the PM condemning the violence, however, not naming anyone, but one thing remains erringly similar, close-ties shared by godmen and the Indian political class.