There was a time when lakhs would be glued to their TV sets to listen to sermons by Asaram Bapu, a self styled godman who is now behind the bars for raping a minor in 2013. Thousands would attend his satsangs, seek his blessings and guidance to cope with problems in life. Whether Gurmeet Ram Rahim, Satpal Maharaj or Asaram, what these godmen did was to give simple, even if impractical, solutions to problems that people face in life. What most of these self proclaimed godmen do is to tell people to believe in certain set of principles, and all problems would be solved. Whether problems get solved by sticking to these priciples or not is a different matter altogether, but what it did was to give people a sense of security, hope and belief.
Asaram's fall from grace:
Asaram's fall from grace came after he was embroiled in the rape case of a minor girl. If we go by figures, Asaram can surely give top businessmen a run for their money as the jailed self-styled godman created an empire of Rs 10,000 crore within four decades, starting from a humble hut on the banks of the Sabarmati river in the early 70s to over 400 ashrams across the country and the world.
The scrutiny of documents seized by the police from Asaram's ashram in Motera area here following his arrest in the rape case in 2013 had revealed that the 77-year-old Asaram has amassed wealth of around 10,000 crore, which is excluding the market value of vast track of lands that he holds. He may be still have many followers, but after rape allegations, he was accused of other crimes like land grabbing and practice of black magic in his ashrams. As per a short documentary available on his official website, Asaram was born in 1941 as Asumal Sirumalani in Berani village of Sindh province in Pakistan.
After partition in 1947, Asumal came to Ahmedabad with his parents and studied only till the fourth standard at a school in Maninagar area, as he was forced to leave his studies after the death of his father Thaumal when he was 10. After doing some odd jobs during his early youth, Asumal embarked on a "spiritual quest" towards the Himalayas, where he met his Guru, Lilashah Bapu, the documentary claimed. It was that Guru who gave him the name 'Asaram' in 1964 and "commanded him to carve his own path and guide people".
Asaram came to Ahmedabad in the early 70s and started doing penance on the banks of Sabarmati near Motera area. His true journey as a spiritual leader started in 1972 when he set up 'Moksha Kutir', a humble hut, on the banks of the river. Over the years, his popularity as 'Sant Asaramji Bapu' started soaring high and that 'humble hut' converted into a full-fledged Ashram. Within a span of four decades, he added around 400 ashrams in India and abroad. Even today, the Motera Ashram is flocked by followers, who are still in denial mode and maintain that their 'guru' has been jailed on false charges.
Asaram is married to Laxmi Devi and they have two children - son Narayan Sai, who is also behind bars, and daughter Bharti Devi. Asaram ran into troubled waters for the first time in 2008, when two cousins -Dipesh and Abhishek Vaghela- who used to stay at the Gurukul of Asaram's Ashram in Motera area here, were found dead under mysterious circumstances on the riverbed near the ashram in 2008. The state CID had in 2009 booked seven followers of Asaram in the death case. Parents of two cousins had alleged that they were killed in Asaram's ashram as they practice black magic. However, his real fall started in 2013, after he was arrested for a minor's rape in Rajasthan.
After that, two Surat-based sisters had come out to speak about their alleged sexual exploitation at the hand of Asaram and his son Narayan Sai. Surat Police had on October 6, 2013, registered complaints filed by two sisters - one against Asaram and another against his son Narayan Sai - of rape, sexual assault, illegal confinement and other charges. The case is going on against Asaram in Gandhinagar court. He was accused of land grabbing for building his ashrams in Surat and Ahmedabad. His followers were held for threatening and assaulting witnesses in rape cases against him and his son after they were arrested.
OneIndia News with PTI inputs