Rape is assuming social approval in India. The bloody reaction by thousands of followers of rape-convict “god man” Ram Rahim Singh in parts of Haryana and Punjab is a pointer towards it. Around 40 people have died and over 250 injured in clashes between police and followers of Ram Rahim sing over the past two days. The self-appointed spiritual guru, on Friday, was convicted by the court in a case of raping two of his followers. He heads a cult-group and socio-religious organization Dera Sacha Suda, headquartered in Sirsa Harayana. Dera head has a huge fan following in many states of north India. Around one lakh supporters of the ‘guru’ converged on the courthouse to shout angry protests. His followers went on rampage in Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and Noida, resulting in the death of 32 persons and injuries to 250 others. What went on Friday in Haryana was the danse macabre in real term. The scenes were very much like Bollywood films. The spectacle put on by the convicted ‘guru’s’ followers brought large parts of Punjab and Haryana to a standstill. There was such a violent frenzy from his followers that a massive mobilisation by the state had to be undertaken, with trains, schools and telephony being disrupted. Despite appeals for calm, his supporters continued their rampage after the verdict was announced. But the larger question is how these cults are allowed to become a law unto themselves and how it is that they seem to feel a sense of entitlement that they are above the law. Dera chief not only had the street support, a formidable section of politicians and religious leaders also rose in his support. BJP member parliament Sakhshi Maharaj publicly supported Dera chief questioning the verdict by saying “you are listening to two women only (who complained of rape). Why don’t you listen to crores of his followers”. Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is also alleged to have close links with Ram Rahim Singh. He is alleged to have gone soft on Dera chief’s supporters. Misuse of religious position by some people is a norm in different societies everywhere in the world. But protecting them and their crimes for political or other reasons is the most abhorring thing one can think of. Kashmir, for that matter, is a different story. In 2006 when some top politicians and influential government officials including sitting MLAs, ministers and senior bureaucrats were found involved in the infamous sex scandal, thousands of people struck streets in protests demanding legal action against those involved in the scandal. It was under severe public pressure that many of them were arrested and jailed for months. It was again government that helped the rape accused by shifting the case to Chandhigarh. Though they have since been acquitted for want of ‘evidence’ but many of them still face isolation at social level. The Budgam thug Gulzar Peer’s is another case in point. He would be called “Peeran-e-Tareeqat”, (saint of saint-hood) by his ‘followers’, who were actually partners in his crimes. Achievements of his saint-hood were being projected in newspapers against paid advertisements. But when the mask of false dervish-hood fell from his face and two girls complained of rape by the so-called peer, angry people attacked his citadel, destroyed it completely and forced the government to act against him. He has since been in jail, though there were attempts to release him. However, the fear of public anger does not allow the government to release him. The quantum of punishment to Dera chief would be decided by the court on Monday. There are fears that violence may again erupted in areas of Dera chief support. That makes Kashmir different from India.
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