Asaram's rape case: Understanding why women seek godmen

Asaram supporters on Women's Day Women followers of Asaram Bapu presenting a petition to government officials seeking his release during an International Women's Day event in Haldwani, Uttarakhand | Facebook account of Sant Shri Asharamji Bapu

From Nithyananda to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to Asaram Bapu, all of these godmen have been accused of sexual abuse and rape. However, the likes of Ram Rahim Singh still has followers despite being convicted of rape, while some of Asaram's followers claim that women more beautiful than the rape victim longed to get a glance from him. As the Asaram case unfolded, THE WEEK spoke to some experts to try to understand why women seek godmen.

This story was first published in THE WEEK issue dated September 15, 2013

Sanjay Chugh, psychiatrist

Women perhaps seek a strong emotional anchor that can provide them with a sense of security. This anchor not only protects them from feeling less vulnerable but also gives them the confidence that they aren't alone. The fact that these godmen are placed on a pedestal makes these women feel that they have that much more power and the ability to make a real difference in their lives. The unconditional faith in them makes people follow them unquestioningly. And the moment we give them that power, it becomes that much easier to get carried away, emotionally and spiritually. It is this blind faith of the common man that encourages the godman to indulge in sacrilegious acts and believe that they could get away scot-free.

Dipankar Gupta, sociologist

Established institutions, which are prevalent in religions like Christianity, Islam or Sikhism, are not there in Hinduism. The other religions have communions and the holy men associated with them are known by their affiliations. However, in Hinduism, the permutations and combinations in the Hindu tradition have been individualistic throughout. Holy men or godmen have been lone rangers. They may sit on a remote hilltop, let their 'miracles' be known, and people scouting for such become their easy prey. The followers get drawn to the grandiose promises of the charlatans―there's no screening that censors the average from nowhere.

As told to Shalini Singh