Ahmedabad From the high pedestal of a preacher having thousands of followers, self-styled godman 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 crores, which is excluding the market value of vast track of lands that he holds.
He may 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 the Asarma’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.
5 other self-styled godmen mired in controversies
We look at 5 other godmen who have been embroiled in controversies over the years.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan: Head of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect has two murder charges against him. It is alleged that he killed journalist Ram Chander Chatrapati in 2001 and sect manager Ranjit Singh in July 2002. He has also been accused by a woman for raping her and two others in 2002. The same year saw a follower claim that he had ordered 400 men to undergo castration to be closer to God.
Swami Premananda: Escaping civil war in Sri Lanka, Swami Premananda moved to India in 1984 and set up an ashram for women and orphans in Tiruchirappalli. However, in 1994, a young girl, Arul Jyothi, escaped from the ashram and reported that she was pregnant after being raped repeatedly by the Godman. In August 1997, Premananda, along with six accomplices, was convicted of raping 13 minor girls. He was also convicted of murdering a disciple who had tried to out him.
Sant Rampal: The spiritual leader’s arrest came on 18 November 2004, after the Haryana police found the bodies of five women and an 18-month-old child at his Satlok ashram in Hisar where they had gone to arrest him in regard to another case. Thousands of his followers fought a pitched battle with the police, and it took 20,000 security personnel to finally capture him the next day. Sant Rampal had earlier been jailed for 22 months after he was charged with the murder of a man who died when his followers clashed with those of the Arya Samaj on 12 July 2006.
Chandraswami: The late spiritual leader, who passed away omn May 23, 2017, is alleged to have been involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. An income-tax raid on Chandraswami’s ashram reportedly uncovered drafts of payments, totaling USD11 million, paid to arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. In 1996, he was arrested on charges of defrauding a London-based businessman of USD100,000, and in June 2011, the Supreme Court fined him Rs 9 crore for violating the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act.
Paramahamsa Nithyananda: He was arrested and spent 52 days in jail in 2010 after a leaked video showed him engaged in sexual activities with Tamil actress Ranjitha. Both Nithyananda and Ranjitha insisted that the video was morphed, a claim that was later proven by a confession by the ex-COO of Sun TV. However, in 2012, Indian-born American citizen Arthi Rao claimed that he had raped her for several years.
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