Article below says, sexual abuse of young boys who join Iskcon is routine.
Seemingly Oneiros is right, temples should be closed!
Gullible devotees are easy prey for many spiritual gurus. They hunt with impunity.
posted Sep 21 2005
Six months ago, an FIR was filed with the Madhya Pradesh police against a senior monk, Digambar Jain Acharya Virag Sagarji Maharaj, accusing him of more than 40 rapes over the past 14 years.
The allegation came from an organisation called the Jain Sanskriti Raksha evam Samvardhak Samiti of Agra on the basis of horrifying complaints from female devotees.
Last year, a BBC film called Secret Swami showed the iconic, curly-haired godman, Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthy, Andhra Pradesh, as a homosexual abuser. Former devotees Alaya Rahm and Mark Roche, featured in the film, gave graphic accounts of the sexual exploits of one of India's most sought after spiritual gurus. He had allegedly forced young male devotees to join him in his private chambers, undressed them and, on the pretext of purifying them, had abused them. Others had been forced into oral sex by him.
Blasphemous? The sexploits of godmen have become a routine section of crime news now.
Satya Sai Baba, whose notoriety perhaps equals his fame, was first accused of sinful ways long years ago in 1976 when a former American follower, Tal Brooke, wrote a book called Avatar of the Night: The Hidden Side of Sai Baba. Since then, many of his western devotees have been levelling charges against him. As did Conny Larson, a Swede and a former companion of the Baba who led an international movement against him. There were allegations that Larson was the Baba's sexual partner and rebelled against him after the guru shifted his sexual gaze away from him. Guru-buster Basava Premanand, leader of South India's atheist movement, also firmly believes the godman should be exposed.
Virag Sagarji Maharaj and Satya Sai Baba are aberrations but not the exceptions. Sordid sagas of rape, sleaze, murder and molestation have emerged from big and small religious ashrams across India. They have put a big question mark over the unflinching trust people repose in spiritual leaders. Saffron-clad monks raping young boys and girls, hypnotising women to have sex with them and indulging in murder most foul have made some godly cults ghettos of exploitation. "Many young people are looking for instant meaning and in that search they become victims of instant sex," says social anthropologist Shiv Visvanathan, who has researched the subject. "Who knows what all those places coming up everywhere promising yoga or body development are actually doing inside?"
A number of lesser known ashrams in Bengal's hinterland have been labelled as hotbeds of sleaze, substance abuse and perverse acts. One run by Siddheshwar Baba (now reportedly absconding) at Purulia was a den of such activities. The 'baba', who claimed to have miraculous healing powers, used to routinely molest young women. His modus operandi was scary: childless couples would visit the baba for blessings to reproduce. The women would be told to have sex with the baba and the men with his associates. An orgy would follow. After the goings-on were splashed in a local newspaper four years ago, the baba and his associates fled the ashram. A 'saint' near Siliguri, Swami Lokeshwar, used to entice young boys and girls into his ashram with drugs before having sex with them. He too disappeared.
There is, of course, the big guru of sin and shame, Swamy Premananda of Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. In April this year, the Supreme Court upheld the sentences awarded to him by the Madras High Court and the sessions court of Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu. He had been sentenced to two life sentences for raping 13 girls, including his own niece, and murdering a man. The Sri Lankan-born godman, who migrated to India in 1984, had managed to build up a following of a few lakh devotees spread over many countries within a few years.
As money flowed in, he set up a sprawling ashram spread over 150 acres.This became a virtual bordello where girls were dragged to his kudil or sacred room and raped.The victims told the court that Divya Matha, one of the swami's partners-in-sleaze, would keep a watch on their menstruation cycles, forcing them to eat pineapple and papaya in the early stages of pregnancy to force abortions. Eventually, it was an abortion that led to Premananda's arrest. One of his victims sought the court's permission to terminate her pregnancy and dna tests confirmed that she had been raped by the swami. As the whole story unfolded, he got 28 years in prison.
The Iskcon's global HQ at Mayapur in West Bengal had, a few years ago, faced allegations of senior monks molesting young male school students. Those who have left the commune allege that homosexuality is a widespread practice in Iskcon and sexual abuse of young boys who join the order is routine.
"Godmen or senior monks command a lot of respect, even blind devotion. Some take advantage of their position to indulge in sexual dalliances. They try to be gods but are human after all," says Dr Robin Bhattacharya, who has counselled a couple of victims of sexual exploitation inside a religious commune. "But such people are supposed to set standards for the rest of society in morality and spirituality. So their failings cannot be explained away as those of humans," he adds.
Visvanathan offers a valid critique. "Conmen in religious movements have only increased because ashrams have become totally unscrutinised spaces. Contempt of religion has become like contempt of court. It is not allowed. Media must create conditions to get such places scrutinised. Being a godman cannot become a shield for wrongdoings," he says.
Unfortunately, the law is unable to pin down the erring godmen because of their circles of influence and faith. Only a few are arrested, the rest skirt punishment.
If guilty gurus are allowed to walk free, the law against rape will remain subjective and conditional. A claim to godliness does not give any human being the right to do the utterly unforgivable.