Prompted by recent controversies surrounding self-styled godmen, the apex body of Hindu sadhus — the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad – has released a list of 14 ‘fake babas’ and demanded a crackdown on “rootless cult leaders” by bringing in a legislation.
Giving out the list, the parishad’s president Swami Narendra Giri said: “We appeal to even the common people to beware of such charlatans who belong to no tradition and by their questionable acts, bring disrepute to sadhus and sanyasis.”
Here are the 14 fake babas on the parishad’s list:
Asaram Bapu (Asumal Sirumalani)
The 76-year-old white-bearded man was arrested in 2013 after a teenage devotee accused him of raping her at a religious event. Another female follower later also accused him of rape. He has been in jail since 2013 on charges of rape and criminal intimidation. Yet Asaram continues to have thousands of supporters flock to court when he appears for hearings.
Several local newspapers have reported on the mysterious killings of three witnesses in the criminal cases he faces.
Radhe Maa (Sukhwinder Kaur)
A Punjab resident, Sukhwinder Kaur later changed her name to Radhe Maa and moved to Mumbai. She hosts regular religious events at her Radhe Maa Bhawan located in Boriwali. The Punjab and Haryana high court recently issued a notice against a police official asking why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him for failing to act on a complaint against Kaur.
A Phagwara-based man had lodged a complaint against her, seeking registration of a case in 2015 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments, threatening and other offences under the IPC.
Last year, Mumbai resident Niki Gupta filed a complaint, accusing Kaur of instigating her in-laws against her for dowry.
Sachchidanand Giri (Sachin Datta)
He is called ‘Builder Baba’ by many. Sachin Dutta alias Sachidanand Giri had been declared a proclaimed offender in a case registered with the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police and was later arrested from his house in Lucknow.
In 2015, a case of fraud had been registered at Sector 58, Noida against Dutta and seven others for allegedly mortgaging sold flats in an Indirapuram housing society to obtain bank loans. The case was subsequently transferred to the Indirapuram police station and the accused declared a proclaimed offender.
Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Singh, known as the guru of bling for the bejeweled costumes he wears in self-produced films, was recently sentenced to 20 years’ jail after being convicted of raping two female followers. Hundreds of his followers went on the rampage when he was convicted, attacking train stations, buses and television vans.
Secret tunnels, including one which linked the jailed sect chief plush residence with female disciples’ hostel, an empty box of AK-47 cartridges, an illegal firecracker factory were among the detections made during a search at his sect headquarters.
Swami Omji (Vinodanand Jha)
In November 2008, an FIR was registered against Vinodanand Jha aka Swami Omji on a complaint by his younger brother Pramodh Jha, who accused him of breaking the lock of his bicycle shop in Lodhi Colony along with three men and stealing 11 bicycles, expensive spare parts, sale deed of the house and important documents.
The self-proclaimed godman also faces charges under the Arms Act, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act in other matters.
Nirmal Baba (Nirmaljeet Singh)
Nirmaljeet Singh Narula, better known as Nirmal Baba, has appeared on television as part of his show, ‘Third Eye of Nirmal Baba’. This Jharkhand-raised self-styled godman shot to fame through the controversy surrounding the donations and the charging of admission fees (Rs. 2,000 per person) to his ‘darbar’ sessions. He is estimated to be worth hundreds of crores and has a huge following despite dispensing advice bordering on the absurd. He even has an app on Facebook called ‘Live Darshan 24/7’. A polarising figure, Nirmal Baba has ardent devotees and vocal doubters.
Ichchadhari Bhimanand (Shivmurti Dwivedi)
Shivmurti Dwivedi was arrested in 2010 for allegedly running a sex racket. Dwivedi, alias Icchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj Chitrakoot, was booked under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. “He has political ambitions. He did not want to join politics now but was gaining ground steadily. He wanted to use his followers as his vote bank,” a senior police officer had said after his arrest.
Right-wing activist Swami Aseemanand was recently acquitted along with six others in the 2007 Ajmer blast case by a special court. Judge Dinesh Gupta let off Swami Aseemanand and six others giving them “benefit of doubt”
Asaram’s son Narayan Sai is in jail for allegedly raping a Surat-based woman disciple of his father between 2002 and 2005. She was allegedly raped when she was living at Asaram’s ashram in Surat. Sai, 40, is also accused of having physical relations with eight other girls.
In November 2014, five bodies were discovered by the police after they stormed the ashram of a self-styled godman, Rampal, in Haryana’s Hisar. Another of the man’s followers died in hospital. The police were seeking Rampal’s arrest after he refused court orders to appear to answer charges including conspiracy to murder, inciting mobs and contempt of court.
Rampal considers himself an incarnation of the 15th-century poet Kabir.
The ashram was guarded by hundreds of followers for several days. Police fired water cannon and lathi-charged the supporters who were armed with stones, petrol bombs among other weapons.
Some followers later came out of the ashram, saying they had been held at the ashram against their will.
Acharya Kushmuni Swarup is national spokesperson Akhil Bhartiya Dandi Sanyasi Prabudh Samiti. After the list of fake babas, Kushmuni alleged most of the people in the akhada had criminal cases against them. He has in the past called for fake babas to be reprimanded.
Giri allegedly tried to gain control of temples of Alkhnath Trust in Uttar Pradesh.
The other two babas on the list are Om Namah Shivay Baba and Malkhan Singh.
(With inputs from agencies)