Tainted godman

‘Fake babas’: Why rape-accused Swami Nithyanand is not on the apex sadhu body’s blacklist

The All India Akhara Parishad has blacklisted 14 self-styled godmen, including Gurmeet Singh, Asaram, Aseemanand, Radhe Ma and Nirmal Baba.

After the All India Akhara Parishad, the apex body of sadhus, released a list of 14 “fake babas” on Sunday and called for them to be boycotted, one missing name has evoked animated discussion – Swami Nithyanand.

Nithyanand is facing a rape case in Karnataka, filed in 2009. He also faces seven cases of fraud against his foundation, which bears his name, in India and the United States.

“Nithyanand’s name was raised by Hari Giri but the proposal was fiercely opposed by representatives of Mahanirvani Akhara,” said Dharam Das, the chief abbot of Nirvani Akhara, who attended the meeting in Allahabad where the list was drawn up. Hari Giri leads Juna Akhara.

The All India Akhara Parishad is a conglomerate of 13 akharas, or militant ascetic orders – seven of Shaiva persuasion, three each of Vaishnavism’s Ramanandi sect and Sikhism.

The Parishad’s “fake babas” list is aimed at restoring the credibility of sadhus after the arrest of several self-styled godmen on criminal charges, most recently Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda. Singh is on the blacklist, along with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member Aseemanand, Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, Radhe Ma, Sachidanand Giri and Nirmal Baba.

Nithyanand, though, escaped sanction. “Despite Mahanirvani’s objection, the case of Nithyanand was discussed in detail at the meeting,” Dharam Das said. “But since Mahanirvani’s representatives were not ready to listen to any argument we decided not to put his name on the list of fake babas.”

Nithyanand was anointed Mahamandaleshwar, or high priest, by Mahanirvani Akhara at the Allahabad Kumbh in 2013. The decision had drawn severe criticism from other akharas, which alleged that he had bought the title with “secret guru dakshina donations” to the akhara. Such was their indignation that the Niranjani and Juna akharas organised an open meeting of sadhus and devotees attending the Kumbh to denounce the grant of the coveted title to Nithyananda, who is believed to be one of the world’s richest sadhus.

His omission from the blacklist has not gone down well with many sadhus.

“The Akhara Parishad’s decision to exclude Nithyanand from the list of fake babas signifies that it is not serious about taking concrete steps to salvage the image of the ascetic community,” said Baba Hathyogi, a prominent sadhu from Haridwar who belongs to the Digambari Akhara.

Satyendra Das, a member of the Nirvani Akhara and chief priest of the Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya complained: “Akharas tie their hands the moment they take money for granting titles. The practice is so widespread that they are simply not in a position to launch a rectification drive.”

Satyendra Das went so far as to question the credibility of the Parishad’s leaders: “Many are themselves sadhus only in name. How can they cleanse the system?”

His allegations are not unfounded. The Parishad’s president Narendra Giri of the Niranjani Akhara was instrumental in getting Sachidanand Giri, a realtor who owned a bar in Noida, anointed as the chief priest in 2015, while the Juna Akhara’s Hari Giri went out of his way to consecrate Radhe Ma as the high priestess of his akhara in 2012.

Although both Sachidanand Giri and Radhe Ma feature in the “fake babas” list, the support that led to their rise has put a question mark on the Akhara Parishad’s ability to restore the credibility of Hindu ascetics.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What are racers made of?

Grit, strength and oodles of fearlessness.

Sportspersons are known for their superhuman discipline, single-minded determination and the will to overcome all obstacles. Biographies, films and documentaries have brought to the fore the behind-the-scenes reality of the sporting life. Being up at the crack of dawn, training without distraction, facing injuries with a brave face and recovering to fight for victory are scenes commonly associated with sportspersons.

Racers are no different. Behind their daredevilry lies the same history of dedication and discipline. Cornering on a sports bike or revving up sand dunes requires the utmost physical endurance, and racers invest heavily in it. It helps stave off fatigue and maintain alertness and reaction time. It also helps them get the most out of their racecraft - the entirety of a racer’s skill set, to which years of training are dedicated.

Racecraft begins with something as ‘simple’ as sitting on a racing bike; the correct stance is the key to control and manoeuvre the bike. Riding on a track – tarmac or dirt is a great deal different from riding on the streets. A momentary lapse of concentration can throw the rider into a career ending crash.

Physical skill and endurance apart, racers approach a race with the same analytical rigour as a student appearing in an exam. They conduct an extensive study of not just the track, but also everything around it - trees, marshal posts, tyre marks etc. It’s these reference points that help the racer make braking or turning decisions in the frenzy of a high-stakes competition.

The inevitability of a crash is a reality every racer lives with, and seeks to internalise this during their training. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, racers are trained to keep their eyes open to help the brain make crucial decisions to avoid collision with other racers or objects on the track. Racers that meet with accidents can be seen sliding across the track with their heads held up, in a bid to minimise injuries to the head.

But racecraft is, of course, only half the story. Racing as a profession continues to confound many, and racers have been traditionally misunderstood. Why would anyone want to pour their blood, sweat and tears into something so risky? Where do racers get the fearlessness to do laps at mind boggling speed or hurtle down a hill unassisted? What about the impact of high speeds on the body day after day, or the monotony of it all? Most importantly, why do racers race? The video below explores the question.

Play


The video features racing champions from the stable of TVS Racing, the racing arm of TVS Motor Company, which recently completed 35 years of competitive racing in India. TVS Racing has competed in international rallies and races across some of the toughest terrains - Dakar, Desert Storm, India Baja, Merzouga Rally - and in innumerable national championships. Its design and engineering inputs over the years have also influenced TVS Motors’ fleet in India. You can read more about TVS Racing here.

This article has been produced by Scroll Brand Studio on behalf of TVS Racing and not by the Scroll editorial team.