In­side Asaram’s Evil Em­pire

In spite of friends in high places, one of In­dia’s most well- known god­men re­mains in jail. His once- busy ashrams now wear a de­serted look. Is his fall from grace the end of a bizarre dream?

India Today - - INSIDE - By Uday Mahurkar and Asit Jolly

In spite of friends in high places, Asaram re­mains in jail. The god­man’s once- busy ashrams wear a de­serted look. Is his fall from grace the end of a bizarre dream?

Isalute Bin Laden,” he pro­claimed just three days af­ter the world wit­nessed un­prece­dented tele­vised hor­ror as Mo­ham­mad Atta and his men brought down the World Trade Cen­ter in New York on Septem­ber 11, 2001. Obliv­i­ous to the tragic loss of hu­man lives, this self- ap­pointed ‘ god’ of men, an as­so­ciate re­calls, was filled with ad­mi­ra­tion for the al Qaeda chief and his un­ques­tion­ing death squads. “Those are the kind of fol­low­ers I want,” he de­clared mock­ing his own flock. On Au­gust 31, a po­lice posse from Jodh­pur ar­rested Asaram Bapu on charges of rap­ing the 16- year- old daugh­ter of a Shah­ja­han­pur ( Ut­tar Pradesh) cou­ple who had been his devotees for years. He now awaits his fate in a cell at the Cen­tral Jail at Jodh­pur. Al­le­ga­tions of ear­lier sex­ual mis­de­meanours, macabre tantric rit­u­als, mur­der, in­tim­i­da­tion and land grab­bing have also resur­faced, tight­en­ing the noose around In­dia’s most con­tro­ver­sial god­man.

Four decades af­ter he set out in sin­gle- minded pur­suit of a bizarre dream to be­come god, Asumal Harpalani aka Asaram Bapu, who re­port­edly used to be a ton­gawal­lah, then briefly a road­side tea ven­dor and oc­ca­sion­ally a boot­leg­ger in Ahmed­abad’s Man­i­na­gar lo­cal­ity, lords over a 10 to 30 mil­lion- strong herd of sad­haks ( fol­low­ers). To them, he is, “Pu­jya Sant Shri Asaram- ji Bapu.” The ti­tle in English is “His Di­vine

www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

SHAILESH RAWAL/

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