The madmen of India

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 16, 2013 07:21 hrs

​Catharsis can be malodorous but cleansing. As it is with India, whose people seem stunned by the reality of thoughts hitherto unexpressed.

By nature, Indians can be deeply conservative. They take few risks, largely because over-controlling parents don't allow children to make mistakes and learn. There is a tendency to seek succour from external sources.

There is a maze of subtext to this but simply put, Indians tend to distrust their own selves and trust people outside of them. Especially people who seem to know better, like godmen and doctors.

When Indians flock to godmen, they bestow a level of credibility on them which is difficult to discreate once established.

In due course, such godmen become the repositories of wisdom for their followers. Questions that Indians dare not ask at family dinners are asked of godmen in regular gatherings.

These gatherings are called satsang, which means the company of truth. Eons ago in India and Greece, people assembled to listen, talk about and assimilate the truth – usually in the company of a wise man or guru.

In modern satsangs in India, people are encouraged to pass on their questions on slips of paper, which are handed over to a guru by volunteers who assist the guru in such events. Some questions are asked orally.

It is possible that a question was asked of Asaram Bapu on the Delhi gangrape of 16 December 2012 in a satsang [his spokesperson said Asaram's comments were made in a satsang]. The vile crime, the heroic response of the victim and the narrative are still on the minds of most Indians.

Asaram, who operates from his headquarters in Gujarat, sees himself as a seer. He has an urge to expound. Broadly, this is what Asaram said on the gangrape.

The young woman, who died of the gangrape and murderous assault, would not have gone to see a movie in a mall had she sought diksha from Asaram. God would have helped her if she chanted the name of goddess Saraswati as she was being attacked.

If that was beyond her, she would have lived if she held on to the wrist of one of the attackers and called him a brother. If this too didn't work, she ought to have addressed two other perpetrators and said she was weak and needed protection from these two assailants as brothers.

Since she did none of the above, she was responsible for what happened to her. Because, and this is chilling, 'You can't clap with one hand.'

How did Asaram know what happened in the bus? 'Don't you read newspapers?' snapped Asaram's spokesperson on a television channel. It doesn't matter to Asaram or his people that the newspapers said the youngest of the perpetrators had lured the woman and her friend into the bus by addressing
her as 'sister'.

It doesn't matter to them that the woman and his friend fought till the end. It is of no consequence to Asaram that the perpetrators were hunting for prey.

If these were the rants of a person by the roadside, they might be termed asinine. If one were to be more accurate, we might use the word psychotic [a young adult might opt for whacko].

But this is the view of a man assumed to be god by several hundred thousand Indians. This is what a man thinks who many Indian lawmakers defer to. This is the mind of a man with measurable influence on at least one Indian politician who seeks to be prime minister.

This is the consummation of unthinking life practices which begin when Indian parents tell children to pray and not think. This is the perfection of a madness that starts when parents label children as irksome when they are merely curious.

This is the death of scientific temperament. This is what happens when elders don't converse at home and flock to godmen instead.

The satisfying part of the Asaram rant is that television has made his fetid thoughts widely known. Each time his name shall pop up in future, it would trigger the memory of his stinking thinking. This could make his followers defensive and the rest of us aggressive.

But Asaram won't be broken by the media. Only three things have impacted people similar to Asaram in the past: dementia, death or disdain.

Of the three, the disdain of followers is the most effective. This dismantles the constructs of paper saints and sends a message to others gullible.

In India, the flakiness of parents is passed on to children without thought.Unskilled teachers add to the mess by sheer disinterest in schools.

When such children grow, they tend to applaud the feckless actions of politicians and godmen. This is a scary cycle, more so because the two most effective exports of India are her democracy and her scientific temperament.

Almost every week, officials and ministers from other countries fly in to India to learn from the Election Commission and from the Human Resource Development ministry. They have two basic needs: freedom to choose their governments [democracy] and forward-looking minds [scientific temperament].

They look to India for both.

One of the fundamental duties of an Indian citizen, according to the Constitution of India, is 'to develop scientific temper'. Asaram and others like him – politicians, administrators, educators, journalists, and entertainers – do nothing of this.

We could send them to prison if we have the gumption. Even better, we could indignify them.

Also by the author:

Schools for parents, a woman Deputy PM: A 2013 manifesto for India

Delhi gang-rape case offers us insights into attitude of our youth

Don't believe the cops: The way forward in the Delhi rape case

Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and

He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at

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