By: Gulrukh Tausif
For the past few weeks, a guru from across the border has been making headlines for getting a 20 year prison sentence for crimes against his female followers. One has to applaud the judiciary that gave the infamous “guru of bling” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh such a lengthy sentence as his followers are said to be millions in number and quite capable of creating a law and order situation that could have spiraled out of control.
However, he is not the only guru to command such a large and devoted following. There are quite a few other so called spiritual leaders and religious healers, bedecked in gold and diamond jewellery, travelling in private jets with secure ashrams, large entourage and private armies to ensure their safety.
People in India give these gurus almost a god-like status and follow their commands implicitly. In addition to being under investigation for murder of a journalist, Guru Ram Raheem is also accused of ordering his male followers to cut off their certain body parts in order to get closer to God and about 400 of them seemed to have done so. Social media and Twitter had a field day with these allegations and there is no dearth of risqué jokes at the expense of these devotees.
Tragically, the situation in Pakistan when it comes to fake peers, fakirs and babas is not rosy either. In fact, considering the fact that majority of population of Pakistan is adherent of the Islamic faith, the blind trust people put in these fake pirs, aamils and babas is downright alarming.
News of fake fakirs beating people to death in order to cure them of jinns and shaitan is so commonly reported that it has almost becomes a routine thing. Even more common is the news of these pirs and fakirs taking advantage of young girls and women, videotaping them and then extorting money as blackmail. And yet, there are hordes of people who seek cure for all their ills at the doorstep of these scammers and sexual predators. Fathers, husbands and in-laws leave their young daughters and wives with these quacks voluntarily so that they can be cured of diseases, become fertile or most importantly give birth to awlad-e-narina only.
The most tragic aspect of the whole business is how openly these people advertise their businesses and no one bats an eyelid. Walls in almost every city are painted red and black with graffiti telling people that all their problems whether related to education or jobs, women or in-laws, infertility or host of other medical issues can be solved by these aamil babas. Police and city administration springs into action only after horrific crimes have been committed. By that time, it is too late for the victims who have been beaten to death or electrocuted, have had their nails extracted or subjected to horrible torture and physical and sexual assaults.
Time and time again, these people are exposed by reporters and journalists but business goes on as usual as there is no dearth of people who are ready to lose everything, literally everything …money, honor, life and their children… at the altars of superstition, fear and avarice at the hands of these charlatans.
This line of work over the years has become so lucrative that many people have started it as a side business. That is why you might hear of policemen, barbers, local hakims or shopkeepers performing exorcism and jadoo tona in their spare time. Whether they come in guise of Peer Fawary Wala claiming to wash away sins of women (women only) by spraying them with water or Baba jharoo wala claiming to dust away your problems with swish of the broom or Aamil soti wala who excels at driving away jinns by whacking you hard on your skull or soles of feet, there is no dearth of the amazing supernatural feats these people can accomplish.
In India at least, after the mayhem caused by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction, the apex governing body of 13 major akharas (organisations of Hindu sants), has decided to seek government action against ‘fake’ holy men and self-styled gurus who are busy duping the masses. The organization intends to pass a resolution on the matter seeking action against a list of ‘fake babas’. It is also likely to pressure the government to not allocate land to fake healers, as well as make a compulsory background check of their financial and criminal history.
In Pakistan too, we need stringent laws but it is a sad reality that as long as there are people who are willing to be used and abused by these fake healers, these unholy men will go about their unholy businesses, irrespective of government laws.