A guru who ordered 400 of his followers to undergo castrations he said would bring them closer to God is under investigation by police in India.
The country’s top crime fighting agency registered a case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim – known as the ‘guru in bling’ for his penchant for garish clothes and jewellery – over the operations at his ashram.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said Rahim is being investigated for criminal intimidation and causing grievous bodily hurt after an alleged 400 castrations were carried out.
The guru, who heads the Dera Sacha Sauda organisation based in Haryana state, is already facing trial for conspiracy over the murder of a journalist in 2002, as well as with claims of sexually exploiting female followers.
The latest case was filed after one of his devotees, Hansraj Chauhan, lodged a complaint in court alleging he was manipulated into having the ‘painful’ operation at the ashram.
‘They were told that only those who get castrated will be able to meet god,’ Mr Chauhan’s lawyer, Navkiran Singh, told AFP. ‘We will put all the facts of the case to the court and seek compensation for the victims.’
Mr Singh said doctors carried out the castrations over a period from 2000, but for years his client had been too scared to come forward.
The court asked the CBI to carry out an investigation into the alleged castrations.
The Times of India reports that Mr Chauhan said he was castrated at Rahim’s ashram by doctors acting on the guru’s orders.
A court-mandated medical examination determined that Mr Chauhan had indeed been surgically castrated.
Rahim, 47, yesterday hit back at the accusations, telling a press conference convened to plug his new movie he is considering legal action of his own against his accusers.
‘Such allegations disturb me, when I am doing good for humanity. Therefore me and my legal advisor are going to move the court challenging the allegations,’ said Rahim.
The Dera Sacha Sauda says it is a social welfare and spiritual organisation with millions of followers in India and broad.
On its website, the group describes Rahim as a saint as well as an author, inventor, scientist, philosopher, philanthropist, peace activist and ‘the ultimate humanitarian’.
Rahim stars in an action movie to be released later this month called ‘MSG: Messenger of God’ in which the guru fights criminals, sings songs and is shown dousing himself in water in slow motion after a rugby game.
India has been rocked by numerous scandals involving popular godmen who are mostly Hindu ascetics claiming to possess mystical powers.
In November, police arrested Baba Rampal Maharaj after a long and violent siege at his ashram in Haryana when he refused to comply with court orders in a murder case.
In a bizarre case, devotees of a dead guru are fighting a court battle in Punjab state to preserve his body in a freezer, insisting he is only meditating.
For many Indians, gurus play an integral role in daily life. They say they offer a pathway to enlightenment in return for spiritual devotion and often give donations to ashrams, temples and charity projects.