Asaram Bapu

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Asaram Bapu
BornAsumal Sirumalani
(1941-04-17) 17 April 1941 (age 73)
Berani, British India
ResidenceAhmedabad, Gujarat, India
NationalityIndian
ReligionHinduism
Spouse(s)Lakshmi Devi
ChildrenNarayan Prem Sai (Son)
Bharti Devi (Daughter)
ParentsMehangiba (Mother)
Thaumal Sirumalani (Father)
Website
www.ashram.org
 
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Asaram Bapu
BornAsumal Sirumalani
(1941-04-17) 17 April 1941 (age 73)
Berani, British India
ResidenceAhmedabad, Gujarat, India
NationalityIndian
ReligionHinduism
Spouse(s)Lakshmi Devi
ChildrenNarayan Prem Sai (Son)
Bharti Devi (Daughter)
ParentsMehangiba (Mother)
Thaumal Sirumalani (Father)
Website
www.ashram.org

Asaram Bapu, born Asumal Thaumal Harpalani[1][2] or Asumal Sirumalani[3] on 17 April 1941, is a godman from India.[4] He preaches the existence of One Supreme Conscious and claims Bhakti yoga, Gnana yoga and Karma yoga as influences.

In early 1970, Asaram built his first ashram on 4 ha (10 acres) of land in Gujarat and began using the name Asaram Bapu. There are over 400 major and minor ashrams in India and abroad and numerous followers.[5]

Asaram has been involved in several controversies including his remarks on the 2012 Delhi gang rape, criminal cases filed against him involving land encroachment by his ashrams and a 2013 charge of sexual assault of a minor, he was arrested.

Early life

Asaram was born on 17 April 1941,[6] in the Berani village of the Nawabshah District in British India (present-day Pakistan), to Menhgiba and Thaumal Sirumalani.[7] Following the partition of India in 1947, he and his family moved to Ahmedabad, then part of the former Bombay State in India, now Gujarat, leaving behind their immovable assets in Sindh. Thaumal, Asaram's father, subsequently founded a company which produced coal and wood.[8] At one time (1958–1959) he sold tea in front of the Magistrate's office.[3] After the death of his father, he learned meditation and spirituality from his mother. Over a period of years he acquired 10 acres of land in Gujarat, and he set up a small ashram. At that time he dropped his surname and began calling himself Asaram Bapu.[5] He finally left his family and travelled the country, until he went to Vrindavan, to the ashram of saint Lilashah.[9]

He is married to Lakshmi Devi with whom he has a son, Narayan "Prem" Sai Harpalani[10] and Bharti Devi, a daughter.[9]

Spiritual works

Asaram's spiritual discourses have been scheduled in different Indian cities like Ahmedabad, Patna and others. His devotees are shown taking diksha (initiation by a guru) from him in these satsang programs. Around 20,000 students visited his satsang in Ahmedabad in December 2001.[11][12] In August 2012, when he was reportedly to deliver a lecture in a local college, his helicopter crashed while landing at Godhra. Asaram, the pilot, and the other passengers survived.[13][14]

Asaram Bapu Ashram

Sant Shri Asharamji Ashram
AbbreviationSSAA
MottoSabkaa Mangal Sabkaa Bhalaa
Formation1971 (1971)
TypeINGO
Legal statusAshram
PurposeCharitable & Spiritual
HeadquartersAhmedabad, India
Coordinates23°05′40″N 72°36′05″E / 23.094400°N 72.601446°E / 23.094400; 72.601446Coordinates: 23°05′40″N 72°36′05″E / 23.094400°N 72.601446°E / 23.094400; 72.601446
Region servedWorldwide
Official languageHindi, English, Gujrati, Marathi, Sindhi, Telegu, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Bengali, Oriya, Kannada, Nepali.
GuruAsaram Bapu
Main organShri Yoga Vedant Sewa Samiti
Websitewww.ashram.org

Sant Shri Asharamji Ashram is an organization of ashrams devoted to Asaram Bapu. The ashrams and its subsidiaries offer prayer services, yoga, and various other services. The first such ashram was established in 1971 at Ahmedabad, in Gujarat. This main Ashram also acts as the managing office for various other organizations formed by Asaram Bapu.[15]

Globally, there are more than 200 Asaram Bapu Ashrams, in addition to more than 1,500 meditation centres.[citation needed]

Activities

The ashram's mission is to provide spiritual, moral, educational and health related upliftment. The organization is also involved in providing financial-aid to the poor and needy.[5]

The various ashrams also hosts periodic satsangs (sermons or teachings) from Asaram Bapu.[16]

The Ashrams also have pyramid-shaped Maun Mandirs (temples for spiritual practices), which provide willing aspirants the option to stay in complete seclusion for seven days.[5][dead link]

The ashram also manufactures a number of Ayurvedic medicines, spiritual books, and stationary. It has developed medical formulations from cow urine.[17] The Ashram uses vans to sell these products at subsidised rates in the tribal areas of Godhra and Himmatnagar.[18]

Asaram Bapu Ashram organises a 5-day camp for children which teaches children yogic techniques for meditation, along with other activities.[19]

Parents' Worship Day

In 2012, Asaram requested people to celebrate Valentine's Day as Parents' Worship Day. They published a booklet which described importance of worshipping one's own parents. As his spokesperson claimed, they wanted to give youth an alternative to Valentine's Day.[20] The Yoga Vedanta Seva Samiti (YVSS), which belongs to Asaram Babu, to combat its perceived cultural invasion from the West declared Valentine's Day to be celebrated as Matri Pitri Poojan Divas which means Parents Worship Day in 2011. The YVSS organised a "worship of parents" programme on 14 February of that year and over 700 parents and children participated in Rourkela, Orissa.[21]

On 29 January 2012, Asaram Bapu published a booklet and called for 14 February to be celebrated as a day to worship parents as a way to revive Indian values. His public relations officer told India Today, "The idea is to give the youth an alternative to western culture, which is eating into our values".[22]

Asaram's proposal was supported by many prominent Indian politicians including President Pranab Mukherjee, the Bharatiya Janta Party leaders Rajnath Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Nitin Gadkari, former Railway Minister Pawan Bansal, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.[23] It was celebrated at places like Jammu[24] and Chhattisgarh.[25]

Though Valentine's Day is quite popular in urban India, many conservative parents supported this traditional approach. A YVSS organiser told the New Indian Express that this was a potent tool to shield youngsters from getting swayed by "ill- practices of the West even as they connect with their roots by showing respect to elders" and complained about English-medium schools' refusal to celebrate it. It received negative coverage in the country's mainstream media and it was seen as an peaceful alternative to the violent attacks on those celebrating Valentine's Day by right-wing groups such as the Bajrang Dal.[21]

Controversies

Land encroachment

In 2000, the Asaram Ashram was allocated about 10 acres (4 ha) of land in Bhairavi village of Navsari district by the Gujarat government. The ashram encroached on an additional 6 acres (6 ha), leading to protests in the local villages. On a complaint filed by locals, and after repeated notices were ignored, the district authorities with police assistance bulldozed the encroachments and took possession of the land.[26]

The Yog Vedanta Samiti of Asaram was reportedly given permission to use the premises of the Mangalya temple in Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh for 11 days for a satsang in 2001. The samiti failed to vacate the premises after the satsang, and continue to occupy a total of 40 ha (100 acres) of land, valued at over R7 billion.[27] The land belongs to the now defunct Jayant Vitamins Limited.[27] Asaram denied any involvement, saying the reports were baseless and untenable.[28]

The Nashik Municipal Corporation destroyed a part of Bapu's ashram in Bhilwara for a 10-year encroaching on government-owned land.[29]

2012 Delhi gang rape

Asaram was widely criticised[according to whom?] after his remark that the 2012 Delhi gang rape victim was equally guilty along with those responsible for the sexual assault on her.[30] He is reported to have said: "Only five or six people are not the culprits. The victim is as guilty as her rapists… She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop… This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don't think so."[31] He is also reported to have said that he was against harsher punishments for the accused in the Delhi rape victim case, as the law could be misused. To support his point, he is said to have stated that, "Dowry law in India is the biggest example of law being misused."[32][33]

Asaram denied giving any statement in which he blamed the girl for the gang rape. According to him, his statement was distorted and misrepresented.[34] He announced a reward of 50,000 rupees for anyone who can prove he blamed the victim for the gang rape.[35] [36]

Allegations of sexual assault

In August 2013, Asaram was accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Jodhpur on the pretext of exorcising her from evil spirits.[1][37][38][39][40] Two days after the alleged assault the girl's parents filed a complaint with the police in Delhi and a medical examination confirmed that she had been assaulted.[41] When Asaram did not appear for interrogation by 31 August,[42] Delhi police booked him under Indian Penal Code sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 376 (rape), 506 (criminal intimidation), and sections of the Juvenile Justice Act, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.[43] Asaram remained inside his other ashram in Indore and avoided arrest while his devotees clashed with journalists and policemen outside.[42] Eventually, the Jodhpur police arrested him on 1 September 2013 from his ashram.[40][44] He has dismissed the girl's allegations[45] and said accusations were a conspiracy orchestrated by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi of the then-ruling Congress Party.[46][47]

References

  1. ^ a b "Controversial godman: Can Asaram come clean on the rape allegations?". Hindustan Times. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Politics of Sex". India Today. 30 August 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Preeti Panwar. "Asaram Bapu's life journey from a tea seller to the spiritual guru". Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Nitesh Kumar Sharma; Ajay Parmar. "Asaram capable of sexual assault: Police". The Times of India. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d The Dark Side of Asaram Bapu | OPEN Magazine
  6. ^ "Coal-seller Harpalani turned Asaram ‘bapu’ faces new allegations". Daily Bhaskar. 22 August 2013. Archived from the original on 22 August 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Asaram worked at a tea stall before he became a 'godman'". IBNLive. 30 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "जब मोदी से बोले आसाराम, ‘देखें तुम्‍हारी गद्दी कब तक और कैसे रहती है" [Asaram Modi told him, 'See how long and how is your throne']. Aaj Tak (in Hindi). Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Asaram Bapu Son Narayan Sai". 8 May 2005. Retrieved 8 May 2005. 
  10. ^ "Conspiracy to defame ashram: Asaram’s son". Financial Express. 12 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "Students throng at Asaram Bapu's discourse". The Times Of India. 2 December 2001. Retrieved 2 December 2001. 
  12. ^ "Many to take 'diksha' today". The Times Of India. 8 May 2005. Retrieved 8 May 2005.  Many to take 'diksha' today
  13. ^ "Spiritual leader Asaram Bapu survives chopper crash". The Times of India. 30 August 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  14. ^ Kapoor, Nirnay (29 August 2012). "Mirculous escape for Asaram Bapu, helicopter crashlands in Godhra". India TV News. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  15. ^ "Ashram.org - About Ashram". Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  16. ^ "Influx of devotees in Ahmedabad on 'Guru Poornima'". The Times Of India. 2003-07-13. 
  17. ^ "State plans to promote cow urine as pesticide". The Times Of India. 2003-12-08. 
  18. ^ Contractor, Jahnavi (2003-04-17). "Packaged spiritual balm for the body". The Times Of India. 
  19. ^ Deccan Herald - BUZZ IN BANGALOREArchived September 5, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Worship parents on Valentine's Day, says Asaram Bapu". India Today. 29 January 2012. Archived from the original on 1 September 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Indianisation of Valentine’s Day". New Indian Express. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  22. ^ Day, Parents Worship (29 January 2012). "Worship parents on Valentine's Day, says Asaram Bapu". India Today. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  23. ^ Prerna Koul Mishra (22 August 2013). "Commoner vs Asaram: Her word against the 'Gospel'!". India Today. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  24. ^ Celebrated, Parents Worship Day. "Parents' Worship Day Celebrated". News on celebration of Parents Worship Day held at Jammu. State Times. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  25. ^ Day, Parents Worship (13 February 2013). "Chhattisgarh makes Parents Worship Day a compulsory observance in schools on February 14". Meri News. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  26. ^ "Asaram ashram encroachment demolished in Gujarat". Thaindian News. 27 November 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  27. ^ a b "Asaram Bapu's prosecution sought for Rs 700cr land grab". Times Of India. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  28. ^ "Asaram denies involvement in Rs 700 cr land grab case in MP". Money Control. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  29. ^ Kumar, Krishna (13 September 2013). "Land grab allegations come to haunt Asaram Bapu again, illegal encroachment by ashram razed". India Today. Retrieved 15 September 2013. , Also republished in the daily mail: [1]
  30. ^ "The Real War on Women…in India". The Diplomat. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  31. ^ "Asaram Bapu holds girl responsible for Delhi gangrape, says 'spare' the rapists, slams media". The Indian Express (New Delhi). ANI. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  32. ^ "Delhi gangrape victim as guilty as rapists: Asaram Bapu". FirstPost. 7 January 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  33. ^ "Asaram Bapu adds to shame, says victim at fault too". Hindustan Times. 7 January 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2013. 
  34. ^ "Delhi gang rape: Asaram Bapu denies 'controversial' comment". India News. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  35. ^ "Asaram on gangrape victim: Godman announces Rs.50,000 reward for proving he blamed victim". India Today. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  36. ^ "Asaram on gangrape victim: Godman announces Rs.50,000 reward for proving he blamed Delhi braveheart". IBNLIVE. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  37. ^ "Rajasthan Police dispatches team to interrogate Asaram Bapu in rape case". India Today. 26 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  38. ^ "After rape, Asaram Bapu threatened me to keep quiet, says girl". Financial Express. 26 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  39. ^ "Despite allegations ranging from murder to rape, why has Asaram Bapu never been arrested? 'BJP states' hold the answer". Daily Bhaskar. 25 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  40. ^ a b "Asaram Bapu brought to Jodhpur after late night arrest". NDTV. 1 September 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  41. ^ "Asaram Bapu rape case: Medical test confirms sexual assault of victim". India Today. 21 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  42. ^ a b Singh, Mahim Pratap (31 August 2013). "Asaram supporters attack on journalists condemned". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 
  43. ^ FIR registered by victim against Asaram Bapu reveals a horrific tale of sexual assault : North, News - India Today
  44. ^ "Indian guru Asaram Bapu arrested over rape claims". 1 September 2013. 
  45. ^ "Bakwaas: Asaram Bapu's response to charges that he threatened teen girl". NDTV. 27 August 2013. 
  46. ^ "Asaram Bapu says Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul behind conspiracy against him in sexual assault case". India Today. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  47. ^ "Sonia & Rahul running a campaign against me, says Asaram Bapu". Deccan Chronicle. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 

External links