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If you’re looking for mystical signs you should surely pick the number fourteen. It was some fourteen days ago as I write this that a conclave of fourteen Hindu religious organizations, the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP), issued a list of fourteen godpersons – yes, there’s a woman on the list – who, by virtue of being “fake”, should be denied special privileges offered by the government and others at gatherings such as the Kumbh Mela and so on. I thought I’d take a closer look.

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The list of fakes:

* Asumal Sirumalani aka Asaram Bapu
* Sukhvinder Kaur aka Radhe Maa
* Sachin Dutt aka Sacchinand Giri
* Gurmeet Ram Rahim of Dera Saccha Sauda
* Vivekanand Jha aka Om Baba
* Nirmalpreet Singh aka Nirmal Baba
* Shivmurti Dwivedi aka Icchadhar Bhimanand
* Swami Aseemanand
* Om Namo Shivaya
* Narain Sai (son of Asaram Bapu, who’s on top of the list)
* Ram Pal
* Brihaspati Giri
* Kushmuni and
* Malkhan Giri

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I couldn’t help wondering why the Akhara Parishad left these names out of their list, so I made up this list of fundamental reasons why these fourteen people have been declared fakes. It’s got just three items.

* Sex
* Money
* Power
One of the fourteen, Swami Aseemanand, charged with acts of terror but now out on bail, might not have a place on the list if he’s acquitted. Meanwhile, there seem to be several significant omissions. Here’s a list, quite probably incomplete.

* Swami Nithyananda of Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, Bengaluru, was accused of raping a young woman, of having sex with an actress (nothing criminal there, just sleaze), and of substance abuse.

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* Gangananda Theerthapatha of Kollam allegedly sexually exploited a law student for five years on the pretext of conducting poojas for her. She claims to have chopped off his penis in revenge, but Theerthapatha says he it cut off himself as penance.

* Santhosh Madhavan, alias Swami Amritha Chaitanya whom a Kerala court in May 2009 found guilty of raping three minor girls. He was sentenced to 16 years of rigorous imprisonment and a penalty of Rs 2,10,000 in 2009. Madhavan is also accused of cheating a Dubai-based Indian woman of Rs. 40 lakh.

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* Mehndi Kasim, whom a Mumbai court in April 2016 convicted of raping seven girls and sentenced to life imprisonment. Kasim knew four sisters who had mentally challenged sons and healthy daughters. He promised to cure the boys and asked their mothers to send to him their daughters to him as well for ‘treatment’ that would ensure they don’t give birth to mentally challenged children.

* Swami Premananda left war-ravaged Sri Lanka and moved to India in 1984 to set up an ashram in Tiruchirappalli. But in 1994, a young girl from the ashram alleged that she was pregnant after being raped by Premanand. In August 1997, Premananda and six of his accomplices were convicted of raping 13 minor girls.maxresdefault

* Gnyanachaitanya spent 14 years in jail for three murders. After his release, he met a British family and convinced them that their daughter was his ‘wife’ in a previous birth. He then sexually abused and tortured the woman for years. After she escaped and complained to her parents and the police, Gnyanachaitanya was arrested again.

Oh, wait! I shouldn’t have included Mehndi Kasim’s name here. The ABAP is, after all, a Hindu organisation, while Kasim is Muslim. What he does isn’t the ABAP’s business, is it?
All fourteen on the ABAP list of fakes, with the possible exception of Aseemanand, tick at least one of these three items. So, it turns out, do all the ones left out. Some are already in prison, there’s plenty of evidence of sleaze against the rest. Some of the evidence might not be acceptable to a court, but then the ABAP isn’t a court, is it?

Sorry, folks, we’ll just have to give up fourteen as a mystical number. We should try three, though. Sex, money, and power. Those work every time, though they’re not particularly mystical!

You can read Shashi’s book, The Man Who Wouldn’t Be God, here.

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