Monthly Archives: August 2017

Dera Sacha Sauda – An Encounter

Dera Sacha Sauda, hitherto unknown to most of us, has in the past few days occupied much mind & conversation space. Our senses have been battered, from the ridiculous, to the evil, to the inexplicable fervor of the followers.

Who are these people & why would they even look up to this Neanderthal creature of puerile sensibilities in Lycra, sequins & special effects?

So, it was a strange coincidence indeed, that I actually met a devotee of Dera Sacha Sauda last evening at a close friend’s!
Strange, because not once did I think, that I may know someone so removed from my life, in a place that I considered as good as home.

In the course of the evening I made conversation with a woman in her late forties, visiting from Canada, to trousseau shop for her daughter.
The conversation flitted from ‘designer’ lenghas in Chandni Chowk, to the extravagance of genuine ones, the choice available today &….. all things mothers discuss when they’re as excited as their daughters but tempered down by looming bills.
Her husband she said, works for Vancouver City & she, for a real estate company after years of being a home maker.
Before we fly off, she said, my daughter had hoped to take the blessings of our elders at the Dera, but this time it’s not to be.

A word which had no place in my lexicon till last week perked my ears – Which one? Where?
~The one that’s on TV~

At the risk of sounding snobbish or was it ignorance, that I couldn’t for the life of me associate her with the image I had in my mind.

Her in-laws & a dozen other families, Dera followers, immigrated to Canada in 1950s & 60s.
And though Sikhism frowns on the caste system it’s actually a reality with Jats being on top of the pecking order.
The lower castes, marginalised, landless, with few opportunities, left as labour for New England fruit orchards & lumber jacks in Canada.

With the connections & the association of the Dera they belonged to, they stayed close at Gurudwaras, Langars & Kirtans.
They socialised & offered emotional support to each other.
The feeling of belonging & having someone of their own was comforting in foreign lands.

After all these years their ties with the Dera were strong. It is a close-knit community that remains eternally grateful for the start & opportunity given to them.
The second generation is educated & largely successful.
They organise Deras & Bhandaras in North America. Some of them hold positions of authority in the overseas organisation & also collect huge contributions. The figures were actually mind boggling.

Their children are encouraged on vacations, to return home & spend time at the Dera for Seva, to connect with their roots.
Doctors, engineers, architects offer gratis expertise to the Dera’s works & projects. In fact, a devotee parfumier was working on a perfume for their store.

Articulate & with an astonishing frankness she answered many curious questions.
We get a lot of respect at the Dera, she said. Others look up to us & our success. It gives hope to the less fortunate that they too can make a good life with hard work & perseverance.

The family who remains in Bhatinda is associated on a daily basis.
A cousin is a manager in the Dera’s dairy. Others also find employment, social interaction, affinity through arranged marriages. A club of sorts.

But what about the horrors & crimes of Gurmeet Ram Rahim?
~He’s a Baba gone rogue. Punish him. Let the law take its course.
With your closed minds & lack of understanding of our position in Indian society don’t condemn an entire Dera and the work its done – the security, the opportunities, the employment, the solace it has offered to thousands of people.

The Radha Soamis also have the same kind of organisations.
Beas follows the hereditary tradition, Dayal Bagh is like ours. Is it because their followers are wealthy & well connected you aren’t critical of them?

No, I’ve seen the Radha Soamis up close I told her. The community service they do is highly commendable. The bonding they offer is good for those who seek such ties but it makes me wary that the Huzoor, Guru or Baba is almost God incarnate & his word & wisdom is taken as gospel (pun intended).
That ardor & devotion can test a lesser man.

Yes, she said, Gurmeet Ram Rahim was that lesser man.
A speck. A shameful blot. The Dera is bigger than that.
He can go to prison but my family and I are forever grateful to this Dera & nothing will shake our faith

After all these years in another country, a different life what ties you to the Dera?
~Our roots & culture. Most of you wouldn’t understand because you’ve never spent a day in our shoes.
Do you know what it feels like, if you are stopped from singing at your place of worship because it disturbs the higher castes? Do you know that our Gurudwara decorations can irk them too ? Our people get protection at the Dera. Can you even begin to understand that? ~

Did you know what he was up to?
~ Many benefited from his misdeeds. Others were scared & kept quiet.
When ordinary people see powerful politicians & administrative officers hobnobbing with the Baba, they know they have no recourse – be it for rape, murder or extortion – as both are in cahoots.
In fact, I blame the politicians who gave him a free pass. They emboldened him ~

Who were these people who descended upon Panchkula?
~ The foot soldiers, who Gurmeet Ram Rahim used & took advantage of & a large number of political goons added to the mayhem.

But her passing comment, turned the evening’s conversation upside down-

The word at the Dera is that the BJP laid a trap for Gurmeet Ram Rahim. They assured him that nothing would happen to him & he should come to the Court with his cavalcade, in full regalia & style. He walked right into their trap.

You’d be surprised how many of us are grateful for that ~

Headline : Chandigarh Stalking

Nirbhaya was brutally raped, thrown on a road, stripped off her clothing, her intestines pulled out, when like any ordinary city working girl she simply decided to go for a film with a friend & take a bus ride home.

Sunanda Tharoor wife of a cabinet minister checked her self into a luxury suite at The Leela & was found dead with bruises & bite marks.
The sham investigation that followed this high profile case didn’t even feel the need to make excuses for its cover up.
How many expected something to come out of it ?

Stalking, harassment, kidnapping, rape & murder abound in a country of 1.2 billion.
The media selectively plucks one out ( usually People Like Us ) from which they can derive the maximum TRPs & we unquestioning their choice, discuss on cue, lack of policing, dismal security, shoddy investigation, CCTVS that don’t work or exist.

TV channels have spawned these talk shows & candle light marches. We willingly change our Facebook & Twitter DP happy to have done our bit & ravenously pore over sanctimonious & smug op-eds of pop psychology that capitalise on our 30 day attention span.

Because we only follow up from headline to headline the fact remains that our cities are terribly unsafe. Our police ill equipped. Law & order dismal. Promises of CCTVs & Helplines forgotten.

Nevertheless TV anchors & their panelists play out the circus breathlessly –

Dear viewer.
We bring to you the very first stalking.
Scary. Frightening.
How do you feel ? What do you think ?
The victim is going to fight it out. The victim has since died but her parents will fight on.
Hashtag IndiaWithXYZ

Dear viewer.
Here is this politician’s spoilt son.
A goon, a drunk. The first man to harass a woman in this country.
His father needs to resign. The Govt needs to go.
Hashtag NeedsToGo

Outrage. Hysteria. Outrage.
What a bloody farce.

If our governments have no intention of providing security. If they have no intention of enforcing law & order & if we are going to allow them –
then this is just another God given opportunity for the out-of-power ones to fix the ones in power.
A chance to be gleefully back in business.
To gleefully scavenge on someone else’s trauma & use it for ones end.

For systemic change we civil society & all its components must demand every hour, everyday of the year that our cities must be made secure as modern, urban population expect all over the world.
We must demand police reforms.
We must demand our law agencies are allowed independence to enforce the law.
We must pressurise a lazy & fearful judiciary to dispense justice.

This is not to say that in civilised societies, mature democracies there isn’t an attempt to protect one’s own. But with the system & institutions in place, the checks & balances make it that much more difficult to do so.
……Or else it all remains a merry go round of hollow, empty rhetoric for which we must share equal blame.

We might not care to recollect those three young girls found hanging from a tree after they went out into the fields one night to urinate. Just like their mothers & grandmothers have done every day of the year before them.
That story is too remote & too far removed from our lives.

But instead please care to remember closer home – Nirbhaya’s parents.
They still live out her brutal rape & slow death every minute of the day. To say ~ time heals ~ would be insulting to those who endure such physical & mental anguish.

However, these very same professional wailing banshees have forgotten them like yesterday’s newspaper.

~ Law & order exist for the purpose of establishing justice & when they fail this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of progress ~

Sent from my iPad