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Goings-On in the Name of God
By KHUSHWANT SINGH
Khushwant Singh is former editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India and The Hindustan Times, author of the two-volume A History of the Sikhs, and a former member of India's upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha.
The Tribune, Dec. 4, 2004
Photo: Khushwant Singh, 1999
The arrest of the seer of Kanchipuram brings to light once more the sordid goings-on in many places of worship. Just about every religious institution - Hindu, Muslim and Sikh - is fouled with misuse of money given as offerings by devotees. Quarrels between those in charge of these institutions often leads to litigation, violence and, at times, murder.
A few years ago, three men lost their lives in Sai Baba's headquarters in Puttaparthi. Retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice Bhagwati was the then head of its business affairs. Nothing more was heard of what followed except that no one was charged with the crime. If you want to know more about the place, read [Sai Baba:] Lord of the Air (Vikas) [by Tal Brooke; the paperback edition is Avatar of Night: The Hidden Side of Sai Baba]. Later, Bibi Jagir Kaur, then head of the S.G.P.C. (as she is once again), was involved in the mysterious death of her own daughter who married someone against her mother's wishes.
As for Muslim dargahs [mosques], I recommend you read Tehmina Durrani's In the Name of Allah (Penguin-Viking). Fleecing devotees, incest, murder and getting away with every crime is a common occurrence in Pakistani and Indian dargahs.
The main reason for these places of iniquity flourishing is the patronage extended to them by presidents, prime ministers, chief ministers, captains of industry, millionaires and powerful politicians.
This has been highlighted by the way leaders like Murli Manohar Joshi and George Fernandes, who should have known better, flew to Vellore jail - where the Kanchi Shankaracharya was held - organising mass rallies of sadhus [Hindu mendicant ascetics] to protest against the arrest.
In short, the principle that the law must take its course has become a cliche more observed in breach than in observance. Can the country afford to allow people with muscle and money power to get away with such flagrant defiance of law of a civilised state?