Godmen on the run
Kerala: Sweeping out Pandora’s box
The southern Indian state of Kerala is busy cleaning up. Target of the ongoing rigorous sweep is a new brand of godmen and astrologers, who managed to build up flourishing business during recent years without coming to public attention. In fact, most Keralites had not been aware that there was any 'living god’ in their state – except the hugging 'world star’ Mata Amrithanandamayi. But suddenly Pandora’s box sprang open.
It started with a media report in a prominent Malayalam weekly 'Kerala Sabdam' in the first week of May about a red corner notice, issued by Interpol in the United Arab Emirates about a Keralite with the name Santhosh Madhavan. Investigation by the local media turned the spotlight on godman Amrutha Chaitanya and his palatial ashram in the port city Kochin, where he received local politicians, film stars, businessmen and senior police officers. Chaitanya alias Madhavan was identified as the man, who had duped a rich businesswoman in the UAE. The Kerala police – under pressure – arrested the godman and raided his ashram and flat. Besides various illegal-possession-items like sandalwood, ganja, a tiger skin and a police uniform, they found a collection of porn CDs that recorded his raping of minor girls living in a charitable protectory run by him. Nine minor girls complained that they had been raped by him. Investigations of Madhavan’s financial circumstances brought to light that he was operating a dubious real estate business worth many million dollars, in which he acted as a front man for some so far unknown prominent personalities.
Santhosh Madhavan had been a school dropout and small time temple priest. In the late 90s, he familiarized himself with astrology, grew an impressive beard, and started a lucrative career as a godman. In a short span, he managed to cultivate a celebrity clientele and to secure political patronage. He enjoyed quasi immunity, till the furious public pressed for his arrest.
After Madhavan, rationalists and media exposed more under-cover godmen and astrologers with high connections and persumed criminal background. For one month now, the media is reporting godmen scandals nearly every day. Meantime some 60 people have come under the scanner. Some of them absconded. It is reported that they meet their clients now abroad.
After rationalists and progressive media set the trend, youth organizations of the political parties jumped on the bandwagon and started to hunt enthusiastically for godmen – preferably for those close to their competitors. The Hindu-conservative BJP saw to it that Muslim godmen and Christian faith-healers were not spared either. As a result, the spiritual morass has been drained considerably. The great survivor - so far - is the hugging 'goddess'. However, Amrithanandamayi too has decided to play safe and left Kerala for an extensive trip abroad.