In the wake of the conviction of Dera Sacha Saud chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, one wonders as to what actually exactly attracts people to the so-called religious places called ‘deras’ and why the fan-following of these ‘dera gurus’ is on the rise in India in spite of the nation’s progressive 21st century march towards world-class competitive development in science and technology. As most of the Indians live below poverty line, have very little or rather no access to higher level quality education and superior healthcare, the Indian society is divided into various castes, classes, religions, sub-castes, etc., wherein a huge percentage are subjected to direct or indirect discrimination, inequality, suppression and subjugation of the weak or the downtrodden.
Hordes of people find no employment opportunities and are forced to live their lives in misery in the face of little or no real government-administrative help; most of the well-intentioned pro-poor welfare programs are corruption infested and, as a result, the benefits rarely reach the intended and needed beneficiaries.
Now, when all these cumulative factors combine together, it gives the sinking feeling of a doomsday to a common man who feels hapless, hopeless and lifeless in the wake of the rising dark pressures of life’s existence. The physical, mental and emotional breakdown of affected people under such circumstances of life makes them vulnerable to ‘other options’ in society and, thus, they willingly or unwillingly succumb to the temptation of visiting ‘deras’ where they are provided much needed love, care, peace, solace and affection, which was earlier missing or absent from their mundane loves of mortality.
As a result, these ‘deras’ help such persons to discover their lost happiness and they start visiting them to overcome their lack of belonging or apathy of the outside society. The ‘deras’ represent a microcosm of society into themselves whereby a healthy eco-system is found functioning by the masses and they get free or subsidized food, free educational and healthcare facilities, free residential homes inside the ‘dera’ premises, etc. This basic fact underlines the main selling point or massive popularity of such ‘deras’, where the followers congregate in mind-boggling numbers to listen to the spiritual advice or lessons from their ‘gurus’ or masters, and share their grievances with each other without any fear of being wrongly judged or shamed about it.
These ‘dera’ followers seem to treat each other as brethren without any discrimination of caste, class, color, sex or religion, and develop an emotional feeling for their ‘gurus’ who provide them an escape route from the corruption-ridden, discrimination -based, problems galore in the outside material world of the contemporary consumerist-oriented and profit-driven model of society. In fact, the reality is that many of these ‘deras’ also perform the good function of driving the youth away from deadly drugs, helping them overcome their addiction towards alcohol, smoking, etc., as well as actively assist them in coping with their emotional depression, sadness and life’s failures. However, problems arise only when the ‘deras’ assume a political or criminal affiliation; rest all is well with them.