It is not just Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, many 'godmen' in India have been mired in controversies and scandals.
Controversy can perhaps be the middle name of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who is awaiting the court's verdict in a 16-year-old case of alleged sexual exploitation of two sadhvis, or women followers.
In 2002, a sadhvi had written an anonymous letter to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, accusing the Dera chief of sexual abuse.
Fifty year-old Gurmeet Ram Rahim also faces murder charges–he is accused of murdering Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati for his writings against Dera Sacha Sauda.
In December 2014, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered a CBI probe into allegations of forced castration of 400 dera followers inside an ashram. A former Dera follower Hans Raj Chauhan in his petition said that the followers were told that those who would get castrated would be able to meet God through the Dera chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
It is not just Gurmeet Ram Rahim, many 'godmen' in India have been mired in controversies and scandals.
Asaram Bapu: Known as Bapuji among his followerws, Asaram Bapu is accused of allegedly raping a minor girl in 2013. The girl alleged that Asaram had asked her to perform oral sex on him, an act she declined.
Following the brutal Delhi gang-rape on December 16, 2012, the self-styled godman had sparked a controversy with his comments, blaming the victim for the ordeal. "Only five-six people are not culprits. The girl is as guilty as her rapists… She should have called the culprits brothers and begged them to stop… This could have saved her dignity and life. Can you clap with one hand?" Asaram Bapu reportedly said.
Chandraswami: The controversial 'godman' who died in May this year was considered an influential power broker when P V Narasimha Rao was the prime minister. It is said that Chandraswami gave 'spiritual advice' to actor Elizabeth Taylor, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and even underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
His fall-from-grace moment came when his name cropped up in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. In 1996, he was arrested on charges of duping a London-based businessman.
Swami Nithyanand: The self-styled godman found himself in the eye of a storm after a news channel showed a video footage of Swami Nithyanand in an alleged sexual act with an actress.
One of his followers accused Nithyanand of repeatedly raping her and threatening her with dire consequences if she approached anyone for help. On searching his ashram in Bengaluru, police found condoms and ganja from the compound.
It was also alleged that some of his followers were forced into signing non-disclosure agreements to experiment with 'tantric sex'.
Sant Rampal: This self-styled godman had a rags to riches story, who worked as a junior engineer in the Haryana irrigation department before becoming Sant Rampal.
The controversial godman was arrested by police in November 2014 following a 30-hour standoff wherein Rampal's militia allegedly tried to stop paramilitary forces from entering the Satlok ashram. Subsequently, sedition charge was slapped on him and some of his followers.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: His association with Beatles is well-known and so is his subsequent fallout with English rock band.
It was alleged that Maharishi made sexual advances towards Mia Farrow, which eventually led to the Beatles' disillusionment with him. However, the other side of the story is that Maharishi found out the Beatles were allegedly doing drugs and therefore severed ties with the group.
The Beatles' Sexy Sadie song, written by John Lennon, is believed to be an attack on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The 'spiritual guru' died in 2008.
- And then, there were some like Sarathi Baba and Nirmal Baba who were arrested on charges of fraud and cheating. While probing charges against Sarathi Baba in Bhubaneshwar, the police also found evidence against him for blackmailing young women with their nude photos, which were taken by hidden cameras in bathrooms of his ashram.