Bhole Baba or Baba Rampal: How these men are playing God

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The journey was daunting — a 10-km trek from his village, a back-breaking bus ride and then a long train journey. But for Pannalal Yadav, a marginal farmer from Madhya Pradesh’s backward Damoh district, it was like a pilgrimage. “My grandson,” he said, “was born with a head as small as an apple. But after being blessed by ‘parmatma’, it grew to normal size.”

Barely literate, the middle-aged OBC was a picture of despair when hustled out of Satlok Ashram in Barwala along with other devotees of controversial preacher Rampal.

Yadav’s seemingly unshakeable faith isn’t really an exception. Collations of Rampal’s sermons include numerous accounts by ‘bhakts’ hailing the 63-year-old engineer-turned-preacher’s alleged curative powers. The foreword to Gehri Nazar Gita Mein, for instance, talks about Vikki, a 10-year-old from Rohtak who was “cured” by the controversial guru’s blessings even though both his kidneys had failed.
Boosted by TV and self-promoting literature, Rampal’s messianic grip over his followers is emblematic of similar gurus the region seems to produce. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, head of Dera Sacha Sauda, is also headquartered in Haryana (Sirsa) and retains a huge following despite a controversial past.

Who’s Chyren?

So how did Rampal create the larger-than-life image that he enjoys among his followers? He depends on visuals to drive home the message. Besides distributing merchandise such as stickers, rings and pendants, his facilities are peppered with hundreds of huge posters in various poses as if to offer visual proof of his omniscience.
Some of them proclaim him as The Great Chyren from Nostradamus’s prophecy. He told followers he was Nostradamus’s prediction come true: “The great Chyren will be chief of the world/Loved feared and unchallenged, even at the death/His name and praise will reach beyond the skies/And he will be content to be known only as Victor.”

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