Various forms of the self-styled ‘godman’ can be seen in this home, including a Shiva version.
(Photo: Aishwarya S Iyer/The Quint)
In This House, Rape Convict Asaram’s Eyes Follow You Everywhere
Meet Mr and Mrs Bissa, a couple who, in their unflinching devotion, are willing to visit Asaram in jail.
The Bissas’ three-storied Jodhpur home in Sector 18E appears nondescript from outside, but once you step in you're sure to be caught off-guard. In every nook and cranny of this house, you'll find Asaram.
Or, Asaram will find you.
Asaram was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Jodhpur court on 25 April after being convicted of rape charges leveled against him in August 2013.
But that has failed to get devotees like the Bissas abandon their belief in a convicted rapist. They believe the 16-year-old filed the complaint out of vengeance because Asaram refused to give money to her family.
Other than the third floor being transformed into a dedicated Asaram shrine, Asaram is on almost every wall in this house. But, who are its owners?
Meet Mr and Mrs Bissa
63-year-old MD Bissa is a retired Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited officer and his wife, Manju, is a 55-year-old homemaker. They have two sons and a daughter, who they say believe just as much in Asaram as their parents.
They lead a simple life with simple tastes, but believe “guru ke bageir zindagi hi bekaar hain (Life is useless without a guru)”. They don’t hesitate in advising this reporter throughout the afternoon on how she should conduct her life. Lettering on a blue wall between the ground and the first floor pretty much sum up this sentiment:
When asked how did the family come to develop such a strong belief in Asaram, Bissa says, “20 years ago my wife had a heart attack and the doctor said she will die if she climbs one more stair. That is the time I went to the Asaram’s ashram in Ahemdabad and she began to get better,” Bissa told the The Quint with a certain pride that is often visible in deeply religious people.
Bissa says that he has travelled to most of the Asaram ashrams across the country, “I’ve been to Ratlam, Ahemdabad, Indore, Surat, Aligarh, Delhi, Lucknow, Baroda, Bombay, Udaipur, Haridwar and Jodhpur.”
The family’s faith in Asaram has only grown over time, miracle-by-miracle, says Bissa. He tells us about the time he was Asaram’s ashram in Ratlam, when Jodhpur was hit by a storm. His wife, who he had left behind was alone and taken to safety by their relatives.
“But you won’t believe it, when I came back everything was the same. Not one frame fell, not one poster tore and not one plant broke,” he said beaming with pride in his faith.
Their faith in Asaram got so strong, that soon Bissa and his wife began to rely on visits to his ashrams than on medical help for his wife’s condition. “She has had four heart attacks since but never once have we gone to the doctor. We religiously take regular parikramas (round) of the vatvriksha (banyan tree) and she kept getting better,” he said. They firmly believe the best treatment they can follow is being silent and repeating mantras.
As we enter the doors of the shrine, he looks at this reporter conspicuously and asks if she has had a bath in the morning. The reporter said she has and they both enter.
This temple is where Bissa and his wife spend hours each day. They feel close to their guru here.
The Jodhpur ashram has been closed for visitors in light of the rape case’s judgement against Asaram, which means Bissa hasn’t been able to do his parakrama. But, he says he has found a solution. “Now that the ashram in Jodhpur has been closed I take circles of this plant here,” he points to pots in his house.
“We chant mantras and take rounds here. I am sure this will improve my wife’s condition,” he said.
‘We Female Followers, Will Get Asaram Out’
Manju has a heart condition. Her husband says she has been visibly tensed since Asaram was convicted. The television inside is blaring with theories of how Asaram was ‘trapped’ by the minor girl. Manju gets distracted every few minutes and then refocuses her attention towards this reporter.
“Hum behnein Asaram bapu ji ko bahar nikalenge. Aap dekhna, ek saal ke andar andar vo bahar aayenge. (Us sisters will bring Asaram out of jail. You’ll see he will be out within a year.)”
She recalls the afternoon they heard he would be imprisoned for life.
When I heard about it I was alone at home. Mere haath, per aur pran kaampne lage. Main chillayi aur rone lagi. (My hands, feet and soul began trembling. I began to shout and cry). My heart is anyway weak, I have been very tensed and stressed after the verdict.
‘Will Go Meet Asaram in Jail’
The ashram being closed has affected their day-to-day life; the reminder is a painful one. “Mera dil jal rahaan hain. (My heart is burning),” said Manju. He had been a regular visitor at the ashram for about 20 years. “They ended the Hindu sanskriti. Aisa kya kardiya bapu ne? Aur kya kya hota hain. (What did Asaram do that deserved this? So many other things happen,)” Bissa said.
When asked how it feels to know he won't ever get a glimpse of the man again, Bissa says, "Matlab? Hum jail jayenge, kaun rokega? Shradhha atoot aur aajeevan hain humaari. (What do you mean? We will go see him in jail, who will stop us? Our reverence towards him is unbreakable.)”
Their Unshakable Belief in a Convicted Rapist
We asked Bissa if the family’s belief was being questioned by their neighbours. “People do talk about me behind my back about my supposed ‘obsession’ with Asaram, but I don’t care. No one has the courage to say this to my face,” he said.
When asked if the family had at all thought of removing Asaram’s images and posters Bissa retorts, “Nothing needs to be removed. If your child or someone in your family does something wrong, do you throw them out of your home?”
The first thing the couple sets their eyes on as they wake up in the morning is Asaram. This time it is on a Sanskrit calendar in purple and white. It is as if, without Asaram, they would not know what is life.
Both husband and wife aren’t willing to accept any wrongdoing on Asaram’s part. When asked that the judiciary had pronounced him guilty for rape, Bassi said, “At his age this (committing rape) is not possible.” When told a potency test was carried out on Asaram, this time both reply together, “This is a shadyantra (conspiracy) against him. He will come out. You all will see.”
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