The Hindu guru recently gave a speech at a ‘Satsang’, a type of gathering with his devotees, in which he remarked that the medical student who was gang-raped on a Delhi bus on 26 December, and who died of her injuries in hospital a few days later, was just as responsible for her attack as were her attackers. I kid you not. The fucker really said this. Or, depending on how strongly you believe the words of his spokeswoman, he said something like this.
According to The Huffington Post, the asshole told his followers that the 23 year-old student (who remains anonymous under an Indian law protecting the names of rape victims) ‘should have taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said, I consider you as my brother, and should have said to the other two “Brother I am helpless; you are my brother, my religious brother”‘. He also said that ‘[s]he should have taken God’s name and held their hands and feet–then the misconduct wouldn’t have happened’ and that ‘[t]he accused were drunk. If the girl had chanted hymns to Goddess Saraswati and to Guru Diksha then she wouldn’t have entered the bus’. And the Hindustan Times reports him as saying, ‘Galti ek taraf se nahi hoti hai (mistake is not committed from one side)’. In other words, the old fool thinks the woman made a mistake by letting the men gang-rape her.
Yeah. Well, you know what his spokeswoman, Niam Dubey, did. She came to his defense. ‘Bapujee never made such statements. He just asked his women followers to avoid such situation[s]’, she said, arguing that ‘[h]e was only suggesting that women should try their level-best to come out from such situation[s] by using diplomatic ways‘ but ultimately admitting that ‘[y]es, he said that the girl had made a mistake by taking an empty bus in night. If she had taken “Matra-Diksha”, the God has might save her anyhow’ [sic]. What the mother-fuck? She’s basically confirming what he has already said but simply rendering his words more vague. So, even if there were some media distortion of Bapu’s words, according to his own spokeswoman he still suggested the woman was equally responsible for her attack.
But, while we all agree (hopefully) that the old man is off his rocker, for the sake of argument let’s take a brief look at each of his remarks and show how deeply mired they are in a mammoth pile of steaming cowshit.
First, he suggests the victim should have invoked God and held one of her attackers’ hands–while being raped. Well, by definition, rape is a non-consensual sex act, meaning forced sex, so how could she have held her attacker’s hand while being pinned down and beaten into submission? It wasn’t as though the rapists were giving her leeway to let her grasp their hands and pray with them. Allegedly, the youngest of the accused attackers (a 17 year-old) was ripping out her bowels bare-handed. I wouldn’t be holding my attackers’ hands; I would be screaming from pain. (Whatever you think of that report, the fact is she had to have almost all of her bowels surgically removed.)
Second, he suggests she should have chanted hymns to the gods and goddesses for protection. How does he know she didn’t? For all he knows, she did. And if she did, it obviously didn’t work, because she was still raped, so what then? Even more, he expects her to spend her time praying to the gods rather than poking, stabbing, or beating her attackers (which, granted, is extremely difficult when there are six of them, but just as tenable, if not more so, as praying to the gods). So, you see, Bapu is presuming that the woman did not do things she very easily may have, as if she is inherently subject to suspicion, or else he is expecting her to be patient and hope for the best, or die like a martyr, rather than fight for her life.
Third, Bapu suggests that if she had prayed hard enough, the victim wouldn’t have entered the bus in which she was raped in the first place. So, it is her fault for travelling in a bus, and not the rapists’ fault for raping her? No. She had every right to take the bus wherever and whenever she wished without fear of being assaulted; her attackers had no right to rape her. She didn’t violate their rights when she got on the bus; they violated hers when they raped her. A woman should not have to design her life around those of marauding rapists. So, no, it was the rapists’ responsibility for choosing to savage her; it was not her responsibility for choosing to enter a bus, which she should have been able to do with ease of mind anyway.
This sort of victim-blaming isn’t relegated to one single tradition. We see it in some strains of New Age beliefs too. Some New Age thinkers believe that every soul comes to earth choosing to endure difficult circumstances in order to learn lessons about good and evil. Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, the girl who is raped by her uncle chose to have this experience, and meanwhile the man who rapes his niece chose to have that experience, suggesting that both the rapist uncle and the victimized niece are equally responsible for the experience. However, even if both chose their experiences, the niece “chose not to choose” the act, whereas the uncle “chose to choose” the act; moreover, how could the niece know what she had chosen if she has forgotten? Her pre-life alter-ego is committing a crime against her. But more practically speaking, the notion that people choose their experiences before they come to Earth (a handsome speculation) echoes Bapu’s suggestion; it justifies violent crime and victim-blaming when all we know is the victim didn’t choose to be victimized, and, for that reason, it deserves our severest criticism.
Asaram Bapu is obviously full of tired, stale, fly-infested bullshit, but bullshit has a hideous power to lull the masses. What we need to do is call sham spiritual leaders like Bapu on their dung. It is never acceptable to justify rape, because rape by definition is non-consensual sex. If you agree that it is rape, you agree that it is non-consensual, and you agree that there is a perpetrator and a victim. In turn, you agree that the perpetrator, not the victim, is responsible for the crime. I don’t usually condone capital punishment, but I honestly wouldn’t lose any sleep if the monsters who raped the Delhi medical student were euthanised, and Bapu were shamed.