Press Watch


Cult chief collected pubic hair of followers
Shoko Asahara, imprisoned leader of Japan's Aum cult, was interested in more than just Armageddon and mass murder - he was also and avid collector of pubic hair, a news-paper reported today.
Asahara, accused of crimes including the sarin gas murders on Tokyo's subway, got the hairs from some of the 30 or 40 women followers with whom he slept.
"After the act, the guru would say, `just as a memento', and pulled one out," one lapsed member told the paper. Another woman, still a follower, told the paper he filed each hair in a small plastic bag, and kept them in bottles.

"The guru showed me his collection once" she said. "Each hair was neatly stored in its
own plastic bag and put in a bottle. A holy name (a follower's cult name) was written on each bottle and they included some of the most senior women in the sect."

Hair played an important part in the Aum's rituals, and many followers have said that they drank "tea" made by pouring hot water on hairs of Asahara's head.
NST l4 Sept. 1995

O you who believe, many priests and monks cheat the people out of their money and divert them from the path of God. Al - Tauba 9.34.   


India's exploitative 'holy men' who are into sex, lies and crime.
India is grappling with a growing tribe of mainly Hindu "holy men " who are into sex, lies and crime, earning the wrath of a country where mystics are considered messengers of god. Nearly a dozen Hindu gurus have been arrested in the past year on a variety of charges ranging from rape to murder, and bearded sages expected to lead an austere life are even dabbling in politics. The more militant ones threaten to turn India into a Hindu theocracy.

The latest in the spotlight is Chandraswami, a potbellied self-styled "godman" who loves to rub shoulders with the rich and powerful and publicly counts Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao among his numerous disciples.

Indian officials and opposition parties however accuse him of forgery and influence -peddling, and last month a minister sparked a political storm by ordering his arrest for allegedly cheating a Hong Kong businessman.

Some two months back, the New Delhi police arrested an elderly Hindu mystic who allegedly plotted to kill a 25-year old businessman so he could continue an affair with the victim's wife.

Another globe trotting guru who had opened an orphanage for girls and a boarding school with public funds was arrested recently in the western State of Gujarat on charges of raping more that 200 inmates.

Police seized pornographic movies and books and share certificates at the commune of the "holy man" Swami Keshavanand, after a 14-year old girls allegedly raped by him died following a clumsy abortion.

In November last year, another guru, Swami Premananda, was arrested and an official dubbed his plush religious retreat in southern India "a facade for a litany of crimes" including rape, murder and hoarding of wealth. Around the same time, a 48-year old mystic suspected of raping hundreds of women and murdering 10 people across northern India in a blood soaked areer spanning a decade was taken into custody in New Delhi.

The alleged victims of Ram Prasad, who claimed he had powers to cure infertility, included his sister, daughter-in-law, a niece, neighbours and several young boys. A women's group has called for strict action against so-called "holy men."

"There have been a large number of cases where women and girls have been sexually exploited by criminals in the garb of holy men." said Brinda Karat of the Democratic Women's Association. "It shows the increasing trend of criminalisation in the ranks of the self-
proclaimed representatives of the faith," she said, calling for public vigilance against opulent religious retreats across India.

Police say people's faith in religion can make it easy for unscrupulous "holy men" - many of whom control real estate worth millions of dollar -to operate.

"Every individual has some weakness or other which is easily exploited by so-called religious men," said New Delhi's additional commissioner of police Maxwell Pereira. "It could be for access to powers that be or money." "These godmen take advantage of people's myths and beliefs, " he added.

Said another officer: "For every so-called godman we arrest, there are at least 10 waiting to be caught.... Unfortunately many of them have links with politicians and use them to escape the law."

The increasingly high profile role of Hindu religious leaders in politics is also worrying the authorities. The powerful Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, World Hindu Council) for example does not hide its contempt for secularism.

"These people who get arrested are not religious people at all," said Acharya Giriraj Kishore, a VJP leader.
"They are fakes...And you find them in all religions,"
NST 11 Oct 1995