“Oh God! Please save me”. This prayer to the Almighty by spot-fixing accused Sreesanth was found in one of his diaries by the police. The SOS heavenwards seeking urgent divine intervention was written not once, but twice and the police are wondering if the God-fearing cricketer had an inkling of the spot he has landed in. Or was it a plea to save him from the dangerous underworld that was compelling him to be wayward in his line and length?
Sreesanth is known to be an extremely devout person, given to visiting temples and also the church quite often. One of his recent tweets has a photograph of him at Vaddakumnathan temple in Kerala, with him exclaiming “had an amazing darshan… Om Nama Shivaya”. When he was selected as a replacement for an injured Praveen Kumar in the Indian squad for the 2011 World Cup, Sreesanth described it as a “Godsent opportunity”.
His family explains that Sreesanth has a habit of communicating with God through his diary from a young age. One of his family members said, “If he was upset over something or had behaved badly, he would write in his diary saying, `I won’t do it again, God give me strength’. As a child, he would also write ‘God is Great’ on the first page of all his notebooks.”
Which brings us to the question of whether religion and a tryst with an invisible power is a way to either justify or seek pardon for a wrong, being committed wilfully. A study `Religions, Ethics and Attitudes towards Corruption’ conducted by the University of Hyderabad along with Religions and Development Research Programme, University of Birmingham, UK and Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi in 2009 pointed out that “those who profess to be ‘religious’ may not be morally and ethically strong. Religiosity is not a guarantee for virtuosity. Corruption was itself seen as a putative condition that continues to thrive, unchallenged by religion or faith.”
Professor Vinod Pavarala and Kanchan Malik of the University of Hyderabad spoke to 120 respondents in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh and in their report pointed out that “certain attributes of religion, especially in Hinduism, like fatalism and karma (deeds/actions) of their previous life, may assist the tolerance of corruption. And there are instances cited where people indulge in corruption in the name of God or undertake to ‘make God a stakeholder’ in corruption by constructing temples or re-allocating their ill-gotten wealth into charity.”
There are several examples of businessmen who make Lord Venkateswara of Tirumala their 1 percent business partner. You will find such people travelling to the shrine, particularly at the end of every financial quarter, to deposit the Lord’s share in the hundi. While that is a perfectly legitimate activity, many believe that having the Lord on the company’s board, gives such entrepreneurs the confidence that he will take care of troubles that may arise from any hanky-panky they may commit in their business dealings.
“Many businessmen who we spoke to admitted that they bribed their way through to get work done or followed some unethical practises. But they do not feel personally responsible for the wrong they are committing. Instead they blame it on the system. This is a way of morally disengaging themselves selectively and seeking out God helps them do that,” explains Professor Pavarala.
There is no better example of this than mining baron and former Karnataka minister Gali Janardhana Reddy who regularly made expensive offerings to Tirumala Balaji. In June 2009, he gifted a diamond-studded crown for the Lord worth 42 crore rupees. The 20 kg crown used 32 kg of gold and 70,000 diamonds weighing 4,000 carats. Ironical that the man responsible for robbing Bellary of its mountains, was trying to impress the Lord of the Seven Hills. Not that this costly offering to the Lord could save him from the court of the land. Reddy has been in jail since September 2011.
Ditto with BS Yeddyurappa, who even while abusing his position as chief minister by allegedly indulging in corrupt deals to favour his family members, made it a point not to miss a date with different Gods and Goddesses and perform various pujas. Likewise, former Andhra Pradesh Excise minister Mopidevi Venkataramana, who is lodged in the Hyderabad central prison in a corruption case, sought the court’s permission to undertake a pilgrimage to Sabarimala. Any number of politicians far from squeaky clean reputations, are particular about doing no wrong when God is the one to be kept in good humour.
God continues to be engaged with, even after the corrupt get caught out. The nature of engagement however changes with the guilty either seeking solace in God or in some cases, blaming him for not protecting him despite his devotion. Such instances of people under a cloud currying favour with God, the survey points out, leads to a sense of disillusionment.
The report says: “Religion is looked upon as a discredited entity by many – not because it is deficient in any way, but because of disillusionment with those who claim to be the caretakers of religion. Religion is visualised, especially by the youth as being in the wrong hands, misused by ‘powerful’ people, and stressing on rituals and fanaticism rather than the true spirit of religion.”
The connect between the morally corrupt and religion is not restricted to India. The study that was also conducted in Nigeria at the same time, found that the very corrupt among the Muslim and Christian community in that country were also very religious. And terrorists of the Al-Qaeda have been known to invoke Islam as a cover to justify terror strikes on innocent people.
When he was laid low by an injury in 2008, Sreesanth was quoted as saying, “God is someone who takes care of me and creates good and bad phases in my life so that I can learn from them. That is why even when I am going through a lean phase, I don’t get fazed for I believe that it is God’s way of teaching me something new.” As he spends time in the interrogation cell of the Delhi Police, Sreesanth would hopefully learn the tough lesson his God is teaching him now.