It is just as important a part of the followers of, say, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as that of Gurmeet Ram Rahim. The mobilisation of collective opinion by Art of Living followers against the findings of the National Green Tribunal regarding the damage caused by Art of Living’s “World Culture Festival” to the Yamuna floodplain in Delhi in March 2016 is, really, another form of mob action.

Shankar was to later suggest if the tribunal was aware that the floodplains would suffer environmental damage then it —and not Art of Living—should be penalised for granting permission for the festival. Perhaps the Art of Living founder should also have mentioned that the tribunal was not able to withstand the collective pressure applied to it in favour of Art of Living. The streets occupied by the Art of Living followers—and the damage caused to public property—are different to that traversed by Dera Sacha Sauda’s disciples. However, this does not change the fact that it is mob frenzy by another name.

The truth of the matter is that irrespective of social context and class fraction, we are a society deeply wedded to collective action. There are complex reasons for this. What remains constant is the mobilisation of group identities in the name of individual salvation. And, the charisma of the guru (usually a male) lies in the fact that he is able to convince his followers that his own acts are not anti-social but a-social. That he is beyond the society he seeks to transform on their behalf. This also lies at the heart of why Ram Rahim’s female supporters continue to support a convicted rapist.

This psycho-social relationship between the guru and the follower is the tragedy of love, devotion, and admiration.