The move by the top body of Hindu religious leaders was prompted by the recent rape conviction and jailing of Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim, the head of Dera Sacha Sauda, a quasi- religious body based in Sirsa in Haryana.
There is a very strong feeling among saints that because of misdeeds of just one or two religious leaders, the entire community was being shown in a bad light, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Joint General Secretary Surendra Jain said. The VHP works closely with the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad.
“The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad feels that the title of ‘sant’ is being misused so it has decided to put in place a mechanism to award this title,” Mr Jain said.
The title will be given after evaluating and examining an individual.
“The Akhara Parishad will also observe lifestyle of individuals before conferring this title on them,” he added. A senior functionary of the Akhara Parishad said that they had also decided that a saint cannot hold cash or have any assets in his name.
“All such things — assets and cash — should belong to a trust and should be utilised for the welfare of the people at large,” the functionary said.
Mr Jain said that the people should also “cross-check” an individual’s credentials before becoming their disciples.
The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad is the united body of 14 akharas, including the Nirmohi Akhara which is the face of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in Ayodhya.