A videotaped threat to Delhi Assembly contestant Arvind Kejriwal and shoving a woman panelist on a televised debate -- his two main claims to notoriety -- have landed 'Swami' Omji Maharaj, a far right activist, in the unlikeliest place of all. Yes, he is a participant on Bigg Boss, a reality show set in Mumbai. But once there, the self-styled godman who dresses in red and preaches to the skeptic, is deliberately going off script to spew the worst kind of venom against women.
Take his exchange with fellow contestant Gaurav Chopra last night. The self-styled 'guruji' advises Gaurav to stay away from contestant Akanksha Sharma, the estranged wife of cricketer Yuvraj Singh's younger brother Zorawar. The reason he gives is breathtakingly sexist.
"If ever a male celebrity has to marry, he should not marry a characterless woman," Omji says, casting aspersion on Akanksha's character because she chose to leave an unsuitable marriage. But there's more of the vile s**t from where this came from.
"Akansha is trying to take advantage of you. If she wasn't loyal to her first husband, she won't be committed to you. She is maligning her husband in public. Women have the power to lure men, they can change men's intention," he says.
His misogynistic remarks are followed by a thinly-veiled threat.
"You know my army upholds Indian culture... not that I'm allowed on Bigg Boss...but outside...if anyone were to do something wrong." His "army", in all probability, is a bunch of roughneck vigilantes enforcing their interpretation of the Hindu culture. But in the house, amidst the company of the civilized, his behaviour is nothing short of shocking.
On the footage of the second day in the house, is a segment that should alarm the producers of the show. To have a private word with his secret keeper Lopamudra Raut, Omji jockeys her into a room of the sprawling Bigg Boss house, blocks the entry to the room and repeatedly ignores her request to let her leave the confined space.
The non-celebrities have had to write down an unknown fact about themselves on a chit of paper before entering the Big Boss house. The celebrities have been tasked to uncover the secrets of the commoners for their luxury budget points.
Implying that Lopamudra, part of the celebrity team, knows something about him that he would not want out in public, the visibly unsettled Omji goes on to threaten her on national TV. At this point I am guessing this must be an elaborate charade, part of the task. But judging from Lopamudra's reaction, it's not a joke at all.
"If you disclose my secret, you will pay," Swamiji says.
"Are you threatening me?" she asks.
"I am threatening you," he calmly states. "But right now it's a request," he says.
Later, during a chat with contestant Karan Mehra, Omji explains that Lopamudra had promised to keep his secret. "Salman's (Salman Khan, host of the show) told her some things about me on the stage. And while entering the house she promised not to disclose it to the other members," he says.
"He's threatened me, it's not acceptable," Lopamudra speaks into one of the cameras that monitor the candidates round the clock. "I am a non-violent person, no matter what my organisation is," the swami says when told off by Bigg Boss.
While the whole purpose of letting loose a character such as Omji Maharaj in voluntary confinement for three months is to generate as much viewership as possible, it remains to be seen how much damage he will inflict with his rank misogyny before the women candidates put a stop to it.
As of now, his team mates force him to apologise to Lopamudra, who pipes in, "and also to all women".
Oh, here's a video of him getting into a scuffle with a woman panelist: