A Jodhpur trial court will pronounce its verdict on the Asaram Bapu rape case on Wednesday amid tight security. The self-styled godman was charged with rape allegations and was arrested on 31 August, 2013. Asaram was charged of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at his ashram near Jodhpur earlier that year and was later sent to the Jodhpur Central Jail.
Who is Asaram?
Asumal Sirumalani, who later came to be known as Asaram Bapu by his followers, is a religious leader who preaching in the early 1970s. Asaram went on to establish over 400 ashrams in India and abroad and has numerous followers. In an autobiography titled Sant Asaram Bapuji ki Jeevan Jhanki, which was published by his ashram, Asaram received formal education until his father's death and had studied only until Class III. In the following years, he lived at a series of ashrams and ran away from home for an ashram in Bharuch at the age of 15.
The book also talks about Lilashah, a spiritual guru, who accepted him as her disciple and named him Asaram Bapu on 7 October, 1964, reports said.
What are the charges?
Asaram, 77, was booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for raping a minor girl in Jodhpur's Manai village. The incident took place in August 2013. An FIR against Asaram was registered in Delhi's Kamla Nagar police station on 20 August, 2013 after which the police took the victim for medical tests. Accused of trafficking, Asaram was arrested on 31 August, 2013. The police had filed an FIR under Sections 342, 376, 354 A, 506, 509/34 of the IPC, Sections 23, 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act and Section 8 of the POCSO Act. Asaram was charged for sexual assault, raping and illegally confining a minor, according to 1,300-page chargesheet filed by the Rajasthan Police.
The girl, who reportedly visited one of his ashram's to cure her from evil spirits, said in her complaint that she was asked to perform oral sex and was touched inappropriately. The police booked Asaram under multiple non-bailable sections of IPC in August 2013 after the self-styled godman did not appear until 31 August.
To avoid arrest, Asaram remained inside one of his ashrams in Indore. Clashes broke out between his disciples and the policemen, but he was eventually arrested by the Jodhpur police on 1 September, 2013. Since then the godman has been lodged at the Jodhpur jail as his bail pleas have been rejected six times.
According to another report, Asaram also has been charged in another alleged rape case where two sisters from Surat, Gujarat lodged separate complaints against the self-styled godman and his son Narayan Sai. The two sisters accused Asaram and his son of rape and illegal confinement.
There are two more cases against Asaram in Jodhpur in addition to the case of sexual assault against the minor. According to Hindustan Times, Asaram, his personal caretaker Shiva and three of his followers were charged by Jodhpur Police in November 2014 for allegedly threatening to kill the station house officer (SHO) of Udaimandir police station on WhatsApp.
Witness-tampering and witness murder
In following years, a number of the key witnesses in the case were attacked or went missing. Three key witnesses wound up dead as the cases have progressed and other witnesses and families of victims have been attacked or received death threats.
Amrut Prajapati, a 56-year-old Ayurveda doctor, became the first witness to be murdered in the case. He was shot at on 23 May, 2014 and succumbed to his injuries a month later. He worked at Asaram’s Motera ashram for 15 years before he left in 2005. Prajapati had testified against Asaram saying that the self-style had a special chamber at the Motera ashram where he only met women.
Akhil Gupta, 38-year-old witness was shot dead on 11 January, 2015. Gupta was once Asaram's confidant and a close aide. Kripal Singh, an LIC agent, on 10 July, 2015 became the third witness who was shot dead.
Other witnesses who were attacked in the following years were: Mahendra Chawla was attacked on 13 May, 2015 in Haryana's Panipat. According to reports, Chawla told the court that Asaram sent vulgar signals to young girls. The longtime aide also told the court about the network that "supplied" girls to Asaram. Rahul Sachan, another witness, was attacked with a knife by one of the followers of Asaram on 13 February, 2015 inside a court in Jodhpur.
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Updated Date: Apr 25, 2018 12:26:28 IST