Assam's Kamakhya Temple hit by controversy ahead of Ambubachi Mela; sadhu accused of rape, blackmail

As the historic Kamakhya Temple in Assam gets ready to welcome more than a million pilgrims from across the country, the shrine finds itself embroiled in a rape controversy, after a Thane girl accused a sadhu of sexually assaulting her.

A rape case has been registered in Maharashtra's Thane district, after a woman said the sadhu, identified as Sailal Hiralalji Jedia, raped her at his residence near the temple.

 Assams Kamakhya Temple hit by controversy ahead of Ambubachi Mela; sadhu accused of rape, blackmail

Over a million pilgrims will visit the Kamakhya Temple in July. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Moscow Saikia, officer in-charge of the Kamakhya outpost of the Guwahati City police, told Firstpost that a Maharashtra police team reached Guwahati on 18 June and conducted joint operations with the local police to look for the sadhu. "The sadhu was staying in a rented house near Kamakhya Temple. As per the allegations raised by the victim, he raped her when she visited him, seeking a solution to some family problem," Saikia said.

However, before the police could reach his residence, the sadhu had fled.

As per sources, the woman visited Jedia three months ago regarding her ailing father. Jedia claimed to possess spiritual powers, and assured her of curing her father. He allegedly took her to his residence near the temple and raped her.

Reports in the local media also said the sadhu made a video of the rape incident and used this to blackmail the woman. "He went to Maharashtra, and threatened the woman that he will make the video public if she didn't pay him Rs 3 lakh," the source said.

The woman paid him Rs 3 lakh, but at that point, he asked her for another Rs 2 lakh, which is when she decided to file a case against him in Thane's Shitalchar police station. "The police team from Thane conducted search operations in various locations in the vicinity of the temple, but he was not found," Saikia said.

Nobody appeared to know where Jedia's permanent address is, but sources have confirmed that he wasn't from Assam. One priest, part of the temple administration, even said Jedia isn't connected with the temple at all. Kabindra Dev Sharma, the priest, told Firstpost that Jedia is among the many fake sadhus who take advantage of pilgrims' anxiety.

"Thousands of frauds pretend to be temple sadhus around the Ambubachi Mela time. They claim to wield supernatural powers, just to hoodwink pilgrims. These sadhus also claim that they can cure diseases, tell fortunes, and help solve personal problems. People should be careful about not falling prey to such traps," Sharma said.

These chargers come just days before the Ambubachi Mela which attracts more than a million pilgrims every year from various parts of the country. The state government was planning to use the occasion to promote tourism in the region. There were also plans of a facelift for the shrine, which would woo high-end tourists. As part of this, the government also promoted a packaged tour as part of a fair, which would provide tent accommodation on the Nilachal Hill where the temple is located and a cruise on the Brahmaputra.

The Telegraph reported that the authorities have also barred Naga sadhus in the main venue during the Ambubachi Mela, as a facelift measure.

Over a million pilgrims are expected to throng the temple for the four-day mela that starts from 22 July.

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2017 09:55:34 IST