Unidentified assailants on Wednesday shot at a key witness in the alleged sexual abuse cases against arrested self-styled godman Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, in Haryana’s Panipat district, police said.
Mahender Chawla, who was attacked by two unidentified persons at a village on the outskirts of Panipat, received bullet injuries on his shoulder but is said to be out of danger.
Chawla is the sixth witness in the case to be attacked –two of them killed -- ever since the father-son due was arrested in 2013 in separate cases of alleged sexual abuse.
In February, a prosecution witness was stabbed at a court premises in Jodhpur, while another was shot dead in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district in January, both crime suspected to have been committed by followers of the controversial godman. Both Asaram and Sai are lodged in a prison in Rajasthan.
Police, however, did not rule out other reasons for the attack on Chawla, a former close aide of Asaram.
“Chawla said that after being attacked, he jumped from the rooftop and had a scuffle with his assailants. We will soon prepare a sketch of the accused as Chawla claims to have seen face of the accused,” said Shrikant Jhadav, Rohtak range inspector general of police, after meeting the witness in hospital.
IGP said a constable, who was assigned to guard Chawla, has been suspended for remaining absent from duty.
However, the IGP said that Chawla has also been filing petitions under right to information (RTI) Act which could have angered some local panchayat members.
Chawla has been residing alone at Sanauli Khurd, about 15 kms from Panipat city, at a one-room rented accommodation.
The incident comes a few days after the Rajasthan high court rejected two petitions filed by Asaram and upheld the trial court’s decision to allow prosecution to present documents in the court to prove that the girl, who was allegedly molested by the self-styled godman, was minor at the time of the crime.
In August 2013, a 16-year-old inmate of Asaram’s Chhindwara ashram in Madhya Pradesh had accused him of sexually assaulting her at a farmhouse in Jodhpur on the pretext of treating her.
The Asaram’s lawyers are trying to prove that the girl was not a minor.
(With PTI inputs)