Killing and attacking people linked to controversial cases could be the flavor of the season. Even as the list of mysterious deaths of people linked to the test-rigging Vyapam scam gets longer, witnesses connected to alleged rape cases against self-proclaimed godman Asaram Bapu also find themselves under attack.
Two witnesses have been murdered while another half a dozen have miraculously survived attempts on life.
On Friday, a 35-year-old Kirpal Singh, a key witness, was shot at by unidentified assailants in Shahjahanpur. Singh is under treatment in ICU is said to be critical, according to a doctor attending him.
According to sources, Singh had expressed fears regarding attack on his life after he had recorded his statement against Asaram in the case.
Asaram faces two rape cases and is in jail. His son Narayan Sai also faces a rape charge and is incarcerated in a Surat prison.
Two key witnesses Amrut Prajapati in Gujarat and Akhil Gupta in Uttar Pradesh were killed earlier, prompting their families to pin the blame on the godman and his son.
Akhil Gupta’s father even wrote to the prime minister, union home minister and chief ministers of Gujarat and Rajasthan, requesting a probe into the killings of witnesses.
Both Gupta and Prajapati worked as close aides to Asaram before they testified against the father- son in the sexual assault cases.
“There is evidently a pattern in all attacks on witnesses. In all seven instances, motorcycle-borne unidentified persons have either shot at or knifed the witnesses and all instances seem coordinated,” said a Gujarat police official.
Before his arrest in 2013, the 76-year-old Asaram was a leading spiritual guru commanding 20 million followers, 425 ashrams spread in a dozen countries and more than 50 gurukuls across India.
He first shot into notoriety in 2008 when, two boys - Dipesh and Abhishek - studying in his Ahmedabad ashram disappeared. Their mutilated bodies were discovered a couple of days later on the banks of the Sabarmati river. “Our boys were killed and their organs were taken out to be used for black magic and then their bodies were dumped in the river,” alleged Praful Vaghela, father of 10-year-old Dipesh.
Following a public outcry, the Gujarat government set up an inquiry commission headed by a former high court judge and the CID (crime) was asked to probe the deaths.
At least seven witnesses have been attacked and two have died since the time they have been in jail. In January this year, another witness, who had served as a cook at Asaram's ashram, was shot dead in Muzaffarnagar .