The rape charge levelled against self-styled godman Asaram Bapu by a 16-year-old girl is being investigated and action will be taken on the basis of “truth and facts”, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said in Jaipur on Thursday.
“Sadhu-sants preaching religion or spirituality should maintain their best character… as any bad message will hurt and shock the society. People in society pay their regards to these sadhus and sants, such cases are not a good sign.” Gehlot declined to comment on the investigation.
Jodhpur commissioner of police Biju George Joseph visited the godman’s ashram in Manai village, about 30 km from the city, where the girl was allegedly sexually exploited on August 15.
The girl and her family accompanied Joseph to the ashram, where the police questioned some of the staff members. The ashram has been sealed.
Deputy commissioner of police (west) Ajay Pal Lamba said, “We will definitely question Asaram Bapu, but at a later stage, following preliminary investigation.”
Asaram’s followers handed over a memorandum to Joseph stating the rape allegation was false and an attempt to malign his image.
The girl hails from Shahjahapur in Uttar Pradesh. She and her brother studied at a gurukul run by Asaram in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.
Accompanied by her parents, she lodged a complaint with the police in Delhi on Tuesday after coming to know Asaram was in the Capital. The girl’s parents were followers of the godman.
In her complaint, the girl said she fell sick on August 7 and her hostel warden told her evil spirits had possessed her.
“The warden informed her parents that the matter was discussed with Asaram, who directed the girl be sent to him for spiritual treatment,” a Delhi police officer said, quoting the girl’s complaint.
The case was referred to the police commissioner at Jodhpur, where a case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Juvenile Justice Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act was registered on Wednesday.
A Jain saint Tarun Sagar said in Jaipur that “people like Asaram Bapu are more dangerous than Osama bin Laden” and accused him of “insulting the faith and devotion of crores of devotees and bringing the entire saint community into disrepute”.
With inputs from PTI