Self-proclaimed saint Asaram Bapu, 73, who preaches simplicity but travels only in BMWs and Mercedes Benzes, is no stranger to controversy.
Prior to his regressive remarks about the 23-year-old Delhi gangrape victim, the godman who runs more than 300 ashrams in the country and abroad and claims to have more than 20 million followers, has courted more than a dozen controversies over the past few years.
In 2008, two children studying in his sprawling ashram in Ahmedabad — estimated to be worth Rs. 1,500 crore — were found drowned in the Sabarmati river in a decomposed state.
The families of the children alleged they were killed as part of some tantric rituals at the ashram.
The mysterious deaths sparked a huge agitation against Asaram, whose followers assaulted mediapersons during a rally in Gandhinagar. The Modi government, which was seen to be soft on Asaram, was finally forced to set up a judicial commission to inquire into the deaths after the Gujarat Police CID gave him and his ashram a clean chit.
Despite repeated summons, Asaram and his son, Narayan Sai, refused to depose before the commission and finally appeared before it after the high court slammed them for evading the judicial process. The duo deposed before the commission in November–December 2012.
In 2006 the high court slammed the state government for failing to take action against Asaram ashram, which encroached upon government lands in Surat. Despite the court’s strictures, the authorities have done precious little to take the land back.
There have also been allegations of sexual abuse against one of the most powerful godmen in the country but no serious probe has been conducted against Asaram.