Ram Rahim to Asaram Bapu: Fall of spiritual gurus accused of rape
Self-styled spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh convicted of rape was sentenced to 10 year in jail in Rohtak Monday, with authorities ramping up security amid fears of fresh violence days after protests over his guilty verdict left 36 dead.
Singh’s conviction has led to newspaper editorials and social media debate on why people have cult-like faith in godmen accused of rape and sexual harassment. Here is a look at some “godmen” who have been charged with sexual assault.
The 76-year-old, white-bearded guru preaches chastity and worshipping one’s parents. The guru who once declared that Valentine’s Day was a form of western cultural invasion in India was arrested in 2013 after a teenage devotee accused him of raping her at a religious retreat. Another female follower later also accused him of rape, according to an AFP profile.
He has been in jail since 2013 on charges of rape and criminal I intimidation. His son Narayan Sai, who was a senior functionary in his spiritual empire, is also in prison on rape charges.
Yet the guru continues to inspire devotion and thousands of supporters flock to court when he appears for hearings.
He may be in more trouble still after several local newspapers reported on the mysterious killings of three witnesses in the criminal cases he faces.
Asaram’s son Narayan Sai is in jail for allegedly raping a Surat-based woman disciple of his father between 2002 and 2005. She was allegedly raped when she was living at Asaram’s ashram in Surat. Sai, 40, is also accused of having physical relations with eight other girls.
Theerthapatha, a self-styled godman of an ashram in Kollam, was allegedly sexually exploiting a law student for five years on the pretext of conducting pooja (rituals). The woman took revenge on him by chopping off his penis, says this report in May. Theerthapatha allegedly exploited the woman for five years during visits to her family’s home in Thiruvananthapuram. Theerthapatha says he cut off his own penis as penance.
A Mumbai court in April 2016 convicted the 43-year-old self-styled godman for raping seven girls and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Kasim knew four sisters who had mentally challenged sons and healthy daughters. He promised to cure the boys and asked their mothers to send to him their daughters to him as well for ‘treatment’ that would ensure they don’t give birth to mentally challenged children.
Santhosh Madhavan, alias Swami Amritha Chaitanya
A Kerala court in May 2009 found Madhavan guilty of raping three minor girls. He lured the minor girls hailing from poor families, confined them and assaulted them. He was sentenced to 16 years of rigorous imprisonment and a penalty of Rs 2,10,000 in 2009. Madhavan is also accused of cheating a Dubai-based Indian woman of Rs. 40 lakh.
Premananda left war-ravaged Sri Lanka and moved to India in 1984 to set up an ashram in Tiruchirappalli. But in 1994, a young girl from the ashram alleged that she was pregnant after being raped by Premanand. In August 1997, Premananda and six of his accomplices were convicted of raping 13 minor girls.
He spent 14 years in jail for three murders. After his release, he met a British family and convinced them that their daughter was his ‘wife’ in a previous birth. He then sexually abused and tortured the woman years. After she escaped and complained to her parents and the police, Gnyanachaitanya was arrested again.