Chitradurga seer charged under SC/ST Act
The head seer of Jagadguru Murugarajendra Vidyapeetha Mutt in Chitradurga, was booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Indian Penal Code .
The Karnataka police, investigating the sexual abuse allegations levelled by two minor girls against the head seer of a mutt in Chitradurga district, on Tuesday added charges from the The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act) to the first information report, an official in the know of development said. Even though it has been five days since the FIR was lodged, no arrest has been made in the case.
Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the head seer of Jagadguru Murugarajendra Vidyapeetha Mutt in Chitradurga, was booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for allegedly sexually exploiting two girls studying in schools being operated by the mutt and living in its hostel.
The mutt is among the most influential religious centres for the politically dominant Lingayat community, believed to be the single largest caste group in Karnataka.
On Monday evening, the seer had applied for anticipatory bail before the Chitradurga district and sessions judge. Following this, the second additional district and sessions court in Chitradurga ordered that notices be issued to Child Protection Unit officer Chandrakumar C and the two minor girls.
The court has ordered notices to the public prosecutor, “complainant, and also to all the victims as mentioned in the complaint forthwith” in its order on Monday. The case has been posted on September 1.
Meanwhile, protests by Dalit activists were reported outside the Child Welfare Committee office in Mysuru where the two minor girls are lodged. “We are here to support these victims who have been lodged at the CWC centre. We have enough reasons to believe that Swamiji is trying to influence the officials in the case. So, to ensure that they don’t come here to put pressure on these children to close the case, we are holding a protest here,” one of the protesters told mediapersons.
“Till the time they keep the children here, we will sit out. If they are transferred to another place. We will hold a protest there as well,” said one of the protesters to the media.
Meanwhile, senior BJP MLA Thipa Reddy met the seer for the second time on Tuesday. Following the meeting, the MLA said he has “always been a follower of the mutt” and his visit is not going to influence or interfere with the case in any way. He added that he wishes to meet the children as well if the law will allow it.
“Our CM Basavaraj Bommai and former CM Yediyurappa have already assured that nobody will interfere in this case. Whoever will be found guilty as per the law will be punished, there will be no interference. Since my childhood, I have followed this man. I just visited here to meet him. I went inside, sat for 10 to 15 minutes, and left,” he said.
“At the same time, if you ask me, why am I not meeting the children then the answer is I will, if I’m allowed. I’m concerned. Numerous incidents will happen in my constituency, and I must visit. If Swamy is found guilty I will never meet him again,” he added.
The FIR, a copy of which HT has seen, was registered against a total of five people, based on the complaint by an official of the District Child Protection Unit.
The other four named in the FIR are Shivamurthy Murugha, the hostel warden, Akkamahadevi Rashmi, a follower of the mutt, Parashivaiah Basavaditya, a mutt official, and lawyer Gangadharaiah. The case, which was filed in Mysore’s Nazarbad police station, was later transferred to Chitradurga, where the mutt is based.
Two girls had approached a non-governmental organisation, ‘Odanadi Seva Samsthe’, in Mysuru and narrated the alleged abuse, following which it approached the authorities and a case was registered by the police.
On Monday, the accused seer broke his silence over the issue, claiming it was part of a long-drawn conspiracy against him and vowed to come out clean. He also hinted at an inside job to frame him in the case of sexual abuse of high school girls.
“This is not the first time that there has been a conspiracy against the mutt but it has been there for the last 15 years,” Shivamurthy told a gathering of his disciples at the mutt. “These conspiracies stayed within the mutt but now have come out.”
Earlier in the day, the seer was stopped at Bankapura in Haveri district by the Chitradurga police from travelling to Maharashtra on a suspicion that he was trying to flee. A police officer familiar with the development said after enquiring with the seer about his travel, he was asked to return to his home district.
Addressing his followers and reporters at the mutt, the chief pontiff said: “I am not going to run away but will respect the law of the land. I will come out clean from the allegations and let the case reach its logical end.”