Fears of violence after Indian 'godman' convicted of raping girl, 16

26 April, 2018, 00:44 | Author: Donnie King
  • Self-styled spiritual gurul Asaram greets his supporters at a court hearing in 2015

A court in Jodhpur on Wednesday sentenced Asaram to life in jail, while also awarding 20-year jail terms to other two convicts, both his aides.

The victim had alleged that Asaram had called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.

An Indian spiritual guru who claims to have millions of followers worldwide has been convicted of raping a teenage devotee in the latest scandal to befall the country's self-styled "godmen".

The white-bearded guru, who urges followers to live a pious life free of sexual desires, has always denied raping the then 16-year-old in 2013 at an ashram in the city.

Asaram, 79, was today convicted under the stringent provisions of the Prevention of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Taking objection to Asaram being labelled as "rapist" by media, Vanzara said the case against the godman pertains only to section 354 of the IPC, which deals with "Outraging modesty of a woman", and not about rape.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights said despite the child being a minor, the new ordinance that allows courts to invoke the death penalty in such cases will not be applicable in this case.

Defense lawyer Sushma Dhara said she would challenge the verdict.

Refusing to agree with the verdict, Asaram's spokesperson Neelam Dubey said his followers would challenge it at a higher court.

The girl, who was the complainant in the case, told the Indian Express that her family was isolated after they lodged the complaint and she had also started receiving threats, which led her to being confined to home.

Asaram Bapu, one of India's most charismatic and controversial "godmen", was given the maximum sentence at a closed jailhouse hearing in Rajasthan state, where hundreds of police were on high alert for a backlash from his disciples. It acquitted two others, Prakash and Shiva.

His arrest in September 2013 triggered a spate of violence by his followers who stopped trains and blocked highways - attacking policemen and reporters who were covering the case. "Now I hope he will get strict punishment", said the father of the rape survivor.

Earlier this month, there were nationwide protests against the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl in Khatua in Jammu and Kashmir.

Asaram, along with his son, Narayan Sai, are also accused of repeated rape and illegal confinement of two Surat-based sisters, who stayed at Asaram's ashram (religious retreat) in Gujarat between 1997 and 2006.

The verdict came amid rising public anger in India over cases of rape of young girls in recent days.



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