Jaipur, Aug. 26: Godman Asaram Bapu has been asked to appear for questioning in Jodhpur by Friday over charges of sexually abusing a minor and warned of arrest if he doesn’t show up.
A police team from the Rajasthan town, where the alleged abuse of the 16-year-girl took place almost two weeks ago at a centre run by the godman, reached his main ashram in Ahmedabad with the summons but was told Asaram was out of station, officers said.
“Asaram Bapu was not present in Ahmedabad at that time. But he needs to be present in Jodhpur within August 30 for questioning,” Jodhpur police commissioner Biju G. Joseph said today. Police sources said the summons were handed to one of his aides.
The 72-year-old godman, embroiled earlier in controversies over inmates at his ashrams, has been booked for raping a minor and other offences that include wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation. If convicted, the maximum punishment could be a life term.
Women activists demonstrated before the Rajasthan Assembly here today demanding Asaram be arrested immediately.
The victim, who studies at one of Asaram’s gurukuls in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara and had come to the Jodhpur centre for treatment, filed the case in Delhi last week.
The family had tried to meet Asaram in Delhi at a sermon but claimed they were turned away by aides, following which they lodged the complaint last Wednesday at Kamala Market police station in the national capital.
The case was then transferred to Jodhpur. The family had also alleged that Rajasthan police initially refused to register the complaint and claimed it was because of pressure from the influential godman’s aides.
Earlier, the girl and her parents were called on August 15 from Madhya Pradesh to the Jodhpur ashram, which Asaram was visiting at the time, for treatment.
The three met the godman after which he took the teenager — who some at the ashram claimed was possessed by evil spirits — into a room to examine her. Asaram is accused of assaulting her there and threatening her not to speak out.
The police sources said the family, hailing from Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur, earlier had “blind faith” in the guru.
The ashram room where the alleged abuse occurred has been identified on the basis of details in the complaint and in a recce of the site during which the victim accompanied the cops a few days ago.
This isn’t the first time Asaram finds himself in the thick of a controversy centred on his ashrams.
In 2008, the bodies of two children who stayed at Asaram’s Ahmedabad ashram were found on the banks of a river nearby. Their parents had accused Asaram of having performed “black magic”.
In 2009, Gujarat police had filed an attempt to murder case against Asaram over an attack on a former aide who claimed to have seen the godman in “objectionable positions” with some of the inmates.