Jaipur, Sept. 1: A court in Jodhpur has ordered a one-day police custody for Asaram Bapu, the self-styled godman who has been accused of raping a teenager in his ashram.
Jodhpur police had sought a two-day custody to further interrogate the 72-year-old as his defence seemed “unsatisfactory” but district and sessions judge (rural) Manoj K. Vyas granted one day.
Asaram had been grilled earlier today soon after he landed here from an Air India flight from Delhi around 1pm.
Jodhpur police commissioner Biju G. Joseph said: “The probe is on and Asaram was arrested because his defence was unsatisfactory. We also want to recreate the scene where the crime took place.” He said the police needed at least two days to prepare a water-tight case against Asaram.
The police later took him to Manai ashram, about 25km from Jodhpur, to recreate the scene of crime. The victim had earlier identified the ashram as the place where she was allegedly assaulted. A case was initially registered in Delhi and later transferred to Jodhpur for investigation.
During the day, the police said a potency test would be conducted on the preacher, who has denied the charges of rape against him. PTI late tonight reported that Asaram had “cleared” the potency test conducted at the SN Medical College.
Asaram was arrested from his ashram at Indore a little past Saturday midnight. A large posse of police personnel took him to the airport, where he spent the night on a sofa in the VIP lounge. He was taken to Delhi by a 7.50am flight. From there, Asaram was flown to Jodhpur escorted by a Rajasthan police team led by additional commissioner Satish Jnagid.
Amid tight security, Asaram was whisked away from the Jodhpur airport to the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary Battalion in Mandore, 6km away. He was interrogated for almost four hours before being produced in court. Protesters waved black flags at the Jodhpur airport.
Around 150 of Asaram’s followers gathered outside the lower court when he was produced around 4.30pm. They also shouted slogans at the Delhi and Jodhpur airports. A report from Mumbai said they stopped trains at Ulhasnagar’s railway tracks in Thane district shortly after noon.
Joseph said a medical test has been conducted and there was nothing to suggest that Asaram was unwell. The police commissioner denied reports that Asaram was on a hunger strike. “He is taking food and water,” Joseph said.
The preacher had been evading arrest since August 30 citing health reasons.
Eyewitness Mahendra Lalas, a sports commentator who was on the same flight as Asaram, told The Telegraph: “Asaram seemed uncomfortable during the flight but was quiet and kept to himself. There was very tight security and the police were not letting anyone talk to him.”
A 16-year-old girl of Asaram’s gurukul in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh has accused the godman of raping her on August 15 on the pretext of curing her of evil spirits. Her parents had taken her to the Manai ashram.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said: “Whosoever does such a heinous crime, no matter how big he is, he will face severe punishment.”
The father of the girl called off his fast-unto-death, which he started yesterday morning in Shahajahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, after hearing about Asaram’s arrest. “The first hurdle has been overcome. We will take our fight forward,” the father said.