CM orders Sarathi probe

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today ordered a crime branch probe into the activities of self-styled spiritual leader Srimad Sarathi after the controversy over his alleged stay with a girl at a Hyderabad hotel last month threatened to snowball.

By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 7.08.15
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Srimad Sarathi’s ashram at Barimula in Kendrapara. Telegraph picture

Bhubaneaswar, Aug. 6: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today ordered a crime branch probe into the activities of self-styled spiritual leader Srimad Sarathi after the controversy over his alleged stay with a girl at a Hyderabad hotel last month threatened to snowball.

The order followed allegations and counter-allegations about the controversial spiritual leader's link with politicians.

The crime branch has constituted a three-member team, which will be headed by an additional superintendent of police, for the probe.

Sources said the team would visit Sarathi's ashram at Barimula in Kendrapara district tomorrow.

Shortly after the crime branch probe was ordered, violence erupted near the ashram as hundreds of people tried to storm the complex.

People pelted stones at the ashram demanding the arrest of Sarathi. As tension ran high, police resorted to mild lathi-charge to disperse the crowd.

Additional director general of police (ADG), crime branch, B.K. Sharma said: "The team will make a comprehensive inquiry into the matter. We have received a number of complaints and each complaint will be examined on its merit. Action will be taken as per the law."

Sources said the crime branch would try to find out the source of Sarathi's alleged wealth and his political clout.

The team would also find out whether he was accompanied by a young woman to Hyderabad last month. The woman in question is a MBBS student.

However, a woman claiming to be the mother of the girl today told TV channels that her daughter was in the college hostel from July 3 to July 5 when the incident is said to have taken place.

Soon after her claim, news channels beamed the application of the girl seeking leave between July 2 and July 8. The channels also beamed visuals of two air tickets that were booked in the name of Sarathi and the girl.

Adding to the government's discomfort, the Congress today alleged that Sarathi had flourished because of the patronage of the ruling party. They went on to describe Sarathi as "BJD Baba", who was getting all support from the ruling party.

"Ruling party MLAs and MPs used to visit him. Even the baba had asked his supporters to cast vote for the BJD," Congress chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati said.

Former Congress president Niranjan Patnaik said: "Many allegations have been levelled against him. A detailed inquiry should be made to ascertain the truth. The guilty should be punished."

Kendrapara BJP district unit today submitted a memorandum to the district collector demanding that Sarathi should be booked under National SecuriTy Act (NSA).

In an attempt to counter the Opposition, BJD spokesperson Pratap Jena, who till yesterday had taken a lenient approach in the matter, said: "The issue should not be politicised because that will give it a different turn."

BJD MP Baijyanta Panda, the MP from Kendrapara whose TV channel earlier used to air Sarathi's spiritual discourse, today said: "I don't know him. I have never visited his ashram. This incident is unfortunate. No one is above the law, particularly in the government of Naveen Patnaik. Investigation should continue and those guilty should be punished."

BJD MP Anubhav Mohanty, whose photograph had appeared with the controversial spiritual leader, said: "No one is above law."

A cross section of people had lodged an FIR against the Sarathi on Tuesday leveling misdemeanor charge against him, said Kendrapara sub-divisional police officer Purna Chandra Pradhan.

While tension was palpable in Kendrapara, college students threw traffic out of gear on the busy Cuttack-Chandballi state highway to protest against alleged slack attitude of the police in the matter.

CRIME & SPIRITUALITY