After four long years, finally, the self-styled godman Asaram is convicted in a 2013 minor rape case by a special Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe court. He is being tried under sections 342 (Wrongful confinement), 376(2)(F) (Rape of a minor girl), 376 D, 354 A (Outraging the modesty of a woman), 506 (Criminal intimidation) and 109 (Abetment to an offence) of Indian Penal Code (IPC). Co-accused Shiva and Shilpi have been convicted; Sharad and Prakash have been acquitted.
A high profile preacher, having thousands of followers, self-styled godman Asaram’s fall from poise came after he was caught in the rape case of a minor girl. He created an empire of Rs 10,000 crore within four decades, starting from a humble hut on the banks of the Sabarmati River in the early 70s to over 400 ashrams across the country and the world. He was one of the richest spiritual leaders in the country, who is not only influential but also resourceful. Lust has led him to dust. Women were his weakness and perversion had no limits; he was not only cruel but arrogant too. He used his powers to kill many and kidnap countless. The scrutiny of documents seized by the police from Asaram’s ashram in Motera area following his arrest in the rape case in 2013 had revealed that the 77-year-old Asaram has amassed wealth of around Rs 10,000 crore, which is excluding the market value of vast track of lands that he holds. But Karma has its role to play. The father of the teenager expressed satisfaction over the Jodhpur court verdict and thanked the judiciary and the media for it. Whereas, Asaram’s followers believe that the media is the main reason behind his arrest.
Asaram was arrested by the Jodhpur Police on August 31, 2013, and has been in the jail since then. Earlier, the High Court had rejected his bail application in the rape case. A teenage girl had accused Asaram of sexual assault at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur. A witness in the rape case was shot dead in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar. Unknown persons shot Akhil Gupta, 35, on his way home. He was the second witness to be killed in the case after Amrut Prajapati, a former Asaram aide who was shot dead in June 2014 in Gujarat. Gupta was a cook and a personal aide of Asaram. Since August 2013, Asaram has been booked, along with his son, for the rape of two sisters in Surat in Gujarat.
Gupta had been questioned by the Gujarat Police in 2013 and had reportedly given a statement against the self-styled godman. The Surat-based sisters have accused Asaram and his son Narayan Sai of raping them when they stayed at his ashrams in Ahmedabad and Surat between 1997 and 2006. Her younger sister had filed a separate complaint against 77-year-old Asaram’s son Narayan Sai, accusing him of repeated sexual assault between 2002 and 2005 when she was living in his Surat ashram. There was another 33-year-old married woman, who had filed a case of sexual assault against Asaram, mysteriously went missing along with her son and husband. The father and son both have thousands of women followers.
After Gurmeet Ram Rahim, this is another high profile spiritual leader’s conviction. Nowadays, the great heritage of Indian Sadhvi and Sadhus and Saffron cult is in question. Their integrity is under deferral. Their involvement in terror, economic offences, sex scandals, murders, crime is on rise. Millions of Hindu pilgrims witness to an unusual sight: scores of saffron-clad swamis exhorting people. People attend their preaching believing they can wash away their sins by being a follower of one of these so-called spiritual leaders. They think they will be purified and the path to salvation will be cleared. Hindus have been made to believe this nonsense by the so-called swamis, sadhus, and other religious leaders. Some section of Saffron is lured in perversion and scandals. Being spiritual guru is nothing but a commercial gain.
Hinduism can take pride in the fact that, though there has been so much parody and distortion, there is always room for reform. We have a history of powerful reform movements in this country. But unfortunately, such movements last for a period and then peter out. The problem is that nobody really cares; they don’t beat you up but at the same time they don’t take much notice of you either. Indian society needs to change; it needs to inculcate the values of doubt and dissent. There must be a debate and society should question the authority of religious leaders of every religion. Be it Hindu, Christian or Muslim, you will find molesters in Goodman’s garb. Nowhere in the world would you find the kind of abominable caste system that still persists in India, and the indignities that are heaped on humanity.
In the past, Asaram had come under sharp criticism after he made controversial remarks about the December 16 gang-rape case when he said that the girl would have escaped the ordeal had she called her attacker “brothers” and pleaded them for mercy. Then he ran in trouble with the Serious Fraud Investigating Office (SFIO) seeking his prosecution in Rs 700-crore land grabbing case in Madhya Pradesh. The case pertains to 200 acres of land in Ratlam and the SFIO, which wants to prosecute Asaram and his son under the provisions of Indian Penal Code and Companies Act 1956. For spreading water on the occasion of Holi, he was targeted by many politicians in Maharashtra. Asaram is in news always for wrong reasons. There are so many allegations and controversies, but nothing of that was proven against him so far, except the conviction under POCSO act. He got life term; let’s see what is written in his fate after knocking the doors of Supreme Court hereafter.
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