Asaram found guilty of raping teenager in 2013, awarded life term
Jodhpur, Apr 25: A Jodhpur court today sentenced self-styled godman Asaram to life in prison after finding him guilty of raping a teenage girl in his ashram five years ago, the second case of a powerful spiritual leader being convicted of a sexual offence in less than a year.
Special judge Madhusudan Sharma’s verdict, which comes as the debate over sexual violence, particularly the rape of minors, intensifies across the country, was read out in the Jodhpur Central Jail where 77-year-old Asaram has been kept for over four years.
Police had stepped up security around Asaram’s ashrams to prevent the kind of violence that was unleashed by followers when another so-called godman, Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim, was convicted of rape last August.
Apart from Asaram, two other accused, Shilpi and Sharad, were convicted by the special court for SC/ST cases. It acquitted two others, Prakash and Shiva.
“The court has awarded life imprisonment to Asaram while the two other convicts have been each sentenced to 20 years in jail,” a senior police official said.
Arguments for the quantum of sentencing were earlier held inside the heavily fortified jail premises, where the trial court delivered its verdict in accordance with the directions of the Rajasthan High Court.
Asaram, who started from a hut on the banks of the Sabarmati, created a Rs 10,000 crore empire with 400 ashrams in India and other parts of the world in four decades.
The charge sheet against Asaram and the four other co-accused was filed by the police on November 6, 2013 under various sections of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The teenager had said in her complaint that Asaram had called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.
The 16-year-old girl from Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh was studying at Asaram’s ashram in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.
“We had complete faith in the judiciary and are happy that we got justice,” her father told journalists after the verdict.
The family, he said, was living in constant terror and their business was hit.
Ahead of the verdict, security was stepped up in Jodhpur where prohibitory orders were imposed.
Apprehending a threat to law and order, the Centre had asked Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana governments to tighten security and deploy additional forces as the three states have a large number of Asaram followers.
The Union Home Ministry had sent an advisory fearing a repeat of the violence in Punjab and Haryana that followed the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in August last year, when several people were killed. He was convicted in a 2002 rape case and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Final arguments in the Asaram case were completed on April 7 and the court had kept the order reserved for April 25.
Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He was under judicial custody since September 2, 2013. Asaram is also facing a rape case in Surat in Gujarat in which the Supreme Court earlier this month gave five weeks time to the prosecution to complete the trial.
Asaram unsuccessfully moved 12 bail applications, of which six were rejected by the trial court, three by the Rajasthan High Court and three by the Supreme Court.
Asaram: The preacher who built an empire of Rs 10,000 crore
Ahmedabad, Apr 25 (PTI) From the high pedestal of a preacher having thousands of followers, self-styled godman Asaram’s fall from grace came after he was embroiled in the rape case of a minor girl.
If we go by figures, Asaram can surely give top businessmen a run for their money as the jailed self-styled godman 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.
The scrutiny of documents seized by the police from Asaram’s ashram in Motera area here following his arrest in the rape case in 2013 had revealed that the 77-year-old Asaram has amassed wealth of around 10,000 crore, which is excluding the market value of vast track of lands that he holds.
He may be still have many followers, but after rape allegations, he was accused of other crimes like land grabbing and practice of black magic in his ashrams.
As per a short documentary available on his official website, Asaram was born in 1941 as Asumal Sirumalani in Berani village of Sindh province in Pakistan.
After partition in 1947, Asumal came to Ahmedabad with his parents and studied only till the fourth standard at a school in Maninagar area, as he was forced to leave his studies after the death of his father Thaumal when he was 10.
After doing some odd jobs during his early youth, Asumal embarked on a “spiritual quest” towards Himalayas, where he met his Guru, Lilashah Bapu, the documentary claimed.
It was that Guru who gave him the name ‘Asaram’ in 1964 and “commanded him to carve his own path and guide people”.
Asaram came to Ahmedabad in the early 70s and started doing penance on the banks of Sabarmati near Motera area.
His true journey as a spiritual leader started in 1972 when he set up ‘Moksha Kutir’, a humble hut, on the banks of river.
Over the years, his popularity as ‘Sant Asaramji Bapu’ started soaring high and that ‘humble hut’ converted into a full fledged Ashram.
Within a span of four decades, he added around 400 ashrams in India and abroad.
Even today, the Motera Ashram is flocked by followers, who are still in denial mode and maintain that their ‘guru’ has been jailed on false charges.
Asaram is married to Laxmi Devi and they have two children – son Narayan Sai, who is also behind bars, and daughter Bharti Devi.
Asaram ran into troubled waters for the first time in 2008, when two cousins -Dipesh and Abhishek Vaghela- who used to stay at the Gurukul of Asaram’s Ashram in Motera area here, were found dead under mysterious circumstances on the riverbed near the ashram in 2008.
The state CID had in 2009 booked seven followers of Asaram in the death case. Parents of two cousins had alleged that they were killed in the Asarma’s ashram as they practice black magic.
However, his real fall started in 2013, after he was arrested for a minor’s rape in Rajasthan.
After that, two Surat-based sisters had come out to speak about their alleged sexual exploitation at the hand of Asaram and his son Narayan Sai.
Surat Police had on October 6, 2013, registered complaints filed by two sisters – one against Asaram and another against his son Narayan Sai – of rape, sexual assault, illegal confinement and other charges. The case is going on againt Asaram in Gandhinagar court.
He was accused of land grabbing for building his ashrams in Surat and Ahmedabad.
His followers were held for threatening and assaulting witnesses in rape cases against him and his son after they were arrested.