. By T.V. Antony Raj .
”The media has created a controversy but what did I say that was wrong? One dog barked and more dogs (the media) joined in. Dogs will bark but they can’t harm an elephant’s dignity.” - Sant Shri Asharamji Bapu
Today, the newspapers are all agog with the news of the self-proclaimed godman Asaram Bapu being booked by the Delhi Police on Wednesday after an FIR was lodged against him, accusing him of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl.
Sant Shri Asharamji Bapu (Photo credit: OneIndia News)
Here is the ZeeNews report: “Sexual assault case: Asaram Bapu to be grilled by Jodhpur police“
New Delhi: Controversial godman Asaram Bapu will be grilled by the Jodhpur police in connection with the sexual assault case filed against him by a minor, reports said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, Jodhpur Police Commissioner said that the spiritual leader will be questioned by the city police as it appears prime facie that he and the victim were present in his ashram on Aug 14-15 when the girl was sexually assaulted by him.
Meanwhile, Asaram Bapu is expected to file an anticipatory bail application in the Rajasthan High Court today, as per reports.
On Tuesday evening, a 16-year-old girl submitted a complaint at the Kamala Market police station in central Delhi, alleging she was sexually assaulted by Asaram at a Jodhpur ashram where she had gone for treatment.
The ashram has now been sealed.
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Who is this Asaram Bapu?
Asaram Bapu also known as Sant Shri Asharamji Bapu is a 72-year-old self-styled godman, a Hindu spiritual leader from India, a friend to the rich and the powerful. He was born Asumal Sirumalani on April 17, 1941, in the Berani village of the Nawabshah District in undivided India (present day Pakistan), to Menhgiba and Thaumal Sirumalani.
His father died when he was young and he pursued meditation and spirituality under his mother’s guidance who taught him the rudiments of spirituality and meditation other.
He left his family, traveled the country and eventually, reached Vrindavan, a town in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India, where he entered the ashram of guru Lilashah Maharaj, a disciple and student of Vedic Acharya Keshavaram.
Through his wife Lakshmi Devi, Asaram Bapu has one son, Narayan Prem Sai, and a daughter named Bharti Devi.
Asaram Bapu preaches the existence of One Supreme Conscious and claims Bhakti yoga, Gnana yoga and Karma yoga as influences. His spiritual discourses have been scheduled in different Indian cities like Ahmedabad, Patna, and devotees also took diksha from him in these satsang programs. In December 2001, around 20,000 students visited his satsang in Ahmedabad.
In August 2012, while Asaram Bapu was on his way to deliver a lecture in a local college, his helicopter crashed while landing at Godhra. Asaram Bapu, his pilot, and the other passengers survived the crash unharmed.
The Dark Side of Asaram Bapu
Though he is considered a godman by his followers, there are lots of controversies surrounding him.
~ Land encroachment in Navsari district
In 2000, the Gujarat government allocated about 10 acres of land in Bhairavi village of Navsari district to the Asaram Ashram. The local villagers protested and filed complaints to the district authorities when the ashram encroached on an additional six acres of land. After notices were repeatedly ignored, the district authorities bulldozed the encroachments and took possession of the land with police assistance.
~ Land grab in Madhya Pradesh
In 2001, the Yog Vedanta Samiti of Asaram Bapu was reportedly given permission to use the premises of the Mangalya temple in Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh for 11 days for a satsang. After the satsang, the samiti failed to vacate the premises. Now, 12 later they have still not vacated the premises and continue to occupy a total of 100 acres of land, valued at over 700 crores. The land belongs to the now defunct Jayant Vitamins Limited. However, Asaram Bapu denies any involvement in the land encroachment, saying the report are baseless and untenable
~ Deaths of Ashram’s Gurukul students
Asaram and his son Narayan Sai were in the public eye after the mysterious deaths of two boys.
On July 3, 2008, two boys, Dipesh Vaghela, aged 10 years, and Abhishek Vaghela, aged 11, cousins studying at Ashram’s Gurukul (residential school) at Motera went missing. Their decomposed bodies were found on the Sabarmati river bed near Asaram Bapu’s ashram on July 5, 2008.
A commission was set up io probe the mysterious death of two boys. Praful Vaghela, the father of one of the deceased, believes that the children were killed as a result of tantric ritual. Following public outcry, the CID who took over the case after a year of probing filed a complaint of culpable homicide and booked seven sadhaks (spiritual aspirants) of the Ashram’s ashram.
The CID, in its report, stated that Dipesh and Abhishek may have died because of drowning as per their postmortem examination report. However, the report mentioned that though the CID found no direct evidence of tantra sadhna and black magic practises at the ashram, the accused had failed lie detection tests about the ashram’s activities related to such activities.
Asaram Bapu made the following a statement in the case related to the mysterious deaths of Dipesh and Abhishek. In his public address, he warned Chief Minister Narendra Modi saying, “If you will try to suppress us more, then we will throw you out… The way Gujarat Police had treated us, even Ravana’s police would not have treated anyone. Even though we took permission, we were mistreated. But I have also stated that I will do a satsang in Somnath. They can arrest whosoever they want.”
~ Attempted murder of a former member of the Asaram ashram
Raju Chandak, a former member of the Asaram ashram, in an affidavit with the police claimed that tantric rituals were being performed in the ashram, and that he had witnessed Asaram Bapu sexually exploiting women. In December 2009, Raju Chandak was attacked by two unknown persons with guns in the Ramnagar locality of Sabarmati. The Gujarat police filed an attempt to murder case against Asaram Bapu and two others.
In October, 2009 former personal assistant of Narayan Sai had told the commission that he had seen Sai performing black magic.
~ Statements on 2012 Delhi gang rape victim
Asaram Bapu came under sharp criticism after he made controversial remarks about the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang rape victim.
He blamed the 23-year-old paramedical student who was sexually assaulted by six men by saying the rape victim was equally guilty along with those responsible for the sexual assault on her. He is quoted as saying: “The victim daughter is as guilty as her rapists… The girl should have taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said, ‘I consider you my Bhaiya (brother)‘ and to the other two, she should have said, ‘Brothers, I am helpless. You are my brothers, my religious brothers’. Then the misconduct wouldn’t have happened.”
In trying to explain the reasons why six men gang-raped and murdered the 23-year-old woman, Asaram said that no mistake could be committed just by one side, blaming the victim for what happened to her. “Can one hand clap? I don’t think so.”
The “godman” also claimed that the six accused should not face harsher punishment such as “capital punishment”.
Though Asaram Bapu’s statement on the gangrape victim enraged the countrymen, his supporters and followers tried to defend him saying that his statement was fabricated.
However, after initially denying his statement against the victim of brutal gang-rape, Asaram tendered his apology. Asaram Bapu berated the media saying, “The media
has created a controversy but what did I say that was wrong? One dog barked and more dogs (the media) joined in. Dogs will bark but they can’t harm an elephant’s dignity.”
Addressing his followers in Bhankari village on the outskirts of Delhi, Asaram Bapu cautioned that any new law on crime against women may be misused: “Women should be respected but no new law should be framed which can be misused by vested interests with the help of women of loose morals,” he said,
~ Mysterious death in Asharam’s ashram
In February this year, 24-year-old Rahul Pachouri mysteriously died at Asharam Bapu’s ashram in Jabalpur. Rahul’s father alleged that his son was poisoned in the Ashram. He told the TV channel that his son had said that he had some information about fake medicines being sold by the ashram.