Indian court jails popular guru for life over teen rape

Asaram Bapu, a self-proclaimed godman and spiritual guru, was sentenced by an Indian court Wednesday to life in prison for raping a minor.

The court said Asumal Harpalani, known to his followers as Asaram Bapu, raped a 16-year-old girl at an ashram in the western city of Jodhpur in 2013 on the pretext of exorcising her evil spirits.

"Asaram appeared broken. He said he will now move a higher court", Press Trust of India quoted Jodhpur Jail Superintendent Vikram Singh as saying.

The court has also pronounced a jail term of 20 years each for two other accused.

At the time of the rape in 2013, Asaram Bapu was 74 years old and he claimed that he was impotent, and not able to physically commit rape. The victim said she was called by the godman in one of his ashrams in Manai, near Jodhpur where she was raped by him on 15 August, 2013. The guilty verdict by a special court in Jodhpur on Wednesday brought to a close a gruelling trial, with day-to-day hearings that lasted more than four and a half years.

Police patrol outside Jodhpur Central Jail, where Asaram Bapu has been held since September 2013, in Jodhpur in the desert state of Rajasthan, India, April 25, 2018.

Asaram came to Ahmedabad in the early 70s and set up Moksha Kutir, a small hut on the banks of river, in 1972. However, his followers made a huge fuss outside the court.

"My daughter is very courageous and it is because of her courage that we have managed to ensure that the "dhongi baba" (fake godman) got punishment for his wrongdoings", he said.

In the case, out of the five accused, including Asaram, two have been acquitted of all charges.

Asaram's followers have said that the charges against him are part of an attack on Hindu culture. After which, his followership grew spanning an empire of 400 ashrams, global outreach programmes and religious schools. "The Congress leadership never gets into such issues", said Gehlot.Seventy-seven-year-old Asaram was booked under POCSOAct and the police had filed an FIR under Sections 342, 376, 354 A, 506, 509/34 of the IPC, Sections 23, 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act and Section 8 of the POCSO Act. The case is going on againt Asaram in Gandhinagar court.

While delivering the judgment, magistrate Madhusudan Sharma observed that the accused not only broke the trust of the victim but also tarnished the image of saints. Last summer, spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Sing - the "Guru of Bling" - was convicted of rape.

  • Jon Douglas