Influential Indian Guru Asaram Bapu Given Life Sentence for Rape
An Indian court has found Indian spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of rape and has sentenced him to life imprisonment. The attack occurred in 2013, when the victim was sixteen years old. She was one of Bapu’s many followers. Bapu, who is currently 77, is also on trial for another rape case in the western Gujarat state.
The case was originally filed in 2013 by two of Bapu’s followers, who stated that Bapu had assaulted their daughter. According to the police, the couple were told to take their daughter to Jodhpur to meet Bapu, where she was called to his room and forced to perform sexual acts while her parents waited outside. Bapu reportedly threatened to murder her family if she told anyone about the incident. She shared the information with her parents the next day and they attempted to contact Asaram, but were denied entry to the ashram.
Bapu is a self-styled spiritual guru who has 400 ashrams, or religious schools, in 19 different countries and a large following of devotees. He has been practicing spiritualism since the 1960s and has an estimated 40 million followers. Bapu, who owns several expensive properties across India, is also being investigated for corruption and forgery.
Bapu has denied the charges and his spokesperson Neelam Dubey told reporters that Bapu and his legal team plan to appeal the ruling. The judge delivered his verdict from Jodhpur’s city jail due to concerns that it could cause riots among Bapu’s supporters. In Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana, three states with large numbers of Asaram followers, the police have been placed on high alert. Furthermore, the Rajasthan High Court has imposed Section 144, which prohibits the gathering of over four people in an area, until April 30.
The victim’s house in the state of Uttar Pradesh has also been subjected to heightened security. At least nine witnesses in both cases against Bapu have been attacked since 2013, and three of them have died. These attacks are currently being investigated by the police. Bapu denies any connection to the attacks. The victim’s family in the Jodhpur case have also been threatened.
In a controversial statement published by APB News, Bapu stated that “it takes two sides to make a mistake” and that “the victim is as guilty as her rapists.” A prosecution witness also quoted Bapu as saying “Brahmgiani ko ye sab karne se paap nahi lagta,” or “[rape] is not a sin for a Brahmgyani.”
Asaram Bapu is hardly the first guru to be accused of rape or sexual assault and maintain a dedicated following. The Hindustan Times shared an article listing the other “godmen” who have been charged with sexual assault. The list includes Bapu’s son Narayan Sai and influential guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.