Lingayat seer accused of sexually abusing minor students arrested
Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, pontiff of the prominent Murugha mutt in Chitradurga district of Karnataka, was arrested on Thursday night on allegations of sexually abusing two minor girls studying at the mutt. The arrest comes after massive protests by the civil society groups as the case was filed six days ago, but the state government was accused of 'dragging its feet' in the case.
Why does this story matter?
- As soon as the case against Sharanaru became public in Karnataka, the state's politicians chose to avoid commenting on it, given the religious sentiments associated with the Lingayat mutt — Jagadguru Murugharajendra Vidyapeetha.
- Apart from the state's ruling party, the BJP, Congress, and Janata Dal (Secular) have also remained tight-lipped while some politicians claimed the charges against him were false.
Sharanaru booked under POCSO, atrocity act
Sharanaru (64) and four others have been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act among others since one of the victims is from a Dalit community. He was arrested around 10.15 pm on Thursday, and presented before the magistrate court, after which he was sent to 14-day judicial custody.
Parties attempt not to miff Lingayats
Otherwise quick to jump on allegations to attack the incumbent government, the Opposition has kept mum in view of the upcoming state assembly elections. All political parties are treading carefully so as to not displease the politically influential Lingayat community, which constitutes 16% of the state's population. Notably, earlier this month Sharanaru had initiated Rahul Gandhi into the Lingayat fold at the mutt.
Politicians come out in support of Sharanaru
Alleging conspiracy in the case, Congress leader DK Shivakumar said, "Shivamurthy's public service earlier could not be discounted." The BJP's KS Eshwarappa said he would "pray" that the allegations against Sharanaru are false, while former Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa claimed that he had been "falsely implicated" in the case. The BJP's Rajya Sabha member, Lahar Singh Siroya called the allegations "extremely shocking."
Former hostel administrator accused of rape, kidnapping
Chitradurga police summoned the mutt's hostel warden Rashmi, who is accused in the case, for questioning on Thursday. The victims, aged 14 and 16, had approached an NGO and said that Sharanaru had been sexually abusing them for over three years, along with other hostellers. Ex-MLA and former mutt administrator, SK Basavarajan has been booked for raping and kidnapping the victims and a warden.