'Godman' Asaram sentenced to life for raping a 16-year-old
Self-styled godman Asaram, accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 2013, has been found guilty by a Jodhpur court. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Two others have also been convicted; another two have been acquitted. To prevent a repeat of the Panchkula violence, security has been upped in Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat, where a large number of his followers live.
The rape case against Asaram
In August'13, a 16-year-old UP girl, a student in a school run by self-styled godman Asaram Bapu's trust in Chhindwara (MP), accused him of sexually assaulting her at his Jodhpur ashram. He was arrested soon after. In a separate case, two Surat-based sisters had also accused Asaram and his son Narayan Sai of rape. It is being heard in the Gujarat HC.
The curious case of the dead or missing witnesses
Throughout the years, several witnesses associated with the two cases have been shot dead or stabbed; some survived. Asaram's former aide Amrut Prajapati (May'14), former cook Akhil Gupta (January'15) and Kirpal Singh Shot (July'15), all key witnesses, were shot dead. Rakesh Patel, husband of a complainant, Rahul Sachan and Mahender Chawla were attacked, but survived. In November'15, Rahul Sachan went missing from Lucknow.
If convicted, Asaram faces at least 10 years in jail
Asaram has been charged with rape, trafficking, and sexual crimes against children. If he is convicted, he will face a minimum of 10 years' imprisonment. The final arguments in the UP victim's case lasted for over five months. During the course of the hearing, the girl's family as well as the police team investigating the case received several threats, they said.
Additional personnel deployed, prohibitory orders and traffic restrictions imposed
Additional forces have been deployed in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana ahead of the verdict. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in Jodhpur. Police have asked city hotels to inform them if his followers start arriving. Personnel are also keeping a watch on railway-stations and bus-stops. Judge Madhusudan Sharma who's hearing the case has been given extra security. Asaram's Jodhpur ashram has been cleared of followers.
Over 35 were killed in violence after Ram Rahim's conviction
The last time a self-styled godmen was convicted, large-scale riots broke out in at least four states despite heavy security deployment. The death toll crosses 35 as violence after Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's conviction spread to Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Delhi. To ensure peace, Asaram's verdict will be delivered in a courtroom within the Jodhpur Central Jail premises.