Asumal Sirumalani, commonly known and widely revered as Asaram Bapu by his millions of followers in India and abroad, is a religious leader. Asaram featured prominently in the list of Fake Sadhus released by the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad. His organization boasts of having 400 ashrams around the world. All the power and money, however, could not save the self-styled god man Asaram Bapu from getting convicted by the Jodhpur court today. The Jodhpur High Court pronounced the verdict on the case involving rape of a minor girl.
Asaram and his accomplices were framed under Section 342 (for wrongful confinement), 354A (sexual harassment), 370(4) (trafficking), 376, 506 (criminal intimidation), 509/34 and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy). The special Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe court in Jodhpur has pronounced the sentence today inside the Jodhpur Central Jail premises owing to security issues. Asaram’s accomplices Shiva and Shilpi too have been convicted while two others namely Sharad and Prakash have been acquitted by the court. Judge Madhu Sudan Sharma had been hearing the arguments from the prosecution and defence counsels for more than five months and had reserved the judgements for today on April 7th.
Asaram had been accused of rape by a teenage girl from Uttar Pradesh. She had accused Asaram of rape inside the Jodhpur Ashram premises. Asaram was arrested by the police in September 2013 and many of his bail pleas were rejected by the court.
The police had filed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against Asaram which led to him being tried by the special SC/ST Court in Jodhpur. Many witnesses of the incident, along with some of Asaram’s supporters who had turned away from him faced attacks. Asaram and his accomplices were accused of the murder of Amrut Prajapati and Akhil Gupta, both former aides of Asaram. His godliness has been under doubts in the past too. Mutilated dead bodies of children from his Ashram had been found on two occasions. Doubts over Asaram and his son Narayan Sai practising ‘dark magic’ too have been raised by the parents of the dead children.
All these acts have finally caught up with Asaram. The SC/ST court verdict has sealed the fate of Asaram who already is at the ripe old age of 77. The charges leveled against him will provide for a minimum of 10 years imprisonment. He could also be slapped with a life sentence taking into account the severity of the charges.
It would be interesting to see whether the recently amended POCSO Act would further increase the troubles of the” living god” or not. The recent amendments came in after the incidents from Kathua and Unnao which led the public to come out on the streets demanding death penalty for the rapists. The Central government provided their assent to the public demand and brought an ordinance to add capital punishment in cases of the rape of a minor who is below 12 years of age.
While the verdict today might be bad news for Asaram and his followers, it could be worse considering he is also facing trials in another case related to rape of a minor and he could be convicted in that case as well. His past might have been full of pomp and glory but his present and future certainly looks bleak.
Update*- Asaram was sentenced to life-imprisonment till death by Jodhpur special court. Judge Madhusudan Sharma sentenced Asaram to life imprisonment while his associates Sharatchandra and Shilpi, have been sentenced to 20 years of impriosonment.
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