Recently, there was news of yet another witness of the Asaram Bapu rape case who was killed. This was not a one-odd incident, but was actually part of a series of such attacks on witnesses and witness aides.
In fact, Asaram Bapu who has had at least two official complaints of rape against him, has a hoard of misogynistic and violent followers. When we interviewed cartoonist Kanika Mishra, she told us about the death threats she received owing to the cartoons about Asaram Bapu.
So far, three witnesses have been killed and nine of them have been attacked. So, we decided to draw out a brief timeline of the Asaram Bapu rape case just to give you context in this nearly 2-year old case. Asaram Bapu has been in jail since August 2013.
In August 2013, the Delhi police filed a case against on charges of raping a 16-year old girl in his Jodhpur Ashram. She was brought to Asaram for curing her from “evil spirits“.
Shortly, after this incident came to light, Asaram laughed at these allegations at one of his satsangs. He tried to resist arrest with multiple random reasons including being unwell, and death of a relative, but he was finally arrested on August 31st 2013.
His defence lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, made absurd and misogynistic statements including that the survivor has a chronic disease “which draws a woman to a man.
The sessions judge hearing the case of controversial godman Asaram Bapu on Thursday received a postcard warning him of ‘adverse consequences’ if he didn’t let the 72-year old walk out on bail when the court assembles for next hearing.
In October 2013, two sisters from Surat filed a complaint of rape against Asaram Bapu and his son Narayan Sai. Narayan Sai was absconding then. Again in October, yet another girl, this time from Ahmedabad filed a complaint against Asaram Bapu.
In November 2013, the Jodhpur police filed charge sheet against Asaram Bapu and four co-accused in the Jodhpur case. The charge sheet acused him of rape, sexual harassment and human trafficking apart from other offences under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Narayan Sai, Asaram Bapu’s son was found, arrested and he also admitted to the rape charges against him.
In early 2014, the trial for the Jodhpur case began. Charges were framed against Asaram Bapu for rape, criminal conspiracy and other offences by the Jodhpur court.
The husband of one of the survivors in the Surat rape was stabbed in a hospital compound by an unknown assailant.
Narayan Sai was charge sheeted in the Surat rape case.
Two unidentified men threw acid at Dinesh, Bhavchandani, an aide of one of the witnesses in the Surat case, in March 2014. Apparently, this was the third in the series of such attacks.
There were repeated attempts to get bail for Asaram Bapu, which were repeatedly refused. The Supreme Court also denied bail to Asaram Bapu.
Amrut Prajapati, a former aide of Asaram Bapu and witness in the Surat case, died of bullet injuries in June 2014. Some unidentified gunman posing as patients shot Prajapati in the neck at an Ayurveda hospital in Rajkot.
The brother of the survivor in the Jodhpur case, reportedly received a threat from two of Asaram’s followers to reach a settlement in the case, failing which they would be killed.
One of the women that had filed the rape case against Asaram Bapu (the Surat case) filed a petition that she be allowed to record her statement fresh. The request was rejected by the court.
After a few days, the same woman, was mysteriously missing for over a week along with her son and husband.
Asaram Bapu’s cook & aide, Akhil Gupta, also a witness in the Surat case was shot dead by unknown people in Muzzafarnagar in January 2015. This is the second witness in the Asaram Bapu case to be killed. Akhil Gupta’s family sought protection from the Gujarat police since they were dissatisfied by the security provided by Uttar Pradesh police.
Yet another witness was attacked in February 2015. Rahul K. Sachan, a witness in the Jodhpur case was stabbed outside the local court. He was coming out after giving his statement.
In April 2015, senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy assured Asaram Bapu that he would fight his case and get him out on bail.
Mahendra Chawla, an insurance advisor and a former personal assistant to Asaram Bapu and a witness, was shot in May 2015. He had testified against Asaram and his son, in the Surat case.
On July 8th, 2015, another witness in the Jodhpur case, Sudha Pathank turned hostile and told the court that she had no knowledge about Asaram’s activities.
On 12th July, 2015, Kripal Singh, a key witness in the Jodhpur case was shot at by two motorcycle-borne people in Shahjahanpur. This is the third witness in Asaram’s various cases who was killed.
According to recent reports, two of these killings (the one in Muzzafarnagar and the one in Shahjahanpur) have been similar – An injury to the spinal cord caused by a bullet fired from close range, a .12 bore country-made pistol and gunmen on motorcycles.
This case gets murkier and murkier as time progresses and obviously the protection provided to witnesses is highly inadequate. There have been regular demands from the family of the dead witnesses for a CBI probe indicating a larger conspiracy. It almost looks like godmen in India can really get away with anything, from rape to murder.
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