A Jodhpur court on Wednesday sentenced self styled God Man Asaram, 77, to life imprisonment holding him guilty of raping a teenage girl in his ashram five years ago. The special court for SC/ST cases convicted two other accused, Shilpi and Sharad, and acquitted two, Prakash and Shiva. The other two convicted accused, Shilpi and Sharad, have been sentenced to 20 years each in jail. The verdict was pronounced by Judge Madhusudan Sharma inside the Jodhpur Jail due to security reasons. Two other attendants of Asaram Bapu were acquitted by the Jodhpur court in the case. Journalists were barred entry. Asaram, who was born in a village in Sindh in 1941, moved to Gujarat with his parents after partition. According to the case registered in Rajasthan, a 16-year-old girl from Shahajahanpur of Uttar Pradesh had accused Asaram of raping her at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur on the night of August 15, 2013. The girl was brought to the ashram by her parents. Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He has been under judicial custody since September 2, 2013.The victim’s father said the family had finally got justice. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice, he said. Asaram was taken into police custody in August 2013, following which he was taken to Jodhpur Central jail. A month later, a potency test was conducted on him and was produced before a Jodhpur court.In November the same year, the chargesheet filed against Asaram and four others — Shiva, Shilpi, Sharad and Prakash — had indicated blackmail in exchange for sexual favours, after which the former was booked under Sections 342, 376, 506 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).During the trial, several key witnesses were attacked or went missing. In 2014, Asaram’s personal aide was shot dead, while another associate was killed in 2015 in Muzaffarnagar. In the same year, two more witnesses were attacked by unidentified individuals, while another witness went missing from Lucknow. He had filed 12 applications seeking bail which were rejected by the trial court, the Rajasthan High Court and the Supreme Court. Asaram is also facing a rape case in Surat in which the Supreme Court earlier this month gave five weeks time to the prosecution to complete the trial.Two Surat-based sisters had lodged separate complaints against the self-styled Godman and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape. The Union Home Ministry had asked advised Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana governments to tighten security and deploy additional forces ahead of the verdict.This is the fourth case in the history of Indian judiciary that verdict has been pronounced inside the jail The others were former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassinators lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab jailed in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail and Gurmeet Ram Rahim at Sunaria, Haryana.
The chargesheet against Asaram and the four other co-accuseds was filed by the police on November 6, 2013 under various sections of the POSCO (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Indian Penal Code. The teenager had said in her complaint that Asaram called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.Asaram whose birth name is Asumal Sirumalani, was born in a village of Sindh which is now in Pakistan. He is known as Asaram Bapu or just Bapuji by his countless followers. He emerged as a religious leader in India in the early 1970s and he had established over 400 ashrams in India and abroad. He is currently lodged in Jodhpur Central Jail where a judge has pronounced him guilty in one of the rape cases — that of a 16-year-old girl of Uttar Pradesh five years ago — against him. After Partition, he moved to Ahmedabad with his family. He reportedly took care of his father’s coal and wood business after the latter’s death. But soon, the family moved to Vijapur in Mehsana district of Gujarat. At the age of 15, he is reportedly ran away to an ashram before his wedding. Though his family convinced him to return, and he did get married, he escaped once again at age 23. It was during this time that he came in contact with his spiritual guru, Leelashahji Maharaj. Leelashahji Maharaj accepted Asumal as his disciple and taught him spirituality. On October 7, 1964, he named him Sant Shri Asaramji Maharaj. He however, began propagating his own brand of Hinduism after Leelashahji threw him out of his ashram.