The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Surat sisters sexual assault case brought the victims to the Anti Terrorist Squad office for cross-interrogation of spiritual leader Asaram Bapu and the victims on Thursday. Asaram has agreed to parts of the charges. He,however,has denied that he forced himself upon the girl,as per his interrogation.
The girls were brought under police protection to the ATS office,along with the SIT members,for a day-long questioning. The girls reached the ATS office around 11.30am accompanied by police women.
Sources in the SIT said that the victims were first questioned in a closed room separately. Later,Asaram was questioned in a similar manner. After their independent questioning,Asaram and the victims were made to sit together for cross-questioning. The SIT officials said Asaram was shocked to see the victims. He initially expressed the displeasure to talk to police after seeing the girls. However,later,he agreed when he was told that his displeasure would be noted as non co-operation in the investigations.
According to sources,Asaram was asked to explain what had happened on the day of the incident with details of his meetings at his controversial farmhouse,Shanti Kutir,where he allegedly met the girls in the garb of devotee special meetings.
He was asked to explain the reasons why one of the victims,the elder sister,was called at Shanti Kutir when she hadnt sought an appointment. He was also asked whether the girl was forcefully brought into his room by the women at his ashram. A source in the SIT said,Asaram has partly accepted the charges against him. He has said that the girl did come to Shanti Kutir late in the evening when he was doing dhyaan,but claimed that he did not indulge in such acts with her. He also refused that the girl was given any drugs at the farmhouse as alleged,and threatened by his sevikas to stay mum.
The victims,however,brought documents to the SIT to support their FIRs. The sources also said that the victims had brought some corroborative evidence against Asaram that throw light on the activities inside his ashram and his ploy of bringing in young girls and sexually assaulting them. The documents are expected to contain details of the victims stay in the ashram and women who were aiding Asaram in these activities,an SIT source said.
The cross-questioning went on for over five hours. The sources added that both Asaram and the victims would be taken to Shanti Kutir for spot verification. Asaram was asked 80-odd questions. Sources said this cross interrogation has revealed names of 18 persons from the ashram who would also be questioned in the case.
Meanwhile,Asaram has been spending his day by reading newspapers and watching news at the ATS office. Apparently,he has been allowed to take his medicines and home food as he complained of old age and poor health. He also meditates for hours when he is not under interrogation by the SIT. He is questioned for three-to-four hours on an average daily,sources added.
Asaram had appeared for a potency test in Ahmedabad civil hospital on Wednesday. He had agreed to get the part one of the first level of the test cleared. He,however,refused to take drugs for the test. He objected to the test stating that he had recently given a test in Jodhpur,which had confirmed that he is not impotent.
Asarams lawyer,B M Gupta,has alleged that his client had been harassed and tortured at Sola Civil Hospital during his medical examination that included a potency test. He is a sant and he was made to undergo some embarrassing tests there. Initially,he refused to undergo the tests. Yet,they took samples of his blood,urine,saliva and hair. This was nothing but psychological,mental and physical torture, Gupta said. According to Gupta,Asaram informed him of all this harassment when he met him in custody.
I have written a two-page note in a register of ATS (where Asaram is being kept in custody) while recording all this. And if I am permitted to meet him today and he complains of similar harassment,I am going to write to the Human Rights Commission in this regard, Gupta said.