February 18, 2018 1:34:42 am
THE BIDHANNAGAR police on Saturday raided a branch of Adhyatmik Ishwarya Vishwavidyalaya in Salt Lake, run by self-styled guru Virendra Dev Dixit, and rescued 15 women, who were allegedly raped and sexually exploited at the ashram. A follower of Dixit was arrested. In December last year, the Delhi High Court had ordered an inspection of Adhyatmik Vishwavidyalaya ashrams — also run by Dixit — in Delhi after a PIL was filed by an NGO alleging illegal confinement of girls. The court-appointed panel had rescued 47 women and six girls from various branches of the ashram in Delhi and UP, who were allegedly kept in “animal-like” conditions behind metal doors in a “fortress- like” building. In January, more than 70 girls were found staying in a Rajasthan ashram run by Dixit, who is at present absconding.
“In the raid on Saturday, 15 women in the age group of 25 to 60 years were rescued. Chandra Mata, who ran the ashram on Dixit’s behalf, was arrested. Two inmates have been detained for questioning,” said a police officer. Police said that on February 9, a woman had lodged a complaint at Bidhannagar’s East police station, alleging that in 1984, Prajapita Brahma Kumari Ishwarya Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya — run by the Brahma Kumaris — had organised a show at Contai in West Midnapore, which she had attended. Influenced by the programme, she had later joined a branch of Adhyatmik Ishwarya Vishwavidyalaya in the district, where poor women pursued spiritual studies free of cost, the complainant said. In 1992-93, she allegedly came to the ashram in Salt Lake, where Dixit reportedly forced her to have conjugal relationship with him.
Bidhannagar DCP K Sabri Rajkumar said several others also allegedly faced the same fate at the Salt Lake ashram. “The victim initially did not inform her parents. In 2004, she returned home and informed her family,” he added. While probing the complaint, Sub-Inspector Pravakar Nath of East police station found that Dixit had deputed two women — Girijamma Y and Chandra Mata — to run the Salt Lake ashram. The ashram is run from a rented house, said Rajkumar. “Virendra Dev Dixit used the place to commit illegal activities with women when he visited,” he added.
A case was registered under sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 365 (Kidnapping and abducting), 347 (wrongful confinement to extort property), 370-370A (trafficking), 376 (rape), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC. Police said that on Friday, another woman lodged a complaint at the East police station alleging that her sister had gone missing from the Salt Lake ashram.
“She allegedly joined the ashram in 2013… but then went missing. The complainant claimed she later came to know that her sister has been sent to other states to propagate Dixit’s teachings. Several other women were allegedly made to do the same… The complainant said they were sexually exploited by Dixit and others at the ashram,” said a police officer. Based on the complaint, S-I Pravakar Nath again lodged a complaint and the police moved the Bidhannagar court for permission to raid the ashram. The court on Saturday issued a search warrant, following which the raid was conducted.
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