Barbed wire along the boundary walls, metal doors at every interval, three sacks filled with syringes and medicines, and around hundred women who were cut off from their families and the outside world for nearly 25 years packed into tiny cubicles dotted Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya ashram on Wednesday. The ashram, operating for the past 25 years in Rohini’s Vijay Vihar, is now at the centre of allegations of sexual assault, illegal confinement of women and men, use of narcotic substances to allegedly keep the women confined inside the premises.
The allegations came to light after a raid was conducted on Tuesday evening following a Delhi High Court order on a PIL filed by an NGO — Foundation for Social Empowerment. The NGO had, in its petition, maintained that several minors and women were allegedly being illegally confined at the “spiritual university”.
The raid — conducted by a Delhi Police team led by DCP (Rohini) Rajneesh Gupta, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal, and four advocates appointed by the Delhi High court — ran into rough waters after they were barred from entering the premises. However, after producing the court order, the team managed to enter the five-storey building passing through metal gates with locks at every interval and had to duck due to the low height of the passage way. “There was a lot of hostility. It was shocking that a court-appointed team was not allowed to enter. We were even confined inside the premises for around 45 minutes,” said Maliwal.
DCP Rajneesh Gupta said he and his team had to reason with around 20 women followers of the ashram to let them in. One of the advocates who was part of the team also alleged that she was manhandled by the followers at the ashram.
Meanwhile, the High Court Wednesday ordered a CBI probe into the ashram developments. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the CBI Director to set up a special investigation team forthwith and seize all records pertaining to 11 FIRs, six DD entries lodged in connection with alleged rape and suicides of the girls there.
Nandita Rao, one of the advocates appointed by the court, informed the bench “that over 100 girls were housed in animal-like conditions with no privacy”. She also expressed apprehension over the health of several inmates who appear to be under the influence of narcotic substances. “The inmates were kept in close confinement in dark spaces with no sunlight and metal grill, with nowhere to exit. The sleeping area is also monitored and the girls have no privacy,” she said.
The claims were corroborated by several women who The Indian Express spoke to. Many of them were from villages in UP and Chhattisgarh. “They used to tell us that if we interacted with the outside world, we would be committing a sin. They kept telling us we would not survive. The baba had told me that I was one of his 16,000 ranis. He raped me on several occasions,” said a 32-year-old woman.
A second inspection of the men’s quarters was undertaken on Wednesday evening. “The court, in the meantime, has also ordered the constitution of a medical board which will supervise the medical examination of all inmates rescued from the premises,” said Shalabh Sharma, advocate at the Delhi High Court.
Denying all claims, an ashram pravachak at the women’s quarters said, “We have written documents from the women which had also been sent to the local police stations in their villages. They want to stay here on their own will and are being fed well, and taught yoga and Atharva gyan.”