The Jodhpur court on Wednesday convicted self-proclaimed godman Asaram for the rape of a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh five years ago. Days before the verdict, security outside the victim’s house in Shahjahanpur was beefed up in view of the threats to her and the family. Several witnesses were also attacked allegedly by Asaram supporters in the course of the trial that began in 2014. On July 10 that year, one of the witnesses against Asaram was shot at, just 7 km from the victim’s home. Follow LIVE Updates
The victim, who was then in school, had to withdraw from the outside world when the trial began. “After he (Asaram) was arrested, I thought we would be safe. I even started going for computer coaching classes. But then the threats started and I was asked to study at home,” she had told The Indian Express.
After a gap of a year, she joined back as a private student, picking up computers and home science as subjects. She picked the “easier” topics, she said, as she had to appear regularly at hearings in Jodhpur.
The victim’s parents, who were followers of Asaram, had taken her to the ashram in the hope of getting her cured of ‘evil spirits’. On the pretext of treating her, the parents were asked to leave her alone with the godman, who allegedly sexually assaulted her.
The girl did her early schooling from Saraswati Shishu Mandir in Shahjahanpur and was later sent to her aunt’s home in Haryana for two years to study. “When I entered Class VII, Asaram asked my parents to send me to his gurukul in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh to ensure that we lived a ‘disciplined spiritual life’.”
She was in Class XII when, one day, she fainted in her hostel, and was later told she was under the influence of “evil spirits”. She was made to recite “mantras” one whole night after which her parents were asked to take her for “treatment” to Asaram in Jodhpur.
The incident, which took place on August 15, 2013 was reported five days later on August 20 at a Delhi police station. In the police complaint, the girl alleged that she was asked to perform oral sex and was touched inappropriately. Asaram was arrested on August 31, 2013.
After today’s verdict, the victim’s father said, “Asaram is convicted, we have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now I hope he will get strict punishment. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice.”