Police have filed a case against a yoga centre near Kochi after a Hindu woman, who “married” a Christian youth, raised allegations of torture at the institute. The centre, Arsha Vidhya Samajam alias Yoga and Charitable Trust at Tripunithura near Kochi, has been engaged in bringing women back into the Hindu fold after they had converted to other religions.
Following the complaint from Swetha Haridas, 28, that she was physically assaulted at the centre, police on Monday registered a case against the institute, its yoga guru Manoj and his associates.
According to Swetha, she was tortured “by Hindu fundamentalists to take her away from her marriage with a Christian, Rinto Issac. When I objected and tried to escape from the illegal confinement, they tortured me. The centre head, Manoj Guruji, threatened that if I went with Rinto, they would kill him. There were 65 persons who were in detention at the centre. The inmates were injected with hatred of Islam and Christianity.” They were also subjected to sexual abuse, she alleged.
Thrikkakara assistant police commissioner P P Shams said they had registered a case based on the complaint. “It is a yoga and counselling centre, which has 45 inmates. We are looking into details. The institute hasn’t faced any case in the recent past,’’ he said.
The Congress-led Udayamperur village panchayat served notice a seeking immediate closure of the centre. It has no licence from the local body or the health department, said a panchayat official.
The yoga centre counsellor, Sruthi, said the allegations of torture and sexual abuse were baseless. “Swetha attended the counselling programme and left last month after staying here for 22 days. We are wondering why she has come out with an allegation now. She had faced depression. Hence, she attended yoga and counselling. So far, none of the inmates has raised any complaint against the centre,’’ she said.
Apart from yoga and counselling, the centre imparts classes on religion.
Swetha’s mother Ranjini said the allegations against the institute were baseless. “I stayed with my daughter throughout the counselling programme, but did not notice any such issue as alleged by my daughter. There is some other agenda behind this allegation,’’ she said.
Ranjini said Swetha had an arranged marriage with a Hindu youth last year, but it lasted only a month. After that she had left with Rinto, a Christian from Thrissur, who she had met while practising as an ayurvedic doctor in that district.
“We are against the marriage with Rinto, not because he is a Christian. He is not educated and doesn’t have a job. We took her to the yoga centre expecting that the counselling would change her approach,’’ said Ranjini.
She said her daughter had left home last week and now claimed she married Rinto.
Another woman, 23-year-old Athira who had embraced Islam, last week returned to Hinduism after attending a two-month counselling session at the VHP-backed centre, which is a sister concern of Hindu Helpline, meant for Hindus in distress.