The Ahmedabad police arrested a husband-wife duo from Bengaluru Monday for their alleged role in attacks on witnesses in rape cases against self-styled godman Asaram and his son Narayan Sai.
Later in the day, the two were brought to Gandhinagar, where a district court ordered police remand till September 24.
Vasavraj alias Vasu, a resident of Bijapur in Karnataka, and his wife Sejal Mahesh Prajapati, originally from Daman, were under the scanner for the past six months. Following a tip-off, a police team was sent to Bengaluru to arrest them, said Deepan Bhadran, DCP in Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch. According to police, Vasu and his wife were among the core “sadhaks” or followers of Asaram.
Bhadran said the two are suspected to be involved in four incidents of attack in Gujarat, and possibly the killing of key witness Amrut Prajapati. The police have also identified 15 other suspects, all of them closely linked to Asaram.
Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police Shivanand Jha said the attacks were part of a conspiracy to derail the investigation. He said the arrests might help reveal more facts in the case, such as hiring of sharp shooters to target witnesses.
Sejal, in her early 20s, and Vasu, in late 30s, reportedly met at Asaram’s Motera Ashram in 2012, and got married in Aurangabad. The couple have a cable network business in Bijapur.
“As part of the conspiracy, Sejal and Vasu lodged a complaint with Surat police station, claiming that they were getting threat calls from followers of Asaram. This was done in order to get close to people who were against Asaram. This way, they obtained information about the witnesses. It was Vasu who was bearing the expenses of these attacks,” claimed a police official involved in investigation.
Police said Vasu, Sejal and the 15 others, including Asaram’s close aides Punit, Pravin Vakil, Shailendra and Arjun Vakil, conspired “to teach a lesson” to those who testified against the father-son duo soon after they were arrested in 2013 in separate rape cases.
The police said Vasu confessed to having conspired in attacks on the complainants in Asaram and Sai’s cases in Ahmedabad and Surat, respectively. Besides, Vasu and others were allegedly involved in attacks on Dinesh Bhagchandani, a resident of Surat who was once a follower of Asaram, Raju Chandak, a resident of Ahmedabad, Amrut Prajapati, a key witness who was shot dead in Rajkot, and Lalo Thakore, who was attacked in Ahmedabad.
According to police, the attacks on witnesses, who were also followers of Asaram, started soon after the self-styled godman was refused bail.
“Some of his staunch supporters were upset, believing the charges against Asaram were false. They decided to bring the father-son duo out of jail. These staunch followers at several ashrams, including Ahmedabad, Jodhpur and Indore, conspired to teach a lesson to those who testified against Asaram and Sai,” an investigator said.
Since the arrests of Asaram and his son, at least nine key witnesses have been attacked, of which three are dead.