A second FIR has been lodged, this time by a 20-year-old Mumbai resident, against priest Dhananjay Bhave of the Mangueshi Devasthan temple in Goa on Sunday evening, days after a 26-year-old medical student from the USA had lodged a similar complaint of molestation against him.
The 20-year-old student, currently undergoing a computer course in Mumbai, approached Ponda police with her father on Sunday. A case under Section 354, for outraging modesty of a woman, was registered by Ponda police. “She is very disturbed. For two-three days after the incident, her father said she was very upset and kept crying,” said the complainant’s Philadelphia-based aunt. From the USA, her aunt was the first to complain, through email, to the Mangueshi temple management committee to look into the matter.
The family claims the complaint was made in June, days after the incident on June 14 when accused Bhave allegedly pulled the student by her shoulder and hugged her while her father was performing pooja and mother was in another part of the temple.
In her complaint, the Mumbai student said the Goan priest has been their family priest and so was his father. “My father was doing the Abhishek (prayer ritual) and I and my mom were about to start the Pradakshina, our usual ritual we perform together. As we started towards the gabhara, he stopped us saying ‘don’t go together’ and asked my mother to go first [sic],” she said in her complaint, adding that the priest started conversing with her and when she bent to touch his feet, he grabbed her shoulders and attempted to kiss her. “In a sacred space like this, and from a sagacious person like purohit, the last thing you expect is a sexual attack,” she said. “When we complained to the committee, they blamed us for fabricating the story. They said it must be her fault and rejected all our claims,” the aunt told The Indian Express.
Following the incident, the family returned to Mumbai fearing they had no other family members to support them in Goa. A few days later, her aunt sent a complaint via e-mail to the temple management and requested them to inspect the CCTV footage. When no action was taken by the temple management, they decided to approach the police. “Such things can be expected in public places, not temples,” the aunt said.
According to the student’s father, he decided to lodge an FIR after the Texas-based medical student filed a complaint on July 19 against Bhave on similar grounds. She alleged she was molested on June 22. The accused has got interim bail and is absconding. “The next hearing is on Wednesday. But there is pressure to not act against the priest,” the complainant’s mother said.
Mangueshi temple management committee said the priest has been suspended from temple duties. “We are fully cooperating with the police… Since the matter is sub-judice, we cannot comment further. We do not know the whereabouts of the priest,” said committee secretary Anil Kenkre.