The two families who have approached Goa police after their daughters were sexually assaulted, allegedly by a priest inside Mangueshi Temple in Ponda, have alleged that the temple management had cited the shortage of priests to conduct the Maharudra Yagna and told them not to take the complaint forward.
Both families have alleged that the management had asked them the victim’s gotra (caste).
It is alleged that in separate incidents on June 14 and June 22, priest Dhananjay Bhave sexually assaulted the women inside the temple. While an FIR in one of the cases was lodged on Sunday on the complaint of a 20-year-old Mumbai resident, the FIR in the other case was lodged on July 19 after the victim, who has returned to the US, emailed her complaint to police through the Office of the FRRO, Goa.
The father of the victim based in the US said that when he took up the matter with the temple management, he was asked to call the temple management president C V Dhume who allegedly replied that it was difficult to take action because the temple was in shortage of priests. “He first asked my antecedents and confirmed that I was a Mahajan. I asked him how is that relevant? He didn’t reply. Then he explained to me that for the main yagnas and pujas, they require a minimum of 12 pujaries and the temple was currently short of at least three,” he said.
He said that while talking to the management, one of their officials “unwittingly released the name of the other victim’s relative”. “We contacted her on Facebook and she said she had been calling the management to report on a similar assault on her niece on June 14 and she had been given similar responses.”
When contacted, the aunt of the victim who filed the second FIR, said she was appalled by the temple’s response. “I gave the name of the victim and he asked, “are you sure?”, “What is your gotra?”. I asked him if it was ok to molest her if she was not a Mahajan or not a Gaud Saraswat Brahmin. When we asked on the action taken against the priest, he was non-committal and said there was a union backing the priest and the temple was helpless.”
Dhume denied the conversations. “It is under enquiry. There is an FIR now. We must not comment anything till their action is conclusive.” On allegations made by the families, he said, “No this is wrong. I never said any such thing. Irrespective of the case though, I can say there is a shortage of priests,” he said.
Police said they have found CCTV footage in which Bhave can be seeing patting one of the victims on June 22. There is also an image in which she is seen wearing traditional attire — one of the reasons cited by Bhave in his plea for interim bail says the victim was not dressed appropriately and she made the allegation as he had reprimanded her. The plea is to be heard by a Ponda court Wednesday.