Two women from Mumbai have alleged that the priest of Shree Mangueshi Temple in Goa, one of the most revered pilgrimage in the small coastal state, sexually abused them in separate incidents last month.
In separate letters to the temple management, they have alleged that the priest hugged and kissed them in the temple premises, when they visited the temple with their parents. The first incident allegedly took place on June 14, the second on June 22.
Confirming having received both letters, Anil Kenkre, secretary of the temple management, Shree Manguesh Devasthan, replied to the second complainant and stated that action against the priest will be taken “as deemed fit on the findings of the Authority when made available to us”. Read in Malayalam
For now, Kenkre said, the priest has not been suspended from his religious duties. The accused could not be contacted.
In the first instance, the victim alleged that she was stopped from following her parents into the inner sanctum by the priest. After a brief conversation, when she bent down to touch his feet as a mark of respect, the priest allegedly grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her towards him, she has complained.
“His grip was so tight, I was not able to move…before I could even understand what he was trying to do he tried to kiss me and managed to kiss me on my cheek…In a sacred space, and from a sagacious person like a Purohit, last thing you expect is a sexual attack,” she wrote.
She also asked the management to check CCTV footage for proof, and marked the camera facing the space where the alleged attack took place
The complaint has gone viral on social media in Goa.
The second complainant, who is now studying medicine in the US, said she was allegedly waylaid by the priest in the locker area. The priest, she alleged, put his arm on her shoulder and forcibly kissed her on the cheek.
“I was traumatized and repulsed by this disturbing behavior of inappropriately touching and kissing me,” reads her complaint. Her parents called on the priest when they were informed, and the priest ostensibly replied that he touched the victim only “because he considered us family friends”.
Kenkre, when contacted, said over the phone, “I don’t think there is much to comment. There is nothing of our concern. We have replied and we have said what we want to tell in the letter. The matter is over for us…”
He refused to answer whether any action was taken on the accused named in the letter. “Let’s just say the matter is sub juidice. We don’t have anything to say.”
The second victim also asked the temple management to review CCTV footage of the locker area and the vicinity.
She wrote: “I will also call your attention to the problematic fact that unmarried girls from devout families for whom Mangeshi is their Kuldevta are barred from even entering the gabhara, while their brothers and parents are allowed to perform the puja inside. This practice is antiquated and as of 2016, it is also against the law…. As a result of this practice, there have been many girls and young women who have been sitting away from the eyes of their parents and have been potentially subjected to…unwanted advances.”
In his response to the second victim, Kenkre wrote that the committee held an “emergency meeting” on July 4. The letter, which names the priest, said that a decision was taken to obtain comments of the priest and initiate a preliminary inquiry. “During the inquiry, the committee could not lay its hand on any dependable evidence to establish a prima facie case,” reads the response, “The nature of allegations are such that it restricts the scope of further inquiry by the managing committee. The committee therefore came to (the) conclusion to request you to approach the appropriate authority to redress your grievance.”