People Daily

Indian spiritual guru given life sentence for raping teenager

Jodhpur, Wednesday

A self-styled Indian spiritual guru who claims millions of followers worldwide has been given a life sentence for raping a 16-year-old girl.

Asaram Bapu was convicted of the 2013 attack on the girl, a devotee at his ashram in Jodhpur, by a court in the city’s jail. He is expected to appeal.

The guru, who is 77, has 400 ashrams around the world where he teaches meditation and yoga. He is also on trial in another rape case in western Gujarat state.

Jodhpur is on high alert because of concerns there could be violence from the guru’s supporters, reports BBC Hindi’s Priyanka Dubey who is in the city.

The judge delivered his verdict from the city’s jail because of concerns that it could provoke riots. Two of the guru’s aides were also convicted and given 20-year jail terms. Two more were acquitted.

The security measures come after followers of another guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, ran amok after he was found guilty of rape last year. Asaram was arrested in 2013 after a case of sexual assault was filed against him by two of his followers, who alleged that he had assaulted their daughter.

Police say that the couple, who had sent the girl to one of his ashrams for spiritual lessons, were summoned to see her as she was “under the influence of some supernatural ghostly powers”.

They were then told to take their daughter to Jodhpur to meet the guru. The family reached the Jodhpur ashram on 14 August. The following night, Asaram called the victim to his room on the pretext of “curing” her.

He then raped the victim while her parents waited outside chanting his prayers, police say. Police say the guru forced the victim to perform sexual acts on him and threatened to murder her family if she spoke about the incident. The victim told her parents what had happened the following day. —BBC

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