A cornered Asaram—calling him ‘Bapu’ (father) would only lend credibility to his unwarranted ‘Godman’ status—has been on a counter-allegation spree since the victim filed her complaint.
The past few days have been difficult for the self-styled, self-proclaimed ‘Godman’ Asumal Sirumalani—Asaram Bapu to followers. Accused of sexual assault on 16-year-old minor girl in Jodhpur last week, he has been served a notice—albeit amid high drama–to appear before the police for questioning before August 30. What emerges in the interrogation is another matter. The real issue in this case is Asaram’s brazen defiance and disregard for the law.
A cornered Asaram—calling him ‘Bapu’ (father) would only lend credibility to his unwarranted ‘Godman’ status—has been on a counter-allegation spree since the victim filed her complaint. This, despite the fact that the police has booked him for alleged sexual assault under sections 376, 342, 506 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, section 8 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act, as per media reports. Initially, he refused to accept the serious accusations levelled against him, brushing them away as fabricated lies. At the same time, however, Asaram sought time from the police till September 20, citing his scheduled ‘spiritual functions and discourses’ as a reason. Later, he challenged the girl’s testimony, going to the extent of announcing ‘a prize of Rs 5 lakhs to anyone who could prove the girl was a victim.’ Now, he claims a political conspiracy, openly accusing Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi of deliberately framing him. All this, while hiding from the media, refusing to answer difficult questions, and instead pushing ideologically-driven aides to put forth preposterous defence for himself. Really, is this the conduct of a ‘Godman’?
Under normal circumstances, the accused in such a case would have been arrested, questioned, and booked within hours of the FIR complaint. However, emboldened by the political clout he enjoys in certain parties, Asaram has not only evaded arrest, but has made a mockery of the system by continuing to make public appearances for his ‘spiritual engagements.’ In a statement, he has also challenged people to prove that the girl was assaulted—thereby shifting the ‘burden of proof’ from himself to the victim. The controversial ‘Godman’ (he has been accused of murder in the past) forgets that in cases of sexual assault—a grave offence under Indian criminal law—the onus to ‘prove’ innocence is on the accused. His statements, dipped with arrogance and a misplaced sense of supremacy, fail to reflect this in any way.
Clearly, Asaram and his aides want this to become a case where the victim becomes the accused, and the accused becomes the victim. However, this time, his battle is not with a girl, but with a nation full of angry and outraged people who have lost their patience with sexual offenders. So Mr. Asaram, if you think you can evade the law and continue your brazen defiance, you are wrong. This will not happen. Not this time. Not on our watch.
*Views expressed are personal