Self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, arrested over allegations of sexual assault levelled against him by a sixteen year old female inmate of his ashram, was sent to a one-day police custody by a court in Jodhpur.
Following his interrogation in Jodhpur, the police said that the godman, while cooperating with the investigation, refuted all allegations against him.
The police also said that they had asked doctors to conduct a “potency test” on Asaram Bapu. Also, they will be taking him to Manai in order to recreate the scene of crime.
While the police had asked for a two-day custody of the godman to better investigate the case, the court granted them a one-day custody.
“The facts that we have at this point, are strong. But in order to make the case watertight, we have asked more time from the court,” Jodhpur police commissioner Biju George Joseph told journalists in Johpur.
“We have asked the doctors to conduct a potency test of Asaram. We will also take him to Manai to recreate the scene of crime,” said Mr. Joseph.
Earlier, DCP Ajay Pal Lamba had said the police had completed a preliminary interrogation and found the allegaions against Asaram to be correct prima facie.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who was in Jodhpur earlier in the morning, had assured of strict action against the godman if the allegations against him were found to be correct.
Asaram Bapu was arrested by the Jodhpur police from his ashram in Indore around midnight yesterday and was brought to Jodhpur via Delhi at around noon on Sunday.
A political blame-game ensued after the arrest, with the BJP saying the law would take its own course on the matter and AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh terming the BJP's silence suspicious.
“The most vocal voice of BJP against atrocities against women has been Sushma Swaraj. Why is she quiet in Asharam Bapu's case ?” Mr. Singh had tweeted on Saturday.
In response, Ms. Swaraj had tweeted: “There is no one big or small. And law will take its own course”.
Pheroze L. Vincent adds:
Asaram had ignored summons to appear before the police in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, on or before August 30. On Friday night, he left Bhopal — where he attended the cremation of a relative on Thursday. It was not until Asaram’s son Narayan Sai’s press briefing at Indore on Saturday afternoon, did it become clear that the fugitive godman was in Indore.
Mr. Sai told reporters that his father suffers from a neurological disorder for the last 13 years and had high blood pressure. “The Jodhpur Police is welcome and they can question him anytime after his health improves... Bapu respects the court. He has cooperated and will continue to cooperate,” he said.
Mr. Sai expressed regret over the fracas with journalists at Bhopal’s Raja Bhoj airport on Friday. Asaram’s supporters had clashed with journalists after he missed a flight. In Jodhpur too, IBN7 channel’s crew was brutally thrashed by Asaram’s devotees on Saturday morning.
Mr. Sai’s press meet was prompted after senior Indore police and revenue officials reportedly spoke to him, following rumours that Asaram had fled under cover of darkness towards Ratlam, where he has strong support. “There is no question of him going underground. He has been here at the ashram since last night. I appeal to all our devotees to maintain peace and show love. The press is referring to him (Asaram) as a rape accused. I can tell you 110 per cent than there was no rape,” said Mr. Sai.
This was followed by an interaction with Asaram's lawyers who accused the 16-year-old rape survivor of repeatedly changing her statements.
A 14-member team of the Jodhpur Police, led by Additional Superintendent of Police Satish Chand Jangid, arrived in Indore by road on Saturday afternoon. Yet, it was not until 8.30 p.m. did they enter the ashram to question Asaram.
The godman then went into a satsang, where he reportedly asked around 3000 followers to keep calm. “The Jodhpur police is too intelligent to arrest me,” he was quoted saying. After it ended at 9.30 p.m, he asked officers to conclude the interrogation by 10 p.m. or continue on Sunday.
The interrogation however, continued for more than two-and-a-half hours, with restive devotees and heavy police presence on the premises. Top police and revenue officials of the city were present. At 11.15 p.m. an ambulance was brought in followed by personnel of the Special Armed Force, some in riot gear, who barricaded the area.
Asaram’s lawyers then left the premises saying that their client was asleep and all further action would take place in the morning. By the time of the arrest, the police strength had risen to around 1000, with officers being brought in from stations across the city.
The BJP, which had earlier come out in support of Asaram, stayed away from the ashram. Leaders privately admitted that the national leadership had advised them to wash their hands off the godman until the case was clear.
At around 12.15 a.m., police quickly contained the crowd in the barricades and a ten-vehicle convoy rushed out with Asaram. He was taken straight to Indore’s Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport and seated in the VIP lounge. The Central Industrial Security Force cordoned off the premises only allowing passengers and staff inside. At around 8 a.m. Asaram, along with police escort, boarded a flight to Delhi, from where he was taken to Jodhpur.