A team from the Jodhpur Police served summons to preacher Asumal Sirumalani, also known as Asaram Bapu, at his premises on the outskirts of Indore on Tuesday. Mr. Sirumalani has been accused of raping a 16-year old student, of his school in Chhindwara, at his ashram in Jodhpur on August 15. On Monday, summons was also issued through a representative of the godman in Ahmedabad. His employees in Chhindwara and Jodhpur have also been called for questioning.

The three-member team led by Sub Inspector Bhanwar Singh reached the ashram on Khandwa Road before 8 a.m, but had to wait until 2 p.m. to serve the summons to the preacher— who claimed to be in a meditational trance all morning. Asaram Bapu termed the allegations “imaginary” and said there is a conspiracy to target him. He said that terming the plaintiff a minor was misleading.

“She is in class 12 and is a very smart girl. Calling her a minor is not correct,” he said. He added, “I have written a letter to the police explaining that I have many engagements, so if they give me more time I will fully cooperate.”

Jodhpur’s Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) told The Hindu over phone that his request will be examined after the team returns. “Asumal alias Asaram has been asked to remain within India and present himself for questioning by August 30,” he said. Asaram has been booked under sections 376, 342, 506 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, section 8 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act and sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act.

BJP members led by MLA Ramesh Mendola protested along with Asaram supporters in front of the ashram. He said, “This is a conspiracy by some Indians along with foreign forces to defame Bapu. We are here to protest against the humiliation of saints.” BJP legislators Uma Bharti and Prabhat Jha have also spoken in support of Asaram.

Minutes before Asaram left his ashram, reportedly for Surat, a girl who identified herself as Ashwini— a schoolmate of the plaintiff —appeared at the ashram with her parents. She alleged that the plaintiff was being forced to speak against Asaram. “I spoke to her on phone when this controversy began. She said her parents are forcing her to make these allegations. Then the call got cut and I have not been able to contact her since,” she claimed.