A first information report (FIR) has been lodged against Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, seer and chief of Murugha Mutt in Chitradurga, and four others on the charge of sexually harassing minor girls who are residents of the hostel run by the mutt.
Two girls, who are now sheltered at Odanadi Seva Samsthe, an NGO engaged in rescue and rehabilitation of sexually-exploited women and children in Mysuru, appeared before the Mysuru district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on August 26 and made the statement detailing their alleged sexual harassment by the seer with the assistance of the hostel warden and three others.
Based on the directions of the CWC, the Legal and Probation Officer, Mysuru district Child Protection Unit, has lodged a complaint with the Nazarbad police station here. An FIR under various Sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was filed late on Friday night.
Meanwhile, the advisory committee of the mutt held a meeting on Saturday and termed the allegations “baseless” and a “conspiracy”.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Mysuru city, Pradeep Gunti, told The Hindu on Saturday that the case had been transferred to Chitradurga based on the place of occurrence as cited in the complaint. “It has been transferred to Chitradurga with the permission of the court,” he said.
According to the complaint, one victim underwent sexual harassment for the last three-and-a-half years while another was subjected to sexual harassment over the last one-and-a-half years.
According to Odanadi’s founder Parashuram M. L., the victims, who were high school students, fled from the hostel to escape the sexual abuse and reached Bengaluru to lodge a complaint. When they were sent away by the police in Bengaluru, they learnt about Odanadi Seva Samsthe and reached Mysuru on Friday with the help of a woman.
After a counselling session by women counsellors at Odanadi, the girls opened up about their experiences at the mutt, said Saraswathi, a counsellor at Odanadi. Later, it was decided to produce the girls before the CWC, she added. “Producing them before the CWC was also necessary to protect the interests of other residents of the hostel,” said Mr. Parashuram.
Mysuru district CWC members Savitha Kumari, Ashok, and E. Dhananjaya Yeliyur were present during the deposition by the girls. After recording the statement of the victims and issuing orders to the district Child Protection Unit to lodge a complaint with the police, the CWC directed that the victims be provided temporary shelter at Odanadi.
Support to victims
Ms. Saraswathi told reporters that the victims required psychological strength and Odanadi was providing them the necessary psycho-social support.
Mr. Parashuram said the victims preferred to lodge a complaint in Mysuru with the help of Odanadi because they were convinced that the authorities in Chitradurga were under the influence of the seer and the mutt, which was visited by not only national and State-level political leaders, but also representatives of ruling and Opposition parties.
While claiming that a lot of pressure was brought upon them in the matter, Mr. Parashuram said a judicial probe should be conducted to bring to light any conspiracy in the episode.