Asaram Bapu

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People around Asaram Bapu who were killed or attacked. Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

Contents

Early life

From ghetto boy to godman to jailbird

April 26, 2018: The Times of India

Asaram Bapu, a timeline
From: April 26, 2018: The Times of India

Highlights

Asumal, now know as Asaram, spent most of his childhood in Ahmedabad's Sardarnagar, where he helped his father with timber & coal businesses

Asumal ran away when he was 23 & reached an ashram in Bharuch, run by Lilasha Maharaj who named him ‘Sant Shri Asaram Bapu Maharaj’

At his peak, Asaram reportedly ran an empire worth thousands of crores, with over 400 ashrams in India & abroad


Just after Partition, Thaumal Harpalani moved from Berani village in Pakistan’s Sindh with his wife Menhgiba and son Asumal to Ahmedabad. What followed was the typical story of survival in a refugee ghetto. They lived in the Sardarnagar area, where most Sindhi refugee families were resettled.

Asumal helped his father with his timber and coal businesses in Maninagar and then at a grain shop in the Kalupur area of the city. When he was 10, his father died, but he still did his bit for the family business. But when he was 15, Asumal ran away.

He reached an ashram in Bharuch, run by Lilasha Maharaj, but the maharaj convinced him to go back home. Which he did, but eight years later, Asumal, then 23, ran away again. This time, Lilasha accepted him as a disciple and named him ‘Sant Shri Asaram Bapu Maharaj’. This was October 1964.

Seven years later, in 1971, Asaram returned to Ahmedabad. He had two children by then -- Narayan Sai and Bharti Devi. His spiritual discourses gradually gained popularity among the tribal people of Panchmahal and Bharuch districts in Gujarat and the Hindi-speaking people from north India. During a 2001 diksha ceremony in Ahmedabad, more than 20,000 devotees attended the ‘satsangh’ function.

As his popularity soared, so did his fortunes. At his peak, Asaram — now 77 — reportedly ran an empire worth thousands of crores of rupees, with over 400 ashrams in India and abroad.

But things started changing in 2008. In July, two boys —Dipesh and Abhishek Vaghela — went missing from the Motera Ashram. Their mutilated bodies were found from the Sabarmati riverbed a few days later. There were allegations that black magic was being practised in the ashram.

Narendra Modi, then Gujarat’s chief minister, set up the Justice D K Trivedi Commission to probe the boys’ deaths. Then, five years later, in August 2013, a 16-year-old girl accused Asaram of sexually assaulting her at the Jodhpur ashram.

In December the same year, Asaram’s son, Narayan Sai, was arrested on charges of raping two sisters from Surat, who alleged that Narayan Sai and his father had allegedly raped them at the Asaram ashram in the mid-2000s. The unravelling had started.

Slowly, many more facts came to light, especially the kind of wealth the godman had amassed. When Surat police raided the home of one follower, Prahlad Keswani, in January 2015, they recovered 42 gunny bags full of documents relating to investments worth Rs 2,500 crore in real estate, bank deposits and shares, all allegedly belonging to Asaram.

According to a chargesheet filed by Gujarat police, his empire was worth Rs 5,000 crore by 2008.

A ‘tongawala’ in Ajmer

Kshitiz Gaur, Once upon a time in Ajmer, Asaram was a ‘tongawala’, April 25, 2018: The Times of India


Accused of rape, Asaram has a bit of history, tucked away in Ajmer, during his struggles to make a living as a youth. Before reinventing himself as a spiritual guru, he went by the name Asumal Sindhi and was a ‘tongawala’, carrying pilgrims from the railway station to Dargah Sharif. For two years, he worked hard to make ends meet, and the few who still ply tonga from those days remember him as an ordinary person whom no one would bother giving a second thought.

“It was only after he became popular as a godman that we remembered him,” says Panna Ustad, a member of the Ajmer tonga union. Others from the Khari Kui tonga stand, where Asaram would wait for pilgrims, are amused at his destiny.

As a seven-year-old, Asumal arrived in India from Pakistan’s Sindh. Initially, his family lived in Gujarat before Asumal moved to Ajmer in 1963 on an invitation from a relative. According to senior advocate Charanjeet Singh Oberoi, Asumal’s father then moved to Ajmer and began living in Khari Kui with his family. “Asumal was hard-working and wanted to earn money to help his family, which had faced poverty after Partition. He used to sit with tongawalas at Khari Kui and was often seen carrying pilgrims,” said Oberoi.

Controversy, sexual assault

September 2013

Asaram Bapu: Total loans given to him; Investment and deposits, Graphic courtesy: India Today, August 17, 2015

The Times of India, Jul 12 2015

Mrigank Tiwari

Prime witness in Asaram rape case shot at, dies

Kirpal Singh was shot at n Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Singh is he third witness to have lost his life after the controversy hit the headlines in 2013.

Shahjahanpur superintendent of police Babloo Kumar told TOI, “During investigation, the father of the sexual assault victim, who belongs to this district, had brought the fact to our knowledge that Singh was being threatened by three associates of Asaram.We have filed a case under Section 307 (attempt to murder) at Sadar Bazar police station and the matter is being investigated.“

In his statement recorded before a magistrate before succumbing to his injuries, Singh had said he was being regularly threatened by three associates of Asaram. He had expressed apprehension that they might have been involved in the attack. However, the victim had failed to identify the assailants.

Asaram is accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl, a native of Shahjahanpur, in his ashram at Jodhpur in August 2013. It may be recalled that the family of the girl was also attacked twice in Jodhpur during court hearings but were saved on both the occasions by alert security personnel. Another prime witness, Devendra Chawla, was shot at earlier.

In all, there have been nine attempts on the lives of various witnesses in the case since Asaram was lodged in Jodhpur jail in September 2013. While a prosecution witness had in February been stabbed to death in a Jodhpur court premises, another was shot in Muzaffarnagar in January 2015.

Asaram’s men sent a bullet to the girl’s school

Priyangi Agarwal, Asaram’s men sent a bullet to principal of girl’s school, April 26, 2018: The Times of India


One day in Shahjahanpur in December last year, some 20,000 copies of a special magazine were distributed to residents. The magazine had stories only on the “truth” about the “injustice” done to Asaram and how the “godman” had been allegedly framed in a conspiracy by Christian missionaries and, surprisingly, the BJP.

On another occasion, Asaram’s henchmen allegedly impersonated officials and changed the age of the girl from 17 to 20 years in Anganwadi records in December 2014. They then took a photocopy of the document to show in court. However, Anganwadi workers grew suspicious when they found the record changed and consulted their seniors.

When they failed at the Anganwadi centre, Asaram’s aides allegedly made the principal of a school create a fake marksheet showing her as an adult at the time of the rape. The girl did not ever study at that school but the fake marksheet was submitted in court. The girl’s father lodged an FIR and the principal was arrested in 2015.

As the trial progressed, Asaram’s aides grew increasingly desperate and their tactics became harsher. “Apart from killing and threatening witnesses, they resorted to various tactics to coerce us into withdrawing the case…they started tampering with the records to show she was an adult so that sections under the POCSO Act could be removed from the chargesheet,” the father said.

Arvind Bajpai, principal of Saraswati Sishu Mandir where the girl studied from Class II to V, said, “Just before I was to submit the documents of the girl for her age proof, I received a .315 calibre rifle bullet with a letter titled ‘your death’. Asaram’s men tried their best to browbeat the girl’s family, but truth won in the end.’’

How Jodhpur police nailed Asaram in 11 days

Ashish Mehta and Ajay Parmar, Asaram convicted in rape case: How Jodhpur police nailed him in 11 days, April 25, 2018: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

The girl gave a clear map of Asaram’s ashram at Manai village, around 38 km from Jodhpur, where she was assaulted: IPS officer Ajay Pal Lamba

Lamba got nearly 1600 letters in which anonymous people gave him life threats


Self-styled godman Asaram was on Wednesday convicted + by a court here for raping a teenager at his ashram in 2013. Special Judge (SC/ST court) Madhusudhan Sharma delivered the verdict in the Jodhpur Central jail premises.

The girl from Shahajahanpur in Uttar Pradesh was studying at the godman's ashram at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh. The victim had alleged that Asaram called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.

The chargesheet against Asaram and four other co-accused Shiva, Shilpi, Sharad and Prakash was filed by the police on November 6, 2013 under various sections of the POSCO Act, Juvenile Justice Act and IPC.

The 77-year-old Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He is under judicial custody since September 2, 2013.

How Asaram was nailed

IPS officer Ajay Pal Lamba was in office when a team of Delhi police, along with a minor girl and her father, came to meet him on August 21, 2013. Lamba was then the deputy commissioner of police Jodhpur West. The girl was there to complain against being sexually assaulted allegedly by self-styled guru Asaram.

“At first, I did not believe the family’s version and thought it could be an attempt to defame a big man. Proving me wrong, the girl gave a clear map of Asaram’s ashram at Manai village, around 38-km from Jodhpur, where she was assaulted. How can a person give a map of the room, which is a crime scene, without visiting there? That was the trigger point for our investigation that followed,” recalled Lamba, who is presently posted with the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

“Later we came to know about a Meerut family that had complained about a similar crime by Asaram to the local police. When we went to meet the family we were told it was unwilling to lodge any complaint. That was the second trigger point,” Lamba added.

The police’s masterstroke came on August 31. “We had absolutely no clue about the whereabouts of Asaram. Still we sent a team with five police officers and six commandos to his ashram in Indore (Madhya Pradesh). Simultaneously, we held a press conference in Jodhpur to bluff that he was on our radar. This irked Asaram and he suddenly appeared at Bhopal airport in the afternoon of August 31, 2013. We shared the info with the media persons, who started chasing him. Asaram, without knowing about our team’s presence in the city, reached his Indore Ashram,” Lamba said.

Asaram and his followers attempted to allure the policemen by saying all his property would be transferred. “We got everything from getting huge money to life threats. Amid all this, there was people’s faith that kept us going.” Lamba later got nearly 1600 letters in which anonymous people gave him life threats.

2018: Asaram gets life in prison

April 25, 2018: The Times of India

Accusation against Asaram, his court cases, witnesses and assets
From: Ajay Parmar, April 25, 2018: The Times of India
Asaram has been convicted of raping a 16-year old girl from Saharanpur on the intervening night of August 15 and 16, 2013 at his Manai Ashram, 30 km from Jodhpur- A timeline of the case- 2013-17
From: April 26, 2018: The Times of India

HIGHLIGHTS

Asaram, who's been in jail since August 31, 2013, was earlier today found guilty of sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Jodhpur

The girl, who's from Uttar Pradesh, was living in the ashram as a student

He was charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act


Self-styled godman Asaram was sentenced to life in prison - until death - by a special trial court, which earlier found him guilty of raping a minor in 2013.

The two other people convicted in the rape got twenty years each in prison.

The verdict and sentence were both pronounced from Jodhpur Central Jail, where Asaram is lodged. This move was due to the fear of adverse reactions from Asaram's followers, and a repeat of the violence that followed the verdict in the Gurmeet Ram Rahim case case last August.

Asaram, who's been in jail since August 31, 2013, was accused of sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The girl, who's from Uttar Pradesh, was living in the ashram as a student. He was charged under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

"Asaram is convicted, we have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now I hope he will get strict punishment," said the father of the rape survivor.

Ahead of the verdict, Jodhpur police imposed Section 144 in the city to prevent violence breaking out in case his followers were unhappy with the verdict .

The self-styled godman is embroiled in a rape case in Gujarat as well. Two Surat-based sisters had lodged separate complaints against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape and illegal confinement, among other charges. Over the course of the trial, Asaram unsuccessfully moved 12 bail applications, of which six were rejected by the trial court, three by the Rajasthan high court and three by the Supreme Court.

A special courtroom was set up inside the Jodhpur Central Jail for pronouncement of the verdict, due to security reasons, because Asaram has huge following across the country.

Fearing threat to law and order in the city from Asaram's followers, the Jodhpur police had requested the Rajasthan HC to direct the trial court to pronounce its judgment from inside the jail. After getting the HC's nod, police initiated unprecedented security measures around the city. A 10-day prohibitory order from April 21-30 has also been issued.

"We have cleared up his (Asaram's) ashrams and asked all hotels and guest-houses to not allow any of his followers. We have been keeping an eye on bus and railway stations as well as the airport to ensure that his followers did not enter the city," said Jodhpur DCP Amandeep Singh Kapoor.

The Centre earlier directed Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and UP to tighten security and deploy additional forces. The Shahjahanpur district administration has stepped up security around the rape survivor's house.

All entries to the city have been sealed and control rooms have been activated in neighbouring districts and states.

Police have converted the house of the girl who was sexually assaulted by Asaram into a fortress, in the light of threats to the family. Apart from 10 armed guards, women constables and several intelligence officers are keeping an eye on activities around the house.

The survivor and her family members had already decided not to visit Jodhpur due to security concerns and they have opted to stay inside the house since Tuesday. They met police officers earlier on April 20 and kept themselves away from the media.

"We are taking no chances. No one is allowed to meet the family without verification. Local intelligence teams, Cheetah teams and police teams are keeping an eye," a police official told TOI yesterday.

A saint or a conman?

How Asaram Bapu created his empire; Graphic courtesy: India Today, August 17, 2015

India Today, August 6, 2015

Uday Mahurkar

From rags to riches to infamy

A saint or a conman? The jury is still out on the life and strife of self-styled godman Asaram Bapu


Allegations of violence, fraud, deception, sexual exploitation, land grabbing, illegal deals, bribery, murders, and finally etched as a saint in primary school textbooks in a state. All this for thousands of crores of rupees and over claims to impart spiritual nirvana to lakhs. That, in short is the life of Asaram Bapu -a rags-to-riches story that is as dramatic as it gets in the real world.

Born in Birani village in Nawabshah (now Shaheed Benazirabad) district in Pakistan's Sindh province in 1941, Asaram was named Asumal Thaumal Harpalani. But that was then. Controversy has been his middle name ever since he met Leela Shah Baba, said to be a Gandhian spiritual master of Sindhis, at the latter's ashram in Kutch and subsequently decided that his "calling" was to be a spiritual figure himself.

Rising from a mechanic at a bicycle shop in Ahmedabad in his teens to be a giant among the country's impressive list of self-declared spiritual and holy men, Asaram carefully built up his clout among politicians and bureaucrats in the 1980s and '90s, reaching his pinnacle in the first decade of the new millennium. Among those who shared the dais and paid him obeisance were political giants such as former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and H.D. Deve Gowda, former president K.R. Narayanan, veteran leaders of the stature of L.K. Advani, George Fernandes and Farooq Abdullah, and the likes of Uma Bharti, Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, among others.


In 2002, within months of taking over the reins of Gujarat from Keshubhai Patel in October 2001, Narendra Modi began his campaign to win the by-election from Rajkot assembly seat by attending a programme of Asaram. But he later distanced himself after the spiritual leader's first brush with notoriety in 2008, when two boys from his Ahmedabad ashram went missing, their mutilated bodies surfacing after a couple of days on the banks of the Sabarmati. Following a public outcry, the Modi government in Gujarat ordered a probe.

But it was only a temporary set-back. Before his arrest in September 2013, Asaram was given the status of a state guest by chief ministers such as Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh, Prem Kumar Dhumal (Himachal Pradesh), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), and Parkash Singh Badal (Punjab). More recently, he managed to get his name entered in a Moral Science textbook for Class III students of Rajasthan as a saint, sharing space with the likes of Swami Vivekananda, Mother Teresa and Ramakrishna Paramhansa, among others. The state education department has said it will look into the matter.

While he has lakhs of followers, the septuagenarian's proclivity to put his foot in his mouth with bizarre ­statements has also found an equal number of critics, although far less vocal and aggressive than the former. After the 9/11 attacks in the United States, Asaram seemed not struck by the magnitude of the terror strike that had left the whole world shell-shocked. Instead, he might have found a new hero, going by his praise for the suicide bombers' loyalty towards the then al Qaeda chief. "I salute (Osama) bin Laden. Those are the kind of followers I want," Asaram told his supporters from the pulpit in the Ahmedabad ashram. It was September 14, 2001-just three days after the biggest terror attack the world had come across until then.

Early in January 2013, when the country was still seething in rage following the gang rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi on December 16, 2012, Asaram addressed his ­followers in Tonk, Rajasthan. The victim, he said, could have avoided being raped and murdered by addressing her attackers as "brothers" instead of fighting to save her life and honour. When protests began against this shocker of a statement, Asaram called his critics "barking dogs", adding that there should not be stricter penalties for rape, as such laws would be misused by women of "loose character". When the chorus of protest grew too big for it to be brushed aside, he quickly ­apologised, saying his statement had been misinterpreted.

He had begun his life in the 'spiritual' world the same way-traversing truth, fiction and the world in between in a brazen but always assured way. Although he claims to have been taken by Leela Shah Baba as a disciple, some say he was never accepted by his first guru. Says an old disciple of Leela Shah based in Gandhidham, near the mouth of the Gulf of Kutch, "Baba never accepted him because he had severe reservations about him."

Skeletons had begun tumbling out of the Asaram ashram's closets soon after his first brush with ­disrepute back in 2008-allegations of land-grabbing, sexual exploitation of women disciples in the ashrams, benami investments, cheating, to finally heckling, attacks on and bumping off of witnesses. They might have been a temporary setback, but before long Asaram was back in circulation among the political and business elite-almost each time. As a trial court in Jodhpur gets underway, hearing his case in the prison complex to ward off trouble by his supporters, it appears that run might have come to an end. At least for now.

He justified rape for 'Brahmgyanis'

April 26, 2018: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

Sachar, who was close to Asaram and had access to his 'kutia' or abode, deposed that he had seen Asaram molesting girls in his ashrams

The prosecution witness had also disclosed to the court that the three girls staying with Asaram were also involved in abortion of the godman's victims

Asaram believed that sexual exploitation of girls is not a sin for 'Brahmgyani' or a highly enlightened person, a prosecution witness had deposed to the court during the trial that ended on Wednesday in a life-long jail term to the self-styled godman.

Asaram also used to take medicines to increase sexual prowess, said prosecution witness Rahul K Sachar, an Asaram's follower, in his deposition forming part of the 453-page judgement convicting the godman and his two accomplices for raping a minor nearly five years ago.

Sachar, who was close to Asaram and had access to his 'kutia' or abode, deposed that he had seen Asaram molesting girls in his ashrams in 2003 in Pushkar (Rajasthan), Bhiwani (Haryana) and Ahmedabad (Gujarat).

For this purpose, he used to give signals to three girls, who used to stay with him, by throwing torchlight. On getting the 'signal', the girls used to take the targeted girls to his room in Kutia. He used to roam around the ashram with the three girls for selecting the targeted girls, said Sachar.

One evening in Ahmedabad, Sachar deposed, he climbed the wall of the 'kutia' and saw the godman molesting the girl. He then wrote a letter questioning why he was doing this to girls and handed over the letter to the cook. Asaram read the letter but ignored it.

The follower sent a second letter to Asaram, but he chose not to respond to it, following which he forcefully entered the 'kutia' and asked why Bapu was quiet on his questions. The response of Asaram was, "'Brahmgiani ko ye sab karne se paap nahi lagta.' (It's not a sin for a 'Brahmgyani' or a highly enlightened person to do so).

When he posed the second question how a 'Bhramgyani' can have such desires, Asaram quietly went inside and asked his men and guards to throw the follower out of the 'kutia.'

Sachar had further told the court that Asaram also used to take medicines for increasing his sexual power and used to consume opium.

Codeword for opium was 'Panched Buti'.

The prosecution witness had also disclosed to the court that the three girls staying with Asaram were also involved in abortion of the godman's victims.

After leaving Asaram's company and his ashram, Sachar was also attacked in 2004, for which he had lodged a complaint with police but no progress ever took place. He was again attacked after giving statement in the Asaram sexual assault case.

Asaram was arrested and was lodged in judicial custody since September 2013 in the case, in which he was awarded life-long jail term by the Jodhpur special POSCO court.

Fall from grace of preacher who built Rs 10k cr empire

Asaram convicted: Fall from grace of a preacher who built an empire of Rs 10,000 crore, April 25, 2018: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

A Jodhpur court held Asaram guilty of raping a teenage girl in his ashram five years ago

Starting from a humble hut on the banks of the Sabarmati river in the early 70s, Asaram built over 400 ashrams across the country and the world

From the high pedestal of a preacher having thousands of followers, self-styled godman Asaram's fall from grace came after he was embroiled in the rape case of a minor girl.

A Jodhpur court held Asaram guilty of raping a teenage girl in his ashram five years ago. The special court for SC/ST cases convicted two other accused, Shilpi and Sharad, and acquitted two, Prakash and Shiva.

The chargesheet against Asaram and the four other co-accused was filed by the police on November 6, 2013 under various sections of the POSCO (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Indian Penal Code.

The teenager had said in her complaint that Asaram called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.


An empire of Rs 10,000 crore

If we go by figures, Asaram can definitely give top businessmen a run for their money as the jailed self-styled godman created an empire of Rs 10,000 crore within four decades, starting from a humble hut on the banks of the Sabarmati river in the early 70s to over 400 ashrams across the country and the world.

The scrutiny of documents seized by the police from Asaram's ashram in Motera area here following his arrest in the rape case in 2013 revealed that the 77-year-old Asaram amassed wealth of around 10,000 crore, which is excluding the market value of vast track of lands that he holds.

He may be still have many followers, but after rape allegations, he was accused of other crimes like land grabbing and practice of black magic in his ashrams.

As per a short documentary available on his official website, Asaram was born in 1941 as Asumal Sirumalani in Berani village of Sindh province in Pakistan.

After partition in 1947, Asumal came to Ahmedabad with his parents and studied only till the fourth standard at a school in Maninagar area, as he was forced to leave his studies after the death of his father Thaumal when he was 10.

After doing some odd jobs during his early youth, Asumal embarked on a "spiritual quest" towards Himalayas, where he met his Guru, Lilashah Bapu, the documentary claimed.

It was that Guru who gave him the name 'Asaram' in 1964 and "commanded him to carve his own path and guide people".

Asaram came to Ahmedabad in the early 70s and started doing penance on the banks of Sabarmati near Motera area.

His true journey as a spiritual leader started in 1972 when he set up 'Moksha Kutir', a humble hut, on the banks of river. Over the years, his popularity as 'Sant Asaramji Bapu' started soaring high and that 'humble hut' converted into a full fledged Ashram.

Within a span of four decades, he added around 400 ashrams in India and abroad.

Even today, the Motera Ashram is flocked by followers, who are still in denial mode and maintain that their 'guru' has been jailed on false charges.

Asaram is married to Laxmi Devi and they have two children - son Narayan Sai, who is also behind bars, and daughter Bharti Devi.

Asaram ran into troubled waters for the first time in 2008, when two cousins -Dipesh and Abhishek Vaghela- who used to stay at the Gurukul of Asaram's Ashram in Motera area here, were found dead under mysterious circumstances on the riverbed near the ashram in 2008.

The state CID had in 2009 booked seven followers of Asaram in the death case. Parents of two cousins had alleged that they were killed in the Asarma's ashram as they practice black magic.

However, his real fall started in 2013, after he was arrested for a minor's rape in Rajasthan.

After that, two Surat-based sisters had come out to speak about their alleged sexual exploitation at the hand of Asaram and his son Narayan Sai.

Surat Police had on October 6, 2013, registered complaints filed by two sisters - one against Asaram and another against his son Narayan Sai - of rape, sexual assault, illegal confinement and other charges. The case is going on against Asaram in the Gandhinagar court.

He was accused of land grabbing for building his ashrams in Surat and Ahmedabad.

His followers were held for threatening and assaulting witnesses in rape cases against him and his son after they were arrested.

Assets

2014: National Green Tribunal questions illegal structures in Ridge forest

April 26, 2018: The Times of India


Asaram Bapu’s ashram in Karol Bagh has been in the centre of controversy for many years after National Green Tribunal had observed in 2014 that it had “illegal structures” raised in the protected Ridge forest area.

A functional temple, which is part of the ashram, is built on a patch on the Central Ridge that had seen demolitions carried out in 2015 on the orders of the green tribunal. This action was in result of a 2014 petition filed in NGT by Sanjay Kumar through his advocate Gaurav Bansal that had claimed that the 4,312-square yard ashram had been constructed illegally and fell on land falling under the Ridge.

Based on the petition, the tribunal had in 2014 had issued directions to demolish all the illegal structures that were not shown in the initial sketches of the property from August 2002 and by comparing them to the detailed map submitted by the court’s inspection committee in 2014.

“There are substantial changes in the structures existing and area occupied. Presently, (there are) additional rooms, stores, toilets and tin sheds,” NGT had observed. It had also directed the ashram trust to plant at least 1,000 trees in the area within six weeks of the order and to dismantle a sewage pipeline coming from the ashram.

Advocate Bansal, however, had said that a major portion of the ashram was still illegal with the original permission taken only to construct a temple there. The matter was disposed of in 2015 in the NGT after a compliance report was submitted by the inspection committee.

“The have carried out massive construction in the ashram which is against the Supreme Court’s order and is in criminal contempt of court,” said Bansal. Forest officials TOI spoke to said they have been following directions of the tribunal and action would be taken if encroachments on the Ridge are reported.

2016: Rs 2,500cr illegal assets unearthed

The Times of India, April 23, 2016

Rs 2,500cr illegal Asaram assets unearthed

The income-tax department in Surat has unearthed Rs 2,500 crore worth of unaccounted transactions of controversial godman Asaram and his son Narayan Sai after 42 bags recovered from Ahmedabad in 2015 were scanned.

These bags contained property documents, CDs, CPUs, hard discs and other materials relating to investments, bank deposits, shares and real estate.

A detailed report on unaccounted transactions and properties of the father-son duo was submitted to higher authorities in Ahmedabad for further action, sources said, adding, tax liability for the unaccounted transactions and income comes to Rs 750 crore.

The teachings of Asaram Bapu

‘Avoid lust, Valentine’s Day

April 26, 2018: The Times of India


Asaram clearly had trouble following his own advice. The self-styled godman and now convicted rapist gave several sermons warning followers against the perils of lust. He often equated ‘’vaasna’’ (sexual desire) with spiritual decline. Remember the billboards renaming Valentine’s Day as ‘matri-pitri pujan diwas’ (a day to worship parents) that were plastered across metro stations in Delhi in 2014? Those were the handiwork of his disciples. TOI dug out some other ‘pearls of wisdom’ from Asaram’s videos and website: › In one sermon, he likens a person who succumbs to desire to an animal. “Ek bakra ek din mein 40 bakriyon ke saath muh kaala kar sakta hai (A male goat can have sex with 40 female goats.)’’ › While expressing his concern over misguided youth, he says that young people barely reach puberty when they start handing out roses (for V-Day.) “Yauvan ka raas nichod ke neeche ki naali se nikal jaata hai

(The youth lose their innocence in the pursuit of lust)’’ › His advice to get rid of lustful thoughts was to chant om shanti, stick one’s tongue to the roof of the mouth, meditate, do pranayama and turn thoughts towards god. The instructions, he says, are to be followed before going to bed, and first thing in the morning.

› After the Nirbhaya gangrape in 2012, he sparked a furore with a discourse by saying she was equally responsible. “Agar us kanya ne Saraswati mantra liya hota …toh boyfriend ke saath picture dekh kar jis kisi bus mein ghusti nahin. Agar ghus bhi gayi.. toh 6 sharabi the.. Bhagwan ka naam leti aur ek ka haath pakadti. Tere ko toh mafi maangti hoon. Galti ek taraf se nahi hoti (Had she chanted the Saraswati mantra, she would not have boarded any random bus after watching a movie with her boyfriend. Even if she did, she should have taken god’s name and asked for mercy. She should have called them brothers, fallen at their feet and pleaded for mercy).”


What made Asaram so popular?

‘Miracles, supernatural tales’

Dishank Purohit, April 27, 2018: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

Dubious stories about his miracles were peddled to keep the faith of supporters reposed in his cult even after he went to jail in 2013.


The appeal of Asaram’s cult is amplified by his astounding claims of performing extraordinary miracles, ranging from halting heavy downpour to being an ‘antaryamin’ (mind reader) capable of curing terminally ill patients.

The dubious stories about his miracles were peddled to keep the faith of supporters reposed in his cult even after he went to jail in 2013.

For instance, his Ashram’s in-house magazine, Rishi Prasad’s online issue number 297, carried an article titled, “Even the clouds obey his commands,” in which a devotee recounts how one day he had to return home after the ‘satsang’ when it was raining heavily. When Asaram asked how he managed to go home, he said he looked up at the sky and said, “Stop now,” and the rain stopped instantly.

Another article from issue number 299 of Rishi Prasad narrates an incident by a devotee who recalls how his minor son was cured of aphasia, an inability to comprehend and formulate language, by a ball of butter as suggested by Asaram.

Jodhpur police officials, who have been managing the godman’s frenzied followers during the many trials at the court, said that Asaram’s claims to “supernatural” powers helped to keep his followers united, despite his involvement in heinous offences.

“During trials when we took him to the court in a Vajra (anti-riot vehicle), his ‘sadhaks’ (devotees) would roll down in front of the vehicle and jostle with each other to get a glimpse of Asaram. They have been trained to believe that proximity to the guru can change their lives,” said an official, adding that these stories were particularly highlighted after his involvement in Jodhpur rape case as his devotees began to leave him.

Neelam Dubey, the spokesperson for Asaram, told TOI that the number of followers hasn’t dwindled and has instead increased. “The number of ‘shivers’ (camps) has increased. Several students who have never even met Bapuji have also begun to attend the ashrams and religious activities,” she told TOI.

Asaram’s core teachings include an emphasis on brahmacharya (celibacy). Apart from “miracles,” his ashram-made medicines are also a rage among his ardent followers. Products like ‘gau chandan’ (cow sandalwood) are still being bought by his followers from his website. Read this story in Bengali

See also

Godmen and cult leaders: India <> Asaram Bapu <> Dera Sacha Sauda <>Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan <> Honeypreet Insan <> Radhe Guru Maa (Param Shradhey Mamtamai Shri) <> Rampal Singh Jatin @ Rampal, cult leader <>Virender Dev Dixit/ Adhyatmik Vishwavidyalaya

At a different level, see Sai Baba (Sathya) of Puttaparthi

Ann Schaufuss

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