Asaram Bapu to be brought to Jodhpur

Jaipur, Sep 1 (IANS) A Rajasthan Police team is likely to bring spiritual guru Asaram Bapu to Jodhpur city by Sunday afternoon after arresting him Saturday night from his ashram in Indore in connection with a sexual assault case lodged against him by a 16-year-old girl, an official said.

Asaram was arrested after lengthy questioning at his ashram in Indore, sources said.

The girl had lodged a complaint at a police station in Delhi Aug 20, accusing 72-year-old Asaram of sexually assaulting her at his ashram in Jodhpur. Asaram has denied the charge, with his son saying that the girl was "mentally unstable".

A police officer told IANS that before his questioning, Asaram will be produced in a court after being brought to Jodhpur. He will be be brought in a flight from Indore to Delhi and from Delhi to Jodhpur.

Security has been stepped up in Jodhpur ahead of Asaram's arrival, he said.

"Keeping in view the fact that his followers may create a law and order situation, heavy police force has been deployed at his ashram in Jodhpur, and the court where he will be produced and the police station concerned," said the officer.

Police Saturday arrested 13 followers of Asaram in Jodhpur for assaulting media persons covering developments in the sexual assault case.

Police sealed the ashram's main gate and dispersed the supporters who started gathering since Saturday morning following reports of Asaram's impending arrest.

The police complaint filed by the girl in Delhi was transferred Aug 21 to police in Jodhpur where the alleged sexual assault took place.

Asaram was served notice Aug 27 at his ashram in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, asking him to appear before police in Jodhpur for questioning before or on Aug 30.

Asaram has been booked under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Indian Penal Code. A look-out circular has also been issued against the spiritual guru to prevent any attempt by him to leave the country.

"However, he failed to turn up on Friday. We arrested him almost within 24 hours after the deadline for his voluntarily appearing before the police ended," the police official said.

As per the allegations of the girl who studied at Asaram's ashram in Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara and stayed in a girls' hostel there, the guru sexually assaulted her on the pretext of exorcism.

Police also summoned hostel warden Shilpi, hostel attendant Keshav and Asaram Bapu's caretaker Shiva for questioning Thursday.

"One of them - Shiva - appeared before police yesterday (Saturday). He is being interrogated," said the officer.

A police team also inspected the spiritual guru's ashram near Jodhpur and recorded statements of several people to verify whether the girl and her parents were present at the ashram Aug 15 when the alleged incident took place.

"During preliminary investigation, it has come up that the girl and her parents and Asaram Bapu were present on August 15. The owner of the land, which is being used for the ashram, told police that the girl and her parents had come to the ashram to meet him," said the official.

Asaram has blamed Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi for his predicament.

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