Asaram Bapu may be arrested, supporters hit mediapersons

Jaipur, Aug 31 (IANS) A Rajasthan Police team has left to question Asaram Bapu and "then probably arrest him", said an official Saturday, a day that saw mediapersons being assaulted by the spiritual guru's supporters in Jodhpur city.

Heavy police force has been deployed in Jodhpur city Saturday following reports that a huge crowd of Asaram Bapu's followers had gathered at his ashram and some of them attacked media persons who were covering developments in the sexual assault case lodged against the spiritual guru, an official said.

Asaram Bapu is facing arrest after a 16-year-old girl made a police complaint Aug 20, accusing him of sexually assaulting her at his ashram in Jodhpur.

The spiritual leader has denied the allegation.

A senior police official told IANS that the crowd of Asaram's supporters was gradually swelling following reports of his impending arrest.

The official said that a couple of mediapersons were attacked by some supporters of Asaram Bapu near his ashram Saturday morning.

"As a team has left to question Asaram and then probably arrest him, we fear that the law and order situation may further get out of control. His followers may create ruckus. So we have deployed heavy police force near the ashram and other places in Jodhpur," the official said.

The official added that a battalion of Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (RAC) has also been stationed.

"We will provide security to the media persons covering the developments in the case," said the official.

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

However, he failed to turn up following which a Jodhpur police team has left to track him down and interrogate him.

A police official said that Asaram will be placed under custody and brought to Jodhpur.

"He may be arrested after that," the official added.

Asaram Bapu 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.

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 Aug 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.

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