Asaram questioned in Jodhpur, asserts innocence

Jaipur, Sep 1 (IANS) Arrested spiritual guru Asaram Bapu, facing allegations of sexual assault on a minor, was Sunday brought to Jodhpur town, where he was interrogated after being sent to a day's police custody and taken to his ashram for recreating the "crime scene", police said.

During the interrogation at the Police Lines, near Mandore in Jodhpur, the white-clad, bearded 72-year-old Asaram asserted he was innocent.

He will spend the night at the Police Lines, police sources told IANS.

"We had sought two days' police custody, but the court has given us a day's custody. We, after interrogating him, will again present him before the district and sessions judge here tomorrow (Monday) and, if need be, seek more custody," said a police official in Jodhpur, 350 km from here.

The guru was also taken to his ashram, 35 km from Jodhpur, at around 6 p.m. for recreating the alleged crime scene. The exercise lasted around 20 minutes, a source said.

Asaram Bapu denied the allegation of sexual assault levelled against him by a minor girl, Jodhpur Police Commissioner Biju George Joseph told reporters. The incident had reportedly occurred Aug 15.

The police chief said Asaram had undergone a medical examination and the doctors had declared he was fine.

Police sources also said that Asaram would undergo a potency test.

The family of the victim Sunday broke their hunger strike following the arrest.

The girl's father and a few relatives, based in Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur, began their hunger strike Saturday morning, pressing for legal action against Asaram.

Thanking the media for keeping the case in the spotlight, the girl's father requested an early trial and sought Asaram should be treated as a common criminal, and should not be given bail.

A Rajasthan Police team flew Asaram Bapu to Jodhpur in the afternoon after arresting him past midnight Saturday from his ashram in Madhya Pradesh's Indore.

The spiritual guru was brought from Delhi where he was flown from Indore by a morning flight.

Hundreds of his supporters gathered outside the Delhi airport as the plane carrying him arrived at 9.30 a.m. and raised slogans. Asaram Bapu waited in the airport's VIP lounge before being taken on the flight to Jodhpur at 11.20 a.m.

His supporters also staged a protest march at Jantar Mantar. A few protestors who tried to break the barricades were detained but let off later.

Security was stepped up in the Rajasthan town ahead of Asaram's arrival.

The girl lodged a complaint Aug 20, accusing Asaram of sexually assaulting her at his ashram in Jodhpur. Asaram has denied the charge, and his son has claimed the girl was "mentally unstable".

The guru has been booked under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Indian Penal Code.

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

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Sunday said the law would take its own course in the case.

Talking to media persons here, he said that no actor, politician or any other person was above law.

"Let the law take its own course. Police should be allowed to do its job of unbiased investigation. We want that whoever is guilty should be punished," said Gehlot.

In Delhi, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh Sunday again accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of adopting double standards on crimes against women and maintaining silence in this case.

He asked Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to make public the judicial commission report on murder of two boys, who were living in an ashram of Asaram Bapu in the state.

He also questioned why BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who was vocal on issue of crimes against women, was quiet on the minor girl's allegation against the spiritual leader.

Asaram has blamed Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi for his legal tangles. The Congress has rubbished the allegation.

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