Asaram supporters protest at Delhi airport, Jantar Mantar

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) Hundreds of supporters of Asaram Bapu Sunday raised slogans outside the Delhi airport and staged a protest march at Jantar Mantar as the spiritual leader made a brief stopover at the city airport before flying onwards to Jodhpur under arrest.

"A few of the protestors who tried to break the barricades at Jantar Mantar were detained and taken to Parliament Street police station," said a police officer. They were let off later.

Asaram reached the Indira Gandhi International Airport here from Indore in Madhya Pradesh around 9.30 a.m. Hundreds of his supporters gathered outside the terminal and shouted slogans claiming that the spiritual guru had been framed in a sexual assault case.

Asaram Bapu waited in the airport's VIP lounge before catching the flight to Jodhpur at 11.20 a.m.

"Asaram Bapu is innocent... all this is being done to tarnish his image," said Jyoti Singh, a 32-year-old woman outside the airport.

Around 1 p.m., around 1,000 of his supporters, mostly women, gathered at Jantar Mantar and marched down Parliament Street. They shouted slogans against the police and media. The were stopped by the police after they had covered a short distance.

The 72-year-old spiritual guru was arrested in Indore past midnight Saturday in connection with charges of sexual assault levelled against him by a 16-year-old girl.

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

Asaram 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 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.


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