Police to question Asaram in Bhopal

Jodhpur, Aug 30 (IANS) Rejecting his plea seeking more time to appear for questioning in a sexual assault case, Rajasthan Police Friday said it will send a team to Bhopal to question spiritual guru Asaram Bapu.

Police said they had a strong case against the godman, who faces charges that he molested a minor girl at his ashram here.

"We are not going there (Bhopal) with an arrest warrant... We will question him... He may be arrested. He has a weak defence," Deputy Commissioner of Police Ajay Lamba told reporters here.

Asked if he will positively be arrested once the questioning ends, Lamba refused to elaborate.

The police said they got a fax from Asaram Bapu's ashram in Bhopal seeking more time to appear before them in Jodhpur, stating that one of his relatives had expired.

"This is no ground to grant more time and we have rejected his request," the officer said. "We will be sending a team to Bhopal tonight."

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

Asked if police were equipped to deal with thousands of supporters of the godman, Lamba said they were "well prepared".

"We are in talks with the Madhya Pradesh Police who will be cooperating with us. We are well prepared to handle any situation" said Lamba.

A 16-year-old girl complained to police in Delhi Aug 20 that Asaram Bapu sexually assaulted her at his Jodhpur ashram Aug 15.

The spiritual leader, who enjoys a wide following, has denied the allegation. He instead sought to blame Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi for his predicament.

The girl studied at Asaram Bapu's ashram in Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara district and stayed in a hostel there.