In a country where men bestow themselves God-like status, then proceed to behave worse than beasts, it feels like a tiny bit of vindication that one has been called out and has been given life sentence. Earlier this afternoon, the Jodhpur special court pronounced the self-proclaimed Godman Asaram guilty of raping a minor. He was arrested in September 2013 for raping the 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Rajasthan. The girl’s parents had brought her to him expecting him to cure her of ‘evil spirits’. The case against him has been going on for five years, and we’re really proud of the justice system for standing on their ground and not getting swayed by the threats of violence from his supporters.
The verdict was announced by Judge Madhusudan Sharma inside the Jodhpur Central Jail, which has been closed to even the media. As a precaution against any violence from his supporters, authorities have positioned extra security at the jail as well as across four states - Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat.
The two other people convicted in the rape got twenty years each in prison.
It sounds ridiculous that there are thousands of people out there who support a rapist and criminal, in no other civilised society would anyone even own up to supporting someone like that.
Rape is not the only crime he’s been accused of. Asaram faces another case in Surat, Gujarat, where two sisters have accused him and his son Narayan Sai of rape and illegal confinement. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court said the trial should be completed within five weeks.
His vast empire comprises of nearly 400 ashrams and millions of followers worldwide. In these past few years, nine witnesses who dared to testify against him were brutally attacked resulting in the death of three. There are stories of his supporters also regularly threatening or attacking the investigating officers and media persons who reported on the story.
Here are the most shocking aspects of the story:
1. Asaram 77, stands guilty of rape and trafficking, and under POCSO, a stringent law on sexual crimes against children, it could mean that he gets minimum 10 years in jail and up to a life term.
2. Asaram raped the girl at his ashram while his attendants stood guard outside. The attendants at his ashram in Chhindwara, where she was studying, said she was possessed by evil spirits and needed to be exorcised.
3. Four people were arrested along with him. Two of them have been found guilty, the other two unfortunately have been acquitted.
4. Nine people who dared to testify against Asaram were attacked. Three of them died. Asaram's doctor Amrut Prajapat was shot in Gujarat's Rajkot in June 2014. His cook Akhil Gupta and another key witness, Kripal Singh, were killed in Uttar Pradesh the next year.
5. Mahendra Chawala and Rahul Sachan were in fact attacked on the premises of the Jodhpur court in 2015. They survived and deposed against Asaram. Ajay Pal Lamba, the police officer who led the investigation in Jodhpur, also faced regular threats.
6. In the last five years, Asaram has applied for bail 12 times. Each time, the courts have rejected his appeal.
7. "We have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now I hope he will get strict punishment. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice," said the father of the girl, in a news story on NDTV.