Asaram: an Indian guru sentenced to life in a second rape case
An Indian court on Tuesday sentenced self-proclaimed spiritual guru Asaram Bapu to life imprisonment for rape and sodomy, according to his lawyer.
The verdict is the second life sentence against the octogenarian, who is already serving a life sentence sentencing following his conviction in 2018 for the rape of a 16-year-old girl.
Asaram’s lawyer, CB Gupta, told CNN that the court in the western state of Gujarat also ordered him to pay 50,000 rupees (about $600) in compensation to the victim.
“We can appeal the judgment to the High Court,” the lawyer said.
Asaram, 81, described on his site as a “spiritual revolutionary” and a “great teacher”, is one of India’s best-known spiritual gurus.
Known as “Bapuji” or “Father” among his followers, he rose to prominence in the 1970s before building a vast religious empire that includes hundreds of thousands of followers, around 400 religious schools across the India and many global outreach programs.
The latest ruling against him comes at a time when India’s poor record of violence is in the spotlight.
Last August, an Indian court freed 11 Hindu men who had been sentenced to life for the gang rape of a pregnant Muslim woman during deadly riots in 2002, angering rights groups and activists.
On average, one rape is reported every 17 minutes in India, according to government figures. Activists say deep-seated misogynistic and patriarchal values in the country of 1.3 billion people are partly to blame.
The spiritual gurus in India can attract millions of devotees to religious schools known as ashrams which are spread across the country.
In recent years, accusations of sexual assault against some of these gurus have sparked violent skirmishes.
After Asaram’s arrest in 2013 on the first rape charge, clashes erupted between his supporters and police in several major cities.
In 2019, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, leader of the spiritual cult Dera Sacha Sauda, was sentenced to life in prison for the 2002 murder of a journalist who had helped expose the sexual abuse of women within his group. The guru was already serving a life sentence for raping two of his followers.
After the first verdict against Singth, riots broke out which left 36 people dead and hundreds injured.