Millennium Post

Since Asaram is no God

The way the political administrations in multiple states are treating Asaram ‘Bapu’, the self-claimed godman/spiritual guru who is alleged to have sexually assaulted a teenager, has given rise to several questions. About not only law enforcement but also law implementation.
We live in a democracy that believes in the rule of law. So why is Asaram being treated above law? How is Asaram’s case different from other rape or sexual assault cases in our country? Political parties, especially the BJP, are trying to evade the issue by contending that nothing has been proved yet; that Asaram is innocent until proven guilty. Why do they recall such dictums only when it is convenient for them? Nothing has been proved against either Robert Vadra (in Haryana land deal allegations), Manmohan Singh (coal blocks allocation scam, among many others) or Narendra Modi (inciting 2002 Gujarat riots).

So do BJP and Congress leaders not remember the innocent-until-proven-otherwise maxim when calling for their resignation/arrest? Would political leaders arguing for Asaram on these lines give the same long rope to the five men accused of raping a journalist in a Mumbai mill? Similarly, though the trial is on for nearly seven months now, none of the accused has yet been proven guilty in the December 16 Delhi gangrape case either. So will the politicians say those men (and the juvenile) are as yet innocent? If not, why is Asaram being given a benefit of doubt? Why can the authorities not treat this case like others? Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has said that no one is above the law, but then why is he refusing to give a clear reply on when will Asaram be arrested?

Jodhpur police, who are investigating the charges of sexual assault, after dropping the teenager’s allegation that the ‘guru’ raped her in his ashram in Jodhpur, had on 26 August issued summons to Asaram, asking him to appear before them by 30 August to record his statement. That’s a four-day leeway anyway. Why? Do Jodhpur police reserve the same treatment for all men accused of sexual harassment? The police say there are some loopholes and contradictions in the girl’s statement, and which need to be investigated further. But shouldn’t the onus also be on Asaram to prove that her charges are wrong?

Having denied the charges, and also mocking the victim by calling her a ‘smart girl’, Asaram, on the run since the case was filed, had sought time till September 16 to appear before the police. But why does he need time to record a statement if he is innocent?
Why is he running away from Jodhpur police and not assisting the probe? And why are the government and the police ready to give him that time? Asaram has been booked under IPC sections 376 (rape; though charge dropped subsequently), 342 (wrongful confinement), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 509 (words, gesture or act intended to insult modesty of a woman); section 8 of Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and Sections 23 and 26 of Juvenile Justice Act in connection with the alleged assault. An FIR has already been lodged against him but he is still to be arrested. So does that mean Asaram, who had earlier said the Delhi gangrape victim was equally responsible for the fatal attack, is above law? Is he being given time – and I stress the word ‘given’, for no other man accused of such a crime would get even a day to be free and bargain with the cops – because he has a certain ‘image’ or enjoys political patronage?

In a scathing observation, the supreme court this week said a rapist’s offer to marry the rape survivor could never be a ground for letting off the guilty lightly. No compromise between rapists and rape survivors could reduce the gravity of the offence, the apex court said.
Does Asaram believe he can get past even the Supreme Court’s observation by calling the teenaged victim his ‘daughter’?
On arrangement with Governance Now
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