Indian guru arrested on rape charge as country decries Delhi trial sentencing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 4:58am

A controversial spiritual guru was arrested yesterday on a rape charge filed by a teenage girl in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan.

Asaram Bapu was arrested at a spiritual retreat in central India and flown to the city of Jodhpur where police say he is wanted for allegedly raping the girl, said Ajay Singh Lamba, a top police officer.

The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fuelled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.

The girl filed a complaint two weeks ago accusing the Hindu religious preacher of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. The girl's family say they have been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.

Bapu, who has hundreds of thousands of followers in India and is well known for his discourses on Hindu religion, has denied the charge.

There was drama Saturday when Rajasthan police arrived at his retreat to arrest Bapu. Hundreds of his supporters thronged the ashram and attacked television crews.

Bapu was questioned for nearly three hours before he was arrested, police said.

Bapu outraged many earlier this year when he said the victim of a gang rape on a New Delhi bus should have addressed her attackers as brothers and pleaded with them to spare her.

India's opposition said Sunday it would seek tougher punishments for juveniles after the first verdict in the New Delhi rape case saw a teenager sentenced to three years' detention. Sushma Swaraj, an opposition leader , said she would introduce a bill this week to amend the law for juveniles.

"This meagre punishment of just three years does not do justice," Swaraj wrote on Twitter.

Tabloid newspaper Mail Today said the sentence meant the convicted teen "gets away with murder", summing up the public mood.

The teen will spend about 28 months in a juvenile detention centre, having already spent about eight months in custody awaiting the verdict.

"He can watch TV, play games while doing time," the Hindustan Times reported, while pointing out that police sources had earlier described the teenager as "the most brutal" of the six attackers.

The Times of India said the gang-rape victim had "been denied justice" by the juvenile court.