New Delhi, Apr 25 (PTI) It was a day like any other outside a sprawling ashram in central Delhi — except that it wasn’t. Also Read - 15 BJP Workers Admitted to Hospital After Being Attacked by TMC Leaders in East Midnapur | Updates

Followers, trickling into Asaram Bapu’s ashram on the Ridge, could not believe that their guru had been sentenced to a life in jail by a Jodhpur court for the rape of a minor teenager. Also Read - Nirbhaya Case 16 December: 8th Anniversary, Nothing Has Changed As 'India's Daughters' Are Still Fighting For Justice

The Sant Shri Asharamji Bapu Ashram was barricaded, but the disciples walked in one by one, convinced that he had been framed. Also Read - 'Heartbreaking': Gay Boy Writes a Letter to Santa & Asks If God Loves Him, Leaves People in Tears

A young and passionate Jyoti (name changed), who said she had been a follower of Asaram for 15 years, refused to believe that her “gurudev” could ever have committed a crime like rape.

“Even if Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh came and told me that Bapu had done this, I would not believe them. I would say, ‘no, no, no’ an infinite number of times,” she told PTI.

Many of the followers, she said, had gathered at the ashram after they heard about the verdict this morning.

They were on a fast and were praying inside for the man who “motivated us to move forward with our lives”, she said.

“My life would have ended but I am alive only because of Bapu. He taught us to live our lives in this very society, to do good deeds and make people understand what he is,” Jyoti said, adding her fight to ensure Asaram’s release from jail would never end.

The ashram is inside the forested area of the Ridge, often described as the lungs of Delhi. It is among the 400 complexes that Asaram is believed to have.

A small archway with the ashram’s name on leads to the complex.

The police have barricaded it, not allowing visitors in.

“We have been here since 6.30 am,” a constable said.

Like Jyoti, Jitendra Malik from Shamli, UP, dismissed the parallels being drawn between Asaram and Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who was convicted of rape last August.

“What has happened (to Asaram) is completely wrong. Our Bapu is an all-knowing saint. He is not like Ram Rahim. We will continue to pray for him,” Malik, who joined the cult on the advice of his mother 15 years ago, said.

Having served as an ashram in-charge in Bhilwara and Aligarh for over a decade, yoga instructor B Mukesh termed the allegation a “conspiracy” against the godman.

“Allegations can be made against anybody. He could never do something like this. I know this is a conspiracy. But I have full faith in our judiciary, and I know the truth will prevail,” Mukesh said.

Another acolyte, Pradeep Mishra, said he was determined to ensure his Bapu got “justice”.

He said he would appeal the verdict in higher courts.

“We don’t believe in the verdict at all. The court is an established institution and we have to respect the verdict, but our democracy also gives us the right to appeal the case in a High Court and the Supreme Court,” he said.

Apart from Asaram, who has been in the Jodhpur Central Jail for over four years after his arrest in 2013, two other accused, Shilpi and Sharad, were also convicted by the special court.

Jyoti reiterated that Asaram could not have committed a sex crime.

“When Bapu began his search for God, his wife had asked him not to go but he had said he would start a family as a married man only after he found God. So how can a pure man like him, who would not even touch his wife, be accused of doing something so disgusting to a girl,” Jyoti asked.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.