Shahjahanpur (UP), Apr 25 (PTI) The ashram of self-styled godman Asaram Bapu at a village near here wore a forlorn look today as a Jodhpur court sentenced him to life imprisonment for raping a teenager in 2013. Also Read - Curfew, Prohibitory Orders Imposed in Parts of Bhopal | Here's Why
Not many people know that it was the rape victim’s father, then a staunch Asaram loyalist, who got the ‘Rudrapur ashram’ built. Also Read - MP Shocker: 9 Men Rape 13-year-old Girl in Umaria, Horrifying Details Emerge
With thousands of Asaram disciples in the town, the ashram once buzzed with activity. But not any longer with the villagers not keen on going anywhere near it. Also Read - 15-Year-Old Girls Can Procreate, So Why Raise Age For Marriage, Says MP Congress MLA; NCPCR Issues Notice
When the controversy surfaced, the ashram earned the ire of the local people who even threatened to pull it down to avenge the rape of “our daughter”.
Up to about four years ago, there used to be long lines of cars around the ashram whenever an event was organised there. But now even the local people refuse to speak about the ashram or the ‘dhongi baba’, as they began calling Asaram.
Today the ashram is a picture of absolute neglect.
Two caretakers, Darshan and Devendra, hung around the place when a PTI correspondent visited the place after today’s court order.
“The ashram was a matter of pride at one time but today it has only earned a bad name for the village,” a local resident said.
The administration had made elaborate security arrangements at the ashram ahead of the court verdict.
Meanwhile, people living around the victim’s house in the city have welcomed the life sentence served on Asaram, terming it better than the death penalty.
“The life term is better than death penalty for this will ensure that he regrets his action every living moment,” said Dr Anurag Agarwal, a professor at SSPG college.
Journalist Jogendra Yadav, who was once attacked by Asaram’s followers, said it was good that he got the life sentence as this will remove the fear in the area that one day he could be set free.
The victim from Shahjahanpur was studying at the godman’s ashram at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.
In her statement, the girl alleged that Asaram called her to his ashram and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.