Self-styled godman Asaram Bapu was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday by a Jodhpur court which found him guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl in one of his ashrams five years ago. The ruling left his followers in tears and, according to a person present in the makeshift court room at the Jodhpur central jail where he has been lodged for more than four years, the 77-year-old looked “shocked and disappointed and it showed on his face” as the enormity of the sentence dawned on him.
Madhu Sudan Sharma, Special Judge, SC/ST Cases, handed 20 years each in jail to Asaram’s two aides, Sanchita alias Shilpi and Sharad Chandra alias Sharat Chandra, for helping him in the crime. Sanchita wept as the sentence was read out, the person present in the court room said.
Two others, Prakash and Shiva alias Sava Ram Hethvadiya, were acquitted. Asaram’s spokesperson Neelam Dubey said they will speak to lawyers on further steps after the verdict.
Fearing a repeat of the violence that followed the sentencing last August of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, also on the charge of rape, security had been stepped up around Asaram’s ashrams across states. At the Jodhpur central jail, the heavy police bandobast saw a drone taking to the skies to keep watch on the activity below.