NEW DELHI: Self-styled godman Asaram Bapu who has been convicted for rape turns 78 today. Today we bring how a tongawala became a godman and then a rape convict.
After Partition, Asumal's (his original name) father worked in different cities of Gujarat before the family came to Ajmer in 1963 invited by a relative, Dodhi Ustad, who too had crossed the border and settled in Ajmer. Young Asumal started ferrying Ajmer Sharif dargah pilgrims on a tonga. Asumal was ambitious and wanted to get rich. He once participated in a tonga race from Ajmer to Sarwar during the annual Sarwar Urs. After plying his tonga for a few years, he went back to Ahmedabad and no one in Ajmer heard anything about him until he became Bapu Asaram, the godman with huge following all over India.
Asaram is said to have learnt meditation from his mother. When he was 15, he ran away from home to an ashram in Bharuch and later lived in several other ashrams. It was one Lilashah who became his spiritual guru and named him Asaram Bapu.
Asaram courted controversy in the national media for his comments on the Nirbhaya rape in 2012. He held the victim responsible for the rape, saying, "Galati ek taraf se nahin hoti hai." He said the victim should have begged for mercy addressing her assailants as brothers.
Asaram had contacts at top political levels, for the simple fact that his followers formed considerable vote banks in several states. Many BJP and Congress governments in different states are said to have helped Asaram expand his spiritual empire.
Asaram was arrested in 2013 after a 16-year-old girl accused him of sexual assault in his ashram on the outskirts of Jodhpur. He was charged under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Asaram was arrested from Indore and brought to Jodhpur central jail on September 1, 2013. He has been under judicial custody since then. He is embroiled in a rape case in Gujarat as well, where two sisters have lodged separate complaints against him and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape and illegal confinement.