Asaram Bapu (centre) is escorted by police to a court in Jodhpur yesterday.
Jodhpur: Spiritual guru Asaram Bapu, arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a minor girl, was yesterday sent to 14 days’ judicial custody by a court here in Rajasthan.
As his supporters clashed with police outside, the bearded 72-year-old entered the Jodhpur Central Jail and was offered a ‘chatai’ or reed mat, a blanket and a mug for his prison stay.
“He is fine and is being treated as a usual prisoner,” a jail official said, referring to the godman who has millions of followers in India and abroad.
A medical examination was conducted on him in the jail.
Giving his ruling amid tight security, District and Sessions Judge (Rural) of Jodhpur Manoj Vyas sent Asaram Bapu to judicial custody until September 15.
“We have filed a bail application in the same court. The hearing is scheduled tomorrow at around 11am,” Pradeep Chaudhary, an advocate for the religious leader, said.
Asaram Bapu was earlier yesterday quizzed at a guest house of the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary in connection with the case of sexual assault lodged against him by a 16-year-old girl, an official said.
The incident allegedly took place on August 15 in his ashram outside Jodhpur city. The spiritual guru and his supporters have denied the charge. Police say, however, that they have a water-tight case against him.
He had been flown to Jodhpur on Sunday afternoon after his arrest from his ashram in Indore in Madhya Pradesh after which he was first sent to a day’s police remand.
Police questioned him on Sunday evening and yesterday.
His ‘sevadar’ (caretaker) Shiva, who surrendered to police on Saturday, was also questioned. He was formally arrested yesterday, a police officer said. Shiva allegedly stood outside the room where the girl was assaulted.
The officer added that Asaram Bapu claimed innocence before investigators and denied the allegation of sexual assault levelled against him.
“Asaram has cooperated in the investigation. But there are contradictions in his statements,” the officer said.
As the man was brought to prison, some 400 of his supporters gathered outside shouting slogans. The protest soon turned violent, and police used batons to disperse them. About 125 of them were detained.
The girl lodged a complaint with Delhi Police on August 20, triggering an investigation against the influential spiritual leader who has more than once figured in the news for the wrong reasons
Asaram Bapu’s son claimed that the girl was “mentally unstable”.
The spiritual leader has been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Indian Penal Code.
According to the girl, who studied at Asaram Bapu’s ashram at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh and stayed in a hostel there, she was sexually assaulted on the pretext of exorcism.
The girl’s family, from Uttar Pradesh, was also devoted to Asaram Bapu until this alleged incident.