Bangalore, Jan 9: 71-year-old self-proclaimed godman Asaram Bapu recently made headlines with his shocking statement where he allegedly had claimed that the 23-year-old victim of infamous gangrape in Delhi could have saved herself if she had addressed her attackers as "brothers" and chanted "Saraswati Mantra".
Asaram's statement enraged the countrymen, though his supporters asserted that media have fabricated the video capturing his statement and did not show the "truth". The ruckus reached its peak when the "godman" called media and his critics "barking dogs".
Citing the increasing rage among the countrymen, Asaram finally offered an apology for his controversial comments saying, "How can I blame the girl for the rape? I am not that cruel. If I have done something wrong, I will apologise a thousand times."
It was not the first time when Asaram entangled himself with controversies. Rather controversies always haunt the "godman". Several cases such as land encroachment, attempt to murder case, killing of two children have been hurled against him.
Who is Asaram Bapu?
Asaram Bapu is a Hindu spiritual leader who believes in the existence of One Supreme Conscious, be it Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or anyone else. The guru also preaches his belief in Bhakti (faith), Gnana (knowledge) and Karma (deeds) yoga.
With his growing interest in spirituality and meditation, Asaram, who was known as Asumal, left his family at a very young age and finally put an end to his vagabond lifestyle when he reached Vrindavan.
Inspired by Swami Sri Lilashahji Maharaj, Asaram began his journey as a saint. His ashram - Sant Shri Asharamji Ashram is in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Controversies that haunt the 'godman':
Asaram Bapu and his journey as a "saint" experienced ups and downs. He was accused in an attempt to murder case, death case, land encroachment cases.
Attempt to Murder Case:
Gujarat police, in 2009, had filed an attempt to murder case against Asaram Bapu and two others. Raju Chandak, a former aide of the "godman", was attacked by guns following his complaint against Asaram Bapu.
Raju Chandak had filed an affidavit in which he had claimed that he had seen Asaram Bapu in objectionable positions during tantric rituals which were being performed in the ashram.
Land Encroachment Case:
District officials along with police assistance had bulldozed a vast place of Asaram's ashram and had taken the possession in 2000. The officials of the ashram were accused of ignoring the repetitive summons following a complaint by local villagers who had claimed that ashram had encroached upon another 18,000 square metres. The Asaram Ashram was allocated about 10 acres by the State government in 2000.
Mysterious deaths of two children inside ashram:
10-year-old Dipesh Vaghela and 11-year-old Abhishek Vaghela, two cousins studying at Ashram's Gurukul at Motera, had gone missing and later their bodies were found on the Sabarmati riverbed on Jul 5, 2008.
Initially, a commission was set up to probe the mysterious death of the two children and later CID took over the case. The investigative agency in its report claimed that seven booked (culpable homicide) officials of the ashram had failed lie detection tests regarding activities related to tantra sadhna and black magic that were being practiced at the ashram.
Asaram's statement on Delhi Gangrape Victim:
Addressing his followers, the "godman" claimed that the victim of the Delhi gangrape could have saved herself by addressing her violators as bhaiyya (brother) and beseeching for mercy.
Then, he aggravated the situation when he claimed that an "anti-men" campaign had taken hold following the Delhi gangrape incident and that a new anti-rape law enacted in such a climate will be prone to be similarly misused as anti-dowry laws and SC and ST Act.
The spiritual guru cautioned that any new law on crime against women may be misused by vested interests. "Mahilayon ki izzat honi chahiye par ek doosre ko neecha dikhane ke liye log bazaaru mahilayon ka istemaal kar is kanoon ka durupyog kar sakte hain. Aisa aksar dekha gaya hai. Dahej kanoon iska sabse bada uddharan hai (Women should be respected but no new law should be framed which can be misused by vested interests with the help of women of loose morals)," he said, addressing his followers in Bhankari village on the outskirts of Delhi.
Asaram calls critics and media "barking dogs":
Following his shocking statement on the victim of Delhi gangrape, Asaram Bapu landed in another controversy when he called media and critics "barking dogs".
While reacting to media queries, Asaram Bapu on Jan 8, 2013 chided, "The media has created a controversy but what did I say that was wrong? One dog barked and more dogs (the media) joined in. Dogs will bark but they can't harm an elephant's dignity."