Rape charges against key BJP leaders put UP govt in tight spot

Opposition parties grill the saffron party on involvement of its high profile leaders such as Kuldeep Singh Sengar and Swami Chinmayanand in such heinous crimes, reports Mudit Mathur

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The Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government has come under severe attack from Opposition parties at the way state police handled rape cases registered against its high profile prominent leaders  Kuldeep Singh Sengar (MLA) and Swami Chinmayanand. In both the cases, victims of heinous crime had to pay the price for coming forward for seeking justice.

In Sengar case, local police implicated victim’s father in a fabricated case and beaten him to death in police custody and further she struggled for life in AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) after an alleged attempt to destroy evidences wherein a witness in the case died on the spot in the accident and her Advocate also suffered fatal injuries and still admitted there.

In Chinmayanand case, victim has been arrested under the charges of extortion and blackmail along with her friends by Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by IG rank officer Naveen Arora. The police took cognizance of such grave matters only after judicial intervention following a bid and threat to commit suicide. The entire efforts of police seem to water down the gravity of charges as they have diluted the grave ingredients of rape (Section 376) into Section 376-C of IPC which means sexual intercourse not amounting to rape by a person in authority.

On August 28, former BJP MP Swami Chinmayanand was booked for kidnapping and criminal intimidation after a 23-year-old law student, who had accused the leader of sexual harassment in a viral video, went missing but he was finally arrested on 20 September 2019 after much uproar from political parties and social activists.

The Opposition leaders alleged that the entire government machinery was trying to shield Chinmayanand as he is a close associate of RSS family who was three-time BJP MP and was holding the charge of minister of state for internal security in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government in 1999. He was a member of the Lok Sabha from Jaunpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh during the period. He was one of the pillars of Ram Mandir movement and arrested with Uma Bharti, Mahant Avaidnath, GM Loda and Ashok Singhal on 25 October 1990 at Gonda. He aggressively led VHP delegations before Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao.

Attacking sharply, the Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on 20 September said, “The government took action against former Union Minister Swami Chinmayanand only after the woman, who accused him of rape, threatened self-immolation.”

“It was the strength of the public and journalism that Chinmayanand had arrested.” She tweeted.

“The BJP government is so thick skinned that it did not take action till the rape victim said that she will self-immolate herself. This is the strength of the public and of journalism that the SIT had to arrest Chinmayanand,” Priyanka observed. “The public has ensured that ‘Beti Bachao’ does not remain in mere slogans but becomes a reality on the ground.”

The BJP leader was arrested by the SIT of Uttar Pradesh police from his residence in Shahjahanpur on 20 September 2019, weeks after a law student at one of his colleagues accused him of frequent rape and sexual exploitation. After a month long turns and twists that have made national headlines, both Chinmayanand, 72, and the woman law student, 23, have been arrested.

It all began after a video went viral on Facebook on August 23, a law student of a Shahjahanpur college, alleged that she was being exploited by powerful people. This video was widely circulated on social media wherein the woman sought help from PM Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath to do justice to her.

“A big leader of the Sant Samaj who has destroyed the lives of many other girls and also has threatened to kill me… I want to request Yogi ji and Modi ji to help me. He has threatened to kill my family. Please help me,” she said in her video posted on her Facebook page on August 24 at 4 pm. She also claimed that she possessed evidence against the influential Swami Chinmayanand and alleged who claims to keep the district magistrate and superintendent of police into his pockets. She did not explicitly name Chinmayanad in the video. She went missing the following day.

Chinmayanand is the president of the managing committee of Shahjahanpur’s Swami Shukdevanand Postgraduate College, where the woman studied law and engaged in work. Chinmayanand has an ashram in Shahjahanpur and runs five colleges in the town. He also has ashrams in Haridwar and Rishikesh. In 2011, Chinmayanand had been accused of rape by an inmate of his ashram. (Tehelka carried story: http://old.tehelka.com/will-swami-chinmayanands-victim-be-given-justice-after-14-years/).

Just after posting video on Facebook the women went underground and her father lodged complaint against Swami Chinmayanand apprehending her kidnapping. The father also alleged that his daughter had been sexually exploited by Chinmayanand. A case under Section 364 and 506 for kidnaping and criminal intimidation was registered but before his complaint, police allowed a complaint lodged by his lawyer Om Singh, “Chinmayanand received a text message from an unknown number over messaging app WhatsApp on 22 August, which allegedly threatened that videos showing him naked and in obscene circumstances would be leaked online if he didn’t pay up 5 crore. the police.”

Later talking to local media, Chinmayanand said he was being framed and alleged that the woman was part of a conspiracy against him. He claimed that it was an attempt to extort the former MP. “the case was an attempt to malign the Yogi Adityanath government. Earlier Kuldeep Singh Sengar was implicated and now I am being targeted,” he added.

Political observers say if Chinmayanand’s statement is to be believed that it is a conspiracy against chief minister Yogi Adityanath then who could be politically benefited by unsettling him? The proximity between them is not a hidden fact as Yogi Adityanath went out of the way to withdraw another rape case pending against Chinmayanand filed by his former inmate. The victim protested withdrawal and wrote to chief justice of India and chief justice of UP. The court also not accepted withdrawal orders and proceeded further with the trial. 

Meanwhile when the case started getting national attention, a group of Supreme Court lawyers filed a plea in the top court. The Supreme Court lawyers asked the Chief Justice of India to take suo motu cognizance of media reports of the missing law student. The lawyers said they did not want a repeat of the Unnao rape case. The lawyers’ plea noted the case’s striking similarity to the Unnao rape case in which Kuldeep Singh Sengar is the main accused. The Unnao rape case has witnessed a series of deaths of witnesses weakening the cause of justice.

Police said the Shahjahanpur girl was traced to New Delhi, along with a boy who had demanded 5 crore from Chinamayanand. The police, meanwhile, sealed the woman’s hostel room in Shahjahanpur to avoid trespassing and evidence tampering. Four days after she went missing, the woman was found in Rajasthan with a friend on August 30. After police said the woman was not kidnapped, the Supreme Court asked them to produce her before the court.

This was followed by a closed-door meeting of the SC judges with the law student. In the meeting, Judges asked for safe and comfortable accommodation for the woman in Delhi. Directed the Uttar Pradesh Police to bring her parents to the Capital. The judges said no one will be allowed to meet her till she sees her parents. Later, the Supreme Court allowed the transfer of the Shahjahanpur woman to other colleges saying her “future was important”.

On September 2, the Supreme Court ordered a probe into the case and formed an SIT. The SIT visited the college and spoke to teachers and students. The team also visited the ashram, but Chinmayanand remained elusive.

On September 8, the law student came forward and filed a rape complaint against Chinmayanand in Delhi. “Swami Chinmayanand raped me and even exploited me physically for one year,” the woman alleged. The law student alleged that she wanted to file the rape complaint earlier, but the UP Police turned her down so she filed at Delhi.

The victim addressed a press conference where she exposed that Chinmayanand exploited her physically for one year. Her family was receiving threats from the accused. All evidence at her hostel, asked it be opened in front of the media. A day later, SIT opened the woman’s hostel room and collected evidence. The student submitted a statement to the Delhi Police and the magistrate.

The victim alleged that she was filmed and raped repeatedly by Chinmayanand. She met Chinmayanand for admission at his college following which he arranged her admission.“He admitted me, gave me a job in the library and then asked her to move into the hostel,” she alleged she was filmed while taking a shower, the video of which was used to blackmail her.

The victim further alleged in an interview with a lady reporter that 6 am was reserved for unclothed massages and 2.30 pm for “forced sex.” She was escorted to Chinmayanand’s room by his gunmen who would then drop her back.

Explosive video evidence was handed to the police in a pen drive, the law student said on September 11. The woman said she started filming Chinmayanand using a spy camera in her spectacles to expose him.

On September 12, the SIT finally questioned Chinmayanand, following which two rooms of Chinmayanand’s ashram, where the alleged assault took place, were sealed.

What happened next?

The postgraduate student on September 14 gave a pen drive containing 43 videos to the SIT to support her allegations. The woman told the probe team about a BA-LLB student who was also being tortured and had confided in her about the harassment.

Meanwhile, more videos tumbled out. In one, Chinmayanand was seen getting a massage from the woman, but another showed ‘extortion’-related talks. The veracity of the videos stood forensically established. The court allowed SIT to have voice samples of people visible in video clips.

The SIT is still investigating and securing evidences to testify charges in the trial. The court has not granted bail to accused persons in both the cases.