Will Swami Chinmayanand’s victim be given justice after 14 years?

No matter how hard the Yogi Adityanath government tried to shield the alleged rape accused and BJP member, Swami Chinmayanand, the issuance of bailable warrant against him has entrusted a hope of fair trial and justice to the victim’s quest, writes MUDIT MATHUR

Her quest for justice continued against a saffron-clad, high-profile powerful politician and present BJP member of Uttar Pradesh, despite all the obstacles that influenced her way to justice.

The issuance of bailable warrant against Swami Chinmayanand by the chief judicial magistrate of Shahjhanpur, Shikha Pradhan, in an alleged rape and kidnapping case has sent ripples in the corridors of power. The entire government machinery was trying to shield him from being a close associate of RSS family who was three times BJP MP and minister of state for internal security during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999.

Swami Chinmayanand was successful in evading his arrest even after a Sadhvi of his Ashram registered an FIR under charges of rape and kidnapping against him. His arrest was stayed by the High Court and he roamed freely during the slow pace of the investigations. Despite his indictment in the charge sheet filed before the trial court, the trial did not proceed in view of the orders of the High Court dated 14.12.2012 that stayed further proceedings in the case. After Yogi Adityanath assumed office of the Chief Minister, an over-confident Swami Chinmayanad withdrew this case from the High Court on 16 February 2018, believing that the BJP-led state government will withdraw the criminal case against him.

True to his expectations, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath kept his promise and issued instructions to law and justice department to withdraw prosecution in the case against Chinmayanad soon after visiting Mumukshu Ashram situated at Shajhanpur on 25 February. The CM had attended the concluding ceremony of ‘Mumuksh Yuva Mahotsav’ on the invitation of Swami Chinmayanand and shared food with him and his close associates. Swami Chinmayanand is also the founder of Mumuksh Ashram Degree College. Also, Chinmayanand and Yogi Adityanath are the disciples of the same guru (master).

The BJP government withdrew the rape and kidnapping case against Swami Chinmayanand on 6 March 2018. In compliance with the government’s decision, a public prosecutor moved an application under section 321 of CrPC (withdrawal from prosecution) before the court on 12 March 2018. Aggrieved by the decision of the government, the rape victim approached various authorities including the Chief Justice of India, Allahabad High Court and Governor Ram Naik opposing the withdrawal of the pending case of rape and kidnapping against Chinmayanand. Governor Ram Naik took cognizance of her complaint and wrote a letter to the chief minister to review the government’s decision but to no avail. The victim filed objections before the court too.

Considering facts and circumstances including material produced before it after investigations, the court rejected the government’s application for withdrawing the case against him-pending trial since 2011 and found sufficient material to initiate a trial. The court then issued a bailable warrant against Swami Chinmayanand on May 25, 2018, and also, directed him to be present before the court on the next date of the hearing,  July 12, to face further trial proceeding.

Mukesh Gupta, counsel for the rape survivor told Tehelka, “the court has accepted our application in which we have mentioned that the state government cannot withdraw this case as the complainant is not willing to withdraw it. The court has rejected the state government’s application. The crime had affected the life of the complainant and the state government doesn’t have the right to withdraw it.”

The worst was when the victim alleged getting pregnant because of Swami Chinmayanand who forced her to undergo an abortion.

The victim, in a telephonic conversation through her husband told Tehelka, “My mother is a staunch religious, so we used to listen to Bhagwat Katha for days at the Haridwar ashram. Subsequently, the ashram started calling us and the Sadhus became part of our family functions. Finally, they approached me and indoctrinated me to become a Sadhvi.”

Narrating her ordeal further she said, “When finally I conveyed my decision to become a Sadhvi to my family, they were shocked.”… “In 2004, when I went to Haridwar, I was asked to shift one of their Shahjahanpur college and ashram for further studies. The main reason for shifting me to Shahjahanpur was that the disciples from other places used to visit the crowded Haridwar ashram. The Shahjahanpur ashram has only employees and a group of criminals…There I was threatened, held captive and made to totally cut-off with my family.” 

“The situation gradually started changing after 2009. Several people would ask me why I was still at the ashram even after completion of my studies? Therefore, they appointed me as the secretary of the college. I then started sharing my painful nightmares with the people who used to come to the ashram. I then planned to escape from the hell with the help of people whom I trusted. They assembled on that day to ensure safe passage for me. Seeing so many people around, the employees could not stop me. And, that is when I met my future husband to whom I narrated my story,” she told Tehelka while recalling the memories.

After she escaped, the ‘victim’ faced the accusation of stealing cash and ornaments from the ashram. “They tried to prove that my husband was a blackmailer, and I had political aspirations and thirst for name and fame,” she explained.

The rape victim who spent considerable time in the captivity of the ashram alleged that at least, 20 victims like her are made to stay in different ashrams.

“There were many women who stayed there and were forced to marry employees after five years. They were mum because their husbands were weak and dependent on the ashrams. A 15-year-old Nepali girl told me that Chinmayananda had touched her. I contacted her mother and she took her away,” said the victim.

The government never reached to her for her version before deciding to withdraw the case. “Yogi Adityanath had lunch with Chinmayananda at his house in Shahjahanpur and there was a photo session too. It clearly shows their good relations. There is a difference between withdrawing a rape case and one related to the demonstration,” she quipped, referring to the UP government’s December 2017 decision to withdraw 20,000 cases of breach of peace and violation of prohibitory orders against politicians across party lines.

It is important to note that on 22 December 2018, UP assembly passed UP Criminal Law (Composition of offences and Abatement of Trials) Amendment Bill, 2017, that also facilitated withdrawal of pending criminal cases against the chief minister himself from various courts of justice.

Apprehending threat to her life from the former minister, she said, “I feel serious threat to my life from Chinmayanand and his aides. They can attack me or my child anytime. I want this case to be transferred out of the state at the earliest.” Despite several attempts, the former union state minister could not make himself available for comments in his defence. Even his disciples are tight-lipped to refute the victim’s charges.

Political observers have drawn a parallel between Asaram Bapu case of Gujarat and Swami Chinmayanand case.

“Despite a favourable government of Narendra Modi, the government never thought of withdrawing such serious criminal charges against Asaram but, the UP CM crossed all limits of fairness and justice to the rape victim,” said social scientist Prof. Harshvarhan expressing his concern.

Samajwadi Party leader Mohd. Azam Khan taking a jibe at the ruling BJP government questioned, “Why only Chinmayanand? The government should withdraw rape cases lodged against Asaram and Gurmeet Ram Rahim. People should stop taking cognizance of rape cases.’’

The UP plans to withdraw rape and kidnapping cases against Swami Chinmayanand. Opposition parties are questioning the intent of the government. “The much-publicised Beti Padao-Beti Bachao (Educate Daughter-Save Daughter) is merely a hollow slogan of BJP to play with people’s sentiments and it has no faith in rule of law,” said UP Congress spokesman Amar Nath Agrawal.