Indian guru sentenced to life for raping teenage girl
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India
A popular Indian guru was given a life sentence on Wednesday for raping a teenage devotee in 2013.
Asaram Bapu, who has millions of followers worldwide, was convicted and sentenced at a closed jailhouse court hearing in Jodhpur, in Rajasthan state, with hundreds of police standing guard. He is expected to appeal against the sentence in a higher court.
The 77-year-old, who urges followers to live a pious life free of sexual desires, has always denied raping the then 16-year-old girl at his ashram in the city.
The hearing was closed to media and security was increased around the prison due to fears Bapu’s followers may resort to violence. Several Indian states were put on high alert and thousands of extra police put on the streets ahead of the trial.
The tight security comes after devotees of another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was jailed last year for raping two female followers, went on a rampage that left 38 dead.
Bapu has been in prison since his arrest in 2013. The girl in her complaint to the police accused him of raping her when she visited Bapu's retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. It is believed she visited the guru hoping he could rid her of evil spirits.
Her family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
Bapu, who has hundreds of ashrams in India and overseas, still commands a considerable following but his star has faded following the rape charges and other controversies.
He is also on trial in a separate rape case in Gujarat state, and has been accused of involvement in the killing of two students at another of his Hindu retreats.
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India which have fuelled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
On Saturday, the Indian government approved the death penalty for child rapists after nationwide protests over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl increased pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action.
The attack sent out the sort of shock waves that shook the country after the equally horrific gang rape of a Delhi student on a bus in 2012, which made headlines around the world.
Mr Modi called a cabinet meeting to pass the measure on his return from the Commonwealth summit in Britain, a government official said. Minimum jail sentences for convicted rapists were also toughened.
Updated: April 25, 2018 04:12 PM