Two days after Karnataka Police arrested the mother of the minor in the second Pocso case against Lingayat monk Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru for conspiracy against the seer, a statement from another ‘victim’ with lurid details is splashing on news media today. Reports are quoting the girl as saying “he used to offer chocolates laced with something” and “he’d make me sit, would drink alcohol and hurl abuses at me”. She also said reportedly, “He made the warden send girls to his room.”
These are among the allegations two girls, aged 15 and 16, have made against him according to the charge sheet submitted to a court during the hearing today.
The Lingayat monk has been in jail since 1 September for allegedly raping minor girls at a school run by Murugha Mutt in Chitradurga, which he headed. The mutt is situated about 200 km from Bengaluru.
“He disrobed me and raped me. I begged him, saying ‘we are children from poor families’,” a 15-year-old student, one of the alleged victims, has alleged.
The alleged victim said he used to offer chocolates “laced with something”. “After consuming those, I would fall unconscious.”
The other alleged victim, 16, said before the magistrate that the seer had sexually abused her multiple times and threatened her at knifepoint — raising the question how the monk could lay his hands on firearms.
“Warden Rashmi sent me to (the) swami’s room through a backdoor. When I entered, I saw he was drinking. He offered me fruits, after eating which I fell unconscious. When I regained consciousness, I had no clothes on me. He threatened me at knifepoint when I refused to cooperate,” the ‘victim’ alleged.
If any student refused to go to Swami’s room, warden Rashmi would beat them up, the ‘victim’ said further.
Rashmi, 26, is under arrest too.
Chitradurga superintendent of police K Parashuram, who led the investigation, has in the past told reporters, “Whenever the children resisted, he gave them apples laced with sedatives and raped them.”
Counter-allegation from Lingayat mutt, family of one of the victims
On 4 September, the kin of one of the girls who alleged that Lingayat seer Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru sexually assaulted them registered a complaint against former MLA and Murugha Mutt former administrator SK Basavarajan.
The girl’s uncle, Tippeswamy, registered a complaint at the Chitradurga rural police station against Basavarajan and said he conspired with his wife Sowbhagya against the seer. Tippeswamy said that Basavaraj’s statement that the two minors from the Muruga Mutt hostel were kidnapped on the pretext of taking a gate pass was false.
The accused seer had blamed the former administrator of Karnataka’s Muruga mutt, Basavarajan, and his wife for conspiring against him too. In a counter-complaint, a rape and kidnapping case was registered against SK Basavarajan. The case was registered by the warden of Muruga mutt at Chitradurga rural police station under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Then, two days ago, Chitradurga Rural Police arrested the mother of one of the alleged workers, who worked as a helper in Chitradurga mutt’s kitchen on charges of playing into a conspiracy to frame the arrested monk using her daughter. The police had arrested two individuals earlier in this connection.
The seer in charge of Murugha Mutt, Basavaprabhu Swami, had filed a complaint of a conspiracy to frame Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru in Pocso and atrocity cases to make money.
The head seer lodged the complaint against Basavarajendra, a resident of Junjanawadi village in Belagavi district, the mother of the complainant in the second Pocso case against the monk and members of the NGO called Odanadi based in Mysuru. Sirf News had earlier published a report of dubious dealings of Odanadi, which flaunts connections with Democrats of the US.
The police had arrested Basavarajan, a former administrator of the Chitradurga mutt in this case. Basavarajan had given shelter to the victims in the first case before lodging the complaint.
The complaint by the monk in charge of the Lingayat mutt said the Pocso and complaints of atrocities were a bid to defame the religious centre to make money. This was accompanied by an unverified 14-minute audio clip purportedly featuring some ‘victims’ being tutored to lodge a case against Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru.
The head monk complained that this was a well-planned conspiracy, carried out as per directions of vested interests. The police stated that the charges against the monk accused of rape were established in the first Pocso case.
Lingayat politician and former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had stated that no one expected the accused monk to stoop so low and that he should be punished.
Meanwhile, rape accused Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru maintained in his statement to the police that he did not even know the ‘victims’ and that he might have met them in assemblies at the mutt during prayers.
Politicians can’t afford to speak against the community that wields influence in Karnataka
Lingayats are found predominantly in the state of Karnataka, especially in northern and central parts of the state, with a sizeable population native to the southern districts. Lingayats have been estimated to be about 16% of Karnataka’s population and about 6-7% of Maharashtra’s population.
Significant Lingayat populations are found also in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana bordering Karnataka, as well as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat and Sri Lanka. The Lingayat diaspora can be found in countries around the world, particularly the United States, Britain and Australia.
Not only Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Yediyurappa but even Indian National Congress’s (INC) Rahul Gandhi knows this. He had proudly shared his meeting with the accused pontiff as recently as 3 August.
INC’s Siddaramaiah, the leader of the opposition in the Karnataka assembly, has called the charge against the monk “serious”: “The police should carry out an impartial investigation based on the complaint filed by the girls and reveal the truth.”