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MUMBAI: Rape accused former tonga driver-turned-godman Asaram Bapu is worth over Rs 10,000 crore, according to police.
The 73-year-old godman, who was arrested on Sept 1 for allegedly raping a minor at his ashram, has since been accused by another woman from Surat who worked at his ashram of sexually assaulting her over a period of time.
Police, who have already filed a charge-sheet against the godman and his four associates, said on Thursday that their investigations have concluded that Asaram Bapu runs a multi-million empire, apart from owing huge tracts of land in various cities in the country.
The Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the Income Tax Department have been informed about the investigations into the godman’s business empire, police said.
Revealing this, Surat city police commissioner Rakesh Asthana told a press conference, “The scrutiny of documents recovered during the raid has established that wealth of Asaram’s ashrams in the form of bank accounts and other investments including shares, debentures and government bonds is valued at Rs 9,000-Rs 10,000 crore.’’
The police chief said, “The value of land has not been included in the assessment of Rs 10,000 crore.’’
He said, “The CBDT, the Income Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate have been informed about the transactions. They will assist us in investigation.’’
According to police, the godman owns 45 properties in 10 districts of Gujarat, and 33 properties in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
Asaram Bapu’s son Narayna Sai is also in jail on charges of rape, unnatural sex, molestation, wrongful confinement and intimidation.
The godman’s empire crumbled when he allegedly sexually molested a 16-year-girl who was the daughter of one of his disciples and student at the godman’s school in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.
The girl, who had fallen ill, was reportedly told by the keepers of the school that she is under the influence of spirits and needs to go to Asaram Bapu in Jodhpur where he would perform a special ritual for her health in an isolated place. When her family took the girl to Asaram Bapu out of reverence for the godman, he allegedly raped her on the night of August 15. The parents of the girl filed an FIR against him when she told them what the godman has done to her inside his cottage. After evading police for a few days, the godman was finally arrested in Indore on September 2.
Emboldened by the godman’s exposure, two married sisters from Surat in Gujarat also registered cases of rape against the godman and his son Narayan Sai on October 5.
In their FIR, the elder sister said she was sexually exploited by Asaram Bapu between 1997 and 2006 at his Ahmedabad ashram. The younger sister said she was sexually exploited by the godman’s son Narayan Sai between 2002 and 2005 at their Surat ashram.
Narayan Sai, 40, who absconded after the FIR, was arrested in December. He has admitted to sexual relations with as many as eight female disciples. The godman and his son could be locked up for life if found guilty.
Born in Pakistan, Asaram Bapu came to Gujarat with his family as a seven-year-old boy. In 1963, his family moved to Ajmer where Asaram used to ply his tonga (pony cart) for ferrying passengers between the city railway station and the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. He used to be known by the name of Asumal in those days. After a couple of years as a tonga man, Asaram left for Ahmedabad to become a godman.
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