Protests in India as guru held over schoolgirl rape claim
Followers of Hindu preacher Asaram Bapu angered by his arrest for the alleged rape of 16-year-old girl
A SPIRITUAL leader in India has been arrested over the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl – provoking protests from his followers across the country.
The girl lodged a complaint with police in Delhi two weeks ago, accusing Asaram Bapu, 72, of raping her at one of his retreats in Jodhpur. Members of her family went on hunger strike on Saturday morning because the police did not appear to be taking any action against him. Asaram was later arrested at another retreat in Indore on Saturday night.
One unnamed police source told the Times of India the girl had been persuaded that she was possessed by an evil spirit by staff at the retreat and urged to see Asaram for an exorcism.
The Hindu preacher, who has hundreds of thousands of followers, has denied the charge. His son claims the girl was "mentally unstable".
When police arrived to arrest him, hundreds of his followers came out to protest. Television crews and journalists were also attacked.
Protests continued on Sunday across the country, including in Delhi and Mumbai, with Asaram devotees demanding his release from custody.
Police were forced to give the girl and her family protection after they received threats from her alleged attacker's supporters.
The girl's father has urged that Asaram should not be given any special treatment and should not be given bail.
Asaram is a controversial figure in India. He recently angered many Indians when he said the victim of the fatal Delhi bus gang rape last December might not have been attacked and killed if she had called them brothers and begged them to spare her.
Asaram's arrest came on the same day that the youngest of the Delhi attackers was sentenced. The unnamed teenager was tried in a juvenile court and sentenced to just three years in jail for his role in the attack. ·