Indian spiritual guru jailed for alleged rape

NEW DELHI: Police yesterday arrested a popular Indian spiritual guru, the second in the past month, for allegedly raping a 21-year-old woman in western India. Police officer Jaisingh Nathawat said the woman, whose parents have been followers of 70-year-old Kaushlendra Prapannacharya Falahari Maharaja, complained that the guru assaulted her on Aug 7 at his headquarters in Alwar, a town in Rajashtan state.

She said that the spiritual guru warned her against telling anyone about the assault, but that she decided to break her silence after another self-proclaimed guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison last month for raping two followers in northern Haryana state. A court sent Falahari Maharaja to a prison for 15 days while the police complete their investigation into the case. The woman was allegedly raped when she went to hand the spiritual guru 3,000 rupees ($45) that she had earned for an internship with an attorney in New Delhi on his recommendation.

Religious sects have huge followings in India and also wield considerable political clout. Crimes again women have been mounting in the country. The outrage over a 2012 attack on a 23-year-old medical student on a moving bus in New Delhi by a group of men prompted quick action on legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to up to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. Indian lawmakers also voted to lower to 16 from 18 the age at which a person can be tried as an adult for heinous crimes. The medical student died two weeks later of injuries caused by the rape. Four men were sentenced to death for the attack. – AP


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