(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of violence)
A minor girl is battling for her life in Chhattisgarh's Mahasamund district after three workers of the Jai Gurudev Manas Ashram in the same district allegedly shoved burning coal into her mouth, the police told The Quint on Friday, 3 March.
The incident is reported to have occurred on the night of 24 February at the ashram, where three workers – Naresh Patel, Bhojram Sahu, and Rakesh Diwan – assaulted the minor with a burning log, allegedly in the presence of self-styled godman Ramesh Thakur, who is the director of the ashram.
Speaking to The Quint, Dharmendra Singh, the Superintendent of Mahasamund, said the accused tortured the girl as part of the ritual to "rid them of evil spirits."
What Has the Police Said?
According to Dharmendra Singh, the minor girl is in critical condition. "The girl was tortured in the name of exorcism, and she was also hit using burning wooden logs. Burnt coal was shoved into her mouth," he said.
He added that Ramesh Thakur, who has modelled himself after another self-proclaimed godman, Dhirendra Krishna Shastri, of Bageshwar Dham, has been arrested in the case.
The three workers have also been arrested.
"We had arrested three of the accused earlier after filing a case under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder) and sections of the Juvenile Justice Act. They have been sent to jail."Dharmendra Singh, the Superintendent of Mahasamund
'Not the First Case'
The police added that the minor girl was not the only one to have been tortured, and there might have been other cases of "women being tortured in the name of exorcism."
"We have also identified one other woman, who died after she was supposedly tortured by the same men. We are, however, still investigating the matter," the Mahasamund SP said.
The girl's family, meanwhile, said they had gone to the ashram on 20 February, and that she and her elder brother stayed back to offer services at the ashram.
Four days later, on 24 February, her brother, too, left the ashram to appear for an exam.
"We stayed back to offer our services at the ashram for a few days and then I had to leave due to exams. They accused my sister of poisoning the bhog prasad and tortured her," her brother claimed.
The girl, as per media reports, claimed that there was at least one other woman who was thrashed by around a dozen men in the name of exorcism.
She further said that Ramesh Thakur and his wife were also present at the time of the incident.