A joint delegation of women's groups comprising Stree Jagruti Samiti, All India Progressive Women's Association, Janawadi Mahila Sanghatane, Karnataka Sex Workers Unions, Karnataka Jana Shakti, and others met the Director of the Directorate of Women and Child Welfare Department and the Directorate of Child Protection on Tuesday, 30 August, and submitted a memorandum seeking immediate action in the case of sexual assault by Lingayat seer Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru.
The recent reports of Sharanaru, chief of the Murugha mutt in Chitradurga having kidnapped and sexually assaulted children residing in the hostel run by the mutt raises grave concerns, the memorandum said.
The seer had filed an anticipatory bail plea and a session's court in Chitradurga, Karnataka, on Tuesday, had issued notices to a legal officer of the Mysuru district Child Protection Unit and the abuse victims in the sexual assault case filed against the seer.
The Joint Memorandum
The joint memorandum dictated a list of demands by the women's groups. The memorandum demanded immediate and strict compliance with the law and specifically the POCSO Act, 2012 and Rules, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and Rules by the State authorities.
The groups urged the state government to take steps to ensure the safety of the survivors and their families, and other witnesses and advocates involved in the case, as well as to ensure the safe transfer of the survivors to another district after consulting them and their families.
They demanded that the directions of the Supreme Court regarding the speedy trial of POCSO cases are complied with and that the survivors and their families are provided with regular information.
The also urged the Women and Child Welfare Department to immediately take steps to ensure the protection of the other residents in the Murugha mutt, to ensure a fair and impartial investigation into the matter and an immediate arrest of all the accused.
They sought immediate rehabilitation and relief to the survivors and asked for an issuance of a direction to all elected representatives to refrain from supporting the accused.
Senior Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had on Sunday, 28 August, come out in support of the seer and claimed that the sexual assault charges against him were false.
"It is a false charge. There is no truth in it and after the completion of the investigation, he will come out clean," Yediyurappa had told The Indian Express.
‘Everything Is Vote Bank Politics’: BJP MLC
Karnataka BJP MLC H Vishwanath slammed the Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, saying that if he has any shame, he should take action against the seer. He added that the Chitradurga Superintendent of Police should be suspended for not initiating any action.
"I willl write a detailed letter with all inputs to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking protection of minor girls," Vishwanath told ANI.
"Nobody is opening mouth on the issue. Everything is being viewed politically. Parties fear losing votes if they speak on it. Everything is vote bank politics. For sake of votes, you're supporting someone who is accused of raping minor girls?," he added.
While the seer had claimed that this allegation was part of a long-drawn conspiracy against him, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had said that the "truth will come out" from the probe.
Bommai had refused to make further comments about the allegations and had said that, "When there is an important case – a case has been booked under the POCSO Act and there is also a kidnapping case in Chitradurga – police have registered both cases and the investigation is on."
"In such a situation, making comments or interpreting the case is not good for the investigation," Bommai had added.
Murugha mutt in Chitradurga is one of the most prominent monasteries in Karnataka. An FIR based on a complaint by a district child protection unit officer has been registered against five people, including the seer and the warden of the monastery's hostel.
The girls had approached the "Odanadi Seva Samsthe," a non-governmental organisation based in Mysuru, and narrated the abuse they went through under the guise of counselling at the mutt.
The NGO then approached the authorities and a case was registered by the police.