Chinmayanand Gets Bail: What Really Happened in Shahjahanpur?
(This video was originally published on 7 November 2019 and is being republished from The Quint’s archives after former Union Minister and BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand was granted bail by the Allahabad HC.)
The heart of the Chinmayanand rape case controversy, Shahjahanpur, is a small town in Uttar Pradesh, located between Lucknow and Bareilly.
The case grabbed national media’s attention when, on 24 August, a law student studying in Shahjahanpur went missing after she posted a video on Facebook alleging a ‘sant samaj’ leader was threatening to kill her and has ruined many girls’ lives.
She requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath to help her. The following day, the missing girl’s father accused Swami Chinmayanand of having kidnapped her.
What makes the case murky is that the girl who accused Chinmayanand of rape is housed in the same jail as him. The complainant was arrested in a case of extortion five days after Chinmayanand’s arrest.
Shahjahanpur Reels Under Impact of Chinmayanand Case
Locals are unsure of taking sides – whom do they support, the girl or Chinmayanand?
Further, taking into account Chinmayanand’s clout in Shahjahanpur, many townsfolk were hesitant to speak on camera. Many people, especially young boys and girls, who spoke off the record, had a very clear idea of what ‘goes on inside’ Swami Chinmayanand’s Mumukshu Ashram. One even mentioned a racket which operates in the ashram and many dismissed the credibility of such ‘babas’.
Chinmayanand’s hold over the town was evident when he wasn’t arrested for almost 15 days after the complainant lodged the rape FIR (at Delhi’s Lodhi Garden police station for lack of trust of UP police) and UP police’s leniency in his arrest and questioning.
He was eventually arrested – but not under Section 376 (the rape charge) but 376 C, which deals with sexual intercourse with a woman by a ‘person of authority’ or someone with whom the survivor may have a fiduciary relationship, or a public servant, superintendent of jaiL/remand home/women’s or children’s institution.
The complainant’s father has also accused DM of intimidation and asking him to file a missing complaint instead. He said the DM asked him if he was sure of filing the FIR.
The complainant was studying at SS Law College, which comes under Mumukshu Shiksha Sankul, a trust started by Swami Chinmayanand. She was given a job at the library as well as a hostel in which to stay. The college’s principal didn’t speak on camera but welcomed all questions. Initially he said he didn’t know the girl at all but upon being shown a photo of her, changed his stance and said,
The complainant accused Chinmayanand of filming her while she bathed in the hostel bathroom and later blackmailing her. In her interview with ThePrint, she said 6:30 am was reserved for a ‘naked massage’ and 2:30 pm for ‘forced sex’.
Who Tried to Extort Chinmayanand?
Before the complainant’s father lodged an FIR, it was Chinmayanand’s lawyer who filed an extortion FIR on 25 September alleging someone was trying to extort Rs 5 crore from him. He mentioned someone named ‘Sachin’ who had visited Chinmayanand in August and tried to blackmail him, using some videos as leverage.
On 10 September, two videos went viral. In one of them, Chinmayanand can be seen getting a massage from the victim while being naked. In the other, three boys and a girl can be seen talking about money, WhatsApp messages and why it wasn’t a good idea to ask for money at the time.
Later, on 20 September, Chinmayanand was arrested and on the same day, three boys – Sanjay, Vikram and Sachin – who were in the video, were arrested as well. Sanjay was found with the complainant in Dausa, Rajasthan on 30 August. Sanjay submitted 43 video clips as evidence against Chinmayanand to the SIT. These videos allegedly contain videos of the massages and rape, which were recorded by the complainant via a spy cam she bought online.
Allegedly, Vikram and Sanjay are quite influential in their own way – they controlled some colleges and had even participated in events organised by the BJP.
Vikram organises BJP events in Shahjahanpur. The two were allegedly part of Chinmayanand’s inner circle. Some even say the same about the complainant.
As per the SIT, Chinmayanand expressed shame for his actions and the law student agreed to being present in the alleged extortion video as well as to her and the three boys being behind the extortion messages sent to Chinmayanand.
The alleged rape and the alleged extortion charges are in court.
Who is supposed to check the amount of power someone wields? How do we ensure such power is not misused? And if it is, how can we speak out against it, without being threatened by dire consequences? These are the questions to which Shahjahanpur and its residents want answers.