"I was slapped, stripped by monks," says 12-year-old

Express News Service/July 13, 2004

Ahmedabad -- The 12-year-old boy, who has accused three "sadhus" of the Kalupur Swaminarayan temple of forcing him into sexual acts, has alleged that the monks sodomised him earlier too.

"They (the monks) did this earlier too, but my friends told me to ignore the incident and get back to usual routine. This time, they slapped me, stripped me, and even mocked at my complexion,'' says the boy, who was sent to a remand home on Saturday.

The victim, who has never been to school, declined to answer questions about his family. He, however, said that the monks had offered him money since he was poor. "Earlier, I took the money but the second time, I left it on a table and rushed outside,'' says the boy, who hails from Meda village of Jhalor district in Rajasthan.

The Kalupur police, who are investigating the case, is mum on the earlier charge. Investigating officer J.V. Desai says: "We have not yet investigated that angle. He may have mentioned it in his complaint but we are yet to ascertain whether he was sodomised earlier too.''

The Ashram, meanwhile, refused to comment on the issue.

Friends and relatives of the 12-year-old admitted that the boy had mentioned to them about being sexually harassed earlier.

The victim had come to the city five months ago in search of a living. He was staying with one Shanker, also from his village, near the Maninagar railway station. The boy's only other contact here was his maternal uncle, Akshar Swami (60), and a senior priest at the Kalupur Swaminarayan temple, and so he often visited the "math".

"Barely a month after he came, he complained to me that some "sadhus" had tried to molest him when he was visiting his uncle. They even paid him Rs 200,'' says Shankar.

Shankar, who till a few days ago ran a tea stall near the railway station, has shifted fearing police harassment. "Swaminarayan is a powerful sect. Even the police are afraid of taking action against them. I do not wish to involve myself,'' he says.

Interestingly, even the victim's uncle vanished from the temple barely 24 hours after the incident. The temple's trust officials claim his absence has nothing to do with the incident. It is but normal for priests to travel to other temples without informing anyone, they say.

However, it seems strange that Akshar Swami, who stayed put at Kalupur temple for two years, suddenly decided to change his "math" after July 5, the day of the incident.

The Kalupur police say they have not yet interrogated the three monks. "We go to the temple to meet the Mahant everyday, and he assures us that the three will report before the Kalupur police, but they have not yet done so. It is a big temple. How can we go and check all the rooms on the premises?'' says Desai.

"The medical report is negative. Now, we will have to wait for the FSL report before taking any action against the "sadhus". They are religious leaders and using force can only worsen the situation,'' he adds.

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