Karnataka Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru Chitradurga News Updates: Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, chief pontiff of Jagadguru Murugarajendra Vidyapeetha Mutt in Chitradurga and a politically influential seer from Karnataka, is accused of sexual abuse of high school girls. He has has booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on Monday.
Where did it all begin?
Two girls, aged 16 and 15, had told members of the state Child Welfare Committee they were sexually assaulted between January 1, 2019, and June 6, 2022, according to The Indian Express. The girls were students of a school that was run by the mutt in Chitradurga and resided in the hostels there. They left the hostel in July.
The Indian Express cited police sources as saying that after the victims reached Mysuru, they had approached an NGO named Odanadi Seva Samsthe, who works for trafficking victims. The NGO later approached the Child Welfare Committee and a police complaint was filed.
Following the allegations, Mysuru police filed an FIR on August 26 against Muruga Mutt head Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanaru, and booked him under the POCSO Act, 2012 and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for alleged sexual abuse. The case was filed based on the complaint by an officer of the District Child Protection Unit, PTI reported.
The FIR was earlier filed in Mysuru’s Nazarbad Police Station, but the case was later transferred to Chitradurga, as the mutt comes under its jurisdiction, The Quint reported.
Five people have been booked in the case so far – chief pontiff Shivamurthy Sharanaru, mutt follower Akkamahadevi Rashmi, hostel head Parashivaiah Basavaaditya, and lawyer Gangadharaiah.
The victims were taken to a government hospital in Chitradurga for medical examination, which went on for more than four hours. The victims also recorded their statements before the Child Welfare Committee and the police in Chitradurga on Monday.
Murugha Math Advisory Committee member N B Vishwanath had earlier said the charges against the pontiff were “far from the truth”, alleging that the math’s administrative officer S K Basavarajan, a former MLA, was behind the charge.
What did the seer have to say?
The chief pontiff of one of the prominent and prestigious Lingayat seminaries in the state on Monday claimed that it is part of a long-drawn conspiracy against him and vowed to come out clean in the case. On speculation that he had allegedly fled to evade arrest, he said that he is a law-abiding citizen and will cooperate in the investigation.
“This is not the first time that there has been a conspiracy against the mutt but it has been there for the last 15 years. These conspiracies stayed within the mutt but now have come out. I am not going to run away but will respect the law of the land. I will come out clean from the allegations and let the case reach its logical end,” he said addressing his followers, devotees and media persons.
Seer seeks anticipatory bail
The second additional district and sessions court in Chitradurga issued notices to the legal officer of the Mysuru district Child Protection Unit, who made the complaint against the seer and the two minor girls after the chief pontiff sought anticipatory bail. The sessions court on Saturday posted the hearing of the anticipatory bail plea to September 1.
The Chitradurga police are yet to officially question the seer.
What is the latest update in this case?
The two minor girls on Tuesday recorded their statements before a magistrate, according to the Indian Express. The Chitradurga district police produced the two victims in the court of a Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) to record their statements under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Statements before a magistrate can be considered a key evidence when a crime takes place.
As one of the victims has been identified as a Dalit, several Dalit groups have staged protest oin Chitradurga demanding his arrest.
CM Bommai says ‘truth will come out’
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has declined to comment on the allegations against the seer. “A case has been booked under POCSO Act. Apart from this, there is also a kidnapping case registered in Chitradurga. The police are investigating both cases. It is not right for me to make comments or interpret the case. It is not good for the investigation. The police have full freedom and the probe is underway. Truth will come out,” Bommai said.
Meanwhile, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has come out in the seer’s support claiming that the charges are “false”.
“It is a false charge. There is no truth in it and after the completion of the investigation, he will come out clean,” the most influential Lingayat politician had told The Indian Express.
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. “I will 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 Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakumar refused to comment on the issue, JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy told The Indian Express, “This issue should have been taken care of at the initial stage and should not affect the religious fraternity.”