BAPS refutes allegations by former sadhus

The Bochasanwasi Shree Aksharpurushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a powerful Gujarat-based sect with followers world over which practises celibacy, ran into some trouble when two of its former sadhus accused the top brass of the sect of sexual assault. The former sadhus, called Sanjay Shah and Rakesh Bhavsar before their initiation, submitted applications at the Ahmedabad police control room Tuesday evening, accusing the now ailing Pramukh Swami, who heads BAPS, and four other top swamis, of alleged assault dating back to the 1970s when they were students at the gurukul. The allegations have been denied by the sect's spokespersons.

The Ahmedabad city police transferred the applications to Ahmedabad district police considering the scene of the alleged crime which was claimed to be Sarangpur village. The district police, however, transferred the application to the new district Botad, which now covers Sarangpur village, under the Barwala police station. However, till late Wednesday there was no FIR filed anywhere in this connection.

Sadhu Keshavjivandas (Mahant Swami) and Sadhu Swayamprakashdas (Dr Swami) from BAPS denied the allegations. "It is with deep sadness that we share with you that Sanjay Shah (Priyadarshandas) and Rakesh Bhavsar (Nishkamsevadas), two former sadhus of BAPS, have made demonstrably false and outrageous accusations against His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj and four other BAPS sadhus," they said in a statement on Wednesday. "For the last 60 years, we have served closely under Pramukh Swami Maharaj and have witnessed his pure and saintly life. The claims made against him and his sadhus are utterly baseless and false," they said.

Meanwhile, Shah and Bhavsar's lawyer B M Mangukiya alleged his clients were assaulted. "When my clients were leaving my office at night, three cars and two motorbike-borne men from the Swaminarayan Gurukul blocked their way at around 2:20am. They assaulted my clients. I also ran outside to help after hearing the noise. I called up the police control room six times, but no one came for long. At last, at around 3 am, Inspectors of Vastrapur, Sola and Ghatlodia police stations arrived along with a crime branch officer," Mangukiya said.

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