Jailed for rape, he is ‘sham’ to his accusers, ‘celibate’ to his followers

Girish Chandra VarmaGirish Chandra Varma and his ashram-cum-home on the outskirts of Bhopal. (Express Archive)

It has been a habit with Girish Chandra Varma to ring in the new year by observing maun vrat for the first three days, apparently to purify himself and enhance spiritual awareness. This New Year's Eve, too, he was preparing to retreat to his sprawling ashram-cum-residence on the outskirts of Bhopal with his family and attendants. He did not, however, get to keep his annual tryst with spirituality and silence there. The police took him away on the charge of repeatedly raping a teacher in his employ.

Varma, 53, who sports a flowing beard and white robes, is a nephew of late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, controls an empire, and commands a large following. He heads a chain of 145 schools called Maharishi Vidya Mandir, management and IT colleges and a Vedic university each in Jabalpur and Bilaspur. This is part of the legacy of the maharishi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation programme. After the maharishi's death in 2008, his vast empire of educational and other institutions in India and abroad was shared among various members of the family.

Varma and his followers insist he is celibate but the teacher's husband says it is a sham. "Even the maun vrat was a sham for the consumption of the outside world. Inside the ashram he would talk to us," says the husband, who too worked with Varma and who alleges the latter sexually exploited him, too.

While he was in police custody, however, Varma did refuse to speak because of the maun vrat. Whenever he needed something, he would write the demand on a piece of paper, police sources say. He is now in judicial custody.

Now 41, the woman who has accused him of exploitation was first employed as a teacher a decade ago in a school in Arera Colony before being transferred to a school in Ratanpur. She has alleged that Varma forced her into sex through the decade. She says she had kept quiet because he had filmed her in the nude at a group institution in Noida. The police, however, are yet to find any video footage or photographs.

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