Billionaire Guru Gets Life in Prison for Teen's Rape

Asaram Bapu expected to appeal amid fears of violence
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2018 7:33 AM CDT
Media personnel and police stand outside the Central Prison where spiritual guru Asaram Bapu is kept in Jodhpur, India, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Sunil Verma)
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(Newser) – An Indian city is bracing for violence after a spiritual guru with millions of followers was sentenced to life in prison for rape on Wednesday. Asaram Bapu, who claims to teach meditation and yoga at 400 ashrams in 19 countries, was sentenced in Jodhpur, Rajasthan state, for the 2013 rape of the 16-year-old daughter of two of his followers, reports the BBC. The Times of India calls it a "fall from grace" for the 77-year-old reported billionaire, who's also on trial for the rape of a woman in Gujarat state between 2002 and 2004, and under investigation for corruption and forgery. In the 2013 case, the court ruled that Asaram raped the teen and forced her to perform sex acts in a room while her parents chanted prayers outside, believing the guru was "curing" her of "supernatural ghostly powers," per the BBC.

While Asaram is expected to appeal Wednesday's verdict, the BBC reports Jodhpur "is on high alert because of concerns there could be violence from the guru's supporters"—and not without reason. Not only were 38 people killed and 200 injured in clashes following another guru's rape conviction in Haryana state last year, per CBS News, but Asaram's victim and her family accuse the guru's supporters of attacking nine witnesses in cases against him over the last five years, including three who died. Asaram has denied he and his followers are responsible, though many supporters believe the guru has been imprisoned on false charges. CBS reports security was tight at the prison complex where the verdict was read Wednesday, and in other areas home to many of Asaram's devotees.

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