Above:Gangeshananda Theertapada, the godman (left) and the Panmana Ashram in Kollam (right) which has distanced itself from the Godman
The case of a swami, bobbitised by a young woman, has so gripped the state that everyone came out in her support. But with her retracting her statements, the judiciary is flummoxed
~By Naveen Nair in Thiruvananthapuram
It is a case that riveted the attention of people in God’s Own Country. After all, it involved a godman and a 23-year-old law student who bobbitised him on May 20 for allegedly raping her. While initially this case was hailed as a lesson for every criminal attempting to rape, it took a curious turn when, four weeks later, the woman withdrew her charges against Gangeshananda Theertapada and instead, blamed the police, leaving the judiciary confused about the truth of the matter.
She now claims that she was never raped or physically assaulted by the swami. Rather, she says, she was put under pressure by the local police to give a statement against him. From the local police officer who was investigating the case, to the chief minister who praised the girl for her courage, almost everyone involved is now embarrassed and groping for answers.
What blew the lid off this case was an audio clip of a conversation between the woman and advocate S Ajith Kumar who is appearing for the accused.
In the clip, which was played by local channels and on social media repeatedly, the woman clearly says that the attack on the swami was instigated by Ayappadas, a close associate of his and someone she has had a relationship with. “I only had a fatherly relationship with the swami. There was no sexual contact involved at anytime. Whatever I gave in writing to the police was as per their wish. The swami has never tried to even molest me,’’ the female voice says.
She alleges that it was Ayappadas who had brought the knife with which she cut the godman’s genitals. She even says she has no idea where she had injured him as she had no intention of cutting off his organ.
“See there was a plan by Ayappadas and he was asking me to do it. Initially I did not want to do but then in the heat of the moment I did it. Later from the police only I came to know that 90 percent of his organ had been cut off,’’ added the woman.
The question intriguing everyone is that if the godman did not sexually assault her, why did she attack him? She has still not been able to give a convincing answer to that.
Many now speculate that she had a relationship with both Ayappadas and the godman and when the former discovered it, he asked her to attack the swami.
When the incident took place, the woman had got wide support from the public. Activists who made a beeline for her house proclaimed her as “the latest torchbearer of women’s freedom and security”. The swami, on the other hand, was painted as a monstrous villain, especially as the woman told the police that she had been raped ever since she was a child. The swami was shamed and shunned over social media as well.
Old photographs of his were picked up by political parties to settle scores with those who had got themselves clicked with him, even if accidentally. The list included state BJP president Kummanam Rajasekharan, who later gave a clarification about his association with the godman. Meanwhile, the famous Panmana Ashram in Kollam to which the godman is believed to be associated with, distanced itself from him.
S Ajith Kumar, the swami’s advocate, told India Legal: “The shame that my client had to go through in the last few weeks is immeasurable. This was taken to this extent by some activists who were making the girl give such reports to the police. Now that she has retracted from her initial stand, the court has to decide whether my client who always had a respectable position in society should be more tarnished by a bogus case.’’
Kumar said he had a suspicion all along that some people had a hand in the woman’s statement and was confident that if he got a chance to talk to her, she would open up, which she did. “I took the chance which many people may say is unethical as I am the lawyer of the accused. But then see how the truth came out,’’ Kumar added.
The swami was painted as a monstrous villain, especially as the woman told the police that she had been raped ever since she was a child.
Even though the woman wrote a handwritten statement to Kumar describing the real events, he decided to record her phone call as proof in case it was admissible later in the court as evidence, something which is remote.
Right from the beginning of this case, there were many loose ends. For instance, if she had indeed been raped over the years by the godman at her house, how was her family not aware of it? Some said her own mother was in a relationship with the godman and that it was with her knowledge and agreement that her daughter was also being used by the godman. And though the mother was picked up for questioning by the police, there was no credible evidence of her involvement.
The police has registered a case against the godman under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as the offence started when she was a child. The woman now alleges that the police actually wanted to book the godman under POCSO and had coaxed her into giving a statement against him.
Amidst all the allegations and counter-allegations, the police decided to move the case to the Crime Branch-Crime Investigation Department (CB-CID) and sought the permission of the court to conduct a lie detector test on the woman. She has, meanwhile, requested for a CBI probe into the incident. The court has asked her to appear before it on June 26 when it will decide the further course of action.
Activists who stood by the woman are today shocked. “If this is what happens when some of us genuinely stand by victims, then whom do we trust from now on? If she turns out to be the perpetrator of the crime, how will you restore the dignity of that man?’’ asked a woman activist who wanted to remain anonymous.
Meanwhile, there are rumours that the whole case was turned on its head after the RSS put pressure on the girl to change her statement in favour of the godman. The mystery continues.