Indian Guru Sentenced To Life For Rape Of Teenage Girl

Asaram Bapu, a spiritual guru who claims to have millions of followers, was given a life sentence on Wednesday for the rape of a teenage girl in 2013.

The verdict against the high profile guru was read out inside the prison in Jodhpur where he has been held amid fears that his followers might resort to violence.

The 77 year old has 400 ashrams around the world where he teaches meditation and yoga.

Bapu is also accused of raping another woman between 2002 and 2004. The trial in that case is under way.

Al Jazeera reports Security was tight around the prison complex and in states where the guru has a large following.

The trial was the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fuelled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the attacks and treat the victims.

Last August, another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of raping two female followers.

Responding to widespread outrage over the recent rape and killings of young girls and other attacks on children, India’s government last week approved the death penalty for people convicted of raping children under age 12.

Judge Madhusudhan Sharma announced the prison term for Bapu and sentenced two of his associates to 20 years in prison each for helping him in the crime.

The judge convicted Bapu on charges of criminal conspiracy, wrongful confinement and rape.

Bapu has denied the charges, and a spokesman, Neelam Dubey, said he would appeal the verdict in a higher court.

The girl in her complaint to police in 2013 accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. She was 16 at the time. The girl’s family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.

Bapu has been in prison since his arrest in 2013. He ran more than 230 ashrams with residential schools with millions of followers across India and abroad, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Uganda and Kenya.