Will Siddaramaiah stop twiddling his thumbs?
Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Sep 7, 2015, 09.29 PM IST
By: Gauri Lankesh
Two women accuse the same man of having raped them multiple times. He is also facing charges of abetting a suicide. Additionally, there are complaints of intimidation pending against him. Ordinarily, the police would have promptly put such a man behind bars. After all, haven’t the police in other states arrested sex offenders such as Tarun Tejpal, Asaram Bapu and Rampal Singh Jatin? Even in Karnataka, was not Nityananda Swamy arrested when his sexcapades became public?
But that will not happen these days in the fair state of Karnataka. Here, our chief minister Siddaramaiah sits blissfully twiddling his thumbs. Not just for days, but for weeks and months! The man who has been accused of raping two women is allowed to roam scot-free for more than a bloody year by Siddaramaiah’s government!
Why? Because the accused man is supposedly a ‘holy man’. Because he represents what is assumed to be a ‘priestly’ community. More importantly, because he has the backing of powerful leaders from all political parties, a horde of IAS and IPS officers and legal teams consisting of former advocate generals.
The accused is Raghaveshwara Swamy (in picture), pontiff of Ramachandrapura Matha. To understand how powerful, twisted and manipulative our administrative and legal system is, one has to look at the series of events that have unfolded in the past one year.
Sometime in July last year, word got out that everything was not well in Ramachandrapura Matha. That rumour was strengthened when Raghaveshwara announced on 12 July that he would soon be going off to the Himalayas for an indefinite period of time to do ‘tapas’.
This is where the Shastry family comes into the picture. A family of Havyaka Brahmins, the Shastrys have for generations associated themselves with the Ramachandra-pura Matha. Many of them had even held key positions in the Matha. While Diwakar Shastry had worked on Raghaveshwara’s campaign to protect the native breed of cows, his singer wife Premalatha had been a constant fixture at the Matha’s cultural events. A close circle of people knew that the Shastry family had complained about the alleged misdeeds of Raghaveshwara which were taken up by some leaders of the Havyaka community and the administrators of the Matha. It was after they held negotiations with the pontiff that he agreed to step down and go off to the chilly hills.
Days and weeks followed Raghaveshwara’s announcement but there was no sign of his impending departure. That was when Premalatha and Diwakar started to consult some lawyers hush-hush. Raghaveshwara got wind of it through his strong network of informants.
Before the couple realised what had hit them, Raghaveshwara ensured that some of his followers had filed a complaint of blackmail against the couple, and they were hauled off to Honnavara by a posse of policemen on 29 August 2014. Though they had been booked under a bailable offence, the powers behind Raghaveshwara ensured that stayed behind bars for 22 days.
It was when Premalatha was in judicial custody that she made the explosive accusation that Raghaveshwara had raped her innumerable times in various places over a period of three years. She also said that she had kept silent all this while because the pontiff had threatened her family of dire consequences if she exposed him. Yet, the police did not as much as move a finger against him. Even for appearance’s sake, they did not even take him into custody for questioning.
In the meantime, Raghav-eshwara’s powerful supporters put the screws on Diwakar’s younger brother Shyama Prasad Shastry. He was told to back the pontiff and ensure that his sister-in-law withdrew the allegation of rape. ‘If you don’t do so, your family will be excommunicated’, he was threatened. Unable to stand the pressure, Shyama Prasad Shastry committed suicide on August 31. The police did file a case against Raghaveshwara and, as is their wont, sat on their blessed backsides. That case has not moved an inch in the past one year.
When women’s groups and other organisations protested the inaction of the police, they made a show of going to Kekkara, where Raghaveshwara was camping, last September. He however fobbed them off saying he was observing ‘Chaturmasa’. Incidentally, had a Muslim Maulvi or a Christian Father been accused of rape, would the police have avoided arresting them on the excuse of Ramadan fast or Lent?
Chaturmasa did not prevent Raghaveshwara from getting an injunction order against Premalatha and Diwakar. It did not prevent him from trying to get a blanket ban on the media. It did not prevent him from giving interviews. It did not prevent his supporters in the media to indulge in character assassination of the Shastry family. Finally, it did not prevent Raghaveshwara from getting anticipatory bail against arrest from the courts.
Over the last one year, Premalatha has suffered misery and despair. The police have dragged her across the country in the name of conducting ‘mahajar’. At many places, she has been humiliated by the followers of Raghaveshwara. Her name has been dragged through mud by sections of the media. Every time she has had to narrate in front of investigating officers all that Raghaveshwara had inflicted upon her, she has died a thousand deaths. Over the same period, many investigating officers have played hide and seek with the case file. Several legal experts have meddled around with it. A few judges of the high court have recused themselves from the case. Though one year has lapsed, the CID is yet to file even a charge sheet.
Exactly one year after Premalatha accused Raghaveshwara of rape, another young woman (Let’s call her ‘Prabhala’) filed a complaint accusing him of having raped her, too. The events that followed her complaint were like deja vu. Prabala filed her complaint at Girinagar police station on 29 August 2015, a Saturday. Though the police station is a stone’s throw from the Girinagar Matha where Raghaveshwara is presently conducting this year’s ‘Chaturmasa’, the police did not send for him. They did not even do a ‘mahajar’ of the Matha where Prabala said she had been raped. The police just sat with folded arms.
On Tuesday, the government handed over the case to CID. The file reached CID on Thursday. On the same day, Raghaveshwara approached the sessions’ court seeking interim bail. The judge refused to grant him one and posted the case to Friday. Even then the police did not use that window of opportunity to question him. Sure enough, on Friday, he got an anticipatory bail. Now, once again, he is safe in the protection of his powerful supporters.
Finally, since the police questioned Prabhala’s landlord, she has been thrown out of the house. What kind of a society are we where Premalatha is made to suffer and Prabhala is thrown out on the streets just because they showed the courage to accuse a powerful man of rape? Manu Shastra says that, even if a Brahmin commits the goriest of crimes, he should not be punished. Are we living in the times of Manu Shastra or do we have a rule of law which is equal to everyone?
Will Siddaramaiah please stop twiddling his thumbs and ensure that the police strictly follow the law of the land?
The author is an activist-journalist