Mysuru: Six weeks after he was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing two minor girls, fresh accusations of rape have been levelled against Lingayat spiritual leader Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, head of the influential Murugha Mutt in Chitradurga, Karnataka.
A single mother who worked in the mutt has alleged that Shivamurthy, aided by several others, molested her two daughters, who are currently aged 14 and 12, between 1 January, 2019, and 6 June, 2022.
On Thursday, Nazarbad police station in Mysuru filed an FIR — a copy of which is with ThePrint — under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, including 5L (aggravated penetrative sexual assault), 6 (sexual assault), and 7 (intentional assault with sexual intent). The FIR also invoked Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 376(2) (gang rape), 376(3) (rigorous punishment of 20 years for rape of minor), and 149 (part of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed).
The case has now been transferred to Chitradurga rural police station and necessary medical tests and formalities will follow, police sources told ThePrint.
Shivamurthy, 64, has been in judicial custody ever since he was arrested on 1 September for allegedly sexually abusing two other minor girls who lived in an orphanage run by the Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Vidyapeetha (SJMV), which manages the mutt’s various institutions. Four others have also been named in the case.
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‘Warden pressured girls’
According to the FIR, the complainant — a single mother who hails from a backward community — had admitted her two daughters in classes 1 and 3 in 2016 at the Akkamahadevi Residential Hostel which functions under the Basava Makkala Hostel — both managed by the SJMV.
Around the same time, she joined the mutt as an employee to support her family following her separation from her husband.
In her complaint, the woman alleged that her two daughters were taken to Shivamurthy’s residence multiple times, including in January 2019, during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, and as recently as June this year. There, she claimed, the minors were sexually assaulted and if they tried to resist, they were abused and threatened.
The complaint also names several associates of Shivamurthy, including his assistant Mahalinga, his cook Karibasappa, three sadhakas (monks) called Basavaditya, Pamarashivaiah and Gangadharaiah, and Rashmi, a warden.
The mother has alleged that the warden coerced the minors with the support of the three sadhakas who ‘picked’ the children to be taken to the head of the mutt.
The girls would then allegedly be accompanied to Shivamurthy’s residence by his assistant and cook, who would stand guard outside to ensure no one else could enter.
The mother and children, supported by Mysore-based NGO Odanadi, deposed before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Thursday.
“One of the children, accompanied by her mother, came to us on 13 October and narrated the ordeal to us. We took them to CWC as is the procedure and they lodged a complaint. The mother said there could be many more cases of molestation of young girls like this, but she is unaware of their whereabouts,” K.V. Stanly of Odanadi told The Print.
The NGO has already helped two other minor girls lodge similar police complaints on 26 August after deposing before the CWC in Mysuru.
Lingayat community leaders have been mounting pressure on their peers and the Karnataka government to dislodge Shivamurthy to protect the sanctity of the mutt, which has a history of over two centuries.
Meanwhile, a court last month granted Shivamurthy permission to sign cheques to disburse salaries to staff of various institutions run by the mutt. The court had initially rejected the appeal to allow him to sign cheques but later acknowledged that it impacted as many as 3,500 employees who have not been paid salaries since his arrest in September.
Shivamurthy has since signed 200 cheques while in judicial custody and will continue to do so each month to ensure the continuation of payment of salaries, should he continue to remain in custody.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
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