Police arrest Indian guru over teen sex assault claim

Police arrest Indian guru over teen sex assault claim

JODHPUR, India - Police have arrested a popular Indian spiritual guru for an alleged sexual assault on a 16-year-old schoolgirl at a religious retreat, a local official said Sunday.

Asaram Bapu, one of many self-styled Hindu "godmen" who attract large numbers of followers, was arrested shortly after midnight on Sunday in the central town of Indore.

The 72-year-old was then flown to the western city of Jodhpur where the alleged assault on the girl - whose parents were members of his congregation - took place, local police official Ajay Pal Lamba said.

The guru had earlier failed to report to a police station voluntarily, despite being given a deadline that ended last Friday.

Deputy police commissioner in Jodhpur, Lamba told AFP: "An opportunity was given to Asaram Bapu for presenting his version regarding the allegation levelled against him by the 16-year-old girl."

Asaram, who uses only one name, with Bapu an honorific meaning "father", told officials on Friday that "he is not physically fit and he wants more time to appear before Jodhpur police", Lamba said.

"His request was turned down."

The white-bearded guru has dismissed the claims against him as a political conspiracy.

The alleged attack took place on August 15 as Asaram was holding a retreat for followers, including the victim and her parents, police said.

He told the parents he needed to meet their daughter alone after being told of concerns she was possessed by evil spirits.

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