On September 20, self-proclaimed holy man, former Union Minister and BJP MP Chinmayanand, was arrested and remanded to 14 days judicial custody following allegations of sexual exploitation by a female student of an educational institution run by him. The accusations were made by a law student from Chinmayanand’s SS Law College in a video she posted on social media on August 23.
In the video the girl said, “A prominent leader of the ‘saint society’ has destroyed lives of several girls. He is now threatening my life. I have all the evidence.” She sought help from Prime Minister Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minsiter Adityanath. She added, “He has threatened to kill my family too.” The very next day, the girl went missing from her hostel.
She resurfaced subsequently in Rajasthan after the Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance after lawyers raised concerns and asked the police to produce her. On September 30, judges heard her in a closed hearing. She has now submitted 40 video clips as evidence before the Special Investigation Team formed to probe the case. She also recorded a formal statement where she said that Chinmayanand had been sexually exploiting her for 9 months. She said he had raped her, made a video of the crime, made another video of her bathing, and blackmailed her with a video clip.
Confession and counter-allegations
After being taken into custody, Chinmayanand reportedly confessed to having sexual conversations with the girl and getting a ‘body massage’ from her. A video of the said body massage went viral on social media. Chinmayanand reportedly also said he was ashamed of himself for his conduct. He was booked under charges of stalking, criminal intimidation, wrongful confinement and sexual intercourse by a person in authority (section 376 C).
But in a cruel twist of fate, the girl in question has also been booked for ‘extortion’! She is accused of teaming up with three men; Sanjay Singh, Sachin Sengar and Vikram to extort Rs 5 crore from Chinmayanand. All three have been arrested.
So, who exactly is Chinmayanand. From where does he get his power, and whose patronage does he enjoy to be able to confess to his crime and yet have the victim booked in a counter case?
Chinmayananda: The early years
Born Krishna Pal Singh in 1947 in Gonda, Chinmayanand reportedly left home at the age of 20 to become a disciple of Dharmanand, a ‘swami’ who established the Shri Shankar Mumuksh Vidyapeeth in Shahjajanpur, purportedly to counter the influence of convent schools. Dharmanand’s predecessor Sukhdevanand had established the Swami Sukhdevanand Post Graduate College (SSPG) that Chinmayanand runs today.
After completing his spiritual education, Chinmayanand not only became actively involved in his teacher’s pet educational projects and also got involved with various political movements including the JP movement and the Ram Janm Bhoomi movement.
Chinmayanand and the Ram Mandir movement
Throughout the 1980s, Chinmayanand was closely associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad led movement to build a grand temple to the Hindu deity Ram. Educational institutions controlled by Chinmayanand and others like him helped promote their ideas about Hindu values, that eventually helped mobilise support for the movement. For his role, he was rewarded with an elevation among the ranks to becoming the national convener of the Ram Janm Bhoomi Mukti Sangharsh Samiti.
He ended up getting close to everyone from Ashok Singhal, to Lal Krishna Advani. In fact, on November 9, 1989, Chinmayanand presided over an important religious ceremony during the foundation stone laying or ‘shilanyas’ for the proposed Ram temple. This ceremony took place just a short distance away from the disputed structure.
In 2009, the Liberhan Commission report named him as one of the key accused behind the conspiracy to demolish the mosque.
Previous allegation of rape
In 2011, another woman had made similar allegations against Chinmayanand. She said he had raped and sexually exploited her for years at the Haridwar ashram run by him. On November 30, 2011, an FIR was lodged at the Kotwali police station in Shahjahanpur by the survivor's father. Chinmayanand obtained a stay from the High Court that prevented his arrest. But, in March 2018, the Adityanath government withdrew charges against him.
Not just this, one of Chinmayanad's schools, Sri Shankar Mumukshu Vidyapeeth (SSMV) in Shahjahanpur, also allegedly fabricated school records of the rape survivor in the Asaram case in a bid to show that the girl was 18 at the time of the assault, all in an alleged bid to help Asaram dodge charges against POCSO.
Political power and protection
His proximity to right-wing supremacist political heavyweights and his ability to further their cultural agenda using educational institutes helped launch Chinmayanand’s political career. The communal turmoil, both before and after the Babri Mosque demolition, helped consolidate his vote bank and his place in the higher echelons of political power.
Chinmayanand is a three-time BJP MP winning from Jaunpur and Macchlishahr. Throughout his three stints in Parliament, he has been a vociferous advocate for the Ram Mandir. In fact, in December 2000, Chinmayanad and Adityanath both raised the matter in Parliament. Chinmayanand had been closely associated with Adityanath’s guru Avaidynath during the 1980s. Later Chinmayanand went on to manage the Shahjahanpur branch of Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini.
This is chilling given that in a state where Adityanath is Chief Minister, the woman who has accused Chinmayanand of sexual exploitation has been slapped with extortion charges. Also, one cannot shake a sense of foreboding given what happened to the Unnao rape survivor and her family.