Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have arrested an influential Hindu leader for allegedly raping two minor schoolgirls. The arrested Hindu leader is Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanaru. He is the leader of the influential Lingayat community in Karnataka. The complaint against him is that he molested two female students in his institution.
He was arrested on Thursday night after widespread protests across the state when the allegations came to light. However, the complaint against him was filed six days earlier.
Sharanaru has rejected the allegations leveled against him, calling it a conspiracy. The police produced him in the court on Friday. A BBC Hindi correspondent from Bangalore reported that the court remanded Sharanaru for 14 days.
The 64-year-old spiritual leader has been charged under the Sexual Offenses Act for Protection of Children. Also, the Scheduled Tribe Atrocities Act has been applied against the girl victim as she belongs to the Dalit community.
Lingayat is a middle caste. 17 percent of the total population of Karnataka belongs to this community. They also have a great influence in the politics of the state. Most of the chief ministers of the state come from this community.
There are about two thousand Lingayat Maths in the state who also run professional colleges. Sharanaru is the head of Muruga Math in Chitradurga town. It runs about 150 spiritual and educational institutions across the state.
The complaint against him was filed on August 26. The two female students who complained studied in Sharanaru’s own institute in Mysore city.
According to the complaint, he had been torturing the students for several years. In the complaint, the two students said that Sharanaru used to call them to his chamber and sexually harass them.
After the complaint came to light, there was a massive protest in some cities including Chitradurga. Demands for his arrest started rising from these protests. Some also supported him. Among them is former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. According to him, the allegations leveled against Sharanaru are not true.
“The investigation will prove that he is innocent. The investigation will also reveal who implicated him,” he told reporters. BBC