news Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 05:30
Mahendra Chawla, one of the key witnesses in the Surat rape case against Asaram Bapu’s son Narayan Sai, was shot at on Wednesday in Panipat, Haryana by two unidentified men. Chawla, a former personal assistant of the spiritual guru suffered bullet wounds on his shoulder and was rushed to a hospital where he is said to be recuperating. Prior to the attack, he had reportedly written to the police stating that his life was under threat and that he needed protection. When asked about the attack, the 72-year-old spiritual leader, as quoted by NDTV, said, "Duniyaan mein sabhi hamle main hi karwata hoon (I am responsible for all the attacks in this world).” Asaram’s statement in jest is not even remotely amusing considering the several reports of attacks, including fatal ones, on witnesses in cases against him and his son over the last two years.  The man, fondly known by his followers as Bapuji, has been in jail since August 2013 after he was accused of raping a schoolgirl at his ashram. Witnesses have often claimed to have been threatened and intimidated by his followers.  Police protection, though provided to some, does not seem to have worked. Chawla is reportedly the fourth such witness to have been attacked. But not all were as lucky as him to have escaped alive.  Amrut Prajapati, a former Asaram aide, was shot at on May 23, 2014, two weeks after which he succumbed to his injuries. Prajapati, an ayurvedic doctor, was a witness in the rape case against the seer. In a 2013 interview to Open, Prajapati made several allegations against Asaram, one of which was how the latter  insisted on compromising on the quality of raw materials used for preparing medicines. “Cow’s ghee was replaced by mixed ghee. I am also a witness to corruption and womanising. I saw these things closely when I became his personal physician. I could go to Asaram’s room at any time. One afternoon I went to his Jatikara farmhouse in Delhi. This was the day after his mother died. There was a woman in the room and it was a sight I should not have seen,” he said.  On February 13, 2015, Rahul K Sachan alias “Laptop Baba” was reportedly stabbed by an unidentified man in a court premises in Jodhpur. A witness in the Surat rape case, Sachan was coming out of the court after giving his statement when the attack took place. He was rushed to the hospital where his condition was reported to be stable. Another former aide of Asaram, Akhil Gupta, was shot dead by unkown persons on his way home on January 11, 2015. 35-year-old Gupta, a key witness in the case, used to work as a cook for Asaram. Apart from the above four, there have also been other smaller reports of witnesses claiming to have been threatened by Asaram's supporters for speaking against him. In 2013, the family of the girl who accused Asaram Bapu of sexually assaulting her claimed that they had received death threats from followers of Asaram. In October 2013, the then Surat Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Shobha Bhutada filed a complaint stating that she had been receiving threatening calls from supporters of Asaram. "Shobha Bhutada received a threatening phone call saying she should stop looking for Asaram`s son Narayan Sai or she would be shot. The mobile number used is registered to a Dashrat Singh in MP," a report quotes Inspector CK Patel as saying.  

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