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June 30, 2001 VNN6816 Related VNN StoriesComment on this story
Sleaze And Salvation
FROM INDIA TODAY
PURI, INDIA, Jun 30 (VNN) A Hare Krishna cult member's spiritual quest meets with a rude end. But he isn't the only one on trial. The credibility of the Orissa police is equally at stake, writes INDIA TODAY's Special Correspondent Ruben Banerjee.
It is a plot with sinister elements: an accused who finds no mention in the FIR but continues to be lodged in prison; an accuser who is apparently mentally unstable; and a case with lacunae galore.
But he is not the only one on trial, on test is the credibility of the Orissa police too.
William Benedict George, an American businessman, came to India in quest of spiritual salvation. He joined the Hare Krishna cult, took on the name Bhakta Dasa and settled down in Puri where he has been languishing in jail since last August. The charge that he was sexually abusing a six-year-old girl was made by the girl's mother, Maria Schrnidova, a Slovak of Austrian nationality.
Looking for a companion, Maria, a widow, had found sexual gratification in Ashok Sahu, a local. However, on June 29 last year, Maria handed over a 48-page note written in German to the Sea Beach police station accusing Sahu of raping her daughter, Tulasi. It was accepted as the FIR.
Tulasi's account of all that transpired on the night of June 28 stated that Sahu along with Mayapur Chandra, another Krishna devotee, came to her room and sexually abused her. After raping her, they forced "fire" down her throat. Then they turned to another girl and took her to the adjacent garden. There they carved out her intestines and offered the blood to God.
The details of paedophilia and unnatural sex, far from evoking protests, have elicited anger and aroused suspicion about the authenticity of the charges. "It's a make-believe story that the police here had cooked up and pursued to corner instant fame," alleges Shyamananda Mohapatra, Bhakta's counsel.
His charge cannot be dismissed. Why Maria was accompanied by an Interpol officer when she came to India is an unanswered question. Further, she handed her statement to the police on the morning of June 29 claiming that her child had been abused the night before. But her statement records the happenings as "May 30, Tulasi speaking".
The FIR did not name Bhakta but three days later, while being taken around Puri by the police, Maria suddenly pointed to him as being one of her child's tormentors. The crime branch took over the case on August 18 and Bhakta was arrested two days later, after he returned from Bangkok. Why would anyone guilty of child abuse return to face the music when he had the chance to flee? That isn't all. Two medical examinations prove that Tulasi was not raped. Also, every time Benedict has moved the courts for bail, the police have stonewalled it: once on the ground that they suspected Benedict of running a brothel in Bangkok, and again on the contention that he is wanted by the US law agency in a case relating to an offence by his firm. "We have not cracked the story yet. It is true that certain allegations are unproved.
"But the antecedents of those involved point to something fishy," says Tyagarajan, the crime branch dig. The law stipulates that an accused will get mandatory bail if the police fail to submit a chargesheet within 90 days. But in Bhakta's case, a preliminary chargesheet was submitted only in November. "This is unjust, unfair and illegal," says Mohapatra. Normally it is the judiciary which decides how long an accused should be held in custody. But the crime branch has overstepped its brief in this case. Bhakta's search for salvation has met with a rude end. But he is not the only one on trial, on test is the credibility of the Orissa police too.
Copyright Living Media India Ltd
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