Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanaru, the head pontiff of the Murugarajendra Mutt in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district, allegedly drugged his victims before raping them, according to victims’ statements in the chargesheet submitted before a district court recently.
According to the statements given by three victims, the seer allegedly sexually assaulted minor girls at his residence and the girls’ hostel, allegedly in connivance with the hostel warden, who is also an accused in the case. The girls’ statements also make allusions to rape, murder, and in one case, a forced abortion.
Sharanaru was arrested in September this year after two girls filed a complaint in August under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Indian Penal Code. The 694-page chargesheet includes statements from the two girls, whose complaints led to the initial FIR, and a third victim who came forward to voluntarily record her statement.
According to the chargesheet, one of the girls, a 15-year-old at the time, said that the seer used to identify students and ask the hostel warden to send them to him. “Claiming that he would give us tuition, we were asked to go to his room every Sunday at 6.30 pm. After tuition, the girls were asked to sweep the room,” one of the victims revealed.
The seer then allegedly spoke “nicely” to her, offering her fruits and dry fruits. The next time she went to his room, the seer allegedly sexually assaulted her, the girl said in the chargesheet, detailing how she was assaulted.
Every day, the seer used to write names and send them to the warden, the girl said. “If we refused to go, we were verbally abused,” the girl said, adding that many others had also been abused by the seer. The girl said that she begged him to let her be as she was from a poor family but he did not relent. “He used to mix something in the chocolate,” she said in the chargesheet. The girl also mentioned rumours of a girl from Bengaluru who left the hostel and was raped and murdered.
On July 24, the girl had a fight with the hostel warden after which she went to Bengaluru. More than a month later, she was approached by Odanadi, an NGO from Mysuru that helped her file a police complaint, she said.
The chargesheet also includes the statement of another victim, a 16-year-old at the time, who said that after she was sent to the seer’s room, he asked her if she knew another girl. “When I answered in the affirmative, he told me that he had impregnated her,” she said, adding that the girl was taken to a hospital and underwent an abortion, the chargesheet says. The girl also recalled that the seer used to give her something to eat and once she was unconscious “behave badly with me”.
The third victim, a married woman who approached the police to record her statement, said the hostel warden used to ask her to go to the seer’s room at night. “He used to give me dry fruits or chocolate to eat,” she said in the chargesheet, adding that he then sexually assaulted her. The woman said she would stay in the seer’s room till early in the morning and return to the hostel with the alleged help of the guard, who would hand over the keys.
After a few days, the woman said she was informed by Paramashivaiah, another accused, that she was captured on CCTV entering and leaving the seer’s room and was asked to go to another hostel.