Chinmayanand - The man who wears many hats
This 72-year-old man wears many hats. He is a politician, a saint, an educationist, a tantric, a Yoga guru, a philosopher and also an editor.
Swami Chinmayanand, a senior BJP leader, is now courting controversy over allegations of sexual misconduct.
Born in Gonda district into the royal family of Avadh in 1947, Chinmayanand's real name remains under wraps. He did his masters from Lucknow University and then renounced royalty to lead an ascetic life.
However, when sainthood befriended politics during the Ayodhya movement, Chinmayanand was one of the first saints who took to politics.
On November 9, 1989, when Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders prepared to perform 'shilanyas' in Ayodhya and lay the foundation for the 'proposed grand temple' there, it was Chinmayanand who played the role of master of ceremonies.
He contested and won the 1999 Lok Sabha election from Jaunpur and went on to become a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
In between, Chinmayanand set up several educational institutions in Shahjahanpur, the Swami Shukdevanand Post Graduate College (known as SS College) being one of them.
Chinmayanand runs these colleges in various capacities (trustee and manager). He also became the editor of two monthly magazines - Pramarath and Vivek Rashmi.
Chinmayanand set up ashrams in Haridwar and Shahjahanpur.
A former disciple and manager of Mumuksh Ashram, run by Chinmayanand in Shahjahanpur, opened a can of worms in 2011 when she filed a first information report against him, alleging that she had been held captive, raped and assaulted for several years by him.
But Chinmayanand's clout prevented any kind of action against him and the victim finally moved out of Shahjahanpur.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who shares a good relationship with Chinmayanand, visited the Mumuksh ashram in February 2018.
A month later, in March 2018, the then Additional District Magistrate (administration), Shahjahanpur, Sarvesh Dixit, sent a letter to a senior prosecution officer, directing him to move a petition in court for withdrawal of the case. The plea was turned down by the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
The latest case against him - complaint of sexual harassment by a law student of the SS college - has not surprised anyone in Shahjahanpur.
"Chinmayanand is known for such misdeeds but no one dares to utter a word because of the immense clout that he enjoys in the corridors of power. Journalists who have dared to even try to expose him, have lost their jobs," said a local journalist on condition of anonymity.
It was this clout and his proximity to the chief minister that acted as a deterrent for the police to even try and investigate the complaint of the law student who later fled the city.
However, with the Supreme Court getting tough in the matter, Chinmayanand's dream run may finally end.
The apex court on Monday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to set up a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to probe sexual harassment allegations made by the law student against Chinmayanand.
Chinmayanand has been booked under section 364 (abduction) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
The abduction charge is likely to be dropped because the girl has admitted that she left on her own.
Chinmayanand's supporters, who wish to remain unnamed, said that the rape charge against him would also not hold water in the medical examination since the girl had been living with her male friend since August 24.
The police, however, are expected to interrogate a number of girl students in the L.L.M classes since the girl has alleged that other girls were also harassed.
According to a senior police officer, it is unlikely that other girls would speak against the accused.
"We are not expecting any major breakthrough in the case because other girls may not like to jeopardize their career by speaking against Chinmayanand who runs the college. Moreover, the allegation of extortion against the girl's male friend is also to be investigated," the officer said.
Shahjahanpur Superintendent of Police S. Chanappa said that on the basis of Chinmayanand's complaint, an FIR had already been registered against unnamed persons and the matter is under investigation.
It is clear that the police officials are in no mood to go against Chinmayanand for obvious political reasons unless the girl manages to produce some concrete proof against the accused. IANS