In a controversial move, Bhupindersinh Chudasama, the Education Minister of Gujarat, on Tuesday, 29 January, extended his "wishes” to rape convict Asaram Bapu’s ashram in Sabarmati, in a form of a letter. Chudasama thanked Ashram for organising its annual ‘Matru-Pitru Pujan Divas’ on 14 February instead of Valentine's Day, and congratulated him for doing “great work in making young boys and girls and unmarried men and women better citizens of India”.
In his letter, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama wrote," I am so grateful to you that you started this brilliant initiative to take blessings from our parents rather than celebrating valentines day. I wish you well and success in spreading this initiative".
Republic TV confronted and questioned the minister over his letter, however, Mr Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said that it's not a big deal".
The ashram’s ad for the event not only carries a photo of Asaram Bapu, but also mentions that it has been inspired by him. Take a look:
Photo Courtesy: Ashram.org
Self-styled godman Asaram Bapu was sentenced to life in prison by a Jodhpur court which found him guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl in one of his ashrams five years ago. Madhu Sudan Sharma, Special Judge, SC/ST Cases, handed 20 years each in jail to Asaram’s two aides, Sanchita alias Shilpi and Sharad Chandra alias Sharat Chandra, for helping him in the crime.
As a security measure, the verdict was pronounced inside the Jodhpur Central Jail where Asaram has been lodged since 2013. The media was also not allowed into the Jail premises, while measures were put in place such that Asaram's followers don't enter the town. Four of his supporters were sent back by a train after arriving at Jodhpur station hours before the verdict.
The 2013 case involved a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh's Shahajahanpur accusing Asaram of raping her at his ashram in Manai in August 2013. Following the conviction, the victim's father had said:
"Asaram is convicted. We have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now I hope he will get strict punishment. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice."