Murugha Mutt Case: Alleged Sexual Assault By Seer
On 1st September 2022, Thursday, the top religious leader of Karnataka, Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru who is considered as the chief pontiff of Sri Murugha Mutt has been booked by the Chitradurga district police under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) for alleged sexual abuse of two high school girls.
The case came into attention when two minor girls aged 16 and 15, told members of the state Child Welfare Committee they were sexually assaulted between January 1, 2019, and June 6, 2022. The girls were students of a school run by the mutt in Chitradurga and were residents of a hostel there. But they left the mutt hostel in July.
After the victims reached Mysore, they had approached an NGO named Odanadi Seva Samsthe, who works for trafficking victims. The NGO later approached the Child Welfare Committee and a police complaint was filed.
A case was filed based on the complaint by an officer of the District Child Protection Unit on 26 August, in which the Mysore police registered an FIR against Muruga Mutt head Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanaru, and booked him under the POCSO Act, 2012 and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for alleged sexual abuse. However, the case was transferred to the Chitradurga police as the mutt comes under its jurisdiction.
The victims were taken to a government hospital in Chitradurga for medical examination, which went on for more than four hours. The victims also recorded their statements before the Child Welfare Committee and the police in Chitradurga on Monday.
The Murugha Rajendra Mutt is a major Lingayat mutt that is known to be influential across party lines. While Lingayat mutts are said to keep an apolitical front, politicians are seen to make a beeline as the blessings by the pontiffs have great symbolic value.
It helps political leaders and parties to assert the backing they receive. Lingayat mutts like the Suttur Mutt, Murugha Mutt, among others, have an impact on how the votes swing during elections as well as who could be the chief minister of the state. The former chief minister of Karnataka BS Yediyurappa and the current chief minister of Karnataka Basavaraj Bommai are the followers of Lingayat mutt.
Bommai said “A case has been booked under POCSO Act. Apart from this, there is also a kidnapping case registered in Chitradurga. The police are investigating both cases. It is not right for me to make comments or interpret the case. It is not good for the investigation. The police have full freedom and the probe is underway. Truth will come out”.
Meanwhile Yeddyurappa has supported the seer and claimed that “It is a false charge. There is no truth in it and after the completion of the investigation, he will come out clean”.
Till now Five people have been booked in the case that includes chief pontiff Shivamurthy Sharanaru, mutt follower Akkamahadevi Rashmi, hostel head Parashivaiah Basava Aditya, and lawyer Gangadharaiah.
With one of the victims being identified as a Dalit, several Dalit groups have staged protests in Chitradurga demanding the seer’s arrest. The BJP government is wary of protests during a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Dakshina Kannada region on September 2.
On Monday, a Karnataka court adjourned to Friday the hearing of an anticipatory bail plea by the Murugha mutt seer, even as a group of advocates sought a probe under the high court’s supervision.
The delay in investigations in the sensational case had raised questions, as also the deafening silence across political parties in Karnataka. Despite being booked under the POCSO Act, the police were seen dragging their feet. The arrest is also seen to have political ramifications in the state that is heading towards elections.
Sharanaru has been additionally charged under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as one of the two victims was from the SC community.