17 October 2014

Something is rotten in the state of Karnataka

Update: A few days ago, the order prohibiting the Shastri couple from talking to the media was removed. They have now spoken to some Kannada TV channels. 

Something sinister has been happening in Karnataka since the last couple of months. For those of you not in the know, and there are many of you thanks to curbs on media reporting, I present below a timeline of the events and my thoughts below. 

August 26: Two cases are filed. In the first one, Seer Raghaveshvara Bharathi Swami accuses a couple - Diwakar Shastri and Premalatha Diwakar – of blackmail in Honnavar, Karnataka. The couple was promptly arrested and their bail plea set for September 10. This couple was associated very closely with the Ramachandrapura Math – of which the seer is the head – for long years. Premalatha, an acclaimed singer, used to perform at various Math events and her husband held some positions at the Math.

In the second case, the couple’s daughter filed a complaint in Girinagar police station, Bangalore, alleging that the seer sexually harassed her mother. Subsequently, Premalatha herself lodges a similar complaint, accusing the Swami of rape. In her complaint, she said that the Swami raped her many times over the last three years or so.

The seer makes appearances on some Kannada TV channels claiming his innocence.

Swami is not arrested.

August 27 - 31: Media pretty much blacks out all reportage on the case. We hear later that there is a order from the Honnavar magistrate prohibiting media organizations from maligning the Swami(!). But surely, it didn’t ban reportage of the case? In any case, the big media establishments suspiciously fall silent. Smaller, non-mainstream newspapers though carry on reporting.  

Swami is not arrested.

August 31: Diwakar Shastri’s brother commits suicide in his village near Mangalore, Karnataka. In his letter, he states that he killed himself as some people close to the Math were pressurizing him to ask his brother and his wife to withdraw their case.

September 7: Bangalore police issue a notice to Raghaveshwara Bharathi. He says he’s observing Chatrumaas, can’t appear before the police before September 9.

Around this time, Swami makes another appearance on TV proclaiming his innocence and throws an open challenge to people who want to fight the Math. Please note that the Honnavar magistrate's ban on media reportage doesn’t obviously apply to the Swami. He can go on air any time and say what he will.

Swami is not arrested.

September 8: Swami petitions the High Court to quash Premalatha Diwakar’s case against him as it as ‘false’. Court reserves order.

Swami is not arrested.

September 10: High Court stays arrest of Swami, but says police can investigate.

In Honnavar, meanwhile, at the bail hearing in the blackmail case, the Swami’s lawyer tells the court that the Diwakar couple should not be released because the couple face a threat to their life, hence jail is the safest place for them. This has to go down in history as the most ludicrous plea to not grant bail.

Swami is not arrested.

This is till where I followed the case day-to-day. By mid-September, the Diwakar couple did get bail despite all machinations to the contrary. Of course, there are conditions, one of them being that they cannot say things injurious to the Swami’s reputation.

Another major development was for the Advocate General of Karnataka to take up Premalatha’s case. He challenged the validity of the High Court’s order which was preventing the police from arresting the Swami and the media from writing about the case.

On October 9, the High Court finally lifts these orders and dismisses the Swami’s appeal to dismiss Premalatha’s case. The police are free to arrest the Swami, but of course, they don’t. by the end of the same day, the Swami manages to get an interim bail of a month. He also secured bail in the other case of the suicide of Diwakar Shastri’s brother. The family has accused the Swami and his followers of being responsible for his death, because of their threats to him.

A couple of days ago, the CID began interrogating the Swami, while he is still out of jail. This is where the case currently stands.

Here are some questions that the government, the judiciary, and the police of Karnataka state have to answer:
  • The most obvious question, being of course: why have you not arrested the Swami yet? Before the High Court issued the order preventing the state police from arresting the Swami, there was a clear window when they could have followed the due course of law. Why didn't they? Why did the police issue a notice to Swami, when the law requires to just go and arrest a rape accused? How is he different from the Nirbhaya accused, Tarun Tejpal, Asaram Bapu, Nityananda or any other man who has been accused of rape and then arrested? Would you have allowed these others to walk away free if they had similarly said they were observing Chaturmaas? Or, some other religious practice? Were these others issued notices? Last I checked we are still a secular country, where we treat everyone equally before the law, irrespective of considerations like religion. Has this changed now?
  • Why did the Honnavar magistrate ban media reportage of the case? What interest does the magistrate have in protecting the ‘reputation’ of a rape accused? Also, what is the jurisdiction of the Honnavar First Class court to issue such an order? This one beats me.
  • Why were the Diwakar couple arrested promptly on August 26 and refused bail till mid-September? The speed with which police moved to arrest them casts real doubts on what fuelled their speed.
  • Even after the Diwakar couple was released, why were they prohibited from speaking to the press? Is is too late in the day to be naive and ask about freedom of speech?
  • On October 9, when the police/CID had a clear window to arrest the Swami, why didn’t they still do it? Were they waiting for him to get the interim bail? Nice teamwork there.
Meanwhile, our middle-class, herd moralities have kicked right in and they are making the same cliched, dripping-of-patriarchy comments, like:

How come Premalatha never complained before, but is only protesting now? People who ask such a question obviously have no idea what it means to be exploited by a man of power and good for them that that is so. I, for one, am amazed that Premalatha has emerged sane and brave enough, after her incredible ordeal, to actually fight this case.

Also, the Math’s followers seem to think their Swami is infallible. Reailty check: the Swami is still only a human being, capable of the same follies and vices as all of us. And, if he is innocent, he can prove that in a court of law. But for that, of course, he needs to be arrested.

Another crucial differentiation they need to make: the Swami doesn’t embody the Math. And, there is no attack on the Math, as the Swami would have you believe. It’s a rape complaint against a person, so let’s treat it as that.

Next, as happens with so many rape complainants in India, the investigation often starts with them and not the accused. And, by investigation, I not only mean one that is instituted by agencies of the state, but also the whisper campaigns against the victim and her family. Premalatha has been interrogated by the police multiple times for long hours by now. Meanwhile, people from her own community and close social circle are busy questioning her character because of the sole fact that her complaint was so graphic.

Such attitudes make me burn up with rage so much that I don’t even know where to begin.

Is it okay if a heinous crime is committed, but not okay to report it?

How does the character of a woman who complains of rape come under scrutiny? What does character have to do with this, anyway? Are we implying that only women of low or uncertain character are raped? That is, promiscuous women can be raped? And, what is the definition of this character, I’d really like to know. In any case, what’s the character of these men like? 

There can be no doubt that it is such attitudes of otherwise educated and well-placed people in society that must have made Premalatha put up with the brutality. And it all begins with disrespect of women right from the womb. Now that it’s become difficult to kill female foetuses, we cant wait to kill little girls as soon as they’re born.

If they escape that too, we then begin conditioning them about how to be ashamed of their bodies. If a man on the street leers at you, there must be something wrong with your dress. Maybe you dressed too well, maybe you wore the wrong clothes, maybe you look too good, maybe you’re so irresistible that you have no business to be on the streets. But never, ever, is it the fault of the man. No wonder, that we hear that rapes happen in India, not Bharat. I wonder what clothes were the Badaun girls wearing when they went to pee in the fields. Surely, not T-shirt and jeans.

I am not so much worried about whether or not Premalatha will get justice. Something tells me she will. But what makes me frigging mad is our unabashed eagerness to vilify women who come out against powerful men in our society. It’s 2014, people, don’t you think it’s time we actually started using our brain power to think logically and act fairly? It’s now coming to close to two months since the Swami has been accused of rape. That he’s still not arrested should strike everyone as odd and reeking of something rotten in our systems, whether or not they they think of him as innocent or guilty. And that something rotten is people’s brains and hearts: zombie-like, we refuse to think and don’t flinch a bit when attacking women whom we should actually be grateul for, for taking the courage to step out in the open and standing their ground.

Still, for all that has happened in this case, I believe Premalatha will get justice. Kudos to her and her entire family for their courage and tenacity. And, I post this video to inspire them further (English translation of the lyrics here). Plough ahead, sister!


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your eye-opening article. Wish the public of Karnataka wake up after reading this..

Vani.R.Shastry said...

Dear madam
Really your article is very good
Thanks a lot
Vani R Shastry

Satya PRABHAKAR said...

Some thing is rotten indeed in state of Karnataka,but everything is rotten in havyaka community.I am ashamed of the way our community has behaved in this case.
Leave alone the complainant ,they are not sparing her young daughters too.There is a vilification campaign against them.This is not the way how civilized society should behave towards the women!! Obviously Swam's
Ramakatha has failed to inspire them!
Thanks for the article

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...

Thank you, anonymous, Vani, and Satya! Please feel free to share this article in your social network and let more people about the fate of women's rights in Karnataka.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Fine that you have expressed ur views, but does it make any sense logically? Ur blog just questions why the seer is not arrested. Whether to arrest or not is the prerogative of the investigator. This does not depend on severity of the case, but the truthfulness. Has the complainant provided a single simple evidence in support, all her statements look filmsy. I wonder how a learned mind like urs can so illogically. Let the law take it course, until then lets not make the world we live in any worser. Thanks

S M Bhat said...

As a member of the havyaka community, I have been following this very closely through media, facebook, internet, etc. It is amazing to see the blind faith of many of the 'literate' havyaka men and women. Is it because the Swami can do no wrong, or is it just a blatant denial to open up our mind for a possibility that can question the community's strong rooted beliefs? I feel that there is a lot of truth to Ms. Premalatha Diwakar's complaint. It has been proven many times in the world's history that cult and religious leaders have manipulated people to believe and help carry out their propaganda. There have been incidents in the past where these cult leaders had instigated even the well educated as well as the naive followers to even commit mass suicides, so this craze of supporting the Swami without a rational logic doesn't seem so surprising. It does disappoint me to see 'engineers', 'doctors' who have a degree but have their sights either limited by their faith or just want to deny everything so that it all goes away. Having said all these, I have met this holyman a couple of times in the mutt as well as in other public occasions, and he came across to me as a phony. And to those in the facebook community who bad mouth Ms. Diwakar's daughters, my family as well as I have only total contempt. You can see so many men comment on Anshu's beer, cigarette as well as alcohol use. It is hard to believe that all of these men are teetotallers. Or is it the hypocrisy of the havyaka community that makes it acceptable for a man to booze, smoke and party whereas holds a woman to a different standard? The party scene in Bangalore is not devoid of Havyaka men who smoke, drink and consume non vegetarian food. These allegations against the daughters itself is totally different and irrelevant to the case, doesn't prove the accusations made against the Swami is wrong.

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...

HI Anonymous (8.16 pm),

"Whether to arrest or not is the prerogative of the investigator. This does not depend on severity of the case, but the truthfulness. Has the complainant provided a single simple evidence in support, all her statements look filmsy."
Vijayalaxmi: Are you done with passing your judgment? I'd like to know the rules and procedures of your court of law. I'd also like to appeal to the government and judiciary of Karnataka to please do away with the justice machinery, when all of us, it seems, can stand in judgment, inspect evidence, and dismiss the case.

Just remember one thing: I hope you never end up in a legal imbroglio. But, if you do, please remember to hold this court of yours and similarly pass a judgment. Don't waste your time in going to the police station, filing a case, and expecting the machinery of law to swing into action, and hold a fair trial. Have a good day!

harkol said...

I have no vested interest in defending the swami, and as an atheist I hate the concept of both religion & religious Gurus. But, that doesn't mean I consider people who follow them as gullible. Everyone has their own ideology and faith.

So, I do understand your article when you say Ms. Premalatha Diwakar's character shouldn't be an issue. Her accusation is the only issue.

But, your article gets the facts wrong. The crux of a case like this where it is one person's word against another - lies in the chronology of events.

A Blackmail complaint against a blackmail call by Diwakar Shastri was filed on August 17th by the Mutt's security in charge Chandrashekar (not by Swamiji), demanding 3crore rupees not to file a sexual assault case against the swamiji & defame him.

It was fairly simple for Police to ascertain such a call.

And they did, and found that a call was indeed made (though not the content of call) and booked the couple for a blackmail attempt on August 26th (almost 10 days later).

Which is when they filed the complaint of rape. i.e. about 9 days after a blackmail complaint was filed, and the couple were arrested they filed a counter complaint.

So, while we won't know the truth of the matter by 'he says, she says' kind of allegations, what is more likely?

That a blackmail attempt was made, and when they got caught they made a counter complaint to get out of the mess they found themselves in?

Or a powerful & a rich mutt makes a complaint to police even when it's seer was guilty of rape?

The delay of 9 days is crucial in this case. If we assume the Swamiji's followers filed a false complaint of Blackmail on them what would be their motive? Because they came to know Diwakar couple will file a sexual assault complaint?

If that is indeed the case, then why such a complaint wasn't filed till they were actually arrested for attempting to blackmail by making multiple calls?

Diwakar couple were not arrested immediately - it took 9 days for police to act. Thus they must have ascertained that a call was indeed made.

To think that Premalata Diwakar is indeed telling the truth actually needs one to believe not only Swamiji is lying. But, also his officials are lying (about blackmail) and also the other singers who were part of the Rama Katha troop were also lying about threatening calls.

i.e. It is a huge conspiracy made by a whole bunch of guys, thus they all had something against Ms. Diwakar?

To me, as a neutral observer, it appears that Diwakar story doesn't gel well. There are way too many holes in explaining this delay, and also the way the narration is made.

So, Police should indeed investigate this and find if there is any evidence to support either claim. But, till that happens to try and malign a well respected man (leave alone he is a 'god man') is not a done thing.

Asking for him to undergo medical tests is one such ridiculous thing - because what exactly will a potency test do in this case? Prove that he is a man? I didn't read anywhere he has denied being a man.

And also arresting him is unnecessary, unless Police have evidence. You can't go arresting people just on the basis of the word of someone.

If that is possible, I'll file a rape complaint tomorrow against someone I don't like and have them rot in jail without bail for a while!!!

If police have anything other than statement of a motivated couple - then perhaps a arrest is justified.

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...


It’s interesting how you begin by saying you aren’t defending the Swami and then proceed to say he’s a well-respected man, God man, and he shouldn’t be maligned. Anyway.

If I say one thing and one thing only, it should be enough: it’s not what you and I think that matters. It’s what the court – after being presented with arguments from both sides and evidence – thinks and decides that matters. Which simply takes me back to the point that no arrest means no trial means no judgment or justice.

But it seems that this simple bit has become rocket science for some. So, here goes.

It took the police just 9 days to arrest the Shastri couple, inspite of not having verified the content of the call. And, it is taking the police how many days to arrest the Swami? Am still counting.

Next, as you said, the content of the call is not verified. So, that means that anyone can be arrested for just placing a call to anyone. Now, that’s something, isn’t it?

Agreed that it was Chandrashekhar and not the Swami who filed the blackmail case against the Swami (We all know what the truth is, but never mind. You want to nit-pick, so be it.) And, then you say that Premalatha filed a counter complaint “to get out of the mess they found themselves in.”

Now, let me get this right: if Premalatha is to file a counter rape complaint, shouldn’t she be filing it against Chandrashekhar, and not Swami, as you yourself say, it wasn’t the Swami who filed the blackmail case in the first place?

Got tied up in knots there, eh?

Next, you say police should investigate and find “if there is any evidence”. Have you chosen to ignore the fact that Premalatha has submitted evidence to the police – clothes that she wore when she was ‘allegedly’ raped.

Also, very kind of the Swami to let us know that he’s indeed a man, so that makes the sexual potency test redundant, as you rightly said. But have you heard of what’s called a DNA test, which is routinely done for all rape accused? And this is the test that the Swami is supposed to take. In fact, he should do all of us a favor and take the damn test. It’ll really settle everything once and for all.

Also, Harkol, I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman. But if you’re a woman and you are raped, you need to approach the police station, go through the preliminary medical test, and the accused will be arrested. WITHOUT GOING THROUGH ALL THIS DRAMA OF THE SOCIETY DECIDING WHETHER OR NOT RAPE HAS HAPPENED. This is happening very routinely nowadays, as of course, crimes against women happen day in and out.

If you have a problem against the IPC clauses that lay down the procedure for rape investigation, please take this up at a higher level than my blog. And, good luck with that!

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...

Correction: In the comment above, I should have said, "Agreed that it was Chandrashekhar and not the Swami who filed the blackmail case against the Shastri couple."

Anonymous said...

Vijayalaxmi Hegde, Hats off to you for standing up for Premalatha whom most think is a con woman and a low life character. I despise people who blindly defend the Swami and talk bad of the Diwakar couple. They even lost a brother who committed suicide due to high stress caused by the 'powerful heads'. I have heard many havyakas defending the swami but not once heard sympathy or prayers for the brother's family who committed suicide. In India the victim is blamed most often in sexual crimes, for example - if she wears jeans, shes asking for it. Or If a woman goes out at night its her fault if gets harassed. Now with this mentality will India ever see decline in rape cases? I dont think so for a minute. When even some elders and seniors in a family blatantly blame a woman in such cases in front of young generation what sort of thinking do the youth grow up with? Here in Australia, after decades sexual abuse allegations surface, thats becuase victims were often made to believe that they should not complain and its alright to 'submit'. But fortunately the victims have the law working unbiased in countries like Australia and trust me, not once they arrest anyone who is accused of making threatening calls, they will get AVOs and bail but not arrest. I am sorry at the sad state of affairs of law in India. I have tried to argue with some of the swami supporters in this case, not to say that swami did it but to argue why law and police are biased towards Swami I was considered a bad person by the blind followers and they have somewhat stopped talking to me.Life must be very difficult for the Diwakar family right now so if people have any humanity in them they should stop badmouthing them.

Anonymous said...

Excellent and thought provoking article madam