India

Swami Chinmayanand: India ex-minister arrested in sexual abuse case

Swami Chinmayanand Image copyright Courtesy Facebook
Image caption Swami Chinmayanand served as a minister under former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee

A former Indian federal minister from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been arrested in connection with allegations of sexual abuse.

Swami Chinmayanand, 73, has been charged with "misusing authority" for sex - a lesser offence than rape - as well as stalking, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.

He denies all of the charges.

The woman, who was a student at one of several colleges run by him, alleges that the abuse lasted for months.

If found guilty, Mr Chinmayanand, a former lawmaker from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, faces up to 10 years in jail. He had served as a minister in the BJP government under former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The woman said she first met Mr Chinmayanand in June last year when she enrolled at a law college run by him. She alleged that he showed her a video of her bathing and blackmailed her to have sex with him.

She posted a video on Facebook on 24 August detailing the alleged abuse. The allegations made national headlines as she went missing for six days, prompting her father to blame Mr Chinmayanand.

The Supreme Court intervened and asked the police to find her. She gave her statement in the court on 2 September, after which a special investigation unit was formed.

Last week the 23-year-old and her father alleged that the police had been reluctant to arrest Mr Chinmayanand and she threatened to set herself on fire. She recorded her statement in a local court amid heavy security on 16 September.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Sengar has been charged with rape and criminal conspiracy

The case has also drawn national attention because it's the second such allegation against a prominent BJP politician from Uttar Pradesh this year.

Kuldeep Sengar, a lawmaker in the state, was arrested in April for allegedly raping a woman who was a minor at the time of the attack in 2017. He denies the charge, but was expelled from the BJP in August.

His accuser had also threatened to set herself on fire, alleging that police had failed to investigate Mr Sengar. In July, she was seriously injured in a car crash, and her family alleged foul play on the part of Mr Sengar. The police have since charged him with attempted murder.

The crash sparked national outrage and drew the ire of the courts, which questioned the lack of protection offered to rape survivors or anyone testifying in sensitive trials.

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