Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the chief of Murugha Math — one of the key seminaries of Karnataka’s politically powerful Lingayat community — has been arrested after allegations of rape from two school girls. He was named in a case under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act after the two girls alleged that they suffered sexual assault for years.
Shivamurthy Sharanaru has claimed that the allegations against him are part of a long-drawn conspiracy. He has claimed that he will be proved innocent.
The arrest comes after days of demand from the Dalit community and others, including a section of employees of the Murugha Math. Given the amount of political clout the Lingayat community wields, there has been complete silence from the state’s political leaders — the Congress and the ruling BJP.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s predecessor, former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had publicly backed him, saying the seer has been “falsely implicated”.
Earlier this month, Congress’s Rahul Gandhi had visited the mutt and was inducted into the Lingayat community by the Shivamurthy Sharanaru.
Sources said the police had exercised considerable discretion while making the arrest to avoid a law and order issue. It is not yet known where he has been taken or whether he will be produced before a court tonight.
The girls — both students of Murugha Math — had approached a non-governmental organisation in Mysuru and said they were being abused. The non-profit had taken up the matter and a complaint was filed with the police.
On August 31, cases were registered against Shivamurthy Sharanaru under POCSO and the SC/ST Act, since one of the survivors belongs to the Dalit community.