New Delhi: In 2011, a woman who lived in former BJP MP Swami Chinmayanand’s ashram in Haridwar alleged the former union minister of state for home had held her captive and raped her over 11 years, before she managed to escape. She also claimed the rape had led to a pregnancy she got aborted.
Eight years on, Chinmayanand, 72, finds himself facing similar allegations from another woman, a 23-year-old student at Swami Shukdevanand Law College in Shahjahanpur, which is chaired by the former MP. According to the student, Chinmayanand raped her over one year.
At a press conference held Monday, the woman said she was offered a job at the college and made to stay late, owing to which she had to take a room at the hostel. Once she did, she added, Chimayanand raped her repeatedly.
“I have sufficient evidence against him, and it will be handed over to the SIT in good time,” she said, referring to the special investigation team (SIT) formed by the state government on the Supreme Court’s recent orders.
The court had taken suo motu notice of the case after the woman was reported missing late last month soon after she first alleged sexual harassment by Chinmayanand. She was later traced to Rajasthan.
“He’s done this to other women, but I am not at liberty to speak of the details,” she said Monday.
A day after the press conference, she led the SIT to her hostel room at the Shahjahanpur college, where she said the evidence lay.
As it happened with the case in 2011 — which remains in court after a failed attempt by the Yogi Adityanath government to withdraw it — Chinmayanand has neither been summoned nor questioned in connection with the latest allegations.
‘Done a lot for education’
However, in Shahjahanpur, the allegations against Chinmayanand are treated as a dull, pedestrian fact. Chinmayanand’s “loose” reputation with young women is overlooked for his efforts to make education more accessible.
The Mumukshu Ashram, an education complex which includes the law college, is a symbol of Chinmayanand’s presence in the district — it is a large estate in the middle of town, housing five schools and colleges chaired by Chinmayanand.
Approximately 1,500 students are enrolled in the complex, and the principal of the law college, Sanjay Kumar Baranwal, told ThePrint that over double that number apply every year.
“This girl’s allegations against him cannot be true. He’s done a lot for education and this is just an attempt to discredit him,” Baranwal said.
To many in Shahjahanpur — as also Chinmayanand’s lawyer Om Singh — the allegations are an attempt to mar his image or extort his wealth.
Chinmayanand has even said the allegations are a “conspiracy” to end development in the area.
The woman and her family, however, are adamant about their claim. “He’s a very powerful man, and a senior leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It’s common knowledge that the old man uses young women to stay young himself,” the law student’s father told ThePrint.
The Mumukshu Ashram
Chinmayanand inherited the Mumukshu Ashram in 1987 from a long line of ‘swamis’, beginning with the namesake of all the schools and colleges within the complex — Swami Shukdevanand, a “saint” whose “spiritual teachings” aimed to “preserve and disseminate the teachings of Indian culture and heritage”.
The Swami Shukdevanand Post Graduate College and the Devi Sampad Inter College were already standing when Chinmayanand first came to the ashram as a disciple in 1977.
When he took over the Mumukshu Ashram after the death of his predecessor, Swami Dharmanand, he added a school, inter college, and law college. It earned him the moniker “baba” among students, shopkeepers, and even journalists.
A local leader with the Samajwadi Party told ThePrint that Chinmayanand maintained close ties to officials in the state education board. His schools, he said, have found affiliations to renowned universities like the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Rohilkhand University in neighbouring Bareilly and the Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya in Varanasi.
Chinmayanand has also set up schools in Mainpuri as well as Rishikesh. In the years since he took over the Mumukshu Ashram, according to his website, he has become the trustee or chairperson for six trusts, and has opened 17 ashrams across Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and New Delhi, all of which are open to donations.
When the law student’s allegation came out, Chinmayanand called it an attempt to sabotage his efforts to convert the Swami Shukdevanand Law College to a full-fledged university. The college, according to principal Sanjay Kumar Baranwal, is producing a steady stream of lawyers, with dozens of graduates every year. Chinmayanand’s lawyer Om Singh is an alumnus of the same college.
The rise and rise of Chinmayanand
Chinmayanand is a veteran of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, joining it in 1985 in the fold of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), alongside Mahant Avaidyanath, Adityanath’s predecessor as Gorakhpur MP and mahant of the Gorakhnath mutt.
Together, they founded the Ram Mandir Mukti Yagna Samiti, which played an integral part of organising the movement that ultimately led to the Babri Masjid’s demolition in 1992. It was supported by the VHP, BJP, and RSS.
In 1991, Chinmayanand was offered his first ticket to contest from the Badaun Lok Sabha seat by the BJP. He won, despite having close to no connection to the place, riding on the Ram Janmabhoomi wave. He won two subsequent Lok Sabha elections, from Machhlishahr in 1998 and Jaunpur in 1999.
In 2003, he became the first seer to be appointed Union minister of state for home, a post he held until 2004.
Over the years, Chinmayanand is said to have developed a friendship with Adityanath, and both are known to visit each other often.
‘Framed like Sengar’
The law student’s accusation comes on the heels of the Unnao rape case, where BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar is accused of raping a minor. In 2019, Sengar was booked for attempted murder after a truck with a blacked-out number plate rammed into a car carrying the victim. While the victim and her lawyer were injured, her two aunts were killed. Sengar has since been expelled by the BJP.
Chinmayanand has used the Unnao case to defend himself, saying last month that he was being “framed” like Sengar.
Chinmayanand’s lawyer has dismissed the fresh allegation against him as “totally false”, saying it’s a “clear attempt to extort Swami”. The SIT team examining the case interviewed the woman and her family for 11 hours Sunday, but Chinmayanand is yet to be summoned.
“I have all the proof against him,” the woman said h It’s time they called him in for questioning,” the woman said.
ThePrint has approached Chinmayanand’s lawyer and UP Police on why he hasn’t been summoned so far. This report will be updated when we secure a response.
(With inputs from Prashant Srivastava)
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.