Shahjahanpur: The 23-year-old law student who has accused former BJP MP Swami Chinmayanand of sexual harassment is in danger, her family claimed after Uttar Pradesh Police tracked her down to Rajasthan Friday.
The woman had been missing since 24 August, when she released a video accusing Chinmayanand, without naming him, of sexually harassing several women, including herself.
She was found at a Rajasthan hotel in an undisclosed district on Friday morning, according to Uttar Pradesh Police, and subsequently brought to Delhi on the orders of the Supreme Court.
“She called us around 1.30 pm when they stopped somewhere for lunch and said her life is in danger because the evidence against Chinmayanand is with her,” her father told ThePrint. “She told us that she was in Fatehpur Sikri, and that we should come straight to Delhi.”
Her 21-year-old brother added, “We’ve heard of the kind of reputation he has with women. If her life is in danger, there can be no other culprit but him.”
In her viral video, the woman, an LLM student at Swami Shukdevanand (SS) Law College, Shahjahanpur, alleged that she had been sexually harassed by the “manager” of the institute, who was a “sanyasi”. She claimed he had ruined the lives of many women, and said she had evidence against him.
Then she went missing.
At a press conference Friday, the UP Police said she had been found in a hotel with a man. It was from the same man’s phone number, they added, that a text was sent to Chinmayanand on 23 August with a demand for Rs 5 crore. The police are separately investigating an extortion complaint filed by Chinmayanand.
The police described her as healthy and stable, and said they will be looking into the circumstances under which the two were found together.
“We will look into the FIR filed by Chinmayanand claiming extortion,” said UP Deputy Inspector General Rakesh Kumar Pandey.
A senior police officer told ThePrint that a third person, who used the same number to download WhatsApp on a separate phone, had also been found and was being interrogated.
‘Skipped classes, was reserved’
As she pursued her LLM at S.S. Law College, the woman also worked as a librarian there to earn money on the side. Two of her classmates told ThePrint that she would often skip class and keep to herself.
Even though her home was two kilometres away from the college, she stayed in the hostel, they added.
“She would often stay back late, which is why she took up a room there. But she would come back home, too,” her mother said. “She was very reserved, and I don’t think she had any friends.”
Her room was sealed by the police when the controversy first erupted.
Multiple people told ThePrint that the student had secured the librarian’s job after she approached Chinmayanand for help, desperate to earn some money for her family, which includes two younger siblings.
One source said Chinmayanand would hire women under the age of 25, and seek sexual favours from them.
“Why would she say she has evidence against him, even till now, if she was lying?” said her mother.
The friend she was found with, Sanjay Singh, is also an alumnus of the S.S. Law College, and it is here that the two are believed to have met.
Chinmayanand has denied the woman’s allegation. His lawyer Om Singh told the media that it was a hoax meant to mar the former Union minister’s image and extort money from him.
This is, however, not the first time he has courted such allegations. In 2011, he was accused of repeated rape by a woman who worked at his ashram in Haridwar. However, in 2018, a year after the BJP took office in UP, the state government initiated the process to withdraw the case, against the woman’s objections.
“He’s a very powerful man with lots of influence in this area. But if there’s evidence against him, we hope it will hold up in the Supreme Court,” the woman’s mother said.