Allahabad: Self-styled godman Asaram, in the eye of a storm over his remarks on the Delhi gangrape victim, on Tuesday said he was quoted out of context and announced a reward of 50 lakh to anyone who could prove that he blamed the victim for the horrific crime. Asaram, who had evoked nation-wide angry outbursts over his comments that the 23-year-old para-medic could have saved her honour and life by pleading for mercy before her tomentors and telling them that she was like their sister, is camping at the Maha Kumbh congregation in Allahabad.
"I have been quoted out of context. The poor girl was young enough to be my own granddaughter," he said. "How can I ever be so insensitive as to blame her for the very tragedy that had stricken her. The media reports have twisted my words. "I will give a reward of Rs 50 lakh to anybody who is able to prove that I had blamed the rape victim herself for the heinous crime," Asaram said at his discourse.
Throwing his weight behind Asaram, VHP leader Ashok Singhal, said "a slander campaign is on against him at the behest of foreign powers who want to destroy Hindu culture." "Foreign powers have been pumping a lot of money into the country to damage Hinduism," the VHP leader, who visited Asaram's camp, said.
In an apparent reference to the protests planned by some organisations against Asaram, Singhal said "if anybody dares to indulge in any mischief, he will not be spared by the VHP which is holding its camp adjacent to that of the revered saint."
Tight security arrangements are in place around the sprawling tent of Asaram, the gateway to which was vandalised and set afire by unidentified persons a few days ahead of the commencement of the Maha Kumbh. A number of city-based social outfits had threatened to stage demonstrations to protest his remarks on the Delhi gangrape incident and his subsequent comments comparing his critics to "barking dogs".
"We are keeping a close watch. Anybody who acts in a manner which threatens to disrupt peace during the ongoing religious congregation will be dealt with sternly," DSP OP Ojha said. A large number of people are thronging the tent of Asaram, some driven by devotion and others by amusement. Curious onlookers are coming to watch Asaram giving "darshan" to his "bhaktas" in a battery-operated vehicle, shaped like a train which moves on rails. The vehicle is called "Gurudarshan Express" by Asaram's supporters.