The mouthpiece of tainted self-proclaimed saint Asaram has prominently featured two Union ministers – Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley – on the front page and in its articles in the latest issue.
Asaram is currently lodged in a Jodhpur prison
While Singh is quoted praising Asaram for celebrating ‘Mata Pita Pujan Divas’ on Valentine’s Day, the finance minister has spoken of how media trials put undue pressure on courts.
mid-day has a copy of the February issue of Rishi Prasad, the Hindi mouthpiece of Asaram. On the front page are quotes and pictures of Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, with their articles pointed to on page 10.
Just above them is Ashok Singhal, former president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who is quoted as saying, “76-year-old bapuji is behind bars and is in lots of pain.” The lead story of the page features Asaram himself, and crowds waiting for him outside jails, hospitals and other places where police took him between Dec 31 and Jan 1.
In the page 10 article, Singh has praised Asaram for celebrating parents on February 14, Valentine’s Day – the bete noir of right-wing organisations. “It gave me immense pleasure when I realised that revered saint Asaramji Bapu is the inspiration behind celebrating February 14 as Father-Mother day.
Through this, good values will surely be developed in children,” Singh has said. Meanwhile, Jaitley’s comment pertains to the media and public trials. “Because of media trials, pressure is built on courts, especially in high-profile cases. Media can make anyone guilty or innocent. Media needs to introspect,” the piece reads.
The self-proclaimed spiritual guru has been accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at his Jodhpur ashram on August 20, 2013. After he was arrested in September the same year, he has been lodged in a Jodhpur prison and many of his bail applications have been rejected.
His cook, a witness in another rape case against him in Surat, was shot dead in UP this January. Two sisters in Surat have accused Asaram and his son, Narayan Sai, of raping them. A detailed e-mail sent to both Singh and Jaitley, asking whether they endorsed the comments attributed to them in the magazine, elicited no response.