Karnataka: More victims accuse Murugha Matha seer of rape; mother of minor girls reveals horrors

Two sisters accompanied by their mother, who worked at the matha, approached Odanadi and filed a case against the seer and six others.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Oct 14, 2022 | 3:59 PM Updated Oct 14, 2022 | 7:19 PM

Murugha Math seer 1

More skeletons are tumbling out of rape-accused Murugha Matha seer Shivamurthy Sharanaru‘s closet. A fresh FIR has been filed against the head pontiff of Chitradurga’s Lingayat matha as more victims have come forward to allege rape.

The Nazarbad police booked the seer and six others under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act late at night on Thursday, 13 October. The seer continues to be lodged in prison over allegations of rape of minor girls at the matha-run hostel.

The fresh FIR was based on a complaint filed by a 38-year-old assistant woman cook at the Matha who has accused the seer of sexually abusing her two minor daughters.

The single parent in her complaint said that she was estranged from her husband and was dependent on her elderly parents, who worked as fruit vendors. Thus, she had to put her two daughters — now aged 14 and 12 — at the SAM Kannada Primary School, an institution run by the Murugha Matha.

She had them admitted to the Akkamahadevi Hostel at the Murugha Matha in early 2019 after explaining her financial plight to the seers there.

As the woman was also working at the Matha as an assistant cook, she did not have the courage to complain against the seer when her daughters revealed their ordeal to her later that year.

Several girls assaulted

According to activists from the Mysuru-based NGO Odanadi Seva Samsthe, the assistant cook revealed to them that both girls were victims of sexual assault at the hands of the seer even before they hit puberty.

“While the elder daughter was sexually assaulted by the seer for over four years, the younger daughter was being assaulted for the past two and half years. The woman and her daughters have alleged that two other girls — one from Class 9 and another from Class 10 of the same school — were also victimised by the seer,” said the activists.

According to the complainant, hostel warden Rashmi would force these girls to go to the private room of the head pontiff.

Two attendants, identified as Mahalingiah and Karibasavappa, would wait outside the door when the girls were in the room. The duo would not allow anyone into the seer’s room at this time.

Moreover, the seer also had the habit of taking the minor girls along with him to places in Karnataka he visited for religious conventions, the NGO activists said.

“Shivamurthy Sharanaru used to take the girls from the hostel to Kodagu often. He used to make the girls sleep in his room. There are also allegations that the seer used to take some pills and also consume alcohol before he sexually abused his victims. The girls would also be made to accompany the seer in helicopters whenever he went to any other place for religious conventions or was returning to the matha,” said KV Stanley, founder and director of Odanadi Seva Samsthe.

“Victims so far who have approached us are saying that the seer would sexually assault several girls in a day, and this would happen on a daily basis,” Stanley told the South First. “There are two other minor girls mentioned in the FIR along with this sister-duo, who are yet to depose before us and the police and give the details of their ordeal.”

Odanadi activists have several times raised questions about the pace and progress of the probe into the case, stressing often that there could be several other victims, something that South First was the first to report.

Odanadi helps victims, again

The complainant mustered courage after two other victims from the hostel filed a complaint against the seer in the last week of August by approaching Odanadi, which took them to the CWC in Mysuru, after which a case was registered at the Nazarbad Police Station in the city.

The assistant cook approached the NGO as well. The NGO members took the woman and her daughters to file a complaint with the Nazarabad police late on Thursday.

The police registered a second case against Shivamurthy Sharanaru and six others, including hostel warden Rashmi.

The accused have been booked under sections of the POCSO Act and for rape under the IPC.

The other accused have been identified as junior pontiff Basavaditya, Parashuramaiah, Gangadharaiah, Mahalingiah, and Karibasappa. Further investigations are underway.

Shivamurthy Sharanaru was arrested a week after the first case was registered. Within that period, he was “intercepted” by the police while trying to travel away from Chitradurga.

He has been lodged at the Chitradurga district prison as his judicial custody was extended to 21 October after his bail plea was rejected by a local court in Chitradurga on Tuesday.