New interim-chief pontiff appointed at the Murugha Matha

Basavaprabhu Swami, a close disciple of seer Shivamurthy Sharanaru, has been nominated temporarily to the post.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Oct 18, 2022 | 12:43 AM Updated Oct 18, 2022 | 12:43 AM

Basavaprabhu Swami appointed as the new interim-chief pontiff of Murugha Matha. (Supplied)

Rape-accused seer Shivamurthy Sharanaru, who is at present lodged at the district prison in Chitradurga, nominated a stand-in pontiff as a temporary head of the Murugha Matha in the Chitradurga district on Saturday, 15 October.

The new interim-chief or the in-charge pontiff of the Murugha Matha is a disciple of Shivamurthy Sharanaru named Basavaprabhu Swami, from the Virakta Matha in the Davanagere district.

There was a buzz among the management committee members and the advisory committee members at the Murugha Matha last week about appointing a new pontiff, as they had apprehensions over whether the state government would interfere in the appointment of a seer of their choice at the matha, sources said.

Sources said that Shivamurthy Sharanaru, on the day of the arrest — 1 September — contacted the chief pontiff of Davangere’s Virakta Matha, Mahanta Rudreshwara Swami, and directed him to take care of the administrative work of the Murugha Matha as well, until further arrangements could be made.

On Saturday, the letter signed by jailed seer reached the management committee and the advisory committee, who then appointed Basavaprabhu Swami the interim chief after obtaining permission from the high court.

Meanwhile, Murugha Matha secretary Vastramath SB has been granted the General Power of Attorney (GPA) — as approved by the high court — to carry on the day-to-day activities and businesses of the matha and also providing salaries to around 3,000 employees working all over its 150 institutions.

Basavaprabhu Swami has been a pontiff at the Virakta Matha in Davangere since 2008, and has been actively engaged in propagating the Basavanna philosophy. He is a close disciple of Shivamurthy Sharanaru, sources said.

Chief pontiff of Murugha Matha, Shivamurthy Sharanaru was arrested on 1 September amid huge protests after he was accused of sexually abusing two minor girls who were staying at the Akkamahadevi Hostel within the matha’s premises.

The two minor girls had approached the Mysuru-based NGO Odanadi Seva Samthe and shared their ordeal.

The NGO members took the victims to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Mysuru, where their statements were recorded.

After this, a formal complaint was filed with the jurisdictional Nazarbad police, who registered an FIR on 26 August.

The FIR named the seer as the prime accused and four others — including Rashmi, the hostel warden — for abetting the crime.

The three other accused are a junior pontiff Basavaditya, the matha’s office bearer Paramashivaiah, and an advocate named Gangadharaiah.

On 13 October, another FIR was registered by the Nazarbad police based on a complaint from a 38-year-old single mother alleging that her two minor daughters — now aged 14 and 12 — were also victims of sexual assault at their hostel at the hands of Shivamurthy Sharanaru.

She mentioned two other minor girls known to her daughters in her complaint, claiming they were also victimised.

The cops registered an FIR under sections of the POCSO Act and for rape under the IPC, and booked seven accused members, including the aforementioned five. The two new accused were doorkeepers of the pontiff’s private room — identified as Mahalinga and Karibasappa.

They were accused of Mahalinga and Karibasappa waiting outside the door of the seer’s private room and not allowing anyone to enter, the woman’s complaint stated.