India

Asaram Bapu: India guru in custody over 'sex assault'

Asaram Bapu after his arrest in Jodhpur on 1 September 2013
Image caption Asaram Bapu has denied the charge and says he is innocent

A court has remanded controversial Indian spiritual guru Asaram Bapu in custody for 14 days over alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl.

He has filed a bail petition, which the court will hear on Tuesday.

Asaram Bapu has denied the charge and says he is innocent.

Earlier this year, he was criticised for saying the victim of the fatal Delhi gang rape would have been set free had she called her attackers brothers and pleaded for mercy.

His views caused outrage among many Indians.

The 72-year-old guru - whose main ashram (religious centre) is in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state - has millions of followers in India and he is hugely popular for his discourses on Hindu religion and religious practices.

He was arrested at his ashram in the central city of Indore on Saturday night and flown on Sunday to Jodhpur city, in the western state of Rajasthan, where the alleged assault took place.

His arrest has sparked protests by his supporters in several cities, who say the charges are politically motivated.

But protests have also been held against Asaram, with many demanding that he should be treated in the same way as other rape suspects.

The girl's family say they have been followers of the controversial guru for 12 years.

In their complaint to the police, the family alleged that Asaram Bapu asked the teenager to stay back after prayers last week and assaulted her while her mother waited outside.

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