A file photo of former BJP party  MP Chinmayanand 20190902
A file photo of former BJP party MP Chinmayanand. Image Credit: PTI

Nobody knows his real name. He was born in Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh, into the royal family of Avadh in the year India gained independence. He renounced royalty to become an ascetic but then joined politics and now runs educational institutions, ashrams. And he is not new to controversies, including rape.

The latest one involves a female student at a college run by Chinmayanand's trust who posted a video on social media alleging that a "senior leader of the sant community" was harassing and threatening to kill her. India top court has on Monday ordered a special investigation team probe in to the matter.

Who is Chinmayanand?

This 72-year-old man wears many hats. He is a politician, a saint, an educationist, a tantric, a Yoga guru, a philosopher and also an editor.

Born in Gonda district into the royal family of Avadh in 1947, Chinmayanand's real name remains under wraps. He did his masters from Lucknow University and then renounced royalty to lead an ascetic life.

However, when sainthood befriended politics during the Ayodhya movement, Chinmayanand was one of the first saints who took to politics.

On November 9, 1989, when Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders prepared to perform 'shilanyas' in Ayodhya and lay the foundation for the 'proposed grand temple' there, it was Chinmayanand who played the role of master of ceremonies.

He contested and won the 1999 Lok Sabha election from Jaunpur and went on to become a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

In between, Chinmayanand set up several educational institutions in Shahjahanpur, the Swami Shukdevanand Post Graduate College (known as SS College) being one of them.

Chinmayanand runs these colleges in various capacities (trustee and manager). He also became the editor of two monthly magazines - Pramarath and Vivek Rashmi.

Chinmayanand runs an ashram in Shahjahanpur and five colleges in the town. He also runs ashrams in Haridwar and Rishikesh.

A former disciple and manager of Mumuksh Ashram, run by Chinmayanand in Shahjahanpur, opened a can of worms in 2011 when she filed a first information report against him, alleging that she had been held captive, raped and assaulted for several years by him.

But Chinmayanand's clout prevented any kind of action against him and the victim finally moved out of Shahjahanpur.

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who shares a good relationship with Chinmayanand, visited the Mumuksh ashram in February 2018.

A month later, in March 2018, the then Additional District Magistrate (administration), Shahjahanpur, Sarvesh Dixit, sent a letter to a senior prosecution officer, directing him to move a petition in court for withdrawal of the case. The plea was turned down by the Chief Judicial Magistrate.

The latest case against him - complaint of sexual harassment by a law student of the SS college - has not surprised anyone in Shahjahanpur.

"Chinmayanand is known for such misdeeds but no one dares to utter a word because of the immense clout that he enjoys in the corridors of power. Journalists who have dared to even try to expose him, have lost their jobs," said a local journalist on condition of anonymity.

It was this clout and his proximity to the chief minister that acted as a deterrent for the police to even try and investigate the complaint of the law student who later fled the city.

Chinmayanand with Yogi Adityanath 20190902
Chinmayanand, left, with then BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, outside Parliament in New Delhi, Aug. 17, 2010. Image Credit: PTI

What's the latest: Supreme Court order

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the sexual harassment allegations made by a female LLM student against Swami Chinmayanand, who runs the college. It also asked the Allahabad High Court to monitor the matter.

A bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi, after interacting with the girl who had gone missing after making the allegations before being traced to Rajasthan, said the girl has expressed grievances and her parents have expressed apprehensions.

"Though we are not forming an opinion on it, but a police officer of Inspector General level should enquire into these grievances," it said.

Additional Solicitor General Vikramjeet Banerjee, appearing for the UP government, said that they were submitting cross-FIRs in the matter. The court replied that the special team constituted will look into both these FIRs.

"We are requesting the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to constitute a bench to monitor the investigation. Since the father of the girl has expressed apprehension (regarding their safety), we direct the Chief Secretary to direct the Superintendent of Police concerned to provide police protection to the family," the court said.

The apex court ordered that the SIT will take note of both the FIRs and proceed in accordance with the law - the first FIR was lodged by the girl's father while the other was filed against the girl, charging her with extortion.

The apex court emphasized that it is not expressing any opinion on the correctness of the charges or otherwise.

"We won't monitor anything here anymore. The court is retaining the matter only for the limited purpose, which is to see her education is continued and not disrupted at any stage. We aren't going to pass any further direction on this suo motu matter," said the court scheduling further hearing on the matter on Wednesday.

The lawyers, who had filed the petition regarding the safety of the girl insisted on recording her statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which entails that any metropolitan magistrate or judicial magistrate may, whether or not he has jurisdiction in the case, record any confession or statement made to him in the course of an investigation under this chapter or under any other law for the time being in force.

However, the court declined to pass any order on this submission.

The UP government counsel informed the court that Delhi Police cannot continue to give protection to the family members in the capital for an unlimited period, therefore, the court should define a time period.

The court agreed to decide on this in the next hearing.

Emphasizing on maintaining the continuity of the girl's education, the apex court directed the UP government to transfer the girl to a different college in the state so ensure continuity in her LL.M course.

The girl had expressed unwillingness to continue her studies at the institute. She also asked the court to transfer her younger brother, who is also at the same institute. Both siblings want to pursue studies at a different college. The apex court directed the UP government make these arrangements as soon as possible.

The Supreme Court, had on last Thursday, decided to take up the case after lawyers raised concerns that it could turn into another Unnao case where powerful Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar - expelled only recently from the party - is accused of raping a minor girl from his village in 2017 and conspiring to murder her in a recent car crash.

After the apex court order, it is likely that the SIT will probe the college, the individuals named in the complaints, and then ascertain the correctness of the allegations.

How it all started

A law student from SS Law College in Shahjahanpur posted a video on the social media alleging that Swami Chinmayanand, who is the director of her college, is threatening to eliminate her and her family because she has evidence that could land him in trouble.

The girl sought the help of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the video.

"I am (name withheld) from Shahjahanpur and am pursuing LL.M from SS College. A big leader of the saint society, who has destroyed the lives of several girls, has been threatening me with (my) life. I have all the evidences against him. I request Modi ji and Yogi ji to please help me. He has even threatened to kill my family.

"Only I know what I have been going through. Modi ji please help me, he is a sanyasi and is threatening that the police, district magistrate and everyone else is on his side and no one can harm him. I request you all for justice."

The video was posted on social media on August 23 and the girl has been missing since August 24.

Her father has given a written complaint against Chinmayanand but the police are yet to lodge a case.

Her mother told reporters: "My daughter came home on Raksha Bandhan. I asked her why her phone remained switched off so frequently. She said, 'If my phone goes off for a longer duration then understand that I am in trouble. My phone will go off only when it is not in my hands'. My girl was going through a lot of pain and trouble but did not divulge much. She told me she was being sent to Nainital by her college administration."

The father of the girl has alleged that he has been trying to contact her for many days but she is untraceable.

"My daughter never told me anything personally. She looked worried when she was home on Raksha Bandhan. She has been missing since four days. I have given a written complaint against college director Swami Chinmayanand but no action has been taken yet," he said.

(With inputs from IANS)