Chandigarh: Day after arrest, eerie silence engulfs ashram at Trilokpur village

Pallavi Singhal
Chandigarh: Day after arrest, eerie silence engulfs ashram at Trilokpur village

The ashram in question at Trilokpur village on Thursday. (Express Photo: Jaipal Singh)

An eerie silence prevails in the ashram at Trilokpur village where two minor girls were allegedly raped by Baba Lakshyanand, a self-styled godman. Painted in a shabby pink, the ashram is a double-story brick building built on approximately 1.5 Kanal land with an open ground where religious discourses are seldom held. The building comprises one hall with four rooms on the ground floor and two on the first floor. Air-conditioner is fitted in one of the rooms, presumably occupied by Lakshyanand.

Chandigarh Newsline team visited this ashram that wore a deserted look on Thursday. Only one man, who refused to divulge his name, was found on the premises. He identified himself as Lakshyanand’s follower for the last 14 years.

Lakshyanand, who was arrested on the charge of raping two minor girls, was sent to judicial custody on Thursday.

The followers of Baba hail from Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, and Haryana. “The baba is not guilty. We knew this at least a month before that this was going to happen. He had told his followers this. He always knows the future and the past. Baba had also said that I will come back unhurt. I am sure everything will be fine soon. His followers will continue to follow him,” the ardent follower said.

People who live in the vicinity of this ashram do not know what kind of teachings he used to give his followers. However, locals claim that at times, police officers and politicians used to visit Lakshyanand.

Trilokpur village is located near Raipurrani, almost five kilometers from the national highway and is known for its Sharda Mata temple. Villagers now feel that Lakshyanand’s alleged act has tarnished the image of their village.

“Lakshyanand has damaged our village’s honor. We had donated this chunk of land to Swami Saroopanand Saraswati about 25 years ago. After his death, the land was lying vacant. Then this Lakshyanand approached us more than a decade ago. A local police officer (now retired) who had a good rapport with us accompanied him. He requested that we should give him this land so that he can perform religious discourses and people can visit the place for meditation. He initially told us that he will stay for three-four months, but he never left. About three-four years ago that same police officer who had accompanied him told us not to talk to him. We did that, but never claimed our land back since we thought that we had donated it for a noble cause,” said a member of the temple trust that had donated the land to Lakshyanand.

Several local men and women claim no knowledge of the activities inside. “We did not know what went on. We are sure no satsangs were done or pravachans happened. Maybe he used to give mantras that they would chant. We definitely would hear women singing kirtans once every few days,” said a woman whose house lies right across the godman’s ashram.

Lakshyanand used to get a continuous stream of almost 10-12 people visiting him every day. The number rises to 100s during Navratras. “We even used to send our girls for Kanjak Poojan. Many people used to come on the occasion who would feed the girls of the town and give them gifts and a lot of money,” said the neighbor, who has a 10-year-old daughter.

The trust of the temple, which had registered the said land under Baba Saroopanand Saraswati, with the name ‘Sanatan sanyasis ashram’, has decided to get the ashram's possession back and conduct a cleansing ritual and is deciding on turning it into a community center. “We will be calling 20-30 priests from nearby villages and carry on a cleaning hawan soon. He is not getting the land back,” a priest said.

Lakshyanand was booked by the Panchkula police Tuesday night after two minors had alleged rape for three days at the ashram. He was arrested late on Wednesday and was produced in court on Thursday after which he was sent to judicial custody. The accused is a native of Budgaon village of Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

The medico-legal report of the minors that took place on Tuesday night at the Civil Hospital of Panchkula had stated that “the possibility of sexual assault cannot be ruled out”. The reports of the tests have further been sent to FSL at Madhuban in Haryana for testing along with the victim’s clothes.

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