By Paras Ramaoutar
Port-of-Spain (Trinidad) : A Hindu missionary from India, charged with raping a young woman at his centre in south Trinidad, has been granted $8,000 bail by a local court. The accused also had to surrender his passport to the police.
Kripalaji Maharaj, the 85-year-old swami from Uttar Pradesh, was charged Sunday with raping a 22-year-old Guyanese woman at his centre in Phillipne, south Trinidad. She had gone to seek spiritual assistance and guidance from the swami when she was raped, according to complaints filed by the victim.
The complainant told the police that the visiting swami assaulted her Saturday night when she visited him. However, the swami speaking through an interpreter denied the charges.
The swami was dressed in saffron colour robe and shared his seat in the dock with the people accused on charges of several serious crimes. Defence attorney Prakash Ramadhar told the court that the swami is ill.
"This is scandalous. He is a 'jagadguru' (world teacher). He has been a sage all his life. He has a great following in Trinidad and travels all over the world.
To say he is a flight risk is really embarrassing for him," Ramadhar told the hushed court with scores of his devotees in attendance.
Earlier, the prosecutor objected to bail saying that he was a flight risk.
Ramadhar told the court that the swami was married and father of five children, all of whom are over 50 years old.
In recent years, there has been an avalanche of Hindu missionaries coming from India and have been setting up local chapters of their India-based organisations.
The swami is due to reappear in the court on May 29.