Pune: The allegations of the mother of a 29-year-old missing software engineer could pose yet another problem for self-styled godman Asaram Bapu. The electronics engineer, Amit Chitale, who visited Asaram’s Haripur Kala Ashram at Uttarakhand for satsang in May, went missing under mysterious circumstances.
While the ashram authorities claimed that Amit drowned in the Ganga, Amit’s mother Rekha alleged that her son is a victim of a conspiracy. She claims her son might have come across some ‘secret’ of Asaram and in order to hush up the matter they could have confined or kidnapped him.
While Rekha resides in Thane, she is employed at a bank in Pune. She said, “My son was an ardent follower of Bapu and had attended several satsangs in the past. In the third week of May, Amit had gone to the Haripur ashram for satsang. On May 29 morning, Amit sent an SMS to my daughter’s mobile phone saying he is going for ‘maun vrat’ (period of silence) and would not be available for the next couple of days. My daughter replied to the SMS and asked for how many days he will not be available. However, she did not get any reply.”
“After two hours, we got a call from the Ashram authorities informing us that Amit had gone missing from the Ashram. Initially, we thought he might have gone with his friends in the area. On May 30, we called up on Amit’s mobile but the call was received by an Ashram sadhak who said Amit had drowned in the Ganga and a search operation is on. Then, my husband, brother-in-law, daughter and I rushed to the ashram. The ashram authorities said that the police, along with the ashram’s people, had searched for Amit in the river but could not find him. Later, we searched in the nearby area, but in vain.” she said.
Rekha added, “We were suspicious of the ashram’s authorities behaviour as they were telling us: Aap ka beta acha aadmi tha. Us ko moksha prapt hua hain (Your son was a good person. He has been liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth). Thereafter, we lodged a missing person complaint at Raiwala police station.”
According to Rekha, Amit was a core member disciple of Asaram and was close to him. The ashram authorities had given him a laptop and he used to look after their medicine supply at the ashram.
Rekha added, “If my son had drowned in the river, his body should have been found after a few days, but it did not happen. Second, if my son was with four friends including two girls then where are the friends? Did not they try to save my son’s life? All questions have become a big mystery for us.”
Meanwhile, ashram authorities claimed Amit was staying in a private quarters and not in the ashram. Central media in-charge Sunil Wankhede of Sant Shri Asaram Bapu Ashram said, “Amit was not staying at the ashram. He used to come frequently for satsang but was not close to Bapu. He was like any ordinary sadhak.”
Wankhede claimed, “After coming to know about the drowning incident from other sadhaks who were present at the spot, we immediately informed the police and local swimmers to rescue him. However, we could not succeed. The search operation lasted for 36 hours, but in vain.”
Inspector Mahadev Puniyal of Raiwala police station, who is investigating the case, said, “After the incident, we came to know from the ashram authorities that Amit was staying at the ashram and used to come frequently for satsang programme.”
When asked if Amit was a core member of the Asaram ashram, Puniyal said, “We don’t have much idea about it. We will have to probe this.”
DNA/ Sandip Dighe