Warrant against Hindu guru convicted of molestation

A US court has issued an arrest warrant against an elderly Hindu religious leader, convicted of molesting two young girls, after he failed to appear before it on the day of his sentencing.

Updated: Mar 08, 2011, 11:35 AM IST

Washington: A US court has issued an
arrest warrant against an elderly Hindu religious leader, convicted of molesting two young girls, after he failed to appear before it on the day of his sentencing.

In a statement, Hays County Sheriff`s office said
it was on the lookout for Prakashanand Saraswati, known to his
devotees as Shree Swamiji and is head of the 200-acre Hindu
ashram in Texas, after the arrest warrant was issued against
him.

Last week, the Texas court convicted in all of the
20 counts following charges by two women Shyama Rose, 30, and
Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer, 27, alleging that Prakashanand tried
to exploit them on numerous occasions over the course of
several years, beginning when they were as young as 12.
The two lived in the campus of the ashram along with
their other family members.

After Prakashanand failed to appear before the court
for more than an hour after the scheduled appointment
yesterday, District Judge Charles Ramsay not only issued an
arrest warrant against him, but also revoked his USD 1 million
bond.

Laurie Bain, the Sheriff`s office spokesperson said
Prakashanand was believed to be in the company of a woman
named Vishwambhari Devi and appealed to residents to contact
the office on any information about his whereabouts.
Since the court is having his passport, it is
unlikely that he left the country.
"Prakashandand failed to appear in court at which
time two felony warrants were issued and signed by Judge
Ramsay for Failure to Appear. Deputies of Hays County are
actively searching for Prakashandand in attempt to execute the
warrants," Bain said.

There was no immediate response to the several phone
calls and the email sent to Aman Agrawal, spokesman of Barsana
Dham, seeking their statement on the issue.

Spread over 200 acres of sprawling campus south of
Austin, Barsana Dham, established by Prakashanand in 1990, is
one of the largest Hindu temples in the United States. Prakashanand also has several charity works in India.

"We have not located our client. We don`t know the
reason for his absence," Jeff Kearney, lead attorney for
Prakashanand, was quoted as saying by the American Statesman
newspaper.

The sentencing has been rescheduled for today.

"Swamiji was very ill over the weekend," Rich Parsons,
a spokesman for Barsana Dham, was quoted as saying.
"We`re continuing to try to find him," he added.

PTI