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Delhi police raid ‘spiritual university’ and find women behind locked doors

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Delhi police raid ‘spiritual university’ and find Women behind locked doors” was written by Michael Safi in Delhi, for The Guardian on Thursday 21st December 2017 18.36 Asia/Kolkata

Police in Delhi have discovered a “spiritual university” in the north-west of the city where inspectors say up to 200 women and girls are being held behind a series of locked doors.

Conditions inside the building were “shocking”, said Swati Maliwal, the Delhi commissioner for women, who took part in a raid on the four-storey facility this week.

“It was like a fortress,” Maliwal said. “Once we managed to enter we could only walk four steps to another metallic gate, and then five steps later another huge locked gate.

“It was full of hidden cells. The entire structure was built in a maze-like fashion,” she said.

Women at the compound appeared dazed and drugged and some remonstrated with police, Maliwal added.

Huge quantities of syringes and drugs were strewn about the facility, which has been operating for about 25 years.

Maliwal said she tried one of the liquids being administered to the women and “for two hours I was dizzy”.

The Delhi high court ordered the raid on Tuesday in response to a petition by an NGO claiming girls and women were being kept in “animal-like conditions”.

The NGO helped one girl give evidence before the court claiming she had been raped at the facility before escaping.

Maliwal said she found “stacks of sexually explicit letters” written by women at the ashram to its leader, a self-styled guru named Virender Dev Dixit. Dixit has been summoned to appear before the high court.

Related: Ram Rahim Singh: fatal clashes follow Indian guru’s rape conviction

The court compared the case to that of Ram Rahim Singh, a flamboyant “godman” who was convicted of raping two of his followers in August.

His conviction sparked riots and arson attacks by some of the thousands of followers who lived with Rahim on a sprawling campus in Haryana state.

Maliwal said she feared similar facilities were being run by the same group across India as sites for sexual exploitation.

Many women at the facility were refusing to leave, but efforts were being made to remove girls who appeared to be minors, Maliwal added.

A staff member at the facility has denied any wrongdoing, telling the Indian Express: “We have written documents from the women which had also been sent to the local police stations in their villages.

“They want to stay here on their own will and are being fed well, and taught yoga and Atharva gyan [Vedic wisdom].”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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