PEOPLE TAINTED BY THE CASE

This section contains the accounts of the experiences of only a few of the people of Sri Premananda Ashram in 1994 who were abused by the police:

Dr. Chandradevi Kamalanathan is a qualified doctor who had a senior post in a major private hospital in Trichy. She is a devotee of Swami Premananda and was living in Sri Premananda Ashram when she was arrested and charged with abetting rape and performing abortions. From jail, she wrote a letter to the Judge at the Sessions Court, Pudukkottai:

“I am suffering imprisonment for the past 14 months without committing any offence…I was asked by the CB CID Inspector Kuppuswamy to become an Approver saying lies about Swami Premananda, for which the reward will be immediate bail…but if I do not, he says he will see that I am not allowed out of prison, even on bail…I am unable to speak lies just to come out of prison… Whatever the papers flash did not happen in the Ashram where prayers and service are done regularly.”

Mrs. Vinayaga Soundary Raman, Swami Premananda’s elder sister was taken to Thuvaramkurichi Police Station on 20.11.94. She states:

“I witnessed policemen with a large stick hitting the Ashram secretary, Swami Kamalananda. On that first day I heard the policemen beating Ashram boy Paul Nesan (who was later to become a prime witness and approver in the murder case). I heard him crying out. They were forcing him to give statements against my brother, Swami Premananda.”

Sam Perera, devotee of Swami Premananda, then aged 28, talks about being tortured by the police:

“I came here for spiritual purposes. I was in charge of audio and video recording for devotional songs and speeches during functions. The police tried to force me to say that I made pornographic cassettes and they wanted me to give evidence against Swamiji. They questioned me daily from 18th to 24th November. On 24th suddenly Inspector Kasturi Gandhi beat me for no reason. I blocked his hand in self-defence. He called nine other policemen with sticks. They beat me with the sticks non-stop for 30 minutes. They broke seven sticks on me. I did not retaliate because they were police officers. I really thought that they were going to murder me. They did not want the truth, they only wanted me to give evidence against Swamiji. I kept telling them that I did not do such things but they just kept on beating me.

My body was wracked with pain and full of blood. They took me to the police station in Trichy. I could not move, sit or sleep for 7 days and they gave me no treatment. I wore the same clothes. No doctor came. Some constables gave me food but I could not move my hands or mouth to eat. They created photos of Swamiji by cutting out women’s pictures and putting them next to a picture of Swamiji and tried to force me to say I took them. By now I had high fever and they started slapping me again. They then got frightened because a lot of blood started to come from piles in my anus. Only then they consulted a doctor who gave some medicine. I was there until 5th December. I was in the prison with the approver Ambikananthan. He was very friendly with the policemen and he would say or do whatever they said.”

Doris Alber, Italian National, then aged 23 states:

“I witnessed the investigations of CB CID Inspectors Palaniswamy and Kuppuswamy and their staff. I watched them beating the young ashram boys with sticks. I saw the boys kneeling in front of Palaniswami whilst he questioned them. From time to time he kicked them in the face and stomach with his heavy, pointed shoes. I also witnessed the police mercilessly beating Sam Perera.”

Kumari T, then aged 17, states:

“I was forcibly taken by the police from the Ashram despite the fact that I was living there with my family. All the girls said that Swamiji had never raped them but the police women got angry and took off the girls clothes and beat them saying that the girls should say that Swami raped them. They hammered them horribly with sticks and fists. They hit them all over their bodies when they were without clothes. They would ask a question and then hit them. They woke us up in the night and when we were sleepy they would interrogate us. They asked us to sign papers many times. There was one sentence on the papers and after that they wrote what they wanted. If we refused to sign they would hit us.”

“They did barbaric virginity test on us without informing or taking permission from our parents. There were 8 lady doctors, 4 for one girl. They put cotton wool on eekal sticks (long thin sticks from sweeping brooms made from coconut trees) and they pushed these inside us. They even did it to Lilismary, who is only 14. It hurt a lot. Outside the hospital there were big crowds watching us go in and out because of the newspaper reports. We were all traumatized by these acts.”

This statement was corroborated by Aruljothi, Mallika, Udaya, Kanchana, Vellayamma and Lilismary. The results of these so-called “virginity tests” were published in the media, saying that all the girls were not virgins.

“My father had to go to Court to get me back. The lawyers, Miss Vasuki and Miss Sudha from the Women’s Organization told me and Vellayamma not to listen to our parents and that we should say we would not come home for 6 months. They said the Ashram people were threatening to kill us.”

Vellayamma was just a 15-year-old schoolgirl living in the hostel, when the police forced her to leave the Ashram and she states:

“The police hit me again and again with a big stick and with their hands. They said, ‘We are waiting for you to say that Swami raped you. We will hit you until you say this.’ They beat us every day for 8 days. The lady lawyers Sudha and Vasuki said that if I return to the Ashram I could not continue my education because they had taken my transfer certificate (entitling her to study at school). However, my mother and father came to take me from Court and the judge allowed me to speak to them before the hearing. I have known Swami Premananda for 4 years. He is a very good person and that is why I like to stay in Sri Premananda Ashram.”

Srikanthan Arumugam and his two sisters, Mallika and Udaya, were brought up by Swami Premananda from early childhood. His harrowing story follows:

“My sisters were forcibly taken by the police to Udavum Karangal destitute home in Madras. I got permission from the Superintendent of Police on 10.1.95 to see my sisters. I was so worried – I was only 22 years old. Two policewomen and the head of the home, Vidyakar, said I could not go near them. They allowed me to see them from a distance for 3 minutes and they were crying the whole time. Vidyakar told me to come back in 10 days time. Again I got permission from the Superintendent. I was told to go to the AIDWA (women’s rights group) police office and wait. Anand Mohan, who first lured Suresh Kumari out of the Ashram was there (the girl who first said she was raped by Swami Premananda). Everyone knows he is an alcoholic and drug addict. He told me that Swamiji was going to be hanged and that if I would side with the police, they would give me a house, a nice job and money. I said that I only wanted to see my sisters. The police said that I would have to apply in Court. They took me to Egmore Court in the evening. There the judge announced that I was in India without being registered (which is not true – I was registered through the Ashram as were all the Sri Lankans there). They put me in jail from 21.1.95 to 16.11.95. I then got bail and was released from prison. In December, CB CID agents Mohan and Saravanan grabbed me and beat me up forcing me to sign blank papers in evidence against Swami…They forced me to stay in a refugee camp. Later I could return to the Ashram…I was worried about my sisters and had not heard from them for one year. I went to the Pudukkottai Court where the police grabbed me again and kept me for 4 days without any reason. Inspector Kuppuswamy assaulted me repeatedly and said that if I did not give evidence against Swamiji, they would send my sisters to Bombay as prostitutes. I pretended to give in so I could see my sisters. My sisters then told me that the police had upset them terribly saying that if they did not give evidence against Swami, they would kill me and throw my body in the Koovam River, the big drain in the city of Chennai.

Finally, I told the truth in court that Swamiji had never raped any girls, nor murdered anyone, but Judge Banumathy and the members of the prosecution laughed at me and rejected my evidence.”

N.B. after the Sessions Court trial both sisters, Mallika and Udaya, filed affidavits in court that they had been tortured by the police and forced to give false evidence against Swami Premananda. Both are now married and live in the Ashram.