THE TRUE STORY OF THE CASE AGAINST SWAMI PREMANANDA AS TOLD BY ARULJOTHI

 

Aruljothi (2002)

Aruljothi

I want to take this opportunity to tell all the people of the world what happened to me. Not only I and the other girls but Swamiji and those accused with him have become victims of the greed, violence and wickedness of human nature.

My mother was alone and very poor and so gave my elder sister, my younger brother and myself into the care of Swami Premananda and we grew up with him and many other young Sri Lankans, who came from similar backgrounds. We were residents of the Poobalakrishna Ashram and Orphanage in Matale, Sri Lanka. I came to India in 1985. Swamiji and other Ashram people brought us up with care and love. From the age of two I lived in the Ashram in Sri Lanka and India with Swamiji along with the other orphan children until the terrible events of November 1994 when Swamiji was arrested.

After the opening of the Ashram in India in 1989, many people started to come there from all over the world and the Ashram was busy from early morning until night. It was at that time that some Ashram inmates and a few outsiders felt dissatisfied and they started plotting to spoil Swamiji’s name.

There was for example, the girl Suresh Kumari. She always felt she was not pretty or slim like the other girls. She always was an extremely jealous person. She never liked the spiritual environment. She always wanted to have many sensual enjoyments. It was a shame, because she is a clever girl and she has some very good qualities too. She sang great bhajans and she is a good group leader. Like anyone else she had some faults and these were used by the adults who influenced and corrupted her.

Another one was Mr. Ambikananthan. He was a devotee who lived in the Ashram with his family. Swamiji helped him by giving him a house to live in and financial assistance. However, Ambikananthan always thought he should have some high position in the Ashram but Swamiji never gives status to those who want it. He only gives higher positions to the humble and the good at heart who will not misuse their power.

Then there was Anand Mohan, an alcoholic and drug-addict. He wanted to marry a foreign devotee from Germany. However Swamiji advised this lady not to marry Anand. This made him very bitter against Swamiji and he wanted revenge.

A third adult, Mark Dennis, was a young American. Mark seemed to feel rejected when Swamiji did not give him sannyas initation like to some others and apparently was very upset with Swamiji. Ambikananthan, Anand Mohan and Mark tried to influence some of the girls against Swamiji. They did not take them seriously, but Suresh Kumari and another woman called Latha (who was actually in her thirties and not a young girl) fell in with their terrible plan to ruin Swamiji and the Ashram.

It was Anand Mohan and Mark who took Suresh Kumari and Latha away from the Ashram. There they gave false stories to the newspapers about Swamiji. These were terrible stories and everything they said is an outright lie. The newspapers and magazines throughout India suddenly put Swamiji all over their front pages with these wicked untruths. Then they suddenly published articles that he had raped all the other big girls in the Ashram.

We were so upset. I can never forget Swamiji’s birthday on 17th November 1994. More than 2,000 devotees came. Many had come to show their support for Swamiji in the face of the onslaught against him from the press. Many reporters also came. We older girls were crying and crying. Suddenly our simple and pleasant lives were shattered.

On 18th November more than one hundred police officers with guns came to our holy Ashram. That night policewomen questioned us girls. They wanted us to say that Swamiji raped us. How could we say that? It was an outrageous and wicked thing to say. We were brought up to always speak the truth. On 19th November they arrested Swamiji and took him away. We were crying and screaming when they took him. It was like a nightmare. The next day they came and made us girls go as well. We did not take any clothes or personal things but I thought it did not matter because the police said it was just routine. We only had to give a statement and then we could come back to the Ashram by lunchtime. But what was the dreadful reality? I was not allowed to see my home again until March 1997! My whole life changed and I became a victim – not of Swami Premananda, but of the police and those whom they influenced.

Our nightmare began at the Pudukkottai Ladies’ Police station. There women forced us to take off our clothes and we were so afraid and so ashamed because we had to stand naked in public. Above, on the balcony, there were men watching us. The policewomen pricked us under our fingernails with long pins. They tortured us and beat us severely with their hands and with sticks to make us say Swamiji molested us. They had taken us away to do these terrible things to us yet in the Judgment it states that if we had been examined in the Ashram (it is Indian Law that a woman should be questioned where she is living), we would have been under the powerful influence of Swamiji and would not have told the truth.

To quote the Judgment, “Without delay in the examination of the girls they were examined in the All Women Police Station which of course provided a conductive atmosphere for the examination (…) The Counsel for the first accused made an eloquent plea that third degree methods were used on the girls while they were in All Women Police Station and hence the evidence of the Victims is seriously impaired. Reliance was sought to be placed upon the Statement of P.W.14 – Aruljothi. No doubt in Ex.D.10, P.W. 14 – Aruljothi had stated: “After the police beat us, myself and the other girls said that we were raped by Swami Premananda.” Even if any such force was used, such use of mild force might have been essential to bring the Victims out of their self-imposed reluctance and remove them from the fear or grip. Such use of mild force was not to instill fear in the victims impairing their evidentiary value.”

As you can see, the Judge, therefore, admits that I told the truth in Court right at the beginning of the proceedings in January 1995. It also admits that force was used on us but it is not true that it was mild. I repeat, for truth’s sake, that we were beaten, tortured and subjected to other terrible sexual humiliations by the police women. I can even tell you their names. I never in my life heard of rape victims having to be beaten to say that they were victims! Only at the hands of the police we became victims.

They kept us all for 15 days in one small, dark room. Their sole motive was to force us to say that Swamiji raped us and did other awful things to us. They pressured us into signing blank papers and they wrote on them what they liked. Some girls were so badly beaten that they fainted. Others were screaming in pain. This was because we all refused to tell lies about Swamiji. They threatened us continuously. Of course, we were all shouting and praying out loud to Swamiji. If we said his name they beat us all the more. We did not know if it was day or night. Some girls, such as Vellayamma and Lilismary, were only schoolgirls and they hit them really hard.

They forced us to go to the Pudukkottai Rani Hospital. Without the consent of any senior person they made us undergo medical tests. The worst thing was the virginity test. It was so humiliating. How they are allowed to do such things I cannot understand. Some girls had parents in Trichy. The police never called them or took their permission to do these tests. What is more, it was done in a barbaric, unhygienic and very cruel way. They held us down and pushed wooden sticks the size of a pencil into our private parts. We were naked from the waist down and screaming pain. Many of us were bleeding. It was like being assaulted. A lot of people were watching. Then, to make matters worse, they published their false results about these tests in the newspapers. More and more damage for us all.

They told us they would take us back to the Ashram but they lied and as we left Pudukkottai we found we were on the road to Madras. This was the beginning of two and half years of lies and shame. The police took us to a home called Udavum Karangal (a poor people’s home- it’s name means helping hands). It was run by a Mr. Vidyakar. There they told us that the Ashram had been closed and everyone had been sent to refugee camps.

The policeman who seemed to have organized all this terror, Inspector Kuppuswamy, said that if we gave evidence against Swamiji we would each get 500,000 rupees (five lakhs), two acres of land, gold jewellery and lots of clothes from the government. Some of us said we wanted to die and one girl, Princy, tried to hang herself from the fan in the room. Then they placed a constant guard with us.

Then, for some reason, they singled me out for special treatment. Because of the repeated beatings of the police I became really ill in January 1995. I had severe diarrhea and I was very ill in bed. I was taken to hospital where I was given saline. Kuppuswamy and Vidyakar forced me to sign a letter to a Judge in Madras High Court saying that Swamiji had raped me several times just before his arrest and now I was three months pregnant. Inspector Kuppuswamy and Vidyakar said that if I did not sign this letter and other documents then they would severely beat me. Then they forced me to go to Court and say these things. It was extensively reported by the Indian Express who wanted to establish that their sensational articles about Swamiji since November 1994 were true.

This sensational story made headlines for months. My picture and story were in every magazine. Posters of me were all over South India. Some magazines cut out pictures of me and stuck them on Swamiji’s picture and made it look like I was sitting on his knee. Later they did even worse – they sent a foetus of a baby for DNA testing and said the child was mine and Swamiji’s. This means that their report was entirely a fabrication and lies.

We were imprisoned in Udavum Karangal homes for two years. There, Vidyakar was very violent with us. Months before we were due to give evidence we were moved to another destitute home in Pudukkottai called Steps. There we were systematically trained to give false stories of the most disgusting nature against Swamiji. Surprisingly, this was done by the lawyers acting on behalf of the police – two ladies (Sudha Ramalingam and Vasuki) and Mr. Sukumaran and Muraleedharan. Even more shockingly, the official Public Prosecutor, Mr. Varadarajan, took part in this fiasco, from which you can understand that entire the trial was staged on his part. We had to memorize our lines all night and then repeat them to Inspector Kuppuswamy and the lawyers. It was during this time that Kuppuswamy attacked me, hitting directly on my eyes with his fists. To this day I suffer from swelling and reddening of the eyes due to this assault. If we did not say our false evidence correctly we were beaten and not given anything to eat.

At the time of the trial it was terrible for us to see Swamiji and the others who were accused from the Ashram. I felt as if my entire life was gone – and theirs too.

The police said that if we went against them and spoke the truth they would break our bones and put us in a house for prostitutes. They said there was nowhere for us to go and no-one wanted us because the Ashram was closed. I gave my false evidence with the greatest sorrow.

The day after I gave evidence, the police thought I had plans to escape and so I was taken to my sister’s house in Thanjavur and kept under police guard. After the wrong evidence of us girls was recorded in court we came to know that the Ashram was open, running well and everyone was there! Then I was told that because of the defence about the DNA case involving my “pregnancy”, I was to be called to court again. Now I felt very strong and my mind saw a ray of hope. Judge Banumathy said that there was a High Court order to re-test my blood and I should give the blood again.

I took my last chance…I refused and said, “Why should I give my blood? Swamiji never raped me and I certainly never had sexual relations with him. I want to go back to the Ashram – Now!” And that day itself I returned there.

It is a great shame that my telling the truth (and also that so many of my “sisters” who were also the victims of the police and who have also now declared the truth) so far has proved useless. Will anyone listen to us? Or as in my case, will the Court say we were telling the truth about rape and lying that we were forced to speak against Swamiji?

ARULJOTHI