Asaram Bapu, who was arrested in 2013, was recently in the news again when police asked the Rajasthan High Court to continue his trial within jail premises on August 3. The plea cited that his followers were trying to hamper court proceedings. The 75-year-old was arrested when a minor girl accused him of sexual assault while at his ashram in Jodhpur.
It's not the first time that Asaram's followers flaunt their devotion by saying that he can do no wrong. On Twitter, his followers often stir up a storm by flooding timelines with tweets seeking justice for the godman. The sheer volume of tweets, most of them retweeted, ensures that the hashtag shows up in the top trending list, at least once a week.
Nyay ki aas
The hashtag #न्याय की आस (yearning for justice) is the latest to trend, starting late afternoon on August 5, counting at more than 2,000 tweets per hour. Previous hashtags used include #StopInjustice, #WhyBapujiTargeted, #iSupportAsaramBapu, #WeUrgeBailForBapuji, and #MisuseOfRapeLaw.
Tweets blame victim, media, other religions
A round-up of tweets in favour of Asaram pins him as a misunderstood saint. According to them, he has been falsely accused by the girl, framed by the media, and is a victim of anti-Hindu propaganda. Twitterati also used his case to pledge against anti-rape and POCSO laws, which they claim is used by women to trap innocent men.
Possibility of a planned campaign
While there is no proof, several regional newspapers claim that Asaram has scores of tweeters who are paid salary to tweet all day calling for justice. The well-worded hashtags, collection of photos and videos claiming to be proof of his innocence, the timing and dedicated followers could look like a planned campaign. The tweets are not original, new content either, but are replugged content published at least a year back.
While most politicians kept their distance from the case, Subramanian Swamy has been openly campaigning for Asaram's justice from the time of his arrest. On April 1, 2015, Swamy tweeted that the case against Asaram was 'bogus' and that he would be working on getting bail for him. With nearly 3,000 retweets and 2,500 likes, Asaram's followers have taken his word for it. However, in 2015, he had reportedly failed to show up in court for four bail plea hearings. Before him, Ram Jethmalani and Salman Khurshid had tried to secure bail for the godman.
Dragged for three years
His arrest in 2013 was a shocker to the nation. But instead of a fast-track approach, the case has stretched over three years, with no verdict in sight. More recently, one of his aides was put into 14 days of judicial custody, after confessing that he provided arms to Asaram's henchman who murdered a prime witness.