The police in Shahjahanpur on Tuesday lodged a first information report against former Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Swami Chinmayanand after a student went missing following her allegation in video clip that he had been harassing her.
Her father had lodged a complaint accusing Chinmayanand of sexually harassing her, a charge refuted by his lawyer who claimed it was a 'conspiracy' to blackmail him.
The 72-year-old BJP leader has been booked under Indian Penal Code sections 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) and 506 (criminal intimidation), Shahjahanpur Superintendent of Police S Chanappa said.
In a video clip posted by the woman online, she said she was under threat from the leader of the sant community, without naming Chinmayanand or specifying the kind of harassment she allegedly faced.
But the woman's father on Tuesday alleged that she has gone missing at the behest of the former minister, who heads Mumukshu ashram.
She is a post-graduate student in one of the colleges run by the ashram.
Her father filed a complaint with the police alleging that Chinmayanand and 'some others' sexually abused her and other girls.
Chinmayanand has been a three-time Lok Sabha MP and was a minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
In the video, which went viral on social media on August 24, the woman alleged, "A senior leader of the sant community, who has already destroyed the lives of many girls, is now threatening to kill me."
'My request to (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji and (UP Chief Minister) Yogiji is please help me. He has threatened to kill my family as well.
'Only I know how I am surviving now. Modiji please help me. That 'sanyasi' has the police and the DM in his pocket, and threatens that no one can do anything for me. However, I have evidence against him, and my request is please help me in getting justice,' she claimed.
Chinmayanand's lawyer dismissed the charges made by the woman and her father, saying, "There is not an iota of truth in their claims."
Elaborating on the sequence of events, he told PTI, "On August 22, Swami Chinmayanand got a WhatsApp message on his phone from an unknown number.
"The message said that if you do not give Rs five crore by this evening, then I will make videos viral on news channels. And do not try to act smart, as I have nothing to lose, but your reputation will be lost. Hence, make arrangements to give Rs 5 crore."
Singh, when contacted, said that Chinmayanand sent the screenshot to him, and he then took it to SP Shahjahanpur.
"The police took cognisance of it, and started its job. I was of the view that media should be made aware of this issue, but the police told me not to do so, as the matter seemed to be big and there was a possibility of it being a racket.
"(The police said) if you go public with it, then the racketeers may become alert, and it will be rather difficult to arrest them," he said.
The lawyer also said that on the night of August 24, he went to Kotwali police station in Shahjahanpur to register an FIR.
"It was registered at around 2.25 am on August 25. On August 24 itself, the video of the girl had gone viral. Initially, I thought a big racket was involved. But after seeing the girl and the video, I felt that the WhatsApp threat and the video could be related, as a direct threat was made (to us)," he claimed.
The FIR was lodged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the IT Act against the mobile number which had sent the WhatsApp message, he said.
"The rest of my doubts were cleared when I came to know that the girl's father said that he feared for her life after seeing the video. My only contention is that a girl who is using a mobile phone, moving in a car, making her own videos and uploading them on various social networking websites, how can she be kidnapped," he asked.
Why can't she go to the SSP office or a nearby police station or even contact Dial-100 and lodge her complaint, Singh asked.
"It is entirely a conspiracy to blackmail Swami ji and become a crorepati using shortcuts. When the idea did not work, then an effort was made to tarnish his image as vendetta. There is not an iota of truth in the claims and allegations made by the girl," he said.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Jitin Prasada tweeted in support of the woman, saying she had appealed to the chief minister for protection against harassment.
'Now she has gone missing. Is there no rule of law left in the state,' he asked.