Bengaluru: Despite being right under their nose, the Karnataka Police Thursday issued a lookout notice against Lingayat seer Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, accused in an alleged sexual assault case involving minors, media reports indicated.
Sources said that the notice has been issued to make sure that any individual who is ‘absconding’ or wanted by law enforcement agencies is not able to leave the country. The notice against the seer has been issued to all immigration checkpoints such as international airports and seaports even as he continues to be present in the Murugha mutt in Chitradurga, a few kilometres away from Bengaluru.
Though the seer is the primary accused in the FIR registered last week, the chief warden of mutt’s hostel has been detained by the police as criticism against the police and government inaction mounted.
Sources said the seer is also likely to be questioned in the next couple of days even as his bail petition has been deferred. The seer is likely to be questioned only after the interrogation of the warden is completed.
In another move, the mutt has reportedly put the blame for the conspiracy on the seer’s childhood friend and former administrator of the Murugha mutt, SK Basavarajan, and his wife. A counter complaint of rape and kidnap case has been registered against Basavarajan by the warden of Muruga mutt, Rashmi.
Basavarajan and Shivamurthy are from the same village and they belong to the Jangamaru community of the Lingayat. They had joined the mutt in the same year and Basavarajan was supposed to become the next chief pontiff of the mutt. However, he fell in love with Sowbhagya and left the mutt. Shivamurthy Sharanaru then took over the mantle.
Basavarajan and Sowbhagya were appointed as the administrator of the mutt and the former became the signing authority for all transactions at the mutt.
A few years later, Basavarajan was accused of misusing the mutt’s money and was sacked from his position at the mutt in 2007. He became an MLA in 2008 on a JDS ticket but lost the subsequent elections in the BJP wave.
Basavarajan was then re-inducted as the mutt’s administrator in 2022, 15 years after he was removed. But he didn’t have powers like before.
However, bitterness once again surfaced between Basavarajan and his wife on the one side and the mutt on the other and this forced them to exit the mutt in July.
Sources say that this bitterness has a role in the story even as the police are taking their time to act on the case.
Though booked under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act wherein arrest is a rule, Shivamurthy, an influential Lingayat seer of the Murugha mutt, continues to enjoy special privileges due to his influence over political and social life in the state.
No political party has raised the issue for fear of incurring the displeasure of the numerically powerful Lingayat community since Assembly elections are just eight months away. The BJP and the Opposition Congress have chosen to remain mute. Last month, the seer was visited by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, on whom he conferred the ‘Ishtalinga Deekshe’ – a ceremony that made Gandhi a Lingayat.
The case pertains to two girls, studying at a school run by the Lingayat mutt, who were sexually abused for over three-and-a-half-years.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai issued a vague statement saying that the truth will come out. His political mentor and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa went a step further giving a clean chit to the seer.