India : Temple town reels under sex scandal
Police have arrested a 35- year- old priest after they got hold of a CD – which was selling like hot cakes – showing his sexual exploits inside the temple precincts…
For a town of a thousand temples, a sex scandal, that too one involving a priest, has come as a shocker. About 75km from Chennai and perched on the edge of the booming industrial hub of Sriperumbudur, Kanchee puram is yet to recover from the brazenness of 35- yearold Devanathan, who allegedly played out his “ unholy” acts in the sanctum sanctorum of the Maheswarar temple.
Police picked up the man in first week of November after they got hold of a CD showing his sexual exploits within the temple’s precincts. Copies of the CD had apparently sold like hot cakes in the town famous for its “ kancheevaram” silks.
With the media splashing salacious details of his relationships with a series of women, apparently from varied socioeconomic backgrounds, the issue continues to rock the local community which comprises weavers and families associated with the management of the temples that crowd its landscape.
With some of the women now accusing the priest of rape, the case which was initially based on obscenity was transferred on Tuesday from the town’s police force to the district crime branch for investigation.
Clearly, what’s made the incident sensational are its voyeuristic and exhibitionistic aspects which seem out of place in a small town known for its orthodox traditions.
Many more victims
Police say the priest allegedly threatened and sexually assaulted at least 30 women. Among the victims who approached the police is a 30- year- old woman, Malar ( name changed), wife of a school teacher, living close to the temple. She complained that priest had drugged her before raping her inside the temple.
She alleged that the priest had blackmailed her by recording footage of their sexual act on his mobile phone, and forced her to have sex with him on several occasions later. Malar accused the priest of threatening to tell her husband about the relation if she failed to “ co- operate” . The priest would apparently visit her house requesting for milk to do a puja, as a way of communicating his desire to meet her at the temple.
“ We have questioned Malar and recorded her statement,” Siva Kanchi police inspector S. Pattabiram told The Times of India . Following her revelations, the police booked the priest for rape on Monday. “ There are many more victims to be questioned. We will submit the case diary and statements recorded by the local police station in connection with the case to DCB officials formally in a couple of days, ” Pattabiram added. Devanathan, a father of two, has meanwhile been remanded in judicial custody and is now lodged in the Vellore prison.
The incident has sparked a sense of outrage among denizens of the temple town. S Mahesh, a member of a local activist group called the Kanchi Makkal Mantram, said his organisation condemned the incident and was planning “ a door- to- door campaign to distribute pamphlets to get more people to the streets to protest against the priest.” Other members of the outfit claimed the scandal had triggered off rumours about identities of other women, who were videographed by the priest.
Talk that CDs were being circulated in the town had caused much anguish. Manoharan, a resident of Siva Kanchi close to Maheswarar Temple, said, “ I have been living in the locality for more than eight years. We believe this temple is very powerful. Many women visit it. I have seen the priest distributing special puja ‘ prasadham’ to young women and girls.” Police are probing to check if the priest had video- recorded sexual acts with his victims and then handed them over to an accomplice running a video shop in Kancheepuram. His accomplice had allegedly made copies of CDs and circulated it in Kanchee puram and other areas.
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