Vrindavan, 2017.12.28 (VT) Further information has come to light concerning the case of Vasudev Shastri, the so-called Bhagavat Achaya who abused girls who were staying in his ashram.
During their three month stay at the ashram, Shastri secretly took videos of the girls while bathing and threatened that he would make the videos go viral on social media if they told anyone about the abuse. The girls allege that he made them keep a mauna vrat (fast from talking) for ten days running and would beat them if he found out that they spoke. It is alleged that he beat them so severely that one of the girls suffered a broken arm.
The girls stayed in a rented apartment and were not allowed to go outside. The girls told the media that Shastri was always surrounded by several disciples and that they were scared of him. Eventually, they found an escape by persuading neighbours to call their relatives.
The two girls are both from impoverished Maharashtran families. The families of the girls, who have now filed a case against Shastri, allege that he promised to take the girls to Vrindavan to make them into famous Bhagavat speakers. Dreaming of touring India and the world, the girls and their families believed him. The girl’s families were also willing to believe that Shastri could make the girls rich and famous, because he was generous with them and flaunted his wealth.
Vrindavan resident Giriraj Sharma said, “These cases are really giving a bad name to Vrindavan. Every year, thousands of Brahmin boys come to Vrindavan to study Bhagavatam and music. This has been going on for hundreds of generations and helps to continue the tradition of Bhagavat Katha [talks by religious leaders explaining Srimad Bhagavatam, etc]. But families need to check the background of the preacher and ashram. In this case, there was cause for suspicion because Shastri has a website that describes him as a ‘love astrologer’.”
Shastri hails from Maharastra but has running an ashram in Vrindavan for 10 years. Vrindavan leaders, including Radha Vallabh Temple’s Mohit Maral Goswami, have expressed anger at people who use religion as a cover to act in ways that are against the real religion of Vrindavan.
At the same time as these events take place, another scandal involving gurus exploiting women and girls in a religious setting has come to light in the ashrams of the Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya or spiritual university of Virendra Dev Dixit, who apparently claims to be Krishna and his women disciples to be gopis. In the light of these scandals, the Akhila Bhartiya Akhada Parishad has released a list of “fake gurus” who should be avoided. Said the Parishad’s president, Swami Narendra Giri, “We appeal to the common people to beware of such charlatans who belong to no tradition and by their questionable acts, bring disrepute to sadhus and sanyasis.” Some of the names on the list are Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Rampal, Asaram and his son Narayan Sai.