NEW DELHI — At least 45 minor girls have been rescued in police raids on Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya (AVV) ashrams in New Delhi since December 19th, officials say.
“God Fatherly Spiritual University,” is the sect’s English translation of their name.
Law enforcement officials say they found women and girls kept behind barbed wire and locked gates.
The sect preaches that its leader, Virendra Dev Dixit, is an incarnation of Krishna and descended to Earth to unite people of all faiths.
Authorities removed 41 minors from one facility. Court documents say that at least 168 adult women remain at the site, and 25 adult men live in an annex.
Investigators said in court documents that the women lived in “animal-like conditions” and many were in poor health and appeared to be under the influence of narcotics.
The court’s order to search the premises did not give investigators the authority to remove adults without their consent. Most adult women chose to remain with the sect.
AVV came under scrutiny after three families filed a case in Delhi’s High Court saying their female relatives vanished after joining the sect. One woman said she was raped by Dixit at the sect’s headquarters in June 2000, while taking a summer religion course as a teenager. Her youngest sister, 25, is in the sect and she has not seen her in 14 years.
AVV issued a statement saying the investigation is part of a “defamatory campaign” and that “no activity detrimental to female devotees or to any other members of the society is conducted in the Vidyalaya.”
Dixit’s whereabouts are unknown.
Swati Maliwal, chairwoman of Delhi’s government agency for women’s affairs, said investigators found substances that induce dizziness along with un-prescribed medicines, syringes, instructional texts teaching women to “surrender” their bodies to Dixit, suitcases full of devotional letters written by the sect’s women to Dixit, and books and posters that describe Dixit as a god.
“All the girls appeared to be in a trance,” Maliwal said.
Police across northern India are raiding other ashrams associated with Dixit. In Delhi, Maliwal said, five of at least eight ashrams have been searched by authorities. But many of the sect’s ashrams are in unknown locations.