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Indian Police Arrest Ex-minister Over Alleged Rape, Blackmail

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A former Indian federal minister from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been arrested over allegations of rape and blackmail.

Swami Chinmayanand, 73, has been charged with “misusing authority for sexual intercourse” – a lesser offence than rape. He denies the charge.

The woman, who was a student at one of several colleges run by him, alleges that the abuse lasted for months.

If found guilty, Chinmayanand, a former lawmaker from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and a religious guru, can be jailed for up to 10 years. He had served as a union minister in the BJP government under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In addition, he also facing charges of stalking and criminal intimidation.

The woman said she first met Chinmayanand in June last year when she joined a law college run by him. She alleged that he showed her a video of her bathing and blackmailed her to have sex with him.

She posted a video on Facebook on 24 August detailing the abuse.

The victim and her father alleged last week that the police was reluctant to arrest Chinmayanand, and she threatened to set herself on fire. She recorded her statement in a local court amid heavy security on 16 September.

The allegations made national headlines as she went missing for six days, prompting her father to blame Chinmayanand.

The Supreme Court took notice of the case and asked the police to find her. She gave her statement in the court on 2 September, after which a special investigation unit was formed.

Mr Sengar has been charged with rape and criminal conspiracy

The case has also drawn national attention because it’s the second such allegation against a prominent BJP politician from Uttar Pradesh this year.

Kuldeep Sengar, a lawmaker in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, was arrested in April for allegedly raping a woman who was a minor at the time of the attack in 2017. He denies the charge, but was expelled from the BJP in August.

His accuser too had threatened to set herself on fire, alleging that police had failed to investigate Mr Sengar. In July, she was seriously injured in a car crash, and her family alleged foul play on the part of Mr Sengar. The police have since charged him for attempted murder.

The crash sparked national outrage and drew the ire of the courts, which questioned the lack of protection offered to rape survivors or anyone testifying in sensitive trials.

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