A division bench of Kerala High Court on Tuesday asked police to furnish a probe report on the alleged torture of a woman at a yoga centre near Kochi, which has been engaged in bringing people back into the Hindu fold after they had converted to other religions. The bench of Justices V Chitambaresh and Satish Ninan was considering the affidavit of the woman, Swetha from Kannur. Her husband Rinto Issac had filed a habeas corpus petition alleging that Swetha had been “detained illegally” by her parents.
After hearing Swetha, the court observed that “what has been revealed is really shocking”, and asked police to submit the progress report within two weeks. The court also impleaded Shiva Shakti Yoga Centre, the state police chief and Udayamperoor village panchayat in the case. Swetha had filed a complaint alleging she was tortured “by Hindu fundamentalists to take her away from her marriage with a Christian, Rinto Issac”. The police filed a case against the yoga centre and booked six people, including the centre’s chief Manoj alias Guruji, counsellors and yoga trainers. Trainer Sreejesh was arrested on Monday night and remanded in judicial custody for 15 days. The others are absconding. The inmates left for their homes after the village panchayat served a closure notice on the ground that the house was being used for commercial purposes.
A 28-year-old ayurvedic doctor, Swetha had also raised allegations of sexual abuse at the institute, but police sources said they had not come across any such evidence in the inmates’ statements. “In the last month, we inspected the yoga centre twice after a woman, who the high court had sent back to her parents, was found admitted there. However, we haven’t found the alleged sexual abuse,’’ said police sources.
A staffer said the institute offered yoga classes, pre-marital and family counselling to men and women. Only those who came from distant places stayed there, she said. Counselling sessions were held separately for participants, the staffer said. “We don’t re-convert anyone per se. We offer counselling to those who lack conviction about their Hindu faith. This would include sessions on other religions.”