Nepal police arrest spiritual leader over rape charges

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

January 11, 2024

By AFP, Nepal

Ram Bahadur Bomjan, known as ‘Buddha Boy,’ has long been accused of physically and sexually assaulting his followers

Nepal police said Wednesday they had arrested a spiritual leader whose followers believe him to be a reincarnation of Buddha over allegations of disappearances and rape at his ashrams.

Ram Bahadur Bomjan, known as “Buddha Boy” among devotees, became famous as a teenager after followers said he could meditate motionless for months without water, food or sleep.

The 33-year-old guru has a devout following but has long been accused of physically and sexually assaulting his followers, and had been hiding from authorities for several years.

“He was arrested after absconding for several years,” police spokesman Kuber Kadayat told AFP.

Police apprehended Bomjan in Kathmandu on a warrant issued for his alleged rape of a minor at an ashram in Sarlahi, a district south of the capital.

They said he was caught with bundles of cash amounting to 30 million Nepali rupees ($225,000) and another $22,500 in foreign currency.

Accusations of abuse and misconduct against Bomjan stretch back more than a decade.

Dozens of assault complaints were filed against Bomjan in 2010. He said he beat the victims because they disturbed his meditation.

An 18-year-old nun accused the guru of raping her at a monastery in 2018.

Police opened another investigation against him the following year after family members reported the disappearance of four of his devotees from one of his ashrams.

The whereabouts of the four are still unknown, Dinesh Acharya of the Central Investigation Bureau told reporters on Wednesday.

“Unless we know what situation the missing are in we are not in a position to call it murder,” he said.

Before he went on the run, Bomjan still commanded a legion of followers as the allegations against him mounted.

At one point tens of thousands of people had gathered to witness his reputed miracles of meditation deep in the jungle.

While aged 16, Bomjan disappeared for nine months to wander the wilderness of eastern Nepal, prompting a round-the-clock vigil by Buddhist monks who prayed for his safe return.