A key witness in the rape case against self-styled godman Asaram Bapu succumbed to his bullet injuries on Sunday, two days after being shot at by unidentified assailants in Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
The deceased, identified as 35-year-old Kripal Singh, was shot at by two motorcycle-borne miscreants in Puwayan area of the district on Friday night when he was heading to his home. After shooting at Singh, the duo allegedly threatened him not to testify against Asaram and fled away.
Singh, who had sustained severe bullet injuries in his back, was rushed to a hospital in Bareilly where he was kept on ventilator after treatment.
"The bullet pierced his spinal chord and pellets injured his intestine. A team of doctors carried out surgery to remove the bullet and pellets from his intestine. The surgery was very critical due to his injuries. We tried our best to save Kripal, but he succumbed to his bullet injuries at 10.30pm," Hindustan Times quoted hospital chairman Umesh Gautam as saying.
Prior to his death, Singh had given a statement to additional city magistrate, alleging that the people linked to Asaram were threatening him for the last few days.
Singh was a prime witness in the rape case against Asaram. The daughter of a transport firm owner had accused the 74-year-old spiritual leader of raping her at his ashram near Jodhpur in Rajasthan in 2013. Singh was an employee at the same firm, PTI reported.
His statement in the alleged rape case was recorded about three months ago.
Meanwhile, the police have registered a case of murder against the unidentified assailants who shot at Singh and special police teams have been set up to hunt them down.
"Earlier we registered a case under section 307 (attempt to murder) against unknown miscreants and now it will be converted to 302 (murder). We are hunting for the criminals", India Today quoted SSP Shahjahanpur Babloo Kumar as saying.
Asaram has been lodged in a Jodhpur jail since September 2013. Two months later, he, along with his son Narayan Sai, was booked in another case pertaining to alleged rape of two sisters at their ashram in Gujarat's Surat district.
This was the ninth attack on the witnesses related to Asaram case. Of these, three have died so far. In January, Asaram's cook was shot dead in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.