In a stunning development, two women from Mumbai have written to the management of Shree Mangueshi Temple in Goa sharing their horror stories of being sexually abused by the priest during their recent pilgrimage to the religious site in the state.
In their separate letters to the temple management, the women wrote that they were sexually assaulted separately on 14 and 22 June respectively.
In the first incident on 14 June, the woman alleged that she was sexually assaulted as she visited the temple with her parents. She said that she was following her parents into the inner sanctum by the priest. The priest, she alleged, grabbed her by her shoulder and puller towards him as she bent to touch his feet.
“His grip was so tight, I was not able to move…before I could even understand what he was trying to do he tried to kiss me and managed to kiss me on my cheek…In a sacred space, and from a sagacious person like a Purohit, last thing you expect is a sexual attack,” Indian Express quoted the victim’s letter written to the temple management.
In another complaint, the woman, a student of medicine in the US, who was molested on 22 June, said that she too was molested by the priest when she visited the temple with her parents.
“He (priest) came to the locker area (outside the sanctum) and on the pretext of asking me to take ”pradakshina”, he beckoned me to come near and put his arm around my shoulders. He then proceeded to tightly hug me and attempted to kiss me,” IANS quoted her letter to the temple management committee. The victim said that she was “traumatised and repulsed” by such conduct as she demanded the review of ‘the footage of June 22’ as part of the investigation.
She wrote: “I will also call your attention to the problematic fact that unmarried girls from devout families for whom Mangeshi is their Kuldevta are barred from even entering the gabhara, while their brothers and parents are allowed to perform the puja inside. This practice is antiquated and as of 2016, it is also against the law…. As a result of this practice, there have been many girls and young women who have been sitting away from the eyes of their parents and have been potentially subjected to…unwanted advances.”
Indian Express reported that her parents called on the priest when they were informed, and the priest ostensibly replied that he touched the victim only “because he considered us family friends”.
Anil Kenkre, secretary of the temple management, Shree Manguesh Devasthan, has confirmed receiving the letters and said that action against the priest “as deemed fit on the findings of the Authority when made available to us.”