Just two months ago, six swamis were given a death sentence by a Nadiad court for murdering Swami Gadadharanand in 1999.
Pictures from the CD published in a vernacular daily on Friday sparked off a new round of allegations and counter allegations between the two factions led by deposed Acharya Ajendraprasad and present temple trust chairman Nautam Swami.
The two sadhus â€˜â€˜caught in the actâ€™â€™ on camera did a disappearing act from the Dabhoi temple even as concerned devotees and eager onlookers thronged the locked temple premises throughout the day.
The reactions were on expected lines. The Nautam group claimed that the sadhus were framed and a call girl was roped in to show the sect in poor light by the Acharya followers.
Meanwhile, the Ajendra group seized the opportunity to state that it was a mark of degradation and rot that had set in the sect under the leadership of Nautam. On Friday, they also called for the removal of both Nautam and the sadhus involved in the act.
Nautam called it a conspiracy of the acharya faction. â€˜â€˜Scandal tho hai. But itâ€™s an old CD and it has been arranged by some people to denigrate the sect. It shows how low they can stoop to achieve their nefarious objectives,â€™â€™ said Nautam, without naming anybody.
When asked what impact the news would have on sect followers, he admitted that it would be colossal, adding that it would be the image of those who framed the sadhus that would be ruined further. â€˜â€˜Of course, the two sadhus who have indulged in the act have to do prayashchit. They will have to go,â€™â€™ Nautam said.
Meanwhile, Ajendraprasad refused to come on record. His son Lalji Maharaj, however, called it a result of the degradation that had set in since his father was removed from his position in 2001.
â€˜â€˜My father had suggested written tests for each aspirant sadhu before entry, so that only the right people join the sect. It was this issue of conducting a test before diksha that had made the Nautam group agitate against him and remove him. Now, they have to bear the fruit of their permissiveness. We were receiving complaints from some haribhakts about such activities, but now, they have come into the open,â€™â€™ reacted Lalji.
However, he outrightly denied that someone from his group had framed the sadhus.
The sect has been involved in a vicious turf war over the Vadtal seat and other assets since 1902. The century-old conflict between the Dev faction (sadhus and trainees who believe that the temple is nobodyâ€™s ancestral property) and acharya faction (those who believe that the sect belongs to the descendants of Lord Swaminarayan, believed to be an avtar of Lord Krishna) has seen acrimonious conflicts in the last couple of years.
Matters reached a head in May 2001, when the Dev faction brought in Tejendrprasadji from Ahmedabad for a diksha ceremony instead of Ajendraprasad.
The government intervened by setting up an arbitration panel under retired judge S.B. Dave of Gujarat High Court in June the same year. A settlement was brokered by the panel between the two factions in June 2002, but the Devs led by Nautam Swami backed out, leading to intensification of the struggle.
The Devs went to court again, first in Bhavnagar and then to Gujarat High Court, followed by the Acharyas. With the legal battle presently in the Supreme Court, the factions have even exchanged physical blows, media wars and personal attacks. Both sides refused to comment on any aspect of the legal matter, as it is still in court.