Seer holds girl captive in cave

Seer holds girl captive in cave

A seven-year-old girl, who had been allegedly held captive in an underground cave for days on end by a pontiff to impress his followers he had supernatural powers to bring the dead back to life, was rescued by the local authorities from the mutt premises at Zhunjarwad village in Athani taluk early on Wednesday morning.

The pontiff and his three associates were arrested and the mutt sealed.

The rescued girl has been identified as Nijalingamma who has been admitted to the taluk hospital in Athani. She is responding to treatment and is talking about the ordeal she suffered at the hands of the pontiff identified as Appayya Swami. Appayya, in a bid to showcase his powers, conducted a funeral pyre ritual on February 4 telling people he had burnt the minor girl alive and that she would reincarnate as a goddess during Mahashivaratri on February 27. He had dug a large underground cave, conducted the “ritual” inside it, and covered it with bamboos, soil and grass.

Appayya videographed his acts and released the video late on Tuesday. He also printed handbills and distributed them to his followers and the residents in the mutt’s vicinity. It was not known for how many days the victim had been confined in the cave.

Tahsildar Aparna Pawate, Deputy Superintendent of Police S R Patil and officials from the Women and Child Welfare Development Department raided the mutt and rescued the girl from the cave on Wednesday morning. They also found some food and water inside the cave.

Deputy Commissioner N Jayaram and Superintendent of Police Chandragupta visited the spot and ordered the closure of the mutt. When the police took Appayya to the scene of crime, he made a futile attempt to escape, police said.

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