Agra: Policemen from a raiding team on Saturday were startled to find what senior officers said looked like secret chambers at two ashrams that belong to Adhyatmik Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya, run by absconding godman Virendra Dev Dixit in Kampil and Farrukhabad. Cops also found 33 women and 12 men cooped up inside the ashrams and sent them for medical examination to see if they were under the influence of drugs. According to officers, all the occupants of the ashram are adults.

On condition of anonymity, a police officer told TOI that the operation to take out occupants of the ashram started at around 7 am both at Kampil’s Chaudharain Colony and Sikatarbagh in Farrukhabad city. “Expecting resistance, heavy police force was roped in. The elder women (who are called ‘sisters’ in the ashram) initially refused to open the metal door, but later, they gave in under police pressure and let us in,” he said, adding, “The three-storey building of the ashram in Sikatarbagh had over a dozen dark and small congested chambers underground, with maze-like lanes which were bolted with heavy iron shutters. One has to either crawl on the knees or bend low to enter the chambers.”

The officer said that each chamber has a staircase leading inside. Even the rooms on the upper floors have been constructed in such a way that they look more like a web of haunted rooms. “The women were sleeping on the cold floor on mats. All the windows of the building have iron grills and are placed high up,” he added.

Sangeeta (who goes by her first name), a 25-year-old resident of Kushinagar district who was found at the Sikatarbagh ashram, said, “My parents left me here five years ago and since then I have been gaining spiritual knowledge.” She did not reply when asked if she had suffered any harassment. The women found in the ashrams are from UP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Nepal. Superintendent of police, Farrukhabad, Mrigendra Singh said, “None of the women have said they suffered any harassment or assault, but we will conduct a medical examination and present them before a magistrate. We are not sure about the purpose of the underground chambers. We are investigating.” By the time this report was filed, the women were taken to Ram Manohar Lohia district hospital, where they staged a protest and refused to undergo medical examination.

Meanwhile, two FIRs were lodged in Kampil and Farukhabad city police stations against six men, including Dixit, on the basis of written complaints filed by local residents who alleged that women in the ashram were confined against their will and “cries for help” could be heard from both buildings over the years.

Cops stumbled upon many secret chambers in Virendra Dixit’s ashram