In her police complaint, Priyalatha has charged Shantaraju, pastor of Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre, with having sex with young girls and getting them to abort
S Shyam Prasad
Pastor Shantaraju with a minor girl whom he is said to have sexually abused
A city pastor has been accused by his own wife of being a paedophile and of misappropriating church funds. The charges against K Shantaraju, the 45-year-old pastor of the Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre in Siddhartha Nagar, Jalahalli West, are being probed by the police after a complaint was filed by his wife Priyalatha at Gangammanagudi police station on Wednesday.
Priyalatha said she deferred filing a police complaint against her husband all these years because she thought it fit to first raise the issue with his superiors. She also believed she could prevail upon him to mend his ways, but having failed she has now provided the police with photos which show Shantaraju in various poses with an alleged minor girl.
?The children who were brought to the centre for the purpose of education are being used for illegal activities. Minor children are being used for sexual activities in the centre. He has sexual relationships with many girl children. I have witnessed these activities. When questioned, he threatened to kill me and my two children,? Priyalatha says in her complaint.
Priyalatha has been married to Shantaraju for 15 years ago. After the death of her father-in-law Moses, her husband inherited the Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre and she alleges that her husband has been misusing donations from abroad that the centre and church receives.
Shantaraju, who claimed that he has been separated from his wife for 11 years and is fighting a divorce case, denied all charges. ?The whole thing is a plot to gain control over the trust and its properties. We used to receive Rs 2.5 lakh per month to provide for 275 children. She has made these allegations to the donors and donations have stopped in the last few months. She has brainwashed my mother and brother and they are also making false claims against me,? Shantaraju told Bangalore Mirror.
?Our second daughter is just seven years old; now explain that,? said Priyalatha, in a curt response to Shantaraju?s claim that they had been separated for 11 years.
Shantaraju also alleged that the photos were taken in 2005 and that his wife has manipulated them to show him in bad light. ?The girl is 21 years old now and not a minor. My wife is trying to cheat the law with old photos. I have been called by the police now and I will show them the real facts. I am a trained pastor and my only aim is to continue the good work of my father in helping poor children,? Shantaraju said. Priyalatha clarified that the photos have been in her possession after she came across an unexposed roll of film two years ago. Suspecting something amiss, she got them developed and printed.
Gangammanagudi police station?s inspector S D Chabbi confirmed the complaint and said that a FIR has already been registered and investigation is on. ?I do not want to pass any comments on the issue and we are still investigating the matter.
There has been no arrests made. There are two parties, Shantaraju on the one side, and his wife, mother and brother on the other. The wife has complained to donors and they have stopped funding the organisation. We also came to know that they is a marital dispute between them and they are still fighting a divorce case. We are humans first and do not want to make arrests and then investigate,? Chabbi said.
The couple has two daughters and Priyalatha revealed that they have been sent to Hyderabad for their safety. In her complaint, Priyalatha mentions that she is living in a shed in the compound of the centre along with her mother-in-law Shantamma and brother-in-law Vinay Kumar Mathew.
Priyalatha rubbished her alleged interest in getting hold of church property. ?His allegation against me of trying to gain property is the latest to hide his sins. He started having an affair with this girl when she was just 14. She got an abortion at the age of 16. In front of me they have lived together. Of course, she is a major now. Other minor girls were also abused by him and had abortions. Their parents are afraid to come forward for fear of spoiling their lives. My own daughter who is 15 years old now has gone into depression after seeing his affairs with minor girls,? she explained.
This is not the first complaint against Shantaraju. An anonymous letter sent to the Karuna Bal Vikas, an organisation in Chennai that funds the Bethel Student Centre, earlier this year had accused Shantaraju of sexually exploiting minor girls in the centre. This letter also had photos of Shantaraju while on excursions with female students.
Priyalatha?s advocate RLN Murthy said that a complaint has also been given to the city police commissioner?s office. ?A pastor should be a model to society. Ordinary people look up to him. The allegations here are of a very serious nature. It also calls for keeping a check on dubious institutions which are using foreign donations for nefarious activities,? Murthy said.