Above: Swami Nithyananda/Photo courtesy: Facebook
The self-styled godman Swami Nithyananda , facing rape and child abuse charges, who fled India last year, has bought a private island in South America and called it a “new nation”, Kailaasa
By RK Misra in Ahmedabad
India seems to be in thrall of godmen-turned-charlatans who metamorphose into money machines, and soon into sex fiends. Global high-flyers, they sell spiritual abstracts that range from nirvana to neural cures, and earthly extracts from celestial support to colon cleansers. Leeched onto this collaborative are politicians in search of votes or business interests questing notes.
The list is long but those who made the progression from piety to notoriety in recent times include Asaram Bapu, Gurmeet Ram Rahim and Rampal. All three have a legion of followers. All three are in jail, two convicted for rape and the third for murder. Add to that a fourth name, Swami Nithyananda.
Nemesis seems to be catching up with this self-styled godman, who led a charmed existence soaked in worldly pleasures. He jet-setted globally and was seen in the company of the high and mighty, with many prostrating at his feet. The ongoing trial of a rape case awaits him in Bengaluru and many of his allegedly fiendish deeds are now coming out in the open.
He is reported to have fled India, and is basking in the sea and sunshine of his south American and Caribbean retreats.
A “big” name in the south, Nithyananda shot into the news in Gujarat after a former aide filed a criminal complaint stating that his two daughters and a son were being held captive at a bungalow near Yogini Sarvajna Peetham ashrama, which belongs to Nithyananda, located on the outskirts of eastern Ahmedabad. The Ahmedabad police registered the complaint on November 17 against Nithyananda and two caretakers of his ashram—Pranpriya and Priyatattva—charging them with abduction, wrongful confinement, voluntarily causing hurt, while provisions of the Child Labour Act were also invoked after it was found that the children had been abused, beaten and forced to do labour.
Earlier, on November 2, Janardana Sharma got the custody of two of his minor children, one a 13-year-old boy and the other, a 15-year-old girl, with help from the Gujarat State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (GSCPCR). Sharma, as per the complaint, had four children staying at the Bengaluru ashram of the Swami. The four, who were studying in an educational institution run by the godman since 2013, were suddenly shifted to the Ahmedabad ashram six months ago without their consent. The couple went to Ahmedabad and tried to meet their children, but were not permitted by the caretakers, forcing them to approach the GSCPCR and the police.
Sharma and his wife approached the Gujarat High Court with a habeas corpus petition seeking help to get back their two adult daughters, who were illegally confined. The court ordered the police to rescue the two girls. “Go wherever you have to and do whatever you have to, but produce them here,” the court directed.
The state government, which submitted the progress report of the police probe in the court, stated that of the two girls, Lopamudrika (21) had left the country 18 months ago from Bengaluru, while the second one, Nityananditanand (18), had left the country on November 5, through the Nepal border. The elder one has been traced to Trinidad and Tobago. Speculation is rife that she left the country alongwith Nithyananda, but there is no confirmation of it, said DSP KT Kamariya.
From their hideouts, the girls are active on social media and even interact with the cops through Skype using a proxy server to keep their location under wraps. Sources say that the elder sister, Lopamudrika, is the social media manager of the swami, manages all his media forays and is mostly by his side. The younger, Nityananditanand, posted a video on her YouTube channel stating that she was safe and travelling to avoid stress. “I am on my own free will, travelling happily. Media channels and newspapers are falsely claiming about my kidnapping. I am on my own, happy of the life I have chosen for myself.”
Reports in the media this week stated that he has bought an island on the west South America coast and converted it into a “nation” named “Kailaasa”. He has launched a website for the “new country”. It claims that “Kailaasa” is a country without borders created by dispossessed Hindus around the world, who lost the right to practise Hinduism authentically in their own country.
Nithyananda has released a sample of the new nation’s passport online. Reports say that some of his high-ranking business followers in Gujarat have received an email inviting them to seek citizenship which will be granted only by Nithyananda’s cabinet. All national emblems, including flag, flower, bird, animal and tree are in place, as is the format of governance.
Meanwhile, the two associates of Nithyananda in the Ahmedabad ashram, who were arrested by the police and taken on remand, have been leading the cops on a merry chase. The two yoginis, Harimi Chalappan alias Ma Nithya Pranpriya (30) and Riddhi Ravikumar alias Ma Priyatattva Nanda (24), were arrested after four children rescued from the premises claimed torture and illegal confinement in a city flat at their hands.
The two were found with five SIM cards and six mobile devices when arrested and provided fake passwords while being interrogated.
They were similarly uncooperative about the passwords of an electronic safe. They gave false passwords which activated the failsafe mechanism, thus permanently locking it. The cops sought the help of the Directorate of Forensic Sciences to effect a breakthrough on the phones and had to cut open the locker.
Even while interrogation, the yoginis created a language barrier, speaking in fluent English and feigning lack of knowledge of any other language, thus wasting a lot of time during the five days remand given for their probe. The police are seeking an answer to many questions. For example: How and where did the 18-year-old get the money to travel from Ahmedabad to Nepal? Who tipped her, and that too, around the time her father sought the help of the law to get her back? They are also probing the funding of the ashram.
Meanwhile, four parents filed a fresh petition in the High Court alleging that the police and officers of the Child Welfare Committee had detained two boys and two girls in the ashram and were not allowing them to meet their parents, thus traumatising them. The court made it clear that no one was permitted to leave the ashram without its permission, the investigations by the cops would continue and expressed its displeasure at the “staged” drama.
The irony of the Ahmedabad probe is that the media has, through its lopsided coverage, shifted the focus from Nithyananda to the local franchisee of the Delhi Public School (East) which had made land available to the ashram.
This seems to suit the BJP-led Vijay Rupani government, and it has been quick to latch on to the irregularities of the school. Such is the speed with which the Gujarat government and the central authorities moved that, based on the report, the CBSE has cancelled the affiliation of DPS (East) for seeking affiliation through a forged NOC, jeopardising the future of 850 students, as the management has closed the school till further notice.
The Swami is forgotten and DPS franchisee-owner Manjula Puja Shroff, entrepreneur Hiten Vasant and the then principal of the school, Anita Dua, are in the dock. Shroff and Vasant have filed for anticipatory bail.
The swami, who is rolling in riches today, has an interesting past. He was born A Rajasekaran in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, into a family of modest means, has two dates of birth—a US visa document putting it as March 13, 1977, and a sworn affidavit in the Karnataka High Court case mentioning it as January 1, 1978.
He claims that when he was nine years’ old, he met a swami, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, who merged himself with the lad, and gave him the “powers” he possesses. Now his yoga and meditation practices enjoy legendary popularity worldwide, while his movies on YouTube are said to have obtained millions of views. He has 300 books in 27 languages. True or false, unofficial estimates peg his wealth at a fantasy figure of around a billion US dollars.
After he moved into his present vocation and took up the name Nithyananda, he set up a Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Its website describes it as a “heaven on earth”.
A 21-ft tall “energised healing lingam” and the Vaidya sarovar consecrated by the water flowing past it, are supposed to radiate both active and passive cosmic energy.
In 2010, Sun TV broadcast a sex tape of Nithyananda and two others, including a well-known actress. The tape was subsequently shared on numerous TV programmes. His ex-driver claimed ownership and filming of the tape after he allegedly lost faith in the guru. Both Nithyananda and the actress claimed it was forged though forensic investigation confirmed the contents had not been tampered with.
He also figures in an ongoing rape trial, wherein he is accused of raping his disciple over five years during her stay in the ashram. After meandering for eight years, the trial has commenced. Nithyananda, during the trial, first claimed to be impotent and later changed his stance to say that he had consensual sex with the disciple. He is under the scanner for a death in his ashram too.
Fearing the noose tightening around him in the Bengaluru and Ahmedabad cases, the Swami left the country in a bid to evade the law. “Filthy rich, he has enough money to lease islands and wallow in wealth for many such lifetimes,” points out a source in the know of things. Besides, there are enough people to do his bidding. He and his followers are well represented in legal matters though the man himself remains elusive.