Swami Nithyananda flees country, claims Gujarat Police; high-profile priest's influence spreads over politicians, industrialists

  • The fact that the godman managed to escape the country, despite an ongoing police investigation against him, shows that his clout beats his notoriety.

  • And being spotted with public personalities helps such religious leaders lend credence to their claims and increase their clout.

  • From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to former Infosys director TVS Mohandas Pai, Nithyananda's facebook page features pictures of him with several well-known personalities.

Self-styled godman Swami Nithyananda is back in headlines for yet another controversy. The Hindu preacher, who is facing trial in a rape case and is named in several other cases, has reportedly fled the country, Gujarat Police said. According to News18, his disciples deny knowledge of his whereabouts and locals say the religious leader had remained underground over the past month. The fact that the godman managed to escape the country, despite an ongoing police investigation against him, shows that his clout beats his notoriety.

 Swami Nithyananda flees country, claims Gujarat Police; high-profile priests influence spreads over politicians, industrialists

Nithyananda's plea against a potency test was rejected by the Supreme Court. IBNLive

The empire of such self-professed spiritualists is based on their clout and presence. But more importantly, such figures thrive on the reverence of people. Like others, Nithyananda too courted reverence by promising his followers miraculous treatments, and magical spiritual awakening — all claims that are neither backed by science nor can be engaged with, rationally. And being spotted with public personalities helps such religious leaders lend credence to their claims and increase their clout. Nithyananda was no lightweight when it came to these things.

He owns a large web of temples, gurukulas and ashrams across many countries and had made it a habit of being spotted with prominent people. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to former Infosys director TVS Mohandas Pai, Nithyananda's Facebook page features pictures of him with several well-known personalities.

Nithyananda's ties with influential people

Nithyananda's Facebook page reveals that Prime Minister Modi, while he was the chief minister of Gujarat visited the spiritual guru for Nithyananda Jayanti celebrations at Nithyananda peetham in Bengaluru in 2007. In fact, a look at the dignitaries who visited him shows his reach spans across party lines.

Senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar, while serving as the Minister of Energy in the previous Congress-JD(S) Karnataka government had also visited the priest in 2018. Former Karnataka governor TN Chaturvedi, Congress MLA HC Balakrishna, former Karnataka chief minister SM Krishna, and incumbent CM BS Yediyurappa are among other dignitaries to have shared a stage with Nithyananda.

Industrialist Yashovardhan Birla and former Infosys director TVS Mohandas Pai have also appeared alongside the tainted swami. Pai, in fact, interviewed Nithyananda at a public event, but later downplayed his association stating it was just a 'public event'.

Apart from these, the spiritual guru has also posted pictures with leaders of other sects and communities. Priests of Mahanirvani Akhada visited Nithyananda's Bengaluru Ashram for religious programmes. He was also visited by Michael Bernard Bedwith, the leader of a Los-Angeles based New Thought church with a congregation estimated in excess of 8,000 members. Other well-known religious leaders who have met him include Yoga guru Ramdev, head of Dharmasthala temple, Virendra Hegde.

Nithyananda, who first hit the national headlines for his alleged sex tape with an actress in early 2010, has been a highly controversial figure. His ashrams earned notoriety in the last 10 years for various nefarious activities allegedly taking place inside the sprawling campus.

Two co-ordinators of an organisation run by Nithyananda, Yogini Sarvagyapeetham, were arrested on charges of kidnapping, wrongful confinement, assault, among others, after four children enrolled there came out to allege they were being mistreated by the authorities.  The accused persons have been booked under sections 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent to secretly and  wrongfully confine a person), 344 (wrongful confinement for ten or more days), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), and 502 (sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). They have also been booked under section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act,  986, the police officer said.

Nithyananda is also an accused in an alleged rape case filed against him in Karnataka. The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday had issued notices to the self-styled godman and the state government on a plea filed by a man seeking custody of his two daughters "detained" at his Ahmedabad ashram.

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2019 14:34:58 IST