A self-styled Indian godman Swami Nithyananda, who has been recently booked for kidnapping and the wrongful confinement of children to make them collect donations from followers to run his ashram in Ahmedabad, has been reported to have fled the country.
The Gujarat Police confirming his escape said they are in touch with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and other agencies to know the conman's whereabouts .
"We have registered a case against Nithyananda and others and arrested two of his disciples Sadhvi Pran Priyananda and Priyatatva Riddhi Kiran on charges of allegedly kidnapping at least four children, keeping them in illegal confinement in a flat and using them as child labourers to promote activities of the ashram to collect donations," Ahmedabad Rural Superintendent of Police RV Asari told Indian news agencies.
No information on if Nithyananda has flown out of India: Ministry
The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday, on the other hand, said it does not have any formal information whether Nithyananda has flown out of India.
"We've no formal info, neither from Gujarat police nor from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Also, for extradition request, we need the location and nationality details of the person. We don't have such information about him yet," ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told Indian media.
Who is Nithyananda?
Nithyananda, a self-styled Hindu priest, is the founder of an India-based trust Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, which has temples, gurukulas, and ashrams across many countries.
Nithyananda, who hails from Tiruvannamalai in south India, claims that he and his inducted disciples have spiritual powers. His speeches have gathered widespread negative coverage in the Indian press. On 23 January 2019, a child disciple of Nithyananda claimed to have initiated 82 students with varying stages of blindness into the power to see using the third eye.
Sex charges and allegations
South-India based media house Sun TV released a sex tape of Nithyananda and an actress and a follower of his in 2010.
Lenin Karuppan, former driver of Nithyananda, owned up to filming Nithyananda and the actress clandestinely, according to media reports published in 2010. Karuppan was a close aide of Nithyananda, but he later lost faith in his guru after seeing him sleeping around with other women.
Nithyananda has also been accused of raping a disciple for five years during her stay in the ashram.
In June 2018, a Karnataka trial court framed charges against Nithyananda. Along with Nithyananda, several ashram associates are also facing charges in this case.
Untenable scientific claims
Nithyananda is infamous for unbelievable scientific claims, which has led to an increase in his followers.
He claimed that Albert Einstein’s famous relativity formula: E=mc2 was false and instead gave a naive explanation, which led to wide-spread criticism and ridicule on social media.
Nithyananda also claimed that he stopped the sun from rising for 40 minutes. He said: "I asked the sun not to come out till I finish the flag hoisting.”
In a another instance, he also claimed to make cows, bulls, lions, tigers and monkeys speak in Tamil and Sanskrit.
-With inputs from agencies